Edward Leigh

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For other people named Edward Leigh, see Edward Leigh (disambiguation).
Sir Edward Leigh
Chairman of the
Public Accounts Committee
In office
7 June 2001 – 9 June 2010
Preceded by David Davis
Succeeded by Margaret Hodge
Member of Parliament
for Gainsborough
Gainsborough and Horncastle (1983–1997)
Assumed office
9 June 1983
Preceded by Marcus Kimball
Majority 10,559 (21.4%)
Personal details
Born Edward Julian Egerton Leigh
(1950-07-20) 20 July 1950 (age 65)
Kensington, London, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Mary Goodman
Children 6
Residence London and Lincolnshire
Alma mater Durham University
Occupation Politician
Profession Lawyer
Religion Roman Catholic
Website www.edwardleigh.org.uk

Sir Edward Julian Egerton Leigh MP (born 20 July 1950) is a British Conservative Member of Parliament.

Leigh has represented Gainsborough, Lincolnshire in the House of Commons as its Member of Parliament since 1997,[1] and for its predecessor constituency of Gainsborough and Horncastle between 1983 and 1997.

He served as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee for 10 years between 2001 and 2010, investigating government waste and seeking value for money in government expenditure. Under his leadership, the Public Accounts Committee was responsible for saving the taxpayer over £4 billion. Sir Edward stepped down at the end of the parliamentary session in 2010 as it is customary for a member of the opposition party to hold this post.[2]

Leigh was knighted in the 2013 Birthday Honours for public and political service.[3][4] He takes in good spirit his alias "the Viscount" in the corridors and lobbies of the House of Commons in reference to his landed gentry background.

Leigh has opposed most instances of abortion and human embryonic research, subscribing to his religion's view which is to adhere to papal pronouncements. He also fell on the losing side in defence of Section 28, which barred Local Authorities from promoting "the teaching in any maintained-school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship." He was a vocal opponent of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, voting against it in Parliament at its Second Reading.

At a later stage, Leigh proposed an amendment to extend the property and pension rights afforded by civil partnerships to siblings who had lived together for more than 12 years. This was opposed by many backers of the initial Bill, such as fellow Conservative MP Sir Alan Duncan, who considered it a wrecking amendment.[5][6]

A veteran backbencher, Leigh was encouraged to challenge for the Speakership of the House of Commons, and after the 2010 general election for one of the Deputy Speakerships, but chose not to pursue this ambition for the time being since parliamentary convention precludes members of the governing party being elected to such high office, unless already in situ. Described as an "intelligent but prankish and unpredictable radical rightwing intellectual" [7] and a Tory rebel, Leigh does not hesitate to go against the leadership of his party for his own principles.[8] He speaks regularly in the House of Commons, mainly on civil liberties, constitutional, ecclesiastical and economic matters.

Early life[edit]

Insignia of a Knight Bachelor

Leigh was educated at The Oratory School, the Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle (the French School in London), and University College, Durham, where he read History (BA) and was elected President of the Durham Union Society. Before entering politics, he qualified as a barrister at the Inner Temple, and practised in arbitration and criminal law as a member of Goldsmiths Chambers. Leigh was elected a member of Richmond Borough Council and thereafter of the Greater London Council, serving as Councillor between 1974 and 1981. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and still undertakes work as a barrister while serving as an MP.[9]

His father, Sir Neville Leigh KCVO, was Clerk to the Privy Council hailed from the ancient Cheshire family of West Hall, High Legh.[10] His maternal grandfather was Colonel Cyril Denzil Branch MC, a French citizen, and he is a nephew of Princess Nikolai Galitzine.[citation needed]

Political career[edit]

Leigh first stood for Parliament at the October 1974 general election when he contested the safe Labour seat of Middlesbrough, but he was beaten by Arthur Bottomley. In 1983 he was elected for Gainsborough and Horncastle. A strong supporter of Margaret Thatcher, Leigh with Michael Brown MP, visited 10 Downing Street on the morning of Thatcher's resignation as Prime Minister in 1990 to try to persuade her to carry on.[11]

Although Charles Powell advised them it was a forlorn task, they were nonetheless granted access to the Cabinet which was in process at the time. Leigh and Brown subsequently departed Number 10 and walked down Whitehall back to the House of Commons reputedly with "tears in their eyes". After Thatcher resigned, in the ensuing leadership election, Leigh supported Michael Heseltine, under whom he had served at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), preferring to support someone who had stabbed Thatcher in the front to those who had stabbed her in the back.[12]

Leigh served as a Minister in John Major's Government but was sacked in May 1993 over the stance he took opposing the Maastricht Treaty. Whilst in office at the DTI he was a keen advocate of privatisation of the Post Office (opposed by Labour at the time but as the Royal Mail division attracting general bipartisan support and floated on the Stock Exchange in 2013). In the following Conservative leadership election, Leigh supported John Redwood.[12]

From 2001 until 2010, Edward Leigh served as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, the primary parliamentary body auditing the budget, investigating government waste, and seeking value for money in government expenditure. During his two terms as Chairman, the PAC took evidence on 420 separate government projects and programmes and was responsible for saving the taxpayer over £4 billion.[13]

In October 2006, Leigh was vocal in stating that after David Cameron had become Leader of his Party core supporters were drifting away from voting Conservative.[14] Nonetheless, despite being on the losing side in successive party leadership elections, his effective chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee led to the rejuvenation of his parliamentary career.

Early in 2008, as Chairman of the PAC, he was embarrassed by relying on flawed Department for Transport statistics to attack motorcyclists for tax evasion. He accused 38% of motorcyclists of evading vehicle excise duty. He later apologised for this following the admission by the Department for Transport that 95.5% of motorcycles are entirely legal.[15]

Leigh is President of the socially conservative Cornerstone Group, which represents the views of over 40 Conservative Members of Parliament. He was author of the group's inaugural pamphlet Faith, Flag and Family in 2005.[16]

From 2010 to 2011, Leigh served as an Independent Financial Advisor to the Treasury, appointed by George Osborne to bring external challenge to the development and implementation of a new financial management strategy for central government. He stood down in 2011, but was then appointed to report directly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on improving Parliament's financial scrutiny of the budget. He is a member of the Financial Reporting & Advisory Board of HM Treasury. Since 2010, Leigh has been a delegate to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, speaking regularly and serving on the Culture, Science, Education and Media committee.[citation needed]

A fluent French speaker, Leigh is Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on France, and has also participated in the APPG on Italy, delivering a speech in Italian at the Palace of Westminster to visiting Members of the Italian Parliament. He is Secretary of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Insurance and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and International Development subcommittee of the 1922 Committee.

At the end of 2010 Leigh was offered but declined the British ambassadorship to the Holy See.[17] Leigh also supports Boris Johnson's call to George Osborne for lowering the rate of taxation in the UK in order to assist its economic recovery following the Credit crunch.[18] Leigh, a qualified barrister and an Assembly Member of the Council of Europe,[19] opposes further human rights legislation, as proposed by the European Court of Human Rights.[20]

In 2011, Leigh was appointed Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission, the body which audits the National Audit Office.

In 2012, Leigh, together with a record number of fellow Conservative MPs, including numerous Privy Counsellors, successfully voted against the Government's attempted railroading of House of Lords reform by limiting time for meaningful parliamentary debate on this major constitutional issue.[21]

On 15 July 2014, he appeared in the House of Commons to be advocating a means-tested NHS with the following comment, as reported in Hansard:

"When will both political parties be honest about the massive looming black hole in health funding, with an ageing population demanding ever better care? We cannot afford to pay for it out of general taxation, so are we going to be honest and have an open debate about moving to the French system of social insurance in which people are charged and repaid if they do not have the means, giving them an infinitely better health service?"

In September 2014, Leigh criticised the Government’s decision to allow mitochondrial replacement therapy to prevent the birth of the children with incurable diseases such as muscular dystrophy. These diseases affect up to 1 in 6,500 babies which Leigh stated could lead to people being “harvested for their parts" and a divide between what he referred to as "the modified and the unmodified". The Department for Health asserted no genetic modification is involved.[22]

Sir Edward also gained plaudits for his defence of fellow Conservative MP, Nigel Mills, by stating matter of factly that some committees can be boring![23]

Personal life[edit]

Leigh married Mary Goodman in London on 25 September 1984. She is a grandniece of George, Duke of Mecklenburg and a great-granddaughter of Lady Ottoline Morrell. She is descended from Princess Augusta of Great Britain, a sister of King George III.[24] By marrying a Roman Catholic, however, Lady Leigh had technically forfeited her precedence in the line of succession to the British throne until the change of law in 2013.



  1. ^ "Edward Leigh profile". UK Parliament Website. 
  2. ^ "Leigh to step down as head of PAC". FM World. 26 October 2009. 
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60534. p. 1. 15 June 2013.
  4. ^ "Birthday Honours List 2013" (PDF). HM Government. 14 June 2013. Retrieved 14 June 2013. 
  5. ^ Davie, Edward (9 November 2004). "Conservatives split on civil partnerships". ePolitix.com. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  6. ^ Coward, Colin (9 November 2004). "Civil Partnership bill wrecking amendment defeated". Changing Attitude. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. 
  7. ^ "Edward Leigh profile". The Guardian (London, UK). 9 February 2008. 
  8. ^ http://conservativehome.blogs.com/platform/2013/06/edward-leigh-mp.html
  9. ^ Profile, publications.parliament.uk; accessed 14 July 2015.
  10. ^ www.burkespeerage.com - LEIGH formerly of West Hall
  11. ^ John Blundell (September 2008). Lady Thatcher: A Portrait. Algora Publishing. pp. 162–163. ISBN 978-0-87586-631-4. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Byron Criddle (10 September 2012). Almanac of British Politics. Taylor & Francis. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-415-26833-2. Retrieved 23 November 2012. 
  13. ^ 'An open letter to my successor as Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts', by Edward Leigh MP, March 2010
  14. ^ The Guardian
  15. ^ "MPs apologise for motorbike error". BBC News Online (BBC). 28 February 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2011. 
  16. ^ "Tory Catholic seeks to return ‘faith, flag and family’ to heart of party philosophy". Catholic Herald. 29 July 2005. Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  17. ^ The Daily Telegraph. Leigh turns down appointment as UK Ambassador to the Vatican
  18. ^ The Evening Standard. Leigh joins call for lower taxes
  19. ^ www.assembly.coe.int
  20. ^ "If we want our human rights then bring them back home", Telegraph.co.uk; accessed 14 July 2015.
  21. ^ PM pledges one more try at Lords reform, news.sky.com; accessed 14 July 2015.
  22. ^ Press Association (1 September 2014). "Britain will be considered a 'rogue state' if it creates GM people, MP warns". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 September 2014. 
  23. ^ www.dailymail.co.uk
  24. ^ www.britroyals.com

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Gainsborough and Horncastle
Constituency abolished
Member of Parliament for Gainsborough
1997 – present