I was first elected as Member of Parliament in 1992 and have lived in the Constituency at Royston since 1981. I am married to Christine and we have three children: Sarah, William and Victoria.
I was born in Reading and went to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where I studied Law. It was while training as a barrister that I ran a Southwark youth football team with Clive Efford (now a Labour MP) and started doing free legal work for the Free Representation Unit, which instilled a long-term interest in social and employment issues.
I practised as a barrister for over twenty years. In the late 1970s I was a speaker with the Hyde Park Tories, the only major political Party to have a presence at Speakers’ Corner. In the General Election of 1987, I was the Conservative Candidate for Southwark and Bermondsey and in 1992 I succeeded Ian Stewart as MP for North Hertfordshire (as it then was).
In 1994 I was appointed Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Rt Hon William Waldegrave MP and also successfully piloted a Private Member’s Bill through Parliament to help the insurance industry reduce premiums.
In 1995, I was appointed as a Minister in the Department of Social Security, leading the Government’s campaign against benefit fraud. In 1996 I introduced legislation to provide greater powers to benefit fraud investigators. I was also the Junior Minister dealing with pension issues.
After the General Election of 1997, I spent a period in the Opposition Whips’ Office, and spoke from the Front Bench on the Devolution Bills. Early in 2000, I was appointed Shadow Home Affairs Spokesman arguing for more PCs and less paperwork. In September 2001, I was appointed as Shadow Health Minister and held a major Mental Health Summit at Westminster.
In November 2002, I entered the Shadow Cabinet as Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions, working on proposals for a Lifetime Savings Account and publishing “Auditing the New Deal: What Figures for the Future”(Politeia). In November 2003, I was appointed Shadow Leader of the House a position I held until May 2005, successfully pressing for better parliamentary education facilities and improved House of Commons Security. In addition, in September 2004, I became Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs arguing for tougher measures to deter Electoral Fraud. In December 2005 David Cameron asked me to take on the role of Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in addition to continuing as Shadow Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. This led to me spending an eye-opening week in a Homeless Hostel in Sheffield (St Anne’s, Bevan Court) as part of Iain Duncan Smith’s Social Justice research.
In July 2007 I returned to the back benches after 13 years’ continuous service on the Conservative Front Bench and I continue to take a full part in Parliament. Since November 2007, I have been a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee and in March 2008 I was appointed to the Committee on Standards in Public Life. In July 2010 I was also appointed to the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee. In addition I am a member of the UK Delegation to the Council of Europe.