He joined the Labour Party in 1962 and has been Labour Member of Parliament for Oldham West (now Oldham West and Royton) since 1970. He contested Colchester in 1966 and Oldham West in 1968.
- Under Secretary for Industry, 1974-75
- Under Secretary for Health and Social Security, 1975-79
- Candidate for Labour Party Deputy Leadership, 1983
- Member of Labour Party National Executive Committee 1983-89
- Member of Shadow Cabinet 1983-1997
- Principal Opposition Front Bench Spokesman on: Health and Social Security 1983-87
- Employment 1987-89
- Social Security 1989-92
- Overseas Development and Co-operation 1992-93
- Citizen’s Charter and Science 1993-94
- Transport 1994-95
- Employment 1995-96
- Environmental Protection 1996-97
- Minister of State for the Environment and Privy Counsellor May 1997 – June 2003
He is a Parliamentary representative and member of UNISON.