Former Labour MP Frank Field speaks of ‘terrific privilege’ receiving honour

·3-min read
Frank Field was a leading figure in the Child Poverty Action Group and Low Pay Unit before entering Parliament (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)
Frank Field was a leading figure in the Child Poverty Action Group and Low Pay Unit before entering Parliament (Yui Mok/PA) (PA Archive)

A veteran politician who served as an MP for 40 years has spoken of the “terrific privilege” of receiving a prestigious award in the New Year Honours list.

Frank Field 79, now a crossbench peer, has been made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour, joining the likes of Sir Elton John JK Rowling and Sir Paul McCartney.

The acknowledgement of Lord Field’s public and political service comes after a career in which the ex-minister has shown support for causes including pensions reform and ending child poverty.

Lord Field was MP for Birkenhead between 1979 and 2019 (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Archive)
Lord Field was MP for Birkenhead between 1979 and 2019 (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Archive)

Lord Field of Birkenhead told the PA news agency: “Well I’m very honoured to receive this acknowledgement, it’s a terrific privilege considering the honour itself and what it represents.

“Following the work I’ve done it’s a lovely thought from which to conclude this year.”

He highlighted “important” issues he had campaigned to help stamp out over the past 12 months, including modern slavery.

Lord Field added: “It’s only been the start sadly, but we’ve got committees and officials from both houses of Parliament now looking at this issue and I hope this continues for years to come.”

Before entering Parliament, Lord Field – who joins former chancellor George Osborne and former Tory Cabinet minister Lord Tebbit as a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour – was a leading figure in the Child Poverty Action Group and Low Pay Unit.

He took his seat in the House of Lords in October 2020 after being elected 10 times to represent Birkenhead between 1979 and 2019.

Lord Field chaired the Work and Pensions Select Committee (Michael Stephens/PA) (PA Archive)
Lord Field chaired the Work and Pensions Select Committee (Michael Stephens/PA) (PA Archive)

He served as welfare reform minister in Tony Blair’s first government in 1997 with a remit to “think the unthinkable” and went on to chair the Work and Pensions Select Committee.

Lord Field remained in the post of welfare reform minister for little over a year following policy clashes with the prime minister and then-chancellor Gordon Brown.

Mr Blair stated that instead of thinking the unthinkable, Lord Field had ended up “thinking the unfathomable”.

He continued his views on welfare reform after being dropped as a minister.

As chairman of the Commons Work and Pensions Committee, he campaigned against the way Universal Credit was being rolled out, and had a number of colourful clashes, most notably with former BHS boss Sir Philip Green.

Lord Field was also a member of the Labour Leave group.

Lord Field resigned the Labour whip over antisemitism in the party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, pictured (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)
Lord Field resigned the Labour whip over antisemitism in the party under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, pictured (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) (PA Wire)

He, along with three Labour colleagues, sided with the Conservatives in a crunch Brexit vote in 2018.

It saw him accused of betrayal, leading to him losing a no-confidence vote within his Birkenhead Constituency Labour Party, although he insisted he was defending working-class Brexit voters.

Lord Field’s comments blaming Mr Blair for beginning an “open door” immigration policy also ruffled the feathers of former party colleagues.

He later resigned the Labour whip over antisemitism and “nastiness” in the party under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

In October, Lord Field revealed he was terminally ill and had spent time in a hospice.

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