Mark Harper

Mark Harper
Mark Harper MP
Parliamentary Under Secretary for Constitutional and Political Reform
Assumed office
11 May 2010
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Office Created
Member of Parliament
for Forest of Dean
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded by Diana Mary Organ
Majority 11,064 (22.7%)
Personal details
Born 26 February 1970 (1970-02-26) (age 41)
Swindon, Wiltshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Margaret Harper
Alma mater Brasenose College, Oxford

Mark James Harper (born 26 February 1970) British politician and self-employed accountant (non-practising).[1] He is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Forest of Dean and is currently the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Cabinet Office, with ministerial responsibility for Political and Constitutional Reform.[2]


Early life and career

Harper was born in Swindon, Wiltshire, he was educated at the Headlands Comprehensive School and Swindon College. He then studied philosophy, politics and economics at Brasenose College, Oxford, where like David Cameron he studied under Professor Vernon Bogdanor.[3]

On graduation in 1991 he joined KPMG as an auditor.[citation needed] After qualifying as a chartered accountant, in 1995 he joined Intel Corporation as a senior financial analyst, becoming the finance manager in 1997, and operations manager from 2000.[citation needed] In 2002 he left Intel to set up his own accountancy practice.[citation needed]

Harper married his wife, Margaret, in July 1999 in Swindon.[citation needed] The couple own a house in Newham Bottom.[citation needed] He was a governor of Newent Community School from 2000 to 2005,[citation needed] and is a member of The Freedom Association.[citation needed]

Political career

Harper became the treasurer of the Swindon Conservative Association in 1993, and from 1997 to the new Swindon South Conservative Association, becoming the vice chairman for a year in 1998. He contested the Gloucestershire seat of Forest of Dean at the 2001 General Election but was defeated by the sitting Labour MP Diana Organ by 2,049 votes. Organ retired at the 2005 General Election and Harper gained the seat for the Tories with a majority of 2,049, exactly the same number of votes by which he was defeated at the previous election. In the 2010 General election, Mark was re-elected as member for the Forest of Dean with 46.81% of the vote increasing his majority to over 11,000.[4]

Parliamentary career

Harper made his maiden speech on 24 May 2005, in which he concentrated on the education needs of his constituents with learning disabilities.[5] In Parliament, he served on the administration select committee from 2005 to 2006.

In December 2005 he was promoted to the front bench by David Cameron as a spokesman on defence and Veterans. On 15 May 2006, he hosted the first Conservative Party Veterans Summit, bringing together organisations from across the country to discuss the issues facing war veterans and established a platform from which to develop Conservative Party policy on the issue.[citation needed]. On 11 April 2007, Cameron appointed Harper Shadow Minister for Forces Families & Welfare. In July 2007, Harper was appointed Shadow Minister for Disabled People in Cameron's frontbench reshuffle.[6]

Harper was appointed junior minister for Political and Constitutional Reform, in the Cabinet Office in May, 2010.[7] He is presently working with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg on areas including: fixed term Parliaments; legislation to hold a referendum on the Alternative Vote system for the House of Commons; reduce the size of Parliament by up to 10%; create fewer and more equal sized constituencies; individual voter registration.[3]

A noted Euro-sceptic, Harper is a strong supporter of Israel and is a member of Conservative Friends of Israel.

Notable issues


Harper is a strong supporter of renewing the Trident nuclear missile system.[citation needed] On 19 January 2007, he spoke at a debate in Gloucestershire in favour of Trident renewal alongside Lee Willett from the Royal United Services Institute; speaking against the motion was former Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament chair Bruce Kent, and Michael Meacher MP. Harper has written several articles in support of Trident renewal for local newspapers The Citizen and The Forester.[citation needed] On 25 January 2007, he visited the submarine base at Faslane, Scotland.

Characterization of people collecting disability benefits

On 10 September 2010, Harper stated on the BBC Radio 4 program Any Questions? that "There are definitely some people in our country, and everyone in every community knows who they are, who are able to work, and don't". After the interviewer challenged these words as being "outrageous", Harper repeated the notion, saying, "Everybody knows them, able-bodied people..."[8]

Proposed sale of public forests

In October 2010, the Government introduced the Public Bodies Bill to The House of Lords,[9] which would allow the Secretary of State to sell or lease public forests in England.

Mark Harper defended the proposals, describing them as an "exciting opportunity for community ownership."[10] However, they were widely criticised by many residents within his constituency[11][12][13] and by politicians with connections to the Forest of Dean, most notably Baroness Jan Royall, Leader of the Opposition in the House of Lords. She described Mark Harper as 'fundamentally wrong' and his views on the subject as 'utter nonsense'.[14][15]

Concern within the local community also resulted in the formation of the pressure group Hands off our Forest. After a sustained national campaign of protest, largely involving Hands off our Forest, the government announced it had abandoned its plans and would remove the forestry clauses from the Public Bodies Bill.[16][17][18]


  1. ^ BBC, Bemocracy Live
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Wintour, Patrick (12 August 2010). "Mark Harper backs first-past-the-post: meet the man reshaping our politics". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  4. ^ Leighton, Neil (6 May 2005). "Tug-of-war seat returns to Tories". BBC News. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Vern Pitt (11 February 2010). "Interview: Mark Harper, Conservative disability spokesperson". Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "Constitutional Reform - Who's who". Cabinet Office. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  8. ^ "Any Questions?". BBC. 10 September 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2011. 
  9. ^ Public Bodies Bill
  10. ^ The Forest and Wye Valley Review, 19 November 2010, page 15
  11. ^ Support grows against Forest sell off
  12. ^ Hands off our Forest
  13. ^ The Forester, Hands off our Forest
  14. ^ Forest and Wye Valley Review, 26 November 2010, page 12
  15. ^ Chepstow Today 'Utter nonsense'
  16. ^ Watt, Nicholas (17 February 2011). "Forest sell-off abandoned: I'm sorry, I got it wrong, says Caroline Spelman". The Guardian (London). 
  17. ^ BBC News video
  18. ^ BBC News

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Diana Organ
Member of Parliament for Forest of Dean
Political offices
Preceded by
Andrew Robathan
Shadow Minister for Defence
Succeeded by
Andrew Murrison
Political offices
Preceded by
Jeremy Hunt
Shadow Minister for the Disabled
Succeeded by
Position abolished

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