Norman Baker

Norman Baker
The Right Honourable
Norman Baker
Baker during the 2009 Liberal Democrat Party Conference
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport
Assumed office
15 May 2010
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Paul Clark
Member of Parliament
for Lewes
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by Tim Rathbone
Majority 7,647 (15.3%)
Personal details
Born 26 July 1957 (1957-07-26) (age 54)
Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrat
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Sleeper
Children 1 daughter
Alma mater Royal Holloway College

Norman John Baker (born 26 July 1957) is a British Liberal Democrat politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lewes in East Sussex since 1997. Since May 2010 he has been Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department for Transport.


Early life

Born in Aberdeen, Baker's family moved to Hornchurch in East London in 1968. He was educated at the Royal Liberty School in Gidea Park, near Romford, and at Royal Holloway College, University of London, where he earned a BA degree in German & History in 1978.[1][2]

Baker was a regional director for Our Price Records for five years from 1978. He worked at Malling Street Service Station from 1983 to 1985. He taught English as a foreign language from 1985–97,[1] with a spell as a Liberal Democrat environment researcher in the House of Commons in 1989–90.[3] In 1987, he was elected as a councillor on the Lewes District Council, and two years later was also elected to the local county council of East Sussex. He became the Leader of Lewes District Council in 1991, a position he held until his election as an MP.[1]

Parliamentary career

Baker contested Lewes at the 1992 general election, but was defeated by the sitting Conservative Party MP Tim Rathbone.[4] He stood again at the 1997 election, and this time won the seat with a majority of 1,300 votes over Rathbone,[5] becoming Lewes's first non-Conservative MP since 1874.[1]

Baker is known for uncovering scandals and conflicts of interest among MPs and the government, and has one of the highest profiles of any backbench MP.[6] In his first three months in the House of Commons, he asked more questions than Rathbone had asked in 23 years.[7] A dogged investigator and exponent of Freedom of Information, his consistent questioning of Peter Mandelson led to Mandelson's second resignation from government,[7][8] and he has also raised issues about Lord Birt and his role as Tony Blair's adviser. After compiling figures in 2002 which revealed that the government's fleet of ministerial cars had grown to its largest ever size,[9] he began in January 2005 to campaign to force disclosure of the details of MPs' expenses under the Freedom of Information Act, finally succeeding in February 2007.[10] He suffered embarrassment when The Daily Telegraph published details of his own expense claims, which included £3000 for "office rental", although he in fact uses a room in his home for office purposes. In October 2001 he won a test case in the High Court, when the National Security Appeals panel ruled that the Data Protection Act required the Security Service MI5 to allow him access to information which he believed the security service holds on him, the first time this had happened in the 92-year history of MI5.[11][12] The Daily Mail described him as having 'consistently been a thorn in the Government's side'.[13] In 2001 he was named "Inquisitor of the Year" in the Zurich/Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards and, in February 2002, he won the Channel 4 Opposition MP of the Year Award.[14]

Baker is regarded as coming from the left-wing of the party, and is a member of the Beveridge Group within the Liberal Democrats.[6] A staunch republican, he is also well-known for his vocal support for animal rights groups, and he is a strong proponent for greater protection of animals under law.[15] Described in 1997 by The Times columnist Matthew Parris as a "classic House of Commons bore",[15] his speeches were compared by Labour MP Stephen Pound with "root canal surgery without anaesthetic",[16] but Parris added in 2001 "You underestimate him at your peril. He has a habit of being right."[15]

Front bench career

In the 2001–05 Parliament, Baker was a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and was appointed as Shadow Environment Secretary in 2002, a post he held until his resignation in 2006 following the election of Sir Menzies Campbell as party leader.

As Shadow Environment Secretary, he joined in May 2005 with two former environment ministers, the Labour MP Michael Meacher and the Conservative John Gummer, to table a cross-party Early Day Motion No. 178[17] in support Climate Change Bill drafted by Friends of the Earth.[18][19] The motion called for a Bill to be "brought forward in this Parliament so that annual cuts in carbon dioxide emissions of 3 per cent can be delivered in a framework that includes regular reporting and new scrutiny and corrective processes" and attracted 412 signatures.[17] Baker also opposed nuclear power, describing it as "hopelessly uneconomic", and warning that new nuclear power stations "would generate vast quantities of nuclear waste and divert essential funding away from energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy."[20]

He returned to the front bench in July 2007, when he was appointed as Liberal Democrat Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office and Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.[21][22] In December 2007, after the election of Nick Clegg as party leader, Baker (who had supported Clegg in the leadership contest) returned to the front bench as Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.[23][24]

David Kelly

Cover of Baker's book The Strange Death of David Kelly

Baker announced on 19 May 2006 that his decision to step down from the shadow cabinet had been based on a decision to pursue a quest to establish the truth behind the death in 2003 of Dr David Kelly,[25] an expert in biological warfare employed by the Ministry of Defence and a former United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq. Kelly's discussion with BBC Today programme journalist Andrew Gilligan about the British government's dossier on weapon of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq inadvertently caused a major political scandal. Kelly had been found dead days after appearing before the Parliamentary committee investigating the scandal.

The Hutton Inquiry, a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding his death, ruled that he had committed suicide and that Kelly had not in fact said some of the things attributed to him by Gilligan. Baker said that Hutton had "blatantly failed to get to the bottom of matters", and that "the more I look into it the less convinced I am by the explanation and the more unanswered questions appear which ought to have been addressed properly by the Hutton inquiry or by the coroner."[25]

In July that year, Baker claimed that evidence showing David Kelly's death was not a suicide had been wiped from his hard drive.[26][27] In April 2007 he announced his findings, telling a meeting in Lewes:

I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that this could not be suicide. The medical evidence does not support it and David Kelly's state of mind and personality suggests otherwise. It was not an accident so I am left with the conclusion that it is murder."[28]

His book The Strange Death of David Kelly was published in October 2007, and serialised in the Daily Mail.[29][30][31][32][33][34] Some relatives of David Kelly have expressed their displeasure at the publication. The husband of Kelly's sister Sarah said "It is just raking over old bones ... I can't speak for the whole family, but I've read it all [Baker's theories], every word, and I don't believe it."[35] However, in his book Baker says that other relatives of Kelly also think his death was suspicious.


In December 2007, Baker was criticised but not fined by the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges for a newsletter which contained an "advertising feature" about a Liberal Democrat MEP.[36] The Committee's report concluded: "We agree with the Commissioner that this element of Mr Donovan's complaint should be upheld, and we reiterate that the inclusion of material of a party political nature is not permissible in publications funded from parliamentary allowances."[37]


Baker is President of the Tibet Society,[38][39] and a member of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet.[40]

In February 2008 he released a statement to mark International Mother Language Day saying "The Chinese government are following a deliberate policy of extinguishing all that is Tibetan, including their own language in their own country. It may be obvious, but Tibetan should be the official language of Tibet."[40] In fact, Tibetan is the official language of Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas in China. In school, the younger grades are taught in Tibetan, and then Mandarin Chinese is co-introduced for concepts in sciences and maths.[41]

On 18 March 2008 he addressed Tibetan protesters outside the Chinese embassy in London, and also delivered a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown from six Tibetan students in the UK who were supporting Tibetan rioters in the 2008 Tibetan unrest. The students' letter called for an end to the unrest's suppression, a UN investigation into it, and for unfettered media access in Tibet.[39]

In March 2010 the BBC ran an investigation detailing 37 occasions that Baker failed to declare a financial interest in Tibet during parliamentary debates and questions, despite receiving hospitality from the Tibetan Government in exile. Baker released a statement saying that it was an oversight.[42]

Coalition Government

Following the 2010 United Kingdom general election, Norman Baker was again returned as MP for Lewes. The Liberal Democrats entered a coalition agreement with the Conservative Party on 11 May 2010, and Baker was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Transport.

Personal life

Baker married Elizabeth Sleeper in May 2002 at St Peter's church in Hamsey. His daughter, Charlotte, was born in 2000. he also has 2 step daughters, Alice (born in 1995) and Sukey (born in 1991)

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Who's Who: Norman Baker MP". Liberal Democrats website. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  2. ^ Election highs for Royal Holloway alumni,
  3. ^ "Norman Baker MP (subscription required)". DodOnline. 
  4. ^ "UK general election results, April 1992: Lewes". Richard Kimber's political science resources. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  5. ^ "UK general election results, May 1997: Lewes". Richard Kimber's political science resources. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  6. ^ a b "Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP". BBC News online (London). 2002-10-22. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  7. ^ a b Nigel Morris (15 February 2007). "Is Norman Baker the most hated man in Westminster?". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  8. ^ "Norman Baker's week in politics". BBC News online (London). 26 January 2001. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  9. ^ David Hencke (18 December 2002). "Ministers' car fleet grows to record size". The Guardian (London).,3605,861873,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  10. ^ Will Woodward (14 February 2007). "From £16,000 on trains to £230 on a bike: politicians' travel expenses revealed". The Guardian (London).,,2012662,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  11. ^ Philip Johnston (10 October 2001). "MP wins landmark test case over secrecy of MI5 files". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  12. ^ "MP wins landmark battle over MI5 files". BBC News online (London). 1 October 2001. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  13. ^ Dan Newling (24 July 2006). "Why I believe David Kelly's death may have been murder, by MP". The Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  14. ^ "General election 2005: Lewes". The Times online (London).,,200-366,00.html. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  15. ^ a b c ""I'm no bore" says Baker". BBC News online (London). 14 June 2002. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  16. ^ "Hansard, 12 Jun 2002: Column 860". House of Commons. 12 June 2002. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  17. ^ a b "Early Day Motion 178: Climate Change". Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  18. ^ "Climate Change Bill, 2005". Parliament of the United Kingdom. 13 July 2005. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  19. ^ "Friends of the Earth secures Climate Change Bill". Friends of the Earth website. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  20. ^ "Nuclear energy 'too uneconomic'". BBC News online (London). 17 January 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  21. ^ "Menzies Campbell unveils new Shadow Cabinet". Liberal Democrats website. 4 July 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  22. ^ Wolverhampton Liberal Democrats (4 July 2007). "Sir Menzies reshuffles top team". Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  23. ^ Rosa Prince (24 December 2007). "Charles Kennedy on Nick Clegg's front bench". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  24. ^ "Nick Clegg reveals Shadow Cabinet". Liberal Democrats website. 20 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  25. ^ a b Brian Wheeler (19 May 2006). "MP investigates Dr Kelly's death". BBC News online (London). Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  26. ^ "Files 'wiped' in Dr Kelly inquiry". BBC News online (London). 13 July 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  27. ^ "MP says files into Kelly death have been wiped". The Scotsman. 14 July 2006. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  28. ^ Miles Godfrey And Katya Mira (13 April 2007). "Murder theory that just won't go away". The Argus. Retrieved 2007-11-24. "The greatest British conspiracy theory of the modern age was unveiled this week. Lewes MP Norman Baker set out in detail for the first time why he believes the secret service murdered the Government scientist Dr David Kelly." 
  29. ^ Norman Baker (2007-10-23). "Travesty of the truth: Was the Hutton Inquiry into David Kelly's death just part of the cover-up?". The Daily Mail (London). 
  30. ^ Norman Baker (2007-10-23). "David Kelly: The belly-dancing spy whose secrets they just ignored". The Daily Mail (London). 
  31. ^ Norman Baker (2007-10-22). "Could America have been involved in the death of Doctor Kelly?". The Daily Mail (London). 
  32. ^ Norman Baker (2007-10-22). "Did Britain give a nod and a wink to the killers of Dr David Kelly?". The Daily Mail (London). 
  33. ^ Norman Baker (2007-10-22). "Did two hired assassins snatch weapons inspector David Kelly?". The Daily Mail (London). 
  34. ^ Norman Baker (2007-10-23). "Campbell, that dodgy dossier and the lies that cost David Kelly his life". The Daily Mail (London). 
  35. ^ Brian Brady and Rachel Shields (21 October 2007). "Kelly family appeals for calm after new murder claims by MP". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  36. ^ Katya Mira (16 December 2007). "MP criticised over spending". The Argus. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  37. ^ "Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report of Session 2007-08: Conduct of Mr Norman Baker, Mr Malcolm Bruce and Mr Sadiq Khan". House of Commons. 13 December 2007. Retrieved 2007-11-24. 
  38. ^ "Tibet Society website". Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  39. ^ a b Iain Haddow (18 Marc 2008). "Tibetan exiles vent their anger". BBC News Online (London). Retrieved 2008-03-21. 
  40. ^ a b "Norman Baker MP speaks about threats to Tibetian language". Free Tibet Campaign. 21 February 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-03-05. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  41. ^ Blanchard, Ben (2010-07-13). "Tibetans' mother tongue faces tide of Chinese". Reuters. Shigatse. Retrieved 2010-08-26. 
  42. ^ "Norman Baker MP: Foreign trips and rule breaches". BBC News. 2010-03-22. Retrieved 2010-05-20. 


  • Baker, Norman (8 October 2007). The Strange Death of David Kelly. Methuen. ISBN 1842752170. 

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Tim Rathbone
Member of Parliament for Lewes

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