Educated at Dulwich College and Clare College, Cambridge, Mr Lilley pursued a career in energy, serving briefly as Chairman of the Bow Group and as a Consultant for the Conservative Research Department before being elected to represent St Albans in 1983.
Having been PPS to Nigel Lawson (Chancellor of the Exchequer) from 1984-87, Mr Lilley rose to ministerial positions in the Treasury before being appointed Secretary of State for Trade & Industry during Mrs Thatcher's last government. He subsequently served as Secretary of State for Social Security for the duration of John Major's premiership, before unsuccessfully contesting the leadership in 1997. Mr Lilley shadowed Gordon Brown for a year before retiring from front bench politics in 1999.
Since then Mr Lilley has continued to scrutinise from the backbenches, as a media commentator, and by writing policy papers for the Conservative Party and centre-right think tanks, particularly as an advocate for free markets and a climate change sceptic.