Stephen Williams (politician)

Stephen Roy Williams (born 11 October 1966) is a British Liberal Democrat politician who was first elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Bristol West in the 2005 general election, and re-elected with an increased majority in May 2010. In October 2013 he joined the Government as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department of Communities and Local Government. In May 2015 Williams lost his Bristol West seat to the Labour Party's Thangam Debbonaire, and in May 2017 he came third in the election for the newly created role of Mayor of the West of England.

Stephen Williams
Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
In office
7 October 2013  8 May 2015
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byDon Foster
Succeeded byMarcus Jones
Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills
In office
18 December 2007  13 May 2010
LeaderNick Clegg
Preceded bySarah Teather
Succeeded byVacant
Member of Parliament
for Bristol West
In office
5 May 2005  30 March 2015
Preceded byValerie Davey
Succeeded byThangam Debbonaire
Personal details
Born (1966-10-11) 11 October 1966
Mountain Ash, Wales
Political partySocial Democrats (Before 1988)
Liberal Democrats (1988–present)
Alma materUniversity of Bristol
WebsiteOfficial website

Early life and education

Williams grew up in the village of Abercynon in the Cynon Valley in Glamorgan, Wales. He attended Mountain Ash Comprehensive School and the University of Bristol, graduating in 1988 with a degree in History. During his first two years he lived in Wills Hall, one of the University's halls of residence, and remains a member of the Wills Hall Association. He qualified as Chartered Tax Adviser[1] and worked for several large firms including PriceWaterhouseCoopers and Grant Thornton.[2]

Political background

Williams was interested in politics from a young age. While at the University of Bristol he was President of the SDP/Liberal society, and an active member of the local SDP branch.[3] He has also served on Avon County Council (1993-1996) and Bristol City Council (1995-1999),[2] elected as Councillor for the Liberal Democrats' then-stronghold of Cabot ward in 1993 aged 26. He was leader of the Avon Liberal Democrat group from 1995 to 1997. Williams had been the Liberal Democrat candidate for the safe Labour seat of Bristol South in 1997, before being selected to stand for Bristol West at the 2001 general election. Williams won Bristol West in 2005, making him the first Liberal MP ever for that constituency and the first to be elected in the city of Bristol since 1935. He was also the first openly gay Liberal Democrat MP.[4]

Government career

In October 2013, Williams was appointed Parliamentary Under Secretary at Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). As Minister for Communities, his responsibilities include community cohesion, race relations, localism and community rights, housing standards, building regulations and neighborhood planning.[5] As the Liberal Democrat minister in DCLG he has oversight of all areas of department policy such as housing, local economic development and planning.

In March 2014, Williams published the Government’s proposals following the housing standards review, which recommended a rationalisation of government, local authority and industry housing standards into a national set.[6] As a result, for the first time there will be a national space standard for the interior of housing.

As Minister for Communities, Williams also announced new funding for promotion of the Cornish language and gave recognition to the people of Cornwall as a national minority on the same basis as the other Celtic people of the British Isles.[7]

In 2017, it emerged that Williams had responded to 2014 concerns from the All-Party Parliamentary Fire Safety and Rescue Group about the fire safety of Britain's tower blocks, especially the absence of sprinklers in many of these, by saying, "I have neither seen nor heard anything that would suggest that consideration of these specific potential changes is urgent and I am not willing to disrupt the work of this department by asking that these matters are brought forward." The correspondence was leaked to the BBC after the Grenfell Tower fire.[8][9]

Parliamentary career

Williams served as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health[10] between July 2010 and October 2013. During this time the group published reports on the plain packaging of cigarettes,[11] smoking in cars[12] and the illicit trade in tobacco.[13]

Between 2010 and 2013 he served as the Liberal Democrats' Treasury spokesman in Parliament and to the media.[14] In addition, he has previously served as a member of the House of Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Select Committee[15] and has spoken in favour of replacing the House of Lords with an elected Senate.[16]

Smoking ban in public places

After his election on 5 May 2005, Charles Kennedy appointed Williams as Liberal Democrat public health spokesperson, shadowing Minister for Public Health Caroline Flint. In this role he served on the standing committee which scrutinised the Health Bill. One aspect of this Bill was the introduction of a ban on smoking in public places. Williams strongly supported a ban on smoking in all public places, rather than the alternative proposal to exempt private clubs and pubs which do not serve food from the ban. He won an award from World Health Organization for his advocacy of a full ban.[17]

Higher Education and tuition fees

In the 2006 Liberal Democrat leadership election Williams was the agent of Chris Huhne.[18] Following the election, newly elected leader Sir Menzies Campbell moved Williams to the Further and Higher Education portfolio, shadowing Labour Minister Bill Rammell. After the reorganisation of government departments by new Prime Minister Gordon Brown in July 2007 Lib Dem Leader Sir Menzies Campbell reshuffled his team and Williams became Lib Dem spokesperson on Schools.

Since his election, Williams has served on two House of Commons select committees — the Education and Skills Select Committee and the Public Accounts Committee. He stepped down as a member of the Public Accounts Committee at the beginning of 2006 following his appointment as Further and Higher Education spokesperson in order to focus more exclusively on his portfolio. He transferred to the new Children, Schools and Families Select Committee in November 2007.

Following the election of Nick Clegg as leader, whom Williams supported against Chris Huhne,[18] Williams became the spokesperson for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

In 2008, Williams wrote an alternative policy proposal that would allow top-up fees as part of his role as spokesperson for universities,[19] but the proposal was rejected by the party's Federal Policy Committee.[20] In December 2010, Williams was one of the Liberal Democrat MPs who abstained on the coalition government's proposals to increase tuition fees.[21]

Reducing the voting age

On 29 November 2005, Williams introduced a Ten Minute Rule bill to the House of Commons to reduce the voting age to 16. The motion was supported by a majority of Labour members and Liberal Democrats, but opposed by the Conservatives. It was defeated by 136-128 votes.[22]

In January 2013 Williams introduced a backbench committee motion to reduce the voting age. The motion was passed.[23]

Homophobic bullying and gay marriage

In June 2006, Williams launched a campaign against homophobic bullying, after organising the Education and Skills Select Committee's first ever enquiry into the issue of bullying in schools. His petition read:

We, the undersigned, call for the following to support and protect the victims of homophobic bullying:

  1. Homophobic taunts and name calling in schools should be challenged immediately by staff.
  2. All schools' anti-bullying policies should be required to include measures specifically to deal with homophobic bullying.
  3. At least one teacher in every school should undergo training which includes how to tackle homophobic bullying.

In February 2013 Williams spoke in the second reading debate on the introduction of same sex marriage.[24] He then served as the Lib Dem representative on the public bill committee, introducing amendments to allow opposite sex couples to have civil partnerships[25] and for recognition to be given to humanist marriages.[26]

Election results

Avon and Bristol Councils

Williams was first elected to Avon County Council in May 1993, representing Cabot ward. Avon was abolished in March 1996. In May 1995, Williams had been elected to the City (i.e. district council) ward of Cabot[27] and he continued in office when the unitary authority was created. He stood down from the council in May 1999.

General elections

Williams has contested six general elections - 1997, 2001, 2005, 2010, 2015 and 2017. In 1997, he stood against Labour Minister Dawn Primarolo in Bristol South, coming third with 13.4% of the vote. In 2001, he stood for the first time in Bristol West, polling 28.89% of the vote and coming in second place. In 2005, this increased to 38.3%, winning the seat from Labour. In the 2010 election, Williams held the seat with an increased majority of 11,366, winning 48% of the vote. In the 2015 election Williams lost his seat, coming third to Labour and the Green party. In the 2017 election Williams again stood in the Bristol West constituency, coming fourth.[28]

West of England metro mayor

Williams stood in the 2017 West of England mayoral election on 4 May 2017.[1] He was eliminated in the first round, coming third.[29]

2019 European Parliament Election

Williams was a candidate in the 2019 European Parliament election. He was the third candidate on the Liberal Democrat list for the South West England constituency.[30]


  1. Ashcroft, Esme (2 May 2017). "Who are the Metro Mayor candidates you can vote for in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and B&NES?". Bristol Post. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  2. "Stephen Williams". Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  3. "SDP Founder Supports Stephen Williams (Stephen Williams)". Bristol West Liberal Democrats. Archived from the original on 23 December 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2010.
  4. White, Michael (27 January 2006). "Hughes comes out but stays in the race". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 10 June 2007.
  5. "Stephen Williams MP".
  6. "House of Commons Hansard Ministerial Statements for 13 Mar 2014 (pt 0001)".
  7. "Cornish granted minority status within the UK".
  8. Chandler, Mark (19 June 2017). "Grenfell Tower: Ministers 'were repeatedly warned of a tower block tragedy if no sprinklers fitted'". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  9. "Four ministers were warned about tower block fire risks". BBC. 19 June 2017. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  10. "Standardised packaging: Time to act". ASH. Archived from the original on 30 May 2015. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  11. "Tobacco plain packs – a protection against the "Silent Salesman" - Stephen Williams' Blog". Stephen Williams' Blog.
  12. "Protecting children from smoke in cars". Stephen Williams' Blog.
  13. "All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health. Inquiry into the illicit trade in tobacco products". Action on Smoking and Health. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  14. "Stephen Williams Bio". The Liberal Democrats. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  15. "Political and Constitutional Reform Committee — membership". House of Commons. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  16. Williams, Stephen. "Time for a British Senate". Stephen Williams personal website. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  17. "Stephen Williams MP wins award for anti-smoking work". BBC. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  18. "Stephen Williams Interview". Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  19. Staff (30 September 2008). "This is Bristol — News — Bristol West MP's rival hits out over tuition fees policy switch". Bristol Evening Post. Bristol United Press. Archived from the original on 21 April 2013. Retrieved 7 May 2010.
  20. "The long route to fair funding of Higher Education". Stephen Williams. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  21. "Why I abstained in the tuition fees vote". Stephen Williams. Retrieved 8 March 2015.
  22. "Minutes of the meeting, held on 21st November" (PDF). All-Party Parliamentary Group On Youth Affairs. Retrieved 19 March 2013.
  23. "BBC News — MPs support giving 16-year-olds the vote". BBC News.
  24. "Marriage Same Sex Couples Bill debate". Stephen Williams' Blog.
  25. "Extending Civil Partnerships to Opposite Sex couples". Stephen Williams' Blog.
  26. "House of Commons Public Bill Committee : MARRIAGE (SAME SEX COUPLES) BILL (12 March 2013)".
  27. "Local Election Results — Bristol City Council".
  28. "BBC Election Results". 9 June 2017. Retrieved 9 June 2017.
  29. Ashcroft, Esme (5 May 2016). "Conservative Tim Bowles is the West of England's first Metro Mayor". Bristol Post. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  30. "2019 European elections: List of candidates for the South West - BBC News". 3 May 2019. Retrieved 3 May 2019.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Valerie Davey
Member of Parliament for Bristol West
Succeeded by
Thangam Debbonaire
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