Hilary James Wedgwood Benn MP (born 26 November 1953) is a British Labour Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Leeds Central since the by-election in 1999. He served in the cabinet from 2003 to 2010, under the premierships of both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. From 2010 to 2016, he served in various Labour Party shadow cabinets, most recently as Shadow Foreign Secretary from May 2015 until June 2016, when he was dismissed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. In October 2016, he was elected as the Chair of the new Exiting the European Union Select Committee.
Benn became a junior minister in the Department for International Development in 2001, being re-shuffled to the Home Office in 2002, and returning to International Development in 2003. Later in 2003, he was appointed as the Secretary of State for International Development, where he was responsible for the reconstruction efforts in Iraq, the UK's response to various natural disasters around the world, and also seeking a solution to the War in Darfur, among other responsibilities. In 2007, Benn was a candidate for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. In 2007, Benn was appointed as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, serving until 2010. One of his main agendas in this role was combatting bovine tuberculosis.
Since Labour's defeat at the 2010 general election, Benn has served on the front bench in four separate shadow cabinets, those of Harriet Harman, Ed Miliband, Harman's second shadow cabinet, and Jeremy Corbyn. Immediately following the Labour Party leadership election in 2010, he continued as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but was appointed as Shadow Leader of the House of Commons later in the year, serving until a reshuffle in 2011. He was then appointed as Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, serving until the 2015 general election. After Douglas Alexander failed to win re-election, Benn was appointed as Shadow Foreign Secretary, maintaining this role after Corbyn's election as leader.
After graduation, Benn became a research officer with the ASTMS and later became Head of Policy for Manufacturing Science and Finance. He reportedly applied for head of Labour Party research under the leadership of John Smith, but was unsuccessful.
In 1980, he was seconded to the Labour Party to act as a joint secretary to the finance panel of the Labour Party Commission of Inquiry. In 1979, he was elected to Ealing Borough Council where he served as deputy leader from 1986–90.
He was the Labour Party candidate for Ealing North at the 1983 and 1987 general elections. On both occasions he was defeated by the Conservative candidate Harry Greenway. Reflecting on the defeat at the 1983 general election, Benn said: "That was a formative experience for me because we went out on the doorstep and we didn't win the public's confidence. It made me very uncomfortable. Personally, that left a mark on me."
At the 1997 general election, Benn was on the shortlist for the seat of Pontefract and Castleford, but eventually lost to Yvette Cooper.[ Following the 1997 general election, Benn served as a special adviser to David Blunkett, then the Secretary of State for Education and Employment.
In 1999, Benn was selected as the Labour candidate for the Leeds Central by-election, 1999 following the death of Derek Fatchett. Benn won the by-election on 10 June 1999 by just over 2,000 votes, following a turnout of 19%, the smallest turnout at a by-election since World War II.
Following the 2001 general election, Benn was appointed as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development. In 2002, he was reshuffled to become the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Prisons and Probation in the Home Office, serving as a deputy to Lord Falconer as Minister of State (Criminal Justice).
In May 2003, he was moved from the Home Office back to the Department for International Development, where he served as Minister of State. He also acted as the Department's Commons spokesperson, as then-Secretary of State for International Development, Baroness Amos, was a member of the House of Lords.
In 2003, Benn was promoted to the cabinet from his position as Minister of State to become Secretary of State for International Development, after Baroness Amos was appointed as Leader of the House of Lords.
In late October 2006, Benn announced that he would be standing in the 2007 Labour Party Deputy Leadership election. One of his earliest backers was Dennis Skinner, and it was also announced that Ian McCartney would play an important role in his campaign.
In 2007, Benn was appointed as the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, following the election of Gordon Brown as Party Leader, and the promotion of David Miliband to Foreign Secretary. As Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, it was his responsibility to respond to the threat to cattle from Mycobacterium bovis, colloquially referred to as bovine tuberculosis (TB). The recommended option from the Chief Scientific Advisor until 2007, Sir David King, was a badger cull. In April 2010, a badger cull was announced in Wales, after the high court in Cardiff rejected a legal challenge from The Badger Trust.
Benn served as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in 2010 during Harriet Harman's interim leadership of the Labour Party. In the Shadow Cabinet of Ed Miliband, announced on 8 October 2010, he was appointed Shadow Leader of the House of Commons. When Miliband reshuffled his cabinet on 7 October 2011, he was named Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Shadow Foreign Secretary
After the 2015 UK general election, in the Second Shadow Cabinet of Harriet Harman, Benn was named Shadow Foreign Secretary, after the previous person, Douglas Alexander, lost his seat to Mhairi Black of the SNP.