HIGGINS, Terence (b.1928).



15 October 1964 - 1 May 1997


Born in Dulwich on 18 January 1928, Terrence Higgins was educated locally. He served in the RAF between 1946-48 before pursuing a career in running, becoming a Commonwealth silver medallist and competing in the 1952 Summer Olympics. He then attended Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge when he became President of the Cambridge Union in 1958. He married Rosalyn Higgins and they have two children. She was the first female judge elected to the International Court of Justice, becoming President in 2006. She was made a Dame in 1995.

Terrence Higgins was elected Conservative MP for Worthing in 1964 and held the seat until retirement in 1977. He became an opposition spokesman for Treasury and Economic Affairs and in government held junior ministerial posts at the Treasury between 1970 and 1974. He continued these roles in opposition before returning to the backbenches in 1976, serving on the executive of the 1922 Committee between 1980 and 1997. After stepping down from the Commons he was created a life peer as Baron Higgins of Worthing.

Click here to listen to the full interview with Terence Higgins in the British Library.

Transcript of clip

The crucial issue was Rhodesia. I was very much against Ian Smith, whereas my constituents were almost 100% in favour of Ian Smith. The other crucial issue was capital punishment, that came up. I was persuaded by the speech of the former Home Secretary [Henry Brooke] and in due course voted against capital punishment. I think my constituents thought I wasn’t really concentrating at the time, or didn’t listen to the debate! […] The combination of capital punishment and Rhodesia caused some problems in the constituency. My Chairman…did not share my views on either subject, but was extremely loyal, I must say. The issue became one of great national importance, on Rhodesia. A meeting was held by the pro-Smith crowd, who were very strong along the south coast, in the Assembly Hall in Worthing. Public meetings not being like public meetings now, something like 1400 people turned up. There was a huge row. At the end the chairman, who claimed to be a judge of the International Court, tried to pass a motion in favour of Ian Smith. There had been no motion on the floor ahead of that, one hadn’t been debated. I refused to allow that, I grabbed the microphone, he grabbed the microphone, it was all frightfully spectacular at the time! So anyway the motion was not put or carried, but it was slightly disrupted. As I say my Chairman fortunately was very supportive, and so was the association on the whole, despite the fact that they certainly tended to disagree with my views.

Summary of interview

Track 1 [00:00:13] [27 April 2012] Terence Higgins, Lord Higgins’ [LH] parents lived in Dulwich. Father served in First World War and ship broker for William Hill and Company. Recounts father’s service in the trenches and survival. Father re-joined the Baltic Exchange until retirement. Father served as Air Raid Warden during the Second World War and largely responsible for wartime grain shipments to the UK. Retired after the War and family moved with LH’s mother to near Brighton. [00:02:00] LH oldest son, born 28 January 1928. One brother and one sister. Attended Dulwich Prep School. Evacuated twice, once to Cornwall and then with Alleyn’s School to Rossall, Lancashire. Completed O-Levels and A-Levels. [00:03:00] Left school and entered the shipping industry. Recounts involvement with Board of Dulwich College, Alleyn’s School and James Allen’s Girls’ School and with charity for music tuition. [00:04:11] Mentions friend who became principal ballet conductor at the Royal Opera House and then in Sydney, Australia. Talks about becoming school prefect. [00:05:16] Not an academic student. Obtained A-Levels in Economics, Geography and History. Joined RAF immediately after school to cover for demobbed airmen. [00:06:18] Became instrument repairer and helped repair cypher machines. Was unaware of Bletchley Park at the time. Churchill then decreed the cypher machines should be destroyed. [00:07:19] Most of time in RAF spent running. Was RAF 440-yard champion and European Combined Services champion for the 100-metres. Was selected for the 1948 Olympic Games, but did not then compete in the relay. Stationed at Uxbridge during National Service. [00:08:28] Competed in the Empire Games in Auckland in 1950. Remained in New Zealand after the Games with shipping company. [00:09:39] Competed in the Public Schools London Athletics Club Championships whilst at school. Talks about huge differences with current, professional athletics. [00:11:42] Mentions similarity between athletics and political speech-making. Describes history of politicians who had competed in Olympic teams, including Menzies (Ming) Campbell. [00:13:00] Worked at the shipping company for seven years after demobilisation. Describes combination of working and athletics training. [00:14:05] Describes decision to go to university. Applied to Oxford and Cambridge. Mentions interview at Brasenose College. Accepted for Geography at Oxford and Economics at Cambridge. Describes weekend spent deciding between the two. Mentions fortunate not to have read PPE. [00:16:20] Chose to go to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Mentions Professor Stanley Dennison. Describes momentous  choice between Oxford and Cambridge. [00:17:35] Describes prioritising degree and Cambridge Union over athletics. Became Union President in final year. [00:18:16] Talks about athletics training at Cambridge. Mentions tutors in first year were Stanley Dennison and Peter Bower. In second year tutored by Sir Dennis Robertson. [00:20:00] Describes split between right and left-wing academics at Cambridge at the time. Talks about inviting C. P. Snow to Cambridge. [00:21:32] Got a 2:1. Talks about meeting wife. Describes meeting Professor William Fellner. [00:23:05] Invited by Fellner to teach at Yale. Explains worked in New York for shipping company before going to Yale. [00:24:19] Mentions wife worked as intern at the UN. Mentions Fulbright travel fellowship. [00:25:46] Returned to UK and worked again at shipping company. Describes advice to company to buy second-hand ships. [00:26:45] Moved to work for Unilever for four years. Describes office. Unilever economics department headed by Ronald Brecht and then Maurice Zinkin. [00:27:35] Unilever allowed employees to pursue politics. [00:28:29] Shared office with Merrett and Sykes. Helped to write Capital Budgeting and Company Finance. [00:29:07] Describes decision to get onto candidates list. Talks about friendship with Sir Paul Bryan. [00:29:35] Talks about change in Conservative Party’s attitude towards candidates. [00:30:40] Mentions Enoch Powell’s record of failed selection interviews. Recounts fighting selections for 1964 general election against David Mitchell, Geoffrey Howe and Patrick Jenkin. [00:31:35] Describes Bebington selection. [00:32:24] Short list for Bebington seat of LH, Paul Davis and Geoffrey Howe. Howe selected. [00:33:44] Mentions subsequent Howe defeat in Bebington. [00:33:35] Mentions majority in Worthing was 32,500. [00:34:12] Mentions selection in Wanstead and Woodford with Patrick Jenkin. Describes selection questioning on the Profumo affair and retail price maintenance. [00:35:52] Adopted as candidate for Worthing. Served as MP for Worthing from 1964 to 1997. Mentions changes to journey time from London to Worthing. [00:36:48] Mentions was never pressed to live in constituency. [00:37:20] Explains positions on Rhodesia and capital punishment. [00:40:01] Mentions views on Rhodesia and capital punishment caused problems in constituency. Chairman, Dennis Fry, was very loyal. [00:40:35] Describes meeting in Worthing of pro-Ian Smith group. Julian Amery and John Biggs-Davison invited to speak. [00:42:35] Association very supportive. Right-wing organisation did attempt to de-select LH. [00:44:20] Called public meeting. Motion against LH defeated. [00:45:25] Recounts seeing ringleaders again at party conference with Anthony Barber. [00:45:35] Describes 1971 party conference debate on Rhodesia and speech on VAT.  [00:47:02] Mentions that he was convinced he was going to lose 1964 general election. [00:47:45] Tells story of election motorcade running into that of Labour opponent, Anthony Lester. [00:48:37] Describes campaign to introduce personal right of petition to the European Court of Human Rights. Mentions Harold Wilson did not consult Cabinet on the issue. [00:50:14] Says that he was in Worthing between 1964 and 1997. [00:51:09] Describes demography of Worthing. Talks about constituency surgeries. [00:51:49] Describes changing role of a Member of Parliament. [00:52:08] Describes Commons accommodation in 1964. [00:52:58] Describes secretarial arrangements and attitude to constituency correspondence. [00:54:16] Mentions Barbara Wallace who became PPC in Feltham. [00:54:54] Barbara Wallace bought the first electric typewriter in the House of Commons. [00:56:10] Talks about rise in number of Treasury ministers. [00:57:10] Mentions Finance Bill and Prices and Incomes Bill. [00:58:00] Explains Commons sitting hours. [00:59:17] Tells story about impact on committee of change of government. [01:00:56] Describes Jim Callaghan’s last minute announcement of Selective Employment Tax in Budget speech. [01:02:22] Talks about arriving at the Commons for the first time. [01:03:13] Describes view of Alec Douglas-Home. [01:04:12] Talks about Iain Mcleod’s view of Labour government and shock for Conservatives of opposition. [01:04:51] Describes maiden speech and campaign for pension rights for people aged over eighty. Mentions Labour filibuster. [01:07:09] Talks about split in Conservative Party on Rhodesia and reaction of Willie Whitelaw. [01:08:25] Talks about lack of Members’ facilities. Mentions secretary’s desk in Old Palace Yard. [01:10:03] Talks about getting used to Commons procedure. [01:10:21] Describes travel to Worthing and missing connection on first visit.

Lord Higgins (16 and 18 July 2013)
Part 2, Track 1 [00:08:56] Talks about home life. Commute to Parliament from Blackheath. 1 son, 1 daughter. Talks about wife's career at Chatham House, Professor at the University of Kent and then at the LSE and then at the UN on the Committee of Human Rights. [00:02:24] Wife received highest vote ever in election to the International Court of Justice. [00:02:54] Talks about constituency responsibilities. Serves as the MP for Worthing until 1997 when constituency divided and now served by Sir Peter Bottomley and Tim Loughton. [00:03:45] Explains about constituency functions. [00:04:12] Talks about wife's role in the constituency before and after the arrival of their children. [00:04:28] Describes constituency surgeries which are not replicated anywhere else in the world. [00:05:26] Gives examples of constituency casework. Describes making representations for a transsexual constituent and assisting with an immigration case. [00:07:41] Talks about the balance between constituency and other responsibilities as a Member of Parliament. [00:08:35] Talks about Britain's entry into and exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism [ERM].
Part 2 Track 2 [00:09:22] Talks about Chairmanship of the Liaison Committee and concern to develop the committee system. [00:00:42] Mentions membership of the Procedure Committee with Enoch Powell. [00:01:09] Talks about inquiries of the Treasury Select Committee. [00:01:47] Talks about the Exchange Rate Mechanism [ERM]. [00:02:17] Mentions support for entry into the ERM. [00:02:50] Recalls telephone call from John Major asking for LH's support for Britain's entry. [00:03:45] Mentions benefits to Britain once it joined the ERM. [00:04:55] Talks about the government's attempts to avert leaving the ERM. [00:06:18] Describes rushing from TV studio to TV studio explaining government's action. [00:08:04] Explains that looking back Britain was right to join and to leave the ERM.
Part 2 Track 3 [00:12:20] Talks about move to the backbenches and membership of the 1922 Committee. Describes involvement in backbench Conservative affairs from 1980 until 1997. [00:01:17] Describes the Executive of the 1922 Committee and meetings with Margaret Thatcher. [00:02:08] Talks about joining the Treasury Select Committee in 1983. [00:02:35] Elected Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee. [00:02:46] Became Chairman of the Liaison Committee. [00:03:11] Describes decision to stand as Chairman against the wishes of Margaret Thatcher who favoured Humphrey Atkins. Explains nature of the Liaison Committee. [00[00:04:05] Talks about the process for the Liaison Committee election, which favoured LH. [00:04:35] Talks about responsibilities as Liaison Committee Chairman, including for determining overseas travel of select committees. [00:06:15] Talks about Liaison Committee Chairman role in resolving problems for other Committee Chairmen. Gives example of Frank Field and decision not to compel the Maxwell brothers to give evidence before the Social Security Select Committee. Explains rationale for the decision and effect on subsequent criminal trial. [00:08:42] Talks about the flourishing of the select committee system. [00:09:13] Describes Chairmanship of the Treasury Select Committee. [00:10:03] Talks about record as Chancellor of Nigel Lawson and Geoffrey Howe. Tells story of Geoffrey Howe giving evidence before the Treasury Select Committee in white tie before a state dinner.
Part 2, Track 4 [00:08:06] Talks about Chairmanship of the Liaison Committee. [00:00:30] Talks about development of the select committee system during his time as a key part of the House of Commons. [00:00:46] Mentions that European legislation not covered by the select committee system. [00:01:29] Mentions takes pride in having presided over the development of the select committee system. [00:01:39] Talks about increased publicity for select committees since LH left the Commons. [00:01:56] Explains that select committee scrutiny more robust than that made on the floor of the House. [00:03:00] Talks about legislative scrutiny in the House of Commons after 1997 and the impact on the business of the House of Lords. [00:05:00] Talks about number of Lords amendments accepted by the House of Commons. [00:05:38] Talks about changes in MPs' resources since 1964, including free postage and telephone calls. [00:06:06] Mentions paucity of constituency correspondence. [00:06:11] Talks about secretary Barbara Wallace [BW] who introduced first electric typewriter to the House of Commons. BW later became Principal Secretary to John Major. [00:07:22] Talks about MPs' pay and how salary less than that LH received from Unilever. [00:07:37] Talks about improved situation with MPs' expenses system.

Part 2, Track 5 [00:39:55] LH elected at the 1964 general election. Talks about campaign and uncertainty that would win. Mentions that his Labour opponent was Anthony Lester. LH won with a majority of 32,500. [00:00:56] Mentions that Anthony Lester subsequently became a Liberal and is a good friend of LH and of LH's wife. Now Lord Lester of Herne Hill. [00:01:29] LH went straight to Front Bench after the election as Opposition Spokesman on Treasury Affairs. [00:01:54] Mentions regularity of all-night Commons sittings. Describes arrangement of business, starting with Questions at 2:30pm and then Standing Committees. [00:02:22] Mentions involvement with first Prices and Incomes Bill and with the first Finance Bill not to be considered solely on the floor of the House. [00:02:36] Led by Keith Joseph on the Prices and Incomes Bill and by Ian Macleod on the Finance Bill. Mentions that doing both Bills meant starting at 2:30pm and continuing through the night until the next morning. Describes having "no top of one's head" by the time of the parliamentary recess. [00:03:21] Talks about gruelling Commons schedule and unlikelihood of its repetition. [00:03:49] Asked about effect on family life. Married at time, but no children. [00:04:04] Describes meeting wife on Upper Committee Corridor and discussion of who would relieve the babysitter. Admits would have been easier if LH and wife not in similar fields. [00:05:03] Mentions working with Patrick Jenkin. Mentions interest in indirect taxation, including purchase tax and selective employment tax. [00:05:30] Mentions numerous debates on those taxes. work to develop the Value Added Tax. Mentions debates on decimalisation. [00:05:44] LH and Patrick Jenkin in favour of a "ten bob unit". Jim Callaghan preferred introduction of the pound and system of decimalisation. [00:06:12] Describes arguments in favour of decimalisation. [00:06:38] Talks about Conservatives' move into government in 1970. LH becomes Minister of State at the Treasury under Ian Macleod as Chancellor of the Exchequer and Patrick Jenkin as Financial Secretary. [00:07:03] Patrick Jenkin responsible for direct taxation (especially Corporation Tax) and LH for indirect taxation (especially VAT). [00:07:23] Talks about work on the implementation of decimalisation. Explains Conservative rationale for pursuing the previous Labour government's plans for a pound system. [00:08:35] Talks about work with officials preparing for Decimal Day. [00:08:45] Describes retention of some of the older coins and LH's campaign to "Save the Sixpence". [00:09:32] Mentions that decimalisation is unusual as a Treasury initiative which has lasted. [00:10:10] Talks about responsibility for introduction of Value Added Tax. Describes speech on VAT at Conservative Party conference. [00:11:28] Describes preparation for the introduction of Value Added Tax. [00:11:47] Mentions help in work on VAT of the Permanent Secretary at Customs and Excise, Sir Ronald Radford. [00:12:02] Describes endless interviews on VAT exemptions and on zero-rating. Describes difference between the two. [00:12:44] Recalls interviews with the London art market and with the London diamond market. Mentions Permanent Secretary's advice on how to deal with the two. [00:13:34] Discusses the agreement reached with the London art market and with the London diamond market and the abolition of the purchase tax. [00:14:01] Notes the longevity of the structure of the VAT. [00:14:24] Recalls that introduction of VAT was revenue-neutral. [00:14:37] Discusses wrongful suggestion that VAT introduced ahead of Britain's entry into Europe. [00:15:03] Discusses importance of zero-rating. [00:16:03] Describes introduction of draft VAT bill into the House and debates on which items to zero-rate. [00:16:24] Describes debate on amendment to zero-rate children's shoes and concession made as result of MP absence from the House. [00:18:01] Mentions advantage of VAT is is difficult to avoid. [00:19:10] Describes being summoned back to the Treasury by the Principal Private Secretary when Ian Macleod found dead. [00:20:13] Mentions Ian Macleod had been unwell and LH's view that IM had been released from hospital too soon. [00:20:24] Describes arrival of undertakers and viewing of IM's body. [00:21:24] Mentions immense loss of IM to the Treasury and to the Conservative government. [00:22:33] Describes appointment of Anthony Barber [AB] as IM's successor as Chancellor of the Exchequer. [00:22:59] Mentions AB's strength as a delegator. [00:23:16] Talks about history's mistaken judgement on AB's record as Chancellor of the Exchequer as a "dash for growth". [00:24:26] Mentions problems with Treasury figures on money supply. [00:24:44] Talks about aims for the economy. [00:25:54] Mentions speeches by Ted Heath on rises in commodity prices and inflationary pressures, and another one which implied a "dash for growth" and which was not cleared by the Treasury. [00:27:54] Mentions miners' inflationary wage demands and Ted Heath's tough stance. [00:28:36] Talks about Ted Heath's decision to call a general election on a platform of "who governs Britain?" [00:29:05] Mentions meeting of the 1922 Committee in which clear Conservative Party also determined to go to the country. [00:30:04] Asked about experience of moving from government to opposition after the 1974 general election. [00:30:24] Talks about 1974 election campaign and electorate's negative attitude to the Heath government. [00:30:38] Talks about experience of the front bench in opposition. [00:32:13] Talks about dealings with Margaret Thatcher during the 1971 public spending round and agreement on cuts to the Education department, including retention of the Open University. [00:35:13] Talks about appointment by Margret Thatcher as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade. [00:36:00] Talks about trips made with the Secretary of State for Trade, including the inaugural British Airways flight to Pakistan and the inaugural flight of Concorde. [00:36:24] Talks about involvement with Concorde as Minister of State at the Treasury and then as Financial Secretary to the Treasury. [00:36:51] Mentions Julian Amery's involvement with the House of Commons car park and with Concorde. Talks about the details of the Concorde agreement with the French. [00:37:42] Describes inaugural Concorde flight to Bahrain. [00:38:50] Talks about discussions with Michael Heseltine on the overspend on Concorde. [00:39:05] Talks about replacement in role as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade by Teddy Taylor because Margaret Thatcher needed an anti-European on the front bench.
Part 2, Track 6 [00:05:54] Talks about membership and subsequent chairmanship of the Treasury Select Committee. [00:00:30] Talks about overseeing the work of Geoffrey Howe, Nigel Lawson, Norman Lamont and Ken Clarke as Chancellors of the Exchequer. [00:01:20] Talks about Chairmanship of the 1922 Committee Executive. [00:02:00] Explains responsibility of the 1922 Committee for linking the Conservative backbenches with its leadership. [00:03:05] Talks about regular meetings with Margaret Thatcher. Mentions 1922 Committee annual lunch with Margaret Thatcher. [00:04:20] Mentions increasingly concerned about the Thatcher government from 1988 onwards. [00:04:43] Explains view that Thatcher should retire and the right candidate to succeed her would be John Major. [00:05:06] Talks about going to see John Major to urge him to stand as Thatcher's successor in any leadership contest.
Part 2, Track 7 [00:01:32] Talks about Michael Heseltine standing in the leadership contest of 1990. Talks about Thatcher's decision to go to a European conference after the first ballot. [00:00:52] Talks about feeling in the Party that Thatcher should stand down.
Part 2, Track 8 [00:07:00] Talks about first ballot in the leadership contest. Talks about Thatcher's decision to go to a European conference after the first ballot. [00:01:15] Talks about mood in the Party for a change of leadership. [00:01:28] Talks about build up to the second ballot. [00:01:45] Explains difficulty in submitting John Major's nomination paper because he is in his constituency suffering from acute toothache. Explains problem that submission deadline coincides with Cabinet meeting. [00:03:17] Talks about meeting with John Major in the Treasury. [00:04:11] Explains that LH would have proposed John Major if Norman Lamont had not been back from Cabinet in time. [00:05:10] Mentions John Major campaign offices. [00:05:52] Talks about publicity and press conference for John Major's campaign.
Part 2, Track 09 [00:13:59] Talks about move from the Commons to the House of Lords. [00:00:24] Talks about length of John Major's tenure as Prime Minister. Talks about last years of Commons career. [00:02:39] Describes decision to stand down as an MP in 1997 after 33 years. [00:02:49] Talks about reorganisation of the Worthing constituency by the Boundary Commission. [00:05:32] Explains told by John Major of elevation to the Lords. [00:05:52] Explains reason for title as The Lord Higgins. [00:07:00] Describes immediate appointment in the Lords as Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions. [00:07:29] Describes positive working relationship with Baroness Hollis. [00:08:11] Talks about making maiden speech in the Lords from the front bench. [00:08:47] Talks about dealing with the social security measures introduced by Gordon Brown. Mentions burden on the Lords as a result of poor scrutiny in the Commons. [00:09:45] Talks about advantage of continuity of LH and Baroness Hollis while Minister of State level posts reorganised. [00:10:24] Talks about Baroness Hollis feeding LH's concerns back to the Secretary of State. [00:10:45] Explains did not want to serve on Lords select committees. [00:11:30] Talks about staff allocated to assist with front bench role. [00:12:04] Talks about front bench colleagues Baroness Anelay, Baroness Byford, and Baroness Noakes, and their subsequent Lords careers. [00:12:33] Talks about Baroness Anelay succeeding John Cope as Opposition Chief Whip in the Lords.

Lord Higgins - 23 July 2013
Part 3, Track 4  [00:16:39] Talks about the election of John Major as Conservative leader in 1990. [00:00:29] Talks about Margaret Thatcher's decision to go to Paris after the first ballot. Mentions reaction of 1922 Committee and Cabinet colleagues on her return. [00:01:06] Mentions involvement in the Major campaign with John Major Parliamentary Private Secretary, Graham Bright. [00:01:16] Talks about concern that John Major would not be back from his constituency in time to submit nomination papers. [00:01:36] Mentions that favoured Proposer, Norman Lamont, was tied up in Cabinet meeting. [00:01:57] Talks about meeting in Treasury building. [00:02:07] Mentions that nomination papers prepared with LH as Proposer and Graham Bright as Seconder. [00:02:45] Describes the splits in the Conservative Party, including of the 1922 Committee, during the Major era. [00:03:34] Describes elevation to the Lords and immediate promotion to the front bench as Shadow Minister for Work and Pensions. [00:04:00] Talks about being supported in the role by Baroness Anelay, Baroness Byford, Baroness Buscombe and Baroness Noakes and talks about their future careers. [00:04:44] Talks about Coalition government and present backbench role focussing on economic affairs. [00:05:22] Talks about successful introduction of an amendment to the Same-Sex Marriage Bill [SSMB]. [00:05:52] Notes that also spoke from the Lords front bench on the Civil Partnership Bill [CPB]. [00:06:26] Describes rate public opinion has changed between the CPB and the SSMB. [00:06:50] Mentions government's insistence that CPB would not lead to same-sex marriage. [00:07:17] Mentions did not want to continue on departmental select committee in the Lords. [00:07:53] Expressed willingness to serve ad hoc committee, particularly on constitutional matters. [00:08:14] Talks about 2011 referendum on AV voting system. [00:08:31] Talks about opposition to House of Lords reform led by Lord Norton of Louth. Describes successful campaign against the recent proposals to reform the second chamber. [00:10:06] Campaign in the Lords led to a vo