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The Right Honourable
 Sir Alan Beith 

In office
11 April 1992 – 12 February 2003
Leader Charles Kennedy
Preceded by Russell Johnston
Succeeded by Menzies Campbell

In office
12 July 1994 – 29 August 1999
Leader Paddy Ashdown
Preceded by (Office created)
Succeeded by Simon Hughes

In office
29 August 1999 – 15 May 2003
Preceded by Charles Kennedy
Succeeded by Paul Tyler

Member of Parliament
for Berwick-upon-Tweed
Assumed office 
8 November 1973
Preceded by Antony Lambton
Majority 8,632 (23.9%)

Born 20 April 1943 (1943-04-20) (age 66)
Poynton, Cheshire
Political party Liberal Democrats
Spouse(s) Barbara Ward (1965–1998)
Diana Maddock, Baroness Maddock (2001–)
Children One son (d. 2000) and one daughter
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford and Nuffield College
Occupation Politician
Religion Methodist

Sir Alan James Beith (born 20 April 1943), is a British politician, and the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed.


Early life

Alan Beith was born in 1943 in Poynton, Cheshire. He was educated at The King's School, Macclesfield, Balliol College, Oxford, where he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics graduating in 1964, and Nuffield College where he obtained a Bachelor of Letters (BLitt) degree.

In 1966 he began his career as a politics lecturer at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1969 he was elected a councillor on the Hexham District Council. In 1970 he was elected to the Corbridge Town Council. He contested the 1970 General Election at Berwick-upon-Tweed but was defeated heavily by the Conservative MP Antony Lambton.

Member of Parliament

In 1973 Alan Beith was elected to the North Tynedale District Council, and later in the year Antony Lambton resigned as the MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed in great scandal. At the by-election later that year, Beith secured a victory and was elected as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed on 8 November 1973 by just 57 votes.

The next year was to prove a major campaigning act for the now Alan Beith MP, just three months after his by-election victory he had to face his electors again at the February 1974 General Election, his majority increased to 443. Less than a year after he was elected for the first time, Beith had to face his constituents for a third time at the October 1974 General Election and his majority reduced back to double figures at just 73.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, and failed leadership bid

He became a Member of the BBC Advisory Council in 1974 and held the position until 1984. On the election of David Steel as the Leader of the Liberal Party in 1976, Alan Beith became the Liberal Chief Whip in the Commons. After the 1983 General Election he also became the Liberal spokesman for Constitutional Affairs. He was elected as the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in 1985, in both cases alongside his duties as Chief Whip.

After the United Kingdom general election, 1987, Beith concentrated his efforts as the spokesman on Treasury Affairs and stood down as the Chief Whip after eleven years in post. In 1988 the Liberal Party joined with the Social Democratic Party finally to produce the new party of (initially) the Social and Liberal Democrats. Beith stood against Paddy Ashdown in the first leadership election, an election that Ashdown won by a large margin.

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats, and the back benches

Alan Beith was the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats from after the 1992 General Election under Ashdown until 2003, and became a Member of the Privy Council in 1992. In 1994 he became the Liberal Democrat Shadow Home Secretary, a job which he carried on under Charles Kennedy. After the 2001 General Election he briefly became the spokesman on the Lord Chancellor's Department, but left the front bench in 2002, though remaining Deputy Leader until the following year.

Since leaving the front bench he has chaired the Lord Chancellor's Department, Constitutional Affairs, and Justice Committees. Following the resignation of Sir Menzies Campbell as Leader of The Liberal Democrats on 15 October 2007, Beith was spoken of as a possible compromise candidate for the leadership. However, in a statement on his personal website, he announced his decision not to stand for election for the leadership.

Beith was knighted in the 2008 Birthday Honours.

Expenses Scandal

On 22 May 2009, Beith was reported in The Daily Telegraph to have claimed £117,000 in second home allowances while his wife, Baroness Maddock, claimed £60,000 Lords expenses for staying at the same address[1].

In response, Beith wrote to the Telegraph journalist: "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 of the Lords' overnight allowance)."[2]

Desire to be Speaker of the House of Commons

On 19 May 2009, Beith was the first MP to put forward his name to succeed the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin - who stepped down from the House of Commons on 21 June 2009. Beith said he was "willing to take on the task of leading reform" as speaker. [3]

Personal life

He has been Berwick-upon-Tweed's MP since 1973 and is now the longest current serving Liberal Democrat MP and only current Liberal Democrat MP to have experience of the House of Commons in the 1970s. As such he has been the MP for the northernmost English constituency for over 30 years.

Alan was married in 1965 to Barbara Ward and they had a son and a daughter. His wife died in 1998 and he married Diana Maddock, Baroness Maddock in 2001. He is president of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum.


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Antony Lambton
Member of Parliament for Berwick-upon-Tweed
Party political offices
Preceded by
Cyril Smith
Liberal Chief Whip
Succeeded by
David Alton
Preceded by
Post recreated
Previous incumbent: John Pardoe
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party
Succeeded by
Russell Johnston
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Preceded by
Russell Johnston
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats
Succeeded by
Sir Menzies Campbell

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