Leon Brittan

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Right Honourable
The Lord Brittan of Spennithorne
QC PC DL
Vice-President of the European Commission
In office
16 March 1999 – 15 September 1999
President Manuel Marín (Acting)
Preceded by Manuel Marín
Succeeded by Neil Kinnock
European Commissioner for External Relations
In office
23 January 1995 – 15 September 1999
President Jacques Santer
Manuel Marín (Acting)
Preceded by Frans Andriessen
Succeeded by Chris Patten
European Commissioner for Trade
In office
6 January 1993 – 15 September 1999
President Jacques Delors
Jacques Santer
Manuel Marín (Acting)
Preceded by Frans Andriessen
Succeeded by Pascal Lamy
European Commissioner for Competition
In office
6 January 1989 – 6 January 1993
President Jacques Delors
Preceded by Peter Sutherland
Succeeded by Karel Van Miert
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
In office
2 September 1985 – 24 January 1986
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Norman Tebbit
Succeeded by Paul Channon
Home Secretary
In office
11 June 1983 – 2 September 1985
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by William Whitelaw
Succeeded by Douglas Hurd
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
In office
5 January 1981 – 11 June 1983
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by John Biffen
Succeeded by Peter Rees
Minister of State for the Home Office
In office
4 May 1979 – 5 January 1981
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Lord Boston
Succeeded by Patrick Mayhew
Member of Parliament
for Richmond (Yorks)
In office
9 June 1983 – 31 December 1988
Preceded by Timothy Kitson
Succeeded by William Hague
Member of Parliament
for Cleveland and Whitby
In office
28 February 1974 – 9 June 1983
Preceded by James Tinn
Succeeded by Constituency Abolished
Personal details
Born (1939-09-25) 25 September 1939 (age 74)
North London, England
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Diana Clemetson
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Profession Barrister
Religion Judaism

Leon Brittan, Baron Brittan of Spennithorne QC, PC, DL (born 25 September 1939, North London) is a British barrister, politician and former Conservative Member of Parliament, as well as former member of the European Commission and former Home Secretary of the United Kingdom.

His brother is Sir Samuel Brittan, an economics commentator at the Financial Times and financial journalist. He is a cousin of Conservative MP for Kensington Malcolm Rifkind.[1]

Early life[edit]

Leon Brittan was born to parents of Lithuanian Jewish descent, and was educated at the Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School and then Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union Society and Chairman of Cambridge University Conservative Association.

Political career[edit]

MP and minister[edit]

After unsuccessfully contesting the constituency of North Kensington in 1966 and 1970, he was elected to parliament in the general election of February 1974 for Cleveland and Whitby, and became an opposition spokesman in 1976. He was made a Queen's Counsel in 1978. Between 1979 and 1981 he was Minister of State at the Home Office, and then was made Chief Secretary to the Treasury, a Cabinet position. At the 1983 election he changed his seat to Richmond.

Brittan served as Home Secretary from 1983 to 1985. During the UK miners' strike of 1984–85, Brittan was a strong critic of the leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers. He accused them of organising violence by flying pickets, whom he described as "thugs".[2] One factor in why the miners' strike was defeated was that the police action was centrally controlled. As soon as the strike began, Brittan set up a National Reporting Centre in New Scotland Yard to co-ordinate intelligence and the supply of police officers between forces as necessary. Margaret Thatcher's government had carefully planned for a miners' strike and a Whitehall committee had been meeting in secret since 1981, to prepare for a long dispute.[3]

In September 1985, Brittan was moved to Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.[4] The reason for his demotion, according to Jonathan Aitken, was that the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher felt that Brittan was "not getting the message across on television".[5] Brittan had been criticised as a poor communicator and for his role in the suppression of a BBC television programme on The Troubles in Northern Ireland, At the Edge of the Union.[4] Brittan stated that transmission of the programme would be against the national interest and in August 1985 he wrote to the BBC Chairman, Stuart Young, asking for the broadcast to be cancelled. The BBC's Board of Governors called an emergency meeting and ruled that the documentary could not be shown. The controversy led to a rift in the BBC between the boards of Management and Governors. It also led to a day of strike action by hundreds of television and radio workers who protested against what they perceived as government censorship.[6][7]

Resignation over the Westland affair[edit]

Brittan resigned as Trade and Industry Secretary in January 1986, over the Westland affair.[8] Brittan had authorised the leaking of a letter from the Solicitor General that had accused Michael Heseltine of inaccuracies in his campaign for Westland to be rescued by a consortium of European investors.[8] The rest of the Government, led by Margaret Thatcher, supported a deal with the American business Sikorsky Fiat.[8] It was later revealed that Brittan had attempted to persuade British Aerospace and GEC to withdraw from the European consortium.[8]

In October 1986, in a House of Commons debate, Brittan made a bitter attack on Michael Heseltine, accusing him of "thwarting the Government at every turn" in its handling of the Westland affair. Brittan said that Government decisions "should have the support of all its members and should not be undermined from within".[9]

In 1989, Brittan revealed in a Channel 4 programme that two senior Downing Street officials, Bernard Ingham and Charles Powell, had approved the leaking of the letter from the Solicitor General. Brittan's claim led to calls from some Labour MPs for there to be a new inquiry into the Westland affair.[10]

Phone tapping court case[edit]

In September 1986, Brittan was cleared by a High Court Judge of acting unlawfully when he gave MI5 permission to tap the telephone of a leader of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. It was alleged that Brittan had authorised the tapping of John Cox, vice-president of CND, at his home in Gwent, in 1983. Government guidelines restricted this type of surveillance to those thought to pose a risk to national security. It was alleged that the tap was part of an attempt to gain information to discredit CND and that Brittan had acted without authority or power when ordering the tap. The Judge, however, ruled that Brittan had not flouted guidelines on tapping.[11]

European Commission[edit]

Brittan was knighted in 1989.[12] He was made European Commissioner for Competition at the European Commission early in 1989,[8] resigning as an MP to take the position. In 1995 he became European Commissioner for Trade and European Commissioner for External Affairs, also serving as Vice-President of the European Commission. Brittan resigned with the rest of the Santer Commission in 1999 amid accusations of fraud.[8] During his time as Vice-President of the European Commission, one subsequently prominent member of his official office was Nick Clegg, currently leader of the Liberal Democrats and Deputy Prime Minister.[13] In 1995, he was awarded an Honorary Degree (Doctor of Laws) by the University of Bath.[14]

Peerage[edit]

He was created Baron Brittan of Spennithorne, of Spennithorne in the County of North Yorkshire in February 2000. He is Vice-Chairman of UBS AG Investment Bank, non-executive director of Unilever and member of the international advisory committee for Total. In August 2010, Brittan returned to the government under the Conservative-Liberal coalition acting as a trade advisor.[15]

Marriage[edit]

His wife, Diana (née Clemetson; born 1940), Lady Brittan of Spennithorne, was named a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in 2004. Leon Brittan has two stepdaughters.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hope, Christopher (19 February 2014). "Who do they think they are? One in 11 MPs is married, related or have ancestors who sat in Commons". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 20 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Russell, William (13 August 1984). "Brittan keeps up attack on miners' union leaders". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  3. ^ Boxer, Andrew (2009). OCR A Level History B: The End of Consensus: Britain, 1945-90. Pearson Education. p. 192-193. ISBN 9780435312374. 
  4. ^ a b "Thatcher's biggest-ever cabinet shuffle sees Home Secretary Brittan demoted". The Montreal Gazette. 3 September 1985. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  5. ^ Aitken, Jonathan. Margaret Thatcher: Power and Personality (2013). p. 514. ISBN 9781408831847. 
  6. ^ "The BBC Story: Real Lives 1985". BBC. Retrieved 13 January 2014. 
  7. ^ "BBC set for confrontation with Brittan". The Glasgow Herald. 7 August 1985. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f "1986: Leon Brittan quits over Westland". On This Day. BBC. Retrieved 28 October 2012. 
  9. ^ McGregor, Stephen (30 October 1986). "Thatcher accused of Westland plot". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 8 February 2014. 
  10. ^ Trotter, Stuart (6 April 1989). "Westland affair re-opened by Brittan". The Glasgow Herald. Retrieved 8 February 2014. 
  11. ^ "Judge clears Brittan over phone tap on CND leader". The Glasgow Herald. 3 September 1986. Retrieved 11 March 2014. 
  12. ^ Industry forum biography
  13. ^ Libdems official website
  14. ^ "Honorary Graduates 1989 to present". University of Bath. Retrieved 18 February 2012. 
  15. ^ "Ex-Home Secretary Lord Brittan made trade adviser". BBC News. 19 August 2010. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
James Tinn
Member of Parliament for Cleveland and Whitby
19741983
Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Timothy Kitson
Member of Parliament for Richmond (Yorks)
19831988
Succeeded by
William Hague
Political offices
Preceded by
John Biffen
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
1981–1983
Succeeded by
Peter Rees
Preceded by
William Whitelaw
Home Secretary
1983–1985
Succeeded by
Douglas Hurd
Preceded by
Norman Tebbit
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
1985–1986
Succeeded by
Paul Channon
Preceded by
The Lord Cockfield
European Commissioner from the United Kingdom
1989–1999
Served alongside: Bruce Millan (1989–1995)
Neil Kinnock (1995–1999)
Succeeded by
Chris Patten
Preceded by
Stanley Clinton-Davis
Succeeded by
Neil Kinnock
Preceded by
Peter Sutherland
European Commissioner for Competition
1989–1993
Succeeded by
Karel Van Miert
Preceded by
Frans Andriessen
European Commissioner for Trade
1994–1999
Succeeded by
Pascal Lamy
European Commissioner for External Relations
1995–1999
Succeeded by
Chris Patten
Preceded by
Manuel Marín
First Vice-President of the European Commission
1999
Succeeded by
Neil Kinnock
Academic offices
New office Chancellor of the University of Teesside
1993–2005
Succeeded by
The Lord Sawyer