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Chris Patten

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Title: Chris Patten  
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Subject: List of Question Time episodes, Bath (UK Parliament constituency), Governor of Hong Kong, Roy Jenkins, Liam Donaldson
Collection: 1944 Births, Alumni of Balliol College, Oxford, British European Commissioners, British Secretaries of State, British Secretaries of State for the Environment, Chairmen of the Conservative Party (Uk), Chancellors of the Duchy of Lancaster, Chancellors of the University of Oxford, Conservative Party (Uk) Life Peers, Conservative Party (Uk) Mps, Électricité De France People, English Roman Catholics, Governors of Hong Kong, Hk Legco Members 1991–95, Living People, Members of the Order of the Companions of Honour, Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for English Constituencies, Members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland Peace Process, People Associated with Newcastle University, People Educated at St Benedict's School, People from Barnes, London, People from Thornton-Cleveleys, Politics of Bath, Somerset, Recipients of the Order of the Cross of Terra Mariana, 1St Class, Trustees of the British Broadcasting Corporation, Uk Mps 1979–83, Uk Mps 1983–87, Uk Mps 1987–92
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Chris Patten

The Right Honourable
The Lord Patten of Barnes
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Assumed office
20 September 2003
Deputy Colin Lucas
John Hood
Andrew Hamilton
Preceded by The Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
Chairman of the BBC Trust
In office
1 May 2011 – 6 May 2014
Deputy Diane Coyle
Preceded by Michael Lyons
Succeeded by Diane Coyle (Acting)
Chancellor of Newcastle University
In office
5 October 1999 – 5 October 2009
Preceded by The Viscount Ridley
Succeeded by Liam Donaldson
European Commissioner for External Relations
In office
16 September 1999 – 22 November 2004
President Romano Prodi
Preceded by Leon Brittan (External Relations and Trade)
Succeeded by Benita Ferrero-Waldner
28th Governor of Hong Kong
In office
9 July 1992 – 30 June 1997
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by The Lord Wilson of Tillyorn
Succeeded by Tung Chee-hwa (Chief Executive)
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
28 November 1990 – 11 May 1992
Leader John Major
Preceded by Kenneth Baker
Succeeded by Norman Fowler
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
In office
28 November 1990 – 10 April 1992
Prime Minister John Major
Preceded by Kenneth Baker
Succeeded by William Waldegrave
Secretary of State for the Environment
In office
24 July 1989 – 28 November 1990
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Nicholas Ridley
Succeeded by Michael Heseltine
Minister for Overseas Development
In office
10 September 1986 – 24 July 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Timothy Raison
Succeeded by Lynda Chalker
Member of Parliament
for Bath
In office
3 May 1979 – 10 April 1992
Preceded by Edward Brown
Succeeded by Don Foster
Personal details
Born (1944-05-12) 12 May 1944
Cleveleys, United Kingdom
Political party Conservative (Before 2011)
Crossbench (2011–present)
Spouse(s) Lavender Thornton
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford
Religion Roman Catholicism[1]

Christopher Francis Patten, Baron Patten of Barnes CH PC (born 12 May 1944) is chancellor of the University of Oxford and a former governor of Hong Kong and the BBC Trust.

Patten began his career in the Conservative Party, serving as member of Parliament for Bath and joining the cabinet. As party chairman he orchestrated the Conservatives' unexpected fourth consecutive electoral victory in 1992 but lost his own seat in the House of Commons. He accepted a posting as the last governor and commander-in-chief of Hong Kong, and oversaw its handover to China in July 1997. As governor and commander-in-chief, Patten presided over a steady rise in the living standards of Hong Kongers while encouraging a significant expansion of Hong Kong's social welfare system.[2]

From 1999 to 2004 he served as one of the United Kingdom's two members of the European Commission. He returned to the UK and became Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 2003. He was made a life peer in 2005. On 7 April 2011 the Queen approved Patten's appointment as the Chairman of the BBC Trust, the governing body of the British Broadcasting Corporation.[3] Patten held the position until his resignation on grounds of ill-health on 6 May 2014.[4]

Patten is a Roman Catholic and oversaw Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United Kingdom in September 2010. In 2010, The Tablet named him as one of Britain’s most influential Roman Catholics.[5]


  • Early life 1
  • Member of Parliament 2
    • In government 2.1
  • Governor of Hong Kong 3
  • Post-governorship 4
    • European Commissioner 4.1
    • University roles and elevation to the peerage 4.2
  • Chairman of the BBC Trust 5
    • BBC royal river pageant outside broadcast 5.1
    • Jimmy Savile scandal 5.2
    • Resignation 5.3
  • Charity 6
  • Personal life 7
  • In the media 8
  • Honours 9
  • Books 10
  • References 11
    • Citations 11.1
    • Bibliography 11.2
  • External links 12

Early life

Chris Patten's father, Frank, a jazz-drummer turned popular-music publisher and his mother Joan sent him to a Catholic primary school, Our Lady of the Visitation, in Greenford, and later the independent St Benedict's School in Ealing, west London where he won an exhibition to study history at Balliol College, Oxford - the first member of his family to attend university.

After graduating in 1965, Patten worked for the campaign of then-Republican New York Mayor John Lindsay, where he reported on the television performance of rival William F. Buckley, Jr.[6] He worked for the Conservative Party from 1966, first as desk officer and then director (from 1974 to 1979) of the Conservative Research Department.

Member of Parliament

Patten stood unsuccessfully at Lambeth Central in February 1974, being beaten by Labour's Marcus Lipton. He was elected Member of Parliament for Bath from 1979 to 1992.

In government

Patten served as Minister for Overseas Development at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office from 1986 to 1989.

In 1989 he was appointed to the Cabinet as Secretary of State for the Environment and became responsible for the unpopular Community Charge (or so-called "Poll Tax"). Though he robustly defended the policy at the time, in his 2006 book Not Quite the Diplomat (published in the United States as Cousins and Strangers: America, Britain and Europe in the New Century) he claims to have thought it was a mistake on Margaret Thatcher's part. He also introduced, and steered through Parliament, the major legislation that became the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

In 1990, Conservative victory in the 1992 election. However, he lost his marginal seat of Bath to the Liberal Democrat candidate Don Foster in 1992. Patten's defeat was attributed to several factors: the Poll Tax that he implemented, and his other commitments which prevented him from campaigning in his constituency.

Governor of Hong Kong

If Patten had been re-elected in 1992, sections of the media thought he would have been rewarded by appointment as Foreign Secretary, although in his autobiography John Major said that he would have made Patten Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, in the three weeks leading up to the election, many party insiders sensed that Patten would lose his seat, and Major was considering a patronage appointment.

Patten turned down offers of a new seat and instead, in July 1992, he became the 28th and the last Governor of Hong Kong until its transfer of sovereignty to the People's Republic of China on 30 June 1997. He was given an official Chinese name, Pang Ding-hong (Chinese: 彭定康), a name with an etymology based on the words "stability" and "health". Unlike most previous Hong Kong Governors, he was not a career diplomat from the UK Foreign Office although he was not the first former MP to become a Governor of Hong Kong.[7]

Patten's tenure faced several different challenges, as many in Hong Kong were still reeling from the Tiananmen Square Massacre a few years earlier, while others were suspicious of whether or not the British would act in their best interest. However the general opinion regarded him positively. He took steps to get in touch with the people of the colony, and was known for his penchant for taking public strolls around Hong Kong as well as in the media limelight. Hong Kong affectionately nicknamed him Fatty Pang (Chinese: 肥彭), making him the only governor to have a widely recognised Chinese nickname.[8] Patten was also the only British Governor of the colony not to wear the official Windsor uniform (also known as the Court uniform).

Patten's most controversial actions in Hong Kong are related to the 1994 Hong Kong electoral reform. Legco members returned in 1995 were originally to serve beyond the handover, thereby providing institutional continuity across the reversion of Hong Kong to the PRC. Beijing had expected that the use of functional constituencies with limited electorates would be used to elect this council, however Patten extended the definition of functional constituencies and thus virtually every Hong Kong subject was able to vote for the so-called indirectly elected members (see Politics of Hong Kong) of the Legislative Council.

His measure was strongly criticised by the pro-Beijing political parties of Hong Kong, which would suffer from the electoral changes. Patten was also denounced by some Chinese media as the 'whore of the East,' a 'serpent' and a 'wrongdoer who would be condemned for a thousand generations' (Chinese: 千古罪人).[9] The legislative council which was elected under Patten's governorship was dissolved upon the handover of Hong Kong to the PRC and replaced by a Provisional Legislative Council (Chinese: 臨時立法會) which was unconstitutional and without any democratic functions involved in until elections were held under the previous rules in 1998.

However, Patten's institutional reform gained unprecedented support in Hong Kong. Some of the pro-democracy camp members supported him and his institutional reform and the criticism from the PRC government raised his popularity to a level he had not previously enjoyed in the UK; he was widely seen as standing up for the colony's rights. Notwithstanding the electoral controversy, even some of his critics admired his eloquence and praised his efforts to raise the level of debate in the colony.

At 00:00 HKT 1 July 1997 (16:00 GMT, 30 June 1997), he sent the following telegram:
I have relinquished the administration of this government. God Save The Queen. Patten.
This marked the end of British rule in Hong Kong, and the British Empire. After the handover ceremony he left the city, together with Prince Charles, on board the British royal yacht, HMY Britannia. Patten was noted to be in tears throughout the day, notably after his speech at Tamar.[10]


Viceregal styles of
Christopher Patten
Reference style His Excellency
Spoken style Your Excellency
Alternative style Sir

From 1998 to 1999, he chaired the Cadbury as a non-executive director.[12]

European Commissioner

In 1999, he was appointed as one of the United Kingdom's two members to the European Commission as Commissioner for External Relations where he was responsible for the Union's development and co-operation programmes, as well as liaison with Javier Solana, the High Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy. He held this position within the Prodi Commission from 23 January 2000 until 22 November 2004. Patten oversaw many crises in the area of European foreign policy, most notably the failure of the European Union to come up with a common unified policy before the Iraq war in 2003. Although nominated for the post of President in the next Commission in 2004, he was unable to gain support from France and Germany.

According to information from WikiLeaks Patten was in Moscow in April 2004, and had concluded EU-Russia ministerial consultations in Brussels. He considered that the EU had become overly dependent on Russian energy supplies, and should become more engaged with the countries of the Caucasus and Central Asia in order to diversify supplies.[13]

According to information from the US Embassy in Brussels (published by Wikileaks in November 2010): Patten said in April 2004 that Russian President Vladimir Putin has done a good job for Russia mainly due to high world energy prices, but he had serious doubts about the man’s character. Cautioning that “I’m not saying that genes are determinant,” Patten then reviewed the Putin family history – grandfather part of Lenin’s special protection team; father a communist party apparatchik, and Putin himself decided at a young age to pursue a career in the KGB. “He seems a completely reasonable man when discussing the Middle East or energy policy, but when the conversation shifts to Chechnya or Islamic extremism, Putin’s eyes turn to those of a killer.”

University roles and elevation to the peerage

Lord Patten of Barnes in ceremonial dress as the Chancellor of the University of Oxford

Patten was Chancellor of Newcastle University from 1999 to 2009, and was elected Chancellor of the University of Oxford in 2003.

On 11 January 2005 Patten was created a life peer as Baron Patten of Barnes, of Barnes in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames.[14]

Chairman of the BBC Trust

On the advice of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government led by Prime Minister David Cameron Lord Patten of Barnes was appointed by the Queen-in-Council as Chairman of the BBC Trust, and he took office on 1 May 2011, in the place of Sir Michael Lyons whose contract was not renewed.

BBC royal river pageant outside broadcast

As Chairman of the BBC Trust, Lord Patten joined the Prince of Wales and other members of the royal family in the royal box for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Concert. It came, however, immediately in the wake of widespread criticism of the BBC's live outside-broadcast coverage of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on 3 June 2012, which was castigated in the press and was the subject of 1,830 formal complaints by viewers. Lord Patten said afterwards the Royal Pageant had not been the BBC's "finest hour" and admitted that "The tone was wrong.” [15]

Jimmy Savile scandal

Lord Patten (right) with Leo, brother of Boris Johnson, 2011

In October 2012 ITV broadcast a documentary revealing that the late Sir Jimmy Savile, a prominent BBC performer and children's television presenter for more than thirty years, had been a serial child-abuser and rapist. Police subsequently received more than 400 complaints from alleged former victims. After an initially faltering response, the BBC announced the setting up of two independently-led inquiries, one to examine why the BBC's "Newsnight" programme had dropped its own investigation into Savile in 2011, and a second inquiry into the BBC’s "culture and practices" in the years that Savile worked there and whether BBC child-protection and whistleblowing policies were good enough.

On 28 October an article by Lord Patten, as Chairman of the BBC Trust, appeared in the Mail on Sunday newspaper in which he reiterated a public apology over the Savile affair. Patten said "Today, like many who work for the BBC, I feel a sense of particular remorse that abused women spoke to "Newsnight", presumably at great personal pain, yet did not have their stories told as they expected. On behalf of the BBC, I apologise unreservedly". He went on to say "The BBC risks squandering public trust because one of its stars over three decades was apparently a sexual criminal; because he used his programme and popularity as a cover for his wickedness; because he used BBC premises for some of his attacks; and because others – BBC employees and hangers-on – may also have been involved." Patten posed the question "Can it really be the case that no one knew what he was doing?" Patten said Savile had been "received into the heart of the Establishment; feted from Chequers to the Vatican; friend to Royals and editors. How did we let it happen? And could someone like this con us all again?" Patten declared "The BBC must tell the truth and face up to the truth about itself, however terrible".[16]


Lord Patten submitted his letter of resignation as BBC Trust Chairman to the Secretary of State on 6 May 2014; citing health reasons following his heart bypass surgery on 28 April.[17] BBC Trust Vice Chairman Diane Coyle took over as Acting Chairman until the appointment of a new chairman.


In February 2010 Lord Patten of Barnes was appointed President of Medical Aid for Palestinians, but he stepped down in June 2011.[18]

Personal life

Lord Patten married Lavender Thornton, a barrister, in 1971.[19] They have three daughters, Kate, Laura (married to Elton Charles), and Alice Patten (actress, married to Tim Steed). They also have two Norfolk terriers, Whisky and Soda.

On 29 September 2005, he published his memoirs, Not Quite the Diplomat: Home Truths About World Affairs. In October 2009, Lord Patten was Chief Guest at The Doon School, a boarding school in Dehradun, India, which is a member of the United Kingdom's Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference.[20]

In the media

Patten was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!.

Patten and his time in Hong Kong was the subject of the 5 part documentary series "The Last Governor", which was filmed throughout his time in Hong Kong, including his arrival, key moments of his government such as the 1995 elections and his final day in office, ending as he departs Government House for the last time.

The 1996 Hong Kong parody film Bodyguards of Last Governor, presents 'Christ Pattern' as the Governor of Hong Kong. In addition to the name, Pattern appears to be based heavily on Patten, matching his appearance, political affiliation (Conservative) and family (a wife and two daughters with him in Hong Kong). His role however is minor as the film depicts him being replaced with one month to go before the Handover. He is portrayed by Noel Lester Rands.


In the 1998 New Year Honours, Queen Elizabeth II appointed him a Companion of Honour (CH).[21]

In 2003 he was awarded an honorary LL.D. degree from the University of Bath. In September 2005 he was elected a Distinguished Honorary Fellow of Massey College in the University of Toronto (the only person so elected except for the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and the University of Edinburgh, the Duke of Edinburgh) as well as receiving an honorary D.S.Litt. degree from the University of Trinity College, Toronto and an honorary D.Litt. degree from the University of Ulster.[22] In March 2009, Patten received the title Doctor honoris causa by South East European University.




  1. ^
  2. ^ The Last Governor: Chris Patten and the Handover of Hong Kong by Jonathan Dimbleby
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ Hilton, Isabel, "Profile: For God and the right", The Independent, 14 November 1993
  7. ^ Sir John Bowring (Governor of Hong Kong 1854–1859) and Sir John Pope Hennessy (Governor of Hong Kong 1877–1882) - a Conservative MP before he entered the Colonial Service - were predecessors.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ [1] Archived 15 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ [2] Archived 3 December 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 57533. p. 449. 17 January 2005.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ [3] Archived 4 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^
  21. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 54993. p. 26. 31 December 1997.
  22. ^
  23. ^


External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Chris Patten
  • Chris Patten's profile on BBC News website
  • "History in Motion" Chris Patten's monthly op/ed commentary series for Project Syndicate.
  • European Commissioner
  • Patten Gets Peerage (BBC News Article)
  • Still looking for trouble at (nearly) 60 – Jackie Ashley talks to Chris Patten
  • His thought patterns (Biswadip Mitra talks to Chris Patten)
  • Audio: Chris Patten in conversation on the BBC World Service discussion show The Forum
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edward Brown
Member of Parliament
for Bath

Succeeded by
Don Foster
Political offices
Preceded by
Timothy Raison
Minister for Overseas Development
Succeeded by
Lynda Chalker
Preceded by
Nicholas Ridley
Secretary of State for the Environment
Succeeded by
Michael Heseltine
Preceded by
Kenneth Baker
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
William Waldegrave
Preceded by
Leon Brittan
as European Commissioner for External Relations and Trade
British European Commissioner
Served alongside: Neil Kinnock
Succeeded by
Peter Mandelson
European Commissioner for External Relations
Succeeded by
Benita Ferrero-Waldner
Party political offices
Preceded by
Kenneth Baker
Chairman of the Conservative Party
Succeeded by
Norman Fowler
Government offices
Preceded by
The Lord Wilson of Tillyorn
Governor of Hong Kong
Succeeded by
Tung Chee-hwa
as Chief Executive of Hong Kong
Academic offices
Preceded by
The Viscount Ridley
Chancellor of Newcastle University
Succeeded by
Liam Donaldson
Preceded by
The Lord Jenkins of Hillhead
Chancellor of the University of Oxford
Media offices
Preceded by
Michael Lyons
Chairman of the BBC Trust
Succeeded by
Diane Coyle
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