Bernard has been an MP since 1992. He was elected Chairman of the House of Commons Public Administration Committee in 2010, the parliamentary committee responsible for scrutinising "good government" across Whitehall, as well as the work of the Cabinet Office, the Parliamentary Ombudsman and the Charities Commission. He is also Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Homeland Security, and a member of the Executive of the 1922 Committee of Backbench Conservative MPs.
During the last Parliament, he was on the House of Commons Defence Committee and prior to that served five years in the Shadow Cabinet. William Hague appointed him Shadow Transport Secretary (1998-2001), and he then served as Shadow Defence Secretary under Iain Duncan Smith (2001-3). He was then Shadow Regions Secretary (2003-5). Following the 2005 election, after a brief stint as Shadow Energy Minister, David Cameron appointed him Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for Candidates. Bernard also served on the Social Security Select Committee (1993 to 1997) and as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Hon Michael Forsyth, the Secretary of State for Scotland (1995-7).
Prior to his election to the House of Commons as MP for North Essex in 1992, Bernard worked in industry and commerce: in sales and marketing with the Ford Motor Company Ltd (1983-6) and for venture capital provider 3i PLC (1986-8) before being appointed manager of Legal and General Ventures Ltd (1989-1992).
Bernard was appointed to the Council of St Paul’s Cathedral in 2006; is a Vice President of the armed forces mental welfare charity, Combat Stress; and is a trustee of the Parliament Choir and sings in their concerts.