David Alton

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The Lord Alton of Liverpool

Official portrait of Lord Alton of Liverpool crop 2, 2019.jpg
Alton in 2019
Liberal Chief Whip
In office
1985 – 11 June 1987
LeaderDavid Steel
Preceded byAlan Beith
Succeeded byJim Wallace
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
8 July 1997
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Liverpool Mossley Hill
Liverpool Edge Hill (1979–1983)
In office
29 March 1979 – 8 April 1997
Preceded bySir Arthur Irvine
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
David Patrick Paul Alton

(1951-03-15) 15 March 1951 (age 69)
Political partyNone (Crossbench)
Other political
Liberal (1972–1988)
Liberal Democrat (1988–1997)
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Bell
Alma materLiverpool Hope University

David Patrick Paul Alton, Baron Alton of Liverpool, KCSG, KCMCO (born 15 March 1951) is a British politician.

He is a former Liberal Party and later Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament who has sat as a crossbench member of the House of Lords since 1997 when he was made a life peer. Alton is also known for his human rights work including the co-founding of Jubilee Action, the children's charity (which changed its name to Chance for Childhood in 2014), and serves as chair, patron or trustee of several charities and voluntary organisations.[1]

Education and entry into politics[edit]

Born in London on 15 March 1951,[2][3] His father was a Desert Rat who had served in the Eighth Army, and then worked for the Ford Motor Company. His mother was a native Irish speaker from the West of Ireland. After being rehoused from the East End, Alton was brought up in a council flat on an overspill council estate. He passed a scholarship exam to join the first intake of a new Jesuit grammar school and was educated at the Campion School, Hornchurch, Essex, and Christ's College of Education, Liverpool.[2][4] He began his career as a teacher and, in 1972, he was elected as a Liberal to Liverpool City Council as Britain's youngest city councillor. Alton was elected for the Low Hill ward, serving from 1972 to 1974, then, after the Local Government Act 1974, he was elected for the Smithdown ward where he served for the next six years. Alton was also a member of Merseyside County Council for the Smithdown division from 1974 to 1977 and chairman of the housing committee. He was deputy leader of Liverpool City Council from 1978 to 1980.[4]

Political career[edit]

Alton was elected as Member of Parliament for Liverpool Edge Hill at a by-election in 1979 for the Liberal Party, when he became the "Baby of the House". achieving a record swing of 36.8% and 64% of the vote. He won the seat the day after the Callaghan Government was defeated in a vote of confidence and the 1979 General Election being called. He became the shortest lived MP, a member for less than a week, and made his Maiden Speech within three hours of taking his seat. Five weeks later he was re-elected and went on to serve as a Liverpool MP for 18 years, before standing down. He was the only new member of a Parliamentary Party of 11 MPs. He campaigned on the slogan "Everyone Knows Someone Who Has Been Helped by David Alton."[4] He was notably a very short-serving Baby of the House, as Stephen Dorrell, who was a year younger than Alton, was elected at the 1979 election.

David Alton and his 1979 by-election campaign poster

When the Edge Hill constituency was abolished for the 1983 general election, he was elected to represent the new Liverpool Mossley Hill constituency.

From 1979 to 1988 he served at various times as spokesman on the environment, home affairs, Northern Ireland and as Chief Whip. He is known for his strongly anti-abortion position, and in 1987 he resigned as Chief Whip to campaign for his unsuccessful private member's bill which aimed to stop late abortions. He became a Liberal Democrats MP when the Liberal Party merged with the SDP in 1988, but he had difficult relations with parts of the party, especially over attempts to make the party adopt a position in favour of abortion rights. In 1992, he announced that he would not stand again as a Liberal Democrat after the party passed a policy that he believed committed the party to support abortion for the first time. A motion passed in Spring 1993 stating that the party had no position on the substantive issue of abortion spared him delivering on the promise.

He stood down as an MP at the 1997 general election. He was made a life peer as Baron Alton of Liverpool, of Mossley Hill in the County of Merseyside[5][6] as a personal choice of John Major in the Dissolution Honours, and took his seat in the House of Lords as a crossbencher.

Lord Alton is chairman of the British-DPRK All-Party Parliamentary Group, and visited Pyongyang in October 2010[7] when he had talks with leaders of the North Korean government including Choe Thae Bok, chairman of the Supreme People's Assembly,[8] the country's rubber-stamp parliament.

Professor of Citizenship[edit]

In 1997, Alton was appointed Professor of Citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University, establishing the Foundation for Citizenship and the Roscoe Lectures.[9] The lecture series explores citizenship and lectures have been given by commentators including the 14th Dalai Lama and Prince Charles.[10]

Human rights[edit]

Lord Alton established the lobby group for human rights, Jubilee Campaign, in 1987, with the support of other members of parliament. He also co-founded Jubilee Action, a children's charity established to fulfil the humanitarian needs highlighted by the work of Jubilee Campaign. In 2014 Jubilee Action changed its name to Chance for Childhood.[11]

Lord Alton campaigned against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, opposing the creation and use of animal-human hybrid stem cells for medical purposes.[12]

He is a patron of the International Young Leaders Network[13] and Save the Congo!, a small international rights group founded by the Congolese rights activist Vava Tampa to end the political crisis that continues to give rise to wars, conflicts and violence that have killed over 5.4 million people in Congo.[14]

Support for Hong Kong protest movement[edit]

Lord Alton has been unreserved in his support for the 2019–20 Hong Kong protests. In reaction to pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho's attacks on women and the LGBT+ community, as well as his[clarification needed] alleged support of the Yuen Long attackers, Alton worked with Luke de Pulford to pressure Anglia Ruskin University into rescinding the honorary doctoral degree it had conferred on Ho.[15] The degree was withdrawn on 29 October of that year.[16][17]

During the 2019 Hong Kong Polytechnic University conflict, he issued a statement calling for the end to police violence and roundly criticising Chief Executive Carrie Lam.[18]

Trade Bill amendment[edit]

In January 2021, Alton influenced the Lords to pass an amendment to the Trade Act 2021 that "would require that the UK does not trade with genocidal regimes. Importantly, with the United Nations having shown itself incapable of making such decisions, the determination of whether genocide has taken place would be made by the High Court of England and Wales."[19]

Honours and arms[edit]

Alton has been appointed to two Roman Catholic orders of chivalry; he is a Knight Commander of Merit of the Sacred Military Constantinian Order of Saint George (2003) and a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Gregory the Great (2008).[20]

Coat of arms of David Alton
An ankh Gules pendant from the crossbar two bells Or.
Gules a dove descending Argent a bordure engrailed of twelve points terminating alternately in trefoils and Maltese crosses.
On either side a Liverbird wings elevated and addorsed Gules legged and in the beak Or a lily Argent slipped and leaved Or.
Choose Life [21]

Personal life[edit]

Alton is married, has four children and two grandchildren, and holds both British and Irish citizenship. He resides in Lancashire, UK and is a Roman Catholic.[4][22][23][24]


Lord Alton has published numerous non-fiction titles:

  • What Kind of Country? Marshall Pickering 1987
  • Whose choice anyway? Marshal Pickering 1988
  • Faith in Britain Hodder & Stoughton 1991
  • Signs of Contradiction Hodder & Stoughton 1996
  • Life After Death Christian Democrat Press 1997
  • Citizen Virtues Harper Collins 1999
  • Citizen 21 Harper Collins 2001
  • Pilgrim Ways St Pauls Publishing 2001
  • Passion and Pain (with Michele Lombardo) and accompanying DVD of TV series 2003
  • Euthanasia: Getting To The Heart of The Matter (with Martin Foley) 2005
  • Abortion: Getting To The Heart of The Matter (with Martin Foley) 2005
  • Building Bridges: Is there Hope for North Korea? (with Rob Chidley) Lion 2013


  1. ^ "Creative bridge between the past and present | Jesuits in Britain".
  2. ^ a b "In the news: David Alton". Times Higher Education. 26 January 2001. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  3. ^ "Lord Alton of Liverpool". Democracy Live. BBC News. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  4. ^ a b c d "About". 12 December 2010.
  5. ^ "No. 54743". The London Gazette (Supplement). 18 April 1997. p. 4707.
  6. ^ "No. 54809". The London Gazette. 17 June 1997. p. 7011.
  7. ^[dead link]
  8. ^[dead link]
  9. ^ "The Foundation for Citizenship: Contacts". Liverpool John Moores University. 28 September 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2012.[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "Previous lectures and audio downloads". Liverpool John Moores University. 5 October 2012. Retrieved 14 October 2012.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Announcing our new name – 'Chance for Childhood' – Chance for Childhood – Children's charity". Chance for Childhood,.
  12. ^ "Comment – ConservativeHome". blogs.com.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 28 August 2008. Retrieved 7 April 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  14. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74gZhJOSvxI&t=49s
  15. ^ "UK rights group rep tells Junius Ho the bad news". The Standard. 25 November 2019. Retrieved 29 January 2021.
  16. ^ "被斥「操守引起關注」 何君堯遭母校褫奪名譽法學博士學位". 立場新聞. 29 October 2019. Retrieved 29 October 2019.
  17. ^ "英國安格里亞魯斯金大學褫奪何君堯名譽博士學位". 香港電台. 29 October 2019.
  18. ^ "美英國會議員呼籲林鄭指令警方克制 阻止屠殺發生".
  19. ^ Duncan Smith, Iain (14 January 2021). "The Government must do more to crack down on trade with China". Telegraph Media Group Limited.
  20. ^ "Alton of Liverpool, Baron". Who's Who. Oxford University Press. December 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2012.
  21. ^ Debrett's Peerage. 2000.
  22. ^ "'Westminster and Brussels politicians to blame for Brexit vote,' says Catholic peer". Catholic Herald. 28 June 2016. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  23. ^ Frawley Desmond, Joan (9 July 2012). "Lord Alton: 'Never Forget Who You Are'". National Catholic Register. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
  24. ^ Benson, Nick (6 April 2018). "Catholic peer urges calm words to heal toxic UK-Russian relations". The Universe. Retrieved 19 April 2018.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Irvine
Member of Parliament for Liverpool Edge Hill
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Liverpool Mossley Hill
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Andrew MacKay
Baby of the House
Succeeded by
Stephen Dorrell
Party political offices
Preceded by
Alan Beith
Liberal Chief Whip
Succeeded by
Jim Wallace
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Lord Steel of Aikwood
Baron Alton of Liverpool
Followed by
The Lord Hurd of Westwell