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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Lord Beith

Official portrait of Lord Beith crop 2.jpg
Official portrait of Lord Beith
Chairman of the Liaison Committee
In office
21 July 2010 – 30 March 2015
Preceded byAlan Williams
Succeeded byAndrew Tyrie
Liberal Democrat Leader of the House of Commons
In office
29 August 1999 – 15 May 2003
LeaderCharles Kennedy
Preceded byCharles Kennedy
Succeeded byPaul Tyler
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
In office
11 April 1992 – 12 February 2003
LeaderPaddy Ashdown
Charles Kennedy
Preceded byRussell Johnston
Succeeded byMenzies Campbell
Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Home Affairs
In office
12 July 1994 – 29 August 1999
LeaderPaddy Ashdown
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded bySimon Hughes
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party
In office
1985 – 16 July 1988
LeaderDavid Steel
Preceded byJohn Pardoe (from 1979)
Succeeded byRussell Johnston (Lib Dems)
Liberal Chief Whip in the Commons
In office
LeaderDavid Steel
Preceded byCyril Smith
Succeeded byDavid Alton
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
19 October 2015
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Berwick-upon-Tweed
In office
8 November 1973 – 30 March 2015
Preceded byAntony Lambton
Succeeded byAnne-Marie Trevelyan
Personal details
Born (1943-04-20) 20 April 1943 (age 76)
Poynton, Cheshire
Political partyLiberal (before 1988)
Liberal Democrats (1988–present)
Barbara Ward
(m. 1965–1998)

Alma materBalliol College, Oxford
Nuffield College, Oxford
WebsiteOfficial website

Alan James Beith, Baron Beith, PC (born 20 April 1943) is a British politician who represented Berwick-upon-Tweed as its Member of Parliament (MP) from 1973 to 2015.

From 1992 to 2003, he was Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and, by 2015, Beith was the longest-serving member of his party sitting in the House of Commons and the last Liberal Democrat MP to have experience of Parliament in the 1970s.

Beith was elevated as a life peer in the 2015 Dissolution Honours List[1] and took his title and a seat on the House of Lords Opposition benches on 23 November 2015.[2]

Early life

The son of John Beith, of Scottish extraction, he was born in 1943 at Poynton in Cheshire. He was educated at The King's School, Macclesfield before going to Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics graduating in 1964. He then pursued postgraduate studies at Nuffield College receiving a Bachelor of Letters (BLitt) degree.[3]

In 1966, Beith began his career as a politics lecturer in the University of Newcastle. In 1969 he was elected as a Councillor on Hexham District Council and, in 1970, he was also elected to Corbridge Town Council. He contested Berwick-upon-Tweed as the Liberal's candidate at the 1970 general election but was heavily defeated by the sitting Conservative MP Antony Lambton.

Parliamentary career

Beith became a member of the North Tynedale District Council in 1973. Later that year, Antony Lambton resigned as an MP following a Fleet Street exposé. At the ensuing by-election on 8 November 1973, Beith was narrowly elected by 57 votes, becoming Berwick's first Liberal MP since 1945.

Just three months after his by-election success, Beith was out canvassing his constituents again at the February 1974 general election, being returned to Parliament with an increased majority of 443. Less than a year after entering the House of Commons, Beith had to contest the constituency for a third time at the October 1974 general election, retaining his seat with a slender majority of 73 votes.[4]

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party

Beith was appointed to the BBC Advisory Council in 1974 serving as a member until 1984. On the election of David Steel as Liberal Leader in 1976, Beith became the Party's Chief Whip in the Commons.[5] After the 1983 general election, he was appointed Liberal Spokesman for Constitutional Affairs. He was elected as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in 1985, in both cases continuing his duties as a Commons Chief Whip.

After the 1987 general election, Beith concentrated his efforts as Liberal Spokesman for Treasury Affairs and stood down from being Liberal Chief Whip after eleven years in post. In 1988, the Liberal and Social Democratic parties merged, initially as the Social and Liberal Democrats.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Beith stood against Paddy Ashdown in the first leadership election in 1988, an election which Ashdown won by a large margin. Beith stayed on as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats following the 1992 general election under Ashdown until 2003, and was sworn of the Privy Council in 1992. In 1994, he became the Liberal Democrats Shadow Home Secretary and continued in post under Charles Kennedy's leadership. After the 2001 general election he briefly became Lib Dem Shadow Spokesman for the Lord Chancellor's Department, but left the Lib Dem frontbench in 2002, though remaining its Deputy Leader until the following year.

After standing down from the Lib Dem frontbench he chaired the Commons Constitutional Affairs, and Justice Committees. Following Sir Menzies Campbell's resignation as Leader of the Liberal Democrats on 15 October 2007, Beith was encouraged to stand as a prospective compromise candidate for the Lib Dem leadership. However, via his personal website, he announced his decision not to stand for election as party leader.

Later developments

On 19 May 2009, Beith was the first MP to declare his candidacy to succeed Speaker Michael Martin, who stood down from the position on 21 June 2009. Beith pledged he was "willing to take on the task of leading reform" were he elected as Commons Speaker.[6] Conservative MP John Bercow won, becoming the 23rd Speaker of the House Commons of the United Kingdom.[7]

Insignia of a Knight Bachelor
Insignia of a Knight Bachelor

Beith was knighted in the 2008 Birthday Honours.[8]

On 22 May 2009, Beith was reported by The Daily Telegraph to have claimed £117,000 in second home allowances while his wife, Baroness Maddock, claimed £60,000 Lords expenses for sharing the same address.[9]

Replying in writing on both their behalfs to The Telegraph journalist's exposé: "It would be quite wrong for the taxpayer to pay twice for the same costs, so we have shared the costs, either by sharing the cost of rent, or by my wife using her allowance towards costs incurred (she normally claims only half the Lords' overnight allowance)", he argued in defence.[10]

Coalition Government

At the May 2010 general election he was returned as MP for Berwick, albeit his majority was reduced by a substantial swing to the Conservatives.

Beith served as Chairman of the Commons Justice[11] and of the Liaison Select Committees until retiring in 2015.

He was one of only four Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against the third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.[12] He was the only Liberal Democrat MP to oppose recognising Palestine as a state in the Commons vote on 13 October 2014.[13][14]

Beith campaigned throughout his years in the House of Commons for the A1 road to be made dual carriageway in Northumberland.[15]

Elevation to the House of Lords

On 7 August 2013, Beith announced his retirement as an MP at the 2015 election, having represented Berwick-upon-Tweed for 42 years.[16] He was announced as a life peer in the 2015 Dissolution Honours and was created Baron Beith, of Berwick-upon-Tweed in the County of Northumberland on the afternoon of 19 October.[17]


Beith is more left leaning and liberal in social issues yet is more right leaning and conservative economically.


Beith has only voted for reducing VAT once on 13 December 2008 from then on he voted for raising VAT.[18] Beith supports higher taxes for alcohol.[19] He always voted against a mansion tax.[20] He also has voted for reducing capital gains tax [21] and corporation tax. He has voted for raising the threshold for paying income tax.


He voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 in its third reading.[22] He also voted for smoking bans[23] yet against a hunting ban.[24] He also supports lowering the voting age to 16.[25] However he has voted against assisted dying which is generally supported by the Liberal Democrats.[26]

Personal life

Beith was married in 1965 to Barbara Ward and they had a son and a daughter. His first wife died in 1998 and he married secondly in 2001 Diana Maddock (née Derbyshire), formerly MP for Christchurch (1993–97).[27]

Beith and Baroness Maddock divide their time between homes at Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland and London SW1; they are one of the few married couples both titled in their own right.[28] Lord Beith serves as President of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum and of the Historic Chapels Trust, a charity he helped to found and of which was Chair of Trustees 2001–14. Beith is also President of Northumberland Hospital Radio and of the National Liberal Club.[29]

He reportedly speaks French, Norwegian, Swedish and Welsh, and is a keen supporter of heritage matters.[30]

Styles of address and honours

Styles of address

  • 1943–1973: Mr Alan Beith
  • 1973–1992: Mr Alan Beith MP
  • 1992–2008: The Rt Hon Alan Beith MP
  • 2008–2015: The Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith MP
  • 2015: The Rt Hon Sir Alan Beith
  • 2015–present: The Rt Hon The Lord Beith PC


And, the following honorary doctorates:


  1. ^ "Dissolution Peerages 2015". Retrieved 27 August 2015.
  2. ^ "House of Lords Official Report 23 November 2015" (PDF). Retrieved 24 November 2015.
  3. ^ "Debrett's People of Today". Archived from the original on 11 March 2016.
  4. ^ "Lord Beith". 19 October 2015. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  5. ^ a b "Alan Beith". 12 October 2015.
  6. ^ "First MP discusses run for Speaker". BBC News. 19 May 2009. Archived from the original on 2 March 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2009.
  7. ^ "The Speaker of the House of Commons". 8 February 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  8. ^ "Salon Archive Issue: 191". Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  9. ^ Winnett, Robert; Watt, Holly; Prince, Rosa (22 May 2009). "MPs' expenses: cover-up of Ian Gibson and his daughter's cut-price flat deal". Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
  10. ^ Beith, Alan (22 May 2009). "Beith publishes full Telegraph questions and answers". Archived from the original on 25 May 2009. Retrieved 16 June 2009.
  11. ^ "Justice Committee Membership". Retrieved 24 July 2011.
  12. ^ MPs who voted against the Third Reading of the Equal Marriage Bill. Pink News. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  13. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 13 Oct 2014 (pt 0004)".
  14. ^ "MPs debate Palestine and Israel". UK Parliament.
  15. ^ Retiring MP Sir Alan Beith. Chronicle. Retrieved 6 October 2014.
  16. ^ Alan Beith to step down in 2015. Liberal Democrat Voice (7 August 2013); retrieved 31 January 2014.
  17. ^ "No. 61389". The London Gazette. 23 October 2015. p. 19950.
  18. ^ "Lord Beith, former MP".
  19. ^ "Lord Beith, former MP".
  20. ^ "Lord Beith, former MP".
  21. ^ "Lord Beith, former MP".
  22. ^ "The Public Whip — Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill — Third Reading – 21 May 2013 at 18:59".
  23. ^ "Lord Beith, former MP".
  24. ^ "Lord Beith, former MP".
  25. ^ "Lord Beith, former MP".
  26. ^ "Lord Beith, former MP".
  27. ^ "About Alan Beith". Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  28. ^ Mosley, Charles (ed.) (2003). Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 107th edn. London, UK: Burke's Peerage & Gentry Ltd. p. 2559 (MADDOCK, LP). ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  29. ^ "National Liberal Club". Retrieved 25 July 2016.
  30. ^ Profile Archived 4 May 2015 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed 11 February 2016.
  31. ^ "No. 59160". The London Gazette. 18 August 2009. p. 1.

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Viscount Lambton
Member of Parliament
for Berwick-upon-Tweed

Succeeded by
Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Party political offices
Preceded by
Sir Cyril Smith
Liberal Chief Whip in the House of Commons
Succeeded by
David Alton
Preceded by
John Pardoe
as Deputy Leader of the Liberals
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party
(position abolished)

Succeeded by
Russell Johnston
as Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Preceded by
Russell Johnston
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Succeeded by
Sir Menzies Campbell
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Lord Bruce of Bennachie 
Baron Beith
Followed by
The Lord Murphy of Torfaen 
This page was last edited on 28 October 2019, at 01:30
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