George Foulkes, Baron Foulkes of Cumnock

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The Lord Foulkes of Cumnock

Official portrait of Lord Foulkes of Cumnock crop 2.jpg
Minister of State for Scotland
In office
26 January 2001 – 29 May 2002
Preceded byBrian Wilson
Succeeded byAnne McGuire (as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State)
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development
In office
5 May 1997 – 26 January 2001
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byChris Mullin
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Lothians
(1 of 7 Regional MSPs)
In office
3 May 2007 – 22 March 2011
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
13 May 2005
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley
South Ayrshire (1979–1983)
In office
4 May 1979 – 11 April 2005
Preceded byJim Sillars
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Born (1942-01-21) 21 January 1942 (age 77)
Oswestry, Shropshire
Political partyLabour and Co-operative
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Anna Hope (m. 1970)
Children2 sons, 1 daughter
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh

George Foulkes, Baron Foulkes of Cumnock PC (born 21 January 1942) is a British Labour Co-operative politician. He was Member of Parliament (MP) for South Ayrshire then Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley from 1979 until 2005. In 2005, he joined the House of Lords as a life peer. From 2007 until 2011, he was also a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP), serving as one of the additional members for the Lothians region.

Foulkes has been described by the media as an "ultra loyalist" to the 1997-2010 Labour Government.[1] However, he acted against the Labour Party on 17 July 2019 by using their logo in an unauthorised advertisement in The Guardian which criticised Jeremy Corbyn.[2]

Early life[edit]

George Foulkes was born in 1942 in Oswestry, Shropshire and spent his early childhood in Keith, Banffshire. He later attended the independent, fee-paying Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School in Hertfordshire. His political career began in 1963, when he became Senior President of the Students' Representative Council at the University of Edinburgh. He later became the full-time President of the Scottish Union of Students (which was later incorporated into the UK National Union of Students). He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.[3]

House of Commons[edit]

Before gaining election, Foulkes unsuccessfully contested Edinburgh West in 1970, being beaten by the Conservative Anthony Stodart. In October 1974, he stood for Edinburgh Pentlands but was beaten by Malcolm Rifkind.

Foulkes was first elected in the 1979 general election, as Labour and Co-operative Member of Parliament for South Ayrshire. After the constituency's abolition in boundary changes, he was elected in the 1983 general election for the new constituency of Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley.

In 1981, Foulkes drafted a political bill called the "Control of Space Invaders (and other Electronic Games) Bill" in an attempt to ban the game for its "addictive properties" and for causing "deviancy". The bill was debated and only narrowly defeated in parliament by 114 votes to 94 votes.[4][5]

As an MP, Foulkes introduced the first-ever proposals for a smoking ban in public places in 1982 and legislation against age discrimination in 1985, both through private member's bills.

A supporter of Scottish devolution, Foulkes was involved in the drafting of "A Claim of Right for Scotland" in 1988.

After serving on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Foulkes was appointed to the Opposition frontbench in 1983, serving as a spokesperson on Foreign Affairs.

In 1992, Foulkes was made Shadow Defence Minister but was forced to resign in 1993, after being convicted of being drunk and disorderly during an incident in which he struck a police officer.[6] He returned to the frontbench in 1994, serving as deputy to Overseas Aid spokespersons Joan Lestor and Clare Short until 1997.[7]

When Labour won the election in 1997, Foulkes was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the new Department for International Development. He was then Minister of State for Scotland from 2001 until a May 2002 cabinet reshuffle. From 2003 to 2005, he was a UK delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Assembly of the Western European Union. He was made a member of the Privy Council in 2002, and stepped down from office at the 2005 general election.

Foulkes was a strong supporter of ID cards, regularly speaking in favour of former British Government proposals.[8]

Foulkes supported the Iraq War and described Tony Blair's conduct of the war as clearly intentioned, carried through brilliantly and resulting in much improvement for the people of the country. Commenting on Sir Christopher Meyer's testimony to the Iraq Inquiry in 2009, he described the inquiry as "a procession of primadonnas and the usual suspects grandstanding for the TV".[9] He is a member of Labour Friends of Israel.[10]

House of Lords[edit]

On 13 May 2005, it was announced that Foulkes was to receive a life peerage. On 16 June 2005, he was created Baron Foulkes of Cumnock, of Cumnock in East Ayrshire.[11]

Foulkes was a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee in the Cabinet Office from 2007 to 2010. Since October 2010, he has been a member of the Joint Committee on National Security Strategy.

Foulkes serves on the Executive Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Board of Governors of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

Since March 2011, Foulkes has been a member of the Lords EU Select Committee and Lords EU Sub Committee on Social Policy and Consumer Protection.

Foulkes is very active on Caribbean matters, serving as President of the Caribbean Council, Chair of the Belize and Dominican Republic All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs), and vice-Chair of the Trinidad and Tobago and British–Central America APPGs.

Foulkes was one of the fifty signatories to a letter published in the Guardian in 2010, which called for Pope Benedict XVI not to be given a state visit to the UK, and accused the Catholic Church of increasing the spread of Aids and promoting segregated education.[12]

On 24 August 2011, The Scotsman reported that Foulkes had announced that he would table an amendment to the Scotland Bill with the intention to make it impossible for the Scottish Government to sustain free university education for students in Scotland.[13]

On 2 February 2012, Foulkes tabled a motion calling for the Scottish independence referendum to contain no extra question on increased devolution, and proposing a separate referendum be held on the subject in the event independence were rejected and Scotland voted to stay in the UK.[14]

Scottish Parliament[edit]

Foulkes returned to electoral politics in 2007, when he led the Scottish Labour Party's Lothians regional list in the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, and was vice-chairman of Labour's Holyrood election campaign. He was elected as a Member of the Scottish Parliament on 3 May 2007.

After his election to the Scottish Parliament, Foulkes was part of Labour's opposition to the minority Scottish National Party (SNP) government, regularly tabling parliamentary questions scrutinising the Scottish Government's conduct. He highlighted several supposed irregularities, including the taxpayer-funded entertaining of wealthy SNP backers at Bute House and preferential treatment for Stagecoach in the Forth hovercraft project, after their co-founder Brian Souter donated £500,000 to the SNP.[15][16] Foulkes became a target of criticism by SNP bloggers, whom he branded "Cybernats".

Foulkes was part of a campaign for presumed consent on organ donation.[17][18]

Foulkes failed to be elected Rector of the University of Edinburgh on 12 February 2009, securing 31% of the vote to the 69% taken by Iain Macwhirter.[19]

Foulkes did not seek re-election in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, with the Lothian list instead returning Sarah Boyack, Neil Findlay and Kezia Dugdale. Dugdale had previously served as his constituency agent and would go on to become Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.[20][21]


Foulkes attracted controversy in 2004 after accusing the SNP of acting in a "xenophobic way".[22] The former Scottish Labour Party leader Henry McLeish called on him to apologise for the claim.[23]

In April 2008, Foulkes was criticised for his expenses claims, which included around £45,000 over a period of two years for overnight subsistence to stay in a flat he had inherited. Between April 2007 and March 2008, Foulkes claimed £54,527 in expenses from the House of Lords.[1][24] However, in January 2009, Foulkes was shown to have one of the lowest expenses claims in the Scottish Parliament.[25]

During the 2009 expenses controversy, Foulkes attacked media presenters in an exchange with the BBC's Carrie Gracie. He said some presenters, such as Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys, were being paid to "sneer at democracy and undermine democracy".[26]

In August 2009, Foulkes made a series of Freedom of Information requests about the expenses of retiring British Army head General Sir Richard Dannatt. He was accused by Shadow Defence Secretary Liam Fox of leading a New Labour smear campaign.[27]

Foulkes said in 2019 that Richard Leonard and Lesley Laird should resign as Leader and Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party, saying Leonard has "no charisma and no leadership credentials" and "almost anyone would be better" than Laird.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Foulkes married his wife Elizabeth Anna Hope in 1970 and they have two sons and one daughter together.[29]

Foulkes was chairman of Hearts of Midlothian football club from April 2004 until his resignation in October 2005. He resigned in protest at the majority shareholder Vladimir Romanov dismissing Hearts chief executive Phil Anderton.[30]

Styles of address[edit]

  • 1942–1979: Mr George Foulkes
  • 1979–2002: Mr George Foulkes MP
  • 2002–2005: The Right Honourable George Foulkes MP
  • 2005: The Right Honourable George Foulkes
  • 2005–2007: The Right Honourable The Lord Foulkes of Cumnock PC
  • 2007–2011: The Right Honourable The Lord Foulkes of Cumnock PC MSP
  • 2011–: The Right Honourable The Lord Foulkes of Cumnock PC


  1. ^ a b Peterkin, Tom (28 December 2008). "Lord Foulkes caught in £54,000 expenses row". Scotland on Sunday. Edinburgh: Johnston Press. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  2. ^ "'This is your legacy Mr Corbyn': 67 Labour peers' advert on antisemitism". LabourList. 17 July 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  3. ^ "Rt Hon George Foulkes MSP".
  4. ^ "30 Great Gaming World Records". Computer and Video Games. 14 February 2009. Retrieved 26 January 2012.
  5. ^ "Control of Space Invaders and Other Electronic Games".
  6. ^ Mp, Labour (18 October 2002). "George Foulkes". BBC News. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  7. ^ Duff, Oliver (22 January 2007). "Baron Zebedee should have a spring in his step". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  8. ^ Treneman, Ann (16 November 2005). "To ID cards and back – via Caracas". Times Online. London: Times Newspapers. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  9. ^ Newsnight (26 November 2009)
  10. ^ "LFI Supporters in Parliament". Labour Friends of Israel. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  11. ^ "No. 57681". The London Gazette. 22 June 2005. p. 8113.
  12. ^ "Letters: Harsh judgments on the pope and religion". The Guardian. London. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  13. ^ David Maddox (24 August 2011). "Peer's bid to outlaw fees for English students only". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 11 June 2014. Retrieved 27 August 2011 – via Highbeam. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  14. ^ "Scottish independence referendum: two-ballot referendum proposed by Labour peer". The Scotsman (Edinburgh). 2 February 2012.
  15. ^ Evans, Elisabeth (19 November 2007). "Salmond under scrutiny for costly dinners". The Journal. The Edinburgh Journal. Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2009. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  16. ^ "Row After Forth Hovercraft Plan Shelved". Daily Record. Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail. 20 February 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  17. ^ "Call for organ donation opt-out". BBC News. 2 January 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  18. ^ Swanson, Ian (3 November 2007). "SNP 'can lead UK in opt-out organ donation'". Edinburgh Evening News. Johnston Press. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  19. ^ "Iain Macwhirter chosen as Edinburgh's 50th Rector | News | News and events". 13 February 2009. Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  20. ^ "Foulkes to quit Holyrood for Lords". The Herald. Glasgow. 18 August 2010. Retrieved 18 August 2010.
  21. ^ "Kezia Dugdale: Mentor urges her to consider comeback as leader". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  22. ^ "Foulkes attack draws SNP rebuff". BBC News. 23 February 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  23. ^ "Foulkes snubs McLeish's call to apologise for SNP 'racism' claim". The Scotsman. Edinburgh: Johnston Press. 8 September 2007. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  24. ^ Hutcheon, Paul (26 April 2008). "Foulkes claimed £45,000 to stay in own London flat". Sunday Herald. Newsquest (Sunday Herald). Retrieved 2 June 2009.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ Maddox, David. "Toilet paper adds to MSPs' £10m expenses". Retrieved 6 June 2010.
  26. ^ "Peer turns fire on BBC presenter". BBC News. 12 May 2009. Retrieved 2 June 2009.
  27. ^ Kirkup, James (20 August 2009). "Lord Foulkes requested information about General Sir Richard Dannatt's spending". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 3 May 2010.
  28. ^ "Scottish Labour registers lowest level of income in nearly two decades". HeraldScotland. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  29. ^ "BBC NEWS | VOTE 2001 | CANDIDATES". Retrieved 15 August 2019.
  30. ^ "Foulkes brands Romanov a dictator". BBC News. 1 November 2005. Retrieved 2 June 2009.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Jim Sillars
Member of Parliament for South Ayrshire
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley