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The Lord Cunningham of Felling
Minister for the Cabinet Office
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
27 July 1998 – 11 October 1999
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byDavid Clark
Succeeded byMo Mowlam
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
2 May 1997 – 27 July 1998
Prime MinisterTony Blair
Preceded byDouglas Hogg
Succeeded byNick Brown
Shadow Cabinet positions
Shadow Secretary of State for National Heritage
In office
19 October 1995 – 2 May 1997
LeaderTony Blair
Preceded byChris Smith
Succeeded byVirginia Bottomley
Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
In office
20 October 1994 – 19 October 1995
LeaderTony Blair
Preceded byRobin Cook
Succeeded byMargaret Beckett
Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
24 July 1992 – 20 October 1994
LeaderJohn Smith
Margaret Beckett (Acting)
Tony Blair
Preceded byGerald Kaufman
Succeeded byRobin Cook
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
In office
2 November 1989 – 24 July 1992
LeaderNeil Kinnock
Preceded byFrank Dobson
Succeeded byMargaret Beckett
Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
2 October 1983 – 2 November 1989
LeaderNeil Kinnock
Preceded byGerald Kaufman
Succeeded byBryan Gould
Under Secretary of State for Energy
In office
10 September 1976 – 4 May 1979
Prime MinisterJim Callaghan
Preceded byGordon Oakes
Succeeded byNorman Lamont
Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
In office
10 September 1976 – 21 February 1977
Prime MinisterJim Callaghan
Preceded byJohn Tomlinson
Succeeded byRoger Stott
Member of Parliament
for Copeland
Whitehaven (1970–1983)
In office
18 June 1970 – 11 April 2005
Preceded byJoseph Symonds
Succeeded byJamie Reed
Personal details
John Anderson Cunningham

(1939-08-04) 4 August 1939 (age 84)
Durham, England, UK
Political partyLabour
Alma materDurham University

John Anderson Cunningham, Baron Cunningham of Felling, PC, DL (born 4 August 1939)[1] is a British politician who was a Labour Member of Parliament for over 30 years, serving for Whitehaven from 1970 to 1983 and then Copeland until the 2005 general election, and had served in the Cabinet of Tony Blair.


His father was Andrew Cunningham, leader of the Labour Party in the Northern Region in the 1970s, who was disgraced in the 1974 Poulson scandal. Dr Cunningham was first elected as member for Whitehaven in 1970, and the renamed Copeland constituency, which was the same as Whitehaven, in 1983.

Early life

He was educated at Jarrow Grammar School (now Jarrow School) in the same class as Doug McAvoy, future general secretary of the National Union of Teachers. Cunningham then studied at Bede College of Durham University, receiving a BSc in Chemistry in 1962, and a PhD in 1967. He stayed at the university to become a research fellow from 1966–8, whilst working as an officer for the General and Municipal Workers' Union.

He was a district councillor for Chester-le-Street Rural & Parish Council, prior to becoming an MP and continued to live in the Garden Farm area of the town, bringing up his family there.

Political career

Cunningham joined the Shadow Cabinet in 1983, and was appointed to be a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Cumbria in 1991.[2] He ran the Labour Party's general election campaign in 1992. He also appeared on many television election programmes as one of the main spokesmen of the Labour Party.


After the Labour landslide victory at the 1997 general election, he became Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and embarked on a modernisation programme for the Ministry. He worked to secure the lifting of the EU ban on the export of UK beef, and achieved some limited success on this.[citation needed]


He was shifted in 1998 to Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The media dubbed him cabinet enforcer, claiming that his role was effectively to sell the Government and its policies to the public and the media.[3] He also led the government's work on modernising government, and chaired the Ministerial Committee on genetically modified foods and crops.[citation needed]


He retired from the Cabinet in 1999, and returned to the backbenches. He stood down from Parliament at the 2005 general election. Having represented the parliamentary constituency that includes Sellafield, the UK's largest nuclear facility for 35 years; he is a strong proponent of nuclear power and is the founding European legislative Chairman of the Transatlantic Nuclear Energy Forum[permanent dead link].

House of Lords

In the 2005 Dissolution Honours, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Cunningham of Felling, of Felling in the County of Tyne and Wear.[4][5]

Lord Cunningham of Felling is still active in politics and chairs an all-party parliamentary committee to review the powers of the House of Lords.

Lobbyist allegations

Cunningham was suspended from the Labour Party whip, and the party, in June 2013 pending an investigation over claims he had offered to work for lobbyists.[6] He was subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing by the parliamentary standards authorities, and had the Labour whip restored.

Expenses claimed in the House of Lords

Research conducted by the Guardian newspaper revealed that Lord Cunningham claimed a total of £75,122 for 154 days’ attendance in 2017–2018.[7] This was the largest claim for attendance and travel expenses out of all the sitting members in the House of Lords. £23,108 of the £75,122 was claimed for air travel expenses.

Personal life

He lives with his wife near Stocksfield, in Northumberland and is an avid fly fisherman.[citation needed] In 2016 Cunningham was awarded with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star.[8]


  1. ^ "Dr Jack Cunningham". Hansard. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  2. ^ "No. 52695". The London Gazette. 25 October 1991. p. 16312.
  3. ^ McSmith, Andy (28 February 1999). "So what exactly does Jack the Enforcer do?". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 November 2023.
  4. ^ "No. 57689". The London Gazette. 30 June 2005. p. 8499.
  5. ^ "No. 25865". The Edinburgh Gazette. 1 July 2005. p. 1946.
  6. ^ Rajeev Syal "Labour peers stripped of party whip over lobbying allegations" Archived 10 April 2017 at the Wayback Machine,, 2 June 2013
  7. ^ Duncan, Pamela; Pegg, David (30 May 2019). "Peer who never spoke in Lords last year claims £50,000 expenses". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Archived from the original on 11 June 2019. Retrieved 10 June 2019.
  8. ^ [bare URL PDF]