Ashworth is new leader of Tory MEPs

Richard Asworth was elected by his fellow Tory MEPs to lead the largest British delegation in the European Parliament. He replaces Martin Callanan, who stood down last month after becoming leader of the broader European Conservatives and Reformists group in the EP. Mr Ashworth has represented the South east of England since 2004.

He said: "It is a great honour to be chosen by my colleagues to lead them."

"These are challenging times - but I intend to continue the work of making Conservative principles heard in Europe as the voice of economic good sense and a driving force for competition and growth.

"We will work for better value for taxpayers' money in Europe - for greater efficiency, less waste and less red tape holding back enterprise and prosperity. For a flexible Europe that benefits Britain instead of dictating to it."

Mr Ashworth is Conservative spokesman on the European Parliament Budget committee and has been closely involved in negotiating the European Union's next Multi-Annual Financial Framework which will set spending parameters from 2013 to 2020. He has consistently called for the EU to cut back spending plans in line with the austerity measures being applied across member states in response to the economic crisis.

He also sits on the Policy Challenges committee and the Agriculture committee. He was deputy leader of the UK Conservative delegation from November 2008 to November 2010 and chief whip from January to November 2007.

Mr Ashworth worked extensively in Canada and New Zealand before establishing a farming business in Sussex. He developed his own business processing and retailing dairy products. He subsequently became a founder director and was for some years the chairman of United Milk Plc.

He has been the chairman of NU Corporate, the organisation that represents Britain's farmer-controlled agri-business and co-operatives in London and Brussels. He has also been a member of the Minister of Agriculture's food-chain advisory committee.

Mr Ashworth was born in 1947 in Folkestone, Kent. He is married with three daughters. He was educated at The King's School, Canterbury, and studied agriculture and management at Seale-Hayne College in Devon.

Richard has had a lifelong interest in further education and training. He has been the chairman of a further education college for a number of years as well as serving on several public bodies in the education sector.