Honorary Fellowship: Rt Hon Frank Field MP
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, with his personal mission 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, to become a Further Education teacher. He entered politics 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, which became one of the country’s premier pressure groups. 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; a shared goal that was eventually achieved in 1998.
In 1979 Frank was elected Member of Parliament for Birkenhead, a seat he has held ever since. In the 1980s he led the campaign to make the Labour Party electable, developing policies with widespread appeal. He was Shadow Education and Social Security spokesman under Michael Foot and in 1990 took up the chairmanship of the Social Security Select Committee. In 1997 and 1998 he was Minister for Welfare Reform in Tony Blair’s first cabinet and served on the Public Accounts Committee between 2002 and 2005.
I hadn’t met Frank until today but already felt I knew him. In 2008, when my son Edward was elected to Parliament at a by-election, Frank, although being of a different political persuasion, personally gave Edward a particularly warm welcome when he arrived in the house as a new boy. I am not surprised that along with his accomplishments Frank is so often described as a really nice man.
In 2010, Frank, as Chair of the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances, masterminded a report that argued there were interventions against poverty that could overcome the impact of class and income. In October 2013, he helped establish and chair the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty. He also chaired a parliamentary inquiry into hunger, which reported in December 2014. This prompted the establishment of Feeding Britain, a charitable organisation where he now chairs the Trustees.
In addition to campaigning against poverty and low pay, Frank has expressed concern about climate change, believing it is one of the biggest threats facing our society. To take effective action, in 2007 he co-founded the charity Cool Earth, which works with local communities around the world to protect endangered rainforests. His idea for a Queen’s Rainforest Canopy, a network of forest conservation initiatives stretching across the Commonwealth, has been endorsed by the Queen and is now a Commonwealth objective.
Frank also Chairs the Work and Pensions Select Committee and is Co-Chair of the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration. He is also 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 also has taken up a number of important roles within his constituency. He has been Chair of the Liverpool City Region Poverty and Life Chances Commission, Chairman of Governors at the University Academy of Birkenhead, and is a Deputy Lieutenant for Merseyside.
For his sustained, outstanding contribution to politics and his 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.