Richard Francis Needham, 6th Earl of Kilmorey, PC (born 29 January 1942), usually known as Sir Richard Needham, is a British Conservative politician. An MP from 1979 to 1997, he served as Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 1985 and 1992 and as Minister of State for Trade between 1992 and 1995.
Background and education
Needham was a member of the Somerset County Council between 1967 and 1974. The latter year he stood unsuccessfully for parliament for the safe Labour seat of Pontefract and Castleford in the February general election, and then was also defeated at the more marginal Gravesend in October.
He succeeded his father in the earldom in 1977 but does not use the title. This is an Irish peerage and did not bar him from sitting in the House of Commons. At the 1979 general election, he was returned as Member of Parliament for Chippenham in Wiltshire. He was one of the "Wiltshire Wets", Conservative MPs from the county who expressed concern at the perceived loss of jobs resulting from the "monetarist" policies of Margaret Thatcher. His constituency was abolished for the 1983 general election, when he was returned to the House of Commons for the new North Wiltshire constituency. He held the seat until he retired from Parliament at the 1997 general election.
Needham was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Prior, between 1983 and 1984, and to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Patrick Jenkin, between 1984 and 1985. He served under Thatcher and later John Major as a Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland between 1985 and 1992 and under Major as Minister of State for Trade between 1992 and 1995, and was instrumental in transforming Northern Ireland's economic base and the UK's export strategy under Michael Heseltine. He was the longest serving British government Northern Ireland minister. In 1994 he was sworn of the Privy Council. In his book Battling for Peace (1999), he recalls attending a service at Westminster Abbey in 1991:
The former chairman of the county council and high sheriff for the year, Nigel Anderson, was a redoubtable old soldier who had a profound dislike of Mrs Thatcher and kept muttering "Well done, keep it up" in a loud whisper at every opportunity when there was a lull in the service.
Life after politics
Needham is now a director of Lonrho & Avon Rubber. He was a Director of Dyson for over 16 years. He has written two books: Honourable Member and Battling for Peace: Northern Ireland's Longest-Serving British Minister (1999); an account of his years in Northern Ireland and his contribution to peace.
Needham married Sigrid Thiessen-Gairtner, daughter of Ernest Thiessen, in 1965. They have three children:
- Robert Francis John Needham, Viscount Newry and Mourne (b. 1966)
- Hon. Andrew Francis Needham (b. 1969)
- Lady Christina Clare Needham (b. 1977)
Although Needham inherited the Earldom of Kilmorey and Viscountcy of Newry and Mourne on the death of his father in 1977, he did not petition the House of Lords to formally claim succession until October 2012. The Needham estate, known as Mourne Park, is near Kilkeel in County Down in Northern Ireland but the title and estate were separated when the fifth Earl inherited the title but opted to live in England. The Needham estate or Mourne Park is now owned by the Anley family, descendants of the 4th Earl of Kilmorey. The house was badly damaged by fire on Saturday 18th May 2013. 
|Ancestors of Richard Needham|
- Rt. Hon. Sir Richard Francis Needham
- Richard Needham, Battling for Peace: Northern Ireland's Longest-Serving British Minister (Blackstaff Press, 1999) p. 214
- "Minutes of Proceedings, 18 October 2012". House of Lords Order Paper. 19 October 2012.
- Template:PRONI Introduction Kilmorey Papers November 2007
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Sir Richard Needham
- Quote Me On It
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Chippenham
1979 – 1983
|New constituency||Member of Parliament for North Wiltshire
1983 – 1997
The Lord Lyell
|Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
with Nicholas Scott 1985–1986
The Lord Lyell 1985–1989
Peter Viggers 1986–1989
Brian Mawhinney 1986–1990
Peter Bottomley 1989–1990
The Lord Skelmersdale 1990
Jeremy Hanley 1990–1992
The Earl of Arran
|Minister of State for Trade
|Peerage of Ireland|
|Earl of Kilmorey