Timothy Kirkhope

Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire and Humber
Born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1945 Timothy was educated privately at the Royal Grammar School in the City and subsequently at the Law Society’s College of Law at Guildford, Surrey.

After serving Articles with a Solicitor in Newcastle he qualified in 1973 and within a year had set up his own Practice acquiring the old Firm of Criddle and Criddle and amalgamating it under his own name. In 1977, in turn, he amalgamated his fast expanding Firm with that of Wilkinson Marshall Clayton and Gibson, a leading Commercial Practice where he remained as a full Partner for the next ten years.

Timothy had started taking an interest in Politics from an early age and joined the Young Conservatives (now called Conservative Future) in Jesmond in the North Newcastle Constituency at the age of 15. Over the next 7 years in the YC’s he became a Branch Chairman, a Constituency Chairman, an Area Officer and was a member of the National YC committee. He met his wife Caroline in the YC’s and they married in 1969.

Whilst normal YC activities were interesting, Timothy was always keen to represent others and in 1970 he stood for an un-winnable Northumberland County Council seat at Throckley on the outskirts of Newcastle. By then he was a resident in Wylam, a Tyne Valley village just west of Newcastle, where he became involved with community life, re-establishing the amateur Dramatic society and producing modern comedy plays.

In February 1974 Timothy fought his first Parliamentary campaign for Durham and Sedgefield in the ‘Miner’s Election’ where he fought a robust campaign. Here he obtained the highest pro-Conservative swing in the Country at that election. In 1975, he was selected by the Darlington Conservatives as their Parliamentary candidate in a marginal seat which had changed from Labour to Conservative and back again on many occasions.

He narrowly missed success in the 1979 Election, losing by mere 1000 votes to the then sitting Member Ted Fletcher.

During this time he continued his other Political interests and was a Member of the Hexham Association Executive Committee and subsequently became the Treasurer of that Association where Geoffrey (later Lord) Rippon was the MP.

In 1982 Timothy was elected to the Northumberland County Council for his home Ward of Bywell and in 1983 became a Founder Lawyer Member on appointment to the new Mental Health Act Commission, a post he held until 1986. The same year he was appointed as a Member of the Northern Region Health Authority and was invited to join the Board of Newcastle International Airport, a post he held for 3 years. It was whilst he was serving on the Airport Board that Timothy qualified as a Pilot and he has been enthusiastic about Flying ever since.

His support for the development of Leeds-Bradford International Airport is well known, especially his significant role in obtaining 24 hours operating status for this vital and strategic part of the Yorkshire region’s infrastructure.

In 1986 Timothy was selected as the prospective Parliamentary candidate for Leeds North East. In 1987 he was elected MP for this seat taking over from Sir Keith Joseph.

In 1989 Timothy became a Parliamentary Private Secretary to David Trippier MP, the Environment Minister. In 1990 he joined the Government Whips Office whilst Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Later, under John Major he was promoted in the Whips Office being the Scottish Whip for 4 years and responsible for the Environment, Heritage, Agriculture, and Defense Departments in turn. In 1992 he became a Lord Commissioner of the Treasury and Senior Whip. In 1995 he was Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household, providing her Majesty the Queen with an important link with the House of Commons and writing a detailed resume of activity in the House for her each day.

In the Autumn of 1995 he moved to the Home Office as Under-Secretary of State responsible for Immigration, Race and Community Relations, Licensing and Gambling, and International Police issues.

Whilst in Parliament Timothy became the Deputy Chairman of the Governing Bodies Association for Independent Schools a post he held between 1990 and 1998 and he continued as a Governor of his old school, the Royal Grammar School Newcastle, a position which he had assumed some years before. Since he attended the Royal Grammar School in 1953, Timothy had been continually connected with the School having been a Pupil, Parent, President and a member of the Old Boys Association and a Governor.

In 1997, Timothy left Parliament and immediately re-established his legal practice and also his business consultancy. His interest in politics, however, had not abated and soon after losing his seat he embarked on a programme of speaking engagements all over the country especially in Yorkshire and the North East at a time when the morale of Conservative Party workers was low. Thus he was able to keep in touch with the views of the party members and offer them the benefit of his experience and encouragement.

In 1998 the opportunity arose to be considered as a European Parliamentary Candidate for the new Region of Yorkshire and The Humber under a new Proportional Representation Voting system introduced by the Labour Government. Timothy decided to allow his name to go forward and he was delighted when the Party Membership on a one Member- one Vote basis selected him as the No: 2 for the Conservative list for the June 1999 Elections.

After his victory he was appointed both Chief Whip of the Conservative Delegation in the Parliament and the spokesman for the Conservatives on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee.In December 2001, he was promoted from his position of Chief Whip to represent the Conservative party on the ‘Future of Europe’ Convention. Whilst on the Convention, Timothy was instrumental in establishing the parallel ‘Youth Convention’, he produced an alternative ‘Simplifying Treaty’, and he tabled more amendments to the draft Constitution than any other member of the Convention.

In 2003, Timothy was asked by the Rt Hon Oliver Letwin MP to convene an independent Commission on asylum. After six months of deliberations, the Kirkhope Commission published a report entitled ‘Building a Fair Asylum System’ which won widespread praise. An editorial in The Sun said: “If the Tories are convinced that the Kirkhope policies will work, they should not hesitate to adopt them.” The Immigration Advisory Service said: “The Commission has made a significant and helpful contribution to the debate in these matters.” Then in 2004, Timothy was asked by the new Shadow Home Secretary, the Rt Hon David Davis MP to chair a further commission, looking at immigration policy.

Timothy was re-elected as No: 1 in Yorkshire in the June 2004 European Elections and is now Team Leader for the Conservative MEPs in Yorkshire and the Humber. He was then elected as the first European Democrat Vice-President of the EPP-ED political group in the Parliament in the subsequent internal elections, and, from December 2004 until November 2007, he was the Leader of the Conservative Party in the European Parliament.

In 2007, Timothy became Conservative Spokesman onTransport and Tourism, as well as Vice-Chairman of the Constitutional Affairs Committee. As Transport and Tourism Spokesman, he worked to protect rural bus and coach services (DalesBus in particular) and rural post offices, lobbied for improved rights for all air travelers, and guided through the European Parliament a report that will have major benefits for rail and air passengers (Computerised Reservations Systems Code of Conduct). Notably, as Vice-Chairman of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, Timothy pushed for a referendum on Europe’s Lisbon Treaty, something the Labour Party were intent on denying the British People.

After the European elections in 2009, Timothy became Deputy Chairman of the newly formed European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group, which he helped to set up. Since then Timothy has sat on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee as a full member. He is also on the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the United States and is a substitute on the Culture and Education (CULT) Committee. He was re-elected Leader of the Conservative Delegation in November 2009. It meant that he had been Leader for 5 of the last 6 years. He did not stand for the post in November 2010, preferring to focus his energies on ECR matters.

Timothy is passionate about regional issues such as the protection of rural communities. He is also keen to ensure European Funds such as Objective 1 and European Solidarity Funds, are made available to tackle the effects of flooding and to shore up the region’s coastal defenses.

When not working on the political front, he relaxes with his wife and family in Yorkshire either by driving his Porsche Sports Car (he was a founder Member of the House of Commons Classic Car Club) or using his Piloting skills in flying light aircraft. He swims regularly, plays tennis when the weather is fine, and tries to play golf when he can find the time at his Club in Northumberland.

Timothy is a Member of the Institute of Directors, the Northern Counties Club in Newcastle, and the Dunstanburgh Castle Golf Club.