George May, 1st Baron May

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George Ernest May, 1st Baron May KBE (20 June 1871 – 10 April 1946), known as Sir George May, 1st Baronet, from 1931 to 1935, was a British financial expert and public servant.

May was the younger son of William May, a grocer and wine merchant, of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, and his wife Julia Ann (née Mole), and was educated at Cranleigh School. At the age of 16 he joined the Prudential Assurance Company as a clerk. He was to remain with this firm until his retirement in 1931, and served as Secretary of the company from 1915 until 1931. May quickly made his mark as a financial expert and during the First World War he was Manager of the American Dollars Securities Committee from 1915 to 1918. This committee was set up by the government to oversee the collection of securities held by British firms in the United States, and to make them available to the British government in aid of the war effort. For his services May was made a KBE in 1918.

He was created a Baronet, of the Eyot, on 27 January 1931,[1] and the same year, after his retirement as Secretary of the Prudential Assurance Company, he was appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Snowden to oversee a committee on national expenditure. The majority report found that there was a prospective deficit of £120 million, and recommended savings of £96,578,000 for the next financial year, of which £66,500,000 were from reductions in Unemployment Insurance and £13,600,000 from education. The chairman and the members suggested by the Conservative and Liberal parties supported the recommendations.[2] Two members from the Labour Party submitted a minority report fundamentally disagreeing.[3]

In early 1932 May was appointed Chairman of the Import Duties Advisory Committee by the new Chancellor, Neville Chamberlain. The committee oversaw the introduction and implementation of a general tariff over the next three years. As one of three members on the committee (along with Sir Sydney Chapman and Sir Allan Powell), May was specifically responsible for overseeing the reorganization of the British iron and steel industry. The committee's activities were largely suspended after the outbreak of the Second World War, but May remained Chairman until 1941. He had been further honoured on 28 June 1935 when he was raised to the peerage as Baron May, of Weybridge in the County of Surrey.[4]

Lord May married Lily Julia, daughter of Gustavus Strauss, in 1903. They had two sons and a daughter. He died in April 1946 and was succeeded in the barony by his eldest son John. Lady May died in 1955.


  1. ^ The London Gazette: no. 33686. p. 744. 3 February 1931.
  2. ^ Report of the Committee on National Expenditure (Cmd. 3920), July 1931, pp. 215-224.
  3. ^ Report of the Committee on National Expenditure (Cmd. 3920), July 1931, pp. 227-270.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 34176. p. 4241. 2 July 1935.


Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New Creation
Baron May
Succeeded by
John Lawrence May