Page last updated at 05:01 GMT, Monday, 12 October 2009 06:01 UK

Profile: Jacqui Smith

Jacqui Smith
Ms Smith was a teacher before becoming an MP in 1997

Jacqui Smith, who quit as home secretary over her expenses claims, has faced an ongoing investigation into the claims she made on her living arrangements.

Her promotion to home secretary, when Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007, surprised many at Westminster and she has hardly been out of the headlines since.

Born in Malvern, the MP for Redditch, Worcestershire, is a graduate of Hertford College, Oxford.

Before being elected she was head of economics at Haybridge High School in Hagley and a councillor.

Ms Smith, who has two sons, was one of the incoming "Blair babes" pictured with Tony Blair in the headily optimistic days after Labour's 1997 election victory.

A keen supporter of Mr Blair's modernising agenda, her rise within government was rapid.

'Making peace'

She became a junior education minister within two years of entering Parliament, a minister of state at the Department of Health after the 2001 election and, in the June 2003 reshuffle, was made a Department of Trade and Industry minister, and deputy minister for women.

In May 2005, Ms Smith was appointed schools minister, before becoming chief whip in May 2006 - a role in which the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said she had been incredibly effective in "making peace between the warring Blair and Brown factions".

During these years, her profile within the Labour Party and at Westminster steadily grew, but Gordon Brown's takeover as prime minister in 2007 marked a huge change in her life - and profile.

He promoted Ms Smith to home secretary, making her the first woman to hold the post.

The job's previous incumbents had been dogged by a series of controversies - from the row over foreign prisoners to overcrowded prisons - which led her predecessor, John Reid, to dub parts of the Home Office "not fit for purpose".

Pay dispute

Before she had time to familiarise herself with her new brief, Ms Smith was chairing the government's Cobra emergency planning committee in the wake of three failed car bombings in London and Glasgow.

Both she and Mr Brown won plaudits for the "cool and steadfast" way they had handled the crisis.

But she then had the task of extending the limit on pre-charge detention periods for terror suspects to a maximum of 42 days, a measure which failed after it was voted down in the House of Lords.

She was also in charge of bringing in ID cards, a policy which provoked furious opposition among Tories, Lib Dems and some of her own party.

Meanwhile, she became the focus of much antagonism when the government and police were in dispute over pay.

Many parliamentary colleagues were angered when Ms Smith refused to condemn the arrest of Tory MP Damian Green as part of a Home Office leaks inquiry last year.


Much of this could be described as the ordinary rough and tumble of being home secretary - one of the most difficult jobs in politics - but revelations of her use of parliamentary expenses were more damaging.

She hit the headlines over adult films watched by her husband - Richard Timney - in the family's constituency home in Redditch, Worcestershire.

Ms Smith has apologised for "mistakenly" claiming second home allowances for the viewings, much to her - and her husband's - embarrassment.

This comes on top of an on-going investigation by Parliamentary Standards Commissioner John Lyon into claims worth £22,948 in 2007-8 for the Redditch home, which Ms Smith said was her second residence.

She claimed £157,631 in total allowances, details of MPs' expenses showed.

The former home secretary argued that her main home - where she spends most nights - is her sister's house in London which she shares during the week.

These expenses revelations were a foretaste of the expenses details revealed by the Daily Telegraph during 2009.

But Ms Smith is reportedly determined to fight on to defend her marginal seat in the next general election.

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