Thomas Taylor, Baron Taylor of Blackburn
|The Right Honourable|
The Lord Taylor of Blackburn
CBE JP DL
|Member of the House of Lords|
4 May 1978 – 25 November 2016
10 June 1929
|Died||25 November 2016 87)(aged|
Thomas Taylor, Baron Taylor of Blackburn, CBE JP DL (10 June 1929 – 25 November 2016) was a Labour member of the House of Lords. He was one of two peers suspended for six months from admittance to the House of Lords after the 2009 cash for influence scandal, the first peers to be suspended since the 17th century.
Thomas Taylor was born in Blackburn, the son of James and Edith Taylor. He was taught at Blakey Moor elementary school, but left aged fourteen to go to work as a shop assistant in the local Co-op. Later on he was selected as branch representative chairman of USDAW.
Still only twenty-one years old Thomas Taylor married Kathleen Nurton in 1950, they had a son, Paul Taylor from their union. In 1954 he was elected to Blackburn Town Council, later becoming chairman of the education committee. In 1960 he was appointed a JP on the Blackburn bench. A Congregationalist and committed Christian, he was named president of the Free Church Council in 1963. Appointed OBE in the 1969 Birthday Honours list, he was finally raised to Leader of the council from 1972–76, on the recommendation of fellow church-goer and former leader Sir George Eddie. For his services local government he was promoted to CBE in the 1974 Birthday Honours.
Throughout a period of industrial decline for British textiles, Taylor gained a reputation for handling the situation sensitively by importing immigrants as cheap labour to work in the factories. His management of education was considered one of the best local authority areas in the country deploying a maximum 7% solution to the ethnic mix of local schools: to ensure social integration students were bussed across town. He became leader of education services on Lancashire County Council, as well as being Chairman of the juvenile bench. A consensual politician in the tradition of Hugh Gaitskell he steered comprehensive education through despite some concerns in the town. There he developed the Rochdale tradition of co-operative societies on the council bringing together teachers and parents on a corporatist model. He utilised the leverage of businesses to help finance educational needs by brokerage of a third way for community uses of premises out of school hours and in the holidays. He was not a particular friend of Barbara Castle the local MP who was so close to Wilson, but was delighted to influence the succession of Jack Straw to the seat on her retirement. Taylor's socialist circle included James Callaghan, so when he lost his seat on Blackburn Council in 1976 he was a natural recruit for the labour peerage. His froideur for Castle was not helped when he was asked to share an office at the House of Lords.
National education and Labour governments
Taylor was an acolyte of Harold Wilson. Sitting on the Public School Commission in 1958 he attacked Public Schools Headmasters Conference reluctance to relinquish their independent status. Their refusal to integrate in the comprehensive system caused Labour and Taylor to threaten class warfare for failing to modernise. In 1972 Taylor was embroiled in a row to dismiss a communist English lecturer, Dr David Craig at the new Lancaster University of which he was a co-founder and deputy Pro-Chancellor. Students staged a sit-in when the Vice-Chancellor refused to lift a threat of disciplinary action against the political agitation. Taylor was remitted to act independently but investigate the causes. Taylor's Report of July 1972 exonerated the local authority of any blame, but thought the whole case has poisoned the atmosphere and culture of the university. Craig was reinstated but outside the faculty, while the Vice-Chancellor archly refused any assistance for delegations. The following year he accused the Conservative government of a failure to invest: a creaking management had invested the system with paralysis by analysis.
In his role as president of the Association of Education Committees he continued to press for more investment in schools and universities. A somewhat cynical approach was dictated by his disdain for the peerage, "or as third best chose a mother who has a degree." He carried forward the tripartite industrial strategies of Labour's super-ministries into the new Wilsonian era, when the Education Secretary Reg Prentice asked him to report on school management. The report New Partnership for Our Schools was the first attempt to put schools on the same footing as independents by giving overall management control to a board of Governors, in co-operation with the teachers and parents.
From 1977-80 he was Chairman of the Electricity Consultative Council for the North West and a member of the Board of Norweb. He served on various governmental bodies connected with education in the region, including the North West Economic Planning Council and the North West Area Health Authority. He was created a Life Peer on 4 May 1978 taking the title Baron Taylor of Blackburn, of Blackburn in the County of Lancashire.
He was listed in Who's Who 2009 as a Non-executive Director of Drax Power Ltd and A Division Holdings, a Consultant to BAE Systems plc; Initial Electronic Security Systems Ltd; and an adviser to Electronic Data Systems Ltd, AES Electric Ltd, United Utilities plc, Experian and Capgemini UK plc. On 29 January 2009 Experian agreed with Lord Taylor that he would retire as an adviser to them. However, by 30 January 2009 he was an Adviser to NPL Estates, Alcatel-Lucent, Canatxx Energy Ventures Ltd, BT plc, Gersphere UK and T-Systems; and a Non-executive Director only of A Division Holdings
He was President or patron of various organisations and held an Hon. LLD from the University of Lancaster from 1996. He was a Freeman of Blackburn and of the City of London. He was also at various times in his career Chairman of the National Foundation for Visual Aids.
Labour was in opposition in 1983, but Taylor was about to be appointed to the front bench, when having domestic difficulties, his wife committed Thomas Taylor under the Mental Health Act 1983. Taylor liked a drink, so when his wife objected to his behaviour he was admitted to Burnley General Hospital. He applied for a writ of Habeas Corpus arguing that the Mental Health Act could not apply to peers when the House was sitting. After 19 days in hospital his barrister secured his release, and the case never came to court. Taylor proudly absolved his wife of any blame, who he said was "a brick", but always denied being "as a psychiatric patient". Taylor returned to the Lords to deliver further attacks on government education policy. Nor did this debility prevent his appointment as Deputy Lieutenant for Lancashire in 1994: since that time the rules on membership of the House of Lords have tightened to automatically exclude prisoners, lunatics, bankrupts and ex-convicts.
'Cash for Influence' scandal
In late-January 2009 Lord Taylor was one of four Labour peers of the realm accused of 'sleaze' by The Sunday Times - it was alleged that Taylor proclaimed to two journalists posing as lobbyists that he was ready, willing and able to help a business secure favourable legislation in their sphere of interest in return for a fee reported to be in excess of £100,000. Taylor was duped, and his behaviour exposed, by the reporter's 'sting' operation. The Conservative leader in Blackburn & Darwen demanded that the Freedom of the City Award be stripped from the former councillor. A few days later on 20 May 2009, the House of Lords considered the report of its Privileges Committee and voted to suspend Lord Taylor and Lord Truscott for six months, the first such action since the 17th century. Despite the fact that Lord Taylor rarely spoke in the Lords he claimed £43, 110 in the 2014-2015 session, but was typically identified as belonging to Labour's politically incorrect awkward squad. In 2005 he was recorded as the second highest claimant of £57,000 expenses in the Lords, although speaking nineteen times is not the worst frequency of attendance by any means. Nonetheless forfeiture of a potential expense claim of £323 per day must have hurt because he was allowed to return to the House, where he was still a member until the unfortunate circumstances of his death.
On 17 November 2016, Taylor was involved in an accident when his mobility scooter collided with a van on the corner of Millbank and Great College street, near the House of Lords. He died on 25 November 2016 as a result of injuries sustained in the crash. Baroness Smith of Basildon, Shadow leader of the House of Lords, said he would be "sadly missed". She continued..."Tom Taylor had a life-long commitment to the Labour Party, through both local government and Parliament, and was held in high regard and with great affection by his party colleagues." The Metropolitan Police investigated the scene and detained a 55-year old man but at the time of his death in hospital had not pressed charges.
- "Lord Taylor of Blackburn". UK Parliament. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
- Burke's Peerage, 107th ed., vol.III (2003)
- The London Gazette: . 14 June 1969.
- The London Gazette: . 15 June 1974.
- "Taylor of Blackburn, Baron". Who's Who. Retrieved 6 December 2011.
- Date 29 November, Retrieved 30 November 2016
- "A Division - Our Chairman". A Division Group. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
- The London Gazette: . 9 May 1978.
- Peer at centre of 'cash for legislation' inquiry removed from credit check firm's payroll The Guardian 30-Jan-2009
- Register of Members Interests House of Lords accessed 30-Jan-09
- "Sleaze row peer claims £400,000 just in expenses". Associated Newspapers. 2009-01-27. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
- The Daily Telegraph, 26 November 2016.
- Whispered over tea and cake: price for a peer to fix the law, The Sunday Times, 25 January 2009
- Date 15 May 2009 retrieved on 30 November 2016.
- The Committee Office. "House of Lords - The Conduct of Lord Moonie, Lord Snape, Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn - Privileges Committee". parliament.uk. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
- Lords vote to suspend two peers BBC News
- "Labour peer Lord Taylor of Blackburn dies after mobility scooter crash". telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 25 November 2016.
- "Lord Taylor dies after mobility scooter crash". BBC News. 2016-11-25. Retrieved 2016-11-25.
- Date 25 November 2015, Retrieved 30 November 2016
- Speeches and voting record at TheyWorkForYou
- Audio of the secretly recorded conversation between Baron Taylor and an undercover reporter