Roy Mason

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For the architect, see Roy Mason (architect).
The Right Honourable
The Lord Mason of Barnsley
PC
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
10 September 1976 – 4 May 1979
Prime Minister James Callaghan
Preceded by Merlyn Rees
Succeeded by Humphrey Atkins
Secretary of State for Defence
In office
4 March 1974 – 10 September 1976
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
James Callaghan
Preceded by Ian Gilmour
Succeeded by Fred Mulley
President of the Board of Trade
In office
6 October 1969 – 19 June 1970
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Anthony Crosland
Succeeded by Michael Noble
Minister of Power
In office
1 July 1968 – 6 October 1969
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Ray Gunter
Succeeded by Office Abolished
Postmaster General
In office
6 April 1968 – 1 July 1968
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Edward Short
Succeeded by John Stonehouse
Member of Parliament
for Barnsley Central
In office
9 June 1983 – 11 June 1987
Preceded by Constituency Created
Succeeded by Eric Illsley
Member of Parliament
for Barnsley
In office
31 March 1953 – 9 June 1983
Preceded by Sidney Schofield
Succeeded by Constituency Abolished
Personal details
Born (1924-04-18) 18 April 1924 (age 90)
Royston, United Kingdom
Political party Labour

Roy Mason, Baron Mason of Barnsley, PC (born 18 April 1924),[1] is a British Labour politician and former Cabinet minister. He was born in Royston, and grew up in Carlton, Barnsley, in South Yorkshire. The small, pipe-smoking, former coal miner first went down the mines at the age of fourteen and remained in the coal industry until he was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) for the Barnsley constituency at a by-election in 1953.

Posts[edit]

Mason was Labour Party spokesman on Home Affairs, Defence and Post Office, 1960-1964. Minister of State at the Board of Trade, 1964-1967. Minister of Defence (Equipment), 1967-1968. Minister of Power, 1968-1969. President of the Board of Trade, 1969-1970. Secretary of State for Defence, 1974-1976. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, 1976–1979

Northern Ireland[edit]

A high-profile politician, Mason's appointment to Northern Ireland was unexpected and seemed to indicate a tougher response from the British Government than that pursued by his predecessor, Merlyn Rees. In late 1976, he told the Labour party conference that "Ulster had had enough of initiatives, White Papers and legislation for the time being, and now needed to be governed firmly and fairly". He rejected both military and political solutions in favour of "justice for all; with equality before the law; and, crucially, with republican terrorism treated as a security problem, and nothing else".[2]

While Secretary of State for Defence Mason had been responsible for the introduction of SAS units into the 'bandit country' of South Armagh. At Stormont Mason was responsible for the tougher role taken by the security forces and authorised an increase in British Army covert tactics with the SAS allowed to operate throughout Northern Ireland. Mason's time in Northern Ireland was characterised by a reduction in violence; "in 1976 there were 297 deaths in Northern Ireland; in the next three years the figures were 111, 80, 120.[3] In 1977 he stood up to militant loyalists attempt to repeat their successful Ulster Workers Council strike tactic of 1974. In the same year he twice attempted to get some movement towards a political settlement from the local political parties but both attempts failed.

Mason's successful policies in Northern Ireland earned the ire of nationalist MPs, which played a part in the March 1979 vote of no confidence, however, which the Labour government lost by only one vote, precipitating the 1979 general election. Nationalist MP Gerry Fitt abstained in the vote of no confidence, stating that he could not support a government with Mason as its Northern Ireland secretary.[4]

After Labour's election defeat in 1979 Mason came under increasing pressure from leftwingers in his constituency party under the influence of Arthur Scargill but did not countenance joining the Social Democratic Party. Mason received full police protection, over 30 years after leaving office. In 1982 the then Energy Secretary Nigel Lawson suggested to Margaret Thatcher that she should make Mason the next Coal Board chairman, but she refused, saying that Mason was "Not one of us". Instead, Ian MacGregor was appointed.[5]

Life Peer[edit]

After his retirement from the House of Commons at the 1987 general election, he was created a life peer on 20 October 1987 taking the title Baron Mason of Barnsley, of Barnsley in South Yorkshire.[6] With the death of Tony Benn on 14 March 2014, Mason is, with Denis Healey, one of the last two surviving Cabinet Ministers from Harold Wilson's first administration, as Minister of Power 1968-9 and President of the Board of Trade 1969-70.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Birthday's today". The Telegraph. 18 April 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2014. Lord Mason of Barnsley, former Labour Government Minister, 88 
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ Johnston, Wesley. http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/past/troubles/deaths_by_year.html. Retrieved 22 September 2013.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "Lord Fitt". Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. 27 August 2005. Retrieved 25 December 2012. His influence on the British government sharply diminished in 1976 with the advent that year of Mason as Secretary of State. "He's an anti-Irish wee git", Fitt told journalists; but perhaps Mason's worst sin was that he ignored the MP for West Belfast. Fitt took his revenge in the crucial vote on the Labour government's bill for Scottish devolution. He could not bring himself, he explained, to vote for a government with Mason as Ulster Secretary, against a background of alleged police brutality in the province. The government, defeated by one vote, resigned; the radical Gerry Fitt had helped to usher in the rule of Mrs Thatcher. 
  5. ^ Nigel Lawson -The View from No.11: Memoirs of a Tory Radical
  6. ^ The London Gazette: no. 51099. p. 13091. 23 October 1987.

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sidney Schofield
Member of Parliament for Barnsley
19531983
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Barnsley Central
19831987
Succeeded by
Eric Illsley
Political offices
Preceded by
Edward Short
Postmaster General
1968
Succeeded by
John Stonehouse
Preceded by
Ray Gunter
Minister of Power
1968–1969
Position abolished
Preceded by
Anthony Crosland
President of the Board of Trade
1969–1970
Succeeded by
Michael Noble
Preceded by
Ian Gilmour
Secretary of State for Defence
1974–1976
Succeeded by
Fred Mulley
Preceded by
Merlyn Rees
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
1976–1979
Succeeded by
Humphrey Atkins