He graduated from Magdalen College, Oxford in 1961, with a double first in Mathematics and was a university lecturer at Liverpool (1962-1965), Hull (1965-1966) and Bradford (1984-2000). In the interval he worked in industry (1967-1971). He was a Liberal before becoming Labour MP for Goole (1971-1983). He chaired the Select Committee on Trade and Industry and was Private Parliamentary Secretary to the Home Secretary. In 1985 he joined the Social Democrats. He has written two books, Parliament and the Public (1982) and Business and Society (1993).
A Methodist local preacher since 1959, he served on the Stationing Committee from 1984 to 1994 and was Vice-President of the Conference in 1992. Since 1994 he has also been a confirmed member and licensed Reader of the Church of England. From 1998 to 2007 he was the Bishop of Wakefield's Adviser on Ecumenical Affairs and since 2000 has been an elected representative from the diocese of Wakefield to the House of Laity of the General Synod. In 2006 he became a member of the Anglican Council for Christian Unity and chaired the General Synod Revision Committee for the Dioceses, Pastoral and Mission Measure.
In 1969 he was married to Margaret Antill, then secretary to the Rev.Lord Soper.