Former Labour minister Frank Field dies aged 81

Former Labour minister and crossbench peer Frank Field has passed away at the age of 81, as confirmed by his family.

A statement from Lord Field of Birkenhead’s family issued by his Parliamentary office said, ” It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Frank Field, Lord Field of Birkenhead. Through a long battle with cancer, Frank Field remained resilient and engaged with life until the end. He will be enormously missed by his family and wide circle of friends.

“Franks was an extraordinary individual who spent his life fighting poverty, injustice and environmental destruction. His decency and faith in people’s self-interested altruism made a unique contribution to British politics. After 40 years of dedicated public service, Frank will be mourned by admirers across the political divide. But above all, he will be deeply missed by those lucky enough to have enjoyed his laughter and friendship.”

He represented Birkenhead as a Member of Parliament for four decades, spanning from 1979 to 2019. Initially serving as a Labour MP until August 2018, he continued as an independent.

In 2019, he established the Birkenhead Social Justice Party, contesting the 2019 election as its sole candidate, albeit unsuccessfully. Following his departure from the House of Commons, he received a life peerage in 2020 and took his seat in the House of Lords as a crossbencher.

The Member of Parliament for Birkenhead, Mick Whitley, told Birkenhead News of his sadness at the passing today of his predecessor, Frank Field. Mick said, “I woke up this morning to the very sad news that Frank Field had died aged 81.

“Frank had been very ill for some time, and I was informed of his terminal illness back in 2021. It is a tribute to his resilience as a human being that he not only survived the illness for so long, but also managed to fulfil his duties as a crossbench peer in the House of Lords.

“For forty years Frank represented Birkenhead as its MP and was a Minister for Welfare Reform in the Labour government under Tony Blair. It was an apt appointment given his work to tackle poverty when he was a director of Child Poverty Action from 1969 to 1979.

“Indeed, it was Frank’s longstanding dedication to the struggle to eradicate poverty that he will rightly be remembered for. His work not only dealt with the scourge of poverty at a national level.

“For the people of Birkenhead Frank was often a lifeline, helping and advising people at his surgeries. And he was a champion of tackling food poverty through the “Feeding Birkenhead” charity. It prefigured the many foodbanks we see today and as Frank once said it was a charity that should not have to exist in modern Britain.

“Regardless of their political persuasion the people of Birkenhead, across the board, will mourn their former MP’s passing, and rightly so. Frank has given our town an enduring legacy which I salute. And my sincere condolences go to Frank’s family, friends and to his colleagues in the House of Lords and across politics.”

Labour leader, Kier Starmer said, “The death of Frank Field is a profound loss to politics and to our nation. Frank dedicated his life to being a voice for the most vulnerable and marginalised people in the country.

“Frank was principled, courageous and independent-minded. Her cared about the people he served, thought deeply about the issues he championed, and worked entirely for the good of the people of Birkenhead as their MP for over 40 years. His honour and integrity were well known and admired.

“On behalf of the Labour Party, my thoughts are with his family.”

Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak said, “Frank Field was a decent, moral, and thoughtful man. He was a great parliamentarian – he made our politics better and raised the level of national debate in this country. My thoughts and prayers are with his family today.”

Angela Eagle DBE, Labour MP for Wallasey said that Lord Field’s death was “very sad news”, and that he always supported her as her “parliamentary neighbour”. She said he was “brimming with ideas to make society better” and was “a great champion of his Birkenhead constituents”.

Birkenhead’s Hive Youthzone CEO, Jayne Wilson said, “Frank was instrumental in how The Hive Youth Zone came to be – a key supporter from the minute the idea for a Wirral youth zone was first put forward, helping to find a site for this incredible building and speaking up for the need for even more top-quality youth work for both Birkenhead and wider Wirral.

“And as a champion for those experiencing severe poverty both here in Birkenhead and far beyond, Frank was a longstanding voice on the issues facing so many of the young people we serve. Some of his experiences with us – such as packing food and toiletry hampers in our sports hall at Christmas time some years ago – fed into his work to bring the impact of the rising cost of living and policy decisions affecting families to national attention.

“As part of the youth work ecosystem on the Wirral, we’re proud to have been among the organisations deploying monies from Frank’s Feeding Birkenhead programme to support young people with food and activities when school’s out, which was the bedrock of the national holiday activity and food programme which continues to thrive today.” 

Tranmere Rovers FC Chairman Mark Palios said, “Frank was fiercely independent and fought Birkenhead’s case for 40 years. He was a great supporter of the Club and recognised its importance to the community, describing it as ‘one of the heartbeats of the Wirral’.”

Frank Ernest Field, Baron Field of Birkenhead, CH, PC, DL  16 July 1942 – 23 April 2024

Image: Official portrait Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0) 

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