Dawn Primarolo, Baroness Primarolo, DBE, PC (born 2 May 1954) is a British Labour Party politician who was the Member of Parliament for Bristol South from 1987 until 2015, when she stood down. She was Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families at the Department for Children, Schools and Families from June 2009 to May 2010 and a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons from 2010. She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2014 Birthday Honours for political service. She was nominated for a life peerage in the 2015 Dissolution Honours.
Early life and career
Born in London, Primarolo was raised in Crawley, West Sussex, where she attended Thomas Bennett comprehensive school. She then studied at Bristol Polytechnic as a bookkeeper and legal secretary. Returning to London, in 1973 she joined the Labour Party whilst employed as a legal secretary in an east London Law Centre.
After marrying, she moved back to Bristol to raise her son. She then studied for a social science degree at Bristol Polytechnic, where she gained a BA (Hons). Whilst working, she then continued her studies at the University of Bristol, where she registered for a Ph.D research into women and housing. She did not finish the Ph.D, but was awarded an honorary doctorate by the university in 2016.
Becoming involved in her local community, Primarolo belonged to various women’s groups and was active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a founder member of Windmill Hill City Farm, and a school governor.
Primarolo was first elected to Parliament at the 1987 general election, after the constituency party de-selected Michael Cocks, the sitting MP. She gained attention in 1989 by asking Margaret Thatcher if the only hope for low-paid women was "to follow her example and find herself a wealthy husband". She was reading out a question on behalf of Ann Clwyd, at the time, who had "lost her voice".
At the time she was first elected, Primarolo was considered to be on the hard left, but later became a New Labour loyalist, leading Andrew Roth of The Guardian to say she has "changed from 'Red Dawn' to 'Rosy Pink'"; As part of this change, she shifted from support for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), the rise of which originally led her into politics, to voting for the renewal of Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent.
Primarolo has held the following positions:
- 1992–1994: Opposition Spokesman for Health
- 1994–1997: Opposition Spokesman for the Treasury
- 1997–1999: Financial Secretary to the Treasury
- 1999–2007: Paymaster General
- 2007–2009: Minister of State for Public Health
- 2009–2010: Minister of State Children and Young People
Despite campaigning against the first Gulf War in 1991, she voted in favour of the Iraq War in 2003, and against any investigation into the invasion after it had taken place. On other 'key issues' (as described by TheyWorkForYou), she has voted in favour of ID cards and increased university tuition fees.
As Paymaster General, Primarolo was responsible for the administration of the Tax Credits system, which was a system that contributed to raising millions of children out of poverty. However, the administration of this system received some criticism, including allegations that some families were left less well off as a result. In 2003, a Treasury select committee member accused her of "losing control of [her] department" after it became known that Inland Revenue buildings under Primarolo's purview had been sold to tax-haven companies. This came shortly after she had "insisted ... the Child tax credit scheme was a 'success'", despite Inland Revenue staff walking out in protest against the pressure under which they were placed. She was also responsible for introducing the controversial IR35 tax rules which were designed to tax "disguised employment" at a rate similar to employment. The measure was controversial as it was seen by some as unfair. Primarolo was also the longest serving Paymaster General in the office's 200-year history. Primarolo was named Chairman of the Code of Conduct Group upon its establishment by ECOFIN in March 1998.
In 2005, PM Tony Blair was forced to apologise after a report by the Parliamentary Ombudsman that Primarolo had failed to give Parliament accurate information. Primarolo admitted at the same time that she had been fully aware "about the extent of the problems".
As Minister of State for Public Health she was responsible for health improvement and health protection issues including such areas as tobacco, obesity, drugs and sexual health, as well as international business, pharmacy and research and development.
On 5 June 2009 Primarolo was moved, this time succeeding Beverley Hughes as Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families at the Department for Children, Schools and Families. This gave her the right to attend cabinet when her responsibilities were on the agenda.
Primarolo's abilities as a minister have been questioned, with former Prime Minister Tony Blair revealing in his autobiography A Journey that he did not think she was "right for government" but had to give her a job because she was one of Gordon Brown's key allies; and political commentator Danny Finkelstein arguing that she was "contender no. 1" for title of "Labour's worst Minister". Jonathan Powell, Blair's Chief of Staff, is reported as saying "We fired Dawn Primarolo about ten times. And each time Gordon (Brown) insisted we put her back."
Primarolo joined the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Children when Labour entered opposition in May 2010. In June 2010 she became a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons. In November 2011 she announced her intention to stand down from Parliament at the next general election.
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- Ross, Philip (2012). Freedom to Freelance...The fight against IR35. p. 331. ISBN 9781471735752.
- ec.europa.eu: Taxation and Customs Union - Harmful tax competition - Code of Conduct
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- "The End of the Party" (Page 322) ISBN 978-0-670-91851-5, Andrew Rawnsley
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- Simon Walters The day leadership rival John Reid propositioned the young Brown ally Dawn Primarolo – and never drank again Daily Mail, 13 May 2007
- Bristol South Labour Party
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 2010–present
- Contributions in Parliament during 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 at Hansard Archives
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- The Rt Hon Dawn Primarolo MP Department of Health (archived)
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament for Bristol South
| Second Deputy Chair of Ways and Means
| Financial Secretary to the Treasury
| Paymaster General
| Minister of State for Public Health
| Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families
as Minister of State for Children and Families