The new ministers

May 9, 1997


KIM HOWELLS first entered the then Department for Education and Science in 1968 as a radical student invited to meet then-junior minister Shirley Williams. A key organiser of the fabled Hornsey College of Art student occupation, his past caught up with him again when a deluge of phone messages greeted his appointment as parliamentary under secretary: "There were numerous calls from deans and professors. I hadn't realised quite how many of my old friends had gone straight."

If Dr Howells, 50, has finally gone straight himself, his route for doing so has contained some striking meanders. His post-Hornsey experience incorporated spells as a miner and steelworker, a Warwick PhD on the politics of the coal industry and appointment as research officer to the South Wales Miners.

Elected as member for Pontypridd at a by-election in 1991, he was a trade and industry spokesman in Labour's shadow team, risking leadership wrath by openly questioning whether the proposed windfall tax would hit industrial competitiveness. Personal experience leaves him with no doubt of the importance of his lifelong learning brief.

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