Sunday, February 14, 2016

Lord Avebury

The death was announced this morning (14.2.2016) of Eric Reginald Lubbock, Lord Avebury, peacefully, at his home in Camberwell, south London, at the age of 87.  He was attended by his wife, Lindsay, and other family members.
The text below is intended as an aide-memoire to tribute writers who would like to remember Eric as a man of many parts.


Eric Reginald Lubbock, 4th Baron Avebury, (born London 29 September 1928) was a British politician. He served as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Orpington from 1962 to 1970, and served in the House of Lords, having inherited the title of Baron Avebury in 1971. In 1999, when most hereditary peers were removed from the House of Lords, he was elected by his fellow Liberal Democrats to remain.

He was educated at Upper Canada College in Toronto, Canada, and Harrow School, and he read Engineering Science at Balliol College, Oxford.  He served as a Second Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards from 1949-51.

Having joined the Liberal Party in 1960 and become a councillor the following year, Lubbock won a sensational by-election victory at Orpington on 15 March 1962, with a majority of 7,855.[1] This was a swing of nearly 22% from the Conservatives and brought the number of Liberal MPs to seven.[1] Following his victory, he was dubbed "Orpington Man".[1]

As the MP for Orpington, he was appointed Chief Whip by Jo Grimond in 1963, a post he held until 1970.  In the Commons, Lubbock was on the Speaker's Commission on Electoral Law from 1964 to 1966.  In a private members bill in 1968 he proposed the Caravan Sites Act, which resulted in the provision of 400 pitches for Gypsies and Travellers. This was effectively repealed by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 [1][2]  In a country where very few politicians are willing to stand up for Gypsy and Traveller rights, Lord Avebury continued to champion their access to education and a place to live.  He was Secretary of the Parliamentary Group for Gypsies and Travellers and Patron of The Traveller Movement.

During his life in Parliament as an MP, he campaigned for many unpopular causes, which later on became law.   He proposed STV in multi-member constituencies, only to be voted down by 18–1.  

He also proposed reducing the voting age to 18 and in 1967 supported the reduction in age of consent for male homosexuals from 21 to 16.   From 1962-70, he was Chair of the Parliamentary Civil Liberties Group.  He lost his seat in 1970.  

In 1971, Eric was Chair of the Peter Hain Fund, established to defend Peter Hain against a charge of ‘criminal conspiracy’ in connection with the Stop the Seventy Tour Campaign.
Eric had Liberal politics and views in his DNA.  His grandfather, great, great grandfather and three x great grand uncles were all Whig Liberal MPs.  His life was one of long standing support for the Liberal and then Liberal Democrat party.  

He loved his work at the House of Lords and, prior to his ill health, he had one of the best attendance records there.  As much as the formal debates, Eric also enthusiastically dealt with a huge caseload of work – mainly espousing various causes for which he was well known.  Within Parliament, his expertise and experience were widely recognised and his networks together with knowledge of the system was a valuable asset  in facilitating progress on tasks for both colleagues and those he sought to help.

Lubbock was a grandson of John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury and the following year upon the death of his cousin he succeeded to the peerage, becoming Lord Avebury.   He sat on the Royal Commission on Standards of Conduct in Public Life 1974-6, and was Liberal Spokesman on Immigration and Race Relations, 1971-83. Throughout his time in politics he was at the forefront of human rights activism, both in and beyond Parliament.  In 1976 founded the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, which he chaired for the next 21 years.  He continued to be Vice-Chair until his death.

Throughout his parliamentary life, Lord Avebury has fought for the rights of refugees and asylum seekers both through legislation and on an individual basis.   There are hundreds if not thousands of individuals now settled in the UK, who have fled from repressive regimes, from persecution, imprisonment and torture, whose cases he has taken up.  He has also fought for the rights of families of refugees and other exiles to be reunited in the UK.  

He was a member of the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Team, speaking frequently on conflict resolution and human rights.  Trained as an engineer, Lord Avebury retained an interest in science and engineering.  In 1957, together with his mother, he set up the Maurice Lubbock Memorial Fund to commemorate his father, following his early death.    

This established a Trust, which Eric chaired for 56 years, aimed at supporting Engineering and Management at Balliol College, Oxford.  These were the two subjects dear to both him and his father. They also formed the basis of Eric’s early career at Rolls Royce and as a management consultant.  The Trust is still going today and is one of the longest lasting of such ventures.  He was elected to an Honorary Fellowship at Balliol College in 2004.

Lord Avebury is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society and a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association. He frequently raises matters related to British nationality law in Parliament. He has been a strong supporter of the citizenship rights of the solely British ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, and has successfully fought for their rights.

He was also President of the Peru Support Group, and advocated on human rights issues in Peru, and was a Patron of Prisoners Abroad, a charity that supports the welfare of Britons imprisoned overseas and their families.

In 2009, Lord Avebury was awarded (with Dr Evan Harris MP) the National Secular Society's Secularist of the Year Award in recognition of his role in the abolition of the common law offence of blasphemous libel.  He continued to campaign for religious tolerance and against the persecution of religious minorities in a number of countries.

Lord Avebury was a Co-Chair of the CHT (Chittagong Hill Tracts) Commission, which monitors the implementation of the CHT Peace Accord by the Bangladesh Government.

Lord Avebury was a long supporter of the Ahmadi Muslim community, a small Islamic denomination who suffer serious persecution in many countries for their beliefs. He was the recipient of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize in 2009.

A Buddhist, he was an active Patron of Angulimala, the Buddhist Prison Chaplaincy which promotes the provision of facilities for the teaching and practice of Buddhism in Her Majesty’s Prisons and other places of lawful detention or custody.  He visited prisons, and raised prison issues in the House.  His Buddhism gave him a kind of peace after the restlessness of his early years.

Prior to the onset of his illness, he was active on a number of issues, including assisted dying, and in introducing a Chancel Repairs Bill Act.  (Chancel Repairs Act 2014).  For a long list of his interests, go to   

With the exception of a few days missed in June last year, due to ill health, Eric attended the House of Lords on every day that it sat.  However, he last attended in December, before his illness overcame him.  He died of acute myeloid leukaemia on Sunday February 14, at his home in London.

He has married twice: (1) Kina-Maria O’Kelly de Gallagh (1953-1983). They had three children: Lyulph, Maurice and Victoria.  (2)  Lindsay Jean Stewart (1985-). They have one son, John William.  Eric has five grandchildren: Vanessa and Alex, Archie and Alastair, and Olivia.

In addition:
Other interests include golf (in his early days), science and its support by government; history, especially family history (in later years) and a passion for early music especially J S Bach.  This led to his involvement with the London Bach Society.  He was President of LBS from 1984 to 1998, when he continued as Vice President until the present time.  He was a loyal and dedicated supporter who rarely missed a concert.


“Lord Avebury has been fighting for Traveller rights for half a century. He is best known amongst Britain's Romany and Traveller people for his work on the 1968 Caravan Sites Act, which made it law for Councils to provide proper sites for Gypsies and Travellers and their caravans. The 1968 Act was repealed by the Conservatives in 1994, and since then very few new sites have been built. In a country where very few politicians are willing to stand up for Gypsy and Traveller rights, Lord Avebury has continued to champion their access to education and a place to live. ....  He also called for a peaceful solution to the Dale Farm dispute, before the government and Basildon Council joined forces to carry out the biggest eviction of Travellers in British history. Lord Avebury is patron of the Traveller Movement and has been President of ACERT (Advisory Council on the Education of Romany and other Travellers), as well as Chair of the Department for Education Stakeholder Group on Gypsies, Romanies and Travellers.”  (Extract from Travellers Times)

No comments: