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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 22:41 GMT
Profile: Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge
Margaret Hodge became minister for children in June
Margaret Hodge entered Parliament at a 1994 by-election.

The current minister for children carried with her a formidable reputation, from her time as leader of Islington Borough Council.

Now it is claims from her leadership of the London council between 1982 and 1992 which have come to haunt her ministerial career.

During that decade, it emerged that children in the council's care had been abused.

Mrs Hodge has been accused of failing to act, despite receiving warnings - an allegation she denies.

'Better equipped'

The claims rapidly resurfaced when Tony Blair made her the first minister for children, and she has faced a series of calls for her resignation.

Mrs Hodge said she "deeply regretted" the abuse of children by council staff, but insisted: "I've had 12 years to think about those issues, to read about them, to talk to people about them, to learn about them.

"I think that equips me better than most, having been through that experience, in thinking about how we now create a safe environment for those children at risk, and really put the children at the heart of all the policies and the structures that we develop."

Born in Egypt in 1944, Mrs Hodge is a graduate of the London School of Economics and went into teaching and market research before her local government career began to blossom.

Modernising move

While Islington leader, Mrs Hodge was regularly held up in the media as an example of Labour's "loony left", because she led opposition to the Conservative policy of rate capping.

Nonetheless, pragmatism in the face of Labour's continued electoral defeat led her to become a moderniser.

That was evident by the time she became MP for Barking, after two years as a senior consultant at accountants Price Waterhouse.

She achieved a rapid rise within the Commons to become chair of the Commons education sub-committee in 1997.

With Labour in power, she joined the Department for Education as a junior minister in 1998, where she was responsible for reforming pre-school education policy.

Climbie inquiry

After the 2001 election, she won promotion within the department when she became minister for universities.

In that role, she vigorously defended the government's policy on tuition fees as the issue of university funding shot up the political agenda.

She was appointed as first ever minister for children in June 2003.

The post was created partly in response to the official report into the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie.

Policies on the under-fives, childcare, teenage pregnancy, family law and children at risk are all overseen by her.




SEE ALSO:
Tories step up pressure on Hodge
13 Nov 03  |  Politics
Abuse victim 'may sue minister'
12 Nov 03  |  Politics
Blair backs children's minister
02 Jul 03  |  Politics
Hodge defends child minister role
30 Jun 03  |  Politics
Hodge is minister for children
13 Jun 03  |  Education


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