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.
Lord Deben is Chairman of the UK's independent Committee on Climate Change. He also chairs the sustainability consultancy Sancroft International, recycler Valpak, GLOBE International – the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment, the Association of Professional Financial Advisers and Veolia Water UK. He is a non-executive director of Veolia Voda, The Catholic Herald and the Castle Trust – a mortgage and investment firm. He is also a Trustee of the ocean conservation charity, Blue Marine Foundation.
John Gummer stood down from the House of Commons at the 2010 general election and was appointed to the Upper House as Lord Deben.
The eldest son of a Church of England priest, Canon Selwyn Gummer, his younger brother is Peter Gummer, Baron Chadlington, a PR professional.
Gummer attended King's School, Rochester, before going up 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.
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.
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. 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", 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. and Friends of the Earth described his as "the best Environment Secretary we've ever had".
He had responsibility for food safety during the mad cow disease epidemic in 1989–90 which eventually claimed 176 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 4-year-old daughter a burger before press cameras.
Gummer opposed reduction of beds at the Aldeburgh Cottage Hospital.
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 actively pursued environmental causes, introducing an Early Day Motion on Climate Change to Parliament along with Michael Meacher and Norman Baker. He was also instrumental in the passing of the Climate Change Act of 2008.
Because of his environmental credentials, in 2005 David Cameron asked Deben to chair the Quality of Life Policy Group with Zac Goldsmith as his deputy.
In 2009, Lord Deben attracted attention in the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal, after claiming £36,000 for gardening over 4 years, as an 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, paying above the minimum required in order to demonstrate "corporate social responsibility" for the expenses system. Consequently, the Legg Report showed that 343 MPs had been asked to repay some money with Gummer paying the 7th highest figure.
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, and introduced in the House of Lords the same day, supported by his brother, Lord Chadlington, and the composer Lord Lloyd-Webber.
As a pro-European moderate, Lord Deben supported Kenneth Clarke's leadership bids.
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. However, his relatives' involvement with the Severn Barrage and David Cameron’s relatives' investment in wind turbines, all projects requiring large public subsidies but incapable of providing continuous reliable power, led Christopher Booker to question both the impartiality of Lord Deben's advice and “the state of our public life”.
Lord Deben has been married to Penelope Gardner since 1977, and lives in Suffolk. They have four children, including Ben Gummer, who has been MP for Ipswich since 2010.
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 been supportive of 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.
Styles of address
- 1939-1970: Mr John S. Gummer
- 1970-1974: Mr John S. Gummer MP
- 1974-1979: Mr John S. Gummer
- 1979-1985: Mr John S. Gummer MP
- 1985-2010: The Right Honourable John S. Gummer MP
- 2010: The Right Honourable John S. Gummer
- 2010-: The Right Honourable The Lord Deben PC