He served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in Gordon Brown's Government, and is known for having, upon his departure, left a note for his Liberal Democrat successor David Laws saying "I'm afraid there is no money."
Byrne was born in Warrington, and was educated at Burnt Mill School in Harlow. He completed his A levels at The Hertfordshire and Essex High School in Bishop's Stortford. He then went on to study at the University of Manchester, where he obtained a first-class honours degree in Politics and Modern History, and was elected Communications Officer of the University of Manchester Students' Union. He also holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School, where he was a Fulbright Scholar.
Before being elected to Parliament, he worked for Accenture and N M Rothschild & Sons, before co-founding a venture-backed technology company, e-Government Solutions Group, in 2000. In 1996/7, he advised the Labour Party on the re-organisation of its Millbank headquarters, and helped lead Labour's business campaign under the 'New Labour' marque.
He was selected to contest the Birmingham Hodge Hill by-election following the resignation of the veteran Labour MP Terry Davis to become the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. On 15 July 2004, the same day as Labour lost Leicester South in another by-election, Byrne held on with a majority of just 460. He made his maiden speech on 22 July 2004.
2005 to 2010
Following his re-election with an increased majority on 5 May 2005, he was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health, an unusually fast promotion to ministerial rank. He was re-elected at the May 2010 general election.
Byrne has been a vocal campaigner for road safety; in 2005, he handed a petition in to Parliament demanding tougher punishments for dangerous drivers. He sat on the parliamentary committee that shaped the Road Safety Act 2006, which increased fixed penalty fines for driving while using a mobile. In November 2007, he was fined £100 and received three points on his driving licence for using his mobile phone while driving.
Following the 2006 local elections he was promoted to Minister of State for policing, security and community safety at the Home Office, replacing Hazel Blears, one of the highest-profile roles in the government outside the cabinet. However, just a fortnight later Home Secretary John Reid moved him to the immigration role, switching portfolios with Tony McNulty. McNulty had been connected with the foreign prisoners scandal that caused Tony Blair to sack Charles Clarke in May 2006. Byrne's move was seen as an attempt by Reid to establish an entirely new team to sort out the immigration system. During this period he was also Minister for the West Midlands. Byrne was promoted in a cabinet reshuffle on 3 October 2008, becoming Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.
Immigration: taxi driver controversy
In November 2006, Byrne was responsible for a change to Immigration Rules preventing migrants who had entered under Britain's Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) having their permission to remain in Britain extended, unless they could show both that they had been earning at least £32,000 pa while in Britain and also that they had a good knowledge of English. This change was controversial because it applied retrospectively to immigrants who had entered Britain under the old rules, meaning the British Government had "moved the goalposts"–a degree became effectively an essential requirement, regardless of the skills or economic contribution that an individual could demonstrate. In their report into the changes, the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights said that "The changes to the Rules are so clearly incompatible with Article 8, and so contrary to basic notions of fairness, that the case for immediately revisiting the changes to the Rules in Parliament is in our view overwhelming." Appeal cases have been won on appeal on the grounds that applicants had a legitimate expectation that the rules would not change to their detriment. A judicial review has been successfully brought against the government, with their actions when applying the new HSMP rules to those HSMP holders already in Britain as at 7 November 2006 being ruled as unlawful.
Byrne is in favour of legislation for a Migration Act, similar to the 1958 immigration law in Australia which is administered by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC).
In 2007, Byrne was criticised by London's cab drivers for his remarks that they were "low-skilled". This ignored the fact that the cabbies study the details of London's streets for an average of between three and four years before becoming licensed.
In June 2008, Byrne suggested the "August bank holiday" to be made a weekend of national celebration (the so-called "British Day") in a speech to a New Labour think tank. However, Scotland's August bank holiday is held on a different date from that in Wales and England. He later retracted this - after pressure from the Scottish National Party - saying he was merely trying to "get the debate started".
Since this suggestion, the concept of a British national holiday was raised again by the coalition government, with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties suggesting the May Day bank holiday may be moved to October and renamed "UK Day" or associated with the existing Trafalgar Day.
Leaked staffing requirements memo
In November 2008, an 11-page memo written by Byrne entitled "Working With Liam Byrne" was leaked to the press. In the memo, Byrne listed his demands from his staff, memorably including his requirement for a cappuccino on his arrival in the office, soup between 12:30 pm and 1 pm and an espresso at 3 pm. Byrne also instructed officials to tell him "not what you think I should know, but you expect I will get asked." He warns staff that they should "Never put anything to me unless you understand it and can explain it to me in 60 seconds... If I see things that are not of acceptable quality, I will blame you." Conservative MP Philip Davies commented that "This is not a briefing note for civil servants, it’s a briefing note for slaves." Although The Guardian described Byrne as an "eager diva", a spokesman for him commented that the memo had been written in 2006, and that "He is a highly efficient Minister but has become more flexible since then. Some days, he has his soup at 1:30 pm."
Departure from the Treasury
On leaving his position as Chief Secretary to the Treasury following the change of British government in May 2010, Byrne left a note to his successor David Laws saying "Dear Chief Secretary, I’m afraid there is no money. Kind regards – and good luck! Liam." Byrne later claimed that it was just typical humour between politicians, but regretted it since the new government used it to justify the wave of cuts that were introduced. The note echoed Chancellor Reginald Maudling's note to James Callaghan: "Good luck, old cock ... Sorry to leave it in such a mess." after the Conservatives' defeat at the 1964 election.
The note was frequently referenced by the following coalition government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to criticise the financial record of the previous Labour government, and used as a visual prop by David Cameron in the Question Time debate preceding the following 2015 election. Byrne stated he has "burnt with shame" since 2010 over the note which had harmed the 2015 election campaign.
Byrne is the chair of the APPG on Inclusive Growth, formed in July 2014 with the aim of finding a new consensus on inclusive growth to ensure the benefits of growth are enjoyed by all sectors of society. He is also chair of the APPG on Children of Alcoholics, which has produced a manifesto in support of the estimated 2.5 million children of alcoholics who live in the UK. Byrne himself was one of these children and set up the APPG after speaking publicly about his father's condition in 2015. Alongside Chuka Umunna, Byrne made an official visit to Israel in October 2012 as part of the LFI’s UK-Israel Economic Dialogue group. Byrne is a member of the Labour Friends of Israel.
Byrne was shortlisted for the Grassroot Diplomat Initiative Award in 2015 for his work on raising money for charities and remains in the directory of the Grassroot Diplomat Who's Who publication.
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- "Exclusive video of infamous Treasury memo". ITV News West Country. 24 June 2013. Archived from the original on 24 June 2013. Retrieved 24 June 2013.
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- "Leaders grilled on post-election deals in Question Time special". BBC. 1 May 2015. Archived from the original on 1 May 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015.
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- "Liam Byrne to chair cross-party group on inclusive growth | LabourList". LabourList | Labour's biggest independent grassroots e-network. 17 July 2014. Archived from the original on 21 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
- Byrne, Liam (24 November 2015). "Labour MP's brave stand as he shares the pain of living with an alcoholic dad". mirror. Archived from the original on 21 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
- "Conservative and Labour MPs take part in new Israel missions". The Jewish Chronicle. London. 11 October 2012. Archived from the original on 11 April 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
- "LFI Supporters in Parliament". Labour Friends of Israel. Archived from the original on 2 October 2019. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
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- "Full list of MPs and MEPs backing challenger Owen Smith". LabourList. 21 July 2016. Archived from the original on 15 July 2019. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
- Liam Byrne official site
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Articles authored at Journalisted
- Byrne's speech to Labour Party Conference 2011 hosted by YouTube on the party's official channel
- Profile: Liam Byrne BBC News, 2 November 2007
- The seat of power?, Nick Watson, The Politics Show, 5 July 2007
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament
for Birmingham Hodge Hill
Election in progress
as Minister of State for Immigration, Citizenship and Nationality
| Minister of State for Borders and Immigration
|New office|| Minister for the West Midlands
| Minister for the Cabinet Office
| Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Baroness Royall of Blaisdon
| Chief Secretary to the Treasury
| Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
| Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
| Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions