From 1969-79, Frank Field 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 until 1980. The Unit was established to make sure wages councils properly protected the rights of workers in certain industries. It was the first to campaign for a national minimum wage, along with Rodney Bickerstaffe, the former general secretary of the National Union of Public Employees, now Unison; a goal that was eventually achieved in 1998.
In 1979, he was elected Member of Parliament for Birkenhead and has since displayed a unique attachment to his constituency. During the 1980s he led the campaign to make the Labour Party electable, which not only involved the very public countering of Trotskyites in Birkenhead, but also the development of policies which appealed beyond the ghettos. To this end, he led the transformation of the debate on welfare from one that believed in a process of pure altruism, to one which had a more sane view of human nature.
Between 1980 and 1981 he served as Shadow Education and Social Security spokesman under the leadership of Michael Foot. In 1990 he took up the chairmanship of the Social Security Select Committee and continued in this role up to 1997. From 1997-1998 he accepted the position of Minister for Welfare Reform in Tony Blair’s first cabinet. Since then, he has served as a member of the Public Accounts Committee between 2002 and 2005.
Outside of Parliament, he is equally busy and committed. In 1999 he helped set up the Pension Reform Group which he chairs. The group has acted as an important independent think tank for the cause of a long-term, investment led reform to the pension system. Since 2001 he has also chaired the Church Conservation Trust and has helped develop the trust from being one primarily concerned with conserving the best architectural gems of the Church to one which tries to open up such places for alternative use. From 2005, he has also been chairman of the Cathedral Fabrics Commission which is the planning authority for English cathedrals. In 2008, Frank also became a Patron of the Leveson Centre for the Study of Ageing, Spirituality and Social Policy.
Saturday 1 November 2008, 5.15pm Upper Gulbenkian Gallery
Immigration: the more the scarier?
Neighbours from Hell: the politics of behaviour, Politicos, September 2003.
Welfare Titans, Civitas, 2002
"I was amazed by the high quality of the Battle of Ideas 2007 and the intellectual excitement that it provoked."
Prof Malcolm Grant CBE, president and provost, University College London