Kim Scott Howells

Kim Howells

Dr Kim Scott Howells (born 27 November 1946 in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales) is a Labour and member of Parliament for Pontypridd.

Biography

Howells is the son of the late Glanville Howells, a Communist lorry driver, and of Joan Glenys Howells. Born in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales and raised in Penywaun near Aberdare in the Cynon Valley, he is a former pupil of Mountain Ash Grammar School.

Howells went to Hornsey College of Art,which now is Middlesex University, where he was active in the famous May 1968 student occupation, and was the first protester to breach the Metropolitan Police cordon at the demonstration against the Vietnam War outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square in 1968.

Professional career

On return home to South Wales from college, Howells worked as a researcher and editor for the South Wales Miner, before becoming a South Wales National Union of Mineworkers official and local representative of the Communist Party of Great Britain. Howells ran the NUM Pontypridd office which co-ordinated the South Wales miners efforts during the UK miners' strike (1984–1985). The most serious incident of the whole national dispute occurred on Howells patch, when taxi driver David Wilkie was murdered by two striking miners, when they dropped a concrete block off a local bridge on to Wilkie's taxi. On being told of the incident in a telephone call from a reporter of the South Wales Echo, Howells rode his bicycle to the NUM offices, and destroyed the maps and information associated with co-ordinating the strike for fear of a police raid. He later commented that same day that the incident was a result of pressure to get the miners to return to work.

After allegations that he hid evidence associated with the death of Wilkie, and an investigation by South Wales Police, Howells in 2004 commented in a BBC Wales documentary that when he heard that a taxi driver had been killed, he thought "hang on, we've got all those records we've kept over in the NUM offices, there's all those maps on the wall, we're gonna get implicated in this". He then destroyed a large number of papers, because he feared a police raid on the union offices.

After the miners strike, and the closure of 29 of the 30 NCB pits in South Wales, Howells became a writer and presenter for television and radio, and as a college lecturer.

Parliamentary career

Howells entered the House of Commons in a by-election in 1989. He excelled in the Labour Opposition, becoming Opposition Spokesman on Trade and Industry, Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Development and Co-operation.

He held a string of junior ministerial posts in various departments following the 1997 election until October 2008. These posts included a short spell as Minister of State at the Department for Transport, and from September 2004 served as a Minister of State at the Department for Education and Skills. He is a longstanding member, and former Chairman, of Labour Friends of Israel, “a Westminster-based lobby group working within the British Labour Party to promote the State of Israel” (Labour Friends of Israel press briefing, 2003). Dr. Howell's public statements on Israel/Palestine have typically echoed the official Israeli government position. In May 2005, Howells was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with responsibility for: the Middle East, Afghanistan and South Asia, counter-narcotics, counter-proliferation, counter-terrorism, UN and UN reform.

On 06 October 2008 Dr Howells left the Government in a wide-ranging reshuffle of ministerial positions. Dr Howells was appointed to take over from Margaret Beckett as chair of the Security and Intelligence Committee, a Committee of Parliamentarians that oversees the work of Britain's intelligence and security agencies.

Parliamentary Challenges

In February 2006 he was the subject of a complaint from Paul Flynn MP after he mocked Mr Flynn's attitude towards the UK's Afghan Drug policy as being equivalent to:

It is not enough to assume that if people eat the right kind of muesli, go to first nights of Harold Pinter revivals and read The Independent occasionally, the drug barons of Afghanistan will go away. They will not.

On 22 November 2006 it was announced that on a recent visit to Iraq his helicopter was involved in an incident as it left the city of Basra with witnesses claiming shots were fired at the aircraft.

Personality

Howells is known to be an outspoken individual, though whether this is a reflection of his sense of humour or known characteristic of being a free thinker is unclear. In 2002 as a junior Minister at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, he criticised the Turner Prize by writing a note that read:
If this is the best British artists can produce then British art is lost. It is cold mechanical, conceptual bullshit. Kim Howells. P.S. The attempts at conceptualisation are particularly pathetic and symptomatic of a lack of conviction.
Throughout his Parliamentary career he has been unafraid to speak his mind and has often sparked strong criticism from those he has criticised or offended. During a House of Commons debate on licensing laws he said that the idea of "listening to three Somerset folk singers sounds like hell". In a Today programme interview, while visiting Iraq on 11 March 2006 as Foreign Office minister, he said:
[Iraq] is a mess that can't launch an attack now on Iran; a mess that won't be able to march into Kuwait; it's a mess that can't develop nuclear weapons. So yes it's a mess but it's starting to look like the sort of mess that most of us live in.
On 22 July 2006 Howell criticised Israel's bombardment of Lebanon while on a visit to Beirut, breaking with the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary's less critical line, saying:
The destruction of the infrastructure, the death of so many children and so many people. These have not been surgical strikes. And it's very difficult, I think, to understand the kind of military tactics that have been used. You know, if they're chasing Hezbollah, then go for Hezbollah. You don't go for the entire Lebanese nation.

He once described the royal family as "a bit bonkers".

Personal life

Howells married Eirlys Davies in 1983 and has two sons and one daughter.

References

External links

Offices Held

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