James Stephen Wharton (born 16 February 1984) is a British Conservative Party politician. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for his home constituency of Stockton South from the 2010 general election, until the 2017 general election. Wharton was appointed Minister for the Northern Powerhouse after his reelection in 2015 and moved to a ministerial position in the Department for International Development by Theresa May in 2016.
James Wharton grew up in Wolviston, County Durham. He went to Yarm School and St Peter's School, York followed by Durham University where he studied Law and was a member of the Officers' Training Corps (OTC) (part of the Northumbrian UOTC). Following his graduation from Durham he studied the Legal Practice Course at The College of Law in York and qualified as a solicitor with BHP Law, a firm in the Northeast.
Wharton joined the Conservative Party in his teens and was made chairman of his local association at 18.
Wharton defeated the sitting Labour MP Dari Taylor to be elected as MP for Stockton South by 332 votes in the 2010 General Election, making him his party's youngest MP at the age of 26 as well as one of its most precariously-placed.
From his election in May 2010 to November 2012, Wharton sat on the Public Accounts Committee.
After being elected MP for Stockton South, Wharton made stated his opposition to a development occurring in Preston Park. The plans, backed by Wharton's predecessor Dari Taylor, included relocating Egglescliffe School to the park. Wharton accused Stockton Borough Council of refusing to listen to the "democratic will of local people."
After a developer withdrew its £750,000 investment to regenerate Thornaby Town Hall, Wharton called for the building to be given back to the Town Council. Originally the building did belong to the Town Council; however due to local government reorganisations, it was taken on by Stockton Borough Council. In 2012 the Town Council purchased the building from the borough council with the hope of enabling the building and the surrounding area to be restored.
Wharton was one of 53 Conservative MPs who voted against the Government in favour of an amendment calling for a cut in the EU budget from 2014. Wharton claimed that his decision was "right for the British people and right for the nation's interests."
Wharton was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Minister for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse), the first minister dedicated to the government proposal. After Theresa May's appointment as Prime Minister in July 2016, Wharton was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for International Development.
On 16 May 2013, Wharton came top of a ballot of backbench MPs which entitled him to introduce a Private Member's Bill during the 2013–14 parliamentary session. He chose to address the issue of a referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union by attempting to enshrine the Conservative Party Position into law by introducing the European Union (Referendum) Bill 2013-14. He faced criticism from opposition MPs for taking on the EU Referendum Bill as his Private Members Bill and it was suggested by them that the move may have been more advantageous to his political career than of direct benefit to his constituents. Wharton himself had previously suggested that too much time was spent debating the issue of Europe, but has since argued that his Private Member's Bill was designed to put the issue to rest.
After the Bill did not pass the House of Lords, Wharton blamed Labour and Liberal Democrat obstructionism.
Wharton has made a number of visits to Sri Lanka, including as a delegate of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, with the charity International Alert and as a guest of the Sri Lankan Government, including four visits in nine months during 2012. Wharton denied allegations that he had become too close to the Sri Lankan government, saying that he had made friends on both sides of the ethnic divide and that the lack of a Sri Lankan community in his constituency helped him be "objective"
Wharton is a member of Conservative Friends of Israel. In 2014 Wharton denied allegations by a UKIP councillor that a letter he wrote to constituents on the subject of the conflict in Gaza had "been sent to those residents who may reasonably be expected to be Muslims, based only on their names".
In 2010, Wharton assisted Conservative Town Councillor Jason Hadlow's company Trocabart secure £30,000 in aid from the former Regional Development Agency, One North East. The business failed and had now been closed. He claimed that his only motivation was to promote the growth of jobs in the Teesside area. There has been no evidence of any financial connection between Wharton and the firm.
In an email exchange in July 2011, Wharton threatened to sue a constituent who produced flyers lampooning his stance on redeveloping a children's play area, saying "I will … be taking advice on the libellous cartoons you have been distributing and you can expect to hear from my solicitors in due course. You have damaged my reputation by making untrue inferences and it is time you were taken up on your lies".
Wharton was accused of a breach of Parliamentary protocol by attending a neighbouring constituency to take part in a photo call at the new Hitachi factory in Phil Wilson's Sedgefield constituency without advising Wilson in advance. Wharton acknowledged that he had driven minister Brandon Lewis to the site and been photographed there but said that he had not been there for the duration of the visit. Speaker John Bercow said that MPs should observe the spirit of the rules.
In November 2013 Wharton was listed as one of the MPs who claimed expenses for energy costs incurred at his second home. Wharton claimed back £403.90 for energy costs for the home he occupies when not at his Eaglescliffe residence.
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament
for Stockton South