Frank Dobson, Labour MP for Holborn & St. Pancras since 1979, is to retire at the next General Election. Mr. Dobson, who is 74, doubled his majority to 9,942 at the last General Election. Mr. Dobson officially announced his retirement to a meeting of his Party members at Camden Town Hall, 7.30 pm, on Tuesday 22 July.
After succeeding Lena Jeger MP in 1979, he became a member of Neil Kinnock’s shadow education team. He was subsequently Shadow Health Minister where he exposed severe shortcomings in the Government’s cervical cancer screening arrangements and provision of infertility treatment. He set up NHS Unlimited to defend the concept of a comprehensive free NHS. After being elected to the Shadow Cabinet, Frank Dobson set up Labour’s Petrol Price Monitoring Unit which highlighted the profiteering by the petrol companies and speculators. Subsequently, he revealed how the privatised water companies were leaking 826 million gallons of water every day while trying to impose hose pipe bans on the public. Throughout this period, Frank Dobson gave full support, in collaboration with Ken Clarke, to the proposals of the Warnock Report which led to the establishment of the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority.
When Labour won the General Election in 1997, Frank Dobson was appointed Secretary of State for Health & Social Services. During his period of office, spending was constrained by Labour’s commitment to stick to the Tories’ spending limits. Despite that, he brought record reductions in waiting lists, increased medical students by 20 per cent, increased nurse training, launched the biggest hospital building and refurbishment programme in the history of the NHS and shifted health resources to the areas most in need. Frank established NICE and NHS Direct. Frank Dobson brought forward the World’s first Meningitis ‘C’ vaccination programme and ensured that British troops had up-to-date vaccines when serving abroad. He introduced measures to improve mental health services. He launched the children’s policy “Every Child Matters” and laid down that the basic test for assessing the provision for children in care was “Would it be good enough for my children?”
When Frank Dobson returned to the back-benches after resigning to run for Mayor of London, he gave general support to the Blair and Brown Governments. But he opposed the Iraq War, top-up fees for students, the marketisation of parts of the NHS and led the Labour opposition to extending the period in which suspects could be held without charge. Frank Dobson opposed the proposed £50 billion High Speed 2 train project and continued his opposition when the Tories adopted the HS2 proposals. Since then, he has been even more heavily committed to opposing the project which will demolish the homes of over 500 local people in his constituency and expose over 5,000 more to living next to the noise, filth, air pollution and general disruption of the Euston construction site for a decade or more.
Mr. Dobson said –
“I have decided to pack in when people are stopping me in the street to say they hope I am not going – rather than waiting until they ask why the hell I am still around. It has been an honour to represent the people of Holborn & St. Pancras for all these years and to have made at least some contribution to making it a better place to live, including helping save Covent Garden from redevelopment, getting St. Pancras International as the Eurostar station, rebuilding University College London Hospital, saving Barts and refurbishing the Whittington Hospital.
“Our constituency includes an enormous variety of communities and loyalties with widely differing views on many issues. So, it’s impossible to agree with everybody and I have always tried to make my position clear on issues as they arise. I am proud of the people I represent. They get on together and help one another. Outsiders who have tried to stir up divisions have always failed. Common sense and human decency have prevailed. It has been hard work keeping up with the needs and aspirations of local people and helping resolve their problems. My constituents have been slow to chide and swift to bless. So I have enjoyed the job. I will keep at it until the next election and give whatever help I can to my successor.”