Dame Cheryl Elise Kendall Gillan DBE (21 April 1952 – 4 April 2021) was a British politician who served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Chesham and Amersham from 1992 until her death. A member of the Conservative Party, she served as Secretary of State for Wales from 2010 to 2012.
Prior to her parliamentary career, Gillan worked as a marketing executive for several companies. She was first elected to the House of Commons in 1992 and served as an MP for 29 years. She was a junior minister for Education and Employment from 1995 to 1997 in John Major's government. After 1997, she served as a Conservative whip and as a spokesperson for Trade and Industry, Foreign Affairs, and Home Affairs. She was the Shadow Welsh Secretary from 2005 to 2010. She served in Prime Minister David Cameron's Cabinet as Secretary of State for Wales after the 2010 general election until a reshuffle in September 2012. She was awarded a damehood in the 2018 New Year Honours.
Cheryl Gillan was born in Llandaff, a district of Cardiff, in 1952. Her father, Major Adam Mitchell Gillan, was a former British Army officer and a director of a steel company, whilst her mother, Mona Elsie Gillan (née Freeman), was a Wren. She was brought up in South Wales and her family farms near Usk. She was educated at Elm Tree House and Norfolk House primary schools in Cardiff before her family left Wales when she was aged 11. Gillan attended the independent Cheltenham Ladies' College and the College of Law. She was a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
Gillan joined the International Management Group in 1977 before becoming a director with the British Film Year in 1984. In 1986, she was appointed senior marketing consultant at Ernst & Young, becoming marketing director with Kidsons Impey 1991–1993. She became a Freeman of the City of London in 1991 and was a member of the Livery of the Worshipful Company of Marketors.
Gillan served as the chairman of the Bow Group in 1987–1988 and unsuccessfully contested the Greater Manchester Central seat in the 1989 European Parliament election. She was elected to the House of Commons in the 1992 general election for the Buckinghamshire seat of Chesham and Amersham. She won the seat with a majority of 22,220 and remained the MP there until her death. She made her maiden speech on 25 June 1992.
In her early years in Parliament, Gillan served on the Select committees for Science and Technology (1992–1995) and for Procedure (1994–1995). She was also the Secretary to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Space and a board member of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology in 1995. In 1994, she was appointed the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Leader of the House of Lords and Lord Privy Seal, Viscount Cranborne.
In July 1995, Gillan joined the government as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Education and Employment. In this role she expanded the specialist schools programme to include arts and sports colleges, something she considered to be one of her proudest achievements in politics. After the 1997 general election — with the Conservatives now in Opposition — she became a spokesperson for Trade and Industry as well as for Education in June 1997 (with there being so few Conservative MP's left that several held more than one shadow post) and then, from June 1998, shadow minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development. From September 2001 until June 2003, she served in the whip's office. In December 2003, she became Shadow Minister for Home, Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
Gillan represented the British Islands and the Mediterranean on the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) from 2000 until 2003 and was later elected treasurer of the CPA from 2003 until 2006. She was a Member of the Parliamentary Association of NATO from 2003 to 2005.
She was responsible for introducing the Autism Act 2009 through a Private Member's Bill.
Shadow Welsh Secretary (2005–2010)
Gillan was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet in December 2005 as the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales. She was initially opposed to the creation of the National Assembly for Wales, saying that there was not a large enough majority in favour of it in the 1997 Welsh devolution referendum. However, after becoming Shadow Welsh Secretary, she declared that she supported the Welsh Assembly, and has maintained the possibility of the Conservatives supporting the devolution of further powers. She said in 2008, however, that the Conservative Party was divided on the issue of devolution, and criticised the state of devolution in Wales as being "complex and cumbersome".
Welsh Secretary (2010–2012)
Gillan was appointed by David Cameron as the Secretary of State for Wales in the new Coalition Government formed from the 2010 general election. She was appointed a Privy Councillor on 13 May 2010.
As Secretary of State for Wales, her aides included:
Welsh-related UK government policy decisions taken during Gillan's term in the Wales Office included the:
In May 2012, Gillan unveiled a Wales Office green paper that made a proposal to cut the number of constituency assembly members from 40 to 30, with another 30 coming from regional lists. The Welsh Government opposed this idea, and it was reported that Tory AMs preferred the status quo.
Gillan ceased to be Welsh Secretary following a major Cabinet reshuffle on 4 September 2012, although she wished to continue in the role. She was replaced by David Jones who had previously been the Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State in the Wales Office.
There had been pressure from Welsh Conservative MPs, AMs and activists for her successor to be an MP from a Welsh constituency.
High Speed 2
Gillan strongly opposed the High Speed 2 railway project. Gillan's constituency lay on the proposed route for the rail line. In a parliamentary debate before the 2010 election, Gillan said that she agreed with neighbouring MP David Lidington who described the planned route as an "outrage". When campaigning for re-election, Gillan said that High Speed 2 would be "a lot more than just the blight on the properties nearby... the implications for the area will be absolutely phenomenal". She also described High Speed 2 as a project that would "threaten the quality of our lives – not just now but for generations to come" and stated that she "would defy the party whip – be very, very sure of that".
On 12 January 2012, Secretary of State for Transport Justine Greening confirmed in a House of Commons statement that High Speed 2 would go ahead and in responding to questions stated that it was her understanding that "the Welsh Secretary is already on side... I thoroughly agree with her [Cheryl Gillan] that we have ended up with the right line, with the right mitigation". In an interview with the Bucks Free Press following the announcement, Gillan stated "we've got already got some changes, good changes and I'm looking at what further possibilities there will be". When asked whether she would remain in the Cabinet, Gillan stated: "I am not resigning. The speculation on my resignation has always come from the press and my political opponents... I'm exceedingly loyal to my party and my Government and I will remain so".
Three days after the announcement, it was discovered that Gillan had sold her house – which was less than a mile from the proposed route – in November 2011 "because she and her husband John have mobility problems". Following the revelations, Labour called for Gillan to be investigated for a possible breach of the Ministerial Code.
In May 2019, Gillan and Charles Walker became acting chairs of the 1922 Committee after Graham Brady resigned from the role while mulling a Conservative leadership bid. They stood down when Brady returned to the role in September of that year.
In 2009, Gillan was criticised for her expenses claims. The Daily Telegraph revealed she had claimed for dog food on her second home allowance. Gillan described the claim as a "mistake" and said she would be repaying it. Gillan also claimed £305.50 to cure "noise problems" with her boiler. When questioned, Gillan said the boiler had broken down and that the claim was within the rules. It was also revealed that Gillan had attempted to claim more money for her gas bill than it was actually worth; the Commons Fees Office refused to pay the full amount.
Gillan was also the subject of criticism from the Bucks Free Press, which revealed Gillan had claimed £8,450 for food and £4,335 for cleaning. It was also revealed that Gillan employed her husband, aged 82, as an 'Office Manager/Researcher'. Gillan wrote to the Bucks Free Press to complain that "insinuating language" had been used. Following a review of MPs expenses by Sir Thomas Legg, Gillan was also found to have claimed £1,884 more than her mortgage bill was actually worth. The mortgage was on a second home in Battersea, despite the fact that at the time she had a home in her constituency, which lies on the London Underground network. Gillan was ordered to repay the money. On 30 March 2010, it was announced that future MPs from Gillan's constituency would not be allowed to claim for a second home after the 2010 election.
Gillan was married to John Coates "Jack" Leeming from 1985 until his death, aged 91, on 23 March 2019. Her husband was employed using parliamentary expenses. Her interests included singing (she was a member of the Parliamentary Choir), gardening, golf and keeping chickens. Before her death, Gillan lived in Epsom, Surrey. She was a member of the Royal Automobile Club.
Gillan died from cancer on 4 April 2021, at age 68. Tributes were paid to her in the House of Commons on 13 April.
Elections in the 2010s
Elections in the 2000s
Elections in the 1990s
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