Higgins, Terence (1 of 12). The History of Parliament Oral History Project
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2012-04-27, 2013-07-16, 2013-07-18, 2013-07-23
Interviewee’s home, London and House of Lords, London
Higgins, Terence, 1928- (speaker, male)
Warren, Jemima, 1982- (speaker, female)
Part 1: [Session one: 27 April 2012] Terence Higgins, Lord Higgins’ [LH] parents lived in Dulwich. Father served in First World War and ship broker for William Hill and Company. Recounts father’s service in the trenches and survival. Father re-joined the Baltic Exchange until retirement. Father served as Air Raid Warden during the Second World War and largely responsible for wartime grain shipments to the UK. Retired after the War and family moved with LH’s mother to near Brighton. [00:02:00] LH oldest son, born 28 January 1928. One brother and one sister. Attended Dulwich Prep School. Evacuated twice, once to Cornwall and then with Alleyn’s School to Rossall, Lancashire. Completed O-Levels and A-Levels. [00:03:00] Left school and entered the shipping industry. Recounts involvement with Board of Dulwich College, Alleyn’s School and James Allen’s Girls’ School and with charity for music tuition. [00:04:11] Mentions friend who became principal ballet conductor at the Royal Opera House and then in Sydney, Australia. Talks about becoming school prefect. [00:05:16] Not an academic student. Obtained A-Levels in Economics, Geography and History. Joined RAF immediately after school to cover for demobbed airmen. [00:06:18] Became instrument repairer and helped repair cypher machines. Was unaware of Bletchley Park at the time. Churchill then decreed the cypher machines should be destroyed. [00:07:19] Most of time in RAF spent running. Was RAF 440-yard champion and European Combined Services champion for the 100-metres. Was selected for the 1948 Olympic Games, but did not then compete in the relay. Stationed at Uxbridge during National Service. [00:08:28] Competed in the Empire Games in Auckland in 1950. Remained in New Zealand after the Games with shipping company. [00:09:39] Competed in the Public Schools London Athletics Club Championships whilst at school. Talks about huge differences with current, professional athletics. [00:11:42] Mentions similarity between athletics and political speech-making. Describes history of politicians who had competed in Olympic teams, including Menzies (Ming) Campbell. [00:13:00] Worked at the shipping company for seven years after demobilisation. Describes combination of working and athletics training. [00:14:05] Describes decision to go to university. Applied to Oxford and Cambridge. Mentions interview at Brasenose College. Accepted for Geography at Oxford and Economics at Cambridge. Describes weekend spent deciding between the two. Mentions fortunate not to have read PPE. [00:16:20] Chose to go to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Mentions Professor Stanley Dennison. Describes momentous choice between Oxford and Cambridge. [00:17:35] Describes prioritising degree and Cambridge Union over athletics. Became Union President in final year. [00:18:16] Talks about athletics training at Cambridge. Mentions tutors in first year were Stanley Dennison and Peter Bower. In second year tutored by Sir Dennis Robertson. [00:20:00] Describes split between right and left-wing academics at Cambridge at the time. Talks about inviting C. P. Snow to Cambridge. [00:21:32] Got a 2:1. Talks about meeting wife. Describes meeting Professor William Fellner. [00:23:05] Invited by Fellner to teach at Yale. Explains worked in New York for shipping company before going to Yale. [00:24:19] Mentions wife worked as intern at the UN. Mentions Fulbright travel fellowship. [00:25:46] Returned to UK and worked again at shipping company. Describes advice to company to buy second-hand ships. [00:26:45] Moved to work for Unilever for four years. Describes office. Unilever economics department headed by Ronald Brecht and then Maurice Zinkin. [00:27:35] Unilever allowed employees to pursue politics. [00:28:29] Shared office with Merrett and Sykes. Helped to write Capital Budgeting and Company Finance. [00:29:07] Describes decision to get onto candidates list. Talks about friendship with Sir Paul Bryan. [00:29:35] Talks about change in Conservative Party’s attitude towards candidates. [00:30:40] Mentions Enoch Powell’s record of failed selection interviews. Recounts fighting selections for 1964 general election against David Mitchell, Geoffrey Howe and Patrick Jenkin. [00:31:35] Describes Bebington selection. [00:32:24] Short list for Bebington seat of LH, Paul Davis and Geoffrey Howe. Howe selected. [00:33:44] Mentions subsequent Howe defeat in Bebington. [00:33:35] Mentions majority in Worthing was 32,500. [00:34:12] Mentions selection in Wanstead and Woodford with Patrick Jenkin. Describes selection questioning on the Profumo affair and retail price maintenance. [00:35:52] Adopted as candidate for Worthing. Served as MP for Worthing from 1964 to 1997. Mentions changes to journey time from London to Worthing. [00:36:48] Mentions was never pressed to live in constituency. [00:37:20] Explains positions on Rhodesia and capital punishment. [00:40:01] Mentions views on Rhodesia and capital punishment caused problems in constituency. Chairman, Dennis Fry, was very loyal. [00:40:35] Describes meeting in Worthing of pro-Ian Smith group. Julian Amery and John Biggs-Davison invited to speak. [00:42:35] Association very supportive. Right-wing organisation did attempt to de-select LH. [00:44:20] Called public meeting. Motion against LH defeated. [00:45:25] Recounts seeing ringleaders again at party conference with Anthony Barber. [00:45:35] Describes 1971 party conference debate on Rhodesia and speech on VAT. [00:47:02] Mentions that he was convinced he was going to lose 1964 general election. [00:47:45] Tells story of election motorcade running into that of Labour opponent, Anthony Lester. [00:48:37] Describes campaign to introduce personal right of petition to the European Court of Human Rights. Mentions Harold Wilson did not consult Cabinet on the issue. [00:50:14] Says that he was in Worthing between 1964 and 1997. [00:51:09] Describes demography of Worthing. Talks about constituency surgeries. [00:51:49] Describes changing role of a Member of Parliament. [00:52:08] Describes Commons accommodation in 1964. [00:52:58] Describes secretarial arrangements and attitude to constituency correspondence. [00:54:16] Mentions Barbara Wallace who became PPC in Feltham. [00:54:54] Barbara Wallace bought the first electric typewriter in the House of Commons. [00:56:10] Talks about rise in number of Treasury ministers. [00:57:10] Mentions Finance Bill and Prices and Incomes Bill. [00:58:00] Explains Commons sitting hours. [00:59:17] Tells story about impact on committee of change of government. [01:00:56] Describes Jim Callaghan’s last minute announcement of Selective Employment Tax in Budget speech. [01:02:22] Talks about arriving at the Commons for the first time. [01:03:13] Describes view of Alec Douglas-Home. [01:04:12] Talks about Iain Mcleod’s view of Labour government and shock for Conservatives of opposition. [01:04:51] Describes maiden speech and campaign for pension rights for people aged over eighty. Mentions Labour filibuster. [01:07:09] Talks about split in Conservative Party on Rhodesia and reaction of Willie Whitelaw. [01:08:25] Talks about lack of Members’ facilities. Mentions secretary’s desk in Old Palace Yard. [01:10:03] Talks about getting used to Commons procedure. [01:10:21] Describes travel to Worthing and missing connection on first visit.
Life story interview with Lord Terence Higgins (1928-), former Conservative Member of Parliament.