Douglas Hurd

The Right Honourable
The Lord Hurd of Westwell
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
26 October 1989  5 July 1995
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
John Major
Preceded by John Major
Succeeded by Malcolm Rifkind
Home Secretary
In office
2 September 1985  26 October 1989
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Leon Brittan
Succeeded by David Waddington
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
In office
27 September 1984  2 September 1985
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by James Prior
Succeeded by Tom King
Minister for Europe
In office
4 May 1979  9 June 1983
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Office created
Succeeded by Malcolm Rifkind
Member of Parliament
for Witney
In office
9 June 1983  1 May 1997
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by Shaun Woodward
Member of Parliament
for Mid Oxfordshire
In office
28 February 1974  9 June 1983
Preceded by Constituency created
Succeeded by Constituency abolished
Personal details
Born Douglas Richard Hurd
(1930-03-08) 8 March 1930
Marlborough, Wiltshire, UK
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) (1) Tatiana, daughter of Major Arthur Eyre MBE (1960-1982; divorced)
(2) Judy Smart (1982-2008; her death)
Relations Anthony, Lord Hurd (father);
Sir Percy Hurd (grandfather); Sir Archibald Hurd (uncle)
Children 3 sons (by 1st wife);
1 son and 1 daughter (by 2nd wife)
Alma mater Eton College
Trinity College, Cambridge

Douglas Richard Hurd, Baron Hurd of Westwell, CH, CBE, PC (born 8 March 1930) is a British Conservative politician who served in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major from 1979 to 1995.

Born in the market town of Marlborough in Wiltshire, Hurd first entered Parliament in February 1974 as MP for the Mid Oxfordshire constituency (Witney from 1983). His first government post was as Minister for Europe from 1979 to 1983 (being that office's inaugural holder) and he served in several Cabinet roles from 1984 onwards, including Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (1984–85), Home Secretary (1985–89) and Foreign Secretary (1989–95). He stood unsuccessfully for the Conservative Party leadership in 1990, but retired from frontline politics during a Cabinet reshuffle in 1995.[1]

In 1997, Hurd was elevated to the House of Lords and is one of the Conservative Party's most senior elder statesmen. He is a patron of the Tory Reform Group and remains an active figure in public life. He retired from the Lords in 2016.

Early life

Eton College
Order of the British Empire ribbon

Douglas Hurd was born in 1930 in the market town of Marlborough in Wiltshire. His father Anthony Hurd (later Lord Hurd) and grandfather Sir Percy Hurd were also Members of Parliament. His uncle, Sir Archibald Hurd, was a leading Fleet Street shipping correspondent, who became a Freeman Honoris Causa of the Shipwrights' Company in 1922 and was knighted in 1928.

Hurd attended Twyford School and Eton College, where he was a King's Scholar and won the Newcastle Scholarship in 1947. He then went up to Cambridge University, where he graduated with a first-class degree in history at Trinity College (BA) as well as serving as president of the Cambridge Union Society.[2][3]

In 1952, Hurd joined the Diplomatic Service. He was posted to China, the United States and Italy, before leaving the service in 1966 to enter politics as a member of the Conservative Party.

Member of Parliament

Hurd became PPS to the then Conservative leader Edward Heath, and was first elected to Parliament in February 1974 to represent the constituency of Mid Oxfordshire. After his election, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the February 1974 Dissolution Honours, gazetted on 2 April 1974.[4] At the 1983 general election the seat was replaced by Witney and he remained MP for that seat until his retirement from the House of Commons in 1997 having served 23 years in Parliament. (Since 2001 this constituency has been represented by the Leader of the Conservative Party and former British prime minister, David Cameron.)[5]

In government: 1979-1990

Hurd was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office upon the Conservative victory in the 1979 general election and remained in that post for the duration of the Parliament. After the 1983 election Thatcher moved Hurd to the Home Office, but just over a year later he was promoted to Cabinet rank, succeeding James Prior as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. In this position, his diplomatic skills paved the way for the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement on the future of Northern Ireland, which marked a turning point in British-Irish co-operation on the political situation in the troubled region. A month before the agreement was signed, however, Hurd returned to the Home Office, this time as Home Secretary, following the demotion of Leon Brittan to the Department of Trade and Industry. Widely seen as a "safe pair of hands" and a solid, loyal member of the Cabinet, Hurd's tenure as Home Secretary was largely uncontroversial, although he was notably of the view that Her Majesty's Prison Service did not work effectively and argued for more rehabilitation of offenders and alternative sentencing.[6]

Candidature in the 1990 leadership election

After a sound performance as Home Secretary, Hurd's Cabinet career progressed further during the turbulent final months of Margaret Thatcher's prime ministership. On 26 October 1989, Hurd moved to the Foreign Office, succeeding John Major, whose rapid rise through the Cabinet saw him become Chancellor of the Exchequer in the wake of Nigel Lawson's resignation. This was the post in which Hurd made his greatest political impact.

In mid-November 1990, he supported Margaret Thatcher's candidature as Conservative Party leader against challenger Michael Heseltine, but on her withdrawal from the second round of the contest on 22 November, Hurd decided to enter the race as a moderate centre-right candidate, drawing on his reputation as a successful 'law-and-order' Home Secretary. He was seen as an outsider, lagging behind the more charismatic Heseltine and the eventual winner, John Major, who shared the moderate centre-right political ground with Hurd but had the added advantages of youth and political momentum. Hurd's Etonian education may have also been a disadvantage. He came third, winning 56 of the 372 votes cast and, together with Heseltine, conceded defeat to allow Major, who had fallen just three votes short of an outright majority, to return unopposed and take over as Prime Minister on 27 November 1990. Hurd was gracious in defeat and, on the formation of Major's first Cabinet, was returned to his former position as Foreign Secretary.[7][8]

Foreign Secretary

Hurd was widely regarded as a statesmanlike British Foreign Secretary, his tenure having been particularly eventful. He oversaw Britain's diplomatic responses to the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, as well as the first Gulf War to drive Iraqi troops out of Kuwait. Hurd cultivated good relations with the United States under President George Bush Sr., and sought a more conciliatory approach to other members of the European Community, repairing relationships damaged during the increasingly Eurosceptic tone of Margaret Thatcher's final years. Hurd welcomed a reunified Germany into the European political community in 1990.[9]

One of the defining features of Hurd's tenure as Foreign Secretary was the British reaction to the increasingly vicious Yugoslav Wars. During the war in Bosnia, Hurd was seen as a leading voice among European politicians arguing against sending military aid to the Bosniaks and for maintaining the arms embargo, in defiance of the line taken by US President Bill Clinton, and arguing that such a move would only create a 'level killing field' and prolong the conflict unduly. Hurd also resisted pressure to allow Bosnian refugees to enter into Britain arguing that to do so would reduce pressure on the Bosnian Government to sue for peace.[10] Hurd described his and British policy during that time as 'realist'.[11] During this period the fractious relations between European and US leaders threatened the stability of the trans-Atlantic alliance and delayed any co-ordinated response to the bloodshed taking place in the collapsing Yugoslavia.

Shortly after his retirement from politics, Hurd travelled to Serbia to meet Slobodan Milošević on behalf of the British bank NatWest (see below), fuelling some speculation that Hurd had taken a pro-Serbian line. There has been criticism of Hurd's policies in relation to the war. The Bosnian government even threatened to charge Hurd as an accomplice to genocide before the War Tribunal at The Hague, though this came to nothing. In 2010 Douglas Hurd told a reporter that he was troubled by his Bosnia policy but still doubted that intervention would have brought about an earlier end to the war.[12]

Hurd was involved in a public scandal concerning Britain's funding of a hydroelectric dam on the Pergau River in Malaysia, near the Thai border. Building work began in 1991 with money from the British foreign aid budget. Concurrently, the Malaysian government bought around £1 billion's worth of British-made arms. The suggested linkage of arms deals to aid became the subject of a UK Government inquiry from March 1994. In November 1994, after an application for Judicial Review brought by the World Development Movement, the High Court of Justice held that the British Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd's actions were ultra vires [outside his legal powers and therefore unlawful] by allocating £234 million towards the funding of the dam, on the grounds that it was not of economic or humanitarian benefit to the Malaysian people.[13]

In 1997, the administration of the UK's aid budget was removed from the Foreign Secretary's remit (previously the Overseas Development Administration had been under the supervision of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office). The new department, the Department for International Development (DfID), has its own Secretary of State who is a member of the Cabinet. In 1995, during the Cabinet reshuffle widely seen as setting up the Conservative team which would contest the next election, Hurd retired from frontline politics after eleven years in the Cabinet and was replaced by Malcolm Rifkind.


Insignia of a Companion of Honour

After his retirement as Foreign Secretary, he remained a key supporter of John Major, and kept a range of active political involvements as well as taking on some business appointments, most notably as a Deputy Chairman of NatWest Markets and a Board Director of NatWest Group, posts he held from October 1995-99.

Hurd left the House of Commons at the 1997 general election, and on 13 June 1997 was created Baron Hurd of Westwell, of Westwell in the County of Oxfordshire,[14] which enabled him to continue sitting in Parliament as a member of the House of Lords. He retired from the Lords on 9 June 2016.[15]

In December 1997, Hurd was appointed Chairman of British Invisibles (now renamed International Financial Services London or IFSL). He was Chairman of the judging panel for the 1998 Booker Prize for Fiction. He became a member of the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords in February 1999, and in September 1999 he was appointed High Steward of Westminster Abbey, reflecting his long active membership of the Church of England. He later went on to chair the Hurd Commission which produced a review of the roles and functions of the Archbishop of Canterbury.[16]

During the 2005 Conservative Party leadership contest, Hurd supported David Cameron, the eventual winner.

Hurd is Chairman of the Advisory Council at FIRST,[17] an international affairs organisation.

Hurd was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1974 and Companion of Honour in the 1996 New Year Honours.[18] He was formerly a Visiting Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford and Chairman of the German British Forum.

On 17 July 2009, he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters (Hon DLitt) from Aston University at its Degree Congregation.

Hurd is currently a member of the Top Level Group of UK Parliamentarians for Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament and Non-proliferation, established in October 2009.[19]

Hurd is a patron of the Burford School Uganda Link – the longest running such link in the UK.

Personal life

Hurd married twice. He married his first wife Tatiana, daughter of Major Arthur Eyre MBE, in 1960, and their union produced three sons. The couple separated in 1976 and divorced in 1982. Tatiana Hurd cited her husband's career as the reason for their separation, saying, "Really, politics don't mix with marriage". In 1982 Hurd married Judy Smart, his former parliamentary secretary, who was 19 years his junior. They had two children, a boy and a girl.[20] Judy Hurd died of leukemia on 22 November 2008 in an Oxford hospital, aged 58.

Hurd is a writer of political thrillers including:

His non-fiction works include:

Hurd's eldest son, Nick Hurd, is also a Conservative politician and was elected Member of Parliament for Ruislip Northwood and Pinner at the May 2005 general election. In 2010, he was appointed Minister for Civil Society[24] and married Lady Clare Kerr.

Hurd's second son, Thomas, joined the Diplomatic Service. His name appeared on a list of suspected MI6 operatives which was published on the Internet, as did Lord Hurd himself, supposedly the work of disgruntled former SIS (MI6) or Security Service (MI5) employees. The authenticity of several entries on the list is questionable, leading to speculation that it was in fact compiled by a poorly informed amateur.[25] The Hon Thomas Hurd was appointed OBE in 2006, and is married with 5 children. His wife, Catherine, known as Sian, died May 21, 2011, after falling from the roof of the building where they lived on East 84th Street in New York City.

His third son, The Hon Alexander Hurd, married Sarah Wells in 2004 and they have three children.

In 1988, Hurd set up the charity Crime Concern.[26] Crime Concern worked to reduce crime, anti-social behaviour and the fear of crime by working with young people, their families, and adult offenders offering opportunities through training and employment. Crime Concern merged with young people's charity Rainer in 2008 to become Catch22.[27]

Hurd is fluent in Mandarin, French and Italian.[28] He is a patron of the EU federalist European Movement UK.

Styles of address

See also


  1. Douglas Hurd, Memoirs (2003).
  2. Archived 26 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. University education. "You may have a first-class degree - but Lord Winston doesn't want you". Telegraph. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  4. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 46254. pp. 4395–4398. 2 April 1974.
  5. Hurd, Memoirs (2003).
  6. Hurd, Memoirs (2003).
  7. "1990: Tories choose Major for Number 10". BBC News. 27 November 1990.
  8. Bogdanor, Vernon (2014-01-18). "The Spectator book review that brought down Macmillan's government". The Spectator. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  9. Mark Stuart, Douglas Hurd: the public servant: an authorised biography (1998)
  10. Nick Cohen. "Observer review: Unfinest Hour by Brendan Simms | Books". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  11. "Bosnia Report - July - September 2000". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  12. Flanagan, Julian (30 March 2010). "Douglas Hurd: 'I am not brilliant. Not a great original'". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  13. Archived 15 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. The London Gazette: no. 54810. p. 7063. 18 June 1997.
  15. Lord Hurd of Westwell,, 12 June 2016
  16. Archived 13 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. "The forum for decision makers. FIRST Magazine focuses on business strategy and government policy making". FIRST Magazine. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  18. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 54255. p. 5. 30 December 1995.
  19. Borger, Julian (8 September 2009). "Nuclear-free world ultimate aim of new cross-party pressure group". The Guardian. London, UK.
  20. "The Most Trusted Place for Answering Life's Questions". Answers. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  21. Time remaining -- days -- hours -- minutes -- seconds (2008-06-12). "Douglas Hurd - Robert Peel - Orion Publishing Group". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  22. Time remaining -- days -- hours -- minutes -- seconds. "Douglas Hurd - Choose Your Weapons - Orion Publishing Group". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  23. "ISBN Unavailable". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  24. "Nick Hurd - GOV.UK". Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  25. The format of the list is taken from The Diplomatic Service List - an annual official publication (known in Foreign and Commonwealth Office circles as The Green Book) listing all Diplomatic Service members.
  26. "Introduction to Preventative Work from Making A Difference". Enabler Publications. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  27. "Transforming lives, transforming communities". Catch22. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
  28. "What does it take to be a great foreign secretary?". BBC News. 2013-05-14. Retrieved 2016-01-15.

Further reading

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Douglas Hurd
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Mid Oxfordshire
Constituency abolished
Member of Parliament for Witney
Succeeded by
Shaun Woodward
Political offices
New title Minister for Europe
Succeeded by
Malcolm Rifkind
Preceded by
James Prior
Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Tom King
Preceded by
Leon Brittan
Home Secretary
Succeeded by
David Waddington
Preceded by
John Major
Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Succeeded by
Malcolm Rifkind
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