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Peer of the Week - Baroness Falkender

Author: Jon Narcross

Published on Oct 11, 2012

Peer of the Week - Baroness Falkender

Our Peer of the Week series aims to shed some light on the members of the House of Lords who contribute to making laws in the UK. Each week, we’ll look at the chosen Peer’s background, voting and attendance records as well as any controversy associated with their actions, and question whether these really are the best people to be involved in the legislative process.

Who she is:

  • Marcia Williams was Harold Wilson’s private and political secretary throughout his tenures as Prime Minister
  • She became Baroness Falkender, of West Haddon, a Labour life peer, in 1974
  • Her interests include exports, health, cures for breast cancer, the British film industry
  • She is a member of the British Screen Advisory Council, a lobbying organisation for the audiovisual industries
  • Trustee, The Silver Trust (commissioning silver tableware to be available for government occasions: in particular for 10 Downing Street to have its own silver collection)

Political Involvement:

  • During Harold Wilson’s Premierships, she was reputed to be the most powerful woman in British politics, as his private and political secretary. However, there is no evidence of any specific policies that she influenced

Attendance and voting records:

  • Baroness Falkender has never once spoken in the Lords during her 38 year tenure
  • She has only voted 223 times out of a possible 1667 and has rebelled against her party’s majority votes on 3.46% of occasions
  • In May 2006, the Lords argued over a Bill that would have given doctors the right to assist their patients to die in strictly limited circumstances. Lady Falkender voted against it

Controversies

  • Laying the ground for all subsequent “cash for honours” scandals, she is reputed to have persuaded Premier Harold Wilson to take into the PM’s hands the prerogative of awarding life peerages, taking it from the Chief Whip
  • She is best known for the so-called “Lavender List,” Harold Wilson’s infamous resignation Honours list that she is thought to have written on her lavender coloured notepaper for Wilson, partly because included her sister Peggy Field, who became an MBE

 

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