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Julian Lewis

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Sir Julian Lewis
Official portrait, 2018
Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee
Assumed office
15 July 2020
Preceded byDominic Grieve
Chair of the Defence Select Committee
In office
17 June 2015 – 6 November 2019
Preceded byRory Stewart
Succeeded byTobias Ellwood
Member of Parliament
for New Forest East
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded byConstituency created
Personal details
Julian Murray Lewis

(1951-09-26) 26 September 1951 (age 72)
Swansea, Glamorgan, Wales
Political partyConservative[a]
Other political
Labour (1976–1978; entryist)
Alma mater
AwardsKnight Bachelor
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service Royal Naval Reserve
Years of service1979–1982
UnitHMS President – 10th Mine Counter-Measures Squadron
Academic background
ThesisBritish military planning for post-war strategic defence, 1942–47 (1981)
  1. ^ Whip suspended from 15 July 2020 to 30 December 2020

Sir Julian Murray Lewis (born 26 September 1951) is a British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for New Forest East since 1997.[1] Lewis has served as Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) since 2020, succeeding Dominic Grieve.

Lewis previously served as Chair of the Defence Select Committee (HCDC), from 2015 to 2017 and from 2017 to 2019, and is the first Parliamentarian to have chaired both the ISC and the HCDC. He actively pursues the retention and renewal of the British strategic nuclear deterrent, the UK Trident programme – confirmed in 2016 – and campaigns for Defence expenditure to be restored to 3% of GDP. Lewis had the Conservative Party whip removed after successfully standing against Boris Johnson's preferred candidate for the chairmanship of the Intelligence and Security Committee, former Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling, on 15 July 2020.[2][3] The whip was restored on 30 December 2020.[4][5]

A Eurosceptic, Lewis is a supporter of the pro-Brexit groups Leave Means Leave and the European Research Group (ERG).[6] He was one of just 28 Conservative MPs (the 'Spartans') who voted all three times against Theresa May's EU Withdrawal Agreement, regarding it as "Brexit in Name Only".[7]

Early life and career


Julian Lewis was born on 26 September 1951 in Swansea, into a Jewish family and son of a tailor and designer. He went to Dynevor Grammar School, competing in the school team for Television Top of the Form, broadcast on BBC1 on Thursday 2 June 1966, losing to Fairfield Grammar School, of Bristol, in the semi-finals.[8] The school would also enter the radio competition the following year; to get to the semi-final, his team had beaten Malvern College (girls) on 19 May in the fourth heat.

He went to Balliol College, Oxford, receiving a BA, later promoted to MA, in Philosophy and Politics. He studied as a postgraduate at St Antony's College, Oxford, being awarded the DPhil in Strategic Studies for his thesis on "British Military Planning for Post War Strategic Defence, 1942-1947" in 1981.

From 1976 until early 1978, with secret funding from The Freedom Association, he posed as a Labour Party moderate and briefly won control of Newham North East Constituency Labour Party, in an eventually unsuccessful attempt to reverse the deselection of the sitting MP, Reg Prentice, and in order to highlight Militant tendency entryism in the Labour Party.[9][10] Prentice himself later joined the Conservatives.[9]

At the end of the Newham campaign, in 1978, Lewis returned to his studies at Oxford and joined the London Division of the Royal Naval Reserve, at HMS President, serving as a Seaman on the Southampton-based Ton-class minesweeper, HMS Glasserton (M1141).[11]

Parliamentary career


Lewis stood as the Conservative candidate in Swansea West at the 1983 general election, coming second with 36.6% of the vote behind the incumbent Labour MP Alan Williams.[12]

At the 1997 general election, Lewis was elected to Parliament as MP for New Forest East with 42.9% of the vote and a majority of 5,215.[13]

In August 2000, Lewis attacked Conservatives defectors to Labour due to the party supporting Section 28, describing the "gay lobby" as supporting "propaganda promoting homosexuality" at the expense of taxpayers.[14]

Lewis was re-elected as MP for New Forest East at the 2001 general election with a decreased vote share of 42.4% and a decreased majority of 3,829.[15] He was again re-elected at the 2005 general election, with an increased vote share of 48.6% and an increased majority of 6,551.[16]

Although Lewis was repeatedly listed as amongst the lowest-claiming MPs (ranked 566th out of 647 in 2008/09), The Sunday Telegraph alleged in May 2009 that he had tried to claim the £6,000 cost of a wooden floor in his second home. He maintained that: "At no stage did I claim for the flooring and it did not cost the taxpayer a penny."[17] A senior Commons official confirmed that, by seeking advice in advance about second home expenditure, he had acted "in accordance with best practice as recommended by this department" and that "it is not true that you attempted to claim £6,000 in expenses for a wooden floor at your second home".[18]

At the 2010 general election, Lewis was again re-elected with an increased vote share of 52.8% and an increased majority of 11,307.[19]

With the creation of the Liberal-Conservative Coalition as a result of the election of a hung parliament in 2010, the post which he had shadowed (Minister for the Armed Forces) was allocated to the Liberal Democrat Defence spokesman, Nick Harvey MP. Lewis was appointed as a member of Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee in September 2010.[20] He has also been a vice-chairman of the Conservative Friends of Poland.[21]

Lewis has been described by The Daily Telegraph as "one of the most vigorous rightwingers in the Commons" and by The Guardian as the Conservative Party's "front bench terrier". He was one of the Frontbenchers and Backbenchers of the Year chosen by commentators on the ConservativeHome website, in December 2009[22] and December 2010[23] respectively.

In February 2011, he strongly opposed, and was one of three Conservative MPs who voted against, Coalition plans to transfer heritage forests from public ownership to trusts. The plans were later disowned by the Government and abandoned.[24]

In October 2011, he was one of 81 Conservative rebels who voted in favour of a referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union and, in October 2012, he was one of 53 Conservative rebels voting to demand a real-terms cut in the EU budget. Both policies were later adopted by the party leadership.[25][26]

In May 2014, he was one of eight candidates for the chairmanship of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, coming second with 212 votes to the eventual winner's 226.[27]

At the 2015 general election, Lewis was again re-elected with an increased vote share of 56.3% and an increased majority of 19,162.[28]

In November and December 2015, before and during the debate on bombing ISIL/Daesh in Syria, Lewis challenged David Cameron's claim that there were 70,000 "moderate" Syrian fighters opposing ISIL/Daesh, describing the figure as "magical" and quoting expert commentators' views that the "Free Syrian Army" contained many Islamists.[29][30][31] In the Commons debate on 2 December, Lewis stated that "instead of having dodgy dossiers [as in the 2003 Iraq conflict], we now have bogus battalions of moderate fighters". He predicted that "Once Daesh has been driven out... an Occupying Power will have to remain in control for many years to come... and only the Syrian Government Army is likely to provide it... Airstrikes alone are a dangerous diversion and distraction. What is needed is a grand military alliance involving not only the West but Russia and, yes, its Syrian Government clients too.... We need to choose the lesser of two evils and abandon the fiction of a cosy third choice" between "very nasty authoritarians and Islamist totalitarians". After making this widely reported speech, Lewis voted against extending airstrikes against ISIL/Daesh into Syria in the absence of "credible ground forces", and he continued to maintain that, apart from the Kurdish-led forces, in Syria the choice remained "between monsters on the one hand, and maniacs on the other".[32]

Lewis was again re-elected at the snap 2017 general election with an increased vote share of 62.6% and an increased majority of 21,995.[33] He was again re-elected at the 2019 general election with an increased vote share of 64.5% and an increased majority of 25,251.[34]

In February 2024, Lewis was re-selected as the Conservative candidate for New Forest East at the 2024 general election.[35]



Lewis is the only MP who does not allow his constituents to contact him by email.[36] In a letter in The Guardian he stated: "Letters, phone calls, and, where appropriate, surgery appointments are perfectly adequate for people who genuinely need my help, as the many letters of thanks quoted on my website fully confirm. Only mass, manipulative campaigners and obsessive individuals find this a problem – and so they should"![37]

Defence Committee Inquiries


Among notable Inquiry reports produced under the chairmanship of Julian Lewis have been:

Shifting the Goalposts? Defence Expenditure and the 2% Pledge, published in April 2016, which concluded that the Government had met the minimum 2% NATO guideline only by counting "several significant items not previously included when calculating defence expenditure", although doing so in accordance with NATO rules. The report set out, in detailed Annexes, the decline in UK expenditure on Defence as a proportion of GDP since the mid-1950s in comparison with that on Welfare, Health and Education. It also led to the subsequent adoption by the Defence Committee of a target of 3% of GDP to be spent on Defence, as in the mid-1990s.[38] In July 2019, the Committee published an Update to Shifting the Goalposts?, which confirmed that defence expenditure had declined in successive years to 1.9% (2014–15), then 1.8% (2015–16, 2016–17 and 2017–18), when "calculated on a historically consistent basis". Under the more generous NATO rules, the corresponding figures were 2.2% (2014–15), then 2.1% (2015–16, 2016–17 and 2017–18).[39]

An Acceptable Risk? The Use of Lariam by Military Personnel, published in May 2016, which led to a significant reduction in the use of the anti-malarial drug mefloquine, and to the enforcement of stringent requirements before its prescription, on account of possible severe side-effects in some cases.[40]

UK Military Operations in Syria and Iraq, published in September 2016, which revealed the great disparity between the large number of airstrikes being carried out in Iraq, where the UK was campaigning in support of substantial indigenous government ground forces, and the far lower total undertaken in Syria, where the UK could find only limited ground forces to support.[41]

Open Source Stupidity – The Threat to the BBC Monitoring Service, published in December 2016, which strongly criticised the BBC's plan to close the dedicated headquarters of the Monitoring Service at Caversham Park, condemned the UK Government's previous decision to end its ring-fenced grant for the Service which had led to this outcome, and predicted that a state-owned Open Source Information Agency might eventually have to be established.[42]

Investigations into Fatalities in Northern Ireland involving British Military Personnel, published in April 2017, which recommended the enactment of a Statute of Limitations coupled with a truth-recovery process as the best way to prevent the legal persecution of UK Service, Police and Security Personnel, decades after the events in question, whilst offering the best prospect of finding out what had actually happened during the Troubles.[43]

Sunset for the Royal Marines? The Royal Marines and Amphibious Capability, published in February 2018, which excoriated the heavily trailed suggestion that the amphibious assault ships, HMS Albion and HMS Bulwark, would be removed from the Fleet 15 years early as part of the National Security Capability Review. The report described the proposal as "a short-sighted, militarily illiterate manoeuvre totally at odds with strategic reality". After wide publicity, the plan was abandoned and the capability was saved.[44]

Rash or Rational? North Korea and the Threat it Poses, published in April 2018, which concluded that Kim Jong-un is "ruthless, like other Communist dictators before him, but he is rational" and can be "dissuaded from the use of nuclear weapons by means of a policy of deterrence and containment" though "unlikely to give them up now".[45]

Lost in Translation? Afghan Interpreters and other Locally Employed Civilians, published in May 2018, which recommended "a looser and more sympathetic approach" to admitting threatened interpreters to the UK, given that it "is impossible to reconcile the generosity of the Redundancy Scheme with the utter failure of the Intimidation Scheme to relocate even a single LEC to the United Kingdom". Subsequently, some liberalisation of the rules for relocation to the UK was introduced.[46]

Beyond 2 per cent: A Preliminary Report on the Modernising Defence Programme, published in June 2018, which backed the removal of Defence from the "fiscally neutral" National Security Capability Review process – with its threats to impose further cuts on the Armed Forces, such as the deletion of the amphibious assault ships. The report recommended a financial settlement "based on a level of Defence expenditure approaching the figure of 3% of GDP", which would demonstrate that the mantra "Defence is the first duty of Government" could finally be believed.[47]

Defence Committee innovations


As well as those carried out by the full Defence Committee under his chairmanship, in 2015 Lewis initiated an arrangement for the Defence Sub-Committee to undertake separate individual inquiries chaired in turn by other members of the Defence Committee. Between 2016 and 2018 the Sub-Committee produced reports on military exercise deaths,[48] the Iraq Historic Allegations Team[49] and Defence in the Arctic.[50]

In February 2018, Julian Lewis and his French counterpart Jean-Jacques Bridey agreed to launch a joint Inquiry by their respective committees into the UK-France future cruise/anti-ship weapon project. It was the first joint Inquiry to be held by a House of Commons Committee and a Committee of a non-UK legislature and reported in December 2018.[51]

Intelligence and Security Committee


On 15 July 2020, Lewis was elected Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament (ISC) with the support of the opposition MPs on the committee. He defeated Chris Grayling, who had been Boris Johnson's preferred candidate.[2] Lewis had the Conservative Party whip removed later that day for what a government source described as "working with Labour and other opposition MPs for his own advantage"; but Lewis stated that he had never responded to government whips about how he would vote, because he considered it an "improper request" as the 2013 Justice and Security Act explicitly removed the Prime Minister's right to choose the committee chair:[3][52] "At no earlier stage did I give any undertaking to vote for any particular candidate".[52] Although, the following day, the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said he would not rule out a plot to remove Lewis from the ISC,[53] the government took no further action against him and restored the Conservative Party whip to him unconditionally on 30 December 2020.[54]

Military writings and honorary academic posts


His essay on Nuclear Disarmament versus Peace in the 21st Century won the Trench Gascoigne Prize of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) in 2005.[55] Two years later, Lewis won this prize for a second time, with an essay entitled Double-I, Double-N: A Framework for Counter-Insurgency.[56]

His 10,000-word dissertation on The Future of the British Nuclear Deterrent was selected for an award and for publication as a Seaford House Paper by the Royal College of Defence Studies of which he was a Parliamentary member in 2006.[57]

Lewis's own most recent book, published in 2011, is a military biography Racing Ace – The Fights and Flights of "Kink" Kinkead DSO DSC* DFC*, published in 2011, recounting the adventurous life of a pioneering airman whose grave he found in his constituency.[58] In choosing it as a 'Book of the Year 2011' for The Sunday Telegraph Magazine, historian Andrew Roberts described Samuel Kinkead as "one of the bravest airmen of the 20th century", and Racing Ace as "exactly what an action biography should be".[59]

Lewis's critique of strategy in Afghanistan International Terrorism – The Case for Containment was published in the US military journal Joint Force Quarterly in April 2012.[60]

In 2010, Lewis was appointed as a Visiting Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Defence Studies, Department of War Studies, King's College, London; and, in 2019, he became an Honorary Professor, Strategy and Security Institute, University of Exeter.[61]



Lewis was appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom in March 2015 and therefore granted the style The Right Honourable.[62] He was knighted in the 2023 New Year Honours for political and public service.[63]


  1. ^ "Lewis, Rt Hon. Dr Julian (Murray), (born 26 Sept. 1951), PC 2015; MP (C) New Forest East, since 1997". Who's Who. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.24459.
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  4. ^ "Parliamentary career for Dr Julian Lewis - MPs and Lords - UK Parliament". members.parliament.uk. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  5. ^ Waller, Jon (30 December 2020). "Party whip restored to New Forest MP Julian Lewis". Advertiser and Times. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
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  11. ^ "Julian Lewis at the helm of HMS Glasserton in 1980". www.davidhencke.com. 15 June 2015. Retrieved 2 July 2019.
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  13. ^ "Election Data 1997". Electoral Calculus. Archived from the original on 15 October 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
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  30. ^ Stone, Jon (1 December 2015). "Many of David Cameron's 70,000 'moderate' Syrian fighters are actually radical Islamists, it is claimed". The Independent. London. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  31. ^ Greenslade, Roy (4 December 2015). "David Cameron's '70,000 Syrian forces' claim really is dodgy". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
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  35. ^ "Conservatives, Lib Dems and Greens select New Forest East and West candidates for next UK general election". Lymington Times and New Milton Advertiser. 24 October 2023. Retrieved 9 February 2024.
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  63. ^ "No. 63918". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2022. p. N2.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament
for New Forest East