Stephen Dorrell

The Right Honourable
Stephen Dorrell
Chair of the Health Select Committee
In office
June 2010  18 June 2014
Preceded by Kevin Barron
Succeeded by Sarah Wollaston
Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment
In office
11 June 1997  2 June 1998
Leader William Hague
Preceded by Gillian Shephard
Succeeded by David Willetts
Shadow Secretary of State for Health
In office
2 May 1997  11 June 1997
Leader John Major
Preceded by Chris Smith
Succeeded by John Maples
Secretary of State for Health
In office
5 July 1995  2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Virginia Bottomley
Succeeded by Frank Dobson
Secretary of State for National Heritage
Prime Minister John Major
In office
20 July 1994  5 July 1995
Preceded by Peter Brooke
Succeeded by Virginia Bottomley
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
11 April 1992  11 July 1994
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Francis Maude
Succeeded by George Young
Member of Parliament
for Charnwood
In office
3 May 1997  30 March 2015
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Edward Argar
Member of Parliament
for Loughborough
In office
3 May 1979  1 May 1997
Preceded by John Cronin
Succeeded by Andy Reed
Personal details
Born (1952-03-25) 25 March 1952
Worcester, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Penelope Taylor
Alma mater Brasenose College, Oxford
Website Official website

Stephen James Dorrell (born 25 March 1952) is a former British Conservative politician.[1] He served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Loughborough between 1979 and 1997 and then for Charnwood from 1997 to 2015.

Dorrell most recently served for four years as Chairman of the House of Commons Health Select Committee from 2010 to 2014. In the 1990s he was a full member of Prime Minister John Major's Cabinet for almost three years, whilst serving as both Secretary of State for National Heritage and then Secretary of State for Health until the 1997 general election. He was also a Patron of the Tory Reform Group.

Since 2014 he has been a consultant with the health and public service practice of KPMG.

Early life and education

Dorrell was born in Worcester and educated at Uppingham School, Rutland and Brasenose College, Oxford, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. He was a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve for two years from 1971.

Political career

During the February 1974 general election, Dorrell acted as a personal assistant to Conservative minister Peter Walker. Aged only 22, he contested the safe Labour seat of Hull East at the October 1974 general election, but was heavily defeated by the sitting MP (and later Deputy Prime Minister), John Prescott, who was returned with a majority of 25,793 votes.

At the 1979 general election, the Conservatives were returned to office under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher. Dorrell, still only 27, was elected to the House of Commons for the marginal seat of Loughborough, ousting the veteran Labour MP John Cronin by 5,199 votes. He remained an MP until standing down from Parliament at the 2015 General Election.

On his election he was the Baby of the House of Commons, an informal title for the youngest member. He was succeeded as the Baby of the House on 9 April 1981 when Bobby Sands was elected at the April 1981 Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election, however Sands died on 5 May 1981 whilst on hunger strike in Long Kesh Prison. Dorrell again became the Baby of the House until 20 August 1981, when Sands' successor Owen Carron was elected at the August 1981 Fermanagh and South Tyrone by-election.

Following his election to parliament in 1979 he was a member of the Transport Select Committee. After the 1983 general election he was appointed as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to his old boss Peter Walker, who had now become the Secretary of State for Energy.

In government

Dorrell was promoted to government after the 1987 General Election by the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as an Assistant Government Whip, and in 1988 became a Lord Commissioner to the Treasury 'full whip'. He was appointed as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health in 1990 under the premiership of John Major. After the 1992 General Election he became the Financial Secretary to the Treasury.

Dorrell was promoted to the Major Cabinet as the Secretary of State for National Heritage in 1994, and on appointment became a Member of the Privy Council. He headhunted Jennie Page for the job of Millennium Dome Chief Executive according to The Observer.[2] Page was sacked shortly after the Dome's opening night fiasco. He was transferred to become the Secretary of State for Health in 1995, and remained in position until the end of the Conservative administration at the 1997 general election.

Dorrell was often deployed in the media as a spokesman for the Major government, as it was felt he conveyed an air of approachability and popular appeal. During one party conference season in the late nineties he was followed by a camera crew from the BBC's Breakfast show, capturing the behind-the-scenes build-up to his conference speech. The actual speech was also shown, including his joke (at the height of tensions in the Conservative party over Europe) that he considered himself a 'bureausceptic'. Unfortunately the joke, a reference to trying to reduce the level of red tape in the Health Service, fell on deaf ears.

After government

When constituency boundaries were revised for the 1997 election, he moved with his key rural voters into the new Charnwood Constituency. He won the seat comfortably with a majority of 5,900, although Loughborough was lost to Andy Reed of Labour.

He launched a bid for the leadership of the Conservative Party in 1997, but withdrew before the first ballot when it became clear his support amongst Conservative MPs was negligible. Instead he threw his support behind Kenneth Clarke's bid. Under William Hague he became shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment, but left the shadow cabinet in 1998, and was a backbencher for the remainder of his parliamentary career.

Chairman of Health Select Committee and views on NHS reforms

In June 2010, Dorrell was elected Chairman of the Health Select Committee. In June 2011, following concerns over the unpopularity of Andrew Lansley's NHS reforms Dorrell was tipped as a possible successor but stated that he wanted to continue as the committee chairman for the full parliament.[3] An alternate view was that David Cameron would not want any more "Tory retreads" from previous governments.[3] Dorrell acknowledged that resources would become tighter but changes driven by new medicines and new expectations were inevitable and integration of health care and social care would be both better and more efficient.[3] Interviewed in 2012, Dorrell stated that the 4% per year for four years efficiency targets, agreed before the 2010 election and described as "a huge challenge", were taking too long to achieve.[4] Whilst the bill had good points, e.g. involving clinicians and local authorities, more independence for public health etc. savings required a change in the way care is delivered not just changes in management structure.[4] The reforms were acting as a "disruption and distraction".[4] They were a secondary issue compared with the need to make efficiency savings of £20bn.[5] Dorrell resigned in June 2014 and was succeeded by Sarah Wollaston.[6]

Expenses investigation over "secret flat rent deal" with care home owners

In November 2012 Dorrell was reported to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) after arranging to sell his London flat to “friends” who owned a chain of nursing homes, subsequently renting it back at £1,400 a month, funded by the taxpayer. His impartiality as chairman was questioned as the Health Select Committee was investigating social care, and some of the chain's nursing homes had been criticised by the Care Quality Commission. Committee members were not aware of the financial connection. David Cameron refused to get involved saying it was a matter for IPSA, which said the rules banned MPs from renting from family members, not from friends.[7]

Standing down from Parliament

In November 2014, Dorrell surprised constituency colleagues by announcing he was standing down in order to take a job with consultancy KPMG in "a senior role supporting their health and public service practice...". The role, he said, was "incompatible with seeking re-election to the House of Commons". Fellow Leicestershire Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen also expressed surprise, but said that the prestige of Parliament had fallen since the expenses scandal, and a number of experienced MPs were leaving. Neighbouring Loughborough MP Nicky Morgan described him as "a really important political figure in Leicestershire since 1979. He has been a great support to me". She denied claims she would stand in Dorrell's Charnwood constituency (rather than Loughborough) at the 2015 general election, saying that these were "rumour-mongering" by members of the Labour Party. (In May 2015 she held the Loughborough seat with an increased majority).

The Labour candidate for Charnwood, Sean Kelly Walsh, paid tribute to Dorrell's long service and constituency work, as well as his roles as Secretary of State for Health and chairman of the Health Affairs Select Committee.[8]

Resignation call over conflict of interest

In December 2014, Dorrell was criticised for alleged conflict of interest when it became clear that he would be working both as an MP and KPMG consultant for six months until the election, and that KPMG were considering bidding for a £1 billion NHS contract. Pointing out that Dorrell had previously admitted the two roles were incompatible, Dr Clive Peedell, co-leader of the National Health Action party, called for him to resign from one of the posts. Dorrell responded saying no issues were raised as he was not seeking re-election.[9]

In January 2015, a group of six pensioners, who called at Dorrell's offices in Thurmaston to hand in a 2,286 signature petition calling on him to resign, were told they were trespassing and the police would be called. Hanif Asmal, Chairman of Charnwood Conservative Association claimed police were called as the group didn’t have an appointment.[10]
According to the Daily Telegraph, Dorrell's extra-parliamentary work took up 1,736 hours, or 33.4 hours per week, in 2014.[11] The Telegraph also stated he voted in 63% of opportunities in Parliament ranking him 517 out of 650 MPs.[12]

Criticisms of business practice

Dorrell has been criticised for his actions when, in 2009, his family-owned firm went into a prepack administration, a "controversial" but legal procedure which the Government’s Insolvency Service said was "mocking rules".[13] David Blake, Director of the Cass Business School in London, believes the method is used to dump pension fund liabilities.[14] The controversy may have deterred David Cameron from inviting Dorrell to join the Front Bench.[13]

Dorrell was a director of clothing company, Faithful, a family business established in the 19th Century which made blue collar workwear in Worcester.[15] According to Finance Director, Steve Hall, the company had been quite profitable until 2004 when it was split between Dorrell and his brother.[15] By 2005, after a number of unsuccessful acquisitions, the company pensions deficit was almost £3 million. The pension scheme was changed to money purchase, and the factory site was pledged to support it.[15] However, when the site was sold, some of the money was used to buy another business, and the firm merged with stock market-listed Wensum.[15] None of the money was paid into the pension scheme.[15] According to Dorrell, the scheme now required 10% of the annual turnover of the company, making restructuring impossible.[15] An independent trustee was appointed and the pension fund received nothing, though Wensum was able to continue in business.[15]

In May 2009, Wensum was put into a prepack administration which allowed a new company, GG125, to acquire Wensum's assets for £7.9 million, whilst leaving its debts unpaid.[16]

GG125 was subsequently renamed Wensum Group Limited.[16] The deal was completed in a day, Dorrell receiving a director salary (increased to £200,000 in September 2009) plus 15% share ownership in the new company.[15][17] As company contributions had ceased, the workers were put into the Pension Protection Fund (PPF), which caps the maximum payable and has limited protection against inflation.[15] Hall expects to lose 30-40% of his pension because of the cap.[14] Dorrell and his wife had already withdrawn their pensions,[15] although Dorrell claimed he had lost £550,000 because of the failure, and that the alternative to the prepack would have offered less.[13]

The prepack was criticised as "completely immoral", and inappropriate for listed companies, by a South African creditor, LA group. It had sold a clothing manufacturer to Wensum in May 2009, in exchange for Wensum shares which became worthless after the prepack.[16] Another Wensum shareholder compared the deal to a "spider eviscerating a fly it has caught, taking all the good bits, then dropping the useless carcass, which is the creditors, the shareholders and of course the taxpayer".[13]

After Parliament

He was reckoned by the Health Service Journal to be the 24th most influential person in the English NHS in 2015 after he became Chair of the NHS Confederation.[18]

Titles and styles

Personal life

Dorrell is married to Penelope Taylor[19] and has three sons and a daughter.[1] He is a Trustee of Uppingham School and a Governor of Loughborough Endowed Schools.[20]


  1. 1 2 "Stephen Dorrell MP -official constituency website". Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  2. Thorpe, Vanessa (5 February 2000). "How Dome dreams were dashed". The Observer. Retrieved 31 July 2008.
  3. 1 2 3 John Hess (9 June 2011). "Stephen Dorrell rules out return as Health Secretary". BBC. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  4. 1 2 3 "Stephen Dorrell: NHS faces huge challenge". BBC. 24 January 2012. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  5. Clare Horton (2 March 2012). "=NHS reform debate has lost touch with reality, says Stephen Dorrell". Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  6. "Dr Sarah Wollaston elected as health committee chairwoman". BBC News. 18 June 2014. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  7. Christopher Hope (21 November 2012). "MPs' expenses: Stephen Dorrell MP reported to sleaze watchdog over secret flat rent deal". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 24 October 2014.
  8. danjmartin (25 November 2014). "Conservative Charnwood MP Stephen Dorrell quitting Parliament to join KPMG". Leicester Mercury. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  9. "Stephen Dorrell MP faces calls to resign over conflict of interest". Daily Telegraph. 1 December 2014. Retrieved 4 December 2014.
  10. PA_Warzynski (11 January 2015). "Police called to MP Stephen Dorrell's office to deal with petitioning pensioners". Leicester Mercury. Retrieved 17 January 2015.
  11. Lyndsey Telford and Luke Heighton (22 February 2015). "The MPs who topped up their salaries with £1,600-an-hour second jobs". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 February 2015.
  12. Michael Wilkinson. "Election 2015: How active was my MP?". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 April 2015.
  13. 1 2 3 4 Graham Ruddick (21 Jul 2009). "MP Stephen Dorrell faces backlash over Wensum 'pre-pack'". Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  14. 1 2 Fran Abrams (9 March 2010). "How firms 'avoid' pension costs". BBC. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  15. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Fran Abrams (14 March 2010). "Pensions crisis". BBC File on 4. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  16. 1 2 3 Graham Ruddick (19 September 2009). "Stephen Dorrell criticised over 'immoral' deal". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  17. Graham Ruddick (27 September 2009). "MP gets pay rise as creditors struggle with £4m debt". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
  18. "HSJ100 2015". Health Service Journal. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 23 December 2015.
  19. "Stephen Dorrell MP". Westminster Parliamentary Record. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
  20. "Changes to the Register of Members' Interests Stephen Dorrell]". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 2 May 2012.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Cronin
Member of Parliament for Loughborough
Succeeded by
Andy Reed
New constituency Member of Parliament for Charnwood
Succeeded by
Edward Argar
Preceded by
David Alton
Baby of the House
Succeeded by
Bobby Sands
Preceded by
Bobby Sands
Baby of the House
Succeeded by
Owen Carron
Political offices
Preceded by
Francis Maude
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
George Young
Preceded by
Peter Brooke
Secretary of State for National Heritage
Succeeded by
Virginia Bottomley
Preceded by
Virginia Bottomley
Secretary of State for Health
Succeeded by
Frank Dobson
Preceded by
Harriet Harman
Shadow Secretary of State for Health
Succeeded by
John Maples
Preceded by
Gillian Shephard
Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment
Succeeded by
David Willetts

Shadow Secretary of State for Education

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