Lord Field Of Birkenhead Obituary Obituary 2024

Frank Field: A Legacy of Welfare Reform

Early Life and Career

Frank Field, born in 1942, emerged as a prominent figure in the British welfare system. Hailing from a working-class Tory-voting family, he became a Labour advocate due to its stance against apartheid. After studying economics, he became a further education teacher and a local councillor.

Welfare Advocacy and Parliamentary Career

In 1969, Field became the director of the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). Under his leadership, CPAG became a powerful pressure group highlighting the plight of children in poverty. He coined the term “poverty trap” to describe the cycle of dependency and low income experienced by many welfare recipients.

In 1979, Field entered Parliament as the Labour MP for Birkenhead. Despite his party affiliation, he exhibited independence and a willingness to criticize its policies. He opposed Militant infiltration, challenged party leadership, and advocated for reforms that transcended party lines.

Minister for Welfare Reform

Tony Blair appointed Field as Minister for Welfare Reform in 1997. However, the relationship between Field and the Secretary of State, Harriet Harman, was strained. Field’s reform proposals were dismissed due to their perceived high costs. The experience left him disillusioned with the potential for change within the system.

“Poverty Tsar” and Later Career

In 2010, despite his Labour affiliation, Field was appointed as the Liberal-Conservative coalition government’s “poverty tsar.” He continued to advocate for welfare reform, emphasizing the need for reducing dependency and promoting financial independence.

In 2015, Field became chair of the Modern Slavery Bill committee and, later, chair of the work and pensions select committee. However, in 2018, he resigned the Labour whip over antisemitism allegations within the party. In 2019, he formed the Birkenhead Social Justice party, unsuccessfully contesting the general election. In 2020, he was appointed a crossbench life peer.

Legacy and Recognition

Frank Field’s legacy as an authority on welfare reform is undeniable. His principled approach, unwavering advocacy for the marginalized, and willingness to engage across party lines made him a respected figure in British politics. His insights continue to shape the debate on poverty and welfare today. His work was recognized with a Companion of Honour in 2022. His autobiography, “Poverty, Politics, and Belief,” published in 2023, offers a glimpse into his remarkable life and legacy.