- Norman Baker
The Right Honourable
Baker during the 2009 Liberal Democrat Party Conference Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport Incumbent Assumed office
15 May 2010
Prime Minister David Cameron Preceded by Paul Clark Member of Parliament
Incumbent Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by Tim Rathbone Majority 7,647 (15.3%) Personal details Born 26 July 1957
Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Nationality British Political party Liberal Democrat Spouse(s) Elizabeth Sleeper Children 1 daughter Alma mater Royal Holloway College Website www.normanbaker.org.uk
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.
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.
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, with a spell as a Liberal Democrat environment researcher in the House of Commons in 1989–90. 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.
Baker contested Lewes at the 1992 general election, but was defeated by the sitting Conservative Party MP Tim Rathbone. He stood again at the 1997 election, and this time won the seat with a majority of 1,300 votes over Rathbone, becoming Lewes's first non-Conservative MP since 1874.
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. In his first three months in the House of Commons, he asked more questions than Rathbone had asked in 23 years. A dogged investigator and exponent of Freedom of Information, his consistent questioning of Peter Mandelson led to Mandelson's second resignation from government, 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, 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. 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. The Daily Mail described him as having 'consistently been a thorn in the Government's side'. 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.
Baker is regarded as coming from the left-wing of the party, and is a member of the Beveridge Group within the Liberal Democrats. 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. Described in 1997 by The Times columnist Matthew Parris as a "classic House of Commons bore", his speeches were compared by Labour MP Stephen Pound with "root canal surgery without anaesthetic", but Parris added in 2001 "You underestimate him at your peril. He has a habit of being right."
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 in support Climate Change Bill drafted by Friends of the Earth. 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. 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."
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. 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.
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, 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."
In July that year, Baker claimed that evidence showing David Kelly's death was not a suicide had been wiped from his hard drive. 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."
His book The Strange Death of David Kelly was published in October 2007, and serialised in the Daily Mail. 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." 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. 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."
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." 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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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- ^ "MP says files into Kelly death have been wiped". The Scotsman. 14 July 2006. http://news.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=1024802006. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
- ^ Miles Godfrey And Katya Mira (13 April 2007). "Murder theory that just won't go away". The Argus. http://www.theargus.co.uk/display.var.1327811.0.0.php. 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."
- ^ 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). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=489167&in_page_id=1770.
- ^ Norman Baker (2007-10-23). "David Kelly: The belly-dancing spy whose secrets they just ignored". The Daily Mail (London). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=489172&in_page_id=1770.
- ^ Norman Baker (2007-10-22). "Could America have been involved in the death of Doctor Kelly?". The Daily Mail (London). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=488954&in_page_id=1770.
- ^ Norman Baker (2007-10-22). "Did Britain give a nod and a wink to the killers of Dr David Kelly?". The Daily Mail (London). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=488952&in_page_id=1770.
- ^ Norman Baker (2007-10-22). "Did two hired assassins snatch weapons inspector David Kelly?". The Daily Mail (London). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=488947&in_page_id=1770.
- ^ Norman Baker (2007-10-23). "Campbell, that dodgy dossier and the lies that cost David Kelly his life". The Daily Mail (London). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=489343&in_page_id=1770.
- ^ Brian Brady and Rachel Shields (21 October 2007). "Kelly family appeals for calm after new murder claims by MP". The Independent (London). http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article3081832.ece. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
- ^ Katya Mira (16 December 2007). "MP criticised over spending". The Argus. http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/generalnews/display.var.1907968.0.mp_criticised_over_spending.php. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
- ^ "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. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmstnprv/182/18203.htm#a2. Retrieved 2007-11-24.
- ^ "Tibet Society website". http://www.tibetsociety.com/. Retrieved 2008-03-21.
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- Baker, Norman (8 October 2007). The Strange Death of David Kelly. Methuen. ISBN 1842752170.
- Norman Baker MP official site
- Profile at the Liberal Democrats
- Lewes Liberal Democrats
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Current session contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Electoral history and profile at The Guardian
- Voting record at PublicWhip.org
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou.com
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Profile at BBC News Democracy Live
- Articles authored at Journalisted
Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded by
Member of Parliament for Lewes
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