Malcolm Wicks: MP who fought for the young and the elderly

 

When the obituaries editor of The Independent invites me to contribute an obituary of a parliamentary colleague it is my custom to garner opinions from three or four contemporary colleagues of the subject. But since on the occasion of Malcolm Wicks' death the Parliamentary Labour Party is busy in Manchester I went to two BBC producers and two presenters (who must remain anonymous) and asked them why they had Malcolm so often on radio – more often than most ministers. All four responded in identical terms, that Wicks was that rare politician who strived to answer the actual question asked. And they all agreed that whether on social policy or on energy policy, Wicks knew his stuff – and if he didn't known he would say so.

He was one of the workhorses, the unsung heroes, of the Labour government, and I am in a position to know how well he was regarded by leading figures in Scotland of the oil and gas industries when he had responsibility for energy. He was also conscientious in serving his constituents (he was MP for Croydon North West from 1992–97 and Croydon North from 1997). Richard Ottaway, the MP for Croydon South, said of him: "Malcolm left a proud and enduring legacy and he was greatly admired by politicians on all side in Croydon."

Etched into my memory is a June morning in 1996, a period when the Commons was experimenting with morning sittings, when Wicks gave a speech from the Opposition Front Bench on young people after the age of 16. "Fresh thinking is required," he said, "because only a proportion of that age group are in employment. The great majority are in education or training but too many are unemployed or unskilled and often ill-equipped for the jobs that are on offer in a modern economy. Policy must therefore be based on two things. First and foremost we must analyse the characteristics of that age group. Who are they? Where are they in terms of education and employment? Secondly, we need to assess how current policy and practice impacts on that group."

And he proceeded to do just that. Audrey Wise, who as chairman of the Select Committee on Social Security was immersed in such issues, told me, "Thank heavens we have in Malcolm Wicks a Front Bench spokesman who both cares and understands."

Wicks' background should have prepared us. After attending North-West London Polytechnic and the London School of Economics, he was a Fellow in the Department of Social Administration at York University (1968-70), a research worker for environmental studies (1970-72), a lecturer on social policy at Brunel University (1974-77), a social policy analyst at the Urban Deprivation Unit of the Home Office, a lecturer in social policy at the Civil Service College (1977-78), Research Director of the Study Commission on the Family (1978-83), and Director of the Family Policy Studies Centre (1983-1992).

One of his causes was carers. During the passage of the 1994-95 Carers (Recognition and Services) Act he argued the case for the extra resources the government was making available to social service departments. Characteristically he followed up by pressing the Under Secretary, John Brewis. For Wicks, speeches were not enough, and until illness forced him to become absent this year he monitored the legislation in which he had been involved. His work for the elderly earned him the regard of Jack Jones, who in retirement for a quarter of a century was a formidable leader of pensioners' pressure groups.

When Wicks arrived in the House 1992, he and I would often sit next to eachother. As I had been there for 30 years he would flatter me by seeking advice. I suggested to him that as the only MP who had been brought up in the Channel Islands he would have something to say on their tax status ,a delicate issue of the hour. He said with an apologetic grin – he had a nice grin with a twinkle in his eye – "I am interested in bigger islands. Which? Well, Australia and New Zealand. He was a stalwart of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, giving time to visitors from Down Under. He was well-known and well-liked by Wallaby and Kiwi politicians – his affectionate phrase.

Malcolm Hunt Wicks, social scientist and politician: born Hatfield 1 July 1947; MP for Croydon North West 1992–97, Croydon North 1997-; Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Education 1999–2001, Department for Work and Pensions 2001–03; Minister of State: for Pensions 2003–05, for Energy 2005–06, for Science and Innovation 2006–07, for Energy 2007–08; Special Representative of the Prime Minister on international energy 2008–10; married 1968 Margaret Baron (one son, two daughters); died London 29 September 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn