Nigel Lawson

Nigel Lawson, Baron Lawson of Blaby, PC (born 11 March 1932) is a British Conservative politician and journalist. He was a Member of Parliament representing the constituency of Blaby from 1974 to 1992, and served in the cabinet of Margaret Thatcher from 1981 to 1989. Prior to entering the Cabinet, he served as the Financial Secretary to the Treasury from May 1979 until his promotion to Secretary of State for Energy. He was appointed as Chancellor of the Exchequer in June 1983, and served until his resignation in October 1989. In both Cabinet posts, Lawson was a key proponent of Thatcher's policies of privatisation of several key industries. Lawson oversaw the sudden deregulation of financial markets in 1986, commonly referred to as the "Big Bang", which shifted the center of gravity for the world's financial markets to London from New York City.

The Lord Lawson of Blaby

Nigel Lawson in 2018
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
11 June 1983  26 October 1989
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byGeoffrey Howe
Succeeded byJohn Major
Secretary of State for Energy
In office
14 September 1981  11 June 1983
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byDavid Howell
Succeeded byPeter Walker
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
4 May 1979  14 September 1981
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byRobert Sheldon
Succeeded byNicholas Ridley
Member of Parliament
for Blaby
In office
28 February 1974  9 April 1992
Preceded byConstituency created
Succeeded byAndrew Robathan
Personal details
Born (1932-03-11) 11 March 1932
Hampstead, London, England
Political partyConservative
Vanessa Salmon
(m. 1955; div. 1980)

Thérèse Maclear
(m. 1980; div. 2012)
Children6; including Dominic and Nigella
Alma materChrist Church, Oxford

Lawson was a backbencher from 1989 until he retired in 1992, and now sits in the House of Lords. He is still active in politics as President of Conservatives for Britain, a campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, and is a prominent critic of the European Union. He is also chairman of the climate change denial Global Warming Policy Foundation think tank.[1][2][3][4] He has been an active supporter of the Eurosceptic pressure group Leave Means Leave.[5]

Currently, Lawson resides in France.[6] However his application for French residency was refused and he is now selling his French property. He is the father of six children, including Nigella Lawson, a food writer and celebrity cook, Dominic Lawson, a journalist, and Tom Lawson, headmaster of Eastbourne College.

Early life and education

Lawson was born in 1932 to a wealthy Jewish family[7] living in Hampstead, London. His father, Ralph Lawson (1904–1982), was the owner of a commodity-trading firm in the City of London, while his mother, Joan Elisa (Davis), was also from a prosperous family of stockbrokers.[8] His paternal grandfather, Gustav Leibson, a merchant from Mitau (now Jelgava in Latvia), changed his name from Leibson to Lawson in 1925,[9] having become a British citizen in 1911.[10]

Lawson was educated at two independent schools: at Beechwood Park School in Markyate (nr. St Albans) in Hertfordshire, followed by Westminster School in London (following in his father's footsteps),[11] and Christ Church, Oxford,[12] where he gained a first-class honours degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.[13][14][15][16]

Life and career

Lawson carried out his National Service as a Royal Navy officer, during which time he commanded the fast-patrol boat HMS Gay Charger.[17]

Lawson began his career as a journalist at the Financial Times in 1956, writing the Lexicon column. He progressed to the positions of City editor of The Sunday Telegraph in 1961 – where he introduced his friend Jim Slater's Capitalist investing column – and then editor of The Spectator (1966–1970).

Early political career

Lawson stood unsuccessfully at the 1970 General Election for the Eton and Slough seat[18] before becoming Member of Parliament for Blaby in Leicestershire in February 1974,[18] which he held until retiring at the 1992 General Election.[18]

While in Opposition, Lawson co-ordinated tactics with rebellious Government backbenchers Jeff Rooker and Audrey Wise to secure legislation providing for the automatic indexation of tax thresholds to prevent the tax burden being increased by inflation (typically in excess of 10% per annum during that Parliament).

In government

Financial Secretary to the Treasury

On the election of Margaret Thatcher's government, Lawson was appointed to the post of Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Although this is the fourth-ranking political position in the UK Treasury, Lawson's energy in office was reflected in such measures as the ending of unofficial state controls on mortgage lending, the abolition of exchange controls in October 1979 and the publication of the Medium Term financial Strategy. This document set the course for both the monetary and fiscal sides of the new government's economic policy, though the extent to which the subsequent trajectory of policy and outcome matched that projected is still a matter for debate.

Secretary of State for Energy

In the Cabinet reshuffle of September 1981, Lawson was promoted to the position of Secretary of State for Energy. In this role his most significant action was to prepare for what he saw as an inevitable full-scale strike in the coal industry (then state-owned since nationalisation by the post-war Labour party government of Clement Attlee) over the closure of deep coal mines whose uneconomic operation accounted for the coal industry's business losses and consequent requirement for state subsidy.[19] He was a key proponent of the Thatcher Government's privatisation policy. During his tenure at the Department of Energy he set the course for the later privatisations of the gas and electricity industries and on his return to the Treasury he worked closely with the Department of Trade and Industry in privatising British Airways, British Telecom, and British Gas.

Chancellor of the Exchequer

"[A] mixture of free markets, financial discipline, firm control over public expenditure, tax cuts, nationalism, "Victorian values" (of the Samuel Smiles self-help variety), privatisation and a dash of populism."

Lawson's definition of Thatcherism.[20]

After the Thatcher Government's re-election in 1983, Lawson was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer in succession to Geoffrey Howe. The early years of Lawson's chancellorship were associated with tax reform. The 1984 Budget reformed corporate taxes by a combination of reduced rates and reduced allowances. The 1985 Budget continued the trend of shifting from direct to indirect taxes by reducing National Insurance contributions for the lower-paid while extending the base of value added tax.

During these two years Lawson's public image remained low-key, but from the 1986 Budget (in which he resumed the reduction of the standard rate of personal Income Tax from the 30% rate to which it had been lowered in Howe's 1979 Budget), his stock rose as unemployment began to fall from the middle of 1986 (employment growth having resumed over three years earlier). Lawson also changed the budget deficit from £10.5 billion (3.7% of GDP) in 1983 to a budget surplus of £3.9 billion in 1988 and £4.1 billion in 1989, the year of his resignation. During these years, however, the UK's current account deficit similarly rose from below 1% of GDP in 1986 to almost 5% in 1989, with Lawson asserting that an external deficit based on private-sector behavior is no reason for concern.[21] During his tenure the rate of taxation also came down. The basic rate was reduced from 30% in 1983 to 25% by 1988. The top rate of tax also came down from 60% to 40% in 1988 and the four other higher rates were removed, leaving a system of personal taxation in which there was no rate anywhere in excess of 40 per cent.

In 1986, the City of London's financial markets were deregulated in the so-called 'Big Bang'. In an interview in 2010 Nigel Lawson said that an unintended consequence of the Big Bang was the financial crisis of 2007–2008.[22]

The trajectory taken by the UK economy from this point on is typically described as "The Lawson Boom" by analogy with the phrase "The Barber Boom" which describes an earlier period of rapid expansion under the tenure as Chancellor of Anthony Barber in the Conservative Government of Prime Minister Heath (1970 to 1974). Critics of Lawson assert that a combination of the abandonment of monetarism, the adoption of a de facto exchange-rate target of 3 Deutsche marks to the pound (ruling out interest-rate rises), and excessive fiscal laxity (in particular the 1988 Budget) unleashed an inflationary spiral.

Lawson, in his own defence, attributes the boom largely to the effects of various measures of financial deregulation. Insofar as Lawson acknowledges policy errors, he attributes them to a failure to raise interest rates during 1986 and considers that had Margaret Thatcher not vetoed the UK joining the European Exchange Rate Mechanism in November 1985 it might have been possible to adjust to these beneficial changes in the arena of microeconomics with less macroeconomic turbulence. Lawson also ascribes the difficulty of conducting monetary policy to Goodhart's Law.

His tax cuts, beginning in 1986, resulted in the "Lawson Boom" of the British economy, which had halved unemployment from more than 3,000,000 by the end of 1989.[23] However, this might have led to a rise in inflation from 3% to more than 8% during 1988, which resulted in interest rates doubling to 15% in the space of 18 months, and remaining high in spite of the 1990–1992 recession which saw unemployment rise nearly as high as the level seen before the boom began.[24]

Lawson opposed the introduction of the Community Charge (nicknamed the poll tax) as a replacement for the previous rating system for the local financing element of local government revenue. His dissent was confined to deliberations within the Cabinet, where he found few allies and where he was over-ruled by the Prime Minister and by the ministerial team of the department responsible (Department of the Environment).

The issue of exchange-rate mechanism membership continued to fester between Lawson and Thatcher and was exacerbated by the re-employment by Thatcher of Sir Alan Walters as personal economic adviser.[25] Lawson's conduct of policy had become a struggle to maintain credibility once the August 1988 trade deficit revealed the strength of the expansion of domestic demand. As orthodox monetarists, Lawson and Thatcher agreed to a steady rise in interest rates to restrain demand, but this had the effect of inflating the headline inflation figure.


After a further year in office in these circumstances Lawson felt that public articulation of differences between an exchange-rate monetarist, as he had become, and the views of Walters (who continued to favour a floating exchange rate) were making his job impossible and he resigned.[26][27] He was succeeded in the office of Chancellor by John Major.[28]

Lawson's tenure as Chancellor of the Exchequer was longer than that of any of his predecessors since David Lloyd George, who served from 1908 to 1915.[29] This was subsequently passed by Labour's Gordon Brown (1997–2007).


After retiring from front-bench politics, Lawson decided, on his doctor's advice, to tackle his weight problem. He is 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm) tall; he lost five stone (70 pounds, 30 kg) from 17 stone, or 238 pounds (108 kg) to 12 stone, or 168 pounds (76 kilograms) – (BMI 34 to 24) in a matter of a few months, dramatically changing his appearance, and went on to publish the best-selling The Nigel Lawson Diet Book.[30]

On 1 July 1992 he was given a life peerage as Baron Lawson of Blaby, of Newnham in the County of Northamptonshire.[18][31]

In 1996, Lawson appeared on the BBC satirical and topical quiz show Have I Got News For You[32] and, as a former Chancellor (the position of Chancellor being one of the Great Offices of State) he had held the highest political office of any guest. He occasionally appears as a guest on his daughter Nigella's cookery shows.

Lawson serves on the advisory board of the Conservative magazine Standpoint.[33]

In 2013 Lawson advocated Britain leaving the EU. He argued that 'economic gains [from leaving the EU] would substantially outweigh the costs'. [34] In the 2016 EU referendum, he supported Leave. [35]

Corporate roles

  • 2007: Chairman of Central Europe Trust Company Ltd (CET)[36]
  • 2007: Chairman of Oxford Investment Partners[37]

Expenses scandal

During the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal, it was reported that Lawson claimed £16,000 in overnight allowances by registering his farmhouse in Gascony as his main residence.[38]

Position on global warming

Lawson is involved with the climate change denial movement,[4] and believes that man-made global warming has little or no impact.

In 2004, along with six others, Lawson joined in the global warming controversy when he wrote a letter to The Times criticising the Kyoto Protocol and asserting that there were substantial scientific uncertainties surrounding climate change.[39] In 2005, the House of Lords Economics Affairs Select Committee, with Lawson as a member, undertook an inquiry into climate change. In their report, the Committee recommend the HM Treasury take a more active role in climate policy. The objectivity of the IPCC process is questioned, and changes are suggested in the UK's contribution to future international climate change negotiations.[40] The report cites a mismatch between the economic costs and benefits of climate policy, and also criticises the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets set in the Kyoto Protocol. In response to the report, Michael Grubb, Chief Economist of the Carbon Trust, wrote an article in Prospect magazine, defending the Kyoto Protocol and describing the committee's report as being "strikingly inconsistent".[41] Lawson responded to Grubb's article, describing it as an example of the "intellectual bankruptcy of the [...] climate change establishment". Lawson also said that Kyoto's approach was "wrong-headed" and called on the IPCC to be "shut down".[42]

At about the same time of the release of the House of Lords report, the UK Government launched the Stern Review, an inquiry undertaken by the HM Treasury and headed by Lord Stern of Brentford. According to the Stern Review, published in 2006, the potential costs of climate change far exceed the costs of a programme to stabilise the climate. Lawson's lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, published 1 November 2006[43] criticises the Stern Review and proposed what is described as a rational approach, advocating adaptation to changes in global climate, rather than attempting mitigation, i.e., reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2008, Lawson published a book expanding on his 2006 lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming.[44] He argues the case that, although global warming is happening and will have negative consequences, the impact of these changes will be relatively moderate rather than apocalyptic. He criticises those "alarmist" politicians and scientists who predict catastrophe unless urgent action is taken.

In July 2008, the Conservative magazine Standpoint published a transcript of a double interview with Lawson and Tory Policy Chief Oliver Letwin, in which Lawson described Letwin's views on global warming as "pie in the sky" and called on him and the Tory frontbench to "get real".[45]

On 23 November 2009, Lawson became chairman of a new think tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation,[18][46] a registered education charity,[47] involved in promoting climate change scepticism.[4]

In 2011, Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute said that the GWPF was "spreading errors" and "the 'facts'" Lawson "repeats are demonstrably inaccurate".[48] Ward also criticised Lawson for repeating in a 2010 BBC radio debate that Antarctic ice volumes were unchanged even after his error was highlighted by his opponent, Professor Kevin Anderson.[48] Ward said that Lawson provided no evidence to back his claim which is contrary to satellite measurements, and Lawson similarly incorrectly implied that the correlation between CO2 and sea levels was uncertain as sea levels were rising more slowly since 1950 than before it.[48]

The Charity Commission requires that statements by campaigning charities "must be factually accurate and have a legitimate evidence base". They reviewed the GWPF, which was subsequently split with its campaigning arm renamed the Global Warming Policy Forum without charitable status, while the charitable section retained the original title.[48] Lawson's son Dominic Lawson is also a climate change sceptic, taking a similar viewpoint as his father in his columns in the Independent on Sunday.[49][50]

In a BBC radio interview in August 2017, Lawson falsely claimed that "official figures" showed "average world temperature has slightly declined" over the preceding decade, and that experts in the IPCC found no increase in extreme weather events. In a follow-up programme on the BBC's presentation of these claims, Peter A. Stott of the UK Met Office said Lawson was wrong on both points.[51]


Lawson was a critic of David Cameron's coalition government economic policy, describing spending cuts consultation plans as a "PR ploy".[52] In November 2011 he called for the "orderly" dismantling of the euro.[53]

In the media

Lawson was interviewed about the rise of Thatcherism for the 2006 BBC TV documentary series Tory! Tory! Tory!.[54]

In 2010, he appeared on the Analysis programme[55] to discuss banking reform. Lawson said that the 2007–2012 global financial crisis was an unintended consequence of the 1986 Big Bang after investment banks merged with high street banks putting depositors' savings at risk.[55]

In a debate with other former cabinet ministers and prominent journalists, Lawson has argued that political life is more in need of ideas and direction than grand political visions.[56]

Personal and family life

Lord Lawson has been married twice, having children from both marriages.

  • Vanessa Salmon (married 1955; marriage dissolved 1980), whose family founded the Lyons Corner House chain, with the following issue:
  • Thérèse Maclear (married 1980; marriage dissolved 2012) with the following issue:
    • Tom (born 1976)
    • Emily (born 1981)

Lord Lawson is a member of the Garrick, Beefsteak and Pratt's Clubs.

Styles of address

  • 1932–1974: Mr Nigel Lawson
  • 1974–1981: Mr Nigel Lawson MP
  • 1981–1992: The Rt Hon Nigel Lawson MP
  • 1992: The Rt Hon Nigel Lawson
  • 1992–present: The Rt Hon The Lord Lawson of Blaby PC


  • An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming
  • Thatcherism in Practice: A Progress Report
  • The Retreat of the State
  • The View from No.11: Memoirs of a Tory Radical
  • The Nigel Lawson Diet Book
  • The Power Game: An Examination of Decision Making in Government
  • Conservatism Today: Four Personal Points of View By Robert Blake, Peregrine Worsthorne, David Howell and Nigel Lawson
  • State of the Market (Occasional Papers S.)


  1. "Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) Background".
  2. Carrington, Damian (2 September 2014). "Two secret funders of Nigel Lawson's climate sceptic organisation revealed". Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  3. Lawson, Nigel (28 September 2013). "Climate change: this is not science – it's mumbo jumbo". Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  4. Azhar Kazmi (19 November 2015). "Climate Denial Movement". In Frederick F. Wherry; Juliet B. Schor (eds.). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Economics and Society. SAGE Publications. p. 393. ISBN 978-1-5063-4617-5.
  5. Cowburn, Ashley (19 October 2017). "Theresa May urged to prepare for no-deal Brexit by former Conservative ministers as EU talks stall". The Independent.
  6. "Leading Brexiteer Lord Lawson applies for French residency". BBC News Online. BBC. 31 May 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2018.
  7. "The Glasgow Herald - Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  8. The View from No.11, (London 1992), by Nigel Lawson, page 3
  9. "No. 33063". The London Gazette. 3 July 1925. p. 4501.
  10. Barkham, Patrick (9 December 2010). "The name-change game". The Guardian.
  11. Nick Clegg: the third man, The Times, 18 April 2010
  12. Nigel Lawson: Thatcher's Chancellor takes on the planet alone The Daily Telegraph, 21 November 2009
  13. Nigel Lawson, The View From No. 11. Memoirs of a Tory Radical (Bantam, 1992), p. 4
  14. Dennis Kavanagh. "Nigel Lawson". Political Biography.
  15. Popham, Peter (17 February 1997). "Media families; 1. The Lawsons". The Independent. London. Retrieved 20 May 2010.
  16. "Budgeting in good times and bad". Oxford Today. University of Oxford. 29 September 2009. Archived from the original on 25 January 2011.
  17. "Gay Class Boats". British Military Powerboat Team. Retrieved 11 August 2017.
  18. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 26 March 2012. Retrieved 6 February 2016.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. 1983: Macgregor named as coal boss BBC News, 28 March 1983
  20. Berlinski, Claire. There is No Alternative: Why Margaret Thatcher Matters. New York: Basic Books, 2008, p. 115
  21. Obstfeld, Maurice (2012). "Does the Current Account Still Matter?". American Economic Review. 102 (3): 14. CiteSeerX
  22. "BBC - Radio 4 Analysis - Glass-Steagall: A Price Worth Paying?". Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  23. 20 years ago the dole queue hit 3 million – today it is the workforce that's a record The Guardian, 16 August 2006
  24. Lawson boom, Brown boom, they all bust in the end The Times, 27 October 2008
  25. Thatcher pays tribute to Walters, BBC News, 5 January 2009
  26. Travis, Alan (27 October 1989). "Lawson sparks reshuffle". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  27. 1989: Thatcher beats off leadership rival, BBC News, 5 January 1989
  28. John Major Archived 11 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine Prime Minister's Office
  29. The long and the short of stewardship at No11 The Times, 6 June 2004
  30. Fighting inflation with the BBC, BBC News, 8 June 1998
  31. "No. 52982". The London Gazette. 6 July 1992. p. 11339.
  32. Politicians Archived 27 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine HIGNFY
  33. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 October 2010. Retrieved 8 December 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  34. Ex-chancellor Lord Lawson calls for UK to exit EU,, 7 May 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  35. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  36. "CET's Practice Leaders". CET. Archived from the original on 24 December 2008. Retrieved 3 October 2008.
  37. "The Board". Oxford Investment Partners. Retrieved 3 October 2008.
  38. Katriona MacGregor and Rosa Prince (17 December 2008). "Lords' expenses claims top £18 million". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 13 October 2017.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  39. Ebell, M. (4 October 2004). ""Forced" Russian Decision Puts Kyoto Protocol on Verge of Ratification". Cooler Heads, Vol VIII, No 20. Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
  40. House of Lords, Select Committee on Economic Affairs (2005). "The Economics of Climate Change" (PDF). Retrieved 14 March 2007.
  41. Michael Grubb (1 September 2005). "Stick to the Target" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 September 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2008.
  42. Nigel Lawson (1 November 2005). "Against Kyoto". Retrieved 20 November 2007.
  43. "Lecture on the Economics and Politics of Climate Change – An Appeal to Reason". Centre for Policy Studies. 1 November 2006. Archived from the original on 14 December 2006. Retrieved 14 March 2007.
  44. Lawson, Nigel (6 April 2008). "Lord Lawson claims climate change hysteria heralds a 'new age of unreason'". The Sunday Telegraph. London. Retrieved 19 April 2008.
  45. "The Politics of Climate Change". Standpoint. 20 July 2008. Retrieved 18 October 2009.
  46. Nigel Lawson (23 November 2009). "Copenhagen will fail – and quite right too". The Times. London. Retrieved 26 February 2010.
  47. George Monbiot (18 February 2013). "The educational charities that do PR for the rightwing ultra-rich". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
  48. Bob Ward (21 October 2011). "Lord Lawson's Global Warming Policy Foundation is spreading errors". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
  49. Lawson, Dominic (22 September 2006). "The debate on climate change is far too important to be shut down by the scientists". The Independent on Sunday. London. Retrieved 20 April 2008.
  50. Lawson, Dominic (23 November 2007). "Dominic Lawson: Fight climate change? Or stay competitive? I'm afraid these two aims are incompatible". The Independent on Sunday. London. Retrieved 20 April 2008.
  51. McGrath, Matt (11 August 2017). "Anger over 'untrue' climate claims". BBC News. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  52. Spending cuts consultation is a PR ploy, says Nigel Lawson, The Guardian, 8 June 2010
  53. Henke, David (24 November 2011). "Europe 'must dismantle euro in orderly way,' says Lawson". Exaro. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
  54. Tory, Tory, Tory and the television truth, New Statesman, 13 November 2006
  55. "A price worth paying?". Analysis. 1 February 2010. 0–13 minutes in. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 12 August 2012.
  56. "The End of Ideals? Do We Need Grand Political Visions?". Retrieved 13 October 2017.

Further reading

  • Dell, Edmund. The Chancellors: A History of the Chancellors of the Exchequer, 1945–90 (HarperCollins, 1997) pp. 490–540, covers his term as Chancellor.
Media offices
Preceded by
Iain Macleod
Editor of The Spectator
Succeeded by
George Gale
Parliament of the United Kingdom
New constituency Member of Parliament for Blaby
Succeeded by
Andrew Robathan
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Sheldon
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Nicholas Ridley
Preceded by
David Howell
Secretary of State for Energy
Succeeded by
Peter Walker
Preceded by
Geoffrey Howe
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
John Major
Second Lord of the Treasury
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Lord Owen
Baron Lawson of Blaby
Followed by
The Lord Tebbit
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