|Sir Edward Leigh
|Member of Parliament
Gainsborough and Horncastle (1983–1997)
9 June 1983
|Preceded by||Marcus Kimball|
20 July 1950 |
Kensington, London, England
|Spouse(s)||Mary, née Goodman|
|Residence||London and Lincolnshire|
|Alma mater||Durham University|
Sir Edward Julian Egerton Leigh (born 20 July 1950) is a British Conservative politician. He has sat in the House of Commons as the Member of Parliament for Gainsborough in Lincolnshire since 1997, and for its predecessor constituency of Gainsborough and Horncastle between 1983 and 1997. He served as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee since 2001, but stepped down at the end of the parliamentary session in 2010 as it is customary for a member of the opposition party to hold this post.
Apart from being dubbed "the Viscount" upon his arrival in the Commons, in allusion to his landed gentry background, Leigh also gained a reputation owing to his staunch opposition to abortion, contraception and controversial genetic research, for his support of capital punishment and for his defence of Section 28, which made Local Authorities not allowed to "promote the teaching in any maintained-school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship". However, he has since reversed his support for capital punishment.
These strongly held beliefs derive from his Roman Catholic upbringing. Leigh himself was an opponent of the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and voted against it in Parliament at its Second Reading. Once passed, Leigh proposed an amendment to the Act to extend the property and pension rights afforded by civil partnerships to siblings who had lived together for more than 12 years. This was opposed by many backers of the initial Bill, such as frontbench Conservative MP Alan Duncan, who considered it a wrecking amendment.
A veteran backbencher, Leigh was encouraged to challenge for the Speakership of the House of Commons, and after the 2010 General Election for one of the Deputy Speakerships, but chose not to pursue this ambition for the time being since parliamentary convention precludes members of the governing party being elected to such high office, unless already in situ. Described as an "intelligent but prankish and unpredictable radical rightwing intellectual"  and a Tory rebel, Leigh does not hesitate to go against the leadership of his party for his own principles. He speaks regularly in the House, mainly on civil liberties, constitutional, ecclesiastical and economic matters. Leigh was knighted in the 2013 Birthday Honours for public and political service. He also continues to work as a barrister while serving as an MP.
Leigh was educated at The Oratory School, the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle (the French School in London), before going up to University College, Durham, where he read History (BA) and was elected President of the Durham Union Society. Before entering politics, he qualified as a barrister at the Inner Temple, and practised in arbitration and criminal law as a member of Goldsmiths Chambers. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. Leigh was elected a member of Richmond Borough Council and thereafter of the Greater London Council, serving as Councillor between 1974 and 1981.
His father, the late Sir Neville Leigh KCVO, was Clerk to the Privy Council and hailed from the West Hall, High Legh family. Leigh is a nephew of Princess Nikolai Galitzine and has six children (sons Benedict, Nicholas, Theodore, born 1988, 1994 and 1997, and daughters Natalia, Tamara and Marina, born 1985, 1987 and 1990) by his wife, Mary Goodman, a grandniece of George, Duke of Mecklenburg, a great grand daughter of Lady Ottoline Morrell, whom he married in London on 25 September 1984.
A strong supporter of Margaret Thatcher, Leigh and a colleague, the former MP Michael Brown, went to 10 Downing Street on the morning of Thatcher's resignation as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to try to persuade her to carry on. Although Charles Powell advised them it was a forlorn task, they were nonetheless granted access to the Cabinet which was in process at the time. Leigh and Brown departed Number 10 and walked down Whitehall back to the House of Commons reputedly with "tears in their eyes". After Thatcher resigned, in the ensuing leadership election, Leigh supported Michael (now Lord) Heseltine, under whom he had served at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), preferring to support someone who had stabbed Thatcher in the front to those who had stabbed her in the back.
Leigh served as a Minister in John Major's Government but was sacked in May 1993 over the stance he took opposing the Maastricht Treaty. Whilst in office at the DTI he was a keen advocate of privatisation of the Post Office, a debate which is still ongoing. In the following Conservative leadership election, Leigh supported John Redwood.
From 2001 until 2010, Edward Leigh served as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the primary parliamentary body auditing the budget, investigating government waste, and seeking value for money in government expenditure. During his two terms as Chairman, the PAC took evidence on 420 separate government projects and programmes and was responsible for saving the taxpayer over £4 billion.
In October 2006, Leigh was vocal in stating that after David Cameron had become Leader of his Party core supporters were drifting away from voting Conservative. Nonetheless, despite being on the losing side in successive party leadership elections, his appointment as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee led to the rejuvenation of his parliamentary career.
Early in 2008, as Chairman of the PAC, he was embarrassed by relying on flawed Department for Transport statistics to attack motorcyclists for tax evasion. He accused 38% of motorcyclists of evading vehicle excise duty. He later apologised for this following the admission by the Department for Transport that 95.5% of motorcycles are entirely legal.
Leigh is President of the socially conservative Cornerstone Group, which represents the views of over 40 Conservative Members of Parliament. He was author of the group's inaugural pamphlet "Faith, Flag and Family" in 2005.
From 2010 to 2011, Leigh served as an Independent Financial Advisor to the Treasury, appointed by George Osborne to bring external challenge to the development and implementation of a new financial management strategy for central government. He stood down in 2011, but was then appointed to report directly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on improving Parliament's financial scrutiny of the budget. He is also a member of the Financial Reporting & Advisory Board of HM Treasury.
Since 2010, Sir Edward Leigh MP has been a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, speaking regularly and serving on the Culture, Science, Education and Media committee.
A fluent French speaker, Edward Leigh is Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on France, and has also participated in the APPG on Italy, delivering a speech in Italian in the Palace of Westminster to visiting members of the Italian Parliament. He is Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance.
He is Chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and International Development subcommittee of the 1922 Committee.
At the end of 2010 Leigh was offered but declined the British Ambassadorship to the Holy See. Leigh also supports Boris Johnson's call to George Osborne for lowering the rate of taxation in the UK in order to assist its economic recovery following the Credit crunch. Leigh, a qualified barrister and an Assembly Member of the Council of Europe, opposes further human rights legislation, as proposed by the European Court of Human Rights.
In 2012, Leigh, together with a record number of fellow Conservative MPs, including numerous Privy Counsellors, successfully voted against the Government's attempted railroading of House of Lords reform by limiting time for meaningful parliamentary debate on this major constitutional issue.
Leigh's wife Mary is descended from Princess Augusta of Great Britain, a sister of King George III. By marrying a Roman Catholic, however, she forfeited her place in the line of succession to the British throne.
- "Edward Leigh". UK Parliement Website. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
- "Leigh to step down as head of PAC". FM World. 26 October 2009. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
- "Hansard Commons Debate 27th March 2012". Retrieved 2012-04-04.
- Davie, Edward (2004-11-09). "Conservatives split on civil partnerships". ePolitix.com. Archived from the original on 2010-01-13. Retrieved 2010-01-13.
- Coward, Colin (2004-11-09). "Civil Partnership bill wrecking amendment defeated". Changing Attitude. Archived from the original on 2010-01-13. Retrieved 2010-01-13.
- The London Gazette: . 15 June 2013.
- "Birthday Honours List 2013" (PDF). HM Government. 14 June 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013.
- Lundy, Darryl. "p. 6326 § 63255". The Peerage.[unreliable source]
- John Blundell (September 2008). Lady Thatcher: A Portrait. Algora Publishing. pp. 162–163. ISBN 978-0-87586-631-4. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
- Byron Criddle (10 September 2012). Almanac of British Politics. Taylor & Francis. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-415-26833-2. Retrieved 23 November 2012.
- 'An open letter to my successor as Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts', by Edward Leigh MP, March 2010
- The Guardian
- "MPs apologise for motorbike error". BBC News Online (BBC). 28 February 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2011.
- "Tory Catholic seeks to return ‘faith, flag and family’ to heart of party philosophy". Catholic Herald. 29 July 2005. Retrieved November, 2012.
- The Daily Telegraph. Leigh turns down appointment as UK Ambassador to the Vatican
- The Evening Standard. Leigh joins call for lower taxes
- Charles Moore, The Daily Telegraph
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Edward Leigh|
- Edward Leigh MP's official site
- Debrett's People of Today
- Public Accounts Committee
- The Public Whip - Edward Leigh MP voting record
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for Gainsborough and Horncastle
1983 – 1997
|Member of Parliament for Gainsborough
1997 – present