|Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business and Industry|
|Assumed office |
17 September 2021
|Prime Minister||Boris Johnson|
|Preceded by||Nadhim Zahawi|
|Lord Commissioner of the Treasury|
|Assumed office |
17 September 2021
|Prime Minister||Boris Johnson|
|Preceded by||David Rutley|
|Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party|
5 May 2020 – 16 September 2021
|Preceded by||Ranil Jayawardena|
|Succeeded by||Justin Tomlinson|
|Member of Parliament|
for North East Derbyshire
|Assumed office |
8 June 2017
|Preceded by||Natascha Engel|
Lee Benjamin Rowley
11 September 1980
Chesterfield, Derbyshire, England
|Alma mater||Lincoln College, Oxford|
University of Manchester
Lee Benjamin Rowley (born 11 September 1980) is a Conservative Party politician and former management consultant who was elected as the MP for North East Derbyshire at the 2017 general election. It was a notable Conservative gain as Rowley defeated the sitting Labour MP Natascha Engel, in a seat which had been represented by the Labour Party since 1935.
Early life and career
Rowley was born in Scarsdale Hospital in Chesterfield. The son of a milkman, he grew up in Chesterfield and attended St Mary's High School. Rowley became the first member of his family to attend university in 1999, when he won an Exhibition to study Modern History at Lincoln College, Oxford. He then read for a master's degree, also in History, at the University of Manchester.
Before becoming an MP, Rowley worked in financial services and management consultancy. He has held positions at Barclays, KPMG, Santander, and Co-op Insurance, where he was Head of Change at the time of his election to Parliament. Rowley had also contributed research on welfare and housing to the centre-right think tank, the Centre for Social Justice.
Aged 26, Rowley was elected as a Conservative councillor in May 2006 for the Maida Vale ward on Westminster City Council in London. He was re-elected in May 2010 and was appointed as Cabinet Member for parking and transportation. In this role he was responsible for an innovative trial of allowing motorcycles to use bus lanes in 2012, agreeing an out of court settlement with Mouchel over the awarding of a large parking contract in 2011, and victory in the High Court in 2010 over the principle of charging motorcyclists for parking in Westminster.
As the Cabinet Member for parking at the council, Rowley was tasked with implementing the council's policy to expand evening and weekend parking restrictions, which the Council argued was to improve traffic congestion and pollution, but critics argued was partly for income generation. The policy was supported by some residents, as well as environmental and disability campaigners, but was criticised by some local residents, business owners and religious groups. Dubbed a "nightlife tax" by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, and following the High Court blocking the introduction of the parking charges, the plans were dropped when its architect, council leader Colin Barrow, resigned. Rowley also faced calls to resign from a range of sources, including the chef Michel Roux Jr and Glenys Roberts, a fellow Conservative councillor in Westminster.
As the cabinet member for parking, Rowley received media attention after the council was censured by the European Commission for infringing contract laws - and criticised for earlier claiming in a press release it had been "cleared of any wrong-doing". Rowley was alleged to have falsely claimed in a press release that: "We always maintained this contract was properly awarded following a tender process carried out in accordance with the law and we are obviously pleased that the EU has decided to close this case." However, the BBC subsequently obtained documents showing the Commission found against Westminster Council and that it was ordered to make changes. Rowley responded that the earlier statement was not intended to mislead and noted that no punitive action was taken against the council.
Rowley was transferred to a new role as Cabinet Member for community services in January 2012. He received positive national media coverage for a merger of library management across the London councils of Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham and Kensington and Chelsea. The councils and Rowley said it resulted in significant financial savings, ensured all libraries stayed open across the three councils while retaining front-line staff, and gave residents access to one million books.
He stood down as a Councillor and Cabinet Member in Westminster in May 2014 to focus on seeking election as an MP.
Member of Parliament
Rowley stood unsuccessfully in the 2010 General Election as the Conservative candidate for Bolsover, where he came second to Dennis Skinner. He stood again at the 2015 general election as the Conservative candidate for North East Derbyshire, again coming second, but reducing the sitting Labour MP Natascha Engel's majority to under 2,000 votes. He was subsequently elected as the MP for North East Derbyshire at the 2017 general election with a majority of 2,861. The result was notable as it made Rowley the first Conservative MP for the seat since 1935.
In his first parliamentary term, Rowley campaigned against planning applications in his own constituency for fracking operations. He has also argued against his party's efforts to reduce delays in approving schemes. Rowley argued that the specific Marsh Lane application was wrong in terms of content, location and timing, arguing the rural setting was not right for industrial activity. He stated that he would support concerned residents, oppose it and put his own objections against it to Derbyshire County Council.
Although opposing one specific application for a site in his constituency, he has said on fracking in general: "I am willing to look at fracking long term and to look at new ways of producing energy long term if they can be proven to be safe and efficient and effective for the country." The Independent reported that at a fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference in October 2018, Rowley argued his party's support for fracking could see them lose a future general election, due to the unpopularity of the process in local areas.
Along with fellow Conservative MP Luke Graham, Rowley helped set up and is Co-Chair of 'Freer', an initiative of the right leaning think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs. The group aims to promote a freer society and freer economy, through liberal economic and social policies.
When interviewed in June 2017 by the Financial Times, Rowley said that he had voted for Brexit at the 2016 referendum, but had not actively campaigned for it. The paper suggested that it appeared 'he had deleted social media posts relating to the referendum period that might reveal how he had voted'. He is not a member but has supported positions taken by the European Research Group – the primary Eurosceptic lobbying group within Parliament, currently chaired by Steve Baker – and was one of a number of Conservative MPs to publicly oppose Theresa May's Chequers proposal.
In March 2020, Rowley and his fellow MP Toby Perkins successfully lobbied for Government funding for the Staveley By-pass, a dual carriageway by-pass of Brimington, Staveley and Mastin Moor that has been planned since 1927.
Rowley has been the lead sponsor for a bid to reopen the alternative railway line between Sheffield and Chesterfield, which runs via Whittington, Staveley, Barrow Hill, Eckington, Renishaw and Killamarsh, on part of the route of the former North Midland Railway. In May 2020, the consortium successfully lobbied for the Government to commission a feasibility study of reopening the currently freight-only line to passenger trains.
In Parliament, Rowley previously served on the Public Accounts Committee. He is Chair of an All Party Parliamentary Group on Fracking, which he set up, and Vice-Chair of an APPG on Ovarian Cancer.
On 17 September 2021, Rowley was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury (Government Whip), during the second cabinet reshuffle of the second Johnson ministry.
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