Stuart Bell

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Sir Stuart Bell
Sir Stuart Bell MP black and white (cropped).jpg
Second Church Estates Commissioner
In office
2 May 1997 11 May 2010
Prime Minister Tony Blair
Gordon Brown
Preceded by Michael Alison
Succeeded by Tony Baldry
Member of Parliament
for Middlesbrough
In office
9 June 1983 13 October 2012
Preceded by Arthur Bottomley
Succeeded by Andy McDonald
Personal details
Born16 May 1938
High Spen, County Durham, England
Died13 October 2012 (aged 74)
Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, England
NationalityBritish
Political party Labour
Spouse(s)(1) Margaret Bruce (div.)
(2) Margaret Allan

Sir Stuart Bell (16 May 1938 – 13 October 2012) was a British Labour Party politician, who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Middlesbrough from the 1983 general election until his death in 2012.

Contents

Early life

Bell was born in County Durham in 1938, the son of a miner. He studied at the Hookergate Grammar School on School Lane in High Spen near Rowlands Gill, Gateshead. He later attended the Durham Pitmans College. He joined the Labour Party in 1964, and was called to the Bar at Gray's Inn in 1970. He worked as an international lawyer in Paris until 1977, representing large multi-national companies. He contested Hexham at the 1979 general election, but was defeated by the Conservative MP and former Cabinet Minister Geoffrey Rippon.

Parliamentary career

Bell was elected to the City Council of Newcastle upon Tyne in 1980. In 1982, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough, Arthur Bottomley announced that he would step down at the next general election; Bell won the subsequent selection process to fight the seat at the 1983 general election. Bell comfortably held the seat, elected with a majority just short of 10,000 votes.

At Westminster, Bell became the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition Roy Hattersley in 1983. He was promoted to the shadow frontbench in 1984 by Neil Kinnock as a Spokesman for Northern Ireland. However, he chose to resign his post after the Cleveland child abuse scandal which occupied two years of his life, after making unsubstantiated accusations of 'clinical error' against local paediatricians and child sexual abuse specialists. The paediatricians, Dr. Marietta Higgs and Dr. Geoffrey Wyatt, were later absolved and their forensic clinical work validated at a committee of inquiry overseen by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss.

After the 1992 general election and the election of John Smith as the Leader of the Labour Party, Bell returned to the shadow frontbenches as a spokesman for Trade and Industry. After the election of the Labour Government at the 1997 general election he was dropped from Labour's frontbench, but was appointed on the advice of Tony Blair as the Second Church Estates Commissioner, the spokesman for the Church of England in the House of Commons, a position he held from 1997 to 2010.

From 2000 to 2005 he was the Chairman of the Finance and Services Committee, which manages the annual budget of the House of Commons and its many employees. In 2005 he became a member of the Finance and Services Committee until 2008 when he served as chairman until 2010. Relatedly, from 2000 until 2010 he was a member of the House of Commons Commission, which oversees the administration of the House and the Members Estimate Committee that sets MPs' pay and pensions. He was a member of the Liaison Committee between 2000–10. He was a member of the Ecclesiastical Committee from 1997.

Bell sat on the Members Estimates Committee at Parliament and was heavily involved representing MPs' interests in the MPs' expenses scandal of 2009. He was a member in Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority between 2009–10. A founder member of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body, he was a Treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Promotion of First Past the Post. [1] and was Secretary of the Franco-British Parliamentary Relations Committee in the Commons. In February 2010 Bell was played by David Calder in the television film On Expenses.

Criticism and controversy

On 13 October 2009, he claimed on the BBC Today programme that the investigation by Sir Thomas Legg into the United Kingdom Parliamentary expenses scandal was marked by "retrospectivity", as Sir Thomas had changed the rules on expenses after MPs' claims had been submitted. [2]

Stuart Bell featured in a film of the 2010 general election entitled ToryBoy The Movie made by John Walsh, which explored the candidate's selection process and the work that goes into an election campaign. In early 2011, the Daily Mail claimed that Bell had not held a constituency surgery since 1997. [3] Later in 2011, Neil Macfarlane, in a report for local newspaper Teesside Gazette , asked "Are Teessiders getting enough from Sir Stuart Bell?" when he failed to answer over 100 telephone calls made to his constituency office over three months. [4] The Gazette story was picked up by national newspapers. The Independent asked "is Sir Stuart Bell Britain's laziest MP?" [5] [6] The Guardian fact-checked the "laziest MP" claim and found that:

"Bell has been an MP for nearly 30 years and has had a distinguished career in parliament as a frontbench spokesman on trade and industry in opposition and the spokesman for the Church of England in the House of Commons and member of the House of Commons commission until last year. He's part of a breed of politicians – also including the Tory Edward Leigh and Labour's Gerald Kaufman  – who have been extremely active parliamentarians but not always maintained an office in their constituency. One measure of their parliamentary work is the proportion of votes they turn up to... Bell's record doesn't cover him in glory, discounting frontbenchers, Northern Irish MPs, the Speaker and his deputies, he has the 10th worst attendance record with a 65.4% absence rate." [7]

The Labour Party said it was looking into the allegations. [6] [8] Bell later said that he had stopped surgeries after being assaulted, and was willing to meet constituents "by appointment". He stated that he would discuss the matter with Labour Chief Whip Rosie Winterton, and would be writing to Labour Party leader Ed Miliband to explain his circumstances. [9]

Other interests

Bell was a member of the French think tank, the Fondation pour l'Innovation Politique. [10] He had been a prolific self-publishing author, writing many short stories and novels in his later years, including a pornographic novel called Paris Sixty-Nine. [11] He was also a regular newspaper columnist for the Mail on Sunday and other publications. [10]

Personal life

Insignia of Knight Bachelor Knights Bachelor Insignia.png
Insignia of Knight Bachelor

Bell was married in 1960 to Margaret Bruce and they had a son and a daughter. After his divorce, he married Margaret Allan in 1980 and they had a son. [12]

Honours

Bell was knighted in 2004 for his "services to Parliament" and was appointed a Chevalier of the Légion d'honneur, France's highest order, by President Jacques Chirac in 2006. [10]

Death

Bell died on 13 October 2012 after a short battle with pancreatic cancer. [13]

Publications

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References

  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 August 2016. Retrieved 15 September 2017.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. "MPs' grievance over expenses letters" Archived 2 June 2016 at the Wayback Machine , BBC News, 13 October 2009.
  3. Walters, Simon; Wilkinson, Paul (13 February 2011). "Labour veteran Sir Stuart Bell held voters surgery 14 years". London: Daily Mail. Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  4. gazettelive Administrator (6 September 2011). "Are Teessiders getting enough from Sir Stuart Bell?". gazettelive. Archived from the original on 5 August 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  5. Jonathan Brown No surgeries for 14 years - is Sir Stuart Bell Britain's laziest MP? Archived 25 September 2015 at the Wayback Machine , Independent, 7 September 2011.
  6. 1 2 Richard Moss Middlesbrough MP Sir Stuart Bell fights laziest MP tag Archived 28 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine , BBC, 9 September 2011.
  7. Polly Curtis (8 September 2011). "Reality check: Who are Britain's laziest parliamentarians?". the Guardian. Archived from the original on 18 November 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  8. gazettelive Administrator (8 September 2011). "Labour launches probe into Middlesbrough MP". gazettelive. Archived from the original on 18 November 2017. Retrieved 17 November 2017.
  9. Fernandez, Colin (8 September 2011). "Is this Britain's laziest MP? Labour veteran who claims £83,000 for staff but hasn't held a constituency surgery for 14 YEARS". London: Daily Mail. Archived from the original on 8 September 2011. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
  10. 1 2 3 "Sir Stuart Bell - Obituary". The Telegraph. 16 October 2012. Archived from the original on 21 March 2019. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  11. Walters, Simon; Wilkinson, Paul (13 February 2011). "Labour veteran hasn't held voters' surgery for 14 years: Mother is snubbed 40 times by MP who says 'I haven't let people down'". Daily Mail. London. Archived from the original on 17 February 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2011.
  12. Debrett's People of Today
  13. "MP Bell dies after cancer battle". Bradford Telegraph & Argus. 13 October 2012. Archived from the original on 6 June 2013. Retrieved 13 October 2012.
Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Alison
Second Church Estates Commissioner
1997–2010
Succeeded by
Sir Tony Baldry
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Arthur Bottomley
Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough
1983–2012
Succeeded by
Andy McDonald