George Oliver (politician)

George Oliver (politician)

George Harold Oliver QC (24 November, 1888 – 22 September, 1984) was a British engineer, barrister and politician who was for a long time Member of Parliament for Ilkeston and served briefly as a junior government minister.

Early career

Oliver was born in Bolton and educated at Holy Trinity School in the town. He became an engineer working as a gear cutter for Rolls Royce, and when the works were moved to Derby, he moved with them. "The General Election", "The Times", 16 November 1922.] He also joined the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and became shop steward of the works; his union activity brought him into the Labour Party and was elected to Derby Town Council as a Labour Party candidate. As an engineering worker he was not called up to fight in the First World War.

Parliamentary candidate

At the 1918 general election Oliver fought Ilkeston, an area not far from Derby. He enjoyed a straight fight with J. E. B. Seely, a Coalition Liberal, but lost by 1,698 votes. He remained involved in the constituency; from 1921, he was organising agent of the Worker's Union. He was adopted again as candidate for the 1922 general election; this time he was successful by 1,084.


He was re-elected in 1923, and during the Labour government he seconded a motion calling for a national minimum wage. "The Times", 5 March 1924.] He also supported exemption from entertainments duty for charitable entertainments. "The Times", 1 July, 1924.] After the Labour government lost a vote of no confidence, Oliver was again re-elected in the 1924 general election. He had determined to retrain as a trade union lawyer, and was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple in 1927. "The Times", 27 January 1927.] Shortly after he persuaded the Home Secretary to halt the planned hanging of one of his constituents who had been convicted of murder. ]

In March 1930 Oliver initiated a debate on the development of civilian air transport. "Air Policy", "The Times", 19 March 1930.] He supported opening cinemas on Sundays, "Cinemas On Sunday How M.P.S Voted", "The Times", 22 April 1931.] and also supported restrictions on the use of motor cars in elections, arguing that it was taking the opportunity to adjust the balance between rich and poor. "The Times", 23 April 1931.] However, Oliver could not survive the Conservative landslide at the 1931 general election: he lost by only two votes in the equal closest election result during universal franchise. F. W. S. Craig, "British Electoral Facts 1832-1987", Parliamentary Research Services, 1989.]

Out of Parliament

Out of Parliament, Oliver worked as a Barrister for the Transport and General Workers Union. He acted for the union at an inquest into the poisoning deaths of three workers at the British Celanese artificial silk factory at Spondon in 1934. "Factory Deaths At Spondon", "The Times", 17 January 1934.] At the 1935 general election he regained his seat by 10,601 votes. "The Times House of Commons 1935".]

When selected to introduce a Private Member's Bill in February 1936, Oliver chose to bring in a Bill to extend the jurisdiction of County Courts. "Commons Ballot: Private Members' Bills, Variety Of Subjects", "The Times", 7 February 1936.] He was also involved in the Labour Party conference in 1939, when he moved the expulsion from the party of Aneurin Bevan and three others because of their involvement in the 'Patriotic Front' movement attempting to build an alliance with the Communist Party of Great Britain. "Expulsion From Labour Party", "The Times", 30 May 1939.] In 1943 he was chair of the Labour Party Conference Arrangements Committee. "Labour And The Communists", "The Times", 17 June 1943.]


Oliver was appointed Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office in the Attlee government in August 1945. He acted as chairman of a departmental committee looking into the electoral registration system from 1945 to 1947, which recommended a return to the system of street canvassing to get people registered to vote. "The Electoral Register", "The Times", 14 January 1947.] He left the government in October 1947. In 1949 he was appointed as a King's Counsel.

Boundary changes gave him a very safe seat and in the 1951 general election his majority of 30,398 was the fourth largest in the country. "Polls Apart Large And Small Majorites", "The Times", 27 October 1951.] In February 1952 he was chosen to be one of the members of the House of Commons to call on the Queen Mother to extend Parliament's condolences on the death of King George VI. "Peers And M.P.s At The Palace", "The Times", 20 February 1952.]

Elder statesman

As an elder statesman, Oliver began to cast more dissenting votes. In July 1960 he supported a Conservative government motion supporting political and economic unity in Europe. "23 Labour M.P.s Backed Government Motion", "The Times", 27 July 1960.] In 1963 he was named to a committee investigating the pay for Members of Parliament. "Independent Review Of Pay For Ministers And M.P.s", "The Times", 20 December 1963.] Oliver stood down at the 1964 general election, but lived to be 95.


*M. Stenton and S. Lees, "Who's Who of British MPs" Vol. IV (Harvester Press, 1981)
*"Who Was Who", A & C Black
*"The Times House of Commons, 1929"

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