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Norman Baker

norman baker, norman baker crescent hotel
Norman John Baker PC born 26 July 1957 is a Liberal Democrat politician in the United Kingdom who was the Member of Parliament MP for Lewes in East Sussex from the 1997 general election to his defeat in 2015

On 7 October 2013, Baker was appointed Minister of State at the Home Office in the coalition government of 2010-151 Baker resigned from his role as Minister for the Home Office on 3 November 2014


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Parliamentary career
    • 21 Front bench career
    • 22 David Kelly
    • 23 Censure
    • 24 Tibet
    • 25 Coalition Government
    • 26 2015 General Election
  • 3 Life after Parliament
  • 4 References
  • 5 Publications
  • 6 External links

Early lifeedit

Baker was born in Aberdeen, but his family moved to Hornchurch in East London in 19682 He was educated at the Royal Liberty School in Gidea Park, near Romford, and at Royal Holloway College, University of London, graduating in 1978 with a BA degree in German & History34

Baker was a regional director for Our Price Records for five years from 1978 He worked at Malling Street Service Station, Lewes, from 1983 to 1985 He taught English as a foreign language from 1985–97,3 with a spell as a Liberal Democrat environment researcher in the House of Commons in 1989–905 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 MP3

Parliamentary careeredit

Baker contested Lewes at the 1992 general election, but the sitting Conservative Party MP Tim Rathbone retained the seat6 He stood again at the 1997 election, and this time gained the seat with a majority of 1,300 votes over Rathbone,7 becoming Lewes's first non-Conservative MP since 18743

Baker prided himself on "uncovering scandals and conflicts of interest among MPs and the government" His consistent questioning of Peter Mandelson may have helped lead to Mandelson's second resignation from government,89 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,10 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 200711 His success enabled The Daily Telegraph to publish details of his own expense claims, which included £3,000 for "office rental" 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 MI51213 The Daily Mail described him as having "consistently been a thorn in the Government's side"14 In 2001 he was named "Inquisitor of the Year" in The Spectator Parliamentarian of the Year Awards and, in February 2002, he won the Channel 4 Opposition MP of the Year Award15

Baker is regarded as coming from the left-wing of the party, and until losing his seat was a member of the Beveridge Group within the Liberal Democrats16 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 law17 Described in 1997 by The Times columnist Matthew Parris as a "classic House of Commons bore",17 his speeches were compared by Labour MP Stephen Pound with "root canal surgery without anaesthetic",18 but Parris added in 2001 "You underestimate him at your peril He has a habit of being right"17 He asked two parliamentary questions of the Ministry of Defence in 2006 and 2007 on the subject of what the Ministry calls "unexplained aerial phenomena" including: "To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether his Department's unidentified flying objects project is extant; and if he will make a statement"19

Front bench careeredit

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 17820 in support Climate Change Bill drafted by Friends of the Earth2122 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 signatures20 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"23

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 Lancaster2425 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 Transport2627

David Kellyedit

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 David Kelly,28 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"28

In July that year, Baker claimed that data had been wiped from the hard drive on one of his computers Although some news reports suggested that this related to evidence showing David Kelly's death was not a suicide,2930 Baker maintained that none of his research on Kelly had been stored on that particular machine31 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"32

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"33 However, Baker writes in the book 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 MEP34 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"35


Baker is President of the Tibet Society,3637 and was a member of the UK All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet38

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"38 Tibetan is an official language of Tibet and other Tibetan-inhabited areas in China In school, the younger grades are taught in Tibetan for new ideas, but the rest is in Mandarin Chinese including for concepts in sciences and maths39

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 Tibetans 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 Tibet37

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 oversight40

Coalition Governmentedit

At the 2010 general election, 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

In 2013, Baker was quoted in saying that rail fares are "not that expensive" when compared to fares for rail travel in other countries, and that deals available reduce the price significantly This was against fare increases of more than 50% for "the average season ticket" between 2003 and 20134142

In the October 2013 reshuffle, Baker was appointed to the Home Office as Minister of State, overseeing issues relating to national security, replacing fellow Liberal Democrat Jeremy Browne1 In this role he repeatedly suggested changes to drug policy, saying that patients should have access to cannabis for cancer pain relief and multiple sclerosis43 and that all options regarding legal highs were under consideration4445 The Home Office repeatedly rejected progressive suggestions46

In December 2013 it was reported that Baker had encouraged the Director of Public Prosecutions to reopen or reconsider six cases involving female genital mutilation, as forbidden by the Prohibition of Female Circumcision Act 198547 There had been a law on the books since 1985, but there had been no prosecution until February 2014, when it was announced that the first was scheduled soon thereafter48 It was estimated that 170,000 women had been subject to the assault until then48 A doctor was the first person charged with an offence contrary to the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 in March 201449

Baker resigned from the Home Office on 3 November 2014, citing conflicts with Home Secretary Theresa May50 Baker described being the only Liberal Democrat in the Home Office as like "the only hippy at an Iron Maiden concert"51

2015 General Electionedit

On two occasions in the run-up to the election, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg visited the towns of Seaford, Lewes and Newhaven which are within the Lewes constituency with Baker525354 At the election Baker's seven thousand majority was overturned by the Conservative candidate Maria Caulfield, a local nurse55

General Election 2015: Lewes
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Conservative Maria Caulfield56 19,206 380 +13
Liberal Democrat Norman Baker56 18,123 359 -161
UKIP Ray Finch57 5,427 107 +73
Labour Lloyd Russell-Moyle56 5,000 99 +49
Green Alfie Stirling56 2,784 55 +41
Majority 1,083 21
Turnout 50,540 727 -02

Life after Parliamentedit

In 2015, Baker, a keen music enthusiast, re-formed his old band The Reform Club, which announced that it would be releasing an album of 15 original songs on 25 March Baker is the chief lyricist with music written by Mike Phipps The band also includes Geoff Smith on bass and vocals, Chris Dartnell on drums and vocals, Mike Phipps on guitars, keyboards and vocals, Brian Wiseman on lead guitar and vocals, with Maxwell Gardner on guitar for live appearances A second album, Never yesterday, is awaiting release58 As Norman Baker and Friends, he released a four-track EP, Animal Countdown, in March 2015, which highlights the plight of endangered species59 He also presents two radio shows on the local community radio station 60 Seahaven FM, The Hidden 60s on a Monday evening and Anything Goes on a Sunday morning

Baker's political memoir Against The Grain was published on 18 September 2015 In an interview with The Independent newspaper on 11 August he said he had no intention of seeking election again61

On 17 March 2017, it was announced that Baker had been appointed managing director of The Big Lemon, a bus operator based in Brighton62


  1. ^ a b Rowena Mason Norman Baker could be thorn in Theresa May's side at Home Office, The Guardian 7 October 2013/
  2. ^ Ben Quinn, Norman Baker life and times: poacher who eventually became gamekeeper, The Guardian 4 November 2014
  3. ^ a b c d "Who's Who: Norman Baker MP" Liberal Democrats website Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  4. ^ Election highs for Royal Holloway alumni, wwwrhulacuk
  5. ^ "Norman Baker MP subscription required" DodOnline  |access-date= requires |url= help
  6. ^ "UK general election results, April 1992: Lewes" Richard Kimber's political science resources Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  7. ^ "UK general election results, May 1997: Lewes" Richard Kimber's political science resources Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  8. ^ Nigel Morris 15 February 2007 "Is Norman Baker the most hated man in Westminster" The Independent London Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  9. ^ "Norman Baker's week in politics" BBC News online London 26 January 2001 Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  10. ^ David Hencke 18 December 2002 "Ministers' car fleet grows to record size" The Guardian London Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  11. ^ Will Woodward 14 February 2007 "From £16,000 on trains to £230 on a bike: politicians' travel expenses revealed" The Guardian London Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  12. ^ Philip Johnston 10 October 2001 "MP wins landmark test case over secrecy of MI5 files" The Daily Telegraph London Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  13. ^ "MP wins landmark battle over MI5 files" BBC News online London 1 October 2001 Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  14. ^ Newling, Dan 24 July 2006 "Why I believe David Kelly's death may have been murder, by MP" The Daily Mail London Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  15. ^ Davies, Trudi 7 December 2006 "Your call your MP" BBC One BBC Retrieved 30 April 2016 
  16. ^ "Norman Baker, Liberal Democrat MP" BBC News online London 22 October 2002 Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  17. ^ a b c ""I'm no bore" says Baker" BBC News online London 14 June 2002 Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  18. ^ "Hansard, 12 Jun 2002: Column 860" House of Commons 12 June 2002 Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  19. ^ "Hansard, 28 Mar 2006 : Column 905W" House of Commons 28 March 2006 Retrieved 15 February 2014 
  20. ^ a b "Early Day Motion 178: Climate Change" Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  21. ^ "Climate Change Bill, 2005" Parliament of the United Kingdom 13 July 2005 Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  22. ^ "Friends of the Earth secures Climate Change Bill" Friends of the Earth website Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  23. ^ "Nuclear energy 'too uneconomic'" BBC News online London 17 January 2006 Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  24. ^ "Menzies Campbell unveils new Shadow Cabinet" Liberal Democrats website 4 July 2007 Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  25. ^ Wolverhampton Liberal Democrats 4 July 2007 "Sir Menzies reshuffles top team" Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  26. ^ Rosa Prince 24 December 2007 "Charles Kennedy on Nick Clegg's front bench" The Daily Telegraph London Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  27. ^ "Nick Clegg reveals Shadow Cabinet" Liberal Democrats website 20 December 2007 Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  28. ^ a b Brian Wheeler 19 May 2006 "MP investigates Dr Kelly's death" BBC News online London Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  29. ^ "Files 'wiped' in Dr Kelly inquiry" BBC News online London 13 July 2006 Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  30. ^ "MP says files into Kelly death have been wiped" The Scotsman Edinburgh 14 July 2006 Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  31. ^ The Strange Death of David Kelly Norman Baker
  32. ^ Miles Godfrey And Katya Mira 13 April 2007 "Murder theory that just won't go away" The Argus Retrieved 24 November 2007 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 
  33. ^ Brian Brady and Rachel Shields 21 October 2007 "Kelly family appeals for calm after new murder claims by MP" The Independent London Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  34. ^ Katya Mira 16 December 2007 "MP criticised over spending" The Argus Retrieved 24 November 2007 
  35. ^ "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 24 November 2007 
  36. ^ "Tibet Society website" Retrieved 21 March 2008 
  37. ^ a b Iain Haddow 18 March 2008 "Tibetan exiles vent their anger" BBC News Online London Retrieved 21 March 2008 
  38. ^ a b "Norman Baker MP speaks about threats to Tibetian language" Free Tibet Campaign 21 February 2008 Archived from the original on 5 March 2008 Retrieved 20 March 2008 
  39. ^ Blanchard, Ben 13 July 2010 "Tibetans' mother tongue faces tide of Chinese" Shigatse Reuters Retrieved 26 August 2010 
  40. ^ "Norman Baker MP: Foreign trips and rule breaches" BBC News 22 March 2010 Retrieved 20 May 2010 
  41. ^ Hope, Christopher 2 January 2013 "New rail fares 'not as expensive as presented', says Norman Baker" The Telegraph London Retrieved 30 November 2013 
  42. ^ Taylor, Matthew 2 January 2013 "'Rail an extravagance for many' after 50% fare rises in 10 years" The Guardian Retrieved 15 February 2014 
  43. ^ "Drugs Minister Norman Baker calls for pain-relief cannabis to be legal" BBC News 15 August 2014 Retrieved 18 August 2014 
  44. ^ "Minister 'open-minded' on legal high solutions" BBC News BBC 1 May 2014 Retrieved 18 August 2014 
  45. ^ "Sell danger drugs on the high street, says minister" The Times 28 February 2014 Retrieved 18 August 2014 
  46. ^ "Home Office rules out licensing of 'legal highs' shops" BBC News BBC 28 February 2014 Retrieved 18 August 2014 
  47. ^ Barrett, David 12 December 2013 "FGM Female Genital Mutilation: Britain's first ever criminal charges could be brought as cases reopened - Telegraph" Telegraphcouk London 
  48. ^ a b "FGM: 170,000 UK victims of this sickening procedure, yet no prosecution until now Why" News - Telegraph Blogs London 6 February 2014 
  49. ^ Evans, Martin 21 March 2014 "Doctor becomes first person in Britain charged with performing a Female Genital Mutilation procedure" Telegraphcouk London 
  50. ^ "Norman Baker quits as Home Office minister" BBC News 4 November 2014 
  51. ^ Nicholas Watt "Norman Baker resigns as Home Office minister with parting shot at May" the Guardian 
  52. ^ "Norman Baker Visits EvacLite - EvacLite" wwwevaclitecom 
  53. ^ "Nick Clegg Visits Paradise Park - Tates of Sussex" 
  54. ^ "Delight about Easyart being based in Newhaven" wwwsussexexpresscouk 
  55. ^ "Election 2015: Lewes" BBC News Retrieved 8 May 2015 
  56. ^ a b c d "LEWES 2015" electionresultsblogspotcouk 
  57. ^ "UK Polling Report" ukpollingreportcouk 
  58. ^ "The Reform Club" 
  59. ^ "New EP launched by Norman Baker in Lewes" 
  60. ^ "Seahaven FM" 
  61. ^ "Norman Baker: Former minister says the UK is becoming a 'one-party state'" 
  62. ^ "Norman Baker joins The Big Lemon as Managing Director for Brighton and Hove" The Big Lemon Retrieved 11 June 2017 


  • Baker, Norman 8 October 2007 The Strange Death of David Kelly Methuen ISBN 1-84275-217-0 

External linksedit

  • Profile at the Liberal Democrats
  • Lewes Liberal Democrats
  • Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
  • Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 2010–present
  • Contributions in Parliament during 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 at Hansard Archives
  • Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
  • Voting record at Public Whip
  • Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
  • Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
  • Articles authored at Journalisted
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Tim Rathbone
Member of Parliament for Lewes
Succeeded by
Maria Caulfield

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