Conor Burns

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Conor Burns
Official portrait of Rt Hon Conor Burns MP crop 2.jpg
Official portrait, 2020
Minister of State for Trade Policy
Assumed office
7 September 2022
Prime MinisterLiz Truss
Preceded byPenny Mordaunt
In office
25 July 2019 – 4 May 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byGeorge Hollingbery
Succeeded byGreg Hands
Minister of State for Northern Ireland
In office
16 September 2021 – 7 September 2022
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byRobin Walker
Succeeded bySteve Baker
Member of Parliament
for Bournemouth West
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded byJohn Butterfill
Majority10,150 (22.1%)
Personal details
Born (1972-09-24) 24 September 1972 (age 50)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Political partyConservative
Alma materUniversity of Southampton

Conor Burns (born 24 September 1972) is a British politician and former public relations executive serving as Minister of State for Trade Policy since 2022, and previously from 2019 to 2020. A member of the Conservative Party, Burns has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bournemouth West since 2010.

Burns was Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 2010 and 2012, before resigning from the Government due to his opposition to the House of Lords Reform Bill 2012. He served as PPS to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, until his resignation in 2018. Following Johnson's appointment as Prime Minister, Burns served as Minister of State for Trade Policy. He resigned in 2020, after a Standards Committee inquiry found he had made "veiled threats" to use privilege to "further his family's interests" during a financial dispute involving his father.

Burns was appointed Minister of State for Northern Ireland during the 2021 cabinet reshuffle. He returned to his former position as Minister of State for Trade Policy after Liz Truss became Prime Minister in September 2022.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Burns was born on 24 September 1972 in Belfast, before moving with his family to Hertfordshire in 1980.[2] He was privately educated at St Columba's College, St Albans and read Modern History and Politics at the University of Southampton.[2] At Southampton he was chairman of the university's Conservative Association in 1992–93, and chairman of Wessex Area Conservatives in 1993–94.[3]

He held a number of jobs in the communications and finance sectors,[2] most recently as an associate director of the public affairs company PLMR.[4] Before that he was director of the Policy Research Centre for Business Ltd; company secretary for DeHavilland Global Knowledge Distribution plc[5] and manager for Zurich Advice Network.[6]

Early political career[edit]

Burns stood unsuccessfully as the Conservative candidate in the Peartree ward of Southampton City Council in 1994 and the Woolston ward in 1995.[7] He again stood unsuccessfully for the Conservatives in the Peartree ward in 1996, before being elected in the St Luke's ward in 1999. He was Conservative Group leader from 2001. However, in May 2002, the whole council was up for re-election and Burns came off the council after being defeated in Bassett ward.[8]

He stood unsuccessfully as the Conservative Party candidate for Eastleigh in the 2001 general election, coming second with 34.3% of the vote. He was an unsuccessful candidate at the Hedge End Town Council elections in Eastleigh in 2005. He stood again as the Conservative Party candidate for Eastleigh at the 2005 general election, but was defeated again, finishing second with 37.5% of the vote, 568 votes behind Chris Huhne.[9]

He was the vice-president of the Young Britons' Foundation, an Anglo-American conservative training and education organisation, before the 2010 general election.[10] He went on to be awarded the Young Britons' Foundation Golden Dolphin award "for his stoic support for the Young Britons' Foundation since its creation in 2003". The organisation was attacked by left-wing Labour MP Jon Cruddas as "a Conservative madrasa" because of its views, such as opposition to the NHS and support for enhanced interrogation of terrorists, and role in training young Conservative activists.[10]

Parliamentary career[edit]

Burns was a member of the A-List of candidates and was selected in September 2008 as the Conservative Party candidate for Bournemouth West.[11] He was elected to the Conservative-held seat[12] in the 2010 general election with a majority of 5,583.[13] He was re-elected at the 2015 general election, 2017 general election and 2019 general election.[14] Burns was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Hugo Swire, the Minister of State for Northern Ireland, in 2010, before which he briefly sat on the Education Select Committee.[15] By 2012, he was promoted to be PPS to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson. He resigned on 10 July 2012 to vote against the Coalition's Lords Reform Bill, of which he had been a consistent critic.[16] He has also served in Parliament as a member of the Administration Committee and the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.[15]

In 2011, he abstained on the military intervention in Libya.[17]

In 2014, Burns referred the charity Oxfam to the Charity Commission, stating that a tweet from the charity was "overtly political".[18] He later criticised a letter[19] from Church of England bishops urging Christians to engage with the 2015 election as "naive" and "factually wrong".[20][21]

Alongside his work as an MP, Burns works as a consultant for Trant Engineering Ltd., earning £10,000 quarterly for 10 hours' work a month.[22] He acts as a consultant for the Quantum Group, real estate developers, working six hours a month for a quarterly fee of £6,250.[22] In 2015, an article in Private Eye[citation needed] implied that Burns' opposition to Navitus Bay Windfarm and subsidies for renewables was due to his connections to the oil and gas industry through Trant Engineering.[23][24]

He is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bahrain, and has written articles defending the Kingdom's human rights record.[25] He accepted all-expenses paid trips to Bahrain while it was facing mass pro-democracy protests which were later repressed.[26]

In August 2017, he said his Twitter account was hacked after it sent a series of aggressive posts to Michel Barnier's account demanding how the UK's Brexit bill was legally calculated.[27]

Burns resigned as PPS to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on 9 July 2018 because he wanted to speak more openly on other areas of policy.[28][29]

In October 2018, he was investigated by his party over allegations of racist remarks about travellers in a letter to his local paper.[30]

Burns was appointed as Minister of State for Trade Policy upon the formation of the first Johnson ministry in July 2019. He resigned from this position on 4 May 2020 after a Commons Select Committee on Standards investigation led by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards found he had intimidated a member of the public. He had written a letter on House of Commons notepaper in February 2019 in which he threatened to use parliamentary privilege to reveal the name of the director of a company which owed his father monies as part of a long-running financial dispute and who had previously held a senior position in local government. Burns initially denied the claim as he stated he was allowed to use parliamentary privilege for such matters but the committee found Burns guilty of threatening to use parliamentary privilege to intimidate a member of the public for his family's gain.[31][32][33] Following the findings of the committee and subsequent vote by MPs, he was suspended from Parliament on 11 May for a period of seven days.[31][32][34]

On 23 August 2021, Johnson appointed Burns as the UK's trade envoy to Canada.[35] On 16 September, Burns was appointed Minister of State for Northern Ireland during the second cabinet reshuffle of the second Johnson ministry.[36]

On 25 January 2022, during the Westminster lockdown parties controversy, in an interview with Channel 4 News, Burns defended Johnson over an alleged surprise birthday get-together on 19 June 2020. Burns said that, rather than being a pre-planned party, Johnson was "ambushed with a cake".[37] Burns' comments were ridiculed online in a series of memes.[38]

He was made Minister of State for International Trade in the Truss ministry in September 2022.[1]

Political views[edit]

Foreign affairs[edit]

Writing in 2008, Burns called for the international community to prepare a contingency plan for the governance of Zimbabwe after the eventual departure from office of Robert Mugabe.[39]

He was outspoken in calling on former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to grant asylum to young gay Iranian student Mehdi Kazemi.[40][41]

A friend of Captain James Philippson, who died in Afghanistan,[42] Burns has been critical of the perceived failure of the Ministry of Defence to provide troops with appropriate equipment, stating that many troops "would be alive today had they had the most basic of equipment".[43]

European Union[edit]

A strong Eurosceptic, Burns was critical of the electoral system used to choose and rank Conservative candidates to run on lists to be Members of the European Parliament[44] and the impact of UK Independence Party candidates[45] in denying victory to Conservative candidates. In the 2017 election this was not a problem for him personally as UKIP opted not to place a candidate in his constituency due to his strong Eurosceptic stance.[46]

Personal life[edit]

Burns is openly gay and stated he needed "cast iron guarantees" that religious organisations would not be forced into conducting same-sex marriages[47][48][49] before he voted for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.[50] Burns voted in favour of the bill at its second reading, but did not vote at its third and final reading. A practising Roman Catholic, he has said he feels unable to take communion since Bishop Philip Egan, of the diocese in which Burns resides, stated that those politicians who voted for same-sex marriage, even with the caveats upon which Burns had insisted (i.e. "guarantees that... churches would not ultimately be forced under human rights legislation to conduct such ceremonies"), should refrain from taking the sacrament.[51][52]

Burns was a friend of Margaret Thatcher in the later years of her life[53] and spoke in the House of Commons debate on 10 April 2013 following her death.[54]

Burns is a keen snooker fan, and was previously chair of the All-Party Parliamentary snooker group.[55]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Robert Jenrick back in government as Liz Truss picks junior ministers". BBC News. 7 September 2022. Retrieved 7 September 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "Conor Burns profile". The Conservative Party. Archived from the original on 19 January 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  3. ^ "Conor Burns". Archived from the original on 28 December 2010. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
  4. ^ Singleton, David (11 May 2010). "Many Lobbyists Win Seats But Some See Majority Decreased". PR Week. Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 22 September 2011.
  5. ^ "Vote 2001 Candidates". BBC News. Archived from the original on 5 October 2013. Retrieved 13 June 2010.
  6. ^ Profile Archived 5 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Westbourne.info; accessed 18 May 2015.
  7. ^ "Southampton Council Election Results 1973–1995" (PDF). Plymouth University. Archived (PDF) from the original on 3 September 2018. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  8. ^ "Southampton Council Election Results 1996–2012" (PDF). Plymouth University. Archived (PDF) from the original on 10 July 2018. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  9. ^ "Eastleigh". The Guardian. London. Archived from the original on 17 March 2014. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  10. ^ a b Robert Booth (5 May 2010). "David Cameron accused of being dishonest over links with 'Conservative madrasa'". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 November 2016. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  11. ^ Profile Archived 28 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Conservativehome.blogs.com; accessed 8 May 2015.
  12. ^ "Majority Sorted Seats". Electoralcalculus.co.uk. Archived from the original on 19 December 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  13. ^ "Bournemouth West". BBC News. Archived from the original on 23 August 2017. Retrieved 9 May 2010.
  14. ^ "Bournemouth West parliamentary constituency – Election 2019". Archived from the original on 19 January 2019. Retrieved 13 December 2019.
  15. ^ a b "Parliamentary Profile". Parliament. Archived from the original on 3 September 2018. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
  16. ^ "Lords reform: Government abandons crucial vote amid likely defeat". BBC News. 10 July 2012. Archived from the original on 23 October 2018. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  17. ^ "The full list of how MPs voted on Libya action". BBC News. 22 March 2011. Retrieved 20 October 2021.
  18. ^ "MP wants watchdog to probe 'overtly political' Oxfam campaign". 10 June 2014. Archived from the original on 5 December 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  19. ^ Church of England on 2015 general elections Archived 22 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Churchofengland.org; accessed 18 May 2015.
  20. ^ Craig, Jon (18 February 2015). "Tories Hit Back At 'Left-Wing' Bishops' Letter". Sky News. Archived from the original on 17 March 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  21. ^ Asthana, Anushka (18 February 2015). "Is The Bishops' Letter Unfair 'Tory Bashing'?". Sky News. Archived from the original on 20 February 2015. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  22. ^ a b "Conor Burns MP, Bournemouth West – TheyWorkForYou". TheyWorkForYou. Archived from the original on 24 April 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  23. ^ "MP Conor Burns responds to "mischievous" article about Navitus bias". Bournemouth Echo. Archived from the original on 26 April 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  24. ^ "What does MP Conor Burns do for £333 an hour?". SE Dorset Green Party. Archived from the original on 26 April 2017. Retrieved 25 April 2017.
  25. ^ "Conor Burns MP: Now is not the time to turn our backs on Bahrain". Conservative Home. 6 July 2011. Archived from the original on 9 June 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  26. ^ "Bournemouth MP Conor Burns defends trip to Bahrain (From Bournemouth Echo)". Bournemouth Echo. 23 February 2011. Archived from the original on 20 September 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  27. ^ "Tory MP Conor Burns' 'hacked' tweets demand Brexit bill 'facts'". Sky News. Archived from the original on 10 July 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
  28. ^ "Conor Burns MP on Twitter". Archived from the original on 13 December 2019. Retrieved 9 July 2018.
  29. ^ "Conor Burns MP on Twitter". Twitter. Archived from the original on 13 December 2019. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
  30. ^ Martin, Andy (8 October 2018). "Conor Burns investigated over traveller comments". Bournemouth Daily Echo. Archived from the original on 8 October 2018. Retrieved 8 October 2018.
  31. ^ a b "Trade minister Conor Burns resigns over 'veiled threats' in letter". BBC News. 4 May 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  32. ^ a b Allegretti, Aubrey (4 May 2020). "Conor Burns resigns as minister after trying to 'intimidate' person in money row". Sky News. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  33. ^ Syal, Rajeev (4 May 2020). "UK trade minister Conor Burns resigns over loan threats". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  34. ^ "Committee on Standards publishes report on Conor Burns – News from Parliament". UK Parliament. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
  35. ^ "PM announces new Trade Envoys to boost British business around the world". GOV.UK (Press release). 23 August 2021. Retrieved 23 August 2021.
  36. ^ "Ministerial appointments: September 2021". 16 September 2021.
  37. ^ Newman, Cathy (25 January 2022). "Boris Johnson was 'ambushed with a cake', says Conservative MP". Channel 4 News. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  38. ^ Hassan, Jennifer (26 January 2022). "Was Boris Johnson birthday partying in lockdown or 'ambushed with a cake'? Brits mock the latest defense". The Washington Post. Retrieved 26 January 2021.
  39. ^ Burns on post-Mugabe Zimbabwe Archived 30 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Conservativehome.blogs.com; accessed 18 May 2015
  40. ^ Burns on Mehdi Kazemi asylum Archived 2 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Conservativehome.blogs.com; accessed 18 May 2015.
  41. ^ Burns on Mehdi Kazemi Archived 30 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Conservativehome.blogs.com; accessed 18 May 2015.
  42. ^ "MoD criticised for soldier deaths". BBC News. 15 February 2008. Archived from the original on 18 February 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2010.
  43. ^ Burns on MoD failures Archived 30 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Conservativehome.blogs.com; accessed 18 May 2015.
  44. ^ Burns critical of electoral system used to elect Members of the European Parliament Archived 2 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine, conservativehome.blogs.com. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  45. ^ Burns on UKIP Archived 2 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Conservativehome.blogs.com. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
  46. ^ Frampton, Will (24 April 2017). "UKIP will not challenge Bournemouth's Brexit-backing MP". Bournemouth Echo. Archived from the original on 19 May 2017. Retrieved 18 May 2017.
  47. ^ "Catholic Tory MP Conor Burns: As a gay man I don't see how I can vote against equality". 5 February 2013.
  48. ^ "Gay Tory Irish MP opposes gay marriage bill in Britain". 18 October 2012.
  49. ^ "Gay Ulster born MP Conor Burns not for same sex marriage". News Letter. Belfast. 18 October 2012. Archived from the original on 21 October 2012. Retrieved 18 October 2012.[dead link]
  50. ^ Conor Burns [@conorburns_mp] (5 February 2013). "@Dekay1974 I voted for the Bill" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  51. ^ Bingham, John (28 March 2014). "Gay marriage MP told he has excommunicated himself for voting for same-sex weddings". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 17 February 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  52. ^ Macintyre, James; Frymann Rouch, Abigail (21 March 2014). "Bishop Egan under fire over plans to deny communion to dissenting MPs". The Tablet. London. Archived from the original on 26 July 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  53. ^ "MP Conor Burn's emotional tribute to Margaret Thatcher". BBC News. 9 April 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2022.
  54. ^ Watt, Nicholas; Wintour, Patrick. "Margaret Thatcher debate reopens raw wounds among Tory veterans". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 6 March 2017. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
  55. ^ "Parliamentary Snooker Group Chair Tables Written Question". WPBSA. 23 January 2019. Retrieved 6 December 2021.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament
for Bournemouth West

2010–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by Minister of State for Trade Policy
2019–2020
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of State for Northern Ireland
2021–2022
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of State for Trade Policy
2022-present
Incumbent