Nigel Lawson

Nigel Lawson
The Right Honourable
The Lord Lawson of Blaby
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
11 June 1983 – 26 October 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Geoffrey Howe
Succeeded by John Major
Secretary of State for Energy
In office
14 September 1981 – 11 June 1983
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by David Howell
Succeeded by Peter Walker
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
4 May 1979 – 14 September 1981
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Robert Sheldon
Succeeded by Nicholas Ridley
Member of Parliament
for Blaby
In office
28 February 1974 – 9 April 1992
Preceded by Constituency established
Succeeded by Andrew Robathan
Personal details
Born 11 March 1932 (1932-03-11) (age 79)
Hampstead, London, United Kingdom
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Vanessa Salmon
(m. 1955–1980)
Thérese Maclear
(m. 1980–2008)
Children Dominic, Thomasina (deceased), Nigella, Horatia, Tom, Emily
Alma mater Christ Church, Oxford
Religion Judaism

Nigel Lawson, Baron Lawson of Blaby, PC (born 11 March 1932), is a British Conservative politician and journalist. He was a Member of Parliament (MP) representing the constituency of Blaby from 1974–92, and served as the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the government of Margaret Thatcher from June 1983 to October 1989. He was made a life peer in 1992.

Lawson is the father of food writer and celebrity cook Nigella Lawson, and journalist Dominic Lawson.


Early life

Lawson was born to a wealthy family in Hampstead in 1932. His father, Ralph Lawson (1904–1982), was the owner of a commodity-trading firm in the City of London, while his mother, Joan Elisa Davis, was from a wealthy family of stockbrokers.[1] His paternal-grandfather Gustav Leibson, a Jewish merchant from Mitau (now Jelgava in Latvia) changed his name from Leibson to Lawson after becoming a British Citizen in 1911.[2] Nigel was educated at Westminster School (following in the footsteps of his father, who had also been sent there)[3] and Christ Church, Oxford,[4] where he gained a first class honours degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics,[5][6][7][8] he carried out his military service in the Royal Navy – during which time he commanded a small torpedo boat. Lawson began his career as a financial journalist and progressed to the positions of city editor of The Sunday Telegraph in 1961 and editor of The Spectator (1966–1970).

Political career

Early years

Lawson unsuccessfully stood in the 1970 general election for the Eton and Slough seat[9] before becoming Member of Parliament for Blaby in Leicestershire in February 1974,[9] a position he held until retiring at the 1992 General Election.[9]

While in opposition, he co-ordinated tactics with government backbenchers Jeff Rooker and Audrey Wise to secure legislation providing for the automatic indexation of tax thresholds to prevent the tax burden being increased by inflation (typically in excess of 10% per annum during that parliament).

In government

On the election of Margaret Thatcher's government, Lawson was appointed to the position of Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Although this is the fourth-ranking political position in the British Treasury, Lawson's energy in office was reflected in such measures as the ending of unofficial state controls on mortgage lending, the abolition of exchange controls in October 1979 and the publication of the Medium Term Financial Strategy. This document set the course for both the monetary and fiscal sides of the new government's economic policy, though the extent to which the subsequent trajectory of policy and outcome matched that projected is still a matter for debate.

In the cabinet reshuffle of September 1981, Lawson was promoted to the position of Secretary of State for Energy. In this role his most significant action was to prepare for what he saw as an inevitable full-scale strike in the coal industry (then state-owned since nationalisation by the post-war government of Clement Attlee) over the closure of pits whose uneconomic operation accounted for the coal industry's business losses and consequent requirement for state subsidy.[10]

Lawson was a key proponent of the Thatcher Government's privatisation policy. During his tenure at the Department of Energy he set the course for the later privatisations of the gas and electricity industries and on his return to the Treasury he worked closely with the Department of Trade and Industry in privatising British Airways, British Telecom, and British Gas.

After the government's re-election in 1983, Lawson was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in succession to Sir Geoffrey Howe. The early years of Lawson's chancellorship were associated with tax reform. The 1984 budget reformed corporate taxes by a combination of reduced rates and reduced allowances. The 1985 budget continued the trend of shifting from direct to indirect taxes by reducing National Insurance contributions for the lower-paid while extending the base of value added tax.

During these two years Lawson's public image remained low-key, but from the 1986 budget (in which he resumed the reduction of the standard rate of personal Income Tax from the 30% rate to which it had been lowered in Sir Geoffrey Howe's 1979 budget), his stock rose as unemployment began to fall from the middle of 1986 (employment growth having resumed over three years earlier). Lawson also reduced the budget deficit from £10.5 billion (3.7% of GDP) in 1983 to a budget surplus of £3.9 billion in 1988 and £4.1 billion in 1989 the year of his resignation. During his tenure the rate of taxation also came down. The basic rate was reduced from 30% in 1983 to 25% by 1988. The top rate of tax also came down from 60% to 40% in 1988 and the four other higher rates were removed, leaving a system of personal taxation in which there was no rate anywhere in excess of 40 per cent.

The 1985 "Plaza Accord" is named after New York City's Plaza Hotel, which was the location of a meeting of finance ministers who reached an agreement about managing the fluctuating value of the US dollar. From left are Gerhard Stoltenberg of West Germany, Pierre Bérégovoy of France, James A. Baker III of the United States, Nigel Lawson of Britain and Noboru Takeshita of Japan

The trajectory taken by the UK economy from this point on is typically described as 'The Lawson Boom' by analogy with the phrase 'The Barber Boom' which describes an earlier period of rapid expansion under the tenure as chancellor of Anthony Barber in the Conservative government of Sir Edward Heath (1970 to 1974). Critics of Lawson assert that a combination of the abandonment of monetarism, the adoption of a de facto exchange-rate target of 3 deutsche marks to the pound (ruling out interest-rate rises), and excessive fiscal laxity (in particular the 1988 budget) unleashed an inflationary spiral.

Lawson, in his own defence, attributes the boom largely to the effects of various measures of financial deregulation. Insofar as Lawson acknowledges policy errors, he attributes them to a failure to raise interest rates during 1986 and considers that had Margaret Thatcher not vetoed the UK joining the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in November 1985 it might have been possible to adjust to these beneficial changes in the arena of microeconomics with less macroeconomic turbulence. Lawson also ascribes the difficulty of conducting monetary policy to Goodhart's Law.

His tax cuts, beginning in 1986, resulted in the "Lawson Boom" of the British economy, which had halved unemployment from more than 3,000,000 by the end of 1989.[11] However, this led to a rise in inflation from 3% to more than 8% during 1988, which resulted in interest rates doubling to 15% in the space of 18 months, and remaining high in spite of the 1990–1992 recession which saw unemployment rise nearly as high as the level seen before the boom began.[12]

Lawson opposed the introduction of the Community Charge (the poll tax) as a replacement for the previous rating system for the local financing element of local government revenue. His dissent was confined to deliberations within the Cabinet, where he found few allies and where he was overruled by the Prime Minister and by the ministerial team of the responsible department (Department of the Environment).

The issue of exchange-rate mechanism membership continued to fester between Lawson and Thatcher and was exacerbated by the re-employment by Thatcher of Alan Walters as personal economic adviser.[13] Lawson's conduct of policy had become a struggle to maintain credibility once the August 1988 trade deficit revealed the strength of the expansion of domestic demand. As orthodox monetarists, Lawson and Thatcher agreed to a steady rise in interest rates to restrain demand, but this had the effect of inflating the headline inflation figure.


After a further year in office in these circumstances Lawson felt that public articulation of differences between an exchange-rate monetarist, as he had become, and the views of Walters (who continued to favour a floating exchange rate) were making his job impossible and he resigned.[14][15] He was succeeded in the office of Chancellor by John Major.[16]

Lawson's tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer was longer than that of any of his predecessors since David Lloyd George, who served from 1908–15.[17] This was subsequently passed by Labour's Gordon Brown[18] in September 2003, having been appointed to the position in May 1997 by Tony Blair on Labour's return to government after 18 years. Brown would ultimately spend 10 years in the position before becoming prime minister in June 2007.[19]


After retiring from front-bench politics, Lawson decided, on his doctor's advice, to tackle his weight problem. He is 5 foot 10 inches (178 cm) tall. He lost five stone (70 pounds, 30 kg) from 238 pounds (108 kg) to 168 pounds (76 kilograms) – (BMI 34 to 24) in a matter of a few months, dramatically changing his appearance, and went on to publish the best-selling "The Nigel Lawson Diet Book".[20] On 1 July 1992 he was created a life peer as Baron Lawson of Blaby, of Newnham in the County of Northamptonshire.[9]

In 1996, Lawson appeared on the BBC topical quiz show Have I Got News For You[21] and, as a former Chancellor (regarded as one of the "big four" Government positions) became something of a coup as the guest who had previously held the highest political office.[22] He was, however, happy to go on the show and take a mild amount of ribbing from the regulars as he was plugging his diet book at the time. He occasionally appears as a guest on his daughter Nigella's cookery shows.

He serves on the advisory board of the conservative magazine Standpoint.[23]

Corporate roles

  • 2007: Chairman of Central European Trust (CET)[24]
  • 2007: Chairman of Oxford Investment Partners[25]

Position on global warming

Lawson is very sceptical of climate change and has denied that global warming is taking place to such a large degree that is usually claimed.

In 2004, along with six others, Lawson wrote a letter to The Times criticising the Kyoto Protocol and claiming that there were substantial scientific uncertainties surrounding climate change.[26] In 2005, the House of Lords Economics Affairs Select Committee, with Lawson as a member, undertook an inquiry into climate change. In their report, the Committee recommend the HM Treasury take a more active role in climate policy. The objectivity of the IPCC process is questioned, and changes are suggested in the UK's contribution to future international climate change negotiations.[27] The report cites a mismatch between the economic costs and benefits of climate policy, and also criticises the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set in the Kyoto Protocol. In response to the report, Michael Grubb, Chief Economist of the Carbon Trust, wrote an article in Prospect magazine, defending the Kyoto Protocol and describing the committee's report as being "strikingly inconsistent".[28] Lawson responded to Grubb's article, describing it as an example of the "intellectual bankruptcy of the [...] climate change establishment". Lawson also said that Kyoto's approach was "wrong-headed" and called on the IPCC to be "shut down".[29]

At about the same time of the release of the House of Lords report, the British government launched the Stern Review, an inquiry undertaken by the HM Treasury and headed by Sir Nicholas Stern. According to the Stern Review, published in 2006, the potential costs of climate change far exceed the costs of a programme to stabilise the climate. Lawson's lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, published 1 November 2006[30] criticises the Stern Review and proposed what is described as a rational approach, advocating adaptation to changes in global climate, rather than attempting mitigation, i.e., reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Lawson also contributed to the 2007 documentary film The Great Global Warming Swindle.

In 2008, Lawson published a book expanding on his 2006 lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming.[31] He argues the case that, although global warming is happening and will have negative consequences, the impact of these changes will be relatively moderate rather than apocalyptic. He criticises those "alarmist" politicians and scientists who predict catastrophe unless urgent action is taken. The book has, in its turn, been criticised by several climatologists.[32][33] The UK's Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington, privately told Lawson that he had "incorrect" and "misleading" claims in the book.[34]

In July 2008 controversy was again incited when the conservative magazine Standpoint published a transcript of a double interview with Lawson and Tory Policy Chief Oliver Letwin, in which Lawson described Letwin's views on global warming as "pie in the sky" and called on him and the Tory frontbench to "get real".[35]

On 23 November 2009 Lord Lawson announced the launch of a new think tank called The Global Warming Policy Foundation,[36] of which he is Chairman of the Board of Trustees.[9]

Lawson's son Dominic Lawson is also a climate change sceptic, taking a similar viewpoint as his father in his columns in the Independent on Sunday.[37][38]


Lawson has been a critic of Conservative-LibDem economic policy, describing spending cuts consultation plans as a "PR ploy".[39]

In the media

Lawson was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!.[40] Lawson has also appeared on the Business News Network in Canada to discuss global warming.

Personal and family life

Lawson has been married twice:[41]

  • Vanessa Salmon (1936–1985) whose family founded the Lyons Corner House chain, (married to Lawson: 1955–1980); (one son Dominic and three daughters Thomasina, Nigella and Horatia)
  • Thérèse Maclear (married to Lawson: 1980–2008)[41] (one son Tom and one daughter Emily)

Lawson is the father of journalist and food writer Nigella Lawson, the late Thomasina Lawson, Horatia Lawson, Dominic Lawson, the former editor of The Sunday Telegraph, Tom Lawson, housemaster of Chernocke House at Winchester College,[42] and Emily Lawson, a TV producer.[43]

Lawson owns a property in France,[4] and divides his time between France and the UK.[44]

In August 2011, it was reported that the 79-year-old Lawson had met a new partner, Dr Tina Jennings, 39 years his junior and a decade younger than his daughter Nigella.[45] She's also a mother of 4.


  • An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming
  • 'Thatcherism in Practice: A Progress Report
  • The Retreat of the State
  • The View from No.11: Memoirs of a Tory Radical
  • The Nigel Lawson Diet Book
  • The Power Game: An Examination of Decision Making in Government
  • Conservatism Today: Four Personal Points of View By Robert Blake, Peregrine Worsthorne, David Howell and Nigel Lawson
  • State of the Market (Occasional Papers S.)


  1. ^ The View from No.11, (London 1992), by Nigel Lawson, page 3
  2. ^ So you think you know who you are originally from Daily Mail, 5 June 2010
  3. ^ Nick Clegg: the third man Times Online, 18 April 2010
  4. ^ a b Nigel Lawson: Thatcher's Chancellor takes on the planet alone Telegraph, 21 November 2009
  5. ^ Nigel Lawson, The View From No. 11. Memoirs of a Tory Radical (Bantam, 1992), p. 4
  6. ^ Dennis Kavanagh. "Nigel Lawson". Political Biography. 
  7. ^ Popham, Peter (17 February 1997). "Media families; 1. The Lawsons". The Independent (London). Retrieved 20 May 2010. 
  8. ^ "Budgeting in good times and bad". Oxford Today. University of Oxford. Michaelmas 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c d e Lord Lawson of Blaby UK Parliament
  10. ^ 1983: Macgregor named as coal boss BBC News, 28 March 1983
  11. ^ 20 years ago the dole queue hit 3 million – today it is the workforce that's a record The Guardian, 16 August 2006
  12. ^ Lawson boom, Brown boom, they all bust in the end Times Online, 27 October 2008
  13. ^ Thatcher pays tribute to Walters BBC News, 5 January 2009
  14. ^ Travis, Alan (27 October 1989). "Lawson sparks reshuffle". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 18 October 2009. 
  15. ^ 1989: Thatcher beats off leadership rival BBC News, 5 January 1989
  16. ^ John Major Prime Minister's Office
  17. ^ The long and the short of stewardship at No11 Times Online, 6 June 2004
  18. ^ Ffion Hague talks about her Lloyd George book Lloyd George Society, 20 July 2008
  19. ^ "Brown is UK's new prime minister". BBC News. 27 June 2007. 
  20. ^ Fighting inflation with the BBC BBC News, 8 June 1998
  21. ^ Politicians HIGNFY
  22. ^ FAQ for "Have I Got News for You" Internet Movie Database
  23. ^ About Us Standpoint
  24. ^ "CET's Practice Leaders". Central European Trust. Retrieved 3 October 2008. 
  25. ^ "The Board". Oxford Investment Partners. Retrieved 3 October 2008. 
  26. ^ Ebell, M. (4 October 2004). ""Forced" Russian Decision Puts Kyoto Protocol on Verge of Ratification". Cooler Heads, Vol VIII, No 20. Retrieved 26 August 2008. [dead link]
  27. ^ House of Lords, Select Committee on Economic Affairs (2005). "The Economics of Climate Change". Retrieved 14 March 2007. 
  28. ^ Michael Grubb (1 September 2005). "Stick to the Target" (PDF). Retrieved 24 January 2008. [dead link]
  29. ^ Nigel Lawson (1 November 2005). "Against Kyoto". Retrieved 20 November 2007. 
  30. ^ "Lecture on the Economics and Politics of Climate Change – An Appeal to Reason". Centre for Policy Studies. 1 November 2006. Retrieved 14 March 2007. 
  31. ^ Lawson, Nigel (6 April 2008). "Lord Lawson claims climate change hysteria heralds a 'new age of unreason'". London: Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved 19 April 2008. 
  32. ^ Clover, Charles (15 April 2008). "IPCC: Lawson wrong about climate change". London: Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 19 April 2008. 
  33. ^ Houghton, J. (19 June 2008). "Full of hot air". Nature Reports Climate Change (0807): 92. doi:10.1038/climate.2008.60. Retrieved 8 April 2009. 
  34. ^ Boffey, Daniel (27 March 2011). "Lord Lawson's 'misleading' climate claims challenged by scientific adviser". London: Guardian. Retrieved 27 March 2011. 
  35. ^ "The Politics of Climate Change". Standpoint. 20 July 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2009. 
  36. ^ Nigel Lawson (23 November 2009). "Copenhagen will fail – and quite right too". Times Online (London). Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  37. ^ Lawson, Dominic (22 September 2006). "The debate on climate change is far too important to be shut down by the scientists". London: The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 20 April 2008. 
  38. ^ Lawson, Dominic (23 November 2007). "Dominic Lawson: Fight climate change? Or stay competitive? I'm afraid these two aims are incompatible". London: The Independent on Sunday. Retrieved 20 April 2008. 
  39. ^ cuts consultation is a PR ploy, says Nigel Lawson The Guardian, 8 June 2010
  40. ^ Tory, Tory, Tory and the television truth New Statesman, 13 November 2006
  41. ^ a b Lord Lawson splits with second wife Mail Online, 28 November 2008
  42. ^ A. Chernocke House (Furley's) Winchester College
  43. ^ As the Domestic Goddess reaches her half century... 50 mouth-watering titbits you never knew about Nigella Mail Online, 1 January 2010
  44. ^ Watch out, Nigella: dad's back in town The Observer, 13 May 2007
  45. ^ [1]

External links

Media offices
Preceded by
Iain MacLeod
Editor of The Spectator
Succeeded by
George Gale
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Blaby
Succeeded by
Andrew Robathan
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Sheldon
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Nicholas Ridley
Preceded by
David Howell
Secretary of State for Energy
Succeeded by
Peter Walker
Preceded by
Geoffrey Howe
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
John Major
Second Lord of the Treasury

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