Frank Field MP in Westminster after resigning from the Labour party | Copyright: PA

Frank Field, former Labour minister, dies aged 81

Former Labour minister and crossbench peer Frank Field has died aged 81, his family has announced.

According to statement from Lord Field of Birkenhead’s family, he passed away after a period of illness.

“He will be mourned by admirers across politics but above all he will be greatly missed by those lucky enough to have enjoyed his laughter and friendship”, the statement said.

Field was a member of parliament for Birkenhead between 1979 and 2019, during which time he served as minister for welfare reform.

He also chaired the commons work and pensions select committee.

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Born in London, Field was educated at St Clement Danes Holborn Estate Boys Grammar School before studying economics at the University of Hull. In his youth, he was a member of the Conservative Party, but left due to his opposition to South Africa’s apartheid system. 

He was elected as a councillor in the London Borough of Hounslow for four years from 1964 and in the same year became a further education teacher in Southwark and Hammersmith until he became the Director of the Child Poverty Action Group 1969-79, and of the Low Pay Unit 1974-1980.

Field unsuccessfully contested Buckinghamshire South at the 1966 general election where he was defeated soundly by the sitting Conservative veteran MP Ronald Bell. He was selected to contest the safe seat at Birkenhead at the 1979 General Election on the retirement of the sitting Labour MP Edmund Dell. 

In parliament, Field was made a member of the opposition frontbench by Michael Foot as a spokesman on education in 1980 but was dropped a year later. Following the appointment of Neil Kinnock as the Leader of the Opposition in 1983 he was appointed as a spokesman on health and social security for a year. 

He was appointed the chairman of the social services select committee in 1987, becoming the chairman of the new social security select committee in 1990, a position he held until the 1997 election.

Following the 1997 election, with Labour in power, Field joined the government of Tony Blair as the Minister of Welfare Reform at the Department of Social Security with the rank of Minister of State. 

After Labour’s defeat in the 2010 election, he was given the role of “poverty czar” in David Cameron’s coalition government. 

On 18th June 2015 he became chairman of the Work and Pension Select Committee.

Field was one of the longest-serving MPs in the commons, only losing his seat in the 2019 general election after forming his own party.

He entered the Lords in 2020 and was appointed Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 2022 New Year Honours. is the UK’s leading digital-only political website, providing comprehensive coverage of UK politics. Subscribe to our daily newsletter here.