Simon Burns MP

Simon Burns

Areas of Interest

Literature, Politics and Government

Honorary Award

Honorary Doctor of Philosophy, 1998


Born in 1952, Simon Burns is a former journalist and company director, and since 2010 Member of Parliament for Chelmsford. He was MP for Chelmsford between 1987 and 1997, and for West Chelmsford from 1997 to 2010. A graduate in Modern History from Worcester College, Oxford, he has been active in politics since 1970. His interest in American politics is reflected in his role working for US Senator George McGovern in the 1972 Presidential election bid and working for Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign in New Hampshire in January 2008. Since his election as MP in 1987 Simon has held a number of positions including Assistant Government Whip, Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury, and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Health. He served as Shadow Minister for Health from 2001 to 2005, before being appointed an Opposition Whip. From May 2010 to September 2012 he was Minister of State for Health and from September 2012 to October 2013 he was Minister of State for Transport.

In 1998 Simon Burns was presented with the award of Honorary Doctor of Philosophy. His relationship with Anglia Ruskin University goes back to the days of Anglia Higher Education College, and he has played a significant role in facilitating the University's development ever since.


"The Senate of Anglia Polytechnic University has great pleasure in recommending the award of an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy to Simon Burns, Member of Parliament for West Chelmsford.

There are constituency MPs and constituency MPs, and in Simon Burns the University has been very fortunate in having a close friend and advocate for well over a decade. When the former Essex Institute merged with Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology to form the original Anglia Higher Education College; when the College became a Polytechnic; and when the Polytechnic became a University, the good officers and intercessions of Simon Burns played a very significant role in smoothing the paths in what are euphemistically called the 'corridors of power'. His work with Anglia, of course, is only a small part of his services to the constituency, and he takes great pride in having been very active in blocking the proposed M12 through the Green Belt in Essex, for instance! Lobbying on behalf of GEC, another of our main local employers, has been another key element in his activities. Accessibility, approachability and loyalty are key attributes of good constituency MPs and Simon Burns is a fine example of all these.

His advice to a succession of Officers of the University has been pertinent and invariably proved right by the turn of events. He has been a member of the Chancellor's Council from its inception and looks forward to having two further ambitions being realised at Anglia. The first is the University name and a change thereof, and progress is encouraging in this regard. The second is for there to be established a teaching hospital at Broomfield, linking the NHS Trust and this University, which would not only bring great distinction to the city itself, but provide an enduring stimulus to scholarship, research and teaching in health related fields at Anglia. Hopefully, both aspirations will receive early fulfilment.

It would be quite wrong, however, for Simon Burns to be viewed solely as a good constituency MP, since he has a distinguished parliamentary career in its own right. Since he first entered Parliament in 1987, after various appointments as political and policy adviser, he has held parliamentary private secretaryships at the Department of Employment (1989-90); Education (1990-92); DTI (1992-93); Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1993-94). The most challenging, fulfilling and interesting role he feels, was as Parliamentary Under Secretary of Health from 1996, where he was engaged in wrestling with the really big societal issues of the day: mental health, drug abuse, alcoholism etc., a role he has since pursued in Opposition as spokesman for Social Security. His present opposition portfolio is for Environment, Transport and the Regions. Interspersed with departmental responsibilities were spells at the Whips' Office where he enjoyed the appellation of a Lord's Commissioner of HM Treasury. He describes this role in evocative terms as "a view of the undersides of life as we know it".

Again, it should not be presumed that politics is the only abiding interest in Simon Burns' busy life. He is a Governor of the Chelmsford Girls High School, very active in local hospice developments, and, of particular relevance to our current surroundings, was Chair of the Cathedral Appeal which raised over £1 million for Dr Graham Elliott's crusade to create an organ worthy of a cathedral.

We have become a lot more civilised, Vice Chancellor, in describing the attributes of our Members of Parliament than apparently was the case in the last century. One 'Times' editorial of 1856 focused on one unfortunate member of the parliamentary species and described him thus:

"A horrid looking wretch he is, sooty and scoundrely of aspect;

a cross between a nutmeg dealer, horse swopper and man of the

night, a creature fit evidently for petty treason, small stratagems

and all sorts of evil spoils."

Happily, Vice Chancellor, on this day we can do much better, and in view of Simon Burns' very considerable services to Essex in many domains, and his consistent support of this University and its antecedent institutions, may I therefore invite you to confer on him the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Philosophy."