Dawn Primarolo MP (born 2 May 1954) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bristol South since 1987. 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 has been a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons since 2010. In November 2011 she announced her intention to stand down from Parliament at the next general election.[1]


 [hide*1 Early life and career

Early life and career[edit]Edit

Born in London, Primarolo was raised in CrawleyWest 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 south 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, conducting Ph.D research into women and housing.

Becoming involved in her local community, Primarolo belonged to various women’s groups, was active in CND, a founder member of Windmill Hill City Farm, and a school governor.

Political career[edit]Edit

Active in her local Labour Party, in 1985 she was elected to Avon County Council, where she acted as vice chair of the Equal Opportunities Committee.


Primarolo was first elected to Parliament at the 1987 general election, after the constituency party de-selected Michael Cocks, the sitting MP.

She found fame 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 of her election, she was regarded as a hard left-winger and is still often referred to by the media as "Red Dawn", but became a New Labour loyalist and "absolutely loyal to New Labour",[2] leading Andrew Roth of The Guardian to say she has "changed from 'Red Dawn' to 'Rosy Pink'";[3] as part of this change, she has moved from support of CND, the rise of which originally encouraged her into politics, to voting for the renewal of Britain's Trident nuclear defence.[4] She also unsuccessfully lobbied the Soviet government of Mikhail Gorbachev to rehabilitate Leon Trotsky.[5] She is a former member of Avon County Council.


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.[2][6] On other 'key issues' (as described by TheyWorkForYou), she has voted in favour of ID cards and increased university tuition fees.[6]

As Paymaster General, Primarolo was responsible for the administration of the Tax Credits system, intended to provide working families with financial support. However, the administration of this system has received significant criticism, including allegations that some families have been left less well off as a result.[7]In 2003, a Treasury select committee member accused her of "losing control of [her] department"[8] after it became known that Inland Revenue buildings under Primarolo's purview had been sold to tax-haven companies.[8] 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 they were being placed under.[8][9] She was also responsible for introducing the controversial[why?] IR35 tax rules.[citation needed] Primarolo was also the longest serving Paymaster General in the office's 200-year history.[citation needed]Primarolo was named Chair of the Code of Conduct Group upon its establishment by ECOFIN in March 1998.[10]

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".[11]

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.[12]

On 5 June 2009, Primarolo was moved again, this time succeeding Beverley Hughes as Minister of State for Children, Young People and Families at theDepartment for Children, Schools and Families. This gave her the right to attend cabinet when her responsibilities were on the agenda.[13]

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;[14] and political commentator Danny Finkelstein arguing that she was "contender no. 1" for title of "Labour's worst Minister".[15]

Deputy Speaker[edit]Edit

Primarolo joined the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Children when Labour entered opposition in May 2010.[16] In September 2010 she became Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons since 2010. In November 2011 she announced her intention to stand down from Parliament at the next general election.[1]

Personal life[edit]Edit

Primarolo married UNISON regional secretary Ian Ducat in Bristol in 1990.[17] On 13 May 2007, it was alleged that John Reid "sexually harassed" Primarolo during her early years in Parliament.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.