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Phil Willis

About Phil Willis

Phil Willis is best known as the former Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament. However, people who are better informed about his life and work also know that he gained national recognition for his contribution to the integration of children with disabilities into the mainstream education and creation of The family of Schools’ initiative. The later joined agencies that are focused on making high quality education more accessible to children with disadvantageous background.

Phil Willis entered into politics in 1985 when he was 44 years old which is relatively late. That year he joined the Liberal party which later merged with the Social Democrats into Liberal Democrat party. In 1988, he ran for Harrogate Borough Council. He won and within just two years, he became the Leader of the Council. In 1993, he ran for the North Yorkshire County Council. Again, he defeated his rivals and became Deputy Group Leader.

In 1997, Willis was elected as Member of Parliament for Harrogate and Knaresborough despite the fact that he had a strong rival – the former Exchequer Norman Lamont. In 1999, Charles Kennedy who replaced Paddy Ashdown as the leader of the Liberal Democrats appointed him as Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Skills. He remained in the Liberal Democrat Shadow Cabinet until the 2005 General Election. He was re-elected as Member of Parliament for Harrogate and Knaresborough for the third time and soon after became Chairman of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. He led the Science and Technology Select Committee until 2007 when it was disbanded. He was then appointed Chairman of the newly formed House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Select Committee but like its predecessor, this Select Committee was disbanded as well in summer of 2009. After intense campaign, he was elected chairman of the re-created Select Committee on 1 October 2009.

In 2007, Phil Willis announced that he will not seek re-election as Member of Parliament for Harrogate and Knaresborough at the next General Election. He did not and the Liberal Democrats chosen Claire Kelley as his successor. However, she was defeated by the Conservative Andrew Jones for slightly over 1,000 votes despite the fact that she was supported by the charismatic and popular Phil Willis. Some analysts attribute the defeat of the Liberal Democrat party in Harrogate and Knaresborough to Willis’ retirement rather than the change in the voting body which also implies the comparison of previous results of elections in Harrogate and Knaresborough. In the 2001 General Election when Andrew Jones ran against Phil Willis, the latter defeated him for over 8,800 votes or 21 percent.

After resigning as Member of Parliament, Phil Willis was made life peer as Baron Willis of Knaresborough and became member of the House of Lords in July 2010. He also became member of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee and shortly thereafter succeeded Baroness Cumberlege as Chair of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC).