|I was born on 26 April 1951, and attended local
schools in Birmingham prior to studying for a BSc in Biochemistry at Birmingham
University. After attaining a mediocre (2.ii) degree in that subject, I worked as a
research technician with Dr R H Michell, studying stimulus-response coupling in rat
parotid gland and other tissues. I joined ASTMS (now Amicus) at the start of my working life
1972. Prior to obtaining a PhD in 1979, I published four original research papers in the
Biochemical Journal and five hypothesis/review papers, including a review of
stimulus-response coupling at alpha-adrenergic receptors (Lynne M Jones and Robert H
Michell), in Biochemical Society Transaction volume 6 (1978), pp 673-688. My work
contributed to international recognition that there is a group of cell-surface receptors
stimulated by a variety of hormones and neurotransmitters that exert their effects by
raising intracellular calcium ion levels, but that this is mediated by a
calcium-independent process involving the breakdown of inositol phospholipids at the cell
The phenomenon of agonist-stimulated
incorporation of radioactive phosphate into inositol phospholipids was a process first
recognised in papers published in the 1950s by Lowell and Mabel Hokin. However, the exact
nature of the process and its function remained unclear until the late-70s/early 80s. My
experiments were the first to establish that, whilst the process was associated with
stimulation of receptors which appeared to act by raising intracellular calcium
concentration, the increased inositol phospholipid turnover was calcium independent.
Simultaneously with Mabel Hokin-Neaverson, I established that the increased synthesis of
inositol phospholipids was triggered by their breakdown at the cell surface.
Obtaining results exactly the opposite to those expected
(calcium independence and reduced cell membrane inositol phospholipid composition) was to
stand me in good stead in the political career that followed.
I joined the Labour Party at the time of the February 1974
General Election and by the late 1970s, I had become actively involved with the Party.
After three times of trying, I eventually won the previously Conservative council seat of
Kings Norton. I held on to the seat for three further elections, including in 1982 when,
post-Falklands War, the Conservatives were at their most popular.
From 1981, I worked part-time as a research fellow at the
Department of Cancer Studies at the University of Birmingham, helping to provide a cancer
hazard information service. During that time I also became Chair of Birmingham's Housing
Committee and gave birth to my first child. I then left science to pursue a career in
housing. I obtained a Postgraduate Diploma in Housing Studies from Birmingham Polytechnic
(now University of Central England) and went to work for a large housing association based
My second child was born in January 1990, a few days before I
was selected to fight the Birmingham Selly Oak Constituency for Labour. This is the
constituency in which I had lived for over 20 years, and which included the
Kings Norton ward, which I continued to represent on Birmingham City Council until 1994.
I was elected MP for Birmingham Selly Oak in April 1992 and
re-elected in May 1997, June 2001 and May 2005. As an MP I have been an independent-minded
member of the Parliamentary Labour Party and believe I made an effective
contribution to the work of the Science and Technology Select Committee from 1993 until
May 2001. My other main interests are in the Economy and Social Security.
Birmingham City Councillor 1980-94; Chair, Birmingham Housing
Committee 1984-87; Member of Parliament for Birmingham Selly Oak since 1992.
2005 - present, member of the Commons Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee
From 1993 to May 2001, member of the Commons Science &
Technology Select Committee
I am a member of the following All Party Parliamentary Groups:
co-Chair of the All Party Group on Mental Health
APG on Children
APG on Cycling
APG on Dance
APG on Drugs Misuse
APG on Homelessness and Housing
APG on Insurance and Financial Services
APG on Kashmir
APG on Primary Care
APG on Rendition
Member of the Campaign Group of MPs
Chair of the Parliamentary Forum on Transsexualism
Special political interests:
Environment (particularly Climate Change), Housing, Pensions and Social Security,