Alan Duncan

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For the Scottish cricketer, see Alan Duncan (cricketer). For the American physician, see Alan Kendall Duncan.
The Right Honourable
Sir Alan Duncan
Minister of State for International Development, Alan Duncan, MP (11836631924).jpg
Minister of State for International Development
In office
13 May 2010 – 14 July 2014
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Gareth Thomas
Succeeded by Desmond Swayne
Shadow Minister for Prisons
In office
7 September 2009 – 11 May 2010
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by Edward Garnier
Succeeded by Shabana Mahmood
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
In office
19 January 2009 – 7 September 2009
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by Theresa May
Succeeded by George Young
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
In office
8 December 2005 – 19 January 2009
Leader David Cameron
Preceded by David Willetts (Trade and Industry)
Succeeded by Kenneth Clarke (Business, Innovation and Skills)
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
In office
10 May 2005 – 8 December 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Tim Yeo (Environment and Transport)
Succeeded by Chris Grayling
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
In office
8 September 2004 – 10 May 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by John Bercow
Succeeded by Andrew Mitchell
Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs
In office
10 November 2003 – 8 September 2004
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Bill Cash
Succeeded by Oliver Heald
Member of Parliament
for Rutland and Melton
Assumed office
9 April 1992
Preceded by Michael Latham
Majority 21,705 (39.8%)
Personal details
Born Alan James Carter Duncan
(1957-03-31) 31 March 1957 (age 58)
Rickmansworth, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Domestic partner James Dunseath
Alma mater St John's College, Oxford
Harvard University
Website Official website

Sir Alan James Carter Duncan, KCMG (born 31 March 1957) is a British Conservative Party politician. He is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Rutland and Melton, and between 2010 and 2014 served as a Minister of State in the Department for International Development.[1]

Duncan began his career in the oil industry with Royal Dutch Shell, and was first elected to the House of Commons in the 1992 general election. After several minor positions in the government of John Major, he played a key role in William Hague's successful bid for the Conservative leadership in 1997. He received several promotions to the Conservative front bench until he eventually joined the Shadow Cabinet after the 2005 general election and stood for the Conservative leadership in 2005 but withdrew early on because of a lack of support. Eventual winner David Cameron appointed him Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in December 2005, the title of which was changed to Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform in July 2007, now the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. He was removed from the Cabinet and appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George following the Government reshuffle in July 2014.[2]

He is well known as the first openly gay Conservative Member of Parliament, having publicly come out in 2002.

Early life[edit]

Duncan was born in Rickmansworth, Hertfordshire, the son of J. G. Duncan OBE, an RAF wing commander, and his wife Anne Duncan (née Carter), a teacher.[3] The family travelled much, following Alan's father on NATO postings, including in Gibraltar, Italy, and Norway.[4]


Merchant Taylors' School

Duncan was educated at two independent schools: Beechwood Park School in Markyate, and Merchant Taylors' School in Northwood, at both of which he was 'Head Monitor' (head boy).[4] Whilst coming from a Liberal family, and running (and losing) as a Liberal at a school mock election in 1970, Duncan joined the Young Conservatives in 1972.[4] Duncan had two brothers, who also attended Beechwood Park School. Duncan then attended St John's College at the University of Oxford, where he coxed the college first eight, and was elected President of the Oxford Union in 1979.[5] Whilst there, he formed a friendship with Benazir Bhutto, and ran her successful campaign to become the President of the Oxford Union.[6] He then went on to win a Kennedy Scholarship to study at Harvard University between 1981 and 1982.[7]

Business career[edit]

Upon graduation from Oxford, he worked as a trader of oil and refined products, first with Royal Dutch Shell (1979–1981) and from 1982 to 1988 for Marc Rich, working in London and Singapore.[8] From 1988 to 1992, Duncan used the connections he had built up to be self-employed, acting as a consultant and adviser to foreign governments on oil supplies, shipping and refining.[3] In 1989, Duncan set up the independent Harcourt Consultants, which advises on oil and gas matters. He made over a million pounds after helping fill the need to supply oil to Pakistan after Kuwait's supplies had been disrupted in the Gulf War.[4]

Political career[edit]

Duncan was an active member of the Battersea Conservative Association from 1979 until 1984,[5] when he moved to live in Singapore, from which he returned in 1986. After Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher resigned in November 1990, he offered his home in Westminster as the headquarters of John Major's leadership campaign.[4]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Duncan first stood for Parliament as a Conservative candidate in the 1987 general election, unsuccessfully contesting the safe Labour seat of Barnsley West and Penistone. For the 1992 general election he was selected as the Conservative candidate for Rutland and Melton, a safe Conservative seat, which he won with 59% of the vote. In the Labour landslide of 1997 his share of the vote was cut back to 45.8% but has since increased to 48.1% in 2001, 51.2% in 2005 and 51.02% in 2010. [2]

From 1993 to 1995, Duncan sat on the Social Security Select Committee.[5] His first governmental position was as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Health, a position he obtained in December 1993. He resigned from the position within a month after it emerged that he had used the right-to-buy programme to make profits on property deals.[9] It emerged that he had lent his elderly next door neighbour money to buy his home under the right-to-buy legislation. The neighbour bought the 18th century council house at a significant discount and sold it to Duncan just over three years later.[10] Gyles Brandreth describes this event in his diary as '...little Alan Duncan has fallen on his sword. He did it swiftly and with good grace.'[11]

After returning to the backbenches, he became Chairman of the Conservative Backbench Constitutional Affairs Committee.[5] He returned to government in July 1995, when he was again appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Brian Mawhinney.[5] In November 1995, Duncan performed a citizen's arrest on an Asylum Bill protester who threw paint and flour at Mawhinney on College Green.[12]

Duncan was a key player in the 1997 leadership contest, being the right-hand man of William Hague, the eventual winner. In this capacity, he was called 'the closest thing [the Conservatives] have to Peter Mandelson'.[12] Duncan and Hague had both been at Oxford, both been Presidents of the Oxford Union, and had been close friends since at least the early 1980s.[12]

Front bench career[edit]

As a reward for his loyalty to Hague during the leadership contest,[12] in June 1997, Duncan was entrusted with the positions of Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party and Parliamentary Political Secretary to the Party Leader. In June 1998 he became Shadow Health Minister.[13] In June 1999 he was made Shadow Trade and Industry spokesman. In September 2001 he was appointed a Front Bench Spokesman on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs.

When Michael Howard became Conservative party leader in November 2003, Duncan became Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, but as Howard had significantly reduced the size of the Shadow Cabinet, Duncan was not promoted to the top table. This continued to be the case when he was moved to become Shadow Secretary of State for International Development in September 2004. However, following the 2005 general election, the Shadow Cabinet was expanded to its original size once more, and Duncan joined it as Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.

He held this position for just seven months, becoming Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry on 7 December 2005, after David Cameron's election to the party leadership the previous day. On 2 July 2007, he was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, as new prime minister Gordon Brown had abolished the Department of Trade and Industry the previous week, replacing it with the aforementioned new department. In January 2009 he became Shadow Leader of the House of Commons.

Failed leadership bid[edit]

Before the 2005 general election, Duncan was rumoured to be planning a leadership campaign in the event that then-leader Michael Howard stepped down after a (then-likely and later actual) election defeat.[14] On 10 June 2005, Duncan publicly declared his intention of standing in the 2005 leadership election.[15] However, on 18 July 2005, he withdrew from the race, admitting in The Guardian that his withdrawal was due to a lack of 'active lieutenants', and urged the party to abandon those that he dubbed the 'Tory Taliban':

MPs' expenses 2009[edit]

Duncan in 2010

On 15 May 2009, the satirical BBC programme Have I Got News for You showed footage of Duncan's previous appearance on the show in which he boasted about his second home allowance, denied that he should pay any of the money back and stated it was "a great system". The show then cut to footage of David Cameron announcing that Duncan would return money to the fees office, followed by Duncan's personal apology, in which he called for the system to be changed.

Duncan had claimed nearly £5,000 on gardening; pranksters from online magazine and marketing company Don't Panic paid a visit to his constituency home where they planted flowers in the shape of a pound sign on his lawn and left a money tree.[17] On 14 August, Duncan said (whilst being filmed without his knowledge by Don't Panic), that MPs, who are paid around £64,000 a year were having, "to live on rations and are treated like shit.[18] I spend my money on my garden and claim a tiny fraction on what is proper. And I could claim the whole lot, but I don't."[19] These remarks attracted the attention of the press, and were criticised by commentators from all sides.[20] Duncan apologised once more, and Cameron, though critical of Duncan's comments, denied that he would sack him from the Shadow Cabinet.[21] Despite these assurances, on 7 September 2009, Duncan was "demoted" from the Shadow Cabinet, to become Shadow Minister for Prisons, after he and Cameron came to an agreement that his position was untenable.[22]

Political funding[edit]

The Rutland and Melton Constituency Association has received £12,166.66 in donations since 2006. Duncan has received corporate donations from The Biz Club (£6000, 2006–2009), Midland Software Holdings Ltd (£8000, 2007–2009), and ABM Holdings Limited (£1500, 2009). Duncan has also had tens of thousands of pounds in private donations from a variety of individuals.[23]

Wikileaks 2010[edit]

According to The Daily Telegraph[24] and The Guardian,[25] To assess the possible policies of a future Conservative government, American Intelligence drew up a dossier on several members of that party, including Duncan. It compiled details of his political relationships with leading Conservatives, including William Hague. The cable called for further intelligence on "Duncan's relationship with Conservative party leader David Cameron and William Hague", and asked: "What role would Duncan play if the Conservatives form a government? What are Duncan's political ambitions?"

Oil price[edit]

Oil prices could surge to as much as $250 a barrel if terrorists attack oil tankers and reserves in Libya and the Middle East, Duncan, a former oil trader, told The Times in 2011. Oil prices of $200 a barrel are "on the cards" if anyone is "reckless and foments unrest," Duncan was quoted as saying by the newspaper.[26]

Middle East[edit]

He is regarded as one of the leading experts on the Middle East in UK politics. Unusually for a modern day British Conservative he tends to take a distinctly pro-Palestinian perspective on the conflict. In August 2011 he found himself under pressure to remove a video of himself accusing Israel of a 'land grab' in the occupied territories.[27] In October 2014 Duncan said that "no endorser of Israeli settlements should be considered fit to stand for election, remain a member of a mainstream political party, or sit in a Parliament." When questioned by several prominent members of his party who had long done exactly that, he defended his remarks. Speaking during the decision of the House of Commons to vote in favour of Palestinian statehood he said "all know that the United States is in hock to a very powerful financial lobby which dominates its politics." His remarks were condemned by the Board of Deputies of British Jews as being anti-Semitic.[28]

Star and badge of a KCMG

Libyan oil cell[edit]

In August 2011, it was reported that Duncan had played an instrumental role in blocking fuel supplies to Tripoli, Libya, during the Libyan conflict.[3] In April 2011, the former oil trader convinced the UK prime minister to establish the so-called 'Libyan oil cell' which was run out of the Foreign Office.

The cell advised NATO to blockade the port of Zawiya to stifle Gaddafi's war effort. They also helped identify other passages the smugglers were using to get fuel into Libya via Tunisia and Algeria.

London-based oil traders were encouraged to sell fuel to rebels in Benghazi, with communication being established between traders and the rebels to route the fuel.

One Whitehall source commented: 'The energy noose tightened around Tripoli's neck. It was much more effective and easier to repair than bombs. It is like taking the key of the car away. You can't move. The great thing is you can switch it all back on again if Gaddafi goes. It is not the same as if you have bombed the whole city to bits.[29]

Appointment to Privy Council[edit]

On 28 May 2010 he was appointed to the Privy Council upon the formation of the Coalition government.[30][31]

Political views[edit]

Duncan is described as a 'moderniser' in the Conservative Party.

Duncan is a libertarian.[32] The Guardian has variously described him as 'economically libertarian'[33] and 'socially libertarian'.[14] He has been described as the 'liberal, urbane face of the Conservative Party'.[34] He is a moderniser within the Conservative Party.[35]

One of the chapters in his book Saturn's Children is devoted to an explanation of his support for the legalisation of all drugs. However this chapter was removed when the paperback edition was published to prevent embarrassment to the Party leadership.[36] The omitted chapter was available on Duncan's personal website; however, as of 2011 it no longer appears.[37] He believes in minimising the size of government,[38] and in Saturn’s Children advocated limiting government responsibility to essential services such as defence, policing and health. He has been described by the BBC as a "staunch" Eurosceptic.[38]

He is on the council of the Conservative Way Forward (CWF) group. He is one of the leading British members of Le Cercle, a secretive foreign policy discussion forum.[39] In contrast with most members of both CWF and Le Cercle, who hold pro-Republican Atlanticist views, he actively supported John Kerry in the US 2004 presidential election.[40] This surprised some, but Duncan is friends with Kerry, having met him whilst at Harvard.[40]

Personal life[edit]

Duncan was the first sitting Conservative MP voluntarily to acknowledge that he is gay;[41] he did this in an interview with The Times on 29 July 2002, although he has said that this came as no surprise to friends.[35] Indeed, in an editorial published on the news of Duncan's coming out, The Daily Telegraph reported, "The news that Alan Duncan is gay will come as a surprise only to those who have never met him. The bantam Tory frontbencher can hardly be accused of having hidden his homosexuality."[42]

On 3 March 2008, it was announced in the Court & Social page of The Daily Telegraph that Duncan would be entering into a civil partnership with his partner James Dunseath,[43] which would make him the first member of either the Cabinet or the Shadow Cabinet to enter into a civil partnership.[44] The two were joined as civil partners on 24 July 2008 at Merchant Taylors' Hall in the City of London.[45]

Duncan has a committed following in the gay community and is active in speaking up for gay rights.[44] He was responsible for formulating the Conservatives' policy response to the introduction of civil partnership legislation in 2004,[43] which he considered his proudest achievement of the Parliament between 2001 and 2005.[46] In 2007, Pink News named him the 15th-most powerful LGBT person in the UK.[44]

Styles of address[edit]

  • 1957-1992: Mr Alan James Carter Duncan
  • 1992-2010: Mr Alan James Carter Duncan MP
  • 2010-2014: The Right Honourable Alan James Carter Duncan MP
  • 2014-: The Right Honourable Sir Alan James Carter Duncan KCMG MP

Works and appearances[edit]


He has written two books: An End To Illusions (Demos, 1993) ISBN 1-898309-05-1, and Saturn’s Children: How the State Devours Liberty, Prosperity and Virtue [with Dominic Hobson], (Sinclair-Stevenson, 1995) ISBN 1-85619-605-4. The latter book presents a detailed case regarding the history and consequences of government control over institutions and activities which were historically private, to the extent that many citizens assume that privately or communally developed municipal facilities and universities are creations of the state, and that prohibitions on drug use, sex, and personal defence have always existed.


Duncan has appeared four times on the satirical news quiz Have I Got News For You: first appearing on 28 October 2005,[47] then 20 October 2006,[48] and again on 2 May 2008[49] and 24 April 2009.[50] His 2009 appearance sparked controversy due to a badly received ironic joke about murdering the latest Miss California, who stated that she opposed same-sex marriages.[51][52] He is a regular and popular panellist on BBC TV's Question Time and BBC Radio 4's Any Questions. As such, he is regarded as one of the Conservative Party's best media performers. In 2006, he won plaudits as a victor in a documentary entitled How to beat Jeremy Paxman.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Her Majesty’s Government". Archived from the original on 15 May 2010. Retrieved 15 May 2010. 
  2. ^ danjmartin (22 July 2014). "Rutland and Melton MP Alan Duncan receives a knighthood". Leicester Mercury. Retrieved 22 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "Knitting Circle Alan Duncan". Archived from the original on 7 May 2008. Retrieved 2 June 2008. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Routledge, Paul (21 September 1997). "Comment: William's clumsy friend – Profile: Alan Duncan". London: The Independent. Archived from the original on 31 March 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c d e "Alan Duncan MP". Conservative Party. Archived from the original on 6 December 2007. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  6. ^ Webster, Philip (28 December 2007). "Loyal colleagues are ready to reap the rewards". London: The Times. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  7. ^ "Medical student wins Kennedy Scholarship". Imperial College London. 10 August 2007. Retrieved 22 December 2007. 
  8. ^ Maguire, Kevin; Pallister, David (4 May 2001). "Top Tory at centre of sanctions busting claims". The Guardian (London). 
  9. ^ Brazier, Rodney (1997). Ministers of the Crown. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 112. ISBN 0-19-825988-3. 
  10. ^ Watt, Holly (10 May 2009). "Alan Duncan claimed thousands for gardening: MPs' expenses". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  11. ^ Brandreth, Gyles. "Saturday 8th January". Breaking the code: Westminster diaries May 1990 – May 1997. 
  12. ^ a b c d Sylvester, Rachel; Copley, Joy (20 June 1997). "Loyal colleagues are ready to reap the rewards". London: The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 6 May 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2008. 
  13. ^ "Opposition front bench team as at 5 June 1998". House of Commons Weekly Information Bulletin. Parliament of the United Kingdom. 6 June 1998. Retrieved 25 September 2008. 
  14. ^ a b White, Michael (21 December 2004). "Duncan willing to run for Tory leadership". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 10 May 2008. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  15. ^ "Duncan to run for Tory leadership". BBC News. 10 June 2005. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  16. ^ Duncan, Alan (18 July 2005). "The Tory Taliban must be rooted out". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  17. ^ "Activist films himself carving pound sign in lawn of Alan Duncan... who claimed £4000 for gardening". The Daily Mail (London). 15 May 2009. 
  18. ^ "The most absurd statement on the expenses scandal?". 2 November 2009. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  19. ^ "Duncan sorry for MP pay 'whinge'". BBC News. 12 August 2009. 
  20. ^ Hari, Johann (14 August 2009). "Cruel and out of control: the new face of debt collecting". London: The Independent. Retrieved 15 August 2009. 
  21. ^ "I won't sack Duncan, says Cameron". BBC News. 13 August 2009. Retrieved 15 August 2009. 
  22. ^ "Tory 'rations' MP Duncan demoted". BBC News. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ Wallop, Harry (29 November 2010). "WikiLeaks: US spies on Alan Duncan". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  25. ^ Leigh, David (28 November 2010). "Spies drew up dossier on Alan Duncan". The Guardian (London). 
  26. ^ Shannon, Sarah (5 March 2011). "U.K.'s Duncan Says Oil Prices Could Surge to $250, Times Reports". Bloomberg. 
  27. ^
  28. ^ "British MP condemned for anti-Israel comments". Jerusalem Post. 19 October 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2014. 
  29. ^ [1]
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Mp, Conservative (16 October 2002). "Alan Duncan". BBC News. Archived from the original on 15 December 2007. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  33. ^ "Duncan, Alan". London: Guardian Unlimited. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  34. ^ "The 50 most powerful LGBT people in British politics". Pink News. 27 December 2007. Archived from the original on 9 May 2008. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  35. ^ a b Tweedie, Neil (5 March 2008). "Alan Duncan: 'I'm an MP who happens to be gay'". London: The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 8 May 2008. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  36. ^ White, Michael (24 June 2005). "Tory candidate takes the Michael". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 10 May 2008. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  37. ^ "RT Hon Alan Duncan MP". Alan Duncan. Retrieved 27 September 2011. 
  38. ^ a b Mp, Conservative (16 October 2002). "Alan Duncan". BBC News. Retrieved 2 June 2008. 
  39. ^ Blackhurst, Chris (29 June 1997). "Aitken dropped by the Right's secret club". The Independent. 
  40. ^ a b Watt, Nicholas (30 October 2004). "Tory oil tycoon who won't be backing Bush". London: The Guardian. Archived from the original on 11 May 2008. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  41. ^ "Gay Tory frontbencher comes out". London: The Guardian. 29 July 2002. Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  42. ^ "Openly Tory". The Daily Telegraph (London). 30 July 2002. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  43. ^ a b Pierce, Andrew (4 March 2008). "Tory MP Alan Duncan to enter civil partnership". London: The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 3 May 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2008. 
  44. ^ a b c Grew, Tony (3 March 2008). "Civil partnership for senior Tory". Pink News. Archived from the original on 10 April 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2008. 
  45. ^ Cockcroft, Lucy (26 July 2008). "Alan Duncan becomes first Tory MP to seal civil partnership". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 July 2008. 
  46. ^ "Alan Duncan". London: Guardian Unlimited. 6 April 2005. Archived from the original on 8 May 2008. Retrieved 5 May 2008. 
  47. ^ "Chris Langham, Ross Noble, Alan Duncan". Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  48. ^ "Alistair McGowan, Fern Britton, Alan Duncan". Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  49. ^ "Brian Blessed, Marcus Brigstocke, Alan Duncan MP". Retrieved 25 April 2009. 
  50. ^ "Frank Skinner, Alan Duncan, Katy Brand". Archived from the original on 28 May 2009. Retrieved 25 April 2009. 
  51. ^ Bell, Matthew (26 April 2009). "The IoS Diary". London: Independent on Sunday. 
  52. ^ Haydon, Harry (26 April 2009). "Beauty Murder Gaffe by Tory MP". The Sun (London). Retrieved 26 April 2009. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Michael Latham
Member of Parliament
for Rutland and Melton

Political offices
Preceded by
Bill Cash
Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs
Succeeded by
Oliver Heald
Preceded by
John Bercow
Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Succeeded by
Andrew Mitchell
Preceded by
Tim Yeo
as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment and Transport
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Succeeded by
Chris Grayling
Preceded by
David Willetts
as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Succeeded by
Kenneth Clarke
as Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills
Preceded by
Theresa May
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
George Young