Express & Star

Tributes to former Wolverhampton MP who has died, aged 75

Tributes have been paid to a former Wolverhampton MP who has died aged 75.

Maureen Hicks

Maureen Hicks, remembered by many for her battlebus which blasted out Tina Turner's 'Simply the Best', was Conservative MP for Wolverhampton North East from 1987 to 1992.

Councillor Wendy Thompson, leader of the opposition Conservative group on Wolverhampton Council, remembered Mrs Hicks for her friendly and cheerful personality.

"Maureen was a hard working, professional and well-respected member of Wolverhampton," she said.

"In the time I spent with her, she would never fail to light up a room, and the way she interacted with residents is one of several things she will be so fondly remembered for.

"She will be sorely missed."

Mrs Hicks worked as a schoolteacher, an assistant manager at Marks & Spence and an assistant education officer before entering parliament before settling into a career in the tourist industry in Stratford-on-Avon. She served as a councillor in the town from 1979 to 1984.

She was selected to fight the key marginal of Wolverhampton North East at the 1987 General Election. The seat was held by long-serving Labour MP Renee Short, who had retained the seat by just 214 votes at the 1983 poll. But Mrs Short announced her retirement before the election, and Councillor Ken Purchase was selected to fight the seat for Labour.

During her election campaign, she called for the return of the death penalty, tougher sentences for criminals, and caning in all schools.

Despite a slight swing to Labour nationally, Mrs Hicks defeated Councillor Purchase by 204 votes.

In parliament, she campaigned for tighter restrictions on abortion. She supported moves by Liberal MP David Alton to cut the time limit for abortion to 18 weeks. On discovering that the vote would take place on a Friday, she famously asked her husband Keith to take her weekly surgery which was held at the same time.

She supported the introduction of compulsory ID cards, but opposed the televising of parliament over fears that it would encourage publicity-seeking behaviour from MPs.

Concerned by problems with vice in Wolverhampton, she tabled an amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill calling for prostitutes to be given jail sentences.

During a prize-giving session at Wednesfield High School, she told them about how she had come back from failing the 11-plus.

``If anyone had said to me on my prize night at my secondary school thatone day I would have the privilege of awarding your prizes this evening as your Member of Parliament for Wolverhampton North East and serve as a member of parliament in the British Government I would have laughed myself silly.''

"Success is all about identifying our talents whether they be via our intellect, our personality, our appearance, or whatever and using those talents and skills to the full.''

She told them how she had shocked her parents with her dreams of becoming an actress, but was persuaded by her father to become a drama teacher instead.

"Soon to be convinced by my father that I might have to please certain producers on the way and realising I lacked something that Brigitte Bardot obviously didn't, I listened to his compromise,'' she said.

A strong advocate for personal morality, she warned youngsters not to fall for the temptations of the 20th century 'which will test your resistance and strength of character on the way'.

She told how she was offered drugs at a party in America when she was 21.

"I resisted, for as you will know just that one first time, maybe for kicks, can inevitably lead to the second, to the third and so on and if you haven't ever seen the sight of a drug addict, then take my word,it is most disturbing and an horrendous waste of life,'' she told the pupils.

"Today you are living in a society in which drugs are all too easily available, a society in which abortions and illegitimacy are almost commonplace, a society which lives with the dreadful threat of Aids."

She faced Mr Purchase again at the 1992 election, but a large national swing towards Labour saw her lose the seat by 3,939 votes.

Mrs Hicks returned to Stratford, where she became project director of a visitor management project, and a founder member of the Shakespeare Country Association of Tourist Attractions.

She went on to become fundraising director for the Myton Hamlet Hospice in Warwick, before returning to the tourism industry. She also volunteered as a case worker for Citizens Advice.

She leaves husband Keith, a daughter and a son.