Quin, Joyce (1 of 1). The History of Parliament Oral History Project
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House of Lords, London
Quin, Joyce, 1944- (speaker, female)
White, Isobel, 1956- (speaker, female)
Part 1: Early memories of growing up in Whitley Bay; it was a holiday resort for people from Glasgow and the lowlands of Scotland at that time especially during ‘wakes weeks’. [1.17] Talks about her parents who had grown up in Newcastle and who inspired in her a great love for the North East. [2.18] Mother was a member of the Labour Party and worked for the party at election times; her father was more agnostic politically. [2.46] Mother’s uncle had been a Labour MP for Durham; JQ had known him when a child. [3.10] Father’s parents had been early Fabians and grandfather had been active in radical politics. [4.15] Talks about father who was a schoolmaster at a grammar school in Newcastle where he taught mathematics. He also wrote detective stories. He served in World War I and won the MC. [5.09] Father found it hard to get employment after the war; he spoke rarely of his war time experiences and died when JQ was a young adult. [6.08] JQ passed the 11 plus and went to the local grammar school. Home was full of books but university was not automatic; she read French at Newcastle University. [7.45] Talks about early political beliefs and her attraction to left wing politics; does not recall being particularly class conscious but did have a sense that all should have equality of opportunity. [9.01] At university in Newcastle she was not very involved in student politics [9.18] attended some political meetings when she was doing a MSc at the LSE. [10.15 Hopes of doing a PHD but lack of funding prevented this. [10.53] First job as a researcher at Labour Party Headquarters, in the international section. Tom McNally was head of the section. [11.25] Lecturer at Bath University. [11.38] Describes selection process to becoming an MEP for South Tyne and Wear in 1979. [14.10] Talks about discontent at that time in the Labour Party that there were no women MPs in the North East; this helped outweigh any hostility to her being a woman candidate. [15.42] Life as an MEP; the exhausting travel routine between Newcastle and Brussels and Strasbourg. [16.13] Excitement of being an MEP at the that time; European Parliament was very open and there was equality amongst its Members. The Press in the north East reported on her work there. Talks of the other MEPs; Willy Brandt and Otto von Hapsburg. [17.42] Idealism amongst the MEPS; JQ moved by the testimony of the SDP MEPS from Germany and the efforts made by the MEPs to communicate across boundaries. [18.43] Becoming a MP was more the result of events than a conscious decision. An MP stood down in Gateshead East and JQ was approached to stand. Talks about activity of the Militant Tendency in the constituency. [19.52] Wins the selection; the seat was in the middle of the European constituency. [20.59] Describes campaigning during the election in 1987. [22.10] Difficulties of holding a dual mandate for both Westminster and the European Parliament for two years. Would have preferred to have resigned as a MEP but political parties opposed to European by-elections. [23.17] Experiences as a new MP. Found it disconcerting after the European Parliament because it was so much more masculine; when asking for papers at the Vote Office she was mistaken as a secretary. [24.45] The atmosphere was not as open as in the European Parliament although colleagues were friendly and the staff helpful. [25.30]There was some induction for new MPs but not much and it was not very systematic or thorough. [27.42] At the end of the period of her dual mandate was offered a position on the opposition front bench for trade and industry. [28.03] Recalls listening to Edward Heath speaking –without notes- in the Chamber. Also the occasion when Ron Brown MP threw the mace to the floor at the end of the day’s business. [30.03] Talks of the end of Mrs Thatcher’s premiership and the frantic atmosphere in the House of Commons at this time. [30.43] Reflects on this period and the effects of the Conservative government’s policies on the North East, in particular on the steel, shipbuilding and mining industries. [32.20] Talks about the difference between being in government to being in opposition. In opposition it was not always easy to get information; use of the House of Commons Library. Also talks about the demands of constituency work. [33.59] Describes the work of her office staff; her secretary and her researcher who was more of a constituency case worker. Constituency workload increased during her time as a MP. [35.52] Ministerial career: appointed Minister for Prisons in 1997 [38.04] Minister for Europe and [38.48] Minister for Agriculture during the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001. [40.37] Member of Intelligence and Security Committee. [41.11] Decision to retire form the House of Commons and her hope that she would have had a role in a North East Regional Assembly. Comments on devolution for the regions and decentralisation of government. [42.36] Welcomed chance to sit in the House of Lords; makes comparisons between the Commons and the Lords especially the Committee work. In favour of elections to the House of Lords and comments on high average age of peers; lack of link between the Lords and the electorate and the geographical bias in the Lords towards London and the South East. [47.43] Reflects on congenial atmosphere of the House of Lords.
Life story interview with Baroness Quin of Gateshead (1944-), former Labour Member of Parliament.