Lord (Phil) Willis becomes AMRC Chair

An extract from our news release announcing that Lord (Phil) Willis becomes AMRC’s Chair at our AGM taking place at the Royal College of Surgeons of England today.

MEDICAL RESEARCH CHAMPIONS FIND NEW CHAMPION

Lord Willis of Knaresborough, one of the most prominent voices on science in parliament, has today been appointed chair of the 124 member strong Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC). 

Lord Willis is a member of the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee and, before his retirement as a Member of Parliament at the general election in May 2010, chaired the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee.  He joined the House of Lords in July 2010.

AMRC is the membership association of the leading medical research charities in the UK. In 2009-2010 its 124 members invested over £1 billion into medical and health research across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. AMRC is a recognised quality-mark of research funding across the sector. The association also plays an important and influential role on key issues such as research using hybrid embryos, the spending review and currently, voicing concerns over the possible adverse impact on research of government proposals to cap non-EU migrants.

Lord Willis said today: ‘I am delighted to have been asked to chair AMRC and champion the contribution of medical research charities to health research in the UK. We are unique in this country in having such a strong, vibrant and diverse sector. Many of our charities are now prominent on the world stage of science. But without the commitment of all our charities, large and small, much valuable research and many leading scientists would not have a home in the UK.’

 Welcoming him to his new role, AMRC chief executive Simon Denegri said, ‘I believe that it says everything about the credibility and status of AMRC and its members that we have attracted such a widely-respected figure and leading voice in parliament as Lord Willis to chair our organisation. I and my members are looking forward to working with him in the future.’

 ‘These are challenging times. But, in bringing the patient voice to the fore, charities can be a highly effective force in influencing public debate as they have shown time and again in the past,’ said Lord Willis.

Lord Willis takes office at AMRC’s AGM on Wednesday 24th November 2010. He succeeds Baroness Cumberlege, who was chair of the association from 2007 to 2010. 

ENDS

Biography of Phil Willis:

Phil Willis was born in Burnley Lancashire in 1941. He was educated at Burnley Grammar School, City of Leeds and Carnegie College and Birmingham University where he graduated with a degree in philosophy, and he spent much of his professional life in teaching. From 1978 until 1997 he was head of two large comprehensive schools in Middlesbrough and Leeds where he achieved national recognition for his pioneering work on inclusive education. 

He entered parliament as MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough in 1997, defeating the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Norman Lamont. He was a former leader of Harrogate Council where he is credited with the revival of Harrogate International Centre, turning it into one of the most successful conference and exhibition centre businesses in the UK. 

In 1999 he was appointed shadow secretary of state for education and skills by Charles Kennedy, retaining the post until the 2005 general election when he was appointed chairman of the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee. As chairman he has developed a special interest in evidence based policy making, knowledge transfer leading to wealth creation and medical science.

 In May 2007 he was also appointed chair of the Joint Committee on the Draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, scrutinising proposed legislation to regulate some highly controversial areas of medical research, including the use of human embryos, and striking a balance between scientific progress and ethical concerns. This led to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act, which was passed in 2008.

He became a member of the House of Lords in 2010, as Baron Willis of Knaresborough, of Harrogate in the County of North Yorkshire.

Married with two children, he is a keen supporter of Leeds United and spends much of his spare time in Ireland where he retains an interest in his family’s farm in Donegal.

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