John is 57, married with two daughters. His interests include history, theatre/film and financial journalism. After nine state/grammar schools, he finished his sixth form studies at Queen’s College, Taunton.
After a gap year traveling in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, John studied Law, History and Politics at Cambridge. He then joined the Army and The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. After Sandhurst, he served on a number of tours and postings including Berlin, Northern Ireland and Cyprus, before finishing in Germany as the Battalion Operations Officer.
On leaving the Army, he entered the City and ran a wide range of portfolios for charities and private clients as a Director of Hendersons and then Rothschild Asset Management. He remains a member of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI).
Since leaving the City, he has assisted charities to monitor their fund managers. He also writes a monthly column for the Investors Chronicle magazine (donating his fee to charity), speaks at financial seminars, runs an investment trust website, and has written the ‘FT Guide to Investment Trusts’.
John was the Conservative Parliamentary candidate in Basildon in 1997. He was elected as the Conservative MP for Billericay and District in 2001, and served on Parliament’s Education Select Committee before becoming a Shadow Health Minister in 2002. However, he resigned from the Front Bench in 2003 in order to vote against the Iraq war.
He was subsequently re-appointed as a Shadow Health Minister with responsibilities including cancer services. He moved from Health to join the Opposition Whips’ Office in the summer of 2007. In 2010, he left the Whips’ Office, turned down a Cabinet PPS position, and stood for election as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, of which he is now a member – having stood again for Chairman in 2015.
Parliamentary Interests and votes
John has opposed our foreign interventions since being an MP, except for our initial deployment to Afghanistan. He believes our foreign policy process has been underfunded and poorly sighted, and underestimates the challenges posed by a variety of social, economic and geopolitical developments, including potentially hostile nation-states (please see his article ‘Time to Recognise the Danger’, in the July 2015 edition of the RUSI Journal).
In addition to voting against the invasion of Iraq, after al-Qaeda had been defeated in Afghanistan, he opposed our deeper involvement in Helmand Province from 2006 – being the only Conservative MP to vote against our Afghan policy in the first ever vote on the issue in 2010. He was also the only Conservative MP to vote against our Libyan intervention in 2011 (Click here for more information).
John has called for greater dialogue with Iran – sponsoring a House of Commons debate in 2012 in which he was defeated 285-6. He also successfully led Conservative opposition against armed intervention in Syria when Parliament was recalled in August 2013. His amendment opposing air strikes in Syria in 2015 was defeated in the House of Commons 211-390, despite support from the SNP and a large number of Labour MPs.
John has been critical of ever-closer political union within the EU, having voted against the previous Labour Government on such issues as the Nice and Lisbon treaties. In the last Parliament, he voted against the coalition Government on various EU issues – including opposing increased funding for the EU more than once (Click Here and Here for more information), and successfully led the campaign for an EU referendum which persuaded the Prime Minister to adopt the policy in time for the last General Election.
The Prime Minister initially opposed the idea. John therefore engineered two letters to the Prime Minster in 2012, signed by 100 Conservative back-bench colleagues, calling for legislation in the last Parliament and for an in/out referendum in this. Various meetings and discussions followed involving the Prime Minister, who finally agreed to a referendum in January 2013.
However, the Prime Minister still opposed legislation – believing a General Election pledge to be sufficient. John therefore tabled an amendment to the Queen’s Speech (not done since 1946 by a Government back bencher) which, being well supported, pushed the Government to support legislation in the previous Parliament. The Private Member’s Bills were opposed both by the Labour and Liberal parties.
As Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC), John campaigns to improve cancer services.
After a long campaign, the APPGC persuaded the Government to introduce one-year cancer survival rate figures at both national and Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) level to promote Earlier Diagnosis - cancer’s ‘magic key’. It has also promoted the monitoring of staging and A&E admissions as additional proxy measures in the CCG Outcomes Indicator Set, and in 2014 persuaded NHS England to include local one-year cancer survival figures in the Delivery Dashboard of the CCG Assurance Framework.
In addition to chairing the APPGC, John regularly raises cancer issues in the House of Commons, meets ministers and representatives from the wider cancer community, and hosts the APPGC’s annual ‘Britain Against Cancer’ conference, which is now the largest gathering of the cancer community in the UK. He has been recognised with various charity awards and nominations for his campaigning contribution.
John’s other campaigns have included:
Securing £25 million (Aged Veterans’ Fund) in response to his campaign for greater recognition for our nuclear test veterans (he remains Patron of the British Nuclear Test Veterans’ Association).
Pressing the Government for proper funding of our armed forces, and leading the campaign in the last Parliament against the Government’s policy of replacing 20,000 Regular troops with 30,000 Reservists – a policy he continues to believe is flawed.
Campaigning against the disbandment of 2nd Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, which formed part of the Coalition Government’s cuts to the Regular Army. This included well-attended back bench debates, a year-long ‘Honour Guard’ of veteran Fusiliers outside No 10 during Cabinet meetings, and marches of veteran Fusiliers on Parliament – the first time soldiers marched on Westminster since Oliver Cromwell’s time.
Successfully persuading the Government to both simplify energy bills and oblige energy companies to print cheapest tariff information on quarterly energy bills to help customers access these tariffs.
Successfully campaigning for the lifting of the ban on NHS top-up payments – the then Labour Government duly obliged.
John was chosen as the BBC’s ‘Parliamentarian of Year’ for 2013/14 for his rôle in both the Syrian vote and the EU referendum campaign.
(Click here for more information).