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Douglas Hurd

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The Lord Hurd of Westwell
Hurd in 2013
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
26 October 1989 – 5 July 1995
Prime Minister
Preceded byJohn Major
Succeeded byMalcolm Rifkind
Home Secretary
In office
2 September 1985 – 26 October 1989
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byLeon Brittan
Succeeded byDavid Waddington
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
27 September 1984 – 2 September 1985
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byJim Prior
Succeeded byTom King
Minister of State for the Home Office[1]
In office
9 June 1983 – 27 September 1984
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byPatrick Mayhew
Succeeded byGiles Shaw
Minister of State for Europe
In office
4 May 1979 – 9 June 1983
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byMalcolm Rifkind
Parliamentary offices
Member of the House of Lords
Life peerage
13 June 1997 – 9 June 2016
Member of Parliament
for Witney
Mid Oxfordshire (Feb 1974–1983)
In office
28 February 1974 – 8 April 1997
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byShaun Woodward
Political Secretary to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
Prime MinisterEdward Heath
Preceded byMarcia Falkender
Succeeded byMarcia Falkender
Personal details
Douglas Richard Hurd

(1930-03-08) 8 March 1930 (age 94)
Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK
Political partyConservative
Tatiana Eyre
(m. 1960; div. 1982)
Judy Smart
(m. 1982; died 2008)
Children5, including Nick
Parent(s)Anthony Hurd
Stephanie Frances Corner
RelativesSir Percy Hurd (grandfather)
EducationEton College
Alma materTrinity College, Cambridge

Douglas Richard Hurd, Baron Hurd of Westwell, CH, CBE, PC (born 8 March 1930) is a British Conservative Party politician who served in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major from 1979 to 1995.[2][3]

A career diplomat and political secretary to Prime Minister Edward Heath, Hurd first entered Parliament in February 1974 as MP for the Mid Oxfordshire constituency (Witney from 1983). His first government post was as Minister for Europe from 1979 to 1983 (being that office's inaugural holder) and he served in several Cabinet roles from 1984 onwards, including Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1984–85), Home Secretary (1985–89) and Foreign Secretary (1989–95). He stood unsuccessfully for the Conservative Party leadership in 1990, and retired from frontline politics during a Cabinet reshuffle in 1995.[4]

In 1997, Hurd was elevated to the House of Lords and is one of the Conservative Party's most senior elder statesmen. He is a patron of the Tory Reform Group. He retired from the Lords in 2016.

Early life[edit]

Order of the British Empire ribbon

Hurd was born in 1930 in the market town of Marlborough in Wiltshire. His father Anthony Hurd (later Lord Hurd) and grandfather Sir Percy Hurd were also Members of Parliament. Douglas attended Twyford School and Eton College, where he was a King's Scholar and won the Newcastle Scholarship in 1947.[5] He was also captain of school (head boy).[6]

Following school Hurd did National Service, which he did not particularly enjoy, at a time when the Berlin Blockade made a Third World War seem far from unlikely. He began in July 1948 with a compulsory period in the ranks of the Royal Regiment of Artillery alongside young men of all social backgrounds. He later recorded that although living standards were no great shock after the spartan conditions at public school in those days, the petty dishonesty which he saw in the barrack room, and the waste of time which was so large a part of a conscript's experience, made him sceptical in later years of constituents' demands for a restoration of National Service.[7] He was selected for officer training, attended Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot; from November 1948, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 5th Regiment, Royal Horse Artillery (as it was then called) at the start of March 1949.[8] He was released from the Army in September 1949 to take up his place at Cambridge University.[9] He trained for a few weeks each summer as a reserve officer until 1952.[10]

Hurd went up to Trinity College, Cambridge, in the autumn of 1949. He achieved an upper second (II:1) in his preliminary exams in summer 1950.[11] In March 1951 he was approached by an admiral to be recruited to British Intelligence. He attended a selection panel, but withdrew from the process because, he later wrote, he did not want a career which would have to be pursued in secret.[12] Hurd's brother Julian, who was on the officer training course at Aldershot at the time, committed suicide in June 1951.[13] In his third year, Hurd served as chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association for Michaelmas (autumn) Term 1951 and president of the Cambridge Union Society in Easter (summer) Term 1952. His special subject for study was the Second French Republic.[14] He graduated in 1952 with a first-class degree (BA) in history.[15][16]

In 1952, Hurd joined the Diplomatic Service. He was posted to China, the United States and Italy, before leaving the service in 1966 to enter politics as a member of the Conservative Party.

Member of Parliament[edit]

Hurd became private secretary (a political appointment, his salary paid by the Conservative Party) to Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath, and was first elected to Parliament in February 1974 to represent the constituency of Mid Oxfordshire. Following his election, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the February 1974 Dissolution Honours, gazetted on 2 April 1974.[17] At the 1983 general election the seat was replaced by Witney and he remained MP for that seat until his retirement from the House of Commons in 1997 having served 23 years in Parliament. His immediate successor was Shaun Woodward, who defected to Labour in 1999, and moved in 2001 to a safe Labour seat, before serving as Northern Ireland Secretary, a position Hurd once held. From 2001 to 2016, Hurd's former constituency was represented by the former Leader of the Conservative Party and former British prime minister, David Cameron.[18]

In government: 1979–1990[edit]

Hurd was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office upon the Conservative victory in the 1979 general election and remained in that post for the duration of the Parliament.[19] Following the 1983 election Thatcher moved Hurd to the Home Office, but just over a year later he was promoted to Cabinet rank, succeeding Jim Prior as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.[19] In this position, his diplomatic skills paved the way for the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement on the future of Northern Ireland, which marked a turning point in British-Irish co-operation on the political situation in the troubled region. A month before the agreement was signed, however, Hurd returned to the Home Office, this time as Home Secretary, following the demotion of Leon Brittan to the Department of Trade and Industry.

Widely seen as a "safe pair of hands" and a solid, loyal member of the Cabinet, Hurd's tenure as Home Secretary was largely uncontroversial, although he was notably of the view that Her Majesty's Prison Service did not work effectively and argued for more rehabilitation of offenders and alternative sentencing.[18]

Hurd brought in the Public Order Act, 1986, which created the crime of hate speech for speech which is "threatening, abusive or insulting" and which is spoken in public, with intent or likely to "stir up" racial hatred.[20]

Candidature in the 1990 leadership election[edit]

Hurd's Cabinet career progressed further during the turbulent final months of Margaret Thatcher's prime ministership. On 26 October 1989, Hurd moved to the Foreign Office, succeeding John Major, whose rapid rise through the Cabinet saw him become Chancellor of the Exchequer in the wake of Nigel Lawson's resignation.

In mid-November 1990, Hurd supported Margaret Thatcher's candidature as Conservative Party leader against challenger Michael Heseltine, but on her withdrawal from the second round of the contest on 22 November, Hurd decided to enter the race as a moderate centre-right candidate, drawing on his reputation as a successful 'law-and-order' Home Secretary. He was endorsed by former Prime Minister and Conservative Party Leader Edward Heath.[21] He was seen as an outsider, lagging behind the more charismatic Heseltine and the eventual winner, John Major, who shared the moderate centre-right political ground with Hurd but had the added advantages of youth and political momentum. Hurd's Etonian education may have also been a disadvantage. Years later, Hurd expressed frustration that his privileged background counted against him in the leadership election, commenting in an interview that "I should have said I am standing for leadership of the Tory party and not for some demented Marxist outfit".[22] He came third, winning 56 of the 372 votes cast and, together with Heseltine, conceded defeat to allow Major, who had fallen just three votes short of an outright majority, to return unopposed and take over as prime minister on 27 November 1990. Hurd was gracious in defeat and, on the formation of Major's first Cabinet, was returned to his position as Foreign Secretary.[23][24]

Foreign Secretary[edit]

Hurd with President George H. W. Bush in 1991

Hurd was widely regarded as a statesmanlike British Foreign Secretary, his tenure having been particularly eventful.[19] He oversaw Britain's diplomatic responses to the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, as well as the first Gulf War to drive Ba'athist Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.[19] Hurd cultivated good relations with the United States under President George H. W. Bush, and sought a more conciliatory approach to other members of the European Community, repairing relationships damaged during the increasingly Eurosceptic tone of Margaret Thatcher's final years. Hurd was a signatory of the Maastricht Treaty establishing the European Union in 1992. Hurd welcomed a reunified Germany into the European political community in 1990.[25]

One of the defining features of Hurd's tenure as Foreign Secretary was the British reaction to the Yugoslav Wars. During the Bosnian War, Hurd was seen as a leading voice among European politicians arguing against sending military aid to the Bosniaks and for maintaining the arms embargo, in defiance of the line taken by US President Bill Clinton, and arguing that such a move would only create a 'level killing field' and prolong the conflict unduly. Hurd also resisted pressure to allow Bosnian refugees to enter into Britain arguing that to do so would reduce pressure on the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina to sue for peace.[26] Hurd described his and British policy during that time as 'realist'.[27]

Shortly after his withdrawal from frontline politics, Hurd travelled to Serbia and Montenegro to meet Slobodan Milošević on behalf of the British bank NatWest (see below), fuelling some speculation that Hurd had taken a pro-Serbian line. There has been criticism[28][29] of Hurd's policies in relation to the war. The Bosnian government even threatened to charge Hurd as an accomplice to the Bosnian genocide before the War Tribunal at The Hague, though this came to nothing. In 2010 Hurd told a reporter that he was troubled by his Bosnia policy but still doubted that intervention would have brought about an earlier end to the war.[30]

Hurd was involved in a public scandal concerning Britain's funding of a hydroelectric dam on the Pergau River in Malaysia, near the Thai border. Building work began in 1991 with money from the British foreign aid budget. Concurrently, the Malaysian government bought around £1 billion's worth of British-made arms. The suggested linkage of arms deals to aid became the subject of a UK Government inquiry from March 1994. In November 1994, after an application for Judicial review brought by the World Development Movement, the High Court of Justice held that the British Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd's actions were ultra vires [outside his legal powers and therefore unlawful] by allocating £234 million towards the funding of the dam, on the grounds that the legislation only empowered him to fund economically sound projects.[31]

In 1997, the administration of the UK's aid budget was removed from the Foreign Secretary's remit (previously the Overseas Development Administration had been under the supervision of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office).[32] The new department, the Department for International Development (DfID), had its own Secretary of state who was a member of the Cabinet. In 1995, during the Cabinet reshuffle widely seen as setting up the Conservative team which would contest the next election, Hurd retired from frontline politics after 11 years in the Cabinet and was replaced by Malcolm Rifkind.[32]


Insignia of a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour

After his retirement as foreign secretary, Hurd remained a key supporter of John Major, and kept a range of active political involvements as well as taking on some business appointments, most notably as a deputy chairman of NatWest Markets and a board director of NatWest Group, posts he held from October 1995–99.[citation needed]

Hurd left the House of Commons at the 1997 general election, and on 13 June 1997 was created Baron Hurd of Westwell, of Westwell in the County of Oxfordshire,[33] which enabled him to continue sitting in Parliament as a member of the House of Lords. He retired from the Lords on 9 June 2016.[34]

In December 1997, Hurd was appointed chairman of British Invisibles (now renamed International Financial Services London or IFSL). He was chairman of the judging panel for the 1998 Booker Prize for Fiction. He became a member of the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords in February 1999, and in September 1999 he was appointed High Steward of Westminster Abbey, reflecting his long active membership of the Church of England. He later went on to chair the Hurd Commission which produced a review of the roles and functions of the Archbishop of Canterbury.[35]

Hurd is chairman of the advisory council at FIRST,[36] an international affairs organisation. Hurd was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1974 and Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the 1996 New Year Honours.[37] He was formerly a Visiting Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford and Chairman of the German British Forum. On 17 July 2009, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (Hon DLitt) from Aston University at its Degree Congregation.[citation needed]

Hurd is a member of the Top Level Group of UK Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation, established in October 2009.[38]

Personal life[edit]

Hurd has married twice. In 1960, he married his first wife Tatiana, daughter of Major Arthur Eyre MBE, and their union produced three sons. The couple separated in 1976, and divorced in 1982. Tatiana Hurd cited her husband's career as the reason for their separation, saying, "Really, politics don't mix with marriage". In 1982 Hurd married Judy Smart, his former parliamentary secretary, who was 19 years his junior. They had two children, a boy and a girl.[39] Judy Hurd died of leukaemia on 22 November 2008 in an Oxford hospital, aged 58.[40]

Hurd's eldest son, Nick Hurd, was Conservative Member of Parliament for Ruislip Northwood and Pinner from May 2005 to December 2019. In 2010, he was appointed Minister for Civil Society[41] and married Lady Clare Kerr, daughter of the Marquess of Lothian.

Hurd's second son, Thomas, joined the Diplomatic service. His name appeared on a list of suspected MI6 operatives which was published on the Internet, along with the name of Douglas himself. The Hon Thomas was appointed OBE in 2006, and is married with five children. His wife, Catherine, known as Sian, died on 21 May 2011, after falling from the roof of the building where they lived on East 84th Street in New York City.[42]

In 1988, Hurd set up the charity Crime Concern.[43] Crime Concern worked to reduce crime, anti-social behaviour and the fear of crime, by working with young people, their families and adult offenders, offering opportunities through training and employment. Crime Concern merged with young people's charity Rainer in 2008 to become Catch22.[44] Hurd is fluent in Mandarin, French, and Italian.[45]

Literary works[edit]

Hurd is a writer of political thrillers including:

  • The Smile on the Face of the Tiger (1969, with Andrew Osmond)
  • Scotch on the Rocks (1971, with Andrew Osmond)
  • Truth Game (1972)
  • A Vote to a Kill (1975)
  • Palace of Enchantments (1985, with Stephen Lamport)
  • The Shape of Ice (1998)
  • Image in the Water (2001)
  • 10 Minutes to Turn the Devil (2015), a collection of short stories.

His non-fiction works include:

  • The Arrow War (1967)
  • An End To Promises (1979)
  • The Search for Peace (1997)
  • Memoirs (2003)
  • Robert Peel, a Biography (2007)[46]
  • Choose your Weapons (2010)[47]
  • Disraeli: or, The Two Lives (2013, with Edward Young)[48]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Times Guide House of Commons - 1983. Times Books. 1983. p. 241. ISBN 072300255X.
  2. ^ "Hon. Douglas Hurd". Hansard. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  3. ^ "Parliamentary career for Lord Hurd of Westwell - MPs and Lords". UK Parliament. Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  4. ^ Douglas Hurd, Memoirs (2003).
  5. ^ "Hurd of Westwell, Baron, (Douglas Richard Hurd) (born 8 March 1930)". WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u21291. ISBN 978-0-19-954088-4. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  6. ^ Hurd 2003, p52
  7. ^ Hurd 2003, pp61-8
  8. ^ Hurd 2003, p64
  9. ^ Hurd 2003, p68
  10. ^ Hurd 2003, p85
  11. ^ Hurd 2003, p71
  12. ^ Hurd 2003, p. 77
  13. ^ Hurd 2003, p81
  14. ^ Hurd 2003, p. 71
  15. ^ [1] Archived 26 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ University education. "You may have a first-class degree – but Lord Winston doesn't want you". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  17. ^ "No. 46254". The London Gazette (Supplement). 2 April 1974. pp. 4395–4398.
  18. ^ a b Hurd, Memoirs (2003).
  19. ^ a b c d "Douglas Hurd". Oxford Reference. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  20. ^ "Public Order Act 1986". www.legislation.gov.uk. 1986.
  21. ^ Campbell, John (2010). Pistols at Dawn: Two Hundred Years of Political Rivalry from Pitt and Fox to Blair and Brown. London: Vintage. p. 340. ISBN 978-1-84595-091-0. OCLC 489636152.
  22. ^ "'Ten years from now we will be in the EU and thinking again about joining the euro'". www.theguardian.com. 29 June 2013. Retrieved 17 July 2022.[title missing]
  23. ^ "1990: Tories choose Major for Number 10". BBC News. 27 November 1990.
  24. ^ Bogdanor, Vernon (18 January 2014). "The Spectator book review that brought down Macmillan's government". The Spectator. Archived from the original on 19 November 2015. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  25. ^ Mark Stuart, Douglas Hurd: the public servant: an authorised biography (1998)
  26. ^ Nick Cohen. "Observer review: Unfinest Hour by Brendan Simms | Books". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  27. ^ "Bosnia Report – July – September 2000". Bosnia.org.uk. Archived from the original on 24 July 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  28. ^ "Srebrenica: the silence over Britain's guilt must be ended | Vernon Bogdanor". The Guardian. 12 July 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  29. ^ Mazower, Mark (11 April 2012). "How Britain got it wrong in Bosnia". www.standard.co.uk. Retrieved 28 January 2021.
  30. ^ Flanagan, Julian (30 March 2010). "Douglas Hurd: 'I am not brilliant. Not a great original'". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  31. ^ [2] Archived 15 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  32. ^ a b "A rare survivor". POLITICO. 3 January 1996. Retrieved 12 June 2021.
  33. ^ "No. 54810". The London Gazette. 18 June 1997. p. 7063.
  34. ^ Lord Hurd of Westwell, parliament.uk, 12 June 2016
  35. ^ [3] Archived 13 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ "The forum for decision makers. FIRST Magazine focuses on business strategy and government policy making". FIRST Magazine. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  37. ^ "No. 54255". The London Gazette (Supplement). 30 December 1995. p. 5.
  38. ^ Borger, Julian (8 September 2009). "Nuclear-free world ultimate aim of new cross-party pressure group". The Guardian. London, UK.
  39. ^ "The Most Trusted Place for Answering Life's Questions". Answers. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  40. ^ "Judy Hurd". Oxford Mail. 3 December 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  41. ^ "Nick Hurd – GOV.UK". Cabinetoffice.gov.uk. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  42. ^ Swaine, Jon (22 May 2011). "Lord Hurd's daughter-in-law plunges to death". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 24 February 2019.
  43. ^ "Introduction to Preventative Work from Making A Difference". Enabler Publications. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  44. ^ "Transforming lives, transforming communities". Catch22. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  45. ^ "What does it take to be a great foreign secretary?". BBC News. 14 May 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2016.
  46. ^ Time remaining – days – hours – minutes – seconds (12 June 2008). Douglas Hurd – Robert Peel – Orion Publishing Group. Orion Publishing. ISBN 9780753823842. Retrieved 15 January 2016. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  47. ^ Time remaining – days – hours – minutes – seconds (28 March 2013). Douglas Hurd – Choose Your Weapons – Orion Publishing Group. Orion. ISBN 9780297858515. Retrieved 15 January 2016. {{cite book}}: |website= ignored (help)
  48. ^ "ISBN Unavailable". Orionbooks.co.uk. Archived from the original on 7 August 2014. Retrieved 15 January 2016.

Further reading[edit]

  • Hurd, Douglas. Memoirs (Little, Brown, 2003)
  • Hurd, Douglas. The Search for Peace (Little, Brown, 1997)
  • Stuart, Mark. Douglas Hurd: the public servant: an authorised biography Mainstream Publishing Company, 1998.
  • Theakston, Kevin, ed. British Foreign Secretaries since 1974 (Routledge, 2004).

External links[edit]

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Preceded by Political Secretary to the Prime Minister
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Parliament of the United Kingdom
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Constituency abolished
Member of Parliament for Witney
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