Guto ap Owain Bebb (born 9 October 1968) is a Welsh politician and former business consultant who served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Aberconwy from the 2010 general election to that of 2019. He had previously lost elections to the Welsh Assembly and the House of Commons. He served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Wales Office in 2016–2018 and as Minister for Defence Procurement at the Ministry of Defence from January 2018 until he resigned in July 2018. First elected as a Conservative, Bebb had the Conservative whip removed on 3 September 2019 and served his remaining months as an independent.
|Minister for Defence Procurement|
9 January 2018 – 16 July 2018
|Prime Minister||Theresa May|
|Preceded by||Harriett Baldwin|
|Succeeded by||Stuart Andrew|
|Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales|
19 March 2016 – 9 January 2018
|Prime Minister||David Cameron|
|Preceded by||Alun Cairns|
|Succeeded by||Stuart Andrew|
|Lord Commissioner of the Treasury|
19 March 2016 – 9 January 2018
|Prime Minister||David Cameron|
|Preceded by||Alun Cairns|
|Succeeded by||Paul Maynard|
|Member of Parliament|
6 May 2010 – 6 November 2019
|Preceded by||Constituency established|
|Succeeded by||Robin Millar|
Guto ap Owain Bebb
9 October 1968
|Political party||Independent (2019-present)|
Plaid Cymru (before 2002)
|Alma mater||Aberystwyth University|
Early life and career
Bebb was born in Wrexham on 9 October 1968 to a family originating from Bangor and Blaenau Ffestiniog. He was a student at Ysgol Syr Hugh Owen in Caernarfon, then graduated in 1990 from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, with a BA in history. He subsequently ran an economic development consultancy and worked as business development director of Innovas Wales. He was also a partner in his wife's bookshop.
Bebb is a former Plaid Cymru activist and chaired the party in Caernarfon. He defected to the Conservatives after failing to gain the party's candidacy for the seat on long-serving incumbent Dafydd Wigley's retirement.
Bebb first stood for the Conservatives in 2002, contesting the safe Labour seat of Ogmore in a 2002 by-election caused by the death of the Labour MP Sir Raymond Powell. He finished fourth, many votes behind the successful candidate, Huw Irranca-Davies. He stood again in the 2003 Welsh Assembly election, as a candidate in the now-abolished constituency of Conwy. He came third behind Labour and Plaid Cymru. At the 2005 general election he stood in Conwy, this time coming second to Labour.
At the 2010 general election, boundary changes led to creation of a new constituency called Aberconwy, based on the former Conwy. Bebb was selected as its Conservative candidate and returned as MP for Aberconwy with a majority of 3,398 (11.3 per cent of votes cast).
He has joined several delegations of the Conservative Friends of Israel group, including one during the Operation Defensive Shield conflict, when he visited for an Israeli military briefing on the Iron Dome defence system.
In March 2016, Bebb became the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, following Stephen Crabb's move to the Department for Work and Pensions, and Alun Cairns' subsequent promotion to Secretary of State for Wales. As part of Theresa May's January 2018 reshuffle he was promoted to the more senior position of Minister for Defence Procurement in the Ministry of Defence.
In the House of Commons he has previously sat on the Public Accounts Committee, the Members' Expenses Committee and the Welsh Affairs Committee.
Bebb stood down at the 2019 general election, citing concerns about the direction the Conservative Party was taking.
Work on Fair Business Banking
In January 2012, following a complaint by a constituent, Bebb raised the issue of the sale of Interest Rate Swap Agreements ("IRSAs") in Parliament. He asked the Leader of the House for a debate on the potential mis-selling of these complex interest-rate hedging products ("IRHPs") by UK high street banks to over 40,000 small and medium-sized Businesses ("SMEs") throughout the UK. He also asked the Financial Services Authority ("the FSA") to look at this issue urgently and in detail. After Bebb had raised the issue in Parliament, the FSA announced that they would carry out an investigation into the way these products had been sold. On 21 June 2012, Bebb called a backbench business debate in the House of Commons to discuss the IRSA/IRHP mis-selling issue.
After this debate, Bebb wrote to all MPs who had shown an interest in this subject inviting them to join an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). The purpose of this APPG was to seek meaningful redress for those SMEs that had been affected by the mis-selling of interest rate swaps and to pursue this on a cross-party basis. As of March 2015, there were over 100 MPs of various parties on the APPG, chaired by Calum Kerr MP, and the group has been renamed Fair Business Banking.
On 29 June 2012, the FSA reported that it had investigated the sale of IRSA/IRHPs to SMEs and had found evidence that over 90% of these sales had been mis-sales and that substantial damage had resulted to those SMEs mis-sold these products. The FSA announced that it had agreed with the four largest high street banks that a review and redress scheme would be put in place. This agreement was subsequently extended to a further seven banks. As a result of slow progress and poor customer outcomes from the bank-led FSA IRHP Review, Bebb subsequently called and led to further back-bench debates on the issue — the last in December 2014 when MPs across the house criticised the poor performance of the now Financial Conduct Authority ("the FCA" which had subsequently replaced the FSA) IRHP Review scheme.
Following hearings with the FCA and complaints from the APPG, victim groups, individual victims and various industry experts, the Treasury Select Committee (TSC), on 10 March 2015, published a report expressing concerns about the performance of the FCA's IRHP Redress Scheme and called for an independently monitored review of the Scheme. This call for an independent review of the FCA's IRHP Scheme was backed by the then Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Andrea Leadsom. The FCA has yet to respond to either the TSC or HM Treasury.
Bebb employed his wife as a part-time office manager. In August 2017, he was accused of nepotism after he made the appointment just before a parliamentary ban on such practices came into force. Some sections of the media had previously criticised the practice of MPs employing family members, on the lines that it is not fair to other potential candidates. Though MPs who were first elected in 2017 have been banned from employing family members, the move is not retrospective – meaning that Bebb's employment of his wife is lawful.
In August 2013, it was reported that Bebb had claimed the third-highest food and drinks expenses claim in the country, as well as the highest overall expenses claim for an MP in North Wales. However, he responded that all his claims were within the revised expenses regulations. In October 2012, he was criticised for claiming expenses for first class tickets when he travelled by rail, despite official guidance from parliamentary watchdog IPSA – set up in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal – saying politicians should "consider value for money" when booking tickets. However, he argued that his claims were permissible under the expenses rules and that the first class tickets were cheaper than some standard class tickets available.
Bebb attracted media notice for some controversial language used when interacting with critical constituents. In 2014, he became involved in a dispute with an Aberconwy constituent after an exchange on Twitter, leading to media criticism of his negative comments about Asperger's syndrome.
In April 2015, argumentative emails between Bebb and his local Conservative Party Association chairman were leaked and reported by the BBC. Bebb was accused of lack of loyalty and support to the Welsh Conservatives, for not living in the constituency and for being egocentric. Bebb replied that the chairman was a "disgrace" and his own work in line with advice from the national Conservative Party.
On 16 July 2018, Bebb voted against the government on the Taxation (Cross Border Trade) Bill, so resigning as Minister for Defence Procurement by convention of the payroll vote. He also backed the People's Vote campaign for a public vote on the final Brexit deal, co-founding the Right to Vote group in early 2019. Bebb's withdrawal as minister left him free to endorse a second referendum on Brexit.
Bebb's native language is Welsh. He is the grandson of Ambrose Bebb, co-founder of Plaid Cymru, the nephew of Welsh rugby international Dewi Bebb and the first cousin of professional golfer Sion Bebb. He is married to Esyllt Bebb. The couple have five children.
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Sarah Wollaston, has joined the People's Vote campaign along with Phillip Lee and Guto Bebb
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