Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 15:16 UK

Profile: Elliot Morley

Elliot Morley

Former minister Elliot Morley has been suspended by the Labour Party after admitting he claimed £16,000 in House of Commons expenses for a mortgage which had been paid off.

A softly-spoken Liverpudlian who steadfastly maintained a modest public profile, Mr Morley may find that it will be his role in the leaked expenses scandal for which he is most widely remembered.

With his ability to carry on as an MP called into question, it is an inauspicious career turn for a man hitherto respected across the political divide for his straight-talking manner, commitment to the environment and understanding of animal welfare issues.

And among all the MPs exposed by the Daily Telegraph for their excessive claims, perhaps the most incongruous is Mr Morley - an unassuming father-of-two whose chief passion since boyhood has been birdwatching.

Hot potatoes

Until his ministerial career came to an end in the 2006 reshuffle, he was one of the great survivors of the Labour government.

Up to that point, he had kept a job in the same department since the party's election victory in 1997 when he joined the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food - later absorbed into the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Elliot Morley in 1999 as fisheries minister
As fisheries minister in 1999, Mr Morley kept his enthusiasm for animal welfare

As Minister for Fisheries and the Countryside, he had to handle such political hot potatoes as foxhunting, EU fishing quotas and the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak.

His commitment to green issues saw him promoted to minister for the environment in 2003, during which time he helped start the government's anti-coastal erosion programme and its decontamination service.

He also implemented restrictions on fur farming for which he had argued for while in opposition.

In 2005 he was named climate change minster - according to Mr Morley himself, the world's first - and was praised by the Independent newspaper as having "the most impressive green credentials of any Labour minister".

It was the pinnacle of a career that began when Mr Morley was first elected to Parliament in 1987, winning Glanford and Scunthorpe from the Conservatives in one of only 10 Labour gains in England that year.

The ex-teacher's initial majority of just 512 was built up at subsequent elections through hard work in the area, and by 1989 he had been invited to join Labour's front bench as spokesman on food, agriculture and rural affairs.

'Very concerned'

After leaving government, the former council member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds must have thought his status was secure as a respected authority on the environment and animal welfare - not least when he became chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee in January 2009.

However after the Daily Telegraph reported that he claimed £16,000 for more than 18 months for payments on a mortgage that had already been paid off, he may find that he is better known for his part in an affair that has engulfed MPs.

Elliot Morley in 1987
The political future of Mr Morley - first elected in 1987 - is in doubt

Mr Morley - who reportedly rented out the property designated as his "main home" in London to fellow Labour MP Ian Cawsey - insisted that he had not committed an offence, though admitted he "should have kept a tighter rein" on his expenses.

He told the BBC he repaid the money two weeks before the revelation upon realising he had mistakenly continued claiming for his mortgage payments after it was repaid in 2006.

But now his future as an MP may be in doubt after he was suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "very concerned" about the allegations.

Mr Morley was said by sources to be "distraught and heartbroken" over the affair.

He may yet find that it causes him greater upset.

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