John Gummer

John Selwyn Gummer, Baron Deben PC (born 26 November 1939 in Stockport, Cheshire) is a British Conservative Party politician, formerly Member of Parliament (MP) for Suffolk Coastal and now a member of the House of Lords.[1]

The Lord Deben

Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions
In office
2 May 1997  11 June 1997
LeaderJohn Major
Preceded byJohn Prescott (Environment)
Succeeded byNorman Fowler
Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
27 May 1993  2 May 1997
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byMichael Howard
Succeeded byJohn Prescott (Environment, Transport and the Regions)
Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
24 July 1989  27 May 1993
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
John Major
Preceded byJohn MacGregor
Succeeded byGillian Shephard
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
11 June 1983  2 September 1985
LeaderMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byCecil Parkinson
Succeeded byNorman Tebbit
Member of Parliament
for Suffolk Coastal
Eye (1979–1983)
In office
4 May 1979  12 April 2010
Preceded byHarwood Harrison
Succeeded byTherese Coffey
Member of Parliament
for Lewisham West
In office
18 June 1970  28 February 1974
Preceded byJames Dickens
Succeeded byChristopher Price
Personal details
Born (1939-11-26) 26 November 1939
Stockport, Cheshire, England
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Penelope Gardner
Alma materSelwyn College, Cambridge

Lord Deben is Chairman of the UK's independent Committee on Climate Change. He also chairs the sustainability consultancy Sancroft International, recycler Valpak,[2] GLOBE International – the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment, the Association of Professional Financial Advisers and Veolia Water UK.[3] He is a non-executive director of Veolia Voda, The Catholic Herald and the Castle Trust – a mortgage and investment firm.[4][5] He is also a trustee of climate change charity Cool Earth[6] and the ocean conservation charity, Blue Marine Foundation.[7]

Gummer stood down from the House of Commons at the 2010 general election and was appointed to the House of Lords as Lord Deben.[8]

Early life

The eldest son of a Church of England priest, Canon Selwyn Gummer,[9] his younger brother is Peter Gummer, Baron Chadlington, a PR professional.

Gummer attended King's School, Rochester, before going to Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he read History. Whilst there, as chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association and later President of the Cambridge Union Society, he was a member of what became known as the Cambridge Mafia – a group of future Conservative Cabinet ministers, including Leon Brittan, Michael Howard, Kenneth Clarke, Norman Lamont, and Norman Fowler.

Public life


First elected to Parliament at the 1970 general election, where he defeated sitting MP James Dickens in Lewisham West, Gummer had previously contested Greenwich in 1964 and 1966. He was unseated in February 1974 by Labour's Christopher Price who achieved a 3.4% swing compared with a 1.3% swing to Labour nationally, deciding not to stand for the seat in the second election that year.

In 1979, he returned to the House of Commons, securing Eye in Suffolk, following the retirement of veteran Tory MP Harwood Harrison. He held the constituency and its successor Suffolk Coastal until his retirement from the Commons in 2010.

In government

Gummer was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture in Edward Heath's government, before being appointed Conservative Party Vice-Chairman – a position he held until the government's fall in 1974. Following his return to the House in the 1979 election, he held various government posts and was Conservative Party Chairman from 1983 to 1985 – an office he held at the time of the Brighton hotel bombing during the 1984 Conservative Party conference. He joined the Cabinet in 1989 as Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, moving to become Secretary of State for the Environment under John Major in 1993.[10] As Environment Secretary he introduced the Environment Act 1995 and the Landfill Tax, which was the first such environmental tax in the UK. The BBC Wildlife magazine described him as the "Environment Secretary against which all others are judged",[11] placing him as one of its top ten environmental heroes. In 1997, he was also awarded the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Medal.[12] and Friends of the Earth described his as "the best Environment Secretary we've ever had".[13]

He had responsibility for food safety during the mad cow disease epidemic in 1989–90 which eventually claimed 178 British lives. At the height of the crisis in May 1990, he attempted to refute the growing evidence for BSE/Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease by feeding his four-year-old daughter a burger before press cameras.[14][15][16]

Gummer opposed reduction of beds at the Aldeburgh Cottage Hospital.[17]

In opposition

Following the 1997 Labour election victory he became a backbencher and chairman of the All-Party Group on Architecture and Planning. During this time he pursued environmental causes, introducing an Early Day Motion on Climate Change to Parliament along with Michael Meacher and Norman Baker.[18] He was also instrumental in the passing of the Climate Change Act of 2008.

Because of his environmental credentials, in 2005 David Cameron asked Gummer to chair the Quality of Life Policy Group with Zac Goldsmith as his deputy.[19]

In 2009, Gummer was involved in the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal, after claiming £36,000 for gardening over four years, as a parliamentary expense. Although the claims were encouraged and initially approved by the Parliamentary Fees Office, rules state claims should only be made on expenses essential to parliamentary duties. He repaid £11,538 for gardening and household bills and donated £11,500 to charity, saying that he was paying above the minimum required in order to demonstrate "corporate social responsibility" for the expenses system. Subsequently, the Legg Report showed that 343 MPs had been asked to repay some money with Gummer paying the seventh highest figure.[20][21]

House of Lords

It was announced that Gummer would be awarded a peerage in the 2010 Dissolution Honours List. On 21 June he was created a Life Peer as Baron Deben, of Winston in the County of Suffolk. He takes his title from the River Deben. He was introduced in the House of Lords the same day, supported by his brother, Lord Chadlington, and the composer Lord Lloyd-Webber.[22]

As a pro-European moderate, Lord Deben supported Kenneth Clarke's leadership bids.[23]

In September 2012, Lord Deben was confirmed as Chairman of the UK's independent Committee on Climate Change, succeeding Adair, Lord Turner. The committee advises the UK Government on setting and meeting carbon budgets and on preparing for the impacts of climate change.

Personal life

Lord Deben has been married to Penelope Gardner since 1977, and lives in Suffolk. They have four children, including Ben Gummer, who was MP for Ipswich from 2010, until he lost his seat in 2017.

He converted to the Catholic Church in 1992, having previously been a practising Anglican and a member of the General Synod of the Church of England. He has supported the creation of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for former Anglicans who have, like him, joined the Catholic Church, including serving as an Honorary Vice-President of the Friends of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham.[24][25] In July 2018 he was awarded the Honorary degree of Doctor of Science (D.Sc) from the University of East Anglia.[26]

See also


  • 1966: When the Coloured People Come, by John Gummer, Oldbourne, ISBN 0-356-01199-2
  • 1969: To Church with Enthusiasm, by John Gummer
  • 1971: The Permissive Society: Fact or Fantasy?, by John Selwyn Gummer, Cassell, ISBN 0-304-93821-1
  • 1974: The Christian Calendar, by Leonard W. Cowie and John Selwyn Gummer, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, ISBN 0-297-76804-2
  • 1987: Faith in Politics: Which Way Should Christians Vote?, by John Gummer, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, ISBN 0-281-04299-3
  • 1990: Christianity and Conservatism, by John Gummer
  • 1997: Green Buildings Pay, edited by B. W. Edwards, foreword by John Gummer, Spon Press, ISBN 0-419-22730-X
  • 1998: From Earth Summit to Local Agenda 21: Working Towards Sustainable Development, edited by William Laffery, Katarina Eckerberg, William M. Laffery, foreword by John Gummer, Earthscan Publications, ISBN 1-85383-547-1
  • 1998: Precision Agriculture: Practical Applications of New Technologies, by John Gummer and Peter Botschek, The International Fertiliser Society, ISBN 0-85310-062-4
  • Weekly columnist in Estates Gazette magazine[27]


  1. Castle, Stephen (27 August 1995). "Profile: John Gummer: Not as daft as he acts He can charm and he's lucky, so what holds him back?". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 16 March 2014. JOHN SELWYN GUMMER was born into a church family in Stockport in 1939. His father, Canon Selwyn Gummer (the sons were given his Christian name), was a vicar there, later becoming Canon of Rochester Cathedral. They remain close: Canon Gummer lives with the Gummers and invariably appears in the Commons to hear environment questions. A younger brother, Peter, is now chairman of Shandwick, one of the world's largest public relations firms and a paid-up member of the Tory great and good.
  2. "Company Structure". Valpak. 16 March 2014. Archived from the original on 16 March 2014. Retrieved 16 March 2014. Since then we have expanded our services to cover wider areas of sustainability including waste management and recycling, carbon management, energy management and international compliance. … Board Member Position The Rt Hon John Gummer Lord Deben
  3. "Our Board". Veolia. 2011. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 16 March 2014. Our Board The Rt Hon. John Gummer, Lord Deben, Chairman of the Veolia Water UK board
  5. "About Us Who we are". Castle Trust. Archived from the original on 4 April 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2014. Non-Executive Directors … The Rt Hon. John Gummer, Lord Deben
  6. Cool Earth
  9. Canon Gummer's obituary in The Independent
  14. "John Gummer: Beef eater". BBC News Online. 11 October 2000.
  15. "Waving goodbye to Parliament". BBC News Online. 7 May 2010.
  16. Video on YouTube
  17. "The Threat to Aldeburgh Hospital: an Update from John Gummer".
  18. "UK Parliament – Early Day Motions By Details". 24 May 2005. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
  19. Quality of Life Challenge Archived 28 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  20. "Review of past ACA payments" (PDF). House of Commons Members Estimate Committee. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  21. "Full list of MPs' expenses repayments order of amount repayable". BBC news. 4 February 2010. Retrieved 1 April 2010.
  22. House of Lords Debates 21 June 2010 v 719 c 1159
  23. Prince, Rosa (30 December 2009). "John Gummer: mole charge MP to quit Parliament". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  24. "About". Friends of the Ordinariate. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  25. "Minister to the Ministers". The Tablet. 29 January 2011. Retrieved 16 October 2014.
  27. "John Gummer MP, Suffolk Coastal". TheyWorkForYou. Retrieved 29 April 2010.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Dickens
Member of Parliament for Lewisham West
Succeeded by
Christopher Price
Preceded by
Harwood Harrison
Member of Parliament for Eye
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Suffolk Coastal
Succeeded by
Therese Coffey
Political offices
Preceded by
Cecil Parkinson
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Succeeded by
Norman Tebbit
Succeeded by
Kenneth Clarke
Preceded by
John MacGregor
Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Succeeded by
Gillian Shephard
Preceded by
Michael Howard
Secretary of State for the Environment
Succeeded by
John Prescott
as Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions
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