Eleanor Laing

Dame Eleanor Fulton Laing, DBE (née Pritchard, born 1 February 1958)[citation needed] is a British politician serving as the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Epping Forest constituency since 1997. A member of the Conservative Party, she has served as Chairman of Ways and Means and Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons since 2020.

Dame Eleanor Laing

Laing in 2014
Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons
Chairman of Ways and Means
Assumed office
8 January 2020
SpeakerLindsay Hoyle
Preceded byLindsay Hoyle
Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons
First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means
In office
16 October 2013  19 December 2019
SpeakerJohn Bercow
Lindsay Hoyle
Preceded byNigel Evans
Succeeded byRosie Winterton
Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
In office
19 May 2005  7 December 2005
LeaderMichael Howard
Preceded byJames Gray
Succeeded byDavid Mundell
Shadow Minister for Women and Equality
In office
15 March 2004  2 July 2007
LeaderMichael Howard
David Cameron
Preceded byCaroline Spelman
Succeeded byTheresa May
Member of Parliament
for Epping Forest
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded bySteven Norris
Majority22,173 (44.1%)
Personal details
Eleanor Fulton Pritchard

(1958-02-01) 1 February 1958 (age 63)
Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Alan Laing (Divorced 2002)
Alma materUniversity of Edinburgh

In 2013, her fellow MPs elected her as a Deputy Speaker and First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, replacing Conservative MP Nigel Evans.

Laing was a candidate in the 2019 Speakership election, but was eliminated in the third round of voting having received fewer votes than her two competitors, Lindsay Hoyle and Chris Bryant. She was elected as Chairman of Ways and Means and the most senior Deputy Speaker to Sir Lindsay Hoyle in January 2020, becoming the first woman in the role.[1]

Early life

Laing was born in Paisley, Renfrewshire, and raised in the nearby village of Elderslie, where her father was a councillor. She attended the local fee paying St Columba's School. Later, she graduated from Edinburgh University with Master of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees.[2] She was the first female President of the Edinburgh University Students' Association. She worked as a solicitor in Edinburgh and the City of London.

Parliamentary career

Laing contested Paisley North in the 1987 general election, but was defeated by the Labour incumbent Allen Adams. In 1995, she sought selection for the Southend West seat, but was defeated in the selection process by David Amess, the sitting MP for Basildon.[3] Laing was later selected for the Epping Forest seat, when the incumbent MP Steve Norris decided to leave the House to focus on his business career.

When Laing was first elected as the MP for Epping Forest at the 1997 general election, the previously safe seat was reduced to marginal status by the Labour landslide. Before her election, she had been offered support by Malcolm Rifkind and was generally considered[by whom?] to be a Europhile.

Once in Parliament, she appeared to sign up to the Eurosceptic wing of the party, first supporting Michael Howard then William Hague for the Conservative leadership. After the election, she was selected for the Education and Employment Committee, chaired by Labour's Margaret Hodge. Laing was seen[by whom?] as a rising star in her early career, with good performances in the Commons and strong attacks against Labour.

She was an opponent of devolution, and criticised the Blair government on many of the details of the transfer of power. In December 2000, she was appointed as opposition Scottish spokeswoman.

In 2001, her constituency returned to safe seat status with a 19.8% majority. In 2005, she increased that majority to 32%. She has an interest in education, transport, economic policy, constitution and devolution.

Gay rights

Laing sponsored the motion for lowering the homosexual age of consent to 16 in 1998: "Nothing that is being proposed tonight is in any way encouraging physical sexual activity among young people before they are sufficiently mature". She differed with many of her Conservative colleagues: "It is nonsense to say that there cannot be equality between 16-year-old boys and 16-year-old girls. Young people need protection, but young people are not protected by being made into criminals". She opposed fellow Conservatives such as Nicholas Winterton, who said that "a homosexual act is unnatural", by replying that the Bill did not challenge Christian teaching, and that it would not legalise anything that did not already happen.[citation needed]

Laing voted against the repeal of Section 28 in 2003.[4]

Laing criticised the manner in which the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was introduced by arguing "social change should come about by evolution, not by diktat from the top of government" and subsequently abstained from voting on it.[5]


After the 2010 general election, and the return of the Conservatives to power, Laing did not receive a post in the Government. On 16 October 2013, she was elected as the First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means, the holder of which post is one of the Deputy Speakers.[6]

Laing was re-elected at the 2015 general election.[7]

In January 2016, Laing publicly criticised Tulip Siddiq, who was seven months pregnant at the time, for breaking the customs of the House by leaving a debate shortly after speaking. Siddiq had already been in the debate for two hours and left at 14:30 to eat. According to witnesses, Laing told Siddiq not to use her pregnancy as an excuse for her behaviour.[8]

Laing voted to leave in the 2016 European Union membership referendum and was happy with the result.[9]

Laing was re-elected at the 2017 general election with a reduced majority.[7] She continued in her role as a deputy speaker in the 57th Parliament.

Laing was re-elected at the 2019 general election with an increased majority. She said it had been a "very nasty election".[10]

Laing stood in the 2019 Speaker election, to replace John Bercow, campaigning on restoring trust to the House of Commons.[11] Laing was critical of Bercow, and called his impartiality into question,[12] pledging to do things differently and bring kindness to the Speaker's chair.[13] Laing lost out to Lindsay Hoyle, but declared her intention to stand to replace him as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons.[11] She was elected by her fellow MPs, and became the first woman to be the Chairman of Ways and Means.[1]


After details of MPs' expense claims were released by the press[when?] it was shown that Laing had avoided paying £180,000 capital gains tax on the sale of her Westminster flat by declaring it as her primary residence. This was due to its having a higher value than her constituency home, making it her primary residence under CGT rules. However she had registered the flat as her second home with the Parliamentary Fees Office, and by doing so had claimed through her Additional Costs Allowance some of the interest due on her mortgage.

Her constituency is Epping Forest, which is close to London and less than an hour's journey by tube. When questioned, she said that prior to the sale of the flat she had sought the advice of her solicitor.[14] Laing was cleared by the Legg Inquiry; nonetheless, she voluntarily repaid £25,000 as a "moral gesture".[15] As a result of the issue over her expenses, an unsuccessful attempt was made to deselect her by her constituency party, led by the Leader of Epping Forest District Council.[16]

Personal life

Laing is divorced with one son (b. 2001).[citation needed]

Laing is a fan of Rangers F.C., and is a vice-chairman of the Westminster Parliamentary Rangers Supporters' Club.[17]

She was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2018 Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Past and present positions


  1. "Epping MP elected as principal Commons deputy speaker". Epping Forest Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  2. "The Columbian" (PDF). St-columbus.org. December 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  3. "David (Anthony Andrew)" (PDF). internetserver.bishopgate.org.uk. Retrieved 29 May 2021.
  4. "The Public Whip — Voting Record - Eleanor Laing MP, Epping Forest (10348)".
  5. Watt, Nicholas (1 March 2013). "Cameron's 'social change by diktat' hurting Conservatives, Tory warns". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 April 2015.
  6. "Deputy Speaker election: Eleanor Laing elected". Parliament.uk. Retrieved 16 October 2013.
  7. "Epping Forest parliamentary constituency – Election 2019". Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  8. Swinford, Steven; McCann, Kate (8 January 2016). "Heavily pregnant MP allegedly accused of 'bringing down womankind' by leaving debate to eat". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  9. "Hard work needed after 'pleasing' EU result, says Eleanor Laing". East London and West Essex Guardian Series. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  10. "Epping Forest parliamentary constituency - Election 2019". Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  11. PoliticsHome.com (7 January 2020). "Eleanor Laing: It's time to restore trust in the House of Commons". PoliticsHome.com. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  12. "Deputy Speaker Eleanor Laing takes swipe at John Bercow's 'impartiality' in plea for Brexit calm". PoliticsHome.com. 27 September 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  13. ""It's time to do things a bit differently": could Eleanor Laing be the next speaker?". www.newstatesman.com. Retrieved 7 January 2020.
  14. MPs expenses: Eleanor Laing didn't pay capital gains tax on second home, The Telegraph, 30 May 2009
  15. Hamilton, Fiona. "MPs expenses repaid". The Times. London.(subscription required)
  16. Swaine, Jon (27 October 2009). "MPs expenses: Eleanor Laing reselected". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  17. "MPs form Rangers supporters' club at Westminster". The Herald. 5 March 2008. Retrieved 15 June 2017.