Valerie was born in Aden, to parents Merlyn and Tony Vaz who originated from Goa, India. She has a sister and her brother is the former Minister of State, Keith Vaz who has been the MP for Leicester East since 1987.
Her family settled in Twickenham and then East Sheen. Valerie attended Twickenham County Grammar School, and Bedford College, University of London where she read Biochemistry. She also attended Cambridge University to undertake research.
Valerie qualified as a solicitor in 1984. She has worked as a lawyer in local government in London Boroughs. She set up a community law firm Townsend Vaz and sat as a Deputy District Judge. One of her notable cases was Hammersmith and Fulham v Monk HL 1992. The case confirmed the principle that one of two joint tenants can serve a Notice to Quit on a landlord and end the tenancy. In 2001 she joined the Government Legal Service and has worked at the Treasury Solicitors Department and the Ministry of Justice.
From 1986-1990 Valerie was a Councillor in the London Borough of Ealing and was Deputy Leader in 1988-1989. She stood as a Parliamentary Candidate in Twickenham in 1987 and in the European elections in 1999 in the East Midlands. Her community work includes being a school governor and member of a health authority. Valerie was a presenter/interviewer for BBC TV Network East in 1987.
She is currently a member of the Lay Advisory Panel of the College of Optometrists, the National Trust, the Law Society and a Friend of Kew Gardens.
She was elected MP for Walsall South in May 2010 and has been elected as a Member of the influential Health Select Committee.
Valerie is married to Paul Townsend, a primary school teacher. They have a teenage daughter. Valerie’s other interests are music and gardening.