George Thomson, Baron Thomson of Monifieth

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The Lord Thomson of Monifieth

European Commissioner for Regional Policy
In office
6 January 1973 – 5 January 1977
PresidentFrançois-Xavier Ortoli
Preceded byAlbert Borschette
Succeeded byAntonio Giolitti
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
In office
8 July 1970 – 10 April 1972
LeaderHarold Wilson
Preceded byGeoffrey Rippon
Succeeded byFred Peart
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
6 October 1969 – 20 June 1970
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byFrederick Lee
Succeeded byAnthony Barber
In office
6 April 1966 – 7 January 1967
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byDouglas Houghton
Succeeded byFrederick Lee
Minister without Portfolio
In office
17 October 1968 – 6 October 1969
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byPatrick Gordon-Walker
Succeeded byThe Lord Drumalbyn
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs
In office
29 August 1967 – 17 October 1968
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byHerbert Bowden
Succeeded byMichael Stewart (Foreign & Commonwealth Affairs)
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
23 March 1977 – 3 October 2008
Life peerage
Member of Parliament
for Dundee East
In office
17 July 1952 – 1 March 1973
Preceded byThomas Cook
Succeeded byGeorge Machin
Personal details
Born(1921-01-16)16 January 1921
Penn, Buckinghamshire, England
Died3 October 2008(2008-10-03) (aged 87)
London, England
Political party
Spouse(s)Grace Thomson
Children2 (including Caroline)

George Morgan Thomson, Baron Thomson of Monifieth, KT, PC, DL, FRSE (16 January 1921 – 3 October 2008) was a British politician and journalist who served as a Labour MP. He was a member of Harold Wilson's cabinet, and later became a European Commissioner.

In the 1980s, he joined the Social Democratic Party. Following the SDP's merger with the Liberal Party, he became a Liberal Democrat and sat as a Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

Early life[edit]

Thomson was educated at Grove Academy, Broughty Ferry, Dundee. At 16 he left school to become a local reporter with the Dundee newspaper, magazine and comic publishers DC Thomson. He became deputy editor of the firms' successful comic The Dandy and for a short time was its editor, despite being only 18 years old. He left the firm in 1940 to serve in the Royal Air Force. Due to eyesight problems he was not able to take a flight crew role and served on the ground for fighter command.[1] He returned to DC Thomson in 1946, but left the firm after clashing with them over his right to join a trade union. He was then became assistant editor, and later editor, of Forward, a Scottish-based socialist newspaper, from 1946–53.[1][2]

Political career[edit]

At the 1950 and 1951 general elections, Thomson stood unsuccessfully in Glasgow Hillhead. In 1952, he was elected Member of Parliament in a by-election for Dundee East, where he served until his resignation in 1972. He served in the Wilson government as Minister of State, Foreign Office, from October 1964 to April 1966, then as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 1966–67, and again from 1969–70, Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs from 1967–68, and Minister without Portfolio from 1968–69. During his time as Commonwealth Secretary he had responsibility for trying to reach a settlement of the Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) question and for implementing sanctions against the regime there. He was one of the first British Commissioners of the European Community (EC) from 1973–77, with responsibility for regional policy. As chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority from 1981–88 he oversaw the introduction of Channel 4 and TV-am.[3]

He was Chair of the Advertising Standards Authority from 1977–80; Chair of the Independent Broadcasting Authority (IBA) 1981–88; a European Commissioner, with responsibility for Regional Policy 1973–76; First Crown Estate Commissioner from 1977–80; and a Member of the Committee on Standards in Public Life from 1994 until 1997. He was Deputy Chair of the Woolwich Building Society from 1988–91. He had been a Lords' Member of the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit since 1993. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Royal Television Society, and a patron of Sustrans.[4]

In 1985 he was invited to deliver the MacMillan Memorial Lecture to the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland; he chose "Does Public Broadcasting Have a Future? The Challenge of the New Technologies".[5] After moving with his wife, Grace, to Charing, Kent, Thomson held the position of Party President, for Ashford Liberal Democrats, from 1999–2006.[citation needed]


He died on Friday 3 October 2008 at London's St Thomas' Hospital, from a viral infection.[6][7] He was survived by his wife, Grace, Lady Thomson (1925–2014),[8] and their two daughters, Ailsa and Caroline,[9] the former Chief Operating Officer of the BBC.


Thomson received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1973.[10]

Thomson was made a Privy Counsellor in 1966, was created a Life Peer on 23 March 1977 as Baron Thomson of Monifieth, of Monifieth in the District of the City of Dundee,[11] and became a Knight of the Thistle in 1981.[12]


  1. ^ a b Willie Russell (2008). "George Morgan Thomson" (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh Knowledge made useful. Royal Society of Edinburgh. Retrieved 11 February 2020.
  2. ^ Ian MacDougall, Voices from Work and Home, p.563
  3. ^ "Lord Thomson of Monifieth". Retrieved 9 October 2015.
  4. ^ "Sustrans: join the movement". Archived from the original on 15 March 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  5. ^ "Hugh Miller Macmillan". Macmillan Memorial Lectures. Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland. Archived from the original on 4 October 2018. Retrieved 29 January 2019.
  6. ^ Former Minister Lord Thomson dies
  7. ^ Daily Record obituary for Lord Thomson
  8. ^ Tam Dalyell "Lady Thomson: Wife of the MP George Thomson who helped smooth her husband’s path to success in Brussels", The Independent, 24 August 2014
  9. ^ Tom Leonard "BBC steps into new bias row", Daily Telegraph, 22 July 2000
  10. ^ "Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh: Honorary Graduates". Retrieved 7 April 2016.
  11. ^ "No. 47181". The London Gazette. 24 March 1977. p. 4039.
  12. ^ "No. 48810". The London Gazette. 1 December 1981. p. 15283.

External links[edit]

Media offices
Preceded by
Emrys Hughes
Editor of Forward
Position abolished
Preceded by
Lady Plowden
Chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority
Succeeded by
George Russell
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Thomas Cook
Member of Parliament
for Dundee East

Succeeded by
George Machin
Political offices
Preceded by
Douglas Houghton
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
Frederick Lee
Preceded by
Herbert Bowden
Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs
Succeeded by
Michael Stewart
as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Preceded by
Patrick Gordon-Walker
Minister without Portfolio
Succeeded by
The Lord Drumalbyn
Preceded by
Frederick Lee
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
Anthony Barber
Preceded by
Geoffrey Rippon
Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
Succeeded by
Fred Peart
New office British European Commissioner
Served alongside: Christopher Soames
Succeeded by
Roy Jenkins
Christopher Tugendhat
Preceded by
Albert Borschette
European Commissioner for Regional Policy
Succeeded by
Antonio Giolitti