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About me

I have lived in Birmingham all my life and am proud to have served as MP for Birmingham Selly Oak since 1992.

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 membrane.

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 in Birmingham.

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.

Political career

Birmingham City Councillor 1980-94; Chair, Birmingham Housing Committee 1984-87; Member of Parliament for Birmingham Selly Oak since 1992.

Select Committees: 

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

Other Groups:

Member of the Campaign Group of MPs 

Chair of the Parliamentary Forum on Transsexualism

Special political interests: 

Environment (particularly Climate Change), HousingPensions and Social Security, Mental Health.


Why I am standing down at the next general election

Click here


Click here for a 30min interview I undertook on 17 July 2008 with Christine Burns MBE

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