Gregory William Hands (born 14 November 1965) is a British Conservative Party politician who served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury from 2015 until 2016, and has served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Chelsea and Fulham since 2010, having previously served as the MP for Hammersmith and Fulham from 2005 to 2010. Hands is currently Minister of State for Trade Policy.
Hands voted for the UK to Remain in the EU during the 2016 Brexit referendum. Following the 2016 referendum vote to leave the European Union and Cameron's consequent resignation, Hands was demoted by newly appointed Prime Minister Theresa May to a junior Ministerial position. Following the 2017 general election, Hands retained his position as Minister of State for Trade and Investment but also undertook the Minister for London role, replacing Gavin Barwell who lost his seat.
Hands has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Chelsea and Fulham since 2010; the constituency was created that year by the splitting of the former constituencies of Kensington and Chelsea and Hammersmith and Fulham.
Early life and career
Hands was born in New York City, and completed his secondary education at Dr Challoner's Grammar School, Amersham in 1984.
During his gap year he worked in a swimming pool in Berlin, and became interested in the Eastern Bloc, visiting Prague and other Eastern European cities on future holidays.
He went on to attend Robinson College, Cambridge, where he graduated with a First class degree in Modern History in 1989. He joined the Conservative Party as a student, served as the Chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association (CUCA) and was on the Executive Committee of the Cambridge University Students' Union.
He worked on trading floors in derivatives at the City of London and New York City until 1997.
Hands was elected as a councillor in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham in 1998. He became the leader of the Conservative group in 1999, remaining in that capacity until 2003.
Hands stood down as councillor for the Town Ward in Fulham at the local elections in 2006, having been elected to the House of Commons at the 2005 general election when he gained Hammersmith and Fulham from the Labour Party with a majority of 5,029 votes. The sitting Labour MP Iain Coleman retired due to ill-health, and was replaced as Labour's candidate by Melanie Smallman. During March 2010, the Daily Mirror reported that Lord Ashcroft donated over £42,000 to fund Hands' 2005 campaign in Hammersmith and Fulham.
Hands made his maiden speech on 26 May 2005, in which he referred to the fact that the BBC was the largest employer in his constituency, and that Hammersmith Broadway was the busiest road interchange in Europe.
In 2007, Hands was selected to be the Conservative candidate for the new Chelsea and Fulham parliamentary constituency. His previous seat of Hammersmith and Fulham was abolished for the 2010 general election, with Hammersmith having its own seat (being fought by Shaun Bailey for the Conservatives), and Fulham joining Chelsea in a new seat. In January 2009, Hands was appointed to the Conservative front bench team as a shadow Treasury minister. He is also the Parliamentary Chairman of Conservative Friends of Poland.
Having been elected in 2010 for Chelsea and Fulham, he served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, having shadowed the Treasury in opposition.
On 14 October 2011, Hands was appointed as an assistant government whip in the House of Commons as a consequence of the mini-reshuffle following the resignation of Dr Liam Fox as Secretary of State for Defence.
In 2013, Hands voted in favour of legalising same-sex marriage in England and Wales.
In May 2015, following the Conservatives' general election win under the stewardship of David Cameron, Hands was promoted by him to the position of Chief Secretary to the Treasury and thus the cabinet. He was made a privy councillor in the process.
In the 2016 reshuffle following the EU referendum and Theresa May's appointment as prime minister, he was made Minister of State for Trade Policy at the newly formed Department for International Trade.
Hands campaigned for the UK to Remain in the European Union during the 2016 referendum vote to leave the European Union. In the lead-up to the Referendum, Hands led the Chelsea and Fulham Britain Stronger In Europe campaign. During the campaign, Hands issued warnings of the consequences for the UK should it leave the European Union, saying that the country would face "profound consequences" including "fewer jobs, higher prices in our shops and less money for our public services like the NHS". A strong advocate of international trade, he asserted that the European Union's Single Market as being the "most complete commitment to free trade that exists".
Following the Referendum, Hands argued that the UK should leave the European Union with a deal. To justify his changed position regarding the UK outside of the European Union, Hands argued that in "the long term" the UK could "independently conclude better contracts with third countries". Hands voted against the Withdrawal Agreement in the first Meaningful Vote, but voted in favour of it in the second and third meaningful votes, stating that the deal had been improved.
Following the Grenfell Tower fire which killed 71 people, Hands called for the Notting Hill Carnival to be moved. He said: "We have to ask ourselves if it is appropriate to stage a Carnival in the near proximity of a major national disaster." Event organisers and the Labour MP for Kensington rejected his suggestion. Justice4Grenfell coordinator Yvette Williams stated that "The Carnival route does not go near Grenfell and I'm failing to find the link between the Grenfell Tower fire and Carnival". The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, dismissed Hands' proposal.
On 21 June 2018, Hands resigned his ministerial post to vote against a third runway at Heathrow Airport.
Following the third defeat of the Brexit withdrawal agreement in the House of Commons in March 2019, Hands co-chaired the Prosperity UK Alternative Arrangements Commission. This body looked at alternatives to the Irish backstop.
Alongside former neighbouring MPs Justine Greening and Zac Goldsmith, Hands has been critical of the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham's April 2019 decision to close Hammersmith Bridge to motor vehicles, and has called for the Bridge to be promptly repaired and re-opened.
During the 2019 Conservative Party leadership election, Hands was one of the first MPs to declare their support for Jeremy Hunt. During the campaign, Hands wrote to Boris Johnson requesting that he review the Government's decision to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Hunt ultimately lost the contest to Johnson in the final round.
Hands was re-elected as MP for Chelsea and Fulham at the 2019 General Election.
Hands was appointed Minister of State for Trade Policy in the Second Johnson ministry in the 2020 British cabinet reshuffle.
In May 2020, Parliament's Standards and Privileges Committee censured Greg Hands for misusing public funds relating to stationery and pre-paid House of Commons envelopes.
Hands has dual American / British nationality. He lives in Fulham with his German wife Irina, and their son and daughter. Hands says that he speaks five European languages, including German and Czech.
Hands supports Plymouth Argyle and has appeared as a guest at supporters' association events.
During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, Hands said that his father, Edward Hands, had died with Coronavirus in a UK care home.