David Heath (politician)

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The Right Honourable
David Heath
David Heath Minister.jpg
Minister of State for Agriculture and Food
In office
4 September 2012 – 7 October 2013
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by James Paice
Succeeded by Dan Rogerson
Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
In office
14 May 2010 – 4 September 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron
Leader Sir George Young
Preceded by Barbara Keeley
Succeeded by Tom Brake
Liberal Democrat Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
In office
2001 – 14 May 2010
Leader Charles Kennedy
Menzies Campbell
Nick Clegg
Preceded by Paul Tyler
Succeeded by Tom Brake
Member of Parliament
for Somerton and Frome
In office
1 May 1997 – 30 March 2015
Preceded by Mark Robinson
Succeeded by David Warburton
Personal details
Born (1954-03-16) 16 March 1954 (age 64)
Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset, England
Nationality British
Political party Liberal Democrat
Spouse(s) Dr Caroline Netherton[1]
Children 2
Alma mater St John's College, Oxford
Occupation MP

David William St. John Heath CBE PC (born 16 March 1954) is a British optometrist and Liberal Democrat politician. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Somerton and Frome and was the Minister of State for Agriculture and Food. In October 2013 after being removed from his ministerial post in a reshuffle, he announced his intention to step down at the next UK General Election.[2]

Early life[edit]

Heath was born in Westbury-sub-Mendip in the Mendip Hills of Somerset. He was educated at Millfield Preparatory School and then Millfield School, an independent school in Street, Somerset. He then studied at St John's College at the University of Oxford, where he was awarded an MA in Physiological Sciences. He went on to study Ophthalmic Optics at the City University, London.

Early career[edit]

Heath worked as a practising optometrist for seventeen years from 1979. He is also an honorary fellow of the College of Optometrists. He became a parliamentary consultant to the World Wide Fund for Nature in 1990, before joining Age Concern in the same capacity in 1991. He has worked for various other charities as a consultant since 1995.

Political career[edit]

He was elected as a Liberal member of Somerset County Council in 1985, becoming the leader of the council 1985–1989. At the age of 31, he was the youngest ever leader of a county council. He remained as the Liberal Democrat group leader until 1991 and stood down from the council in 1997.

Westminster career[edit]

He unsuccessfully contested Somerton and Frome at the 1992 General Election where he was defeated by the new Conservative MP Mark Robinson by 4,341 votes. He was elected to the House of Commons at the 1997 General Election when he ousted Robinson at Somerton and Frome by just 130 votes and has remained the MP until standing down in 2015. He made his maiden speech on 21 May 1997.[3]

In Parliament he served on the Foreign Affairs Select Committee for two years from 1997 and at the same time was appointed as a frontbench spokesman on foreign affairs by Paddy Ashdown. He became an agriculture, fisheries and food spokesman under the new leadership of Charles Kennedy in 1999. Following the 2001 General Election he became a spokesman on work and pensions as well as serving as a member of the Science and Technology Select Committee. In 2003 he was appointed party spokesman on home affairs before moving to speak on the office of the Leader of the House of Commons and the Department for Constitutional Affairs in 2005, and then the Ministry of Justice in 2007. Heath was also a member of the Select Committee on the Modernisation of the House of Commons from 2005 to 2006.

Heath ran for the deputy leadership of the Liberal Democrats in 2006 and came third in the first round.

In March 2008 Heath was one of three Liberal Democrat spokesmen to defy the party whip and vote in favour of a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon, for which he was sacked from his frontbench role.[4] In October 2008 he was given a partial reprieve when he was chosen to lead a Liberal Democrat commission on privacy in the UK,[5] and in January 2009 he was reappointed as spokesman on the office of the Leader of the House of Commons.[6] In 2010, he was re-elected as MP for Somerton and Frome.[7]

He was the vice-chairman of the all party groups on United Nations, Romania and the group on eye health and visual impairment. He was also the treasurer of the pharmacy group.

After over three years of service in the coalition government, Heath was sacked as a minister in a reshuffle and returned to the back benches, making his first appearance as back-bencher on 10 October 2013 during the business statement in which The Leader of the House of Commons, Andrew Lansley paid tribute to him for his service in the Government. Later that same week, he announced his intention to step down at the next UK General Election.[2]

In March 2015, he was appointed to the Privy Council of the United Kingdom and therefore granted the title The Right Honourable.[8]

Personal life[edit]

CBE ribbon

He married Caroline Netherton in May 1987 in Somerset and they have a daughter (born May 1988) and a son (born May 1991); they live in the constituency at Witham Friary. He was the chairman of the Avon and Somerset Police Authority for three years from 1993. He became a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1989 and he used to breed pigs.


  1. ^ "House of Commons – The Register of Members' Financial Interests – Part 2: Part 2". parliament.uk. 
  2. ^ a b "David Heath MP to step down at general election". BBC News. 11 October 2013. 
  3. ^ "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 21 May 1997 (pt 5)". parliament.uk. 
  4. ^ "Senior Lib Dems quit over EU vote". BBC News. 5 March 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2009. 
  5. ^ "Lib Dem EU rebels win back jobs". BBC News. 7 October 2008. Retrieved 8 January 2009. 
  6. ^ "Clegg reshuffles top Lib Dem team". BBC News. 8 January 2009. Retrieved 8 January 2009. 
  7. ^ "BBC NEWS – Election 2010 – Somerton & Frome". BBC News. 
  8. ^ "Privy Council appointments: March 2015". Press release. Prime Minister's Office. 12 March 2015. Retrieved 13 March 2015. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Mark Robinson
Member of Parliament for Somerton and Frome
Succeeded by
David Warburton