David Linsay Willetts, Baron Willetts, PC, FRS, HonFRSC, FAcSS (born 9 March 1956) is an English Conservative Party politician, life peer, and academic. From 1992 to 2015, he was the Member of Parliament (MP) representing the constituency of Havant in Hampshire. He served as Minister of State for Universities and Science from 2010 until July 2014 and became a member of the House of Lords in 2015.
- 1 Education
- 2 Policy researcher
- 3 First period in government
- 4 Shadow Cabinet
- 5 Second period in government
- 6 Free votes record
- 7 Other Interests
- 8 Civic conservatism
- 9 Personal life and member's interests
- 10 Honours
- 11 Published works
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Having served as Nigel Lawson's private researcher, Willetts took charge of the Treasury monetary policy division at 26 before moving over to Margaret Thatcher's Policy Unit at 28. Aged 31, he subsequently took over the Centre for Policy Studies.
Paul Foot wrote in the Private Eye that in a 1993 document called The Opportunities for Private Funding in the NHS, published by the Social Market Foundation and financed by private healthcare company BUPA, Willetts provided the "intellectual thrust" for private finance initiatives (PFIs) in the National Health Service.
First period in government
Aged 36, Willetts entered Parliament in 1992 as the MP for Havant. He quickly established himself in Parliament, becoming a Whip, a Cabinet Office Minister, and then Paymaster General in his first term (when that role was split between the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury as a policy co-ordination role). During this period Willetts gained "Two Brains" as a nickname, a monicker reportedly coined by The Guardian's former political editor Michael White. However, Willetts was forced to resign from the latter post by the Standards and Privileges Committee over an investigation into Neil Hamilton in 1996, when it found that he had "dissembled" in his evidence to the Committee over whether pressure was put onto an earlier investigation into Hamilton.
Despite the resignation, Willetts was able to return to the shadow front bench a few years later while William Hague was Leader of the Opposition, initially serving in the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Education Secretary before becoming Shadow Social Security (later Shadow Work and Pensions) Secretary. He carved out a reputation as an expert on pensions and benefits. Since leaving the DWP post, he has been recruited as an external consultant by the actuaries Punter Southall.
After the 2005 election, he served as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in the Shadow Cabinet under Michael Howard. In August 2005, after ruling out running for leader owing to a lack of support, commentators speculated that he was gunning for the post Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer position and would cut a deal with either David Davis or David Cameron. On 15 September he confirmed his support for Davis, at that time the bookies' favourite. Willetts, a centrist moderniser, went to ground following the announcement of the Davis tax plan since it was widely speculated that he disagreed with the seemingly uncosted and widely derided tax plan and found it impossible to defend. Davis then lost the candidacy race to Cameron.
Following Cameron's win, Willetts was appointed Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills in Cameron's first Shadow Cabinet in December 2005, the role Cameron had vacated, and later becoming Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills. His title became Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills since Gordon Brown's merger of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform into the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in June 2009.
On 19 May 2007, Willetts made a controversial speech on grammar schools in which he defended the existing Conservative Party policy of not reintroducing grammar schools. The speech received a mixed reception. The analysis was applauded by The Guardian and The Times. However, the more right-wing Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail were both strongly critical of the speech, which was unpopular with some Conservative Party activists. The speech was made more controversial when David Cameron weighed into the argument, backing Willetts' speech and describing his critics as "delusional", accusing them of "splashing around in the shallow end of the educational debate" and of "clinging on to outdated mantras that bear no relation to the reality of life".
The Department for Education and Skills was abolished by the new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, who established two new departments. On 2 July 2007, Cameron reshuffled Willetts down to the junior of the two departments: the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.
Second period in government
Following the 2010 general election, Prime Minister David Cameron appointed Willetts as the Minister of State for Universities and Science.
In June 2011, Willetts said during the launch of the Government's social mobility strategy that movement between the classes had "stagnated" over the past 40 years, and Willetts attributed this partly to the entry of women into the workplace and universities for the lack of progress for men. "Feminism trumped egalitarianism", he said, adding that women who would otherwise have been housewives had taken university places and well-paid jobs that could have gone to ambitious working-class men. He went on to say that "One of the things that happened over that period was that the entirely admirable transformation of opportunities for women meant that with a lot of the expansion of education in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, the first beneficiaries were the daughters of middle-class families who had previously been excluded from educational opportunities", he said. He said that "And if you put that with what is called 'assortative mating' — that well-educated women marry well-educated men – this transformation of opportunities for women ended up magnifying social divides. It is delicate territory because it is not a bad thing that women had these opportunities, but it widened the gap in household incomes because you suddenly had two-earner couples, both of whom were well-educated, compared with often workless households where nobody was educated".
Tuition fees and student loan debts
As the minister responsible for universities, Willetts was an advocate and spokesperson for the coalition government's policy of increasing the cap on tuition fees in England and Wales from £3,225 to £9,000 per year.
In November 2013, Willetts announced the sale of student loans to Erudio Student Loans - a debt collection consortium - removing £160m from public debt but ignoring, according to The Independent, the implications for former students.
In July 2014, Willets announced that he would not contest the next general election, saying that "after more than 20 years the time has come to move onto fresh challenges." In October 2014, Willets was appointed a visiting professor at King's College London. It was announced that he was to be a life peer in the 2015 Dissolution Honours and was created Baron Willetts, of Havant in the County of Hampshire, on 16 October 2015. In June 2015, Willetts was appointed executive chair of the think tank the Resolution Foundation. In May 2018 he was elected a Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society.
Willetts is one of the signatories of a statement by senior Conservatives calling for a second referendum over Brexit. This states, "If we are to remain a party of government, it is absolutely critical that we increase our support among younger generations. To do this, we must listen to and engage with their concerns on Brexit. They voted overwhelmingly to Remain in the European Union in 2016 – and since then have become even stronger in their views. Since the referendum, nearly 2 million young people are now of voting age. Of those in this group who are certain to vote, an astounding 87% support the United Kingdom staying in the European Union. If we do not hear their voices, who could blame them for feeling excluded and powerless on this most vital issue. The truth is that if Brexit fails this generation, we risk losing young people for good. Our party’s electoral future will be irrevocably blighted." In early 2019, he co-founded the group Right to Vote.
Free votes record
According to the Public Whip analyses, Willetts was strongly in favour of an elected House of Lords and was strongly against the ban on fox-hunting. TheyWorkForYou additionally records that, amongst other things, Willetts was strongly in favour of the Iraq War, strongly in favour of an investigation into it, moderately against equal gay rights, and very strongly for replacing Trident.
He is currently a visiting professor at King's College London where he works with the Policy Institute at King's, a visiting professor at the Cass Business School, a board member of the Institute for Fiscal Studies and a visiting fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford. On 9 February 2018, the University of Leicester announced they had elected David Willetts as successor to Bruce Grocott to become their new chancellor.
Willetts is the author of several books on conservatism, including "Why Vote Conservative" (1996) and "Modern Conservatism" (1992), as well as numerous articles. He was a founding signatory in 2005 of the Henry Jackson Society principles, advocating a proactive approach to the spread of liberal democracy across the world, including when necessary by military intervention. He is an honorary member of Conservative Friends of Poland.
Willetts has pioneered the idea of "civic conservatism" [D. Willetts, "Civic Conservatism", SMF (1994)]. This is the idea of focusing on the institutions between the state and individuals as a policy concern (rather than merely thinking of individuals and the state as the only agencies) and is one of the principles behind the increasing support in the Conservative Party's localist agenda and its emphasis on voluntary organisations. During an interview with The Spectator, he was referred to as 'the real father of Cameronism'.
Fourteen years after the publication of "Civic Conservatism" Willetts gave the inaugural Oakeshott Memorial Lecture to the London School of Economics in which he made an attempt to explain how game theory can be used to help think about how to improve social capital. The lecture was described by the Times as "an audacious attempt by the Conservative Party's leading intellectual to relate a new Tory narrative".
Civic conservatism, like free market economics, proceeds from deep-seated individual self-interest towards a stable cooperation. It sets the Tories the task not of changing humanity but of designing institutions and arrangements that encourage our natural reciprocal altruism.
Personal life and member's interests
Willetts is married to the artist Sarah Butterfield. The couple have one daughter, born 1988, and one son, born 1992. His wealth is estimated at £1.9m, and his declarations for the Register of Members' Financial Interests may viewed here.
- He was sworn in as a member of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in 2010, giving him the honorific title "The Right Honourable" and after ennoblement the post nominal letters "PC" for life.
- He was awarded a life peerage in 2015, allowing him to sit in the House of Lords. He took the title Baron Willetts, of Havant in the County of Hampshire. He sits with the Conservative Party benches.
- University Degrees
|England||Christ Church, Oxford||First-class honours Bachelor of Arts (BA) in PPE|
- Chancellor, visitor, governor, and fellowships
|England||21 October 2014 –||King's College London||Visiting Professor |
|England||July 2018 –||University of Leicester||Chancellor |
|England||–||Nuffield College, Oxford||Honorary Fellow |
- Honorary Degrees
|England||21 November 2014||University of Bedfordshire||Doctor of Arts (D.Arts) |
|England||17 July 2016||University of Leicester||Doctor of Laws (LL.D) |
|England||4 July 2017||University of Bath||Doctor of Laws (LL.D) |
|England||2017||Richmond, The American International University in London||Doctor of Public Administration (DPA) |
|England||2017||University of Chester||Doctor of Letters (D.Litt) |
Memberships and Fellowships
|United Kingdom||2014 –||Academy of Social Sciences||Fellow (FAcSS)|
|United Kingdom||2016 –||Academy of Medical Sciences||Honorary Fellow (FMedSci) |
|United Kingdom||2017 –||Royal Society of Chemistry||Honorary Fellow (HonFRSC) |
|United Kingdom||2018 –||Royal Society||Honorary Fellow (FRS)|
- Happy Families? Four Points to a Conservative Family Policy. 1991. ISBN 1-870265-62-9.
- Modern Conservatism. 1992. ISBN 0-14-015477-9.
- Welfare to Work. 1992. ISBN 1-874097-18-6.
- Blair's Gurus. 1996. ISBN 0-14-026304-7.
- Why Vote Conservative?. 1997. ISBN 0-14-026304-7.
- Blair's Gurus. 1997. ISBN 1-897969-47-3.
- Who do we think we are?. 1998. ISBN 1-897969-81-3.
- Left Out, Left Behind. 2003. ISBN 0-9545611-0-4.
- Old Europe? Demographic Change and Pension Reform. 2003. ISBN 1-901229-47-5.
- The Pinch: How the Baby Boomers Took Their Children's Future – And Why They Should Give It Back. 2010. ISBN 1848872313.
- A University Education. 2017. ISBN 9780198767268.
- "Rt Hon David Willetts MP (1974)". The King Edward's School Birmingham Trust website. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
- Heidi Blake (10 November 2010). "Grants, loans and tuition fees: a timeline of how university funding has evolved". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
- Aitkenhead, Decca (20 November 2011). "David Willetts: 'Many more will go to university than in my generation – we must not reverse that'". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
- Alice Thomson (13 March 2004). "Willetts takes 'two pensions' Blair to task". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
- Foot, Paul (19 March 2004). "P. F. Eye: An idiot's guide to the Private Finance Initiative" (PDF). Private Eye (1102). p. 1. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
- Michael White (22 May 2007). "It's over". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- Daniel Finkelstein (2 November 2005). "A David Davis guide to fiscal strategy: two and two make... um, er ..." The Times. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- Anatole Kaletsky (24 May 2007). "Lesson one: get the yobs out of the classroom". The Times. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- Daniel Finkelstein (21 May 2007). "Fisking Janet Daley". Comment Central. The Times. Archived from the original on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
- Daniel Finkelstein (22 May 2007). "Do Cameron's critics really want grammar schools?". Comment Central. The Times. Archived from the original on 9 July 2011. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
- Janet Daley (21 May 2007). "When did wanting the best for your children become a crime?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
- Stephen Pollard (17 May 2007). "Scandal of the Tory grammar school u-turn". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- "Cameron steps up grammars attack". BBC News. 22 May 2007. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- feminism has held back working men
- David Willetts (6 December 2010). "Tuition fees will be 'fair and affordable'". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
- David Willetts (9 November 2010). "Tuition fees vote: Plans approved despite rebellion". BBC News. Retrieved 17 August 2017.
- Government sells £900 million in student loans to debt collection company by Simon Read, independent.co.uk, 26 November 2013. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
- "Havant MP to stand down at next General Election after more than two decades". portsmouth.co.uk.
- "Search". Times Higher Education (THE).
- "No. 61388". The London Gazette. 22 October 2015. p. 19846.
- "About us: David Willetts". Resolution Foundation. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
- "Distinguished scientists elected as Fellows and Foreign Members of the Royal Society". Retrieved 9 May 2018.
- https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/dec/16/labour-activists-pressure-corbyn-second-vote-new-referendum The Observer
- Lee, Phillip (19 March 2019). "Letter to the Prime Minister from Dr Phillip Lee MP" (pdf) (Letter). Letter to Theresa May. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
- "Voting Record — David Willetts MP, Havant". Public Whip. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- "David Willetts MP, voting record". TheyWorkForYou.com. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
- "Lord Willetts, former Universities and Science Minister, announced as University's new Chancellor — University of Leicester". www2.le.ac.uk. Retrieved 6 March 2018.
- "Signatories to the Statement of Principles". The Henry Jackson Society. 27 July 2010. Archived from the original on 8 August 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- "Statement of Principles". The Henry Jackson Society. 27 July 2010. Archived from the original on 8 August 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- Conservative Friends of Poland website Archived 31 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
- Fraser Nelson (24 June 2006). "The real father of Cameronism". The Spectator. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
- "Renewing civic conservatism. The Oakeshott Lecture. LSE, 20th February 2008" (PDF). London School of Economics. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
- Daniel Finkelstein (20 February 2008). "Blood, bats and bonding: a new way". The Times. Retrieved 19 August 2010.
- Daniel Finkelstein (20 February 2008). "Civic conservatism replies to compassionate conservatism". Comment Central. The Times. Archived from the original on 31 January 2011. Retrieved 4 October 2010.
- "Paintings row ends in division of oils". The Guardian. 13 June 2002. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
- Samira Shackle; Stephanie Hegarty; George Eaton (1 October 2009). "The new ruling class". New Statesman. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
- Glen Owen (23 May 2010). "The coalition of millionaires: 23 of the 29 member of the new cabinet are worth more than £1m... and the Lib Dems are just as wealthy as the Tories". The Mail on Sunday. Retrieved 5 June 2011.
- "King's College London - David Willetts appointed Visiting Professor". kcl.ac.uk.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 September 2018. Retrieved 31 October 2018.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
For Willetts' roles in the 1980s–1990s as a welfare specialist:
- David Willetts MP official constituency website
- Profile at the Conservative Party
- Profile at Parliament of the United Kingdom
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 2010–present
- Contributions in Parliament during 2006–07 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 at Hansard Archives
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- Profile at Westminster Parliamentary Record
- Articles authored at Journalisted
- Article archive at The Guardian
- The Tories don't have to make a false choice between roots or freedom, David Willetts, The Times, 2 June 2005
- Works by or about David Willetts in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- "David Willetts collected news and commentary". The Guardian.
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Profile: David Willetts BBC News, 22 October 2002
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament
| Paymaster General
| Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment
Iain Duncan Smith
| Shadow Secretary of State for Social Security
as Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
as Shadow Secretary of State for Social Security
| Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade
| Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
as Shadow Secretary of State for Industry
| Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills
as Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
|New office|| Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills
| Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills|
The Lord Drayson
as Minister of State for Science and Innovation
| Minister of State for Universities and Science
as Minister of State for Universities, Science and Cities
as Minister of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills
The Lord Grocott
| Chancellor of the University of Leicester