Heather Kay Wheeler (née Wilkinson; born 14 May 1959) is a British Conservative Party politician, who was first elected at the 2010 general election as the Member of Parliament (MP) for South Derbyshire, taking the seat from the Labour Party after 13 years. She served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government from January 2018 to July 2019. She served as the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific in the Johnson administration until her resignation on 13 February 2020 due to family commitments.
|Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific|
26 July 2019 – 13 February 2020
|Prime Minister||Boris Johnson|
|Preceded by||Mark Field|
|Succeeded by||Nigel Adams|
|Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing and Homelessness|
9 January 2018 – 26 July 2019
|Prime Minister||Theresa May|
|Preceded by||Marcus Jones|
|Succeeded by||Luke Hall|
|Lord Commissioner of the Treasury|
15 June 2017 – 9 January 2018
|Prime Minister||Theresa May|
|Preceded by||Guy Opperman|
|Succeeded by||Rebecca Harris|
|Member of Parliament |
for South Derbyshire
|Assumed office |
6 May 2010
|Preceded by||Mark Todd|
|Born||14 May 1959|
Norwich, Norfolk, England
Early life and local government career
Wheeler was born in Norwich, Norfolk on 14 May 1959. She was brought up and state educated in Wandsworth in London and was elected a Conservative member for West Hill ward on Wandsworth London Borough Council at the age of 23 in 1982. After serving a full council term, she married her husband Bob, moving in 1986 to Bretby, South Derbyshire.
Wheeler was first elected to South Derbyshire District Council in 1995 for the safe Conservative seat of Repton. She went on to become leader of the council's Conservative group and became Leader of the Council between 2007 and 2010. She was successfully re-elected as a councillor for Repton ward until 2011; her daughter Harriet unsuccessfully stood as a Conservative candidate in Swadlincote ward in 2011, whilst husband Bob successfully defended his marginal Linton ward and continued as Leader of the council.
Wheeler stood unsuccessfully at the 2001 and 2005 general elections as her party's candidate for Coventry South. Wheeler was a member of the Conservative Party's A-List prior to being selected to contest the South Derbyshire constituency. At the 2010 general election, she gained the seat from Labour with a majority of 7,128; there was a 9.8% swing to the Conservatives. Following her election as a Member of Parliament she stood aside as Conservative council group leader. She was re-elected in 2015 and 2017, with the former defying polling that suggested her seat would be vulnerable following the Conservative Government's failure to award a major contract to local train manufacturer Bombardier.
In the House of Commons she sat on the Standards and Privileges Committee, the European Scrutiny Committee and the Communities and Local Government Committee. She was also a member of the Public Bill Committee for the Defence Reform Act 2014.
Wheeler was one of 79 Conservative MPs who supported a 2011 rebel motion calling for a referendum on the European Union. She also joined a 2013 rebel amendment expressing regret at not including the referendum in the government's plans. She subsequently backed the government's plans to hold a referendum in 2017 and opposed a proposal to hold it in 2014. Wheeler backed Leave in the referendum.
In January 2018, Wheeler was appointed as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, with responsibility for homelessness and rough sleeping as well as the private rented and leasehold sectors.
In 2021, she is running for chair of the 1922 Committee.
In August 2016, following the 2016 Rio Olympics, the European Union social media account shared a modified medals table showing its combined member states in first place. Wheeler tweeted in response that the British Empire had won the 2016 Rio Olympics along with a map of former imperial territories. Her comments were attacked by critics as being "deeply offensive to so many people and their ancestors" and "insensitive and ignorant", but she rejected calls to apologise, instead arguing that her comments were "tongue-in-cheek".
In September 2017, Wheeler was criticised for claiming expenses for first-class tickets when she travelled by rail, despite official guidance from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority – set up in the wake of the 2009 expenses scandal – saying politicians should “consider value for money” when booking tickets. However, she argued that her claims were permissible within the expenses rules and that the first-class tickets were cheaper than some standard class tickets available.
In March 2018, following her promotion to a Government position with responsibility for homelessness, Wheeler told The Guardian newspaper that she did not know why the number of rough sleepers had increased in recent years. Wheeler rejected the suggestion that welfare reforms and council cuts relating to her Government had contributed to the rise. Earlier in the same month, Wheeler promised to resign if the number of people rough sleeping got worse while she was in office.
In June 2019, it was revealed that in October 2017, three months before she became minister, Wheeler described rough sleepers in her constituency as “the traditional type, old tinkers, knife-cutters wandering through”. In response, Wheeler faced calls to resign from Stephen Robertson, the chief executive of the Big Issue Foundation and a representative from a leading national charity which works on behalf of Gypsies, Travellers and Roma described the language as “disgraceful”. Wheeler issued an apology for her “inappropriate language”, and said it “is not at all representative of the great cultural contribution and rich heritage that the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities make to this country”.
In May 2020, whilst broadcasting remotely to a House of Commons general debate on COVID-19 Wheeler swore in parliamentary session, via a video link when she was heard to say "Oh f*****g hell".
Wheeler's late husband Bob was a Conservative councillor who was made leader of South Derbyshire District Council in 2010, after his wife stepped down from the role on becoming an MP. He stood down as Leader of the Council in January 2018; he died in late 2018.
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- "Wandsworth Council Election Results 1964-2010" (PDF). Plymouth University. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
- "About Heather Wheeler". Archived from the original on 6 April 2017. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
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- "Seats and candidates: Where are the original A-Listers now? The 27 who have been selected for target seats". conservativehome.blogs.com. ConservativeHome.
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- "Poll boosts Labour hopes of ousting Heather Wheeler MP on back of Siemens trains deal". Conservative Home. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
- "House of Commons Public Bill Committee on the Defence Reform Bill 2013-14". Parliament.uk. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
- "Rebel MPs: the full list". New Statesman. Progressive Media International. 25 October 2011. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
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- "EU vote: Where the cabinet and other MPs stand". 22 June 2016 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
- "Heather Wheeler MP - GOV.UK". www.gov.uk. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- "Race to be backbench Tory MPs' champion hots up". BBC News. 17 June 2021. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
- Withnall, Adam (23 August 2016), "'British Empire' won the Olympics, claims Conservative MP Heather Wheeler", The Independent
- Muir, Rod (23 August 2016). "Conservative MP celebrates performance of 'British Empire' in Rio". Total Politics. Retrieved 23 August 2016.
- "MP Heather Wheeler sparks Twitter backlash with British Empire post". BBC. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
- "Three Tory Derbyshire MPs claim £10k on first-class train tickets in a year". Derby Telegraph. 8 September 2017. Retrieved 12 July 2018.
- Brooks, Libby (18 March 2018). "Homelessness minister: I don't know why rough sleeper numbers are up". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- "Homelessness minister gives herself ultimatum". BBC News. Retrieved 18 March 2018.
- Greenfield, Patrick; Marsh, Sarah; McDevitt, Johnny (20 June 2019). "Homelessness minister accused of racist remarks about rough sleepers". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
- "Swadlincote MP Heather Wheeler says the F word in live House of Commons broadcast". Retrieved 27 May 2020.
- "Cllr Robert Wheeler". South Derbyshire Council. Retrieved 12 July 2018.