Sir Robert Atkins was the Member of Parliament for Preston North from 1979 to 1983, and then for South Ribble from 1983 to 1997. He served as Member of the European Parliament for the North West England region from 1999 to 2014.
Sir Robert began his political career at a local level. He served as a councillor for the London Borough of Haringey from 1968 to 1977.
From 1984 to 1987 he was President of Conservative Trade Unionists. He was made a member of the Privy Council in 1995 and was a minister in the following positions:
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry (1987 to 1989)
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (1989 to 1990)
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment and Minister for Sport (1990)
- Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science and Minister for Sport (1990 to 1992)
- Minister of State, Northern Ireland (1992 to 1994)
- Minister of State for Environment and Countryside (1994 to 1995)
He was Deputy Leader of the Conservatives in the European Parliament until November 2007 and was Chief Whip there from November 2008 to November 2009. He was Conservative Spokesman on Industry and External Trade from 2001–2004, and was Spokesman on Regional Policy, Transport and Tourism from 1999-2001. He is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Transport & Tourism Committee. He stood down at the 2014 European Elections.
Sir Robert was knighted in the 1997 Dissolution Honours List in recognition of his service as a Member of Parliament, as Minister of State for Northern Ireland and as Minister of State for the Environment. He is a Freeman of the City of London.