Douglas Houghton
Arthur Leslie Noel Douglas Houghton, Baron Houghton of Sowerby PC
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

 (11 August 1898 – 2 May 1996) was a British Labour
Labour Party (UK)
The Labour Party is a centre-left democratic socialist party in the United Kingdom. It surpassed the Liberal Party in general elections during the early 1920s, forming minority governments under Ramsay MacDonald in 1924 and 1929-1931. The party was in a wartime coalition from 1940 to 1945, after...

 politician. He was the last British Cabinet minister born in the 19th Century; since he retired in 1967, every Cabinet minister has been born since 1900. He was also the last veteran of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 to serve in both the Cabinet or in Parliament.

Early life

Houghton was born in Derbyshire
Derbyshire is a county in the East Midlands of England. A substantial portion of the Peak District National Park lies within Derbyshire. The northern part of Derbyshire overlaps with the Pennines, a famous chain of hills and mountains. The county contains within its boundary of approx...

 and fought in the First World War
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, surviving the Battle of the Somme. He secured a post in the civil service
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....


Political career

Houghton was a great believer in equality of opportunity and campaigned for certain numbers of lower (clerical) grade civil servants to have the chance of taking an examination that could lead to previously unheard-of promotion . In 1922, he founded the Inland Revenue Staff Federation
Inland Revenue Staff Federation
-History:The Union was born in the late 19th Century, when a group of tax clerks met together to fight for higher pay, higher status and better conditions. At that time clerks were hired by surveyors of taxes, they were usually employed on a temporary basis, paid low wages and denied sick leave,...

 and was its leader from 1922 to 1960. He served on the General Council of the Trades Union Congress
Trades Union Congress
The Trades Union Congress is a national trade union centre, a federation of trade unions in the United Kingdom, representing the majority of trade unions...

 from 1952 to 1960, and as Chairman of the Staff Side Civil Service National Whitley Council from 1955 to 1957.

He was a panel member of a BBC radio programme Can I help You? between 1941 and 1964. His connections with the London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 Labour movement and the Labour Party gave him the profile to become an Alderman
An alderman is a member of a municipal assembly or council in many jurisdictions founded upon English law. The term may be titular, denoting a high-ranking member of a borough or county council, a council member chosen by the elected members themselves rather than by popular vote, or a council...

 of the London County Council
London County Council
London County Council was the principal local government body for the County of London, throughout its 1889–1965 existence, and the first London-wide general municipal authority to be directly elected. It covered the area today known as Inner London and was replaced by the Greater London Council...

 - the forerunner of the Greater London Council
Greater London Council
The Greater London Council was the top-tier local government administrative body for Greater London from 1965 to 1986. It replaced the earlier London County Council which had covered a much smaller area...

 - from 1947-1949.

After John Belcher
John Belcher (politician)
John William Belcher was a British Labour Party politician, the first to resign in disgrace over a political scandal.-Political career:...

 quit the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 over accusations of minor dishonesty, Houghton was persuaded to seek nomination for the subsequent by-election. He secured this and on 16 March 1949 was elected to Parliament for the Yorkshire
Yorkshire is a historic county of northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Because of its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been increasingly undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform...

 constituency of Sowerby
Sowerby (UK Parliament constituency)
Sowerby was a county constituency centred on the village of Sowerby in Calderdale, West Yorkshire. It returned one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.-History:...

 with a majority of 2,152.

He was re-elected in the subsequent general elections of 1950, 1951, 1955, 1959, 1964, 1966 and 1970. His head for figures and tenacity made him a good candidate for Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons, succeeding Harold Wilson
Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, KG, OBE, FRS, FSS, PC was a British Labour Member of Parliament, Leader of the Labour Party. He was twice Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during the 1960s and 1970s, winning four general elections, including a minority government after the...

 in this post after Wilson was elected Leader of the Labour Party in 1963. When, after 13 years in government, the Conservative Party
Conservative Party (UK)
The Conservative Party, formally the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom that adheres to the philosophies of conservatism and British unionism. It is the largest political party in the UK, and is currently the largest single party in the House...

 was defeated in October 1964, Houghton became a cabinet minister in Wilson's first government and was appointed a Privy Counsellor
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...


The post of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is, in modern times, a ministerial office in the government of the United Kingdom that includes as part of its duties, the administration of the estates and rents of the Duchy of Lancaster...

 after 1964 gave Houghton a position in the cabinet and special responsibility for Social Services but not an actual department over which he could preside. This made it hard to be particularly effective as a minister, and in a 1966 reshuffle, Wilson made him Minister without Portfolio
Minister without Portfolio
A minister without portfolio is either a government minister with no specific responsibilities or a minister that does not head a particular ministry...


Houghton was dropped from government in 1967 and became Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party
Parliamentary Labour Party
In UK politics, the Parliamentary Labour Party is the parliamentary party of the Labour Party in Parliament: Labour MPs as a collective body....

 (PLP) which is a post designed to help shape and reflect the backbench Labour MPs' views but keep them in dialogue with the Labour leadership. His predecessor, Emmanuel Shinwell, could be rather fiery and unpredictable. By contrast, Houghton had a tenacity and command of detail that made him a highly suitable person for the task, given there was perceived to be quite a lot of factionalism in the party at the time. He retired from the House of Commons at the February 1974 General Election and was elevated to the House of Lords
House of Lords
The House of Lords is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminster....

 as Baron Houghton of Sowerby, of Sowerby in the County of West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire
West Yorkshire is a metropolitan county within the Yorkshire and the Humber region of England with a population of 2.2 million. West Yorkshire came into existence as a metropolitan county in 1974 after the passage of the Local Government Act 1972....

 a few months later on 20 June.

Lord Houghton was passionate about the subject of animal welfare
Animal welfare
Animal welfare is the physical and psychological well-being of animals.The term animal welfare can also mean human concern for animal welfare or a position in a debate on animal ethics and animal rights...

 and spoke in the House of Lords on the subject a number of times. Shortly before he died in 1996, he was the last member of the House of Lords to have fought in the First World War, and at 97, was then its oldest serving member. A warm tribute was paid to him by Tam Dalyell
Tam Dalyell
Sir Thomas Dalyell Loch, 11th Baronet , known as Tam Dalyell, is a British Labour Party politician, who was a Member of Parliament in the House of Commons from 1962 to 2005, first for West Lothian and then for Linlithgow.-Early life:...

, himself a former MP, in one of Britain's national newspapers.

External links

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