He entered the Royal Navy in 1888 and was a midshipman, East Indian Station from 1890 to 1893. He was elected as Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for Greenock in 1910 and sat for the constituency until his death (from 1931 as a Liberal National).
He was Parliamentary Private Secretary to J. B. Seely, as Secretary of State for War from 1910 to 1914, and to J. W. Gulland, Chief Liberal Whip from 1915. He served in Egypt, Gallipoli, and Mesopotamia from 1915 to 1917, and was appointed a Lieutenant-Colonel in September 1916. He was a Junior Lord of the Treasury from 1919 to 1920 and Chief Liberal Whip from November 1924 to 1926. From 1932 to 1936 he served as Secretary of State for Scotland.
As Secretary of State for Scotland he was responsible for over thirty Bills affecting Scotland, chiefly: a scheme for the creation of smallholdings, the Herring Industry Act of 1935 (establishing the Herring Industry Board), the Illegal Trawling (Scotland) Act, the Education (Scotland) Bill of 1936, which sought to raise the school leaving age to fifteen from 1939, and the Housing (Scotland) Act of 1935, which laid down a statutory standard of overcrowding and sought to effect widespread slum clearances and the building of low-rent accommodation for low-wage earners.
- Torrance, David, The Scottish Secretaries (Birlinn 2006)
- Pottinger, George, The Secretaries of State For Scotland, 1926-1976 (Scottish Academic Press, 1979)
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Godfrey Collins
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament for Greenock
|Party political offices|
| Liberal Chief Whip
Sir Archibald Sinclair
| Secretary of State for Scotland
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