Former Liberal Democrat MP and Patron of Humanists UK
Martin Horwood was born in Cheltenham in 1962. He first became involved in Cheltenham politics while still at school, went on to Oxford University to read Modern History in 1981, and was elected President of the Oxford Student Liberal Society and then Chair of the party’s national student wing, the Union of Liberal Students.
He then worked for a London advertising agency and then in the voluntary sector. In 1990 he moved to Oxford to work for Oxfam and was elected as a local district and parish councillor there. During his stay at Oxfam, his teams raised tens of millions of pounds for the poor in developing countries, including £2.5m for victims of the Rwanda genocide, and he also worked in India. He became Director of Fundraising at the Alzheimer’s Society, and then returned to Cheltenham in 2001 to work for local business Target Direct (now Tangible Response) which works mainly with charity clients.
Martin was first elected as MP for Cheltenham in 2005, and was an MP until 2015. Soon after his election he was Lib Dem spokesperson on the Charities Bill because of his long experience working in and with the voluntary sector, and worked towards the bill that became law as the Charities Act 2006. He also worked on the Criminal Justice Act 2006, calling for clearer and more consistent sentencing, and on the Communities and Local Government committee which scrutinised the Labour government’s housing and planning policy.
He has contributed to his party’s policy making process on climate change and the natural environment, areas about which he cares deeply. In 2006, he was appointed as his party’s junior environment minister and championed changes to the Energy Act 2008 to promote renewable energy. In 2007 he switched to the Environmental Audit Committee, an influential select committee that investigates the environmental impact of any aspect of government policy. Martin and the committee called for a tougher Climate Change Act and challenged Labour’s plans for new coal-fired power stations. Together with colleague Steve Webb, Martin tabled the key amendment to the Climate Change Act 2008 that strengthened the target for UK greenhouse gas emission reductions to 80% by 2050. He also used the position to champion animal welfare including the reduction of animal research, the banning of wild animals in circuses and the micro-chipping of pet dogs. His was voted Animal Welfare champion 2009 by his parliamentary colleagues of all parties.
Martin was re-elected in May 2010, supported the formation of the Coalition Government and was appointed chair of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary committee on transport. He strongly supported the coalition’s continued investment in public transport and in particular rail and local sustainable transport.
In March 2011, he became chair of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary committee on international affairs, building on his previous professional interest in development and supporting the government’s drive to finally meet the target of spending 0.7% of gross national income on development assistance by 2013. In foreign policy, he has supported humanitarian action by the UK in concert with the rest of the international community and in accordance with international law but has called for more action to curb British and international arms sales to countries with no track record of respecting human rights or democracy .
Martin has also taken up posts in several all-party parliamentary groups: he is an officer of both the associate parliamentary group on corporate responsibility and the all-party parliamentary group on responsible investment, both of which encourage companies to improve their social, ethical and environmental performance. He is the chair and founder of the all-party parliamentary group for tribal peoples which works with the charity Survival International to support the rights of threatened tribal peoples around the world. He is also an officer of all-party groups promoting environment and development, employee ownership and education.