Theresa Villiers

Theresa Anne Villiers (born 5 March 1968) is a British Conservative Party politician who served as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from 2019 to 2020. She has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Chipping Barnet since 2005. Villiers was Minister of State for Transport from 2010 to 2012 and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland from 2012 until 2016.[2][3][4]

Theresa Villiers

Theresa Villiers Official Portrait.jpg
Villiers in 2020
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
In office
24 July 2019 – 13 February 2020
Prime MinisterBoris Johnson
Preceded byMichael Gove
Succeeded byGeorge Eustice
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
4 September 2012 – 14 July 2016
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded byOwen Paterson
Succeeded byJames Brokenshire
Minister of State for Transport
In office
13 May 2010 – 4 September 2012
Prime MinisterDavid Cameron
Preceded bySadiq Khan
Succeeded bySimon Burns
Shadow Cabinet positions
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
In office
2 July 2007 – 11 May 2010
LeaderDavid Cameron
Preceded byChris Grayling
Succeeded bySadiq Khan
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
6 December 2005 – 2 July 2007
LeaderDavid Cameron
Preceded byPhilip Hammond
Succeeded byPhilip Hammond
Member of Parliament
for Chipping Barnet
Assumed office
5 May 2005
Preceded bySydney Chapman
Majority1,212 (2.1%)
Member of the European Parliament for London
In office
15 July 1999 – 5 May 2005
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded bySyed Kamall
Personal details
Theresa Anne Villiers[1]

(1968-03-05) 5 March 1968 (age 52)
Hunstanton, Norfolk, England
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Sid Wilken (divorced)
Alma materUniversity of Bristol
Jesus College, Oxford
City Law School
WebsiteOfficial website

Early lifeEdit

Villiers was born in Hunstanton in 1968, the third child of George Edward Villiers by his marriage to Anne Virginia Threlfall; she has two elder brothers, Edward and Henry.[5][6] On her father's side, she is a descendant of Edward Ernest Villiers (1806–1843), brother of George Villiers, 4th Earl of Clarendon, Thomas Hyde Villiers, Charles Pelham Villiers, and Henry Montagu Villiers and a direct descendant of Edward II.[citation needed]

Growing up in North London, she was educated at the independent Francis Holland School. Villiers gained a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree with first-class honours in 1990 from the University of Bristol, and a year later the postgraduate degree of Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) from Jesus College, Oxford.[citation needed] After university, she qualified for the bar at the Inner Temple, and worked as a lecturer at King's College London from 1994 until 1999.[citation needed]

Member of the European ParliamentEdit

Villiers was elected as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the London constituency in 1999, and was re-elected in 2004. She stood down after the 2005 general election when she was elected as the Member of Parliament (United Kingdom) (MP) for Chipping Barnet.[7]

She served as Deputy Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament between 2001 and 2002. She also served as a member of the governing board of the Conservative Party during this period.[citation needed]

Member of ParliamentEdit

In 2003, following Sir Sydney Chapman's announcement that he would retire at the following election, Villiers was selected as the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Chipping Barnet. Although Chapman's majority at the 2001 general election had only been 2,701 votes, the party viewed Chipping Barnet to be quite a "safe" Conservative seat, and Villiers held it at the 2005 general election with an increased majority of 5,960 votes, which she increased again to 11,927 in 2010. Her majority dropped to 7,656 in 2015, and was reduced to just 353 in 2017. However, Villiers' majority rose to 1,212 in the 2019 general election, despite her percentage share of the vote going down.[8] Upon her election to the House of Commons, she resigned from her seat in the European Parliament; it went to Syed Kamall, the next candidate on the Conservatives' regional list for London. Villiers now lives at Arkley in her constituency, and formerly lived at Hillsborough Castle.[citation needed]

Villiers was sworn of the Privy Council on 9 June 2010.[9]

Shadow CabinetEdit

In December 2005, following the election of David Cameron as Conservative Party Leader, Villiers was promoted to the Shadow Cabinet after just seven months in the UK Parliament, as Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury. In July 2007, Cameron promoted her to Shadow Secretary of State for Transport.[citation needed]


Following the 2010 general election, the Conservatives, short of an overall majority, formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. This required positions in Cabinet to be awarded to Lib Dem MPs, so Villiers did not become Secretary of State for Transport as might have been expected in the event of a majority Conservative government taking office. That role went instead to Philip Hammond, who had shadowed the post of Chief Secretary to the Treasury. Villiers instead became a Minister of State at the Department for Transport.[10]

Villiers was appointed Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in September 2012, but continued to spend three days a week in her North London constituency of Chipping Barnet.[11] Her time in Northern Ireland gained mixed reviews.[12] She made a speech in February 2016 defending the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the British Army, which had been accused of colluding with loyalist murderers in the Loughinisland massacre. The Police Ombudsman who investigated the murders, Dr. Michael Maguire, later stated with regard to law enforcement authorities colluding with the murderers: "I have no hesitation in unambiguously determining that collusion is a significant feature of the Loughinisland murders".[13]

Villiers had said that "a pernicious counter-narrative" of the Troubles was emerging whereby responsibility for acts of terrorism was being shifted onto the security forces "through allegations of collusion, misuse of agents and informers or other forms of unlawful activity".[14]

Villiers was one of the six cabinet ministers who came out in support of Brexit during the 2016 United Kingdom European Union membership referendum. Following the referendum, on 14 July 2016, Villiers resigned from her position as Northern Ireland Secretary[4] after stating that new Prime Minister Theresa May had offered her a post in the Cabinet which was "not one which I felt I could take on".[15] During the referendum, 62.2% of voters in her constituency (based on a 72.1% turnout), voted to remain in the European Union.[16] After the referendum, Villiers has continued to support efforts to leave the EU.[17]

Villiers was appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs by Boris Johnson upon him becoming Prime Minister in July 2019. She left the government in the post-Brexit cabinet reshuffle.

In June 2020 The Times newspaper reported that the hold up in the formation of the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament since the 2019 United Kingdom general election had been due to Villiers appointment having been dismissed by the Prime Minister for her defiance of the Government's whip on a vote where she supported an amendment which would have banned the import of chlorinated chicken products from the USA in upcoming post-Brexit trade negotiations. [18]

Queen's portraits controversyEdit

Villiers came under the spotlight on July 2019 after Lord Maginnis claimed that she had signed off a £10,000 settlement with a Northern Ireland Office's civil servant, Lee Hegarty, who claimed that under human rights legislation it was unfair to him to have to work where he was offended by portraits of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.[19][20]

Lord Maginnis also claimed in the House of Lords that, following the settlement, Villiers went on removing portraits and substituted them with Northern Irish landscapes.[21] Villiers did not consider Hegarty's suggestion of replacing the said portraits of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh with photographs of the Queen meeting people during engagements in Northern Ireland.[19]

Following the reports on media, her successor as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Julian Smith, requested an internal review into the decision to take down portraits of the Queen from Stormont House, while Arlene Foster, DUP's leader, went on Twitter declaring that "It is beyond parody that there is a dispute over a portrait of Her Majesty the Queen, our head of state".[22]

Parliamentary expenses and second homeEdit

She also has a house in Arkley in her North London constituency of Chipping Barnet. The house, a semi-detached property that she bought for £296,500 in May 2004, is an eight-minute drive away from High Barnet tube station, from which commuters can reach Westminster in about forty-five minutes.[23]

Political opinionsEdit

Villiers supported the temporary suspension of Ken Livingstone, then-Mayor of London, by the Adjudication Panel for England, which examined the case after a complaint from the Board of Deputies of British Jews to the Standards Board for England.

Theresa Villiers is a member of, and since 2017 Vice-Chair, of Conservative Friends of Israel.[24][25]

On 19 July 2018 she was the only MP of any party to attend a rally of about 200–300 Jewish and other persons called by the "Campaign Against Antisemitism" (CAA) in Parliament Square, London, to protest against Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.[26] She has, on previous occasions, attended CAA protests similar to that of 19 July 2018 against anti-semitism within Labour.[27]

She has spoken out publicly in support of Iranian resistance to the Iranian regime at an event in Paris in 2017, organised by the National Council of Resistance of Iran. The NCRI is considered by some analysts to be a front organisation for the Mojahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), which was once listed by the US as a terror organisation.[28]

Since September 2008, Villiers has dedicated a considerable proportion of her public announcements to aviation policy, specifically the expansion of airports in the South East of England. Villiers underlined that despite differences of opinion, the Coalition government's policy was opposed to a third runway at Heathrow airport.[29]

She has also spoken out against Boris Johnson's favoured proposal for a new London airport to be built in the Thames Estuary, and alternative expansions at Gatwick and Stansted airports, arguing that airlines should make greater use of the UK's regional airports, though some regional airports themselves have expressed concern about being adversely affected by capacity shortages in the South East.[30] Villiers favours construction of a high-speed rail link from London to Birmingham and Manchester, arguing that flyers could use capacity at airports such as Birmingham International and Manchester International Airport.

In May 2017, Villiers announced that she fundamentally supports the ban on hunting of wild animals with dogs but suggested that there remains scope for reform of the Hunting Act 2004.[31]

In September 2019 at that year's Conservative Party Conference, Villiers set out plans to end live exports of farm animals, ban primates from being kept as pets and for cats to be microchipped.[32]

Personal lifeEdit

Villiers married fellow barrister Sean Wilken QC in 1997,[citation needed] and the following year they co-wrote a book on matters of contract and quasi-contract law, which was published by a major publishing house.[33] They are now divorced.[34]


  • Theresa Villiers & Sean Wilken (29 April 1998). Law of Estoppel, Variation and Waiver. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-96921-4.


  1. ^ "No. 61961". The London Gazette. 19 June 2017. p. 11776.
  2. ^ "As it happened: Reshuffle". BBC News. 4 September 2012.
  3. ^ "Theresa Villiers MP". BBC Democracy Live. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Theresa May's cabinet: Who's in and who's out?". BBC News. 14 July 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  5. ^ "Index entry". FreeBMD. ONS. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  6. ^ Mosley, Charles, ed. (19 December 2003). Burke's Peerage & Baronetage, 107th Edition. London: Burke's Peerage. p. 799. ISBN 0971196621.
  7. ^ "Conservative Diary". The Free Library. 20 May 2003. Retrieved 11 May 2010.
  8. ^ "Chipping Barnet parliamentary constituency". BBC. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  9. ^ "Privy Council appointments, 9 June 2010". Privy Council. Archived from the original on 2 December 2010. Retrieved 26 July 2010.
  10. ^ Foundation, Internet Memory. "[ARCHIVED CONTENT] UK Government Web Archive – The National Archives". Archived from the original on 1 August 2011.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  11. ^ "Theresa Villiers still in constituency three days a week".
  12. ^ [1], 15 July 2016, Sam McBride, Belfast Newsletter, retrieved at 15 July 2016.
  13. ^ NI Police colluded with Loyalist killers of six Catholics watching World Cup Irish Central, 11 June 2016
  14. ^ "Villiers: A way forward for legacy of the past in Northern Ireland – GOV.UK".
  15. ^ "Theresa Villiers to be replaced as Northern Ireland secretary". BBC News. 14 July 2016. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  16. ^ "EU Referendum local results - B - BBC News".
  17. ^ "Theresa Villiers MP, Chipping Barnet - TheyWorkForYou".
  18. ^ Baker, Guilhem (20 June 2020). "Theresa Villiers axed from intelligence committee for disloyalty". The Times. News UK. Retrieved 20 June 2020.
  19. ^ a b correspondent, Rory Carroll Ireland (12 July 2019). "£10k for NI civil servant offended by royal portraits". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  20. ^ "NIO 'must clarify civil servant's £10,000 payout over Queen pic'". Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  21. ^ Simpson, Claire (1 August 2019). "Portraits of Queen Elizabeth 'removed from NIO headquarters'". The Irish News. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  22. ^ "Northern Ireland Secretary orders 'internal review' into why Queen's portrait was removed". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 5 August 2019.
  23. ^ Theresa Villiers claimed stamp duty on second London home: MPs' expenses Telegraph 11 May 2009
  24. ^ "Conservative parliamentarians meet Israeli Women Directors delegation ahead of International Women's Day". CFI. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  25. ^ Sloan, Alaistair. "Ed Miliband will back Israel". Middle East Monitor. Archived from the original on 5 July 2015. Retrieved 13 April 2015.
  26. ^ "Protesters to return to Parliament Square over Labour anti-Semitism code". Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  27. ^ "Villiers backs #EnoughIsEnough protest on anti-Semitism in Labour". Theresa Villiers. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  28. ^ Oborne, Peter. "British MPs should be ashamed of supporting regime change in Tehran". Middle East Eye. Retrieved 10 December 2018.
  29. ^ Thomas, Natalie. "Theresa Villiers shuts door on third runway at Heathrow". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 23 March 2015.
  30. ^ Tighe, Chris (15 July 2012). "UK hopes to boost regional airports". Financial Times. Retrieved 7 September 2012.
  31. ^ "Why I'm backing the hunting ban". Theresa Villiers.
  32. ^
  33. ^ Theresa Villiers & Sean Wilken (29 April 1998). Law of Estoppel, Variation and Waiver. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 0-471-96921-4.
  34. ^ "Theresa Villiers". Westminster Parliamentary Record. Archived from the original on 20 March 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2010.

External linksEdit

European Parliament
New constituency Member of the European Parliament
for London

Succeeded by
Syed Kamall
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sydney Chapman
Member of Parliament
for Chipping Barnet

Political offices
Preceded by
Philip Hammond
Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Philip Hammond
Preceded by
Chris Grayling
Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Succeeded by
The Lord Adonis
Preceded by
Sadiq Khan
Minister of State for Transport
Succeeded by
Simon Burns
Preceded by
Owen Paterson
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
James Brokenshire
Preceded by
Michael Gove
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Succeeded by
George Eustice