Image of the Liverpool Cathedral

Rt Hon Frank Field MP

Oration

Presented by: John Timpson

Honourable Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting Frank Field for the award of an Honorary Fellowship from Liverpool John Moores University. 

Frank Field MP is widely regarded and respected across all political parties as a great statesman and parliamentarian. An aim has been to build a new consensus around the meaning and causes of poverty. Born and raised in London, he attended St Clement Danes School - then in Hammersmith - and studied Economics at the University of Hull. After graduating he returned to London, becoming a Further Education teacher. His time in politics began in 1964 as a councillor in the London Borough of Hounslow and, throughout an impressive political career spanning over 50 years, he has campaigned vigorously against poverty and low pay.

From 1969 to 1979, Frank worked as Director of the Child Poverty Action Group, during which time it became one of the premier pressure groups in the country. In 1974 he also became Director of the Low Pay Unit. The Unit was established to ensure wages councils properly protected the rights of workers. It was the first to campaign for a national minimum wage, alongside the National Union of Public Employees - now Unison; and that shared goal was eventually achieved in 1998. 

In 1979 Frank was elected Member of Parliament for Birkenhead, a seat he has held at successive general elections. During the 1980s he led the campaign to make the Labour Party electable, developing policies with widespread appeal. He served as Shadow Education and Social Security spokesman under the leadership of Michael Foot and in 1990 he took up the chairmanship of the Social Security Select Committee. From 1997 to 1998 he was Minister for Welfare Reform in Tony Blair’s first cabinet and he then served as a member of the Public Accounts Committee between 2002 and 2005.

In 2010, in recognition of his expertise in the fields of poverty and welfare, Frank was appointed Chair of the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances. This report argued that there were interventions against poverty that could trump the impact of class and income. In October 2013, he helped establish and chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty and he also chaired a parliamentary inquiry into hunger, which reported in December 2014. This led to the establishment of the charitable organisation Feeding Britain, where is he now the Chair of Trustees. 

Alongside campaigning against poverty and low pay, Frank has expressed concern about climate change, believing it is one of the biggest threats facing our society. In order to take effective action, in 2007 he co-founded the charity Cool Earth, which aims to combat climate change by working with local communities around the world to protect endangered rainforest. His idea for a Queen’s Rainforest Canopy stretching across the Commonwealth has been endorsed by the Queen and is now a a Commonwealth objective.

Frank is also Chair of the Work and Pensions Select Committee and serves as Co-Chair of the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration. In addition, he is a member of several other All-Party Parliamentary Groups, including the All-Party Group on Zimbabwe, the Group for Clean Coal and the Group for Dying Well.

Frank has also taken up a number of important roles within his constituency. He has served as Chair of the Liverpool City Region Poverty and Life Chances Commission, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the University Academy of Birkenhead, and he is a Deputy Lieutenant for Merseyside. 

For his sustained, outstanding contribution to politics and the support of the constituents of Liverpool, it is with great pleasure that I present Frank Field for admission to our highest honour, as an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University.