Peter Lilley

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The Right Honourable
Peter Lilley
Peter Lilley.jpg
Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
11 June 1997 – 2 June 1998
Leader William Hague
Preceded by Kenneth Clarke
Succeeded by Francis Maude
Shadow Secretary of State for Social Security
In office
2 May 1997 – 11 June 1997
Leader John Major
Preceded by Harriet Harman
Succeeded by Iain Duncan Smith
Secretary of State for Social Security
In office
8 April 1992 – 2 May 1997
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Tony Newton
Succeeded by Harriet Harman
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
In office
14 July 1990 – 11 April 1992
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
John Major
Preceded by Nicholas Ridley
Succeeded by Michael Heseltine (President of the Board of Trade)
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
24 July 1989 – 28 November 1990
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Norman Lamont
Succeeded by Francis Maude
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
In office
11 June 1987 – 24 July 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Ian Stewart
Succeeded by Richard Ryder
Member of Parliament
for Hitchin and Harpenden
Assumed office
1 May 1997
Preceded by Constituency established
Majority 15,271 (27.9%)
Member of Parliament
for St Albans
In office
9 June 1983 – 1 May 1997
Preceded by Victor Goodhew
Succeeded by Kerry Pollard
Personal details
Born (1943-08-23) 23 August 1943 (age 70)
Hayes, England
Political party Conservative
Alma mater Clare College, Cambridge

Peter Bruce Lilley (born 23 August 1943) is a British Conservative Party politician who has been a Member of Parliament (MP) since 1983. He currently represents the constituency of Hitchin and Harpenden and, prior to boundary changes, represented St Albans. He was a Cabinet minister in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major, serving as Trade and Industry Secretary from July 1990 to April 1992, and as Social Security Secretary from April 1992 to May 1997.

Early life[edit]

Lilley, whose father was a personnel officer for the BBC, was born at Hayes in Kent. He was educated at Dulwich College and Clare College, Cambridge, where, according to the biography on his official constituency website, he studied natural sciences and economics. His Cambridge contemporaries included Kenneth Clarke, Michael Howard and Norman Lamont. Before entering Parliament, he was an energy analyst at the City of London stockbroker, W. Greenwell & Co.

Lilley was chairman of conservative think tank the Bow Group from 1973–75.

Member of Parliament[edit]

Having been selected and elected for St. Albans, a safe Conservative seat, he served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Nigel Lawson, then as Economic Secretary to the Treasury and Financial Secretary to the Treasury before joining the Cabinet as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to replace Nicholas Ridley in mid-1990 after the latter was forced to resign over an anti-German remark. After the 1992 general election he became Secretary of State for Social Security.

He contested the 1997 Conservative Party leadership election, placing fourth in a field of five. In opposition, he held the post of Shadow Chancellor from 1997 to 1998 and was Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party from 1998 to 1999.

Lilley is known for being an advocate of marijuana legalization.[1] In 2001, Lilley provoked some controversy in his party and Britain more widely by calling for cannabis to be legalised in a Social Market Foundation pamphlet.[2]

Lilley produced a report for the Bow Group in 2005 that was highly critical of Government plans to introduce national identity cards.[3]

When David Cameron was elected leader of the Conservatives in December 2005, Lilley was appointed Chairman of the Globalisation and Global Poverty policy group, part of Cameron's extensive 18-month policy review.

Oil Interests[edit]

Lilley is currently Vice Chairman and Senior Independent Non-Executive Director at Tethys Petroleum.[4] For this position he received, between 2007 and 2012, $400,000 worth of share options.[5] Between 2012 and mid-June 2013, he was paid more than £70,000 by the company.[6]

Controversy and Climate Change[edit]

In November 2012, it was reported[7] that Lilley had been selected by the Conservative Party to join the House Of Commons Select Committee on Climate Change. Lilley, Vice Chairman and Senior Independent Non-Executive Director of Tethys Petroleum is seen by some as being unsuitable for the position because of this role and a perceived conflict of interest.[5] He was one of only three MPs to vote against the Climate Change Act.[6] Further scrutiny came from the highlighting by Private Eye that Lilley had previously lobbied then climate change minister Ed Miliband with letters requesting the 'cost of global warming'.[7]


In 1992, as Secretary of State at the DSS, Lilley amused the Conservative Party conference with a plan to "close down the something for nothing society", delivered in the form of a parody of the Lord High Executioner's "little list" song from The Mikado by Gilbert and Sullivan:

"I've got a little list / Of benefit offenders who I'll soon be rooting out / And who never would be missed / They never would be missed. / There's those who make up bogus claims / In half a dozen names / And councillors who draw the dole / To run left-wing campaigns / They never would be missed / They never would be missed. / There's young ladies who get pregnant just to jump the housing queue / And dads who won't support the kids / of ladies they have ... kissed / And I haven't even mentioned all those sponging socialists / I've got them on my list / And there's none of them be missed / There's none of them be missed."[8]

The speech was well received by party members and tabloid newspapers but some commentators "saw his performance as symbolic of a party out of touch with some of society’s most vulnerable people". Spitting Image depicted him as a commandant at a Nazi concentration camp and commentator Mark Lawson of The Independent said that if Lilley stayed as Secretary of State for Social Security, it would be "equivalent to Mary Whitehouse becoming madam of a brothel".[9] In September 2007, former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett named this speech, on BBC2's The Daily Politics, as one of his all-time favourite Conference moments.

In 1998, Lilley gave a singing performance at the Conservative Party conference. He changed the words of "Land of Hope and Glory" to create a song "Land of Chattering Classes", in condemnation of the purported abandonment of British values and history by Tony Blair's New Labour. Lilley joked that a Labour version of Land and Hope and Glory had been "leaked" to him. He said, "They call it `Land of Pseudo Tories' and it goes like this:

"Land of chattering classes, no more pageantry / Darlings, raise your glasses, to brave modernity / Who needs Nelson or Churchill? The past is so passe / Britain's now about Britpop and the River Cafe / God, this place is so frumpy, let's be more like LA!"

After cheers from the conference, he continued: "Not to be outdone, [Chancellor] Gordon Brown has tried to trump his neighbour [Mr Blair] with a new version of Rule Britannia":"

"Cool Britannia, where saving costs you more / Unless, like Geoffrey Robinson, your Trust's offshore!"

Despite being well received by the conference, his performance was widely mocked, he was dubbed "Peter Silly" by some in the media and it marked the beginning of the end of his political career.[10]


He is married to Gail, an artist.


  1. ^ "'Legalise cannabis' says Lilley". BBC News. 6 July 2001. 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ [2][dead link]
  4. ^ "Tethys Petroleum's Board of Directors". Tethys Petroleum. Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Hickman, Leo (20 November 2012). "MP Peter Lilley has received more than $400,000 in oil company share options". The Guardian (London). 
  6. ^ a b Eaton, George (11 June 2013). "Why is the right silent over Peter Lilley's links to the oil industry?". The Staggers ( Retrieved 11 June 2013. 
  7. ^ a b "Lilley possible conflict of interest". Private Eye (1326). 2 November 2012. 
  8. ^ "Programmes | Daily Politics | Your favourite Conference Clips". BBC News. 3 October 2007. Retrieved 18 June 2010. 
  9. ^ "Top ten political reputations made and lost at conference". Total Politics. 2 October 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2012. 
  10. ^ Lister, David (10 October 1998). "Tories sing for their supper. (But what have they got against the River Cafe?)". The Independent (London). Retrieved 12 October 2012. 

External links[edit]

Offices held[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Victor Goodhew
Member of Parliament
for St Albans

Succeeded by
Kerry Pollard
New constituency Member of Parliament
for Hitchin and Harpenden

Political offices
Preceded by
Ian Stewart
Economic Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Richard Ryder
Preceded by
Norman Lamont
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Francis Maude
Preceded by
Nicholas Ridley
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Succeeded by
Michael Heseltine
as President of the Board of Trade
Preceded by
Tony Newton
Secretary of State for Social Security
Succeeded by
Harriet Harman