Born at Westminster, Peto was the seventh son of Sir Morton Peto, 1st Baronet. He entered Harrow School, but was withdrawn at the age of seventeen when his father experienced financial difficulties. He became an apprentice joiner with his family's business, Peto Brothers, building contractors, of Pimlico. He became a partner in the company in 1884 and married Mary Matilda Annie Baird in 1892. The couple had three sons. In 1890 Peto attempted to bring in a form of profit-sharing to the company. The proposal was opposed by the trade unions, leading to a strike. The company was dissolved in 1893 and Peto was financially ruined.
He took up employment with Morgan Crucible in 1892, eventually becoming managing director by 1904, when he resigned. He travelled widely for the company supervising the mining and purchase of plumbago in the United States, Canada, India and Ceylon.
Peto was chosen by the Conservative Party to contest the January 1910 general election, regaining the Devizes constituency in Wiltshire which had been lost to the Liberals in 1906. He retained the seat until the 1918 election.
During the First World War he held a temporary commission in the British Army and acted as the Chief Commissioner for Belgian Refugee Affairs. He was made a Commander of the Order of Leopold by Albert I of Belgium.
Peto returned to the Commons, twice serving as Member of Parliament for Barnstaple, holding the seat from 1922 to 1923 and again from 1924 to 1935. He was created a Baronet, of Barnstaple in the County of Devon, in January 1927. He found himself at odds with many of the policies of Stanley Baldwin's Conservative government, and lost the party whip to sit as an independent in April 1928. Following a unanimous vote of confidence in him by his local party executive, he was readmitted to the parliamentary party in November. In June 1934 he announced that he would be retiring from parliament at the next general election, which was held in the following year.
Peto served as chairman of the National Society for the Prevention of Venereal Disease from 1926 – 1939.
Peto died at his home, Iford Gatehouse, near Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire in January 1945 aged 82. He was succeeded by his elder son James Michael Peto (1894–1971). A younger son Christopher (1897–1980) succeeded his elder brother and also served as MP for Barnstaple.
- "PETO, Sir Basil". Who Was Who. Oxford University Press. December 2007. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
- "Sir Basil Peto: An Appreciation". The Times. 14 February 1945. p. 7.
- "Obituary: Sir Basil Peto". The Times. 29 January 1945. p. 6.
- "No. 25888". The London Gazette. 28 December 1888. p. 7430.
- "Profit Sharing. Peto Brothers". The Times. 27 February 1890. p. 11.
- "No. 26464". The London Gazette. 5 December 1893. p. 7143.
- "No. 28946". The London Gazette. 20 October 1914. p. 8483.
- "No. 13447". The Edinburgh Gazette. 20 May 1919. p. 1741.
- "No. 33249". The London Gazette. 18 February 1927. p. 1111.
- "Sir Basil Peto And His Party. No Thought Of Independent Candidature". The Times. 31 July 1928. p. 16.
- "Political Notes". The Times. 3 November 1928. p. 12.
- "Political Notes". The Times. 8 June 1934. p. 14.
- "News in Brief". The Times. 25 May 1939. p. 13.
- Kidd, Charles, Williamson, David (editors). Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage (1990 edition). New York: St Martin's Press, 1990,[page needed]
- Leigh Rayment's list of baronets
- Leigh Rayment's Historical List of MPs
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Sir Basil Peto
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|Member of Parliament for Devizes
|Member of Parliament for Barnstaple
|Member of Parliament for Barnstaple
Sir Richard Acland
|Baronetage of the United Kingdom|