Elizabeth Symons, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean
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Elizabeth Symons, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

The Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean

Official portrait of Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean crop 2.jpg
Minister of State for the Middle East

11 June 2001 - 5 May 2005
Tony Blair
John Battle
Kim Howells
Minister of State for Trade and Investment

11 June 2001 - 13 June 2003
Tony Blair
Richard Caborn
Mike O'Brien
Deputy Leader of the House of Lords

8 June 2001 - 6 June 2005
Tony Blair
LeaderThe Lord Williams of Mostyn
The Baroness Amos
The Lord Williams of Mostyn
The Lord Rooker
Minister of State for Defence Procurement

28 July 1999 - 8 June 2001
Tony Blair
The Lord Gilbert
The Lord Bach
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

2 May 1997 - 28 July 1999
Tony Blair
Liam Fox
The Baroness Scotland of Asthal
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal

7 October 1996
Life Peerage
Personal details
Born (1951-04-14) 14 April 1951 (age 68)
Political partyLabour
RelationsErnest Symons (father)

Elizabeth Conway Symons, Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, PC (born 14 April 1951), is a British politician and former General Secretary of the FDA Trade Union and a Minister of State. From 2010, Baroness Symons has served as the Chairman of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce (ABCC).

Early life

The daughter of Ernest Symons, Chairman of HM Board of Inland Revenue, Symons was educated at Putney High School for Girls and Girton College, Cambridge. She was an administration trainee at the Department of the Environment from 1974 to 1977. She then worked for the Inland Revenue Staff Federation from 1977 to 1989 and was General Secretary of the Association of First Division Civil Servants from 1989 to 1997. She resigned from this post following her appointment as a working peer.

Political life

Lady Symons of Vernham Dean in her role as Minister of Defence Procurement.

She was created a Labour life peer as Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean, of Vernham Dean in the County of Hampshire on 7 October 1996.[1] From May 1997 to June 1999, she took her first government post, serving as a junior Foreign Office Minister. From 1999 until 2001, she was Minister of State for Defence Procurement and, from 2001 until 2003, Minister of State for Trade. From 2001 until 2005, she was Minister of State for Foreign Affairs with responsibility for the Middle East, International Security, Consular and Personal Affairs, and Deputy Leader of the House of Lords.

Symons was or remains a member of the British-American Project (BAP). It has a membership of 600 leaders and opinion formers, drawn equally from both countries, according to The Guardian, and holds an annual conference at which everything that is said is officially off-the-record.[2] also serves on the Board of Governors of the Ditchley Foundation.

In 2001, she married her long-standing partner, Phil Bassett, a former writer at The Times. They have a son, James, born in 1985.[3] In October 2002, Bassett was appointed to the Strategic Communications Unit in 10 Downing Street, leaving in September 2003 to become special adviser to Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs.

Corporate career

Symons was not given a job in the re-shuffle after the general election of 5 May 2005, and became a non-executive director of British Airways.[]

Symons sits on the Board of Trustees of the John Smith Memorial Trust, an NGO set up in 1995 in memory of the late Labour party leader John Smith.

Conflict of interest allegations

The Guardian alleged in its issue of 9 January 2005 that Symons may have used her office to give "special treatment" to David Mills, husband of Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell. Mills was seeking her assistance in sidestepping a U.S. trade embargo against Iran in order to sell $200 million worth of British Aerospace jets to that country.[4]

On 9 February 2006, The Guardian mentioned her as one several former government ministers who had accepted lucrative positions as company directors and consultants. In the case of Symons, the companies involved were British Airways, law firm DLA Piper, and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company (P&O).[5]

In 2009 similar allegations were made when she took a lucrative post with UK investment bank MerchantBridge, which made millions from contracts in post-war Iraq, and also when she became a member of the National Economic Development Board of Libya shortly before the release of Abdelbaset Al Megrahi, who was convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. Symons resigned from the National Economic Development Board in 2011 in the midst of a popular uprising against the government of Muammar Gaddafi, one day after she had made remarks which appeared to praise Gaddafi's 'sound ideology'. Symons said the remarks had been made facetiously.[6]


  1. ^ "No. 54550". The London Gazette. 14 October 1996. p. 13637.
  2. ^ Feature: Andy Beckett reports on the British-American Project | World news | The Guardian
  3. ^ Dod, Charles Roger; Vacher Dod Publishing, Limited; Dod, Robert Phipps (2005). "Dod's Parliamentary Companion".
  4. ^ Minister's 'advice' on Iran jet deal | Politics | The Observer
  5. ^ From Brussels to the boardroom: what George Robertson did next | Business | The Guardian
  6. ^ Seamark, Michael, Labour peer who was Blair's Middle East envoy forced to quit Libya role, Daily Mail, 1 March 2011
Political offices
Preceded by
The Lord Williams of Mostyn
Deputy Leader of the House of Lords
Succeeded by
The Lord Rooker
Trade union offices
Preceded by
John Ward
General Secretary of the First Division Association
Succeeded by
Jonathan Baume

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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