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Derek Leslie Conway TD (born 15 February 1953) is an English politician, and Member of Parliament for the constituency of Old Bexley and Sidcupmarker.He became involved in controversy in January 2008, after it emerged that he had employed his son, a full-time student at Newcastle Universitymarker, as a political researcher, with his wages paid from public funds. A Commons standards committee said there was no record of his son doing any work at Westminster. On 29 January, Conservative party leader David Cameron withdrew the whip from Conway, effectively expelling him from the Parliamentary Conservative group.

On 30 January 2008 Conway announced that he would be standing down, as MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, at the next general election. He has not indicated he will resign, though he has received considerable criticism from the press concerning the misuse of funds.He is currently employed as a presenter of Epilogue, a book review programme on Press TV, an English language international television news channel which is funded by the Iranian government.

Early life

Conway was born in Gatesheadmarker and was educated at Beacon Hill Comprehensive School in the town, Gatesheadmarker Technical College, and Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic.

Conway was elected as a councillor on the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead council, aged 21, in 1974 and was the Deputy Conservative Group Leader from 1974 until his election to Westminstermarker in 1983. He remained a councillor at Gateshead, however, until 1987.

In 1977, he was also elected to the Tyne and Wear County Council and was the Conservative group leader from 1979 until 1982, stepping down from the county council in 1983.

At the October 1974 General Election, he contested the parliamentarymarker constituency of Durhammarker, but was defeated by the sitting Labour MP Mark Hughes by 18,116 votes.

Conway contested Newcastle-upon-Tyne East at the 1979 General Election and was again defeated, this time by the Labour MP Mike Thomas by 6,176 votes.

Member of Parliament

Derek Conway was elected to parliament at the 1983 General Election for Shrewsbury and Atchammarker following the retirement of the long serving Conservative MP for Shrewsburymarker John Langford-Holt. Conway secured a majority of 8,624 and held the seat until he was defeated at the 1997 General Election.

He became a member of the Agriculture Select Committee in 1985, and after the 1987 General Election he joined the Transportmarker Select Committee until 1988 when he was appointed as the Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to the Minister of State at the Wales Office Wyn Roberts until 1991.

Following the 1992 General Election he became the PPS to Michael Forsyth the Minister of State at the Department for Employment. Conway was promoted to serve in government by John Major in 1993 as an Assistant Government Whip, becoming a Lord Commissioner to the Treasury a 'full whip' in 1994. He was again promoted within the Whips' Office when he became the Vice Chamberlain of HM Household in 1996.

1997 general election defeat and return

Conway lost his Shrewsbury and Atcham seat at the 1997 General Election to Labour's Paul Marsden by 1,670 votes. After his defeat he became the chief executive at the Cats Protection charity.

In his book titled The Political Animal, Jeremy Paxman recounts Conway's reflections on his defeat: "'Had it not been for James Goldsmith's intervention I'd have won. He died of pancreatic cancer,' he [Conway] says, and then adds in the most chilling tone, 'I hear it's the most painful of deaths. I'm so pleased.'"

Conway was out of the commons until the general election, 2001 when he was elected as the MP for the south London seat of Old Bexley and Sidcup previously held by the former Prime Minister and Father of the House of Commons, Edward Heath. Conway defended Heath against accusations of homosexual behaviour.

He retained the seat with a majority of 3,345 in 2005. Since his re-election he has been a member of the Defence Select Committee. He is a Eurosceptic (even voting against the Single European Act that had the backing of Margaret Thatcher's government), and supports the return of capital punishment.

Investigation and withdrawal of whip

Conway employed his son Freddie as a researcher, while Freddie was on a full time degree course at the University of Newcastlemarker. Conway paid his son the part time equivalent of a £25,970 salary, amounting to a sum in excess of £40,000 over three years, including pension contributions.

After an investigation, in January 2008 the Committee on Standards and Privileges found there was "no record" of what work Freddie had done, and said the £1,000-plus a month he was paid was too high. They recommended that the House order him to repay a sum of £13,000 (some £27,000 less than the money which was paid to his son Freddie) and be suspended for 10 sitting days. However, in a subsequent interview with the Mail on Sunday, Derek Conway disputed the allegation that Freddie Conway had rarely travelled from Newcastle to Westminster, instead stating that Freddie "would go up and down like a fiddler's elbow".

Following the ruling, Labour MP John Mann said he would make a formal complaint to the Commons Standards Commissioner about similar payments to elder son Henry Conway while he was also a student, the job which Freddie took over.

In light of the evidence, Conservative party leader David Cameron decided to withdraw the Conservative Party Whip, rendering Conway free of any Parliamentary Conservative constraints, effectively leaving him as an independent MP.

Conway announced on 30 January 2008 that he would not fight the next general election, stating "I have concluded that it's now time to step down." He declared that he did not wish his "personal circumstances to be a distraction" from David Cameron's leadership.

On 29 January 2009, almost exactly a year after the previous report, a further report was published by the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee into the employment of Mr Conway's older son Henry following a complaint by Duncan Borrowman the candidate for the Liberal Democrats in Old Bexley & Sidcupmarker. He was ordered to pay back £3,758 overpaid to his son and to write a letter of apology to the chairman of the committee.

On 2 February 2009, Conway apologised in the House of Commons "without qualification". He also asked to withdraw comments made previously in which he accused Labour of using his story to deflect attention from the row over money paid to peers.

Mr Conway told the Commons he accepted "without any reservation" that he had breached the rules of the House.

On the 23 May 2009, along with other MPs from across the political spectrum, as part of the MPs' Expenses scandal, the Sunday Telegraph also said that Conway had claimed on the Second Home Allowance on a house 330 miles from his constituency.

Personal life

Conway has been married to Colette Elizabeth Mary Lamb since 1980 and they have two sons and a daughter.

Conway was commissioned into the 6th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (Territorial Army) in 1977. He was promoted Lieutenant in 1979 and Captain in 1981. In 1982 he transferred to 5th Battalion, The Light Infantry. He was promoted Major in 1987, was awarded the Territorial Decoration in 1990 and transferred to the Reserve in 1994. He has also been an executive for Granada Television, a Sunday school teacher and a charity organiser for the National Fund for Research into Crippling Diseases (1974-1983) and the Cats Protection League (chief executive from 1998 to 2003). He is a Freeman of the City of London.

References

  1. 'I'm no crook,' says suspended MP. BBC News. 3 February 2008
  2. Jeremy Paxman (2003) The Political Animal: An Anatomy '. Penguin. ISBN 0140288473.
  3. BBC NEWS | Politics | Tory whip withdrawn from Conway
  4. BBC NEWS | Politics | MP family expense claims revealed


Books containing references to Derek Conway

"The Political Animal" (2002) by Jeremy Paxman, pub. Michael Joseph/Penguin Books; see Chapter 10 "Being History" pages 259-263 Quote "I miss the pressures. I love living on the edge".

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