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Hilary Benn

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Hilary Benn

The Right Honourable
Hilary Benn
Shadow Foreign Secretary
Assumed office
11 May 2015
Leader Harriet Harman (Acting)
Jeremy Corbyn
Preceded by Douglas Alexander
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
In office
7 October 2011 – 11 May 2015
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by Caroline Flint
Succeeded by Emma Reynolds
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
In office
8 October 2010 – 7 October 2011
Leader Ed Miliband
Preceded by Rosie Winterton
Succeeded by Angela Eagle
Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
In office
11 May 2010 – 8 October 2010
Leader Harriet Harman (Acting)
Ed Miliband
Preceded by Nick Herbert
Succeeded by Mary Creagh
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
In office
28 June 2007 – 11 May 2010
Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Preceded by David Miliband
Succeeded by Caroline Spelman
Secretary of State for International Development
In office
6 October 2003 – 28 June 2007
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Preceded by The Baroness Amos
Succeeded by Douglas Alexander
Member of Parliament
for Leeds Central
Assumed office
10 June 1999
Preceded by Derek Fatchett
Majority 16,967 (37.7%)
Personal details
Born Hilary James Wedgwood Benn
(1953-11-26) 26 November 1953
London, England
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Rosalind Caroline Retey (1973–1979)
Sally Christina Clark (1982–present)[1]
Children Michael
Alma mater University of Sussex

Hilary James Wedgwood Benn (born 26 November 1953) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Leeds Central since 1999, and has served as the Shadow Foreign Secretary since May 2015. He served in the Cabinet as the Secretary of State for International Development from 2003 to 2007, as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2007 to 2010 and as the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government from 2011 to 2015.


  • Early life 1
  • Member of Parliament 2
    • In government 2.1
      • Bovine TB 2.1.1
      • War on Waste 2.1.2
      • Personal home 2.1.3
    • Awards 2.2
    • Bid for deputy leadership 2.3
    • Expenses 2.4
    • In opposition 2.5
  • Personal life 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Early life

Born in Hammersmith, London, the second son of former Labour Cabinet Minister Tony Benn and educationalist Caroline Benn. Benn is a fourth generation MP—his father, his grandfather Lord Stansgate, and his great grandfathers Sir John Benn and Daniel Holmes were all Members of Parliament, mostly with factions of the Liberal Party.[2] He attended Norland Place School, Westminster Under School, Holland Park School and University of Sussex where he graduated in Russian and East European Studies. Benn has an older brother, Stephen Benn, 3rd Viscount Stansgate, a younger sister Melissa and younger brother, Joshua.[3]

Member of Parliament

On leaving university, Benn became a Research Officer with the ASTMS and rose to become Head of Policy for Manufacturing Science and Finance. In 1980 he was seconded to the Labour Party to act as Joint Secretary to the finance panel of the Labour Party Commission of Inquiry. In 1979 he was elected to the Ealing Borough Council where he was Deputy Leader from 1986 to 1990. He was the Labour candidate for Ealing North in both the 1983 general election and 1987 general election. On both occasions he was defeated by the Conservative candidate Harry Greenway.

When Labour won power in 1997, Benn was appointed Special Adviser to David Blunkett as Secretary of State for Education and Employment. In 1999 he was quickly selected as the Labour candidate for the Leeds Central by-election, 1999 following the death of Derek Fatchett. Benn won the by-election on 10 June 1999 on a very small turnout, by just over 2,000 votes. He made his maiden speech on 23 June 1999. He was re-elected as MP for Leeds Central in the 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2015 general elections. He shares premises for his constituency office with Richard Corbett MEP.

In government

Hilary Benn has held the following positions:

Bovine TB

As Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it was the responsibility of Hilary Benn to respond to the threat to UK cattle from Mycobacterium bovis, colloquially referred to as bovine tuberculosis (TB). The recommended option from the Chief Scientific Advisor until 2007, Sir David King, was a badger cull.[4]

In July 2008, in a House of Commons debate after Hilary Benn had made clear that a badger cull would not be pursued, Anne Snelgrove (Labour) asked:

Was one of the practicalities that he envisaged that, in constituencies such as mine, with a densely populated centre surrounded by great swathes of countryside, it would be very difficult to undertake a cull and persuade people in the densely populated centre that that was the right thing to do?[5]

Benn replied:

That was one factor that I was bound to take into account in reaching my decision, because there are strong views on all sides and public opinion can have an impact on the practicality of a cull. It was entirely legitimate for that to be one of the factors that I weighed up in my mind, but above all the decision has been taken as a result of the science.[5]

In April 2010, a badger cull was announced in Wales, after the high court in Cardiff rejected a legal challenge from The Badger Trust.

War on Waste

Relating to the huge amounts of food wasted (according to WRAP 33% of all food produced), Hilary Benn launched the "War on Waste" programme to reduce this amount.[6] Whilst Benn proposed to scrap the "best before" date altogether, others proposed enhancing the validity date with other solutions such as time temperature indicators.

Personal home

In 2008, Benn was criticised by residents of the village Walberswick and the Conservative Party environment spokesman, after the sea wall by the Benn family home was restored by the Environment Agency, yet the sea harbour at nearby Southwold and Walberswick was abandoned.[7]


Benn was shortlisted for the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Award in 2015 for his work on increasing aid at DFID, and remains in the directory of the Grassroot Diplomat Who's Who publication.[8]

Bid for deputy leadership

In 2007 Benn was the bookmakers' favourite for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party.[9] The early polls in the Deputy Leadership contest showed him to be the grassroots' favourite—in a YouGov poll of party members, Benn was top on 27%, followed by Education Secretary Alan Johnson on 18%, Environment Secretary David Miliband on 17%, Justice Minister Harriet Harman on 10%, and Labour Party Chair Hazel Blears on 7%.[10] The contest was formally launched on 14 May 2007 after the resignation of incumbent Deputy leader John Prescott, Benn had some initial difficulties securing the necessary 45 nominations required to get on the ballot paper but he acquired the support needed to join five other candidates—Hazel Blears, Harriet Harman, Alan Johnson, Peter Hain and backbencher Jon Cruddas.[11][12] Supporting nominations from constituency Labour Parties showed Hilary Benn obtaining 25%, Jon Cruddas 22%, Harriet Harman 19%, Alan Johnson 14%, Hazel Blears 12% and Peter Hain 8% of the constituency parties that voted. The Labour leadership contest closed on Sunday 24 June 2007 with Harriet Harman winning the contest. Benn was eliminated in the 3rd round of voting having reached a total of 22.33% of the votes. Harriet Harman was elected in the 5th round with 50.43% of the vote.


Hilary Benn was picked out by several national newspapers as one of only three senior members of the Labour Party to have presented expenses beyond reproach. "When all Westminster MPs' total expenditures are ranked, Benn's bill is the 15th least expensive for the taxpayer," said The Guardian.[13]

In opposition

Benn briefly served as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2010 during Harriet Harman's interim leadership of the Labour Party. In Ed Miliband's first Shadow Cabinet, announced on 8 October 2010, he was appointed Shadow Leader of the House of Commons. When Miliband reshuffled his team on 7 October 2011, he was named Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. After 2015 UK general election Benn was named Shadow Foreign Secretary.

Personal life

In 1973, whilst at university, he married fellow student Rosalind Retey, who died of cancer at age 26 in 1979;[14] Benn subsequently married Sally Christina Clark in 1982.[15] He has four children.

Benn strongly resembles his father, Tony Benn, in his speaking style and delivery, but is a political centrist and was a New Labour loyalist. It is in this vein that he famously describes himself as "a Benn, but not a Bennite".[16] Like his father, he is a teetotaller and a vegetarian.[17]


  1. ^ Who's Who. A & C Black. 2015. 
  2. ^ Harry Cole. "Keeping it in the Family". Archived from the original on 20 February 2007. 
  3. ^ Benn, Anthony (1995). Winstone, Ruth, ed. The Benn Diaries. Hutchinson. p. 25.  
  4. ^ Ghosh, Pallab. "Science chief urges badger cull". BBC News. Retrieved 9 June 2015. 
  5. ^ a b "Bovine TB".  
  6. ^ Shields, Rachel (7 June 2009). "Kitchen bin war: tackling the food waste mountain".  
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Grassroot Diplomat Who's Who". Grassroot Diplomat. 15 March 2015. Retrieved 27 April 2015. 
  9. ^ "Blears 8/1 For Deputy Labour Leader".  
  10. ^ Wells, Anthony (8 September 2006). "YouGov polls on the Labour leadership". UK Polling Report. Archived from the original on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 11 October 2008. 
  11. ^ "Benn short of backers".  
  12. ^ "Deputy hopefuls make their case". BBC News. 17 May 2007. Archived from the original on 27 May 2007. Retrieved 17 May 2007. 
  13. ^ Allegra Stratton (8 May 2009). "Bargain Benn, modest Miliband (Ed, not David)".  
  14. ^ Benn, Anthony (1995). Winstone, Ruth, ed. The Benn Diaries.  
  15. ^ Benn, Anthony (1995). Winstone, Ruth, ed. The Benn Diaries. Hutchinson. p. 538.  
  16. ^ "Profile: Hilary Benn". BBC News ( 
  17. ^ Ashley, Jackie (9 November 2006). "'I'm not a natural rebel'".  

External links

  • official constituency website
  • Hilary Benn MP official Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) profile
  • Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
  • Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
  • Current session contributions in Parliament at Hansard
  • Voting record at Public Whip
  • Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
  • Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
  • Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
  • Articles authored at Journalisted
  • Close family, distant politics, Nicholas Watt, The Observer, 3 June 2007 interview with Benn and his father
  • Adapting to Climate Change Rt Hon Hilary Benn, Royal Institute of British Architects, Gleeds TV, video
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Derek Fatchett
Member of Parliament
for Leeds Central

Political offices
Preceded by
The Baroness Amos
Secretary of State for International Development
Succeeded by
Douglas Alexander
Preceded by
David Miliband
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Succeeded by
Caroline Spelman
Preceded by
Nick Herbert
Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Succeeded by
Mary Creagh
Preceded by
Rosie Winterton
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Angela Eagle
Preceded by
Caroline Flint
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Succeeded by
Emma Reynolds
Preceded by
Douglas Alexander
Shadow Foreign Secretary
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