He was first nominated by the Labour Party to stand for Southampton Test in the early 1980s, made solid progress in the seat in 1987 and 1992, and finally won in 1997. Alan was re-elected as the Labour MP for Southampton Test in 2001 and 2005, and 2010. This was only the second time in the constituency's history where it bucked the national trend by electing an MP from a different party to the one that would go on to form a government.
As a new Labour MP, he was appointed to the Select Committee on Environment Transport and the Regions and in December 1999 was appointed as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Baroness Blackstone, Minister for Higher and Post-16 Education. Between June 2001 and May 2002 he was Under Secretary of State in the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions, responsible for local government, the regions and the Fire Service. Between September 2015 and June 2016, Alan served as Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change and is currently Shadow Minister for Energy and Climate Change within the shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
His special interests now include Further and Higher Education (Lifelong Learning), Local Government, Constitution (Democracy), Environment, Energy and Transport.