Eleanor Laing

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Eleanor Laing
First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means
Assumed office
16 October 2013
Speaker John Bercow
Preceded by Nigel Evans
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
19 May 2005 – 7 December 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by James Gray
Succeeded by David Mundell
Shadow Minister for Women and Equality
In office
15 March 2004 – 7 December 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Caroline Spelman
Succeeded by Theresa May
Member of Parliament
for Epping Forest
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by Steven Norris
Majority 15,131 (32.5%)
Personal details
Born (1958-02-01) 1 February 1958 (age 61)
Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Alan Laing (Divorced 2002)
Alma mater University of Edinburgh

Eleanor Fulton Laing (née Pritchard, born 1 February 1958) is a British Conservative politician who has represented Epping Forest as the constituency's Member of Parliament since the 1997 general election. In October 2013, fellow MPs elected her as a Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, replacing Nigel Evans.

Early life

Laing was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire in 1958 and raised in the nearby village of Kilmacolm, where she attended the local St Columba's School. In 1976 she left for the University of Edinburgh, graduating with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees.[1] She was the first female President of the Edinburgh University Students' Association. She worked as a solicitor in Edinburgh and the City of London.

Laing contested Paisley North in the 1987 general election, but was defeated by the Labour incumbent Allen Adams.

Parliamentary career

When Laing was first elected as the MP for the Epping Forest constituency at the 1997 general election, the seat was reduced to marginal status by the Labour landslide. Before her election she had been offered support by Sir Malcolm Rifkind and was generally considered to be a Europhile. Once in Parliament, she appeared to sign up to the Eurosceptic-wing of the party, first supporting Michael Howard then William Hague for the Conservative leadership. After the election, she was selected for the Education and Employment Committee, chaired by Labour's Margaret Hodge. She was seen as a rising star in her early career, with good performances in the Commons and strong attacks against Labour.

She was a strong critic of devolution, and attacked the government on many of the details of the transfer of power. In December 2000 she was appointed as opposition Scottish spokeswoman.

In 2001, her constituency returned to safe seat status with a 19.8% majority. In 2005, she increased that majority to 32%. She has an interest in education, transport, economic policy, constitution and devolution.

After the 2010 General Election, and the return of the Conservatives to power, Laing did not receive a post in the Government. On 16 October 2013, she was elected as the First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, the holder of which post is one of the Deputy Speakers.[2]

Past and present positions

Gay rights

Laing sponsored the motion for lowering the homosexual age of consent to 16 in 1998, saying "Nothing that is being proposed tonight is in any way encouraging physical sexual activity among young people before they are sufficiently mature." She differed with many of her Conservative colleagues, saying "It is nonsense to say that there cannot be equality between 16-year-old boys and 16-year-old girls. Young people need protection, but young people are not protected by being made into criminals." She opposed fellow Tories such as Nicholas Winterton who said that "a homosexual act is unnatural", replying that the Bill did not challenge Christian teaching, and that it would not legalise anything which did not already happen.

When bishops were told to vote against an equal gay rights law in March 2007, Laing spoke in favour of the law arguing that that "her brand of Christianity" preached "live and let live".

Laing however criticised the manner in which the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was introduced, arguing "social change should come about by evolution, not by diktat from the top of government", and subsequently abstained from voting on it.[3]

38 Degrees

Eleanor Laing complained about 38 Degrees for allowing members to send "clone emails".[4] In a Speaker's Debate, Laing complained that "we have to be very careful about who we are listening to out there... I always worry about that tyranny of the vocal minority against the silent majority, and last week I had some very nasty emails telling me that I didn't have the courage to vote against my government ... I'm talking about an organization called 38 Degrees which floods our systems with emails, the same email over and over again hundreds of times; people don't even put their full name and address so they cannot be identified as real people. It is cowardly to hide behind the anonymity of an email, which has been proposed by someone else for the purpose. 38 Degrees is for the purpose of bringing down the system."

Criticism of pregnant MP

In January 2016, Laing publicly criticised Tulip Siddiq — who was 7 months pregnant at the time — for breaking the customs of the House by leaving a debate to get food. Siddiq had already been in the debate for two hours and left at 14:30 shortly after speaking. According to witnesses Laing told Tulip not to use her pregnancy as an excuse for her behaviour.[5]

MPs' expenses scandal

In 2007, Laing voted against MPs' expense claims being made public.[6] In 2008 she was one of 172 MPs who voted to preserve what critics called a lax and over-generous system of Parliamentary expenses, which permits Members of Parliament to claim for expenses without producing receipts.

After details of MPs' expense claims were released by the press it was shown that Laing had avoided paying £180,000 capital gains tax on the sale of her Westminster flat by declaring it as her primary residence. This was due to its having a higher value than her constituency home, making it her primary residence under CGT rules. However she had registered the flat as her second home with the Parliamentary Fees Office, and by doing so had claimed through her Additional Costs Allowance some of the interest due on her mortgage.

Her constituency is Epping Forest, which is close to London and less than an hour's journey by tube. When questioned, she said that prior to the sale of the flat she had sought the advice of her solicitor. Laing was cleared by the Legg Inquiry;[7][8] nonetheless, she voluntarily repaid £25,000 as a "moral gesture".[9] As a result of the scandal, an unsuccessful attempt was made to deselect her by her constituency party, led by the Leader of Epping Forest District Council.[10] The Daily Telegraph subsequently published an apology for their reporting of the story.

Private life

Laing has one son, born in June 2001. She married Alan Laing in 1983; the couple divorced in 2002.


  1. "The Columbian" (PDF). St-columbus.org. December 2008. Retrieved 6 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Deputy Speaker election: Eleanor Laing elected". Parliament.uk. Retrieved 16 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Watt, Nicholas (1 March 2013). "Cameron's 'social change by diktat' hurting Conservatives, Tory warns". Guardian. Retrieved 1 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "BBC Parliament - Parliament Week - The Speaker's Debate". Bbc.co.uk. 9 January 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Steven Swinford, and Kate McCann (8 January 2016). "Heavily pregnant MP allegedly accused of 'bringing down womankind' by leaving debate to eat". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Eleanor Laing MP, Epping Forest". TheyWorkForYou.com. Retrieved 6 January 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. MPs expenses: Eleanor Laing didn't pay capital gains tax on second home, The Telegraph, 30 May 2009
  8. "MPs who claimed for 'phantom mortages' [sic] should feel full force of the law, says Cameron". London: mailonline. 30 May 2009. Retrieved 30 May 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Hamilton, Fiona. "MPs expenses repaid". The Times. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>(subscription required)
  10. Swaine, Jon (27 October 2009). "MPs expenses: Eleanor Laing reselected". The Daily Telegraph. London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Steven Norris
Member of Parliament
for Epping Forest

Preceded by
Nigel Evans
First Deputy Chair of Ways and Means
Political offices
Preceded by
Caroline Spelman
Shadow Minister for Women and Equality
Succeeded by
Theresa May
Preceded by
James Gray
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Succeeded by
David Mundell