She has held the rank of Minister of State at the Government Equalities Office and at the Ministry of Justice. She had been a Minister at the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Education and Skills, and the Northern Ireland Office. After the 2010 general election she became the Shadow Solicitor General. On 8 October 2010, Eagle was announced as the Shadow Secretary of State for Transport in Ed Miliband's shadow cabinet, and on 7 October 2013, appointed as Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
On 14 September 2015, Eagle was confirmed as the Shadow Defence Secretary in Jeremy Corbyn's first Shadow Cabinet. She was moved to the position of Shadow Culture Secretary in January 2016 and resigned from the Shadow Cabinet on 27 June 2016. Eagle is the twin sister of fellow Labour MP Angela Eagle.
Eagle was born in Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire, the daughter of Shirley (Kirk), a factory worker, and André Eagle, a print worker. She was educated at St Peter's Church of England School in Formby and Formby High School before attending Pembroke College, Oxford, where she was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1983.
She worked in the voluntary sector from 1983 to 1990, and then went to the College of Law, London, where she took her law finals in 1990, before she joined Brian Thompson & Partners in Liverpool as an articled clerk in 1990. In 1992 she became a solicitor with Goldsmith Williams in Liverpool, and later a Solicitor at Stephen Irving & Co also in Liverpool, where she remained until her election to Westminster.
After joining the Labour Party, Eagle was elected the secretary of the Crosby Constituency Labour Party (CLP) for two years in 1983, and was also elected as the campaigns organiser with that CLP for three years in 1993. She contested the Crosby seat at the 1992 general election where she lost to the sitting Conservative MP Malcolm Thornton by 14,806 votes.
For the following election in 1997 Eagle was selected through an all-women shortlist to stand for Labour in Garston, Merseyside. She was elected to the House of Commons with a majority of 18,417 and remains an MP, now for Garston & Halewood, following boundary changes in 2010. She joined her sister Angela in Parliament, and are the only pair of sisters in the Commons.
She made her maiden speech on 17 June 1997.
In parliament Eagle was a member of the Public Accounts Committee following her initial election, and in 1999 she was appointed the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of State at the Department of Health, John Hutton. She was promoted to the Tony Blair government following the 2001 general election as a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Work and Pensions, and after the 2005 general election, she was the Minister for Children at the Department for Education and Skills, until the May 2006 reshuffle moved her to Northern Ireland, where she was Minister for more than one department at a time, including a period at the Department for Employment and Learning, on 29 June 2007 she moved to the Ministry of Justice. As part of the reshuffle of Gordon Brown's government in October 2008, she assumed additional responsibility for the Government Equalities Office. In the June 2009 reshuffle she was promoted to Minister of State within the justice department.
Her proposed ban on mink fur farming was defeated as a Private Member's Bill but subsequently picked up by the government and enacted as the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Act 2000.
After Labour lost the 2010 general election she served in interim Labour leader Harriet Harman's front bench as Shadow Solicitor General and Shadow Justice Minister. In October 2010 Eagle was elected to the Shadow Cabinet of new Labour Party leader Ed Miliband as Shadow Secretary of State for Transport in the Labour Party Shadow Cabinet election.
Eagle was nominated for the Stonewall Politician of the Year Award in 2008 for her work to support equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people. She was given a score of 93% in favour of lesbian, gay and bisexual equality by Stonewall. On 5 February 2013 Eagle voted in favour in the House of Commons Second Reading vote on marriage equality in Britain.
Eagle was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Defence in September 2015 by the newly elected Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. Eagle said she was surprised by her appointment as she disagrees with Corbyn's advocacy of unilateral nuclear disarmament and supports of the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system. Tasked with leading Labour's defence review, she said that she would not rule out the possibility that it might recommend unilateral disarmament, but described Corbyn's comments that he would not countenance using a nuclear deterrent as "unhelpful" to the policy process. In January 2016, she was moved to the position of Shadow Culture Secretary. She resigned from the shadow cabinet on 27 June 2016 in the mass resignation of the Shadow Cabinet following the Brexit referendum.
On 17 May 2009 The Daily Telegraph revealed that Eagle had claimed £3,500 for the refurbishment of the bathroom of her Liverpool home property, then switched her second home designation to a different property four months later. Eagle voted in favour of legislation which would have kept MPs' expenses information secret.
Maria describes herself as "the straight one". Her twin sister Angela is a lesbian.High Time or High Tide for Labour Women? by Maria Eagle and Joni Lovenduski, 1998, Fabian Society Books, ISBN 0-7163-0585-2, OCLC 39267019