Denis Howell

The Right Honourable
The Lord Howell
Minister of State for Sport
In office
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
James Callaghan
Preceded by Eldon Griffiths
Succeeded by Hector Monro
In office
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by The Viscount Hailsham
Succeeded by Eldon Griffiths
Minister of State for Drought
Minister of State for Floods
In office
Summer 1976
Prime Minister James Callaghan
Personal details
Born Denis Herbert Howell
(1923-09-04)4 September 1923
Birmingham, United Kingdom
Died 19 April 1998(1998-04-19) (aged 74)
Solihull, United Kingdom
Citizenship British
Political party Labour
Spouse(s) Brenda Marjorie Willson
Children Andrew Howell, Kate Molloy, Michael Howell, David Howell (deceased)

Denis Herbert Howell, Baron Howell, PC (4 September 1923 – 19 April 1998) was a British Labour Party politician. He was a councillor on Birmingham City Council between 1946 and 1956. He was the Member of Parliament (MP) for Birmingham All Saints from 1955 to 1959, and MP for Birmingham Small Heath from the 1961 to 1992. In 1992, he was made a life peer and became a Member of the House of Lords.

Early life

Dennis Howell was born in Lozells, Birmingham, on 4 September 1923, the son of a gasfitter and storekeeper. He was educated at Gower Street School and Handsworth Grammar School, Birmingham and became a clerk of the Clerical and Administrative Workers Union, rising to the position of President it's its expanded successor, the Association of Professional, Executive, Clerical and Computer Staff (APEX) from 1971 to 1989. In 1951 he graduated as a linesman in the Football League, and was a Football Association referee from 1956 until 1966. Lord Howell- a lifetime Aston Villa fan was also a keen cricketer.[1]

Political career

Political awareness came early to Dennis Howell - his first memory was of sitting on his father's knee at a general strike meeting in 1926.[2] Howell joined the Labour Party in 1942 served as a councillor on Birmingham City Council 1946–56 and was Labour Group secretary from 1950.

He contested Birmingham King's Norton in 1951. He was Member of Parliament (MP) for Birmingham All Saints from 1955 to 1959, and for Birmingham Small Heath from the 1961 by-election until his retirement in 1992. He held several ministerial posts under the Wilson and Callaghan governments, including Sport (1964–1970), Education and Science (1964–1969), Housing and Local Government (1969–1970), the Environment (1974–1979) and for Sport and Recreation (1974–1979).

On 28 October 1974, his wife and son escaped unharmed when an IRA bomb exploded in their Ford Cortina on the driveway of the family home in Birmingham.

In 1976, during Britain's driest summer in over 200 years, he was made Minister for Drought (but nicknamed 'Minister for Rain'[3]). Howell was charged by the Prime Minister with the task of persuading the nation to use less water – and was even ordered by No. 10 to do a rain dance on behalf of the nation.[4]

The appointment provoked much public mirth, but in true Brummie style, the Lozells-born MP responded by inviting reporters to his home in Moseley where he revealed he was doing his bit to help water rationing by sharing baths with his wife, Brenda.[5] Days later, heavy rainfall caused widespread flooding, and he was made Minister of Floods.[6] Additionally, during the harsh winter of 1978–1979 he was appointed Minister for Snow.[7]

Along with Shirley Williams, then another "right-wing" Labour Minister, he created a furore in 1977 by appearing on the picket line outside Grunwick Processing Laboratories in North London, the scene of violent trade union protests about conditions in the factory[8]

Later life

He published his memoirs, Made in Birmingham, in 1990, and on 1 July 1992 he was made a life peer as Baron Howell, of Aston Manor in the City of Birmingham.[9]

Lord Howell underwent major heart surgery in 1989, but recovered sufficiently to pursue a normal, active political career and often made his point known in the House of Lords.[10] Lord Howell of Aston Manor died in Solihull Hospital, after suffering a heart attack at a charity fund-raising dinner at the British Motorcycle Museum in Bickenhill, West Midlands, on 19 April 1998, aged 74.


At The University of Birmingham, the building where The Institute for Cancer Studies department is based is named the Denis Howell Building. (Building B5 on this map


His son, Andrew Howell, was elected to Birmingham City Council for Moseley and Kings Heath Ward serving as Chair of the Education Committee and as Deputy Leader. Another son, Michael, works as a procurement manager for Highways England. Lord Howell's youngest son, David, was killed in a car accident on 22 May 1986 in what he described in his memoirs as the most 'devastating day in our lives'.[11]



Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Birmingham All Saints
1955 1959
Succeeded by
John Hollingworth
Preceded by
William Wheeldon
Member of Parliament for Birmingham Small Heath
1961 1992
Succeeded by
Roger Godsiff
Political offices
Preceded by
Quintin Hogg
Minister for Sport
Succeeded by
Eldon Griffiths
Preceded by
Eldon Griffiths
Minister for Sport
Succeeded by
Hector Monro
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