Alan Milburn
Official portrait, 2016
Chancellor of Lancaster University
Assumed office
1 January 2015
Preceded byChris Bonington
Chair of the Social Mobility Commission
In office
10 July 2012 – 2 December 2017
Appointed byNick Clegg
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byDame Martina Milburn
Minister for the Cabinet Office
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
8 September 2004 – 6 May 2005
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byDouglas Alexander
Succeeded byJohn Hutton
Secretary of State for Health
In office
11 October 1999 – 13 June 2003
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byFrank Dobson
Succeeded byJohn Reid
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
23 December 1998 – 11 October 1999
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byStephen Byers
Succeeded byAndrew Smith
Member of Parliament
for Darlington
In office
9 April 1992 – 12 April 2010
Preceded byMichael Fallon
Succeeded byJenny Chapman
Personal details
Born (1958-01-27) 27 January 1958 (age 65)
Whitehaven, Cumberland, England
Political partyLabour
Alma materLancaster University

Alan Milburn (born 27 January 1958) is a British politician who was Member of Parliament (MP) for Darlington from 1992 to 2010. A member of the Labour Party, he served for five years in the Cabinet, first as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 1998 to 1999, and subsequently as Secretary of State for Health until 2003, when he resigned. He briefly rejoined the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in order to manage Labour's 2005 re-election campaign. He did not seek re-election in the 2010 election. Milburn was chair of the Social Mobility Commission from 2012 to 2017. Since 2015, he has been Chancellor of Lancaster University.

Early life and career

Milburn was born in Whitehaven,[1] and brought up in the village of Tow Law in County Durham and in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

He was educated at John Marley School in Newcastle and, after his mother married,[2] Stokesley Comprehensive School in North Yorkshire. He went on to Lancaster University, where he lived in Morecambe and Galgate, graduating in 1979 with a Bachelor of Arts degree with Upper Second Class Honours in History.[2] After leaving university, he returned to Newcastle where, with Martin Spence, he operated a small radical bookshop in the Westgate Road, called Days of Hope (the shop was given the Spoonerised nickname Haze of Dope). He studied for a PhD at Newcastle University, but did not complete his thesis.[3][4] In 1981 he married future Labour MEP Mo O'Toole; the couple split up in the late 1980s.[4][5]

Milburn was Co-ordinator of the Trade Union Studies Information Unit (TUSIU) from the mid-1980s onwards.[4]

From 1988, Milburn co-ordinated a campaign to defend shipbuilding in Sunderland, Tyne and Wear, and was elected Chairman of Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central Constituency Labour Party. In 1990 he became a Business Development Officer for North Tyneside Borough Council and was elected as President of the North East Region of the Manufacturing Science and Finance trade union. He duly won the seat of Darlington in the 1992 general election.

Member of Parliament

In Parliament, Milburn allied himself with the Blairite modernisers in the Labour Party, close to Tony Blair, MP for the next-door constituency of Sedgefield. The political editor of the New Statesman wrote that "Alan Milburn is regarded by most in Labour as the epitome of Blairite centrism and moderation."[6]

In government

Milburn in 2002

In 1997 he was appointed Minister of State at the Department of Health, an important post in which he had responsibility for driving through Private Finance Initiative deals on hospitals.[7] In the reshuffle caused by Peter Mandelson's resignation on 23 December 1998, Milburn was promoted to the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

He became Secretary of State for Health in October 1999, with responsibility for continuing the reduction in waiting times and delivering modernisation in the National Health Service (NHS). In 2002 Milburn introduced NHS foundation trusts, originally envisaged as a new form of not-for-profit provider[8] and "described at the time as a sort of halfway house between the public and private sectors".[9] Milburn later described his reforms as "getting the private sector into the NHS to work alongside the public sector. We gave more choice to patients. We paid more for the hospitals that were doing more rather than paying everyone the same."[10]

Milburn was thought to be a candidate for promotion within the Government, but on the day of a reshuffle (12 June 2003) he announced his resignation from government. He cited the difficulties combining family life in North-East England with a demanding job in London as his reason for quitting.[11][12]

While on the backbenches he continued to be a strong supporter of Tony Blair's policies, especially his continued policy of increased private involvement in public service provision. Following his resignation as Secretary of State for Health, Milburn took a post for £30,000 a year as an adviser to Bridgepoint Capital, a venture capital firm heavily involved in financing private health-care firms moving into the NHS, including Alliance Medical, Match Group, Medica and the Robinia Care Group.[13]

He returned to government in September 2004, as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. He was brought back to lead the Labour Party's campaign in the 2005 general election, but the unsuccessful start to the campaign led to Milburn taking a back seat, with Gordon Brown returning to take a very prominent role.


On election night in 2005, he announced he would be leaving the Cabinet for a second time, although rumours persisted that he would challenge Gordon Brown for the succession.[citation needed] On 27 June 2007, Brown was unopposed. On 8 September 2006, after Tony Blair had announced his intention to step down within a year, Charles Clarke suggested Milburn as leader in place of Brown. On 28 February 2007, he and Clarke launched The 2020 Vision, a website intended to promote policy debate in the Labour Party.[14]

He was the honorary president of the political organisation Progress, which was founded by Derek Draper. In 2007, Milburn worked as an advisor to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd[15] and again in 2010 acted as an advisor to the election campaign of Julia Gillard.[16] Between January and July 2009, Milburn chaired a governmental commission on social mobility, the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions.[17] The Panel reported in July 2009 with recommendations to improve social mobility by acting at every life stage – including through schools, universities, internship practices and recruitment processes.

In 2007, Milburn became a paid advisor to PepsiCo and sat on its nutritional advisory board.[18] By the time he stood down from Parliament, Milburn had an income at least £115,000 a year from five companies.[19]

In June 2009, he told his local party he would not be standing at the 2010 general election, saying: "Standing down as an MP will give me the chance to balance my work and my family life with the time to pursue challenges other than politics."[20]

Later career

Milburn addressing the NHS Confederation Conference in 2014

Despite the change of government following the May 2010 general election, it was reported in August 2010 that Milburn had been offered a role in the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition as "social mobility tsar".[21] Although not officially politically-affiliated, the role would involve advising the government on how to break down social barriers for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and help people who feel they are barred from top jobs on grounds of race, religion, gender or disability. Milburn provoked criticism from former Cabinet colleague John Prescott, and his former ally Andy Burnham, for advising the government. However, David Miliband defended Milburn claiming that he was serving the country and was not working for the Coalition Government.

In June 2011, Milburn was asked by Andrew Lansley to chair the new clinical commissioning board, as part of the Coalition Government's health reforms but he rejected the offer labelling the reforms as "privatization", "cuts" and a "car crash".[22]

In 2011, Milburn contributed to The Purple Book (alongside other key figures in the Labour Party such as Ed Miliband, Peter Mandelson, Jacqui Smith, Liam Byrne, Tessa Jowell, Tristram Hunt, Stephen Twigg, Rachel Reeves and Liz Kendall). In the book, he called for the Labour Party to adopt a policy of "educational credit", a system whereby lower and middle-income families whose children attend failing schools can withdraw their children and get funding, worth 150% the cost of education at the failing school, in order to pay for a place at a higher achieving school for the child, with the money coming from the budget of the failing school. The policy was rejected by the leftwing MP Michael Meacher but was welcomed by Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg and other shadow cabinet members.[citation needed]

In 2012, a senior Number 10 adviser called for Andrew Lansley to be "taken out and shot" for introducing the Health and Social Care bill despite widespread opposition, and that Alan Milburn should be ennobled and join the coalition government as Secretary of State for Health.[23] This was rejected by David Cameron and it is understood that Milburn rejected such offer and remained in the Labour Party. He wrote in The Times attacking the reforms, but calling for the left to give an alternative.[24]

In July 2012, Milburn was appointed as Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission.[25][26] He served until his resignation in December 2017.[27]

In 2013 Milburn joined PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) as Chair of PwC's UK Health Industry Oversight Board, whose objective is to drive change in the health sector, and assist PwC in growing its presence in the health market.[28][29] Milburn continued to be chairman of the European Advisory Board at Bridgepoint Capital, whose activities include financing private health care companies providing services ito the NHS,[30][31] and continued as a member of the Healthcare Advisory Panel at Lloyds Pharmacy.[32][33] As of 2022 he remains a Senior Adviser to PwC.[34]

In 2015, Milburn became Lancaster University’s third Chancellor, taking over from the mountaineer Chris Bonington.[35]

Early in 2015, Milburn intervened in the British election campaign to criticise Labour's health plans, which would limit private sector involvement in the NHS. Milburn was criticised for doing so while having a personal financial interest in the private health sector.[36] In 2017, Milburn was touted as a possible leader of a pro-EU movement after Brexit.[37][38]


Country Date Appointment Post-nominal letters
 United Kingdom 1998–present Member of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council PC


Chancellor, visitor, governor, rector and fellowships
Location Date School Position
 England 1 January 2015 – University of Lancaster Chancellor[39][40]
This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (September 2022)

Honorary Degrees
Location Date School Degree Gave Commencement Address
 England 2000 University of Lancaster Doctor of Laws (LL.D)[41] Yes
 England 19 July 2012 University of Exeter Doctor of Laws (LL.D)[42] Yes
 England 23 January 2020 University of Sussex Doctor of the University (D.Univ)[43][44] Yes
This list is incomplete; you can help by adding missing items. (September 2022)


  1. ^ "RT HON ALAN MILBURN MP". 11 November 2019.
  2. ^ a b "From Council Estate to Cabinet - An Interview with Alan Milburn". Lancaster University. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  3. ^ O'Grady, Sean (3 June 2000). "A friend from the north". The Independent. London: Independent News & Media. Retrieved 10 April 2008.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b c Brian Wheeler (13 May 2002). "Milburn's radical days". BBC. Archived from the original on 30 January 2004. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  5. ^ Andy McSmith, "Why minister apologised to female official over gossip[dead link]", The Independent, 15 June 2003
  6. ^ George Eaton (20 October 2014). "Alan Milburn attacks Miliband for not being ambitious enough on the minimum wage – is he right?". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  7. ^ Gallagher, Paul (6 July 2018). "Alan Milburn: 'New Labour felt like it was possible to change the world – and in healthcare I think we did.'". i News. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  8. ^ Timmins, Nicholas (June 2002). "A Time For Change In The British NHS: An Interview With Alan Milburn". Health Affairs. 21 (3): 129–135. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.21.3.129. PMID 12025976. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  9. ^ Butler, Patrick; Parker, Simon (14 November 2002). "Q&A: foundation trusts". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 22 June 2017.
  10. ^ Hope, Christopher; Gear, Giles (22 October 2021). "NHS funding boost must be accompanied by reforms, Alan Milburn tells Boris Johnson". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  11. ^ "Milburn quits as health secretary". 12 June 2003. Archived from the original on 2 October 2007.
  12. ^ "Analysis: Why Milburn quit". 12 June 2003. Archived from the original on 17 March 2006.
  13. ^ "Profile: Alan Milburn". BBC. 7 September 2004. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  14. ^ Deborah Summers and Helene Mulholland (28 February 2007). "Clarke and Milburn reject 'stop Gordon' claims". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 2 October 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  15. ^ Ham, Paul (25 November 2007). "Lazarus lost his touch with voters". The Times. London. Archived from the original on 29 August 2008. Retrieved 19 January 2009.
  16. ^ Malkin, Bonnie (6 August 2010). "Alan Milburn joins Julia Gillard's election campaign". The Daily Telegraph. Sydney. Archived from the original on 19 August 2010. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
  17. ^ "BIS -Panel on Fair Access to the Professions". Archived from the original on 18 July 2010.
  18. ^ Smithers, Rebecca (30 May 2007). "Beyoncé, Britney ... Milburn? Ex-minister takes Pepsi challenge". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 19 January 2009.
  19. ^ Robert Merrick (29 June 2009). "MP not quitting over jobs scrutiny". The Northern Echo. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  20. ^ "Milburn to stand down at election". BBC News. 27 June 2009. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 27 June 2009.
  21. ^ Kite, Melissa (15 August 2010). "Alan Milburn set for third return to Government as David Cameron adviser". Archived from the original on 17 August 2010 – via
  22. ^ Milburn, Alan; Mulholland, Helene (16 June 2011). "NHS reforms: amended plans are 'car crash', says Alan Milburn". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 8 March 2016.
  23. ^ Patrick Butler (7 February 2012). "NHS reforms live blog – Tuesday 7 February". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 26 November 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  24. ^ Samira Shackle (8 February 2012). "Lansley fights another day as Cameron backs NHS reform". New Statesman. Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
  25. ^ "Alan Milburn and Neil O.Brien set to lead the drive to improve social mobility and reduce child poverty". Government of the United Kingdom. 26 June 2012. Archived from the original on 22 February 2014. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  26. ^ "Appointment of Chair, Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission". House of Commons – Education Select Committee. UK Parliament. 10 July 2012. Archived from the original on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  27. ^ "The future of the Social Mobility Commission – Education Committee – House of Commons". Parliament of the United Kingdom. 22 March 2018.
  28. ^ "Alan Milburn will chair new PwC Health Industry Oversight Board". PricewaterhouseCoopers. 22 May 2013. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  29. ^ "Healthcare – Meet the team". PricewaterhouseCoopers. Archived from the original on 11 April 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  30. ^ Tim Walker (24 January 2015). "'Poverty tsar' Alan Milburn makes a million". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 4 July 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  31. ^ "Alan Milburn". Bridgepoint Capital. Archived from the original on 18 March 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  32. ^ John Harris (28 January 2015). "No wonder Miliband wants distance from ex-Blairites on the NHS". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 29 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  33. ^ "Executive Profile – Alan Milburn". Bloomberg. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  34. ^ "Rt. Hon Alan Milburn". PricewaterhouseCoopers. Retrieved 13 February 2022.
  35. ^ "The Rt Hon Alan Milburn will start as Lancaster University's Chancellor from 1 January 2015". Lancaster University. 30 April 2014. Archived from the original on 4 April 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2015.
  36. ^ Adam Bienkov (28 January 2015). "Alan Milburn's personal interest in resisting a public NHS". Archived from the original on 31 January 2015. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  37. ^ "Who are anti-Brexit group Best for Britain?". BBC News. 5 June 2018.
  38. ^ "Richard Branson to fund group to REVERSE Brexit as Article 50 triggered". 22 January 2017.
  39. ^ "Lancaster University appoints new chancellor". The Westmorland Gazette. 30 April 2014. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  40. ^ "Chancellor". The University of Lancaster. 10 September 2022. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  41. ^ "Honorary Graduates". The University of Lancaster. 10 September 2022. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  42. ^ "Honorary graduates 2012-13". The University of Exeter. 19 July 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  43. ^ Allen, Stephanie (20 January 2020). "University of Sussex to award honorary degrees to four figures making a difference to both science and society". The University of Sussex. Retrieved 10 September 2022.
  44. ^ University of Sussex (10 September 2022). "Rt. Hon. Alan Milburn – University of Sussex honorary graduate 2020" – via YouTube.
Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byMichael Fallon Member of Parliament for Darlington 19922010 Succeeded byJenny Chapman Political offices Preceded byStephen Byers Chief Secretary to the Treasury 1998–1999 Succeeded byAndrew Smith Preceded byFrank Dobson Secretary of State for Health 1999–2003 Succeeded byJohn Reid Preceded byDouglas Alexander Minister for the Cabinet Office 2004–2005 Succeeded byJohn Hutton Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster 2004–2005 Academic offices Preceded bySir Chris Bonington Chancellor of the University of Lancaster 2015-Present Incumbent