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David Amess
David Amess

Sir David Anthony Andrew Amess MP (born 26 March 1952) is a British Conservative Party politician. He has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 1983, first for Basildon, and since 1997 for Southend West. A long-term and vocal Eurosceptic, he supported Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum and has since been a supporter of Leave Means Leave, a pro-Brexit campaign.[2]

Early life and career


He was born in Plaistow, Essex (now Newham), to James Amess and his wife Maud, and was raised Roman Catholic like his mother.[3] Maud died on 12 October 2016 at the age of 104.[4][5]

Amess attended St Anthony's Junior and Infant School, then St. Bonaventure Grammar School (now St Bonaventure's Catholic School) on Boleyn Road in Forest Gate and then the College of Technology (now Faculty of Science and Technology) of Bournemouth University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Degree with Honours in Economics and Government.[6] Amess taught at the St John the Baptist Primary School in Bethnal Green for a year (1970–71), and then spent a short time as an underwriter before becoming a recruitment consultant.[6]

Political career


He contested the safe Labour Party seat of Newham North West at the 1979 general election, and the seat was retained by Labour's MP Arthur Lewis. In 1982, Amess was elected as a councillor to the London Borough of Redbridge.

The incumbent Conservative MP for Basildon, Harvey Proctor, moved to Billericay in the 1983 general election, and Amess was selected to contest the Basildon seat, being elected to the Member of Parliament for Basildon on 9 June 1983. The Basildon seat was made up of all 8 wards in Basildon including the new town.

Amess continued to serve both as an MP and a local councillor until 1986, when he stood down from Redbridge Borough Council to concentrate on his Westminster seat. He held his Basildon seat narrowly at the 1987 general election, in part by developing a significant personal following. After the election, Amess was appointed a Parliamentary Private Secretary to Michael Portillo, a position he held for ten years throughout Portillo's ministerial career. Amess held his seat again at the 1992 general election, which was the first but vital sign that the Conservatives would unexpectedly win the 1992 election; the Basildon constituency was viewed as the make-or-break milestone.[7]

In 1997, Amess was selected for Southend West in Essex after the retirement of former Cabinet minister Paul Channon and was returned to Westminster again. Amess doubled his majority in Southend West at the 2015 general election, and was re-elected comfortably in the 2017 equivalent.

Amess has sponsored many parliamentary bills.[8] Two of his most significant achievements are the Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act (1988),[9] and the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act (2000),[10] both of which are on the statute book in his name. In 2014, he successfully piloted the Security Printing (Specialist) Materials Bill onto the Statute Book. This Bill ended a loophole which allowed companies who supplied specialist printing equipment to counterfeiters to evade prosecution.

In 2016, he successfully steered a piece of legislation onto the statute book, this time the Driving Instructors (Registration) Bill. This Bill streamlines the process whereby instructors whose registration has lapsed can apply to return to the register. It also allows instructors who wish to leave the register for personal reasons to do so without being penalised. The Bill was supported by driving school owners and motoring organisations.

The Protection Against Cruel Tethering Act came about as a result of Amess' long-standing concern for animal welfare, supported by the National Farmers Union. Amess stated in the House of Commons that the Ten Minute Rule Bill was, "inspired by the Essex Horse and Pony Protection Society".[11] The bill stated:

Amess' most publicised legislative success came in 2000 with the Warm Homes and Energy Conservation Act. According to a speech in the House of Commons made by Amess, the Act came to fruition after he was drawn out of the Private Members Ballot.[12] He met with Martyn Williams, a campaigner from Friends of the Earth, who convinced him of the need for the Act following on from the death of a constituent in a cold house.[12]

The Act required the Secretary of State to "publish and implement a strategy for reducing fuel poverty".[13] This Act was widely credited with a significant change in both attitude and policy towards fuel poverty within the UK.[14] The scale of fuel poverty in England fell from 5.1 million households to 1.2 million households between 1996 and 2004, indicating the impact of the Act.[14]

Amess served on the Health Select Committee from 1998 until 2007. Due to his role on the Health Select Committee, he became Chair of the Conservative Party Backbench Committee for Health in 1999.[15] He has campaigned on various health issues since. While a member of the committee, Amess played a prominent role holding an inquiry into the state of obesity in the UK, leading to the publication of a report in 2004.[16] The report found that two-thirds of the population of England are overweight or obese and went on to discuss the causes of obesity, as well as making various recommendations to combat the problem. To this day, he maintains an interest in the issue, most recently tabling a series of Parliamentary Questions in July 2013.[17]

Amess is also a member of the Panel of Chairs, which comprises the chairman and two deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means, as well as ten Members nominated at the start of each session by the Speaker of the House of Commons.[18] Amess was appointed most recently on 26 May 2010, but has been on the panel since 2001. As a member of the panel, Amess is responsible for chairing Public Bill Committees; chairing Westminster Hall debates; and at times, for chairing Committees of the whole House.[19]

Amess became a member of the Administration Committee in 2015. This committee is responsible for overseeing the running of the Parliamentary Estate and services.

Amess was elected onto the newly formed Backbench Business Committee in 2010; he stood down in 2015.[20]

Amess campaigned for many years to have a statue erected in honour of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary, an endeavour for which Wallenberg eventually lost his life. Amess began asking Parliamentary Questions in the late 1980s[21] regarding Wallenberg, and he held an Adjournment Debate in Wallenberg's honour in 1996.[22] Amess had previously attempted to push through a Raoul Wallenberg (Memorial) Bill in the 1989–90 session.[23] A memorial was eventually installed in London, at Great Cumberland Place, outside the Western Marble Arch Synagogue. Both Queen Elizabeth II and Charles, Prince of Wales have since visited the memorial.

Amess became a Fellow of the IPT in 1994. Amess completed an IPT Post-Graduate Fellowship I in 2012 specialising in the Cultural and Creative Industries, at Brit School, ITN and the Royal Opera House. Amess became chairman of the board of Trustees in 2014 and stood down at the end of his term in 2017.[24]

In October 2017, following the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct allegations, a statement was issued in the name of Amess which described the allegations against Weinstein as "dubious to say the least" and quoted Amess as having said that the "sudden flurry of alleged inappropriate advances beggars belief". Amess later retracted the statement and apologised "for any upset", saying that the statement had been issued by his staff without his authorisation.[25]

Amess appeared in the "Drugs" episode of the spoof current affairs television programme Brass Eye, and was fooled into filming an elaborate warning against the dangers of a fictional Eastern European drug called "cake".[26]

He asked a question about "cake" in Parliament, alongside real substances khat and GHB. In response, the Home Office minister replied that "cake" was a name "we understand refers to 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-benzylamphetamine",[27] a real drug. In 2001, when Brass Eye was repeated and released on DVD, a disclaimer was added to the "Drugs" episode at Amess' request reiterating his disapproval of recreational drug use.[28]

Amess wrote a pamphlet about his 1992 re-election to the Basildon constituency, 1992: Against All Odds! (2012).[29] It was launched in the House of Commons at an event to mark the 20th anniversary of the election and was attended by Prime Minister David Cameron and Conservative Party activists.[30]

Amess compiled a pamphlet entitled Party of Opportunity with the Renewal Group, which contained thirteen short biographical accounts of Conservative members of parliament who identify as working class or who come from a working-class background. The pamphlet, which was launched in the House of Commons in April 2014,[31] included contributions from four Government Ministers, including Sajid Javid, Mark Francois, Patrick McLoughlin, and Mike Penning.[32] The second edition of the "Party of Opportunity" was launched in January 2015, sponsored by The Association of Conservative Clubs and included contributions from 29 Conservative MPs.

Political views


Amess normally adheres to Conservative party policy when voting in the Commons,[33] but he is very strongly in favour of the ban on fox-hunting. He voted for the 2003 invasion of Iraq but has since been critical of the Labour government's failure to find the weapons of mass destruction with which they justified the action at the time. On foreign policy, he is also a leading member of Conservative Friends of Israel. He was one of the few Conservative MPs to support the impeach Blair campaign.

Amess was one of thirty Conservatives who voted against military action in Syria in August 2013. He later commented that he felt the way he and his colleagues voted made a difference and if he had previously voted against the war in Iraq things might have been different in that situation as well.[34] Since 2014, Amess has been leading a campaign for fairer funding for grammar schools. He raised this issue in parliamentary debates and questions, and contacted the Secretary of State to ask for the funding discrepancy to be addressed.

Amess is in favour of a return to capital punishment.[35] He is a supporter and advocate for the People's Mujahedin of Iran.[36]

Amess is strongly pro-life.[35] In June 2005, Amess supported the Prohibition of Abortion (England and Wales) Bill introduced by Laurence Robertson that sought to almost entirely ban abortion.

In November 2010, Amess attended a parliamentary reception to support and celebrate the Young People's Trust for the Environment.[37]

Amess is a staunch Eurosceptic, coming out in support of Brexit ahead of the EU referendum,[38][39] in which he said it was "dangerous" and a "huge mistake" to vote 'remain'. He has described a "loss of Parliamentary sovereignty" as the main negative of UK-EU relations.[40] Amess criticised US President Barack Obama's perceived intervention in the EU referendum campaign, stating that he had "absolutely no right whatsover getting involved".[41] Since the Brexit vote, he has been a keen supporter of Leave Means Leave, signing a letter to the Prime Minister in September 2017.

Since entering the House of Commons, Amess has generally opposed bills furthering LGBT rights, including equal age of consent and same-sex marriage.[42]

Awards


Amess was created a Knight Bachelor in the 2015 New Year Honours for political and public service. He is a member of the Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor.[43]

At the Dods Charity Champion Awards 2011 Amess won the Animal Welfare and Environment Champion award,[44] in which he was recognised formally for his leading role in and commitment to animal welfare, and was presented with the award by John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Commons, in the State Rooms of the Speaker's House. The award is given to the Parliamentarian who has done the most to tackle issues concerning the welfare of animals and the natural environment.[44]

Amess received the "Outstanding Achievement Award" at the Charity Champion Parliamentary reception hosted by Dods in 2012 in recognition for his lifetime commitment to charitable work.[45]

He was nominated for the Policy Driver for Animal Rights Protection award at the Grassroot Diplomat Awards 2014 for his longstanding dedication to animal rights.[46]

Personal life


He and his wife Julia Arnold have one son and four daughters. Julia is a part-time caseworker for her husband.[47] Their oldest child is their eldest and only son, an Esquire, as the eldest son of a Knight. Their eldest daughter is actress Katherine Louise Diana "Katie" Amess. She publicly criticised her father's stance on same-sex marriage after producing a film in support of gay rights in 2013.[48]

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