Elizabeth Symons

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Elizabeth Symons, Women in Business Conference in London, 25 June 2013

Baroness Elizabeth Symons (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean) (born 14 April 1951) is a British Labour politician and former minister, who was created a life peer in 1996, and is now a senior figure in the House of Lords.

She is a paid senior adviser to heavyweight lobbying law firm DLA Piper and construction company CCC Group, Blenheim Capital and Protection Group International. [1]


Symons began her career in the civil service, before becoming a trade union official in 1977 for the First Division Association (FDA) union which represented civil servants including influential positions in Whitehall such as policy advisors and diplomats; and then a labour minister. Until her resignation in 2005, Elizabeth Symons worked in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, ministry of defense, worked in the department of trade and industry, was minister of state sor the middle east and finally, deputy leader of the house of Lords.[2]

Her role in the Foreign Office was to represent the government in the House of Lords, doing so at a time when a British company, Sandline International, was being accused of supplying weapons to Sierra Leone in return for diamonds; something which U.N legislation had made illegal. Baroness Symons was accused of having knowledge of the transaction - the Liberal Democrats leader in the House of Lords questioned her on record about this in 1998, but she denied the suggestion, claiming that there was no evidence.[3]

Symons, whilst minister for procurement for the Ministry of Defence in 2001, began the process of privatising the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, which it had just changed into a government run company, with the exception of the sensitive Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.[4]

Symons' husband, Philip Bassett, was an aide to Tony Blair and served as head of the Strategic Communications Unit in Downing Street.[5] Prior to this, he was employed as labour editor for Rupert Murdoch at his Times newspaper.[6]

Alastair Campbell, during questioning at the Hutton Inquiry, claimed that when the Iraq War dossier regarding WMD was published, Phil Basset had been working under him as a 'senior special advisor'.[7]

It was in this role that Basset helped create the dossier that claimed Saddam Husain was able to prepare and fire W.M.D's within 45 minutes. During this time, Elizabeth Symons was both minister for trade in the Department of Trade and Industry, and also the minister for the Middle-east in the Foreign Office.[8]


In 2005 she was made both a non-executive director of British Airways and the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company.[9]

Register of interests

Directorships 2014

Remunerated employment, office, profession etc.

Sponsorship 2014

Overseas trips


  • The Arctic Lords 2014-
  • Draft House of Lords Reform Bill (Joint Committee) Lords 2011-12
  • National Security Strategy (Joint Committee) Lords 2010-10
  • EU Sub-Committee D - Agriculture, Fisheries and Environment Lords 2009-10
  • European Union Committee Lords 2006-10
  • Conventions (Joint Committee) Lords 2006-06
  • EU Sub-Committee C - Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy Lords 2005-09
  • Procedure Committee Lords 2001-05
  • House of Lords Offices Committee Lords 2001-02[1]



Notes and References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Baroness Symons, undated, accessed 14 October 2014
  2. Business Week, EXECUTIVE PROFILE Elizabeth Conway Symons, accessed 28 November 2008.
  3. Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone News, June 1998, accessed 28 November 2008.
  4. Arnold, James, "Qinetiq's new battle," 30 April 2002, accessed 28 November 2008.
  5. Grice, Andrew, "Campbell to quit as spin-master after the election," 12 April 2001, accessed 28 November 2008.
  6. Easton, Tom, "The British American Project for the Successor Generation," Lobster Magazine, Issue 33, Summer 1997 (sub req'd), accessed 28 November 2008.
  7. Guardian, Tuesday August 19 2003, evidence from Alastair Campbell, Prime Minister’s Office, 19 August 2003, accessed 28 November 2008.
  8. Guide to Women Leaders, Worldwide Guide to Women in Leadership, last update 05 October 2008, accessed 28 November 2008.
  9. EXECUTIVE PROFILE Elizabeth Conway Symons Business Week; Accessed 18/03/2008
  10. DLA Piper, Regulatory Alert: Trade sanctions and export controls affecting the UK & US, September 2007, accessed 28 November 2008.
  11. Middle East North Africa Financial Network, "English Hight Court appoints receiver over worldwide CCC construction contracts," MENAFN Press, 28 October 2008, accessed 28 November 2008.
  12. Ungoed-Thomas, Jon, et al., "Revealed: how minister cashed in on contacts," The Sunday Times, 23 November 2008, accessed 24 November 2008.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Leigh, D. and Evans, R. From Brussels to the boardroom: what George Robertson did next The Guardian, 9 February 2006, accessed 13 October 2014
  14. The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments Ninth Report 2006-2008 Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, accessed 4 November 2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 The Advisory Committee on Business Appointments Ninth Report 2006-2008 Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, accessed 6 November 2014
  16. Elizabeth Symons Companies in the UK, accessed 6 November 2014