Norman St John-Stevas, Baron St John of Fawsley


Norman St John-Stevas, Baron St John of Fawsley
The Right Honourable
The Lord St John of Fawsley
PC FRSL
Minister of State for the Arts
In office
5 May 1979 – 5 January 1981
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by The Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
Succeeded by Paul Channon
In office
2 December 1973 – 4 March 1974
Prime Minister Edward Heath
Preceded by The Viscount Eccles
Succeeded by Hugh Jenkins
Leader of the House of Commons
In office
4 May 1979 – 5 January 1981
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Michael Foot
Succeeded by Francis Pym
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
4 May 1979 – 5 January 1981
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Harold Lever
Succeeded by Francis Pym
Member of Parliament
for Chelmsford
In office
15 October 1964 – 11 June 1987
Preceded by Hubert Ashton
Succeeded by Simon Burns
Personal details
Born 18 June 1929 (1929-06-18) (age 82)
Political party Conservative
Alma mater Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge
Christ Church, Oxford
University of London
Yale University
English College, Rome
Middle Temple
Religion Roman Catholicism

Norman Anthony Francis St John-Stevas, Baron St John of Fawsley, PC, FRSL (sin-jən-stee-vəs; born 18 May 1929), is a British politician, author, constitutional expert and barrister. A member of the Conservative Party, he served as a Member of Parliament (MP) representing the constituency of Chelmsford from 1984 to 1987, and was the Leader of the House of Commons in the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from 1979 to 1981. He was made a life peer in 1987.

His surname is compounded from the surnames of his father (Stevas) and mother (St John-O'Connor).

Contents

Education

St John-Stevas was educated at two independent schools, St Josephs Salesian School in Burwash, East Sussex, and then Ratcliffe College in Leicester. He then went on to Cambridge University, where he read law at Fitzwilliam College. He graduated with first class honours and won the Whitlock Prize. He served as the President of the Cambridge Union in 1950.

St John-Stevas also studied at Oxford University, where he gained a BCL at Christ Church and was the Secretary of the Oxford Union. He gained a PhD from the University of London and a JSD from Yale University. He also studied briefly for the Roman Catholic priesthood at the English College in Rome.

He was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple in 1952.

Academic career

St John-Stevas was appointed as a Lecturer at Southampton University (1952–1953) and King's College London (1953–1956). He then went to Oxford University to tutor in Jurisprudence at Christ Church (1953–1955) and Merton College (1955–1957). In 1959, he joined The Economist and became its Legal and Political Correspondent.

Politician

Having first run as a candidate for a parliamentary seat in 1951 (Dagenham), St John-Stevas was elected as the Member of Parliament for the constituency of Chelmsford in Essex at the 1964 general election. He held this seat until he stepped down at the 1987 general election.

In the later stages of Prime Minsiter Edward Heath's government, St John-Stevas was Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Education and Science (where Margaret Thatcher was the Secretary of State), and the Minister for the Arts (1973–1974).

After the defeat of Heath's government, St John-Stevas served as a member of the Shadow Cabinet from 1974 to 1979, being the Shadow Spokesman for Education between 1975 and 1978, and Shadow Leader of the House of Commons between 1978 and 1979.

When the Conservative Party was returned to power after at the 1979 general election, St John-Stevas was appointed as Minister for the Arts for a second time from 1979 to 1981, while simultaneously holding the roles of Leader of the House of Commons and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

In his roles as Leader of the House, St John-Stevas is largely credited with the creation of the House of Commons' system of select committees. These committees enable backbench MPs to hold ministers to account, and remain a force to be reckoned with today.

In early 1981, St John-Stevas was the first of the Tory "wets" to be dismissed from the Cabinet by the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (whom he had previously nicknamed "Tina" for her "there is no alternative" rhetoric). For many years, he was a member of the Bow Group.

St John-Stevas stood down from the House of Commons at the 1987 general election. He was subsequently elevated to the House of Lords as a life peer with the title Baron St John of Fawsley of Preston Capes in the County of Northamptonshire.

Later career

He was Chairman of the Royal Fine Art Commission from 1985 to 1999, which was wracked by controversy. It was hoped that his appointment would revitalise and popularise the commission. Instead, the commission became a mouth piece for Lord St John's own views and preferences (most prominently in the annual Building of the Year award). Lord St John adorned his office with paintings from national collections, documents were presented in red boxes and he was served by a chauffeur and ex-civil servants, in accommodation more lavish than that of most secretaries of state: prompting one commentator to comment that "...if he cannot have power, he must have the trappings". This was all criticised in a savage government review by Sir Geoffrey Chipperfield.[1]

His tenure as Master of Emmanuel College at Cambridge University (1991 to 1996) was equally controversial. He built a new conference centre (the Queen's Building) at the cost of some £8 million, the costs of which were pushed upwards by Lord St John's insistence on re-opening the quarry in Ketton, Rutland to obtain limestone from the same source from which the college's Wren chapel was built.[2] Lord St John maintains his links with Emmanuel, which he uses from time to time as a venue for events of the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust.[3]

Personal life

Lord St John is a prominent Roman Catholic. He is a Patron of the Society of King Charles the Martyr, and Grand Bailiff for England and Wales of the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus.

Lord St John is noted for his large number of personal affectations, including proffering his hand in papal fashion, lapsing into Latin while speaking, and deliberately mispronouncing modern words.[1] A loyal monarchist, Lord St John enjoys a close relationship with the British royal family.[4][5] Soon after elevation to the Lords, photographs of him, in purple bedroom slippers, appeared in Hello! magazine, lounging in the bedroom of his Northampton rectory, a signed photograph of the late Princess Margaret prominently displayed. All personal notes were written in purple ink and after his elevation to the Lords, he used only official House of Lords headed stationery. He lives in Westminster and is an active member of the House of Lords.

Bibliography

By Norman St John Stevas

  • Before the Sunset Fades: An Autobiography, Harper Collins (2009)- Forthcoming autobiography
  • The Two Cities, Farrar Straus & Giroux (1984)
  • Pope John-Paul II: His Travels and Mission, Faber & Faber, London (1982)
  • Agonising Choice: Birth Control, Religion and Law, Eyre & Spottiswoode, London (1971)
  • Bagehot's Historical Essays, New York University Press (1966)
  • Law and Morals, Hawthorn Books, New York (1964)
  • The Right to Life, Holt, Rinehart & Winston (1963)
  • Life, Death And The Law, Indiana University Press, (1961)
  • Walter Bagehot A study of his life & thought together with a selection from his political writings, Indiana University Press(1959)

Edited by Norman St John Stevas

  • Bagehot, Walter, St John Stevas, Norman (Editor): The Collected Works of Walter Bagehot: Volumes 1–15, The Economist/ Harvard University Press (1965–1986)

References

  1. ^ a b "Master of the fine arts of survival. Profile: Lord St John of Fawsley". The Sunday Times: p. 3.3. 26 May 1996. 
  2. ^ Werran GR & Dickson MGT. "Prestressed ketton stone perimeter frame: The Queens Building Emmanuel College, Cambridge". http://www.bath.ac.uk/cwct/cladding_org/icbest97/paper30.pdf. Retrieved 6 January 2009. 
  3. ^ [|Gledhill, Ruth] (27 November 2008). "Gallery’s masterpiece is a work of faith that should be in church, says Cardinal". The Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article5240930.ece. Retrieved 6 January 2009. 
  4. ^ "The Saxe-Coburg Diaries 1996—Part 25". Daily Telegraph. 4 January 2009. http://my.telegraph.co.uk/the_bulletin/blog/2009/01/04/the_saxecoburg_diaries_1996__part_25. Retrieved 6 January 2009. [dead link]
  5. ^ Pierce, Andrew (21 August 2001). "People by Andrew Pierce". The Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article879936.ece. Retrieved 6 January 2009. 

External links


Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Hubert Ashton
Member of Parliament for Chelmsford
19641987
Succeeded by
Simon Burns
Political offices
Preceded by
The Viscount Eccles
Minister of State for the Arts
1973–1974
Succeeded by
Hugh Jenkins
Preceded by
Michael Foot
Leader of the House of Commons
1979–1981
Succeeded by
Francis Pym
Preceded by
Harold Lever
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
1979–1981
Preceded by
The Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
Minister of State for the Arts
1979–1981
Succeeded by
Paul Channon
Academic offices
Preceded by
Charles Wroth
Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge
1991–1996
Succeeded by
John Ffowcs Williams

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