The Lord Prior
Prior in 2014
|Secretary of State for Northern Ireland|
14 September 1981 – 27 September 1984
|Prime Minister||Margaret Thatcher|
|Preceded by||Humphrey Atkins|
|Succeeded by||Douglas Hurd|
|Secretary of State for Employment|
4 May 1979 – 14 September 1981
|Prime Minister||Margaret Thatcher|
|Preceded by||Albert Booth|
|Succeeded by||Norman Tebbit|
|Leader of the House of Commons|
Lord President of the Council
5 November 1972 – 4 March 1974
|Prime Minister||Edward Heath|
|Preceded by||Robert Carr|
|Succeeded by||Edward Short|
|Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food|
20 June 1970 – 5 November 1972
|Prime Minister||Edward Heath|
|Preceded by||Cledwyn Hughes|
|Succeeded by||Joseph Godber|
|Member of Parliament|
8 October 1959 – 11 June 1987
|Preceded by||Edward Evans|
|Succeeded by||David Porter|
James Michael Leathes Prior
11 October 1927
Norwich, Norfolk, England, United Kingdom
|Died||12 December 2016 (aged 89)|
|Alma mater||Pembroke College, Cambridge|
James Michael Leathes Prior, Baron Prior, PC (11 October 1927 – 12 December 2016), usually known as Jim Prior, was a British Conservative politician. A member of parliament from 1959 to 1987, he represented the Suffolk constituency of Lowestoft until 1983 and then the renamed constituency of Waveney from 1983 to 1987, when he stood down from the House of Commons and was made a life peer. He served in two Conservative Cabinets, and outside parliament was Chairman of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce from 1996 to 2004.
Under Edward Heath, Prior was Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food from 1970 to 1972, then Leader of the House of Commons until Heath lost the election of 1974. His party returned to office under Margaret Thatcher in 1979, and Prior was Secretary of State for Employment from 1979 to 1981, disagreeing with some of her views on trade unions and her monetarist economic policies generally. This made him a leader of the so-called "wet" faction in the Conservative ranks. In 1981 he was moved to the less pivotal role of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, standing down in 1984 and never returning to government.
Life and career
Prior was educated at Charterhouse School, before going on to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he earned a first class honours degree in Land economy. He performed his two-year National Service as an officer in the Royal Norfolk Regiment of the British Army, serving in Germany and India.
He was first elected to Parliament in 1959, and was Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food from 1970–1972, then Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council until February 1974. He was one of several unsuccessful candidates in the Conservative Party's 1975 leadership election, entering at the second round and gaining 19 votes to Margaret Thatcher's 146.
Under Margaret Thatcher he was Secretary of State for Employment from May 1979 to 14 September 1981. Thatcher said of their relationship, "we agreed that trade unions had acquired far too many powers and privileges. We also agreed that these must be dealt with one step at a time. But when it came down to specific measures, there was deep disagreement about how fast and how far to move."
Prior is believed to have annoyed Thatcher by being too friendly with trade union leaders, with Thatcher writing "He [Prior] had forged good relations with a number of trade union leaders whose practical value he perhaps overestimated." And during his period in the Cabinet, he is believed to have angered the right wing of his party and the Prime Minister for not pressing far enough with anti-trade union legislation. In September 1981, Prior became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and was in this office until September 1984. This transfer was widely seen as a move by Thatcher to isolate Prior, who disagreed with her on a number of economic issues. The post of Secretary of State for Northern Ireland was seen as a dumping ground to marginalise ministers. However, when Prior resigned, Thatcher revealed that she was going to offer him another Cabinet post during the reshuffle, which would have very likely been a non-economic one.
In 1986, he collaborated with John Cassels and Pauline Perry to create the Council for Industry and Higher Education (CIHE), which would become the National Centre for Universities and Business in 2013.
He was chairman and later vice-president of the Rural Housing Trust.
Personal life and death
In January 1954 Prior married Jane Lywood. They had four children. Prior's oldest son David Prior held the seat of North Norfolk between 1997–2001 and was appointed Parliamentary-Under Secretary of State for NHS Productivity, resulting in his elevation to the peerage in his own right as Baron Prior of Brampton, in May 2015.
After Prior's death MP Keith Simpson, said of him: "In many ways he was a larger than life figure. He had a ruddy face, he played up to being the farmer. People underestimated him because he didn’t claim to be a Keith Joseph or Enoch Powell parading their intellectualism. But he was somebody who was well-loved by the grassroots and was a decent man who was in politics out of a sense of public service."
- Hugo Young, One of Us (1989), pp 193–199
- Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (HarperCollins, 1993), p. 28.
- Kehoe, Emmanuel (2 July 2006). "Charity queens and their subjects". The Sunday Business Post. Archived from the original on 1 October 2011. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
- Parkhouse, Geoffrey (8 September 1984). "Thatcher in sombre mood over pit talks". The Glasgow Herald. p. 1. Retrieved 20 November 2010.
- "No. 51097". The London Gazette. 21 October 1987. p. 12971.
- "Oral history: PRIOR, James (b.1927)". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
- "Lord James Prior interviewed by Mike Greenwood". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
- "Former Conservative minister Lord Prior dies". bbc.co.uk. 12 December 2016. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
- MacDonald, Henry (12 December 2016). "Jim Prior, former Conservative cabinet minister, dies aged 89". theguardian.com. Retrieved 12 December 2016.
- Dickson, Annabelle (12 December 2016). "Former Suffolk MP and member of Margaret Thatcher's cabinet Lord (Jim) Prior has died". East Anglian Daily Times.
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by James Prior
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament for Lowestoft
|New constituency|| Member of Parliament for Waveney
| Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
| Leader of the House of Commons
| Lord President of the Council|
| Secretary of State for Employment
| Secretary of State for Northern Ireland