|Minister of State for Trade Policy|
25 July 2019 – 4 May 2020
|Prime Minister||Boris Johnson|
|Preceded by||George Hollingbery|
|Succeeded by||Ranil Jayawardena|
|Member of Parliament |
for Bournemouth West
|Assumed office |
6 May 2010
|Preceded by||John Butterfill|
|Born||24 September 1972|
Belfast, Northern Ireland
|Alma mater||University of Southampton|
Conor Burns (born 24 September 1972) is a British Conservative Party politician and former public relations executive serving as Member of Parliament (MP) for Bournemouth West since 2010. He has resigned from Her Majesty's Government three times, the latest being from his position as Minister of State for Trade Policy in May 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 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 the Foreign Secretary until his resignation on 9 July 2018, following the resignation of his senior colleague Boris Johnson. Following Johnson's appointment as Prime Minister, Burns served as Minister of State for Trade at the Department for International Trade until his resignation on 4 May 2020.
Early life and career
Burns was born on 24 September 1972 in Belfast before moving with his family to Hertfordshire in 1980. He was privately educated at St Columba's College, St Albans and read Modern History and Politics at the University of Southampton. At Southampton he was chairman of the University's Conservative Association in 1992–93, and Chairman of Wessex Area Conservatives in 1993–94.
He held a number of jobs in the communications and finance sectors, most recently as an associate director of the public affairs company PLMR. Prior to that he was Director of the Policy Research Centre for Business Ltd; Company Secretary for DeHavilland Global Knowledge Distribution plc and Manager for Zurich Advice Network.
Burns stood unsuccessfully as the Conservative candidate in the Peartree ward of Southampton City Council in 1994 and the Woolston ward in 1995. He again stood unsuccessfully for the Conservatives in the Peartree ward in 1996, before being elected in the St. Lukes 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.
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.
He was the vice-president of the Young Britons' Foundation, an Anglo-American conservative training and education organisation, prior to the 2010 election. 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 described as "a Conservative madrasa"[by whom?] because of its radical views, such as opposition to the NHS and support for waterboarding of prisoners, and role in training young Conservative activists.
Burns was elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for the Conservative held seat of Bournemouth West in the 2010 general election with a majority of 5,583. He was re-elected at the 2015 general election, 2017 general election and 2019 general election.
He was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Hugo Swire, the Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office in 2010, before which he briefly sat on the Education select committee. 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.
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. He acts as a consultant for the Quantum Group, real estate developers, working six hours a month for a quarterly fee of £6,250. In 2015, an article in Private Eye implied that Burns' opposition to Navitus Bay Windfarm and subsidies for renewables were due to his connections to the oil and gas industry through Trant Engineering.
He is the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bahrain, and has written articles defending the Kingdom's human rights record. He has also accepted all-expenses paid trips to the Kingdom while it was facing mass pro-democracy protests which were later repressed.
Burns has served in Parliament as a Member of the Administration Committee, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee and the Education Committee.
Burns was appointed as the Minister of State for Trade Policy upon Boris Johnson's arrival at Downing Street in July 2019. He resigned from this position in May 2020 after a report found that he had intimidated a member of the public.
A friend of Captain James Philippson who died in Afghanistan, 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".
A strong Eurosceptic, Burns has been critical of the electoral system used to choose and rank Conservative candidates to run on lists to be Members of the European Parliament and the impact of UK Independence Party candidates 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.
Criticism of perceived left wing bias
In February 2019, during a long running financial dispute over a debt between his father and a company which owed his father monies, Burns wrote a letter to the company on House of Commons notepaper, in which he threatened to use Parliamentary privilege to reveal the dispute and the name of the company director who previously held a senior position in local government. The letter was subsequently brought to the attention of the Commons Select Committee on Standards who investigated the allegation. Burns initially denied the claim as he stated he was allowed to use Parliamentary privilege for such matters, but after an investigation led by the Commissioner, the committee found Burns guilty of threatening to use Parliamentary privilege to intimidate a member of the public for his own family's gain. On 4 May 2020, after being suspended by the committee for seven days, Burns resigned from his position as the Minister of State for Trade Policy.
Following this, Burns was then suspended from Parliament for seven days on 11th May 2020. 
Burns is openly gay and stated he needed "cast iron guarantees" that religious organisations will not be forced into conducting same-sex marriages before he voted for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013. 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.
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- "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.
- "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.
- "Tory MP Conor Burns' 'hacked' tweets demand Brexit bill 'facts'". Sky News. Archived from the original on 10 July 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2018.
- "Conor Burns MP on Twitter". Twitter. Archived from the original on 13 December 2019. Retrieved 10 July 2018.
- 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.
- "Parliamentary Profile". Parliament. Archived from the original on 3 September 2018. Retrieved 2 September 2018.
- "Committee on Standards publishes report on Conor Burns - News from Parliament". UK Parliament. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
- PARLY (11 May 2020). "Conor Burns has been suspended from the House for seven days starting tomorrow. He may not enter the Parliamentary Estate for the duration of the suspension". @PARLYapp. Retrieved 11 May 2020.
- Burns on post-Mugabe Zimbabwe Archived 30 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Conservativehome.blogs.com; accessed 18 May 2015
- Burns on Mehdi Kazemi asylum Archived 2 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Conservativehome.blogs.com; accessed 18 May 2015.
- Burns on Mehdi Kazemi Archived 30 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Conservativehome.blogs.com; accessed 18 May 2015.
- "MoD criticised for soldier deaths". BBC News. 15 February 2008. Archived from the original on 18 February 2008. Retrieved 13 June 2010.
- Burns on MoD failures Archived 30 April 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Conservativehome.blogs.com; accessed 18 May 2015.
- 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.
- Burns on UKIP Archived 2 May 2010 at the Wayback Machine, Conservativehome.blogs.com. Retrieved 18 May 2015.
- 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.
- "MP wants watchdog to probe 'overtly political' Oxfam campaign". 10 June 2014. Archived from the original on 5 December 2014. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
- Church of England on 2015 general elections Archived 22 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Churchofengland.org; accessed 18 May 2015.
- 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.
- 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.
- "Trade minister Conor Burns resigns over 'veiled threats' in letter". BBC News. 4 May 2020. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
- Allegretti, Aubrey (4 May 2020). "Conor Burns resigns as minister after trying to 'intimidate' person in money row". Sky News. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
- "Committee on Standards publishes report on Conor Burns - News from Parliament". UK Parliament. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
- "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.
- Conor Burns [@conorburns_mp] (5 February 2013). "@Dekay1974 I voted for the Bill" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bournemouth West Conservatives
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament for Bournemouth West