Richard Ottaway

Sir Richard Geoffrey James Ottaway (born 24 May 1945) is a British Conservative politician and most recently, was the Member of Parliament for Croydon South from 1992 to 2015. He was previously MP for Nottingham North (1983–87).

Sir Richard Ottaway
Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee
In office
17 May 2010  30 March 2015
Preceded byMike Gapes
Succeeded byCrispin Blunt
Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
15 March 2004  10 May 2005
LeaderMichael Howard
Preceded byCaroline Spelman
Succeeded byOliver Letwin (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)
Lord Commissioner of the Treasury
In office
23 July 1996  1 May 1997
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byDerek Conway
Succeeded byJim Dowd
Member of Parliament
for Croydon South
In office
9 April 1992  30 March 2015
Preceded byWilliam Clark
Succeeded byChris Philp
Member of Parliament
for Nottingham North
In office
9 June 1983  18 May 1987
Preceded byWilliam Whitlock
Succeeded byGraham Allen
Personal details
Born (1945-05-24) 24 May 1945 (age 76)
Sonning, England
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)Nicola Ottaway[1]
Alma materBritannia Royal Naval College
University of Bristol
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service Royal Navy
Years of service1961–1970

Early life

Ottaway was born in Sonning, Berkshire. He attended Backwell School, a secondary modern in Backwell, North Somerset, and joined the Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth before serving as a Royal Navy officer in 1961-70 as a Lieutenant.

Ottaway studied law at Bristol University, graduating in 1974. He qualified as a solicitor in 1977, specialising in maritime and commercial law, and was a partner of William A. Crump & Son in London in 1981–87. He was a director of Coastal States Petroleum (UK) Ltd in 1988–95.

Parliamentary career

Ottaway was MP for Nottingham North from 1983 to 1987. This was a long-standing Labour Party seat, and he won it unexpectedly with a majority of 362 in the landslide victory following the Falklands War. Unsurprisingly the seat reverted to Labour in 1987, when he was defeated by Graham Allen. Ottaway re-entered Parliament in 1992 when he won Croydon South.

In 1992-95 Ottaway was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Michael Heseltine MP and from October 1995 he was a Government Whip. In opposition until 2005, he was a Front Bench spokesman as Shadow Minister for London and Local Government, Shadow Defence Minister, Shadow Paymaster General and Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment.

In the 2005–2010 Parliament he was a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Vice Chairman of the 1922 Committee and a member of the Conservative Party Board. After the 2010 election he became the first Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee to be elected by MPs from all sides of the House.[2]

In 2011 he was declared The Week's Back Bencher of the year based on an enquiry into Afghanistan[3] that was highly critical of Government policy and urged the UK to do more to encourage the US to talk with the Taliban.[4]

Ottaway chaired the All Party Parliamentary London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Group and is a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Population, Development and Reproductive Health. In 2012 he won the Population Institute’s Global Media Award[5] for ground-breaking research into population growth. His Sex, Ideology and Religion: 10 Myths about world population[6] won the Best Essay category.

As a long-standing campaigner for the right of terminally-ill people to die at home, Ottaway tabled a historic backbench committee debate on assisted suicide in the House of Commons in March 2012.[7] This resulted in Parliament agreeing for the first time that it is not in the public interest to prosecute people who compassionately help a loved one to die. However, assisting suicide is still illegal and the issue is highly controversial. He has subsequently made the case for assisted dying - suicide with the help of medical professionals. In October 2012 he debated at the Oxford Union in favour of the motion: This House Would Legalise Assisted Dying, and won by 167 to 131 votes.[8]

In October 2012, Ottaway announced his decision not to stand in 2015 at a meeting of his local party.[9] He was appointed to the Privy Council in October 2013.[10] On 12 November 2013, Chris Philp was selected to become the next Conservative parliamentary candidate for Croydon South.

Ottaway was knighted in the 2014 New Year Honours for parliamentary and political service.[11]

Foreign Affairs Select Committee

After the 2010 General Election Ottaway was elected the Chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs. He has presided over inquiries including an annual look at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Human Rights work, the UK’s relations with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, foreign policy implications of and for a separate Scotland, and the future of the EU. He has raised through correspondence with Foreign Secretary William Hague concerns about the legality of arming rebels in Syria.

Ottaway voted for the Iraq War based on evidence presented to Parliament, but subsequently regretted his decision as he believes that the British public were not told the truth.[12] Ottaway was a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in 2003 when the committee took evidence from David Kelly, the former UN weapons inspector who revealed details of the dossier on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. His question to Prime Minister Tony Blair on 4 February 2003[13] revealed that Blair had not appreciated that Iraq possessed only defensive battlefield or small-calibre weaponry rather than long-range weapons of mass destruction when he made his speech in the Iraq debate that led to the House of Commons voting in favour of war. Ottaway asserted that if that information had been spelled out to MPs “those weapons might not have been described as weapons of mass destruction threatening the region and the stability of the world”. He is currently leading an inquiry on the UK's relation with Hong Kong, a former British colony, 30 years after the Joint Declaration amid series pro-democracy protests.[14][15]


Ottaway is a founding member of the European Mainstream Group,[16] formed in February 2013 to articulate a positive Conservative attitude to Europe as set out by David Cameron in his Bloomberg Speech.[17] He supports the UK remaining in the EU, in a renegotiated relationship.

As Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ottaway presided over an inquiry into the Future of the EU[18] and has pledged his support for the EU Referendum Bill.[19] On 15 May 2013 he made the economic case for staying in the EU in the Queen’s Speech debate on economic growth.[20] He answered his main opponent on the day in an article in ConservativeHome.[21]

Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013

In 2013, Ottaway celebrated the passing of his Private Member’s Bill to crack down on metal theft and the desecration of war memorials[22] by tighter regulation of scrap metal yards, car breakers and anyone buying, selling and trading in scrap metal. Ottoway worked closely with the Home Office, Chief Constable Paul Crowther and Superintendent John McBride to bring about change. His interest in metal theft dated back to 2009, when thieves stole lead from a constituency parish church, causing tens of thousands of pounds worth damage to the building and the historic organ when rainwater trickled through.[23]

The Bill[24] won overwhelming support in both Houses as well as from the Government. It was backed by organisations including The Royal British Legion, War Memorials Trust, Church of England, Network Rail, BT, the Energy Networks Association, the Institute of Directors, the Federation of Small Businesses, Arts Council England, Tate Galleries, the Henry Moore Foundation, the Local Government Association, British Transport Police and the British Metals Recycling Association. It received Royal Assent on 28 February 2013 and was implemented on 1 October 2013, in time for the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

2009 expenses scandal

During the Daily Telegraph expenses scandal it was revealed that Ottaway claimed for a second home nine miles south of the constituency, with another house minutes from Parliament. Ottaway apologised to constituents for his part in 'allowing an indefensible system of allowances to develop'[25] and announced he would let Croydon South party members decide his fate in a vote of confidence. The local association's President, Lord Bowness, chaired the meeting, which ended in a secret ballot that Ottaway won.

Among his expenses claims between April 2004 and March 2008 were £59.99 on light bulbs and £48 for modifying a scarifier. He paid back £2,025 that he had claimed as half of the price of an orthopaedic bed and £1,400 for homeware and electrical goods. David Cameron’s Conservative head office scrutiny panel did not ask him to pay back any more.

2014 Non-binding House of Commons vote on recognising the State of Palestine

Ottaway voted in favour of recognition.

Refusal to meet with constituents

It was reported that Ottaway called the police for 'security' when a group of constituents - most of whom were of pension age - visited his office to hand in a petition against the 'Gagging Law' (Transparency of Lobbying, non-Party Campaigning, and Trade Union Administration Bill) on 17 January 2014. A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Officers spoke to all parties. No offences were identified and the officers left.” The MP, however, is reported as saying that he would do the same again.[26]

Personal life

Ottaway married Nicky, a magistrate and former international television production executive, in 1982. His main leisure interests are jazz and sailing. He is an active member of the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group. He is also a successful yachtsman and has won a number of amateur trophies.

He is the nephew of the actor James Ottaway.

In 2015, he will accept the position of President of Croydon District Scout Council, having been a cub and scout himself in younger life.


  1. "House of Commons - The Register of Members' Financial Interests - Part 2: Part 2". Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  2. "Feature: Crib sheet to Britain's new select committees". 11 June 2010. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  3. "UK's foreign policy approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan - UK Parliament". Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  4. "Ottaway is Mole's backbencher of the year for Afghan alert | News | The Week UK". 19 December 2011. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  5. "The Population Institute". The Population Institute. 29 November 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  6. [dead link]
  7. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 27 Mar 2012 (pt 0002)". Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  8. "Richard Ottaway MP | Assisted Dying SHOULD be legalised". YouTube. 13 December 2012. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  9. Glenn Ebrey (26 October 2012). "Croydon South MP Richard Ottaway to stand down at 2015 General Election | Croydon Advertiser". Archived from the original on 5 May 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  10. Prime Minister's Office, 10 Downing Street (9 October 2013). "Richard Ottaway MP approved as Privy Councillor - Press releases". GOV.UK. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  11. "No. 60728". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2013. p. 1.
  12. "Political profile: Richard Ottaway". Total Politics. Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  13. Department of the Official Report (Hansard), House of Commons, Westminster (4 February 2004). "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 4 Feb 2004 (pt 6)". Retrieved 29 January 2014.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. "The UK's relations with Hong Kong: 30 years after the Joint Declaration".
  15. "Emergency debate on ban by China on Foreign Affairs Committee visit to Hong Kong - News from Parliament".
  16. "The grand launch of the Tories' pro-European group | Westminster blog". 14 February 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  17. "EU speech at Bloomberg - Speeches". GOV.UK. 23 January 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  18. "The future of the European Union: UK Government policy - UK Parliament". Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  19. "Richard Ottaway MP - News Story". 17 June 2013. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  20. "House of Commons Hansard Debates for 15 May 2013 (pt 0002)". Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  21. Richard Ottaway MP (29 May 2013). "Richard Ottaway MP: To the colleagues who heckled me, I say: it is in our national interest to stay in the E.U". Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  22. "Scrap Metal Dealers Bill 2012" (PDF). 13 July 2012.
  23. "Richard Ottaway MP - News Story". 21 January 2009. Archived from the original on 2 February 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  24. "Scrap Metal Dealers Act 2013". 28 February 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  25. "Richard Ottaway MP - News Story". 22 May 2009. Archived from the original on 3 January 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  26. Boyle, Sian (23 January 2014). "Tory MP called police for 'security' as pensioner volunteers delivered". Evening Standard, UK. Retrieved 15 July 2021.