Alan was born in 1957, the son of an RAF officer, and educated at Beechwood Park School, Herts, and Merchant Taylors' School before going on to read Politics and Economics at St John's College, Oxford.
Elected President of the Oxford Union in 1979, Alan went on to win a Kennedy Scholarship at Harvard University following an initial period working for Shell.
After living in Singapore between 1984 and 1986 and travelling widely during his time as an oil trader for an independent commodity company, Alan returned to contest the Barnsley West and Penistone seat in the 1987 General Election, before being elected for as MP for Rutland and Melton in 1992. He was subsequently re-elected in 1997, 2001, 2005, 2010 and 2015.
Having spearheaded William Hague's successful campaign for the Conservative leadership in 1997, Alan went on to hold a raft of Shadow Cabinet positions and become renowned as a modernising force within the party, encouraging a more socially and economically liberal approach. A respected voice on the Middle East within the party, Alan travelled extensively in the region. As the first ever openly gay Conservative MP he was at the forefront of the party's efforts to enact the Civil Partnership Bill.
Alan served as Minister of State for International Development from the formation of the Coalition Government in 2010 to 2014.
In July 2014 Alan was knighted, becoming a Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG).
Since July 2016, Alan has served as Minister of State for Europe and the Americas.
This chapter from my 1995 book Saturn’s Children is posted for the benefit of the inquiring student and does not reflect government policy.