David Patrick Maxwell-Fyfe

(b. 1900)

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(b. Edinburgh, 29 May 1900; d. Withyham, Sussex, 27 Jan. 1967)

British; Home Secretary 1951–4, Lord Chancellor 1954–62; Kt. 1942, Viscount Kilmuir 1954, Earl 1962 Educated at George Watson's College and Balliol College, Oxford, Maxwell-Fyfe was a distinguished barrister before being elected to parliament as Conservative MP for the West Derby division of Liverpool in 1935. He was appointed Solicitor-General in 1942 and Attorney-General in 1945, serving subsequently as Deputy Chief Prosecutor at the Nuremberg war trials (1945–6). In Opposition, he chaired a party committee that produced a report—the Maxwell-Fyfe Report—that opened up candidatures to those without personal fortunes. Churchill appointed him to the Cabinet in 1951 as Home Secretary and Minister for Welsh Affairs and three years later made him Lord Chancellor. He held the post for eight years, before becoming one of the principal victims of Macmillan's ‘Night of the Long Knives’ in 1962, the speed of his removal from office taking him by surprise. He subsequently held various business appointments before his death in 1967.

Though he contributed to a significant reform of the Conservative Party, he was neither a reforming Home Secretary nor Lord Chancellor, adopting a highly traditionalist stance on most issues. Even though it was during his tenure of the Home Office that the Wolfenden Committee to consider prostitution and homosexual offences was established, he reputedly refused to sit at the Cabinet table if homosexual law reform was discussed. He had an unhappy marriage—his wife lived openly with another peer—and he deeply resented the manner of his dismissal from office. Macmillan later described him as ‘the stupidest Lord Chancellor ever… hopeless in Cabinet—that's why I got rid of him’.

Subjects: Politics.

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