Simon Burns

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The Right Honourable
Sir Simon Burns
Simon Burns Official.jpg
Rt Hon Sir Simon Burns MP
Minister of State for Transport
In office
4 September 2012 – 4 October 2013[1]
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Theresa Villiers
Succeeded by Susan, Baroness Kramer
Minister of State for Health Services
In office
12 May 2010 – 4 September 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Mike O'Brien
Succeeded by Dr Daniel Poulter
Member of Parliament
for Chelmsford
West Chelmsford (1997–2010)
Assumed office
11 June 1987
Preceded by Norman St John-Stevas
(later Baron St John of Fawsley)
Majority 5,110 (9.4%)
Personal details
Born (1952-09-06) 6 September 1952 (age 66)
Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Emma Clifford (1982-2000; divorced); 2 children
Alma mater Worcester College, Oxford
Website Official website

Sir Simon Hugh McGuigan Burns (born 6 September 1952) is a British politician, who has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Chelmsford since being elected at the 1987 general election.

Burns resigned from being Minister of State for Transport in October 2013 to stand in the First Deputy Chairmen of Ways and Means by-election following the resignation of Deputy Speaker Nigel Evans.[2]

Returned to Parliament as a Conservative MP in the 2015 election, he was knighted in the 2015 Birthday Honours.[3]

Early life and education

Born on 6 September 1952 in Nottingham, Burns was educated at Christ the King School in Accra, then Stamford School in Lincolnshire, before going up to Worcester College, Oxford to read Modern History, graduating with a BA (Hons) (Third-class honours, resulting in his nickname "third degree burns") in 1975.[4] He has also received an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy (Hon. PhD) from Anglia Ruskin University.[5]

Political career

Between attending Stamford and Oxford, Burns spent nine months in the United States working for Senator George McGovern's ultimately unsuccessful presidential campaign against President Richard Nixon in 1972. Burns would later comment that McGovern's campaign had "won the argument, even if we lost the vote."[6]

From 1975-80, Burns was political adviser to Rt Hon Sally Oppenheim (now Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes). From 1980–83 he was a journalist and served as a director of What To Buy for Business magazine, before being appointed from 1983–87 to the Institute of Directors Policy Executive.[7]

He has been active in politics since 1970, when he was a founder member of the Rutland and Stamford Young Conservatives, having been founding chairman of Stamford School CPC. From 1973-75, he was a committee member, Political Action Officer and Secretary of Oxford University Conservative Association, and a member of the Oxford Union. From 1977-81, he was Treasurer for Southfields Ward and an executive council member of Putney Conservative Association.

In 1983, he was Conservative candidate in Alyn and Deeside (Flintshire, Wales) where he reduced Labour's majority from 6,800 to 1,368. In 1986, he was elected Chairman of Avonmore Ward, Fulham Conservative Association.

Burns was sworn of the Privy Council in February 2011.[8]

Election results

At the 2005 general election, Burns gained 22,946 votes (44.9%), beating the three other candidates by a majority of 9,620 (18.8%). The number of votes cast for Burns in 2005 was an increase of 2.4% from the previous general election in 2001. His majority also increased from 6,261 to 9,620. Turnout was 61.9%, down from 62.5% in 2001. At the 2010 general election, Burns gained 25,207 votes (46.2%), winning a majority over the Liberal Democrat candidate by 5,110 (9.4%).

At the 2015 general election, Burns gained 27,732 votes (51.5%), winning the seat with a majority over Chris Vince, the Labour candidate, of 18,250 (33.9%).[9]


Simon Burns MP in 2010

In 2007, Burns persuaded the House of Commons Administration Committee, then being a member, that parliamentarians should have "priority access" to services within the Parliamentary Estate. In practice, this meant that MPs and Peers could avoid queues for shops, restaurants, bars, computers, photocopiers and even toilets by "pushing in" ahead of visitors or staff. The so-called "queue jumping rule" provoked cross-party opposition from Commons staff and other MPs but Burns trenchantly defended the proposal.[10][11]

On 3 April 2008, Burns was involved in a collision with a cyclist as he drove his 4x4 out of the Palace of Westminster gates into Parliament Square. The cyclist, British Army Major Stuart Lane, was thrown over the handlebars of his bicycle and broke two vertebrae in his neck "which could have hindered his Army career". In February 2009 Burns pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving and was fined £400 with £200 costs at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court.[12]

In June 2010, Burns was forced to issue what one journalist described as "a grovelling apology" after calling Commons Speaker John Bercow a "stupid sanctimonious dwarf".[13] Burns was one of the few MPs to refuse to shake the Speaker’s hand when he took the oath of allegiance and his remarks were branded "derogatory" by the primordial dwarfism medical charity, Walking with Giants Foundation who expressed very serious concern about the negative influence of the remarks from someone in Burns' position.[13]

In November 2011, Burns compared members of the campaigning group 38 Degrees to zombies,[14] which led to an open letter of complaint to Burns with over 85,000 signatures.[15]

In January 2013, Burns, when the minister overseeing rail fares, was revealed as having been making use of a ministerial car instead of travelling the 35 miles from his home in Essex to London by train. He claimed this was because he was not allowed to read sensitive papers on the train, but his claim was immediately contradicted by the Cabinet Office, although it was conceded that reading Red box material in such an environment was not advisable.[16] The cost to the taxpayer was estimated to be £80,000 per annum.[17]

Personal life

Burns was married to Emma Clifford from 1982 until their divorce in 2000; they have two children.

He is a second cousin of David Bowie.[6]

In the Queen's Birthday Honours 2015, Sir Simon was appointed a Knight Bachelor "for parliamentary and political service".[18]

Burns is a passionate supporter of the U.S. Democratic Party.[6]

File:Knights Bachelor Insignia.png
Knight Bachelor insignia


  1. "Rail minister Simon Burns stands down in deputy speaker bid". BBC News. 4 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "A Conservative Democrat: Simon Burns interview".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Debrett's People of Today
  9. 2015 general election results,; accessed 12 May 2015.
  10. McWalter, Simon (11 September 2007). "Secretaries slam "Victorian" Parliament which lets MPs queue jump at bars and restaurants". London, UK: The Daily Mail. Retrieved 11 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Hurst, Greg (3 November 2007). "Courteous palace coup stops MPs jumping to the head of the queue". London, UK: The Times. Retrieved 11 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Moore, Matthew (3 February 2009). "Tory MP fined over Parliament car crash". London, UK: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 Kirsty Walker (30 June 2010). "Minister's apology to Dwarves after branding speaker a 'stupid sanctimonious dwarf'". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 1 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Simon Burns MP likening 38 Degrees members to "Zombies" in House of Commons". Retrieved 23 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Open letter to Simon Burns". Retrieved 23 November 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Owen, Glen (5 January 2013). "Article in Mail on Sunday". Daily Mail. London, UK. Retrieved 5 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Williams, Rob (6 January 2013). "Simon Burns, minister responsible for train fares, uses £80,000-a-year chauffeur-driven government car to 'avoid overcrowded trains'". The Independent. London, UK.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 61256. p. B2. 13 June 2015. Retrieved 13 June 2015.

External links

Media related to Simon Burns at Wikimedia Commons

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Norman St John-Stevas
Crowned Portcullis.svg
Member of Parliament for Chelmsford

Constituency abolished; recreated in 2010
New constituency Member of Parliament for Chelmsford West
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Chelmsford