"Able" and "earnest" are the adjectives that seem to cling to this tall 45-year-old former council leader who entered the Commons at the Newham North East by-election in 1994. An evangelical Christian, he is a computer and telecommunications specialist, and an effective debater.
Born in Oldham, Lancashire, he was educated at Farnborough grammar school and Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he gained both a degree and a doctorate. He joined the Labour Party in 1978, winning election to Newham borough council in 1984. Three years later he was elected planning committee chairman and led negotiations with the London Docklands evelopment Corporation on the Royal Docks development. He was elected leader in 1990.
Graham Lane, who chairs Newham's education committee and the education committee of the Local Government Association, describes Mr Timms as "hard-working and competent", with a long-standing interest in education. He was chairman of governors of Little Ilford, a large, 11-16 comprehensive in the borough, and is a governor of Sir John Heron primary, Newham, set to open in Spetember.
Once Labour came to power, Stephen Timms rose fast before moving to the Treasury in 1999. Graham Lane says Mr Timms' experience of private-public patrnerships will be useful in the schools brief.
He is married to Hui-Leng Lim, a Singapore-Chinese homeless project worker.