Chris Heaton-Harris

Christopher Heaton-Harris (born 28 November 1967) is an English politician who has served as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland since 6 September 2022.[1]

Chris Heaton-Harris
Official portrait, 2022
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Assumed office
6 September 2022
Prime MinisterLiz Truss
Rishi Sunak
Preceded byShailesh Vara
Chief Whip of the House of Commons
Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury
In office
8 February 2022  6 September 2022
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byMark Spencer
Succeeded byWendy Morton
Minister of State for Europe
In office
19 December 2021  8 February 2022
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byWendy Morton
Succeeded byJames Cleverly
Minister of State for Transport
In office
25 July 2019  19 December 2021
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byMichael Ellis
Succeeded byWendy Morton
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union
In office
9 July 2018  3 April 2019
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded bySteve Baker
Succeeded byJames Cleverly
Comptroller of the Household
In office
9 January 2018  9 July 2018
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byChris Pincher
Succeeded byMark Spencer
Deputy Leader of the House of Commons
In office
9 January 2018  9 July 2018
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byMichael Ellis
Succeeded byMark Spencer
Vice-Chamberlain of the Household
In office
15 June 2017  9 January 2018
Prime MinisterTheresa May
Preceded byJulian Smith
Succeeded byMark Spencer
Member of Parliament
for Daventry
Assumed office
6 May 2010
Preceded byTim Boswell
Majority26,080 (45.4%)
Member of the European Parliament
for East Midlands
In office
1 May 1999  4 June 2009
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byEmma McClarkin
Personal details
Born (1967-11-28) 28 November 1967
Epsom, Surrey, England
Political partyConservative
Alma materWolverhampton Polytechnic

Early life and education

Born on 28 November 1967, Heaton-Harris attended the Tiffin School in Kingston upon Thames.[2] He attended Wolverhampton Polytechnic,[3] which in 1992 became the University of Wolverhampton.

He worked for the family business at New Covent Garden Market, before taking over from his father running What4 Ltd for eleven years.[4][5] At the 1997 general election he unsuccessfully contested the constituency of Leicester South.[6] He again unsuccessfully contested the seat in the 2004 Leicester South by-election.[5]

European Parliament

Heaton-Harris was elected to the European Parliament in 1999 as MEP for the East Midlands, and was re-elected in 2004. He was the Chief Whip of the Conservatives in the European Parliament from 2001 to March 2004.[5][7]

Heaton-Harris sat on the Internal Market Committee,[8] responsible for "co-ordination at Community level of national legislation in the sphere of the internal market and of the customs union", as well as the Central America Delegation and the Bulgaria Delegation.[9]

He was a founding member of the Campaign for Parliamentary Reform, a cross-national, cross-party group of MEPs that campaigns for reforms within the parliament. Its manifesto includes creating one seat for the parliament (in Brussels), cleaning up the system for MEPs' expenses, and improving debate within the parliament.[10]

Heaton-Harris was responsible for bringing the case of Marta Andreasen, the European Commission's Chief Accountant, to public attention in August 2002 and has been involved in fighting fraud, mismanagement and waste within the European Commission and other European institutions.[11]

Prior to standing down in 2009, Heaton-Harris was the President of the Sports Intergroup, a group of approximately 40 MEPs who have an interest in sport and sporting issues.[7][5]

From May 2006, he sought support within the European Union legislature for a letter to FIFA demanding that the Iranian national football team be thrown out of the 2006 World Cup because of then Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's comments about the Holocaust being a lie.[12] In 2012, Heaton-Harris described himself as a "fierce Eurosceptic".[13]

Member of UK Parliament


Chris Heaton-Harris was a member of the Conservative A-List and was selected to succeed Tim Boswell as candidate for the safe Conservative constituency of Daventry in June 2006.[14] He won the seat at the 2010 general election with a majority of 19,188.

In March 2012, Heaton-Harris was reported as being one of the Conservative MPs to have spoken critically of Party Co-Chairman Sayeeda Warsi at a meeting of the 1922 Committee, following Warsi's handling of Roger Helmer MEP's defection to UKIP.[15]

Ministerial Career

Heaton-Harris was a whip in Theresa May's government from 2017 to 2018. He served as Deputy Leader of the House of Commons and Comptroller of the Household from January to June 2018. He was a Brexit Minister from 2018 to 2019, before resigning to support Andrea Leadsom's second Conservative leadership bid, which she lost to Boris Johnson. On 25 July 2019, he was appointed by Johnson as the Minister of State for Transport.[16]

He was appointed Minister of State for Europe on 19 December 2021 when ministerial responsibility for Europe was transferred out of the Cabinet Office and to the Foreign Office.[17]

In February 2022, he was appointed by Johnson as Chief Whip of the Conservative Party. Following Liz Truss's appointment as Prime Minister in September 2022, he was promoted to Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. On 8 September he made his first visit to Northern Ireland.[18] Heaton-Harris was appointed Vice-Chamberlain of the Household, a whips office sinecure on 15 July 2017. He was promoted to Leader of the House of Commons and Comptroller of the Household on 9 January 2018.

After the resignation of Boris Johnson and the following domino resignations of Conservative ministers, on 9 July 2018 Heaton-Harris was appointed as one of three Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State at the Department for Exiting the European Union.[19]

On 8 February 2022, he was appointed as Chief Whip of the Conservative Party. He was subsequently sworn into the Privy Council of the United Kingdom.[20]


Heaton-Harris accepted tickets for himself and his family to attend four events at the London 2012 Olympics relating to swimming, diving, gymnastics, and the closing ceremony, as a gift from Coca-Cola. The value of the gifts (£11,750) was the highest amount received by any MP. He declared them in the Register of Members' Interests.[13] Heaton-Harris was one of several MPs, including Labour's shadow whip Mark Tami, who received tickets worth £1,961 to the England v Germany game at the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship from Power Leisure Bookmakers.[21]

Climate change

In November 2012, covert video footage of Heaton-Harris discussing the role of James Delingpole in the Corby by-election were published on the website of The Guardian. The recording, made by Greenpeace, appeared to show the MP's support for Delingpole's independent, anti-windfarm candidacy, at a time when Heaton-Harris was engaged by the Conservatives to run the unsuccessful campaign of their own candidate, Christine Emmett.

Heaton-Harris indicated that this was linked to a plan by core members of the Conservative Party to emasculate the Climate Change Act by making its commitments advisory rather than mandatory.[22] After Heaton-Harris apologised for the impression he gave in the video, Home Secretary Theresa May said he was guilty only of silly bragging, while Labour's Michael Dugher MP urged Prime Minister David Cameron to show leadership and punish him.[23] The Corby by-election was subsequently lost by the Conservatives with a swing to Labour of 12.8 per cent.[24]

Letters to universities

In October 2017, the Eurosceptic Heaton-Harris wrote to the vice-chancellors of every university in the UK, requesting the names of academics lecturing on Brexit and copies of all course material, leading to claims of political interference in academic freedom, as well as censorship. The move was described as "McCarthyite" by Professor Kevin Featherstone, head of the European Institute at the London School of Economics, and "sinister" by Professor David Green, the vice-Chancellor of Worcester University who likened it to Newspeak and the Thought Police from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four: the Dean of Durham Law School, Thom Brooks, called it "dog whistle politics at its worst",[25] while Lord Patten, Chancellor of Oxford University, called the letter an act of "idiotic and offensive Leninism".[26] In addition, the letter attracted criticism from both pro-Remain and pro-Leave academics at Cambridge and London's Queen Mary universities, and a rebuke from Downing Street.[27][28][29]

Responding the next day to the widespread criticism from both politicians and academics, universities minister Jo Johnson suggested that Heaton-Harris might have been researching a possible book on "the evolution of attitudes" to Europe, rather than acting in his role as a government minister, and "probably didn't appreciate the degree to which (the letter) would be misinterpreted",[30] although there was no mention of any research for a possible book in the original letter. On 17 February 2019, Heaton-Harris said that there had never been any plans for a book.[31]

European Research Group

Heaton-Harris chaired the European Research Group (ERG), a group of Eurosceptic MPs, from 2010 until November 2016.[7] Subscriptions totalling £13,850 were claimed as a parliamentary expense.[32][33][34] At the same time he sat on the wide-ranging powers of the European Scrutiny Committee,[7][6] set up to assess the legal and/or political importance of draft EU legislation.[35]

Documents from the House of Commons catering department released via Freedom of Information to openDemocracy, show Heaton-Harris hosted an ERG breakfast meeting in October 2017, despite taking over as a government whip in July 2016. Continuing to chair the group while he was a member of the government led to an accusation of violating the Ministerial Code, section 7.12 of which states: "Ministers should take care to ensure that they do not become associated with non-public organisations whose objectives may in any degree conflict with Government policy and thus give rise to a conflict of interest." However, a government spokesperson stated that they did not view it as a breach.[36]

Personal life

Heaton-Harris is married and has two children.[13] He is a qualified football referee.[37]



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  3. Madeley, Peter (31 October 2017). "Brexit voters are 'thick': Labour MP comment sparks fury". Express & Star.
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  5. "Chris Heaton-Harris". Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  6. "Chris Heaton-Harris MP". Retrieved 7 August 2020.
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  10. Mahony, Honor (12 January 2005). "MEPs to fight parliament's gravy train image". EU Observer. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  11. "EU fires whistle-blower accountant". The New York Times. 14 October 2004. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  12. "EU member wants Iran out of World Cup". MSNBC. 11 May 2006. Archived from the original on 13 June 2006.
  13. Rojas, John-Paul Ford (14 November 2012). "Chris Heaton Harris: windfarm opponent and Eurosceptic". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  14. "ConservativeHome's Seats & Candidates blog: Where are the original A-Listers now? The 18 who have been selected for Conservative seats".
  15. Tories give Warsi both barrels Archived 10 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  16. "Minister of State Chris Heaton-Harris MP". Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  17. "Ministerial appointments: 19 December 2021". GOV.UK. Retrieved 19 December 2021.
  18. "Chris Heaton-Harris makes first visit as NI Secretary". BBC News. 8 September 2022. Retrieved 8 September 2022.
  19. "Chris Heaton-Harris MP". GOV.UK. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  21. "Ten MPs accept Euro football tickets from betting firms". BBC News. 15 July 2021. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  22. Lewis, Paul; Evans, Rob (13 November 2012). "Tory MP running Corby campaign 'backed rival in anti-windfarm plot'". The Guardian.
  23. Wintour, Patrick (14 November 2012). "Tory MP escapes discipline over anti-windfarm comments". The Guardian.
  24. Eaton, George (16 November 2012). "Labour triumphs in Corby by-election". New Statesman. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  25. Gray, Jasmin (26 October 2017). "Daily Mail's Attack On 'Remainer Universities' And 'Anti-Brexit' Academics Sparks Backlash". Huffington Post.
  26. "Tory MP's Brexit demand to universities 'offensive' – Lord Patten". BBC News. 24 October 2017.
  27. Fazackerley, Anna (24 October 2017). "Universities deplore 'McCarthyism' as MP demands list of tutors lecturing on Brexit". The Guardian.
  28. Elgot, Jessica; Mason, Rowena; Fazackerley, Anna; Adams, Richard (24 October 2017). "No 10 disowns Tory whip accused of 'McCarthyite' behaviour". The Guardian.
  29. Kentish, Ben (24 October 2017). "Conservative MP demands universities give him names of lecturers teaching about Brexit". The Independent. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  30. "MP's Brexit letter to universities 'was research for book'". BBC News. 25 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  31. Paton, Stephen; Learmonth, Andrew. "Fanatical Tory who demanded names of lecturers for book admits 'there isn't a book'". The National. The National. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
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  33. Doherty, Dennis (19 January 2018). "Brexit: The history of the Tories' influential European Research Group". BBC News. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  34. "Chris Heaton-Harris Daventry CC Conservative". Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  35. "European Scrutiny Committee". UK Parliament. Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  36. Ramsay, Adam (29 January 2018). "MPs demand 'urgent investigation' into Cabinet ministers' support for hard-Brexit lobby group". openDemocracy.
  37. "CHRIS HEATON-HARRIS - MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR DAVENTRY". Archived from the original on 26 October 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  38. King, Ceri (16 February 2022). "ORDERS APPROVED AND BUSINESS TRANSACTED AT THE PRIVY COUNCIL HELD BY THE QUEEN AT WINDSOR CASTLE ON 16TH FEBRUARY 2022" (PDF). The Privy Council Office. Retrieved 6 October 2022.
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