Peter Thorneycroft

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Thorneycroft
Peter Thornycroft.jpg
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
13 January 1957 – 6 January 1958
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Preceded by Harold Macmillan
Succeeded by Derick Heathcoat-Amory
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
11 February 1975 – 14 September 1981
Leader Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by William Whitelaw
Succeeded by Cecil Parkinson
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
13 July 1962 – 16 October 1964
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded by Harold Watkinson
Succeeded by Denis Healey
Minister of Aviation
In office
27 July 1960 – 13 July 1962
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Preceded by Duncan Sandys
Succeeded by Julian Amery
President of the Board of Trade
In office
30 October 1951 – 13 January 1957
Prime Minister Winston Churchill
Anthony Eden
Preceded by Hartley Shawcross
Succeeded by David Eccles
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
4 December 1967 – 4 June 1994
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Monmouth
In office
30 October 1945 – 31 March 1966
Preceded by Leslie Pym
Succeeded by Donald Anderson
Member of Parliament
for Stafford
In office
9 June 1938 – 5 July 1945
Preceded by William Ormsby-Gore
Succeeded by Stephen Swingler
Shadow Cabinet positions
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
4 August 1965 – 13 April 1966
Leader Edward Heath
Shadowing Frank Soskice
Roy Jenkins
Preceded by Edward Boyle
Succeeded by Quintin Hogg
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
16 October 1964 – 4 August 1965
Leader Alec Douglas-Home
Shadowing Denis Healey
Preceded by Denis Healey
Succeeded by

Enoch Powell

Personal details
Born (1909-07-26)26 July 1909
Dunston, United Kingdom
Died 4 June 1994(1994-06-04) (aged 84)
London, United Kingdom
Political party Conservative
Alma mater Royal Military Academy, Woolwich
City Law School

George Edward Peter Thorneycroft, Baron Thorneycroft, CH, PC (26 July 1909 – 4 June 1994) was a British Conservative Party politician. He served as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1957 and 1958.

Early life

Born in Dunston, Staffordshire, Thorneycroft was educated at Eton and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned into the Royal Artillery as a second lieutenant on 29 August 1929 but resigned his commission on 1 July 1931.[1][2] In 1933, he was called to the bar for the Inner Temple.

Political career

He entered Parliament in the Stafford by-election, 1938, for the borough of Stafford. He was re-commissioned into the Royal Artillery in his previous rank on 30 August 1939.[3] During World War II, he served with the Royal Artillery and the general staff. Along with other members of the Tory Reform Committee, Thorneycroft pressed his party to support the Beveridge Report.

He served in the Conservative caretaker Government 1945 as Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of War Transport. In the 1945 general election, he lost his seat to his Labour opponent, Stephen Swingler, but he returned in the Monmouth by-election, 1945 for Monmouth a few months later.[4]

Throughout the late 1940s Thorneycroft worked assiduously to refurbish the Conservative Party after its disastrous defeat in the 1945 general election. His opposition to the Anglo-American loan in the Commons earned him a reputation as a parliamentary debater, and when the Conservatives returned to power after the general election of 1951, he was appointed President of the Board of Trade. He was instrumental in persuading the government in 1954 to abandon the party's support for protectionism and accept the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.[5]

Chancellorship and resignation

Thorneycroft's support for Harold Macmillan in Macmillan's successful 1957 leadership contest for the premiership led to his appointment as Chancellor of the Exchequer,[6] one of the most senior positions in the government. He resigned in 1958, along with two junior Treasury Ministers, Enoch Powell and Nigel Birch, because of increased government expenditure. Macmillan, himself a former chancellor, made a famous and much-quoted remark that the resignations were merely "little local difficulties". (In reality, Macmillan was deeply concerned about the possible effects of Thorneycroft's resignation.)[citation needed]

In retrospect, Thorneycroft questioned the wisdom of his resignation, saying that "we probably made our stand too early."

Later political career

Thorneycroft returned to the Cabinet in 1960, when he was appointed Minister of Aviation by Macmillan. In 1964 he was promoted to be Secretary of State for Defence. As Secretary of State for Defence, Thorneycroft played a pivotal role in the Sunda Straits Crisis, first supporting and then opposing the passage of the aircraft carrier HMS Victorious through the Indonesian-claimed Sunda Strait during the height of the Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation in August and September 1964.[7]

After the Government was defeated in 1964, Thorneycroft first served as Shadow Secretary of State for Defence under Alec Douglas-Home, before being made Shadow Home Secretary by Edward Heath the next year. Thorneycroft lost his seat at the 1966 general election, and was raised to the peerage as a life peer as Baron Thorneycroft, of Dunston in the County of Stafford on 4 December 1967.[8]

Later life

Thorneycroft was a strong supporter of Margaret Thatcher's monetarist policies, and she made him Chairman of the Conservative Party in 1975. He held the position until 1981.

He was notable as an amateur watercolourist and held exhibitions. Winston Churchill, when told of Thorneycroft's interest, had said, "Every minister must have his vice. Painting shall be yours".[4]

He was appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in the 1980 New Year Honours.[9]


His grandfather was the Victorian Colonel Thomas Thorneycroft, a Wolverhampton industrialist, eccentric, landowner and well-known Conservative; he was asked to stand for election by Benjamin Disraeli. Colonel Thorneycroft owned various houses in Staffordshire and Shropshire including Tettenhall Towers and Tong Castle.

His great-grandfather was George Benjamin Thorneycroft, an ironfounder, JP, Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Staffordshire and first Mayor of Wolverhampton. His grandfather's cousin was John Isaac Thorneycroft who founded Vosper Thorneycroft. A second cousin was Siegfried Sassoon. A third cousin was Willie Whitelaw. Another second cousin was the novelist Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler. His great uncle was Lord Wolverhampton.

After his first marriage, to Sheila Wells Page, and divorce, he married Carla, Contessa Roberti (later known as Lady Thorneycroft, DBE) in 1949. He had a son by his first wife and a daughter by his second wife.

Styles of address

  • 1909–1938: Mr Peter Thorneycroft
  • 1938–1951: Mr Peter Thorneycroft MP
  • 1951–1966: The Rt Hon. Peter Thorneycroft MP
  • 1966–1967: The Rt Hon. Peter Thorneycroft
  • 1967–1980: The Rt Hon. The Lord Thorneycroft PC
  • 1980–1994: The Rt Hon. The Lord Thorneycroft CH PC


  1. ^ "No. 33530". The London Gazette. 30 August 1929. p. 5644.
  2. ^ "No. 33731". The London Gazette. 30 June 1931. p. 4246.
  3. ^ "No. 34660". The London Gazette. 29 August 1939. p. 5920.
  4. ^ a b Howarth, Alan (6 June 1994). "Obituary: Lord Thorneycroft". The Independent. London. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  5. ^ Robert Shepard, "Theorneycroft, (George Edward) Peter", in The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century British Politics (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 642
  6. ^ "No. 40981". The London Gazette. 22 January 1957. p. 501.
  7. ^ Easter, David (2012). Britain and the Confrontation with Indonesia, 1960–66. I.B.Tauris, p. 100.
  8. ^ "No. 44469". The London Gazette. 5 December 1967. p. 13287.
  9. ^ "No. 48059". The London Gazette (Supplement). 8 January 1980. p. 298.

Further reading

  • Craig, F.W.S. (1983) [1969]. British parliamentary election results 1918–1949 (3rd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. ISBN 0-900178-06-X.
  • Dell, Edmund. The Chancellors: A History of the Chancellors of the Exchequer, 1945-90 (HarperCollins, 1997) pp 223–41, covers his term as Chancellor.
  • Leigh Rayment's Peerage Pages [self-published source][better source needed]
  • Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
  • The Times, 6 June 1994 (obit)
  • The Daily Telegraph, 6 June 1994 (obit)

External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Peter Thorneycroft
  • Brief biography and list of Thorneycroft documents held at Southampton University
  • Review of Peter Thorneycroft biography by Stanley Crooks at Southampton University, October 2007
  • Publisher's blurb for the Crooks biography of Thorneycroft
  • Two portraits of Peter Thorneycroft at the National Portrait Gallery, one being a photograph by Cecil Beaton
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Ormsby-Gore
Member of Parliament
for Stafford

Succeeded by
Stephen Swingler
Preceded by
Leslie Pym
Member of Parliament
for Monmouth

Succeeded by
Donald Anderson
Political offices
Preceded by
Hartley Shawcross
President of the Board of Trade
Succeeded by
David Eccles
Preceded by
Harold Macmillan
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Derick Heathcoat-Amory
Preceded by
Duncan Sandys
Minister of Aviation
Succeeded by
Julian Amery
Preceded by
Harold Watkinson
Secretary of State for Defence
Succeeded by
Denis Healey
Preceded by
Denis Healey
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
Succeeded by
Enoch Powell
Preceded by
Edward Boyle
Shadow Home Secretary
Succeeded by
Quintin Hogg
Party political offices
Preceded by
Willie Whitelaw
Chair of the Conservative Party
Succeeded by
Cecil Parkinson
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