Michael Jabez Foster (born 26 February 1946) is a former Labour Party politician in the United Kingdom who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Hastings and Rye from 1997 until 2010. He was the Minister for Equalities, responsible for the progress of the Government's Equalities Bill through the House of Commons, a role he held since June 2009.

Early life

Michael Foster was born in Hastings, East Sussex and attended the local Hastings Secondary School for Boys and the Hastings Grammar School before attending the University of Leicester where he received a Master of Laws (LLM) degree. Between 1963 and 1972 he worked as a litigation clerk; he was admitted as a solicitor in 1980 and later worked as a partner of Fynmores Solicitors in Bexhill-on-Sea specialising in employment law until 1998.

He was elected as a councillor to the Hastings Borough Council in 1970, becoming the Labour group leader for a year in 1973, serving on the council until 1977, he was again elected to the Borough Council 1981-1985. He received a dual mandate in 1974 when he was also elected as a councillor to the East Sussex County Council, becoming the deputy Labour group leader 1984-1992, he stood down from the county council in 1997.

Parliamentary career

He unsuccessfully contested Hastings at both the February and October 1974 general elections and again at the 1979 General Election, and on each occasion was defeated by the sitting Conservative MP Kenneth Warren. He won Hastings and Rye at the 1997 General Election when he became the second least expected Labour MP in the landslide. He defeated the new sitting Conservative MP Jacqui Lait by 2,560 votes and remained the MP until 2010. He made his maiden speech on 21 November 1997.

In parliament he was a member of the social security select committee in 1998 until he became the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Attorney General Gareth Williams in 1999 and his successor Peter Goldsmith until the 2005 General Election. From 2005 he served as a member of the work and pensions and standards and privileges select committees. In 2009 he was appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Equality in the Government Equalities Office.

Michael Foster resigned as a PPS in 2003 over the Iraq War, which he regarded as being illegal without a mandate from the United Nations. He subsequently returned to Government.

Foster lost his seat at the 2010 as part of the national swing to the Conservatives.

Personal life

Foster married Rosemary Kemp on 13 September 1969 in Hastings and they have two sons. He is a member of the Christian Socialists and the Society of Labour Lawyers . Other interests include pensioners rights, child poverty and animal welfare. He is a Deputy Lieutenant of East Sussex, a position he has held since 1993. He currently runs his own law practice, specialising in employment law.