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Dick Taverne, Baron Taverne

Dick Taverne, Baron Taverne, QC (born 18 October 1928) is an English politician, who is one of the small number of members of the British House of Commons elected since the Second World War who was not the candidate of a major political party.

In the 1970s, as a Labour Member of Parliament (MP), he was dissatisfied with the party's political direction, so he left Labour and resigned his seat, forcing a by-election which he won.

Taverne's 1973 victory in Lincoln was short-lived; Labour regained the seat at the October 1974 general election. However, his success opened the possibility of a realignment on the left of British politics, which took shape in 1981 as the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which Taverne joined, joining the Liberal Democrats when the party merged with the Liberal Party.


Educated at Charterhouse School, and then Balliol College, Oxford, he graduated in Philosophy and Ancient History, qualified as a barrister in 1954 and became a Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1965.

He unsuccessfully contested Putney as the Labour Party candidate at the 1959 general election,[1] and was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lincoln at a by-election in March 1962.[1] Under Harold Wilson's premiership in the 1960s, he served as a Home Office Minister from 1966 to 1968, and then as Financial Secretary to the Treasury from 1969 to 1970.

In 1972 he was asked to stand down by the Lincoln Constituency Labour Party, who disagreed with his pro-European Economic Community views. Instead he resigned from the Labour Party and from Parliament, and formed the Lincoln Democratic Labour Association. He was re-elected as an Independent Democratic Labour candidate at a by-election in March 1973, and held the seat at the February 1974 general election.

Taverne lost his seat in Parliament at the October 1974 general election, but he continued to remain active with the Democratic Labour Association until it folded after the 1979 general election. He was a leading social democratic thinker, publishing The Future of the Left: Lincoln and After in 1974. In 1979, he launched the Institute for Fiscal Studies, now an influential independent think tank and was the first Director, later Chairman.

When the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was formed in the early 1980s, he joined them, serving on their national committee from 1981 until 1987. He stood as an SDP candidate in the 1982 Peckham by-election, coming second with 32% of the vote, and in the 1983 general election, he stood in Dulwich, coming third with 22%. When the SDP merged with the Liberal Party he joined the new Liberal Democrats, serving on its Federal Policy Committee from 1989 until 1990. In 1996 he was created a life peer as Baron Taverne, of Pimlico in the City of Westminster, and sits in the House of Lords as a Liberal Democrat.

In 1955, he married Janice Hennessey, a scientist. He became interested in science and public policy, and in 2002 founded Sense About Science, a charity with the objective of advancing public understanding of science and the evidence-based approach to scientific issues. He was elected President of the Research Defence Society in 2004. He was a member of the House of Lords Committee on the Use of Animals in Scientific Procedures, and is currently a member of the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords. He is the author of The March of Unreason, published by Oxford University Press in March 2005.

He is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association, as well as a vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group.[2] He won the Science Writers' Award as Parliamentary Science Communicator of the Year 2005. He is a listed member of Republic, the campaign for abolishing the monarchy.

On 15 September 2010, Taverne, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published in The Guardian, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the U.K.[3]


See also


External links

  • Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by
  • Lord Taverne profile at the site of Liberal Democrats
  • Profile on SourceWatch
  • Republic
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Geoffrey de Freitas
Member of Parliament for Lincoln
1962Oct 1974
Succeeded by
Margaret Jackson
Political offices
Preceded by
Harold Lever
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Patrick Jenkin

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