Robin Butler, Baron Butler of Brockwell
|The Right Honourable
The Lord Butler of Brockwell
CVO GCB KG PC
|Lord Butler in the robes of a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter|
|Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister|
|Prime Minister||Margaret Thatcher|
|Preceded by||Clive Whitmore|
|Succeeded by||Nigel Wicks|
|Cabinet Secretary & Head of the Home Civil Service|
|Prime Minister||Margaret Thatcher
|Preceded by||Sir Robert Armstrong|
|Succeeded by||Sir Richard Wilson|
Early life and family
Butler was born in Lytham St Annes on 3 January 1938. He went to Harrow School (where he was Head Boy), then taught for a year at St Dunstan's School, Burnham-on-Sea, before going up to University College, Oxford, where he took a double first in Mods and Greats and twice gained a Rugby Blue. He married Gillian Lois Galley in 1962. They have a son and two daughters.
Civil service career
Butler had a high profile career in the civil service from 1961 to 1998, serving as Private Secretary to five Prime Ministers. He was Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service from 1988 to 1998.
Early in his career, he was occasionally confused with his namesake Rab Butler. Memos for Rab Butler, some highly sensitive, ended up on his desk, and some of his ended up on Rab's. It was agreed that all memos ambiguously addressed to "R Butler" should go to Rab's office first, and then Rab's office would send on any intended for the other R Butler. It is said that one day the young Butler, who was still playing first class rugby, received a letter that read: "You have been selected for the Harlequins 1st XV on Saturday. Please be at Twickenham by 2 p.m.". Underneath, in Rab's distinctive handwriting, was the message: "Dear Robin, I am not free on Saturday. Please could you deputise for me? Rab"!
In 1969, he was seconded to the Bank of England and several City institutions. Later at HM Treasury as Assistant Secretary, General Expenditure Intelligence Division, he led the team which installed the UK Government's computerised financial information system 1975&–77. He had been a founder member of the Central Policy Review Staff under Lord Rothschild 1971–2. After several senior appointments at the Treasury, he became second Permanent Secretary, Public Expenditure, 1985–87.
He was Private Secretary to Prime Ministers Edward Heath (1972–74) and Harold Wilson (1974–75), and Principal Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher (1982–85). Along with Thatcher, he was almost killed in the 1984 IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton. He was also Cabinet Secretary during the premierships of Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair.
After retiring from the Civil Service, he was Master of University College, Oxford, 1998–2008, and was made a Life Peer as Baron Butler of Brockwell, of Herne Hill in the London Borough of Lambeth in the 1998 New Year Honours List.
He became a non-executive Director of HSBC Group from 1998 to 2008. He is also Chairman of the Corporate Sustainability Committee and the HSBC Global Education Trust. In 2011, he was elected Master of the Worshipful Company of Salters.
In February 2004, it was announced that Lord Butler of Brockwell would chair an inquiry into the use of intelligence in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War. His report (widely known as the "Butler Report" or the "Butler Review") concluded that some of the intelligence about Iraq's possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction was seriously flawed. The report also concluded, in regards the so-called Niger uranium forgeries, that the report Saddam's government was seeking uranium in Africa appeared "well-founded".
Styles, Honours, and Arms
- Mr Robin Butler (1938–1986)
- Mr Robin Butler, CVO (1986–1988)
- Sir Robin Butler, KCB, CVO (1988–1992)
- Sir Robin Butler, GCB, CVO (1992–1998)
- The Rt Hon. The Lord Butler of Brockwell, GCB, CVO (1998–2003)
- The Rt Hon. The Lord Butler of Brockwell, KG, GCB, CVO (2003–2004)
- The Rt Hon. The Lord Butler of Brockwell, KG, GCB, CVO, PC (2004–present)
- Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (CVO), 1986
- Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (KCB), 1988
- Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (GCB), 1992
- Life peerage, 31 December 1997
- Knight of the Garter (KG), 23 April 2003
- Privy Counsellor (PC), 2004
- BBC News Profile: Lord Butler of Brockwell
- Salt Talk issue 9 (2011) p6 "The Master"
- D. R. Thorpe (2011) "Supermac - the Life of Harold MacMillan" Random House, ISBN 1844135411, page 751
- Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, HC 898 (London: The Stationery Office, 14 July 2004) via BBC. Section 499, p. 137 for "well-founded". Retrieved 2011-09-03.
- The Arms of The Right Honourable Baron Butler of Brockwell, Grants of Arms (December 2003). College of Arms website. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
|Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
Sir Robert Armstrong
|Cabinet Secretary & Head of the Home Civil Service
Sir Richard Wilson
|Master of University College, Oxford
Sir Ivor Crewe
- Oxford University Gazette announcement of election as Master
- The Arms of Lord Butler of Brockwell
- For the story about Rab Butler's memos
- thePeerage.com, used for Honours
- Debrett's People of Today