Shaw, Michael (1 of 1). The History of Parliament Oral History Project
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House of Lords, London
Shaw, Michael, 1920- (speaker, male)
Seaward, Paul, 1959- (speaker, male)
Part 1: Michael Shaw [MS] born 9 October 1920. Description of earliest memory, that of his younger brother being born. Mention of sister working at Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. Story about death of brother from appendicitis in Portugal. [01:56] Mentions schooling at day prep school in Leeds, West Yorkshire, and then Sedbergh school, joining family accountancy firm and then having to enlist at outbreak of war. [02:18] Description of being diagnosed with tuberculosis on voyage to India to join army, spending two years in sanatorium in South Africa, and completing chartered accountant qualification on return. Mentions recurrence of TB again in 1947. Mentions marriage in 1951. [03:14] Mentions living in Spen Valley, a parliamentary constituency, just after the war. Description of agreement that Conservatives would not oppose National Liberal candidate. [04:01] Description of Labour winning the seat in the 1945 and holding it until 1960. [04:22] Story about how MS became interested following Conservative visit to Gomersal, West Yorkshire, leaving meeting as chairman of the local branch. Mentions becoming chairman of the constituency YCs (Young Conservatives) and then Yorkshire YCs. Description of giving up chairmanship following attempts to change constituency and to join with National Liberals to form one association, of which MS became chairman. Description of being asked to stand as candidate and losing, but getting majority down to around 60. Mentions winning candidate dying in Strasbourg the following year, resulting in by-election. [06:18] Story about giving up politics, but being told by others to carry on and then winning seat of Brighouse and Spenborough until losing in 1964 election. [06:46] Description of acquiring a taste for politics and being elected in Scarborough and Whitby in 1966 until retiring in 1992.Story about serving a delegate to the European Parliament from the House of Commons from 1974 to 1979, following the death of a delegate who was also an accountant. Description of chairing the examination of the European Parliament’s annual budget and of the financial regulation checks. Story about amending financial regulations and Claude Cheysson. Discussion about who succeeded Cheysson as budget commissioner. [09:30] Story about the successor being helpful and unobstructive and stricter amended regulations not being opposed, and thus the Commission’s audit not being passed completely since. [10:08] Mentions joining House of Lords in 1994. [cont. from 10:08] Description of family accountancy firm. Mentions grandfather having a row with original firm, Armitage and Norton, and setting up his own firm. Story about father having to work hard to remove some other members of the family from the firm. Description of firm having joined up with another by the time MS left. Description of living in Leeds, including in Alwoodley, and then moving to Gomersal near Dewsbury, where the main office was located, because there was no reason to live in Leeds with the war approaching. Mentions the house now being a Brontë museum. Description of being happy at school, but having no political interests. Mentions family having no political traditions. Track 1 [cont. from 15:22] Description of trying to join army as soon as war was declared, but being denied as he was on a reserve, and then being called up by the reserve to go to Bangalore to the training area for Indian army officers. Description of spending two years in South Africa recuperating following bout of TB. Mentions that he could have left sanatorium earlier but ships were too busy to move invalids and eventually getting back in 1943. [17:10] Describes time in sanatorium as a waste of time and toying with idea of being decommissioned and joining South African accountancy firm. Mentions being unable to rejoin army on return as TB patients were regarded as permanently semi-fit. Description of continuing with articles and passing exams in about 1945 and then eventually becoming a partner in the firm. Mentions having an interest in tax when in Parliament. Describes being in practice from 1945 to 1978, being a JP [justice of the peace] from 1953 onwards, a deputy lieutenant from 1977, a Knight Bachelor from 1982 and a life peer from October 1994. Describes being on Public Accounts Committee in 1972-73 and 1979-92. [cont. from 20:29] Describes Spen Valley seat being held by a Liberal, William Woolley, who considered it unsafe and moved to London until losing seat in 1945. Describes seat being carved up by Boundary Commission in around 1948-49 and a decision being made to put up one candidate under the United Liberal and Conservative Association, of which MS eventually became chair. [23:55] Story about disagreements when Spenborough and Brighouse associations joined up over having two separate committees. MS moved an amendment at meeting proposing having one committee as two committees would only argue with each other instead of fighting elections, which upset people, but the amendment was agreed. [cont. from 26:31] Describes JP duties not taking up much time. [27:38] Description of close 1959 election campaign. Description of 1960 by-election campaign. Mentions senior political figures, including Chancellor, coming to support. [cont from 29:35] Description of differences in Parliament between past and present. Mentions salary being microscopic and having to pay for telephone calls, though MS did not have a phone to begin with. [30:30] Story about someone asking for lunch at the House when MS was MP for Scarborough and being surprised at not having to pay as they had to when a guest of a Labour Member. Mention of some Labour Members being under great difficulties. [31:35] Discusses expenses. [cont from 31:57] Description of working both as MP and accountant and dividing time between London and Dewsbury. Description of calling the area agent, Graham Macmillan, and explaining situation following death of MS’s father and being told that he need not turn up until situation sorted. [33:40] Describes learning that a good MP looks after their constituency. Mentions current Labour MP being ever-present in constituency. [34:36] Description of agents and their role. [35:40] Description of constituency duties, including canvassing and surgeries. [37:22] Mentions expecting to lose seat in 1964 election. Story about Labour party being so happy at winning that the usual speeches were almost forgotten about. [38:21] MS describes realising that he would have to get out of practice were he to win again. [cont. from 38:46] Mention of maiden speech, made during a Finance Bill sitting. Story about being convinced that MPs were not allowed to read speeches. [39:56] Mentions nerves when giving speeches. [41:03] Mentions having interest in Europe, among other things, and integration. Refers to current speech by current Prime Minister. [cont. from 42:22] Discussion about great figures that MS remembers from early time in Parliament. Mention of Edward Heath. Story about Harold Macmillan moving the motor industry to Scotland. Remark about competing with production on the continent and elsewhere in world. Story about textiles being main industry in the West Riding of Yorkshire, but firms then going bust in the early 1960s. [47:10] Description of how MS came to take Scarborough and Whitby seat. Story about falling asleep at the wheel while driving back garden party function in Whitby, North Yorkshire. [53:05] Story about a troubled visitor the day after MS became MP for first time and directing him to the Christian Scientists, who were able to help [54:00] Comment about continuing connection with Christian Scientists. [55:16] Comment about religion and being confirmed at school. [55:45] Anecdote about reading lessons in church on return to England in 1943 and organising the boy’s choir and football team in Gomersal. [58:00] Mentions wife being the only daughter of the president of the National Liberals, which did not pose a problem. Remark about wife being excellent politically, attending meetings and so on. Track 1 [cont. from 1:00:04] Remark about political friends and allies, including William Clark and Marcus Worsley, and becoming chair of the Yorkshire group of MPs. [1:02:15] Story about being asked to join Whips Office by Michael Jopling, but rejecting as MS only wanted to be on the Public Accounts Committee. Mentions of Joel Barnett and Robert Sheldon. [1:04:30] Mention of participating in 1922 Committee, but only as a Back Bencher, and Marcus Fox being the chair. [cont. from 1:06:50] Anecdote about how European job came about and then enjoying it. Mentions becoming rapporteur for the annual budget. [1:08:27] Story about negotiating with Cheysson. [1:09:42] Remark about differences between Parliament and European Parliament. Comment about unlikelihood of one European state and likelihood of another euro crisis. Mention of similar attempts in Africa being likely to fail. [1:11:46] Remark about hard-working and loyal staff on budget committee of European Parliament. [1:13:55] Mentions being paired up with Tam Dalyell to avoid having to vote in Parliament. Comedic story about being hauled out of voting lobby by Labour Whips when attempting to vote and having to cancel vote by passing through other lobby. [cont. from 1:15:50] Remarks about sharing an office with Ian Percival and general office accommodation. [1:17:40] Mentions having same secretary for 40 years. Describes differences in constituency secretarial situation between now and when MS first became MP. [1:21:10] Mentions difficulties with using computers and recent health problems. [1:22:46] Mention of still having London flat in Dolphin Square, but initially staying with sister and then at the Junior Carlton Club. [1:24:15] Remarks about relationship with local newspaper in Scarborough and Whitby. [cont. from 1:27:40] Remarks about becoming Chairman in House of Commons and seemingly being given every Bill of any substance. [1:28:30] Mentions Commons no longer having long Bill Committees and rise of Select Committees. [1:31:33] Story about Michael Heseltine appearing at Public Accounts Committee and problems with civil servant accountability. [1:33:34] Description of managing family situation given time away in Europe and in London. [1:35:07] Mention of standing down as MP in 1992 and surprise at being asked to become a Lord. [1:36:40] Description of differences between Commons and Lords. [1:38:35] Mention of Select Committee Chairmen now being more powerful figures. [1:38:56] Description of being most proud of being Yorkshire area chairman and president and managing Yorkshire well and of doing a good job as Committee Chairman and in Europe. [cont. from 1:41:02] Comedic story about being at 10 Downing street function with Margaret Thatcher and a minister calling up for advice on a problem and MS saying that the minister had better do something as the problem was on the newsstands outside. Mentions not being close to Ted Heath.
Life story interview with Michael Shaw (1920-), former Conservative Member of Parliament.