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The Lord Taverne
Official portrait of Lord Taverne crop 2.jpg
Official portrait, 2018
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Harold Lever
Succeeded by Patrick Jenkin
Minister of State for the Treasury
In office
6 April 1968 – 13 October 1969
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by Office established
Succeeded by Bill Rodgers
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
In office
6 April 1966 – 6 April 1968
Prime Minister Harold Wilson
Preceded by George Thomas
Succeeded by Elystan Morgan
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
5 February 1996
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Lincoln
In office
8 March 1962 – 20 September 1974
Preceded by Geoffrey de Freitas
Succeeded by Margaret Jackson
Personal details
Born (1928-10-18) 18 October 1928 (age 95)
Political party Labour (until 1972)
Democratic Labour (1972–80)
SDP (1981–88)
Liberal Democrats (since 1988)
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford

Dick Taverne, Baron Taverne, KC (born 18 October 1928) is a British politician and life peer who served as Member of Parliament (MP) for Lincoln from 1962 to 1974. A member of the Liberal Democrats, he was a Labour MP until his deselection in 1972, following which he resigned his seat and won the subsequent by-election in 1973 as a Democratic Labour candidate.

Taverne's 1973 victory in Lincoln was short-lived; despite retaining his seat at the February 1974 general election, Labour regained the seat at the October 1974 general election, by the future cabinet minister Margaret Beckett. However, his success opened the possibility of a realignment on the left of British politics, which took shape in 1981 as the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which Taverne joined. He later joined the Liberal Democrats when the SDP merged with the Liberal Party. He has sat as a Liberal Democrat life peer since 1996.


Educated at Charterhouse School, and then Balliol College, Oxford, he graduated in Philosophy and Ancient History, qualified as a barrister in 1954 and became a Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1965.

Taverne unsuccessfully contested Putney as the Labour Party candidate at the 1959 general election, and was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lincoln at a by-election in March 1962. Under Harold Wilson's premiership in the 1960s, he served as a Home Office Minister from 1966 to 1968, Minister of State at the Treasury from 1968 to 1969 and then as Financial Secretary to the Treasury from 1969 to 1970. In 1970, he helped to launch the Institute for Fiscal Studies, now an influential independent think tank and was the first Director, later chairman.

In 1972, Taverne was deselected by the Lincoln Constituency Labour Party, who disagreed with his pro-European Economic Community views. He then resigned from the Labour Party and from Parliament, and formed the Lincoln Democratic Labour Association. He was re-elected as an Independent Democratic Labour candidate at a by-election in March 1973, and held the seat at the February 1974 general election.

Taverne lost his seat in Parliament at the October 1974 general election. but he continued to remain active with the Democratic Labour Association until it folded after the 1979 general election. He was a leading social democratic thinker, publishing The Future of the Left: Lincoln and After in 1974.

When the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was formed in the early 1980s, he joined them, serving on their national committee from 1981 until 1987. He stood as an SDP candidate in the 1982 Peckham by-election, coming second with 32% of the vote, and in the 1983 general election, he stood in Dulwich, coming third with 22%. When the SDP merged with the Liberal Party he joined the new Liberal Democrats, serving on its Federal Policy Committee from 1989 until 1990. On 5 February 1996 he was created a life peer as Baron Taverne, of Pimlico in the City of Westminster, and sits in the House of Lords as a Liberal Democrat. In May 2006 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Liberal Democrats in local elections to Westminster City Council in the Marylebone High Street ward.

Taverne was elected President of the Research Defence Society in 2004. He was a member of the House of Lords Committee on the Use of Animals in Scientific Procedures, and is currently a member of the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords. He is the author of The March of Unreason, published by Oxford University Press in March 2005.

Personal life and other activity

In 1955, he married Janice Hennessey, a scientist. He became interested in science and public policy, and in 2002 founded Sense about Science, a charity with the objective of advancing public understanding of science and the evidence-based approach to scientific issues.

He is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of Humanists UK, as well as a vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group. He is a former member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group. He won the Science Writers' Award as Parliamentary Science Communicator of the Year 2005. He is a listed member of Republic, the campaign for abolishing the monarchy.

On 15 September 2010, Taverne, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published in The Guardian, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK.

Taverne was interviewed in 2012 as part of The History of Parliament's oral history project.

In 2014 Taverne published his memoir, Against the Tide.

See also

  • List of UK minor party and independent MPs elected
  • Lincoln Democratic Labour Association
  • Candidate deselection (Labour Party)
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