Jack Ashley, Baron Ashley of Stoke

Jack Ashley, Baron Ashley of Stoke

Jack Ashley, Baron Ashley of Stoke, CH PC (born 6 December 1922), is a Labour member of the United Kingdom House of Lords. He was Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South for 26 years, from 1966 to 1992.

Ashley was born in Widnes and educated at local elementary school. He left school at 14 to work in the chemical process industry. He became a crane driver and was a shop steward in the Chemical Workers' Union, a union of which he was the youngest executive member aged 22. He served in the Army in the Second World War, and then won a scholarship to study at Ruskin College, Oxford, where he received a Diploma in Economics and Political Science in 1948. He continued his studies at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union Society in 1951. He worked as a research worker for the National Union of General and Municipal Workers and then worked as a radio producer for the North American Service and BBC Home Service. In 1956 he joined the BBC television service and workerd as a producer on "Panorama" and "Monitor".

He served on Widnes Borough Council as a councillor from 1946.At the 1951 general election, Ashley contested Finchley without success. He was elected as Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Stoke on Trent South at the 1966 general election. In December 1967, at the age of 45, he became profoundly deaf as a result of complications of a routine ear operation to correct a mild hearing loss caused by a perforated eardrum early in his working career. He was the United Kingdom's first totally deaf MP.

He became a tireless campaigner for the disabled, especially the deaf and blind, and won broad cross-party sympathy, support and respect in parliament for his approach. In 1972, he sponsored the pivotal motion in the House of Commons making a distinction between legal and moral obligation. The success of this enabled "The Sunday Times" to continue its moral campaign for improved compensation for children disabled by thalidomide even while technically the parents' legal case was still in the courts. His Labour colleague, Alf Morris (now Lord Morris of Manchester) was also a supporter. The editor of "The Sunday Times", Harold Evans, later wrote in "Good Times, Bad Times" how Ashley selflessly gave up writing his autobiography so as to concentrate on the thalidomide campaign. He has also campaigned for compensation for vaccine damage and for damage caused by the arthritis drug Opren. He became a Companion of Honour in 1975, and joined the Privy Council in 1979. In 1986, Ashley and his wife founded the charity Defeating Deafness, now known as Deafness Research UK. He retired from the House of Commons at the 1992 general election and was made a Life peer Baron Ashley of Stoke, of Widnes in the County of Cheshire the same year. He received a cochlear implant in 1994 which restored much of his hearing.

He married Pauline Kay Crispin in 1951. His wife died in 2003. He has three daughters, including Jackie Ashley, a journalist.


* [http://www.deafnessresearch.org.uk/?lid=1713 Biography] from Deafness Research UK
* [http://www.thepeerage.com/p4450.htm#i44498 thepeerage.com]
* [http://liblists.wrlc.org/gsdl/cgi-bin/library?e=q-000-00---0deafbios--00-0-0--0prompt-10---4----dtt--0-1l--1-en-600---20-home-ashley--00031-001-0-0utfZz-8-00&a=d&c=deafbios&cl=search&d=HASH6cf8b098669811aec2d793 Short biography] from Gallaudet University

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