Born in Aberdeen, his family moved in 1968 to Hornchurch in East London. Mr Baker was educated at the Royal Liberty School in Gidea Park, near Romford, and at Royal Holloway College, University of London, gaining a BA in German and History in 1978.
He was a regional director for Our Price Records for five years from 1978. From 1985 he taught English as a foreign language until 1997, with a spell as a Liberal Democrat environment researcher in the House of Commons in 1989–90. In 1987 he was elected as a councillor to the Lewes District Council, and two years later was also elected to the local county council of East Sussex. He became the Leader of Lewes Council in 1991, a position he held until his election to Westminster.
In May 2008 in the abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (now Act), Norman Baker voted for the abortion time limit to be lowered to 20 weeks against scientific and medical consensus which is currently 24 weeks. After four separate parliamentary votes on varying time limits, the majority of MPs voted to keep the abortion time limit at 24 weeks, in keeping with scientific and medical consensus, hence no abortion amendments were added to the bill.
In February 2015 Norman Baker voted in favour of allowing mitochondrial donation, which would allow women who carried mitochondrial diseases to give birth to children who would not inherit the disease. An October 2014 briefing report by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), which had been investigating the issue for three years, stated that there was no evidence to show that mitochondrial donation was unsafe. However, some religious groups had said that such procedures should not be allowed. After clearing both Houses, mitochondrial donation is now legal, regulated by the HFEA.
In April 2010, following the publication of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee's report "Evidence Check 2: Homeopathy", Baker signed Early Day Motion 908: Science and Technology Committee Report on Homeopathy, which was critical of the report.
In July 2014 Mr Baker was reported to want to see an end to all testing, but that it "would not happen tomorrow". See complete article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-28580792
In 2007, it was reported that the Labour Party had allowed the Association for Better Living and Education (ABLE) to pay between £3,500 and £13,500 for a stall at the party's annual conference in Manchester. ABLE are a Californian charitable group which are closely associated with the Church of Scientology, who state they use "the educational methodologies developed by L. Ron Hubbard".
Norman Baker commented:
- "Scientology is a dubious cult at best and it's worrying that it seems to have infiltrated both Labour and the Tories in this way. It only goes to show that some politicians are prepared to take money from anyone. Given Scientology's record of spin it is no surprise that they have links to this Labour Government."
In October 2014 the Home Office published its report "Drugs: International Comparators". The phrase that attracted headlines was "we did not in our fact-finding observe any obvious relationship between the toughness of a country's enforcement against drug possession, and levels of drug use in that country" (p.47). A few days after the publication of the report, Norman Baker resigned from his position as Minister of State at the Home Office stating "the goodwill to work collegiately to take forward rational evidence-based policy has been in somewhat short supply". In December Mr Baker indicated that three policy suggestions had at one point been proposed for inclusion in the Report, but had not been part of the final version. It was reported that he urged Nick Clegg to consider adopting these measures:
- Treating addicts with prescribed heroin under supervision
- Those committing minor drug offences to be offered treatment programmes rather criminal charges
- Medicinal use of cannabis for some conditions.
Death of Dr David Kelly
In October 2007, Mr Baker published his book "The Strange Death of David Kelly" concerning with the death in 2003 of UN weapons inspector Dr David Kelly. The Hutton Enquiry had concluded that the death was a suicide following Dr Kelly's contact with the media caused a political scandal over claims made in the Iraqi weapons dossier, and Dr Kelly's subsequent parliamentary questioning. In 2013, with Mr Baker's appointment as Minister of State at the Home Office, he was described as a "conspiracy theorist" in the press.
An archived version of a newspaper article from Mr Baker's website: http://web.archive.org/web/20071106033842/http://www.normanbaker.org.uk/concerns/kellymail.htm (first published July 2006; this version November 2007, subsequent versions on Archive.org 404 error)
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4's World at One on 8th October 2013 on his appointment to the Home Office, Mr Baker refused to answer questions about his current views on the death of David Kelly. He said: "That's history. We've moved on. It's ten years on."
In 2006, MPs were asked three questions by the Rough Guide's Mark Ellingham on how seriously they took climate change as politicians and as responsible, active citizens. Norman Baker replied:
- " Climate change is a threat greater than any other faced by mankind and is therefore the most important political issue of our time. This means that we need to take urgent action on both the domestic and international stages. Climate change is a reality today, and is already having a huge impact on natural systems across the world, with ice-caps in retreat, coral reef bleaching, the extinction of numerous species, and increased frequency of extreme weather events. In the future, if insufficient action is taken, we face the prospect of catastrophic flooding in some countries alongside ruinous drought and famine in others. This will mean not only terrible human suffering, but economic disaster as well. I very much welcome the recent Stern Review, which may at last make those who somehow believe that the economy and environment are separate matters realize that, rather they are inextricably linked.
- If we want to stop the worst impacts of climate change, I believe it is vitally important that the average global temperature increases stay below 2°C from pre-industrial levels. Unfortunately, however, we are already much of the way there. Avoiding rises in temperature beyond 2ºC will therefore require dramatic and urgent reductions in emissions of greenhouses gases by all industrialised countries."
In February 2010, Norman Baker signed Early Day Motion 524: Recognising Climate Change which states that "this House agrees that climate change is happening and is man-made" and calls this statement a "fact, which has the support of the overwhelming majority of the scientific community".
In October 2010 a constituent contacted Baker about signing Early Day Motion 767: Science is Vital Campaign opposing possible cuts to science funding in the forthcoming spending review. The constituent reported on Twitter that that "My MP Norman Baker says as a minister he can't sign EDM, but has written to Willetts about my concerns".
Libel Law Reform
In January 2010, Norman Baker signed Early Day Motion 423 calling for a reform of the English libel law. The motion noted that human rights activists, scientists, writers and journalists are currently prevented from publishing, and the public prevented from reading, matters of strong public interest due to the chilling effect of the law.
Norman Baker voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its third reading in May 2013.
- http://web.archive.org/web/20071106033842/http://www.normanbaker.org.uk/concerns/kellymail.htm http://www.freezepage.com/1381388827HCTSUVBTWL
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