Born in Cheshire, Beith started his career as a politics lecturer at Newcastle University. He was actively involved in local politics being elected to Hexham District Council in 1969 and contesting Berwick-upon-Tweed for the Liberals at the 1970 general election. He was heavily defeated by the sitting Conservative MP Antony Lambton. However, in 1973 Lambton was involved in a scandal which led to his resignation, Beith was elected in the subsequent by-election by 57 votes. He became Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party in 1985 and later held the same office for the Liberal Democrats, being made a Privy Councillor in 1992. Beith was a candidate in the first leadership election for the newly formed Liberal Democrats, losing to Paddy Ashdown. He chaired the Liaison Committee from 2003 to 2015 and the Justice Select Committee from 2007 to 2015. Knighted in 2008, Sir Alan is President of the National Liberal Club, the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel and the Historic Chapels Trust. He stood down at the 2015 election and now sits in the House of Lords.