Dame Caroline Spelman
Official portrait, 2017
Second Church Estates Commissioner
In office
21 May 2015 – 12 December 2019
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Theresa May
Boris Johnson
Preceded byTony Baldry
Succeeded byAndrew Selous
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
In office
12 May 2010 – 4 September 2012
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byHilary Benn
Succeeded byOwen Paterson
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
2 July 2007 – 19 January 2009
LeaderDavid Cameron
Preceded byFrancis Maude
Succeeded byEric Pickles
Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
In office
19 January 2009 – 12 May 2010
LeaderDavid Cameron
Preceded byEric Pickles
Succeeded byJohn Denham
In office
15 March 2004 – 2 July 2007
LeaderMichael Howard
David Cameron
Preceded byDavid Curry (Local and Devolved Government Affairs)
Succeeded byEric Pickles
Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
10 November 2003 – 15 March 2004
LeaderMichael Howard
Preceded byDavid Lidington (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Succeeded byRichard Ottaway
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
In office
18 September 2001 – 10 November 2003
LeaderIain Duncan Smith
Preceded byGary Streeter
Succeeded byJohn Bercow
Shadow Minister for Women
In office
14 September 2001 – 15 March 2004
LeaderIain Duncan Smith
Michael Howard
Preceded byTheresa May
Succeeded byEleanor Laing
Member of Parliament
for Meriden
In office
1 May 1997 – 6 November 2019
Preceded byIain Mills
Succeeded bySaqib Bhatti
Personal details
Caroline Alice Cormack

(1958-05-04) 4 May 1958 (age 66)
Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, England
Political partyConservative
Mark Spelman
(m. 1987)
Residence(s)London, England
Algarve, Portugal
Alma materQueen Mary College, University of London
WebsiteOfficial website

Dame Caroline Alice Spelman DBE (née Cormack; born 4 May 1958) is a British Conservative Party politician who served as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Meriden in the West Midlands from 1997 to 2019. From May 2010 to September 2012[1] she was the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in David Cameron's coalition cabinet, and was sworn as a Privy Counsellor on 13 May 2010.[2]


Born in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, Spelman attended the Hertfordshire and Essex High School for Girls (now called The Hertfordshire and Essex High School), in Bishop's Stortford, and received a BA First Class in European Studies from Queen Mary College, University of London.

Early career

She was sugar beet commodity secretary for the National Farmers' Union from 1981 to 1984. She was deputy director of the International Confederation of European Beet Growers (officially known as La Confédération Internationale des Betteraviers Européens – CIBE) in Paris from 1984–9, then a research fellow for the Centre for European Agricultural Studies (part of the University of Kent and since 2000 known as the Centre for European Agri-Environmental Economics) from 1989 to 1993. She co-owns Spelman, Cormack & Associates, a lobbying firm for the food and biotechnology industry, with her husband.[3]

Parliamentary career

This section of a biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. Please help by adding reliable sources. Contentious material about living persons that is unsourced or poorly sourced must be removed immediately from the article and its talk page, especially if potentially libelous.Find sources: "Caroline Spelman" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (September 2016) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Before entering Parliament in 1997, she stood unsuccessfully in the Bassetlaw constituency in Nottinghamshire at the 1992 general election.[4]

In 2001, Iain Duncan Smith appointed Spelman Shadow Secretary of State for International Development, a post she maintained until Duncan Smith's departure as Conservative Party leader. Duncan Smith's successor, Michael Howard, opted for a streamlined Shadow Cabinet and omitted Spelman; however, he later appointed her as a front bench spokeswoman on Environmental Affairs working for Theresa May. In March 2004, Spelman re-entered the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Secretary of State for Local and Devolved Government Affairs, succeeding David Curry. Under David Cameron's leadership of the Conservative Party, in 2007 she was promoted further to become Conservative Party Chairman.

In 2009, Spelman was moved in another reshuffle to the role of Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, replacing Eric Pickles.

Between 2010-2012, Spelman served as Secretary of State for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. In this role, she helped secure a UN agreement on biodiversity in Nagoya, and the Sustainable Development Goals agreement in Rio.[5] In an interview with the Institute for Government, Spelman highlighted her Nature Environment White Paper laying out the Government's vision to 2060, as one of her "greatest achievements" in office.[6][7]

In 2012, Spelman returned to the Commons backbenches.

Spelman served as Second Church Estates Commissioner from 2015 to 2019.[8]

Spelman was opposed to Brexit prior to the 2016 referendum.[9]

In January 2019 MPs approved a symbolic, non-binding amendment, tabled by Spelman, to prevent a no-deal Brexit, by 318 votes to 310.[10][11]

Following abuse and death threats over Brexit, Spelman announced in September 2019 that she would not seek re-election at the next general election.[12]


In 2009, during the expenses scandal it was reported that Spelman had received £40,000 for cleaning and bills for her constituency home; this was despite her husband claiming it was their main home. In 2008 she reportedly over-claimed hundreds of pounds towards her council tax.[3]

"Nannygate" controversy

On 6 June 2008, Spelman was the subject of controversy when it was suggested that for around twelve months from May 1997 she paid her child's nanny, Tina Haynes, from her parliamentary staffing allowance, contrary to the rule governing such allowances and fears of the misuse of them. Spelman claims that her nanny also acted as her constituency secretary and was paid from the public taxpayers' purse for this aspect of her further employment. Haynes confirms that occasionally she would answer phone calls and post documents but initially she denied such happenings when interviewed on BBC Two's Newsnight via telephone. The accusations came at a time when Conservative Party leader David Cameron had tasked Spelman with reviewing the use of parliamentary allowances by Conservative MPs and MEPs in the wake of the Derek Conway affair.[13]

The allegation against Spelman came shortly after two Conservative MEPs, Giles Chichester (Leader of the Conservatives in the EU Parliament) and Den Dover (Conservative Chief Whip in the EU Parliament), were forced to resign amid claims they misused their parliamentary allowances. However, Spelman was not urged to resign by party leader, David Cameron. She referred the matter pertaining to herself, her nanny and parliamentary funds to John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.[14] Senior Conservative colleagues including former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis stated their support for Spelman.[15]

New allegations were reported on the BBC's Newsnight programme that nine years previously Spelman's secretary, Sally Hammond, complained to the Conservative Party leadership that she was using Parliamentary allowances to pay her nanny and that the arrangement with the nanny was over a two-year period and not one.[16]

In March 2009, the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee ruled that Caroline Spelman had misused her allowances to pay for nannying work in 1997 and 1998.[citation needed]

Privacy injunction

On 24 February 2012, the High Court in London refused to continue a privacy injunction previously granted to prevent the publication of a news item in the Daily Star Sunday involving her son. Judge Michael Tugendhat said that the injunction was "not necessary or proportionate".[17] On 2 March 2012, the Spelmans decided not to appeal against the decision, which permitted the publication of a story about her son.[18] The Spelman family was required to pay the legal costs of the Daily Star Sunday, in addition to their own legal costs of £60,994.[19][20]

Personal life

She married Mark Spelman, a senior partner at Accenture, on 25 April 1987 in south-east Kent. Her husband stood as a Conservative candidate in the 2009 European elections for the West Midlands region. They have two sons and a daughter. In 1997, Spelman was the only Conservative MP who was also a mother of school-age children; the Conservative party instructed that her children should be educated in her constituency as a condition of her selection as MP. As a result, Spelman rarely saw her children and she found this period of her life very stressful, losing a significant amount of weight.[21]

The couple own a constituency home, a London townhouse and a villa in Algarve, Portugal.[22]

She is a Patron of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.[23]

Spelman was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for political and public service as part of the Resignation Honours of the outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron.[24]


  1. ^ "Green groups' concern over Owen Paterson record". BBC News. 4 September 2012. Archived from the original on 4 September 2012. Retrieved 4 September 2012.
  2. ^ "Privy Council appointments, 13 May 2010". Privy Council. Archived from the original on 11 June 2011. Retrieved 26 July 2010.
  3. ^ a b "The new ruling class". NewStatesman. October 2009. Archived from the original on 4 October 2009. Retrieved 11 October 2009.
  4. ^ "Election Results: Overnight declarations nationwide". The Guardian. 10 April 1992. p. 7. ProQuest 187242016.
  5. ^ "Dame Caroline Spelman". Gov.uk. April 2015. Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  6. ^ Gold, Jen (19 November 2015). "Minister Reflects: Caroline Spelman". Institute for Government. Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  7. ^ Caroline Spelman (June 2011). The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature (PDF) (Report). Gov.uk. Retrieved 17 January 2024.
  8. ^ "Second Church Estates Commissioners". Church in Parliament. December 2014. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  9. ^ Goodenough, Tom (16 February 2016). "Which Tory MPs back Brexit, who doesn't and who is still on the fence?". The Spectator. Archived from the original on 22 October 2016. Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  10. ^ "MPs approve Dame Caroline Spelman's amendment to prevent no-deal Brexit". BelfastTelegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  11. ^ Sparrow, Andrew; Elliott, Larry (29 January 2019). "Brexit: MPs vote for Brady amendment to renegotiate Irish backstop – Politics live". Retrieved 29 January 2019 – via www.theguardian.com.
  12. ^ "Dame Caroline Spelman standing down over 'Brexit abuse'". BBC News. 5 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  13. ^ Tory MP paid nanny from expenses Archived 18 May 2009 at the Wayback Machine, BBC
  14. ^ Tory chairman Caroline Spelman to meet standards commissioner over nanny expenses, The Daily Telegraph 7 June 2008
  15. ^ Tories rally round Spelman, Yahoo! News 8 June 2008 Archived 10 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ "MPs call for Spelman to be sacked". BBC News. 26 June 2008. Archived from the original on 18 May 2009. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  17. ^ "Caroline Spelman's son loses privacy injunction bid". BBC News. 24 February 2012. Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 24 February 2012.
  18. ^ "Caroline Spelman's son 'took drugs after sports injury'". BBC News. 2 March 2012. Archived from the original on 2 March 2012. Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  19. ^ "Cabinet Minister's Son Sorry Over Drug Use". Sky News. 2 March 2012. Archived from the original on 4 March 2012.
  20. ^ Savage, Tom (26 February 2012). "Court Win for the Daily Star Sunday". (The Daily Star Sunday was party to the legal action)
  21. ^ Reeves, Rachel, 1979– (7 March 2019). Women of Westminster : the MPs who changed politics. London. ISBN 978-1-78831-677-4. OCLC 1084655208.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ Worden, Tom (15 March 2009). ""Nannygate" Tory Caroline Spelman's properties worth nearly £5million". Sunday Mirror. Archived from the original on 29 October 2010. Retrieved 22 January 2010.
  23. ^ "CCF Patrons". Conservative Christian Fellowship. Archived from the original on 28 June 2014. Retrieved 15 June 2014.
  24. ^ "No. 61678". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 August 2016. p. RH3.
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Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byIain Mills Member of Parliamentfor Meriden 19972019 Succeeded bySaqib Bhatti Political offices Preceded byGary Streeter Shadow Secretary of State for International Development 2001–2003 Succeeded byJohn Bercow Preceded byTheresa May Shadow Minister for Women 2001–2004 Succeeded byEleanor Laing Preceded byDavid Lidingtonas Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment 2003–2004 Succeeded byRichard Ottaway Preceded byDavid Curryas Shadow Secretary of State for Local and Devolved Government Affairs Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 2004–2007 Succeeded byEric Pickles Preceded byEric Pickles Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 2009–2010 Succeeded byJohn Denham Preceded byHilary Benn Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 2010–2012 Succeeded byOwen Paterson Party political offices Preceded byFrancis Maude Chair of the Conservative Party 2007–2009 Succeeded byEric Pickles