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Alan Beith

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Alan Beith
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Sir Alan James Beith (born 20 April 1943) is a British Liberal Democrat politician who was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency from 1973 until 2015. Until May 2015 he was the longest-serving Liberal Democrat in Parliament, and the last Liberal Democrat to have experience of the House of Commons in the 1970s.

Early life

Alan Beith was born in 1943 in Poynton, in Cheshire. He was educated at The King's School, Macclesfield, Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics graduating in 1964, and Nuffield College where he obtained a Bachelor of Letters (BLitt) degree.

In 1966 he began his career as a politics lecturer at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1969 he was elected a councillor on the Hexham District Council. In 1970 he was elected to the Corbridge Town Council. He contested the 1970 general election at Berwick-upon-Tweed but was defeated heavily by the Conservative MP Antony Lambton.

Member of Parliament

In 1973 Alan Beith was elected to the North Tynedale District Council, and later in the year Antony Lambton resigned as the MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed in great scandal. At the by-election later that year, Beith secured a victory and was elected as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed on 8 November 1973 by just 57 votes.

The next year was to prove a major campaigning act for the now Alan Beith MP, just three months after his by-election victory he had to face his electors again at the February 1974 general election, his majority increased to 443. Less than a year after he was elected for the first time, Beith had to face his constituents for a third time at the October 1974 general election and his majority reduced back to double figures at just 73.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party

He became a Member of the BBC Advisory Council in 1974 and held the position until 1984. On the election of David Steel as the Leader of the Liberal Party in 1976, Alan Beith became the Liberal Chief Whip in the Commons. After the 1983 general election he also became the Liberal spokesman for Constitutional Affairs. He was elected as the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in 1985, in both cases alongside his duties as Chief Whip.

After the United Kingdom general election, 1987, Beith concentrated his efforts as the spokesman on Treasury Affairs and stood down as the Chief Whip after eleven years in post. In 1988 the Liberal Party joined with the Social Democratic Party finally to produce the new party of (initially) the Social and Liberal Democrats.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Beith stood against Paddy Ashdown in the first leadership election in 1988, an election that Ashdown won by a large margin. Beith stayed on as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats from after the 1992 general election under Ashdown until 2003, and became a Member of the Privy Council in 1992. In 1994, he became the Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, a job which he carried on under Charles Kennedy. After the 2001 general election he briefly became the spokesman on the Lord Chancellor's Department, but left the front bench in 2002, though remaining Deputy Leader until the following year.

Since leaving the front bench he has chaired the Lord Chancellor's Department, Constitutional Affairs, and Justice Committees. Following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell as Leader of The Liberal Democrats on 15 October 2007, Beith was spoken of as a possible compromise candidate for the leadership. However, in a statement on his personal website, he announced his decision not to stand for election for the leadership.

Beith was knighted in the 2008 Birthday Honours. In the May 2010 election he was again elected for Berwick, albeit with a substantial swing to the Conservatives.

Sir Alan Beith announced on 7 August 2013 that he will be standing down from Parliament at the next election, after serving Berwick upon Tweed as their MP for 42 years.[1]

Expenses scandal

On 22 May 2009, Beith was reported in The Daily Telegraph to have claimed £117,000 in second home allowances while his wife, Baroness Maddock, claimed £60,000 Lords expenses for staying at the same address.[2]

In response, Beith wrote to the Telegraph journalist: "It would be quite wrong for the taxpayer to pay twice for the same costs, so we have shared the costs, either by sharing the cost of rent, or by my wife using her allowance towards costs incurred (she normally claims only half of the Lords' overnight allowance)."[3]

2009 Speaker election

On 19 May 2009, Beith was the first MP to put forward his name to succeed the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin – who stepped down from the House of Commons on 21 June 2009. Beith said he was "willing to take on the task of leading reform" as speaker. [4]

Coalition Government

Beith currently chairs the Justice Select Committee[5] and the Liaison Select Committee.

He was one of only four Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against the third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.[6] He was the only Liberal Democrat MP to vote against recognising Palestine as a state on the vote on 13 October 2014.[7][8]

Sir Alan has campaigned throughout his years in parliament for the A1 road to be dualled in Northumberland.[9]

Personal life

Beith was married in 1965 to Barbara Ward and they had a son and a daughter. His first wife died in 1998 and he married Diana Maddock, Baroness Maddock, the MP for Christchurch (1993–97) in 2001.[10] He and his wife are one of the few married couples to both hold titles in their own right.

Sir Alan and Baroness Maddock live in Berwick upon Tweed.

He is President of both the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum and Northumberland Hospital Radio, and also chair of the Historic Chapels Trust which he helped to found. He was awarded an honorary degree from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana in 2013.

Sir Alan has an interest in learning languages and knows Welsh, Norwegian, Swedish and French.

References

  1. ^ Alan Beith to step down in 2015. Liberal Democrat Voice (07 August 2013). Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  2. ^ Winnett, Robert; Watt, Holly; Prince, Rosa (22 May 2009). "MPs' expenses: cover-up of Ian Gibson and his daughter’s cut-price flat deal". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2009. 
  3. ^ Beith, Alan (22 May 2009). "Beith publishes full Telegraph questions and answers". Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved 16 June 2009. 
  4. ^ "First MP discusses run as Speaker". BBC News. 19 May 2009. Archived from the original on 20 May 2009. Retrieved 20 May 2009. 
  5. ^ "Justice Committee Membership". parliament.uk. Retrieved 24 July 2011. 
  6. ^ MPs who voted against the third reading of the equal marriage bill. Pink News. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  7. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 13 Oct 2014 (pt 0004)". parliament.uk. 
  8. ^ "MPs debate Palestine and Israel". UK Parliament. 
  9. ^ Retiring MP Sir Alan Beith. Chronicle. Retrieved 06 October 2014.
  10. ^ "About Alan Beith". http://berwicklibdems.org.uk/en/page/alan-beith. Retrieved 19 March 2015. 

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Antony Lambton
Member of Parliament
for Berwick-upon-Tweed

19732015
Succeeded by
Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Party political offices
Preceded by
Cyril Smith
Liberal Chief Whip of the House of Commons
1977–1985
Succeeded by
David Alton
Vacant
Title last held by
John Pardoe
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party
1985–1988
Succeeded by
Russell Johnston
as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Preceded by
Russell Johnston
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
1992–2003
Succeeded by
Ming Campbell

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