Peter Mond, 4th Baron Melchett
The Lord Melchett
On acquittal in 2000
|Under-Secretary of State, Industry|
4 December 1975 – 10 September 1976
|Prime Minister||James Callaghan|
|Preceded by||Gerald Kaufman|
|Succeeded by||Neil Carmichael|
|Minister of State, Northern Ireland|
10 September 1976 – 4 May 1979
|Prime Minister||James Callaghan|
|Preceded by||Don Concannon|
Peter Robert Henry Mond
24 February 1948
|Died||29 August 2018(aged 70)|
|Parents||Julian Mond, 3rd Baron Melchett|
|Alma mater||Pembroke College, Cambridge|
|Occupation||executive, farmer, politician|
|Known for||environmental activism at the Ramblers' Association, Greenpeace and Soil Association|
Son of the British Steel Corporation chairman Sir Julian Mond (later the 3rd Baron Melchett) and Sonia Melchett (now Sinclair), Mond was educated at Eton and Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read law. He went on to take an MA in criminology at Keele University, and later researched the sentencing of cannabis users at the London School of Economics and at the Institute of Psychiatry (1971–1973). In the late 1970s Melchett was the first chair of a (short-lived) Legalise Cannabis Campaign. For over 30 years Lord Melchett was a patron of Prisoners Abroad, a registered Charity which supports British citizens who are imprisoned overseas. He was a Special Lecturer at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Nottingham, from 1984–2002, a member of the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology (1981–85), a member of the BBC's Rural Affairs Committee (2005–), the Government's Rural Climate Change Forum (2009–2010) and Organic Action Plan Group (2002–2008), and the Department of Education's School Lunches Review Panel (2005). Melchett was on the board of the EU £12m Research Project 'Quality Low Input Food'. He received an honorary doctorate from Newcastle University in 2013.
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Lord Melchett succeeded to his titles in 1973 upon the death of his father. When Labour won re-election in October 1974 he was made a Lord-in-waiting (House of Lords whip) by Harold Wilson, working in the Department of the Environment under Anthony Crosland. According to Harold Wilson, he was the youngest Government Minister appointed (at least in modern times), and he was promoted twice within two years. As well as departmental responsibilities, he took particularly controversial legislation through the House (including pension legislation, and bills nationalising the aircraft and shipbuilding industries).
At the Department of the Environment, he chaired a Government inquiry into the then controversial area of pop festivals, leading to legislation still in force today (credited by Michael Eavis as the basis on which the Glastonbury Festival has been able to continue to flourish), and ensured that some of the UK's first wildlife protection laws were passed.
In 1975 he was made a Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department of Industry, where he was responsible for small firms and workers cooperatives. When James Callaghan succeeded Wilson in 1976 he moved to become Minister of State at the Northern Ireland Office, responsible for health (and social services) and education (including sports and the arts), two major departments covering almost the whole range of social policy, with by far the largest share of Government spending in Northern Ireland. Melchett increased teacher numbers to give the best pupil/teacher ratio in the UK, modernised provision for the mentally ill, and saw Northern Ireland provided with world class sporting facilities. He was responsible for the successful passage of a bill making it possible to set up integrated (non-sectarian) schools.
In his book 'Minority Verdict – Experiences of a Catholic Public Servant'  Maurice Hayes (the most senior Roman Catholic civil servant in Northern Ireland at the time) spoke very highly about working with Melchett: [He] "did not have everything spelled-out or interpreted for him. More important, he related to the young people around, he was mobile, accessible, and very attractive to large numbers of people. He also had a lot of courage and fighting for issues that did not fall within his brief, which involved some aspect of human rights or discrimination or criminal justice." One such was a case in which Melchett helped to secure a pardon for a young girl who had been convicted and imprisoned for killing her father who it transpired had sexually abused and assaulted her, her mother and had turned his attentions on her younger sister. In his book Hayes also said: "Melchett chafed at the constraints that were put on him in the name of security or convention and on his ability to travel to any part of Northern Ireland. He went out as often as he could and on whatever pretext to what were regarded 'difficult areas' – generally places that no minister had ever visited before, or any representative of government more exalted or benign than a policeman or a summons server – and found the people always glad to see him."
After Margaret Thatcher won the 1979 election, Melchett served on the Opposition Front Bench in the House of Lords from 1979–1981, covering the environment and wildlife, and leading for the Opposition on the Wildlife and Countryside Bill, which became an Act in 1981. The bill faced around 1200 amendments at the Committee stage in the Lords, said to be more than any other Bill, many moved by Melchett. After amendments, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 introduced proper protection for key wildlife sites (Sites of Special Scientific Interest), and additional protection for numerous species, including (controversially) bats, and Melchett’s personal favorite, protection from shooting for the Curlew, insisted on by the Lords after initial protection introduced in the Lords was rejected by the Commons.
Career after politics
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Immediately after he ceased be a Minister in 1979, Melchett was appointed part-time Chairman of Community Industry, a government funded scheme run by the National Association of Youth Clubs, which employed 8,000 young people in particularly deprived areas in England, Scotland and Wales. Community Industry aimed to give the experience of working in a real job, with a wage, to young people who were unable to get a job because of severe disadvantage. People were employed in groups of around 10, under the supervision of an experienced craftsperson, to learn basic skills and to get used to the routine of regular work. Melchett left Community Industry in 1986.
From 1979–1985 Melchett worked in a voluntary capacity for a number of wildlife groups, and for the Ramblers' Association as President 1981 – 1984 and Vice President since 1984. He also served for a spell on the Ramblers’ Council, which he claimed was his only elected office. In this period he was also a Council member of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and help found and chaired (1980–87) the national liaison body for wildlife and environment groups, Wildlife Link (now Wildlife and Countryside Link), which brought together around 30 NGOs, including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, which had been excluded from previous liaison arrangements. He was a Trustee of WWF UK from 1977 to 1984 and an advisor to Friends of the Earth and the RSPCA.
In 1985 he took part in peaceful protest organised by the Snowball movement, at the Sculthorpe US nuclear air force base close to the farm in Norfolk. Along with many other protesters he and his partner Cassandra Wedd made a symbolic cut to the fence around the air base, and they were arrested and convicted of attempted criminal damage.
Having announced himself sick of the 'lying game' of Westminster politics, and partly on the strength of his antinuclear campaigning and direct action, Lord Melchett was appointed to the Board of Greenpeace UK in 1985, and then took up position of Executive Director of Greenpeace UK in 1989.
Greenpeace UK grew from an organisation with a turnover of £1.4m, 12 staff and 25,000 supporters in 1985, to a turnover of £7.5m, 80 staff and over 200,000 supporters in 2001. Greenpeace UK’s financial contribution to Greenpeace International increased from £166,000 to £2m, and increased as a proportion of gross income from 5% to 25%. Greenpeace campaign successes in that period included a decrease in whales killed worldwide from around 70,000 to 1,000, international treaties banning the dumping of nuclear, industrial and oil industry waste (including Shell’s controversial Brent Spar oil storage facility) and human sewage in the North East Atlantic, an international treaty protecting the continent of Antarctica, the temporary abandonment of building new nuclear power stations in the UK, the treaty banning nuclear weapons testing worldwide, and Greenpeace’s worldwide, campaign against genetically modified crops and food.
Greenpeace launched their global campaign against GM crops in 1997, and Lord Melchett was arrested in 1999 when he took part in an environmental protest against a genetically modified crop trial in Norfolk, at which GM maize was cut down and removed by 28 volunteers. Melchett spent a night in police custody and then a night in Norwich Prison before being released on bail. The case came to court in 2000 when Melchett and his 27 co-defendants were unanimously acquitted of theft and criminal damage.
When he left in 2001, Melchett was the longest serving Executive Director of a Greenpeace national office. The ‘UK model’ of campaigning was increasingly adopted by Greenpeace’s other 30 national offices, and was accepted as being in part responsible for Greenpeace’s successes with both the Brent Spar and genetic engineering campaigns.
Melchett was also Chair of the Board of Greenpeace Japan, which became the third largest and most influential environmental organisation in Japan, securing a number of significant changes in Government policy and corporate behaviour.
When he retired as Greenpeace's Executive Director he remained on the organisation's international board and took up a part-time consultancy work with IKEA, Iceland and ASDA supermarkets, and briefly with industry PR company Burson-Marsteller UK. Burson-Marsteller in the USA had formerly been PR consultants for the Monsanto Company, and Lord Melchett stood down from the Greenpeace International Board following accusation that his employment with Burson-Marsteller compromised his integrity.
He was Policy Director at the Soil Association from 2002. The Soil Association has campaigned against the introduction of GM crops and food, and for the introduction of support for English organic farmers through the Government’s Organic Entry Level Scheme (subsequently Countryside Stewardship). The Soil Association has published reports and campaigned on school, nursery and hospital food, the poor quality of children’s food in popular restaurants, organic farming and climate change, the nutritional value of organic food, resource use in agriculture, feeding the world, GM, pesticides, the abuse of antibiotics in livestock farming and animal welfare.
Melchett played a leading role in guiding the Alliance to Save Our Antibiotics, an alliance of health, environmental and animal-welfare groups - coordinated by non-governmental organisations Compassion in World Farming, the Soil Association and Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming, campaigning to stop the overuse of antibiotics in livestock. The Alliance was founded in 2009 and has helped put the issue of antibiotic resistance at the centre of farm policy. By 2018, large cuts in antibiotic use in British farming had been achieved and the European Union had agreed plans  to ban routine farm antibiotic use.
Melchett was one of the leading people responsible for launching the Soil Association’s successful school food programme, Food for Life and Food for Life Served Here - a certification scheme for healthy and sustainable catering, currently covering 1.7 million meals served outside the home daily. He was the first Chair of the Food for Life Partnership, led by the Soil Association - originally in partnership with the Focus on Food Campaign, Garden Organic and the Health Education Trust, awarded a five-year, £16.9m Big Lottery grant (2007–2011) that resulted in engagement with 20% of English schools (which now covers over half the primary schools in England), and which is delivering radical improvements in school meal take-up, significant improvements in attendance, behaviour and academic achievement, and major improvements in children’s and their parents’ diets.
From 1973, Melchett was the managing director of 890-acre (360 hectares) Courtyard Farm at Ringstead near Hunstanton,,which was owned by his father, and is now owned by a charitable trust. The farm fully converted to organic in 2000, and crops include barley, wheat, and beans, all grown for seed, and clover and grass for cattle feed. The prize-winning farm is well known for the wildlife conservation work done there over the last 50 years, and for the high level of public access provided for more than 30 years. The farm has been involved in numerous agricultural and conservation research projects.
Peter Melchett was in a relationship with Cassandra "Cass" Wedd for 45 years, although they were never married. They had two children who were educated at a comprehensive school instead of the family tradition of Eton College. Lord Melchett's daughter Jessica Mond-Wedd is a barrister, Jay Mond Wedd, is a farmer.
Lord Melchett was a vocal opponent of heriditary peerdom and declared in a BBC radio broadcast for Desert Island Discs that he had deprived his son Jay Mond Wedd (who farmed at the family farm in Hunstanton) of the right to succeed him as 5th Baron Melchett of Landford in county of Southampton and 5th Baronet of Hartford Hill county of Cheshire, arguably because his son was born out of wedlock. This meant the extinction of the peerage and of the baronetcy.
Title and Styles
- 24 February 1948 – 22 January 1949: Mr Peter Mond
- 22 January 1949 – 15 June 1973: The Honourable Peter Mond
- 15 June 1973 – 29 August 2018: The Right Honourable The Lord Melchett
Lord Melchett was a baronet, by custom the post-nominal of "Bt" is omitted, as Peers of the Realm do not list subsidiary hereditary titles.
Coat of arms
- "Peter Melchett: Eton-education son of an industrialist who became a radical environmentalist heading Greenpeace". The Independent. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
- profile page, The Guardian; retrieved 21 January 2015
- Bob Chaundy (26 September 2000). "Peter Melchett:Lord of the Greens". BBC News. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- "Lord Melchett:Aristocrat eco-warrior". BBC News. 27 July 1999. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
- Goldring, Maurice (May 1995). "A history of Ulster. By Jonathan Bardon. Pp x, 914. Belfast: Blackstaff Press. 1992. £30". Irish Historical Studies. 29 (115): 387–389. doi:10.1017/s0021121400011913. ISSN 0021-1214.
- Halting spread of drug resistance from animals to humans: deal with Council http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/en/press-room/20180605IPR05050/halting-spread-of-drug-resistance-from-animals-to-humans-deal-with-council; 5 June 2018; European Parliament; retrieved 31 August 2018
- "Welcome To Courtyard Farm | Ringstead | Norfolk". www.courtyardfarm.co.uk. Retrieved 23 May 2018.
- Obituary in The Guardian
- Peter Melchett on Desert Island Discs with Sue Lawley
- Profile, Huffington Post: retrieved 21 January 2015
- Greenpeace: Peter Melchett[permanent dead link] 18 January 2002
- British Government Ministers, 1970–2009
|Peerage of the United Kingdom|
| Baron Melchett