R. A. (‘Rab’) Butler

(1902—1982) politician

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(b. 9 Dec. 1902, d. 8 Mar. 1982).

British Chancellor of the Exchequer 1951–5 Born in Attock (Punjab, India) and educated at Cambridge, he was elected to parliament in 1929 as a Conservative. In 1932, he became Under‐Secretary of State for India, and after a period at the Ministry of Labour, he became an Under‐Secretary at the Foreign Office in 1938. Despite his support for appeasement and the Munich Agreement, Butler remained in government under Churchill, who promoted him to become President of the Board of Education in 1941. He was then responsible for the 1944 Education Act, which built the framework for postwar education in England, through the introduction of free secondary schooling open to all who passed the ‘11‐plus’ examinations. In opposition (1945–51), as chairman of the Conservative Research Department he was influential in persuading the Conservative Party to accept the principles of the welfare state introduced by Beveridge and Attlee's government.

During the subsequent years of Conservative government, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer (1951–5), Home Secretary (1957–62), and Foreign Secretary (1963–4). In these posts, he was associated with dissolving the Central African Federation, persuading the Treasury to build more prisons, presiding over periods of increased living standards, and reluctantly restricting immigration from the Commonwealth (immigration legislation (UK). Despite his prominence and seniority within the party, he lacked political killer instinct and failed three times to gain the Conservative leadership, losing it to Eden (1955), Macmillan (1957), and Douglas‐Home (1963). He became Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1964, but continued sporadic political activity in the House of Lords after 1965.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Politics.

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