Obituaries: Lindy Price

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The Independent Culture
LINDY PRICE may have inherited her sense of duty from her father Lord Brecon, who was appointed Minister of State for Welsh Affairs in 1957 by Harold Macmillan after many years of service in local government. If that was so, she was to outdo even him in the breadth of her involvement in public affairs and the energy with which she pursued her very varied interests. Only in her failure to fulfil a dream that she might follow him into politics was she less successful.

After Cheltenham Ladies' College and the University of Poitiers, and before her marriage to Leolin Price QC, she worked at Conservative Central Office and in the Office of the British Consulate General in New York. In the decade that followed her marriage, during which her four children were born, she found time without any neglect of her family to immerse herself in a range of activities involved with the prison service and education.

First, she became a prison visitor at Holloway (1964-74); it was characteristic of her that this initial step was not to join some distant committee, but to go where real knowledge could be acquired, sometimes of the most painful kind, and where her warm and generous spirit would have the most effect. That same generous spirit led her to become a godmother to a child born in prison who was subsequently adopted.

Similarly her membership of the Parole Board for England and Wales (1969- 74) and as a co-opted member of the Inner London Probation Committee (1971- 79) could in no way be regarded as sinecures. As if all this was not enough, and at that time when her children were at the most demanding stage in their lives, she added membership of the Board of Visitors at Brixton Prison to the list in 1972 and became its chairman in 1976. She used the knowledge she acquired in these positions to make valuable contributions to a Conservative Party pamphlet, The Proper Use of Prisons (1977), and to the report the Nacro committee, of which she was vice-chairman, Boards of Visitors for Penal Institutions (1975).

It was a natural consequence of her work in prisons and her genuine concern for those she met there that she became a member of Council of the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders, Nacro (1974-79), and a member (1965) of the Griffin Society which runs Stockdale House, a home for the after-care of women ex-prisoners. In characteristic style Price filled the posts in turn of secretary, vice-chairman and chairman of the society. She also set up Kelly House, a bail hostel for women.

In parallel with all this work for prisons and for prisoners - and it is the latter that she would have regarded as the more important - Lindy Price became as deeply involved with education. She was a director of the Norland Nursery Training College for more than 20 years (1964-86) and its chairman between 1986 and 1988. She was a member of the Governing Body of the Frances Mary Buss Foundation (1969-87), and co-chairman for the last 10 years, a member and then chairman (from 1975) of the Governing Body of the North London Collegiate School, Edgware, and the Camden School for Girls (1971-97).

For mere mortals who find the membership of two or three charitable organisations almost more than they can manage, it is a record to be marvelled at, but Price added a directorship of Bulldog Manpower Services Ltd (a supported work scheme for ex-offenders) to the list, and for three years was a member of the Police Complaints Board (1983-85). She also began what was to become a major involvement in the National Health Service when she became a member of the Maternity Services Advisory Committee (1981-84), and then a lay member of the Midwifery Committee of the UK Central Council (1983-88).

Anyone else but Lindy Price would have welcomed the opportunity to relax a little when, in the early 1980s, she and Leo acquired Moor Park at Llanbedr, near Crickhowell, and moved at least part of her life back to Wales. If the thought had tempted her, which I doubt, it was quickly put on one side, because in 1986, as Secretary of State for Wales, I asked her to become Chairman of the Powys District Health Authority.

It turned out to be an inspired appointment, one of the best I ever made, and Price proved to be an outstanding health authority chairman. She had no time for the modern practice of dispensing with the masculine form of words. If the suggestion were made, she would giggle and say that she had no wish to be described as a chair.

I suspect that she did the job so well because she enjoyed it so much, but of course there was more to it than that. Elspeth Howe, who served with her on committees, described her as always calm, sensible and practical. She had an ability to exercise authority in a way that did not cause offence. She expected and obtained high standards in a business- like way, but would arrive at a board meeting with a basket of homemade jams and jellies which she would distribute to "my boys". She would hold open house at Moor Park for staff and colleagues and join in the sing-songs round the piano.

Those staff were also aware that she might turn up at any hour to see that all was well. On one occasion when the authority was simulating a major air crash on the Brecon Beacons they were surprised when she appeared in the rain at dusk high on the mountain.

In 1992 the Powys Health Authority became The Powys Health Care NHS Trust and Price continued to chair it until 1996. She was the Chairman of the Welsh Breast Screening Advisory Group that established "Breast Test Wales". She was a member of the Social Security Advisory Committee set up by the Department of Social Security, and a number of other similar committees. She had fully earned her appointment as CBE when it came in 1994.

Then, in 1996, Price was asked by the Welsh Office to become Chairman of the Gwent Health Authority (1996-98); but she was not given warning in advance of a serious management problem that existed there. Perhaps those responsible for her appointment believed that she was the ideal person to deal with the problem, and given proper warning, she would have been. However, although she was not responsible for the situation, she found herself facing strong criticism in local papers. She was deeply hurt by these attacks which she knew to be unfair. It was an unfortunate end to a period of distinguished and selfless service to the NHS in Wales.

There were other activities in Wales too numerous for all to be mentioned. She was High Sheriff of the County of Powys (1997-98), served on the Wales Regional Council of the British Red Cross, was chairman of the Fabric Advisory Committee at Brecon Cathedral, and a church warden and trustee of Llanbedr church, where from time to time she played the organ.

In spite of the extent of Lindy Price's contribution to the public life of Britain, she believed that none of this was as important as her family. She and Leo were devoted to each other: not a day passed when they did not communicate, or in which he did not pass the message that he loved her "madly and for ever". They were the centre of a particularly close- knit family.

Rosalind Helen Penrose Lewis, public servant: born Abergavenny, Monmouthshire 12 September 1938; chairman, Powys District Health Authority 1986-92, Powys Health Care NHS Trust 1992-96; CBE 1994; chairman, Gwent Health Authority 1996-98; married 1963 Leolin Price (two sons, two daughters); died Newport 8 June 1999.

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