Obituary: Viscount Caldecote

ROBIN INSKIP, second Viscount Caldecote, was an engineer and industrialist whose career spanned the marine, aviation and electrical sectors. Deeply patriotic, he believed that businessmen should play an active role in society as a whole and, in addition to his industrial work, he took on chairmanship or membership of diverse church and educational bodies. Probably his most significant appointment was as the second President of the Royal Academy of Engineering for five years, 1981-86.

Robert Andrew Inskip (known to his friends as Robin) was born in 1917, the only son of Thomas Inskip who, as Sir Thomas Inskip, served in the inter-war Conservative government in various cabinet posts, finally as Lord Chancellor in 1939, when he was created Viscount Caldecote. Robin succeeded to the title at the age of 30 when his father died in 1947, taking his seat on the Conservative benches in the House of Lords. In 1942 he married Jean Hamilton, an admiral's daughter, and they had a son, Piers, who succeeds his father, and two daughters, Serena and Antonia.

Robin Caldecote was educated at Eton and King's College, Cambridge, where he took a First in Engineering in 1939. Already a keen ocean-racing yachtsman and member of the Royal Ocean Racing Club he was commissioned in the RNVR in 1939 and served the whole of the Second World War in minesweepers and destroyers, including Malta convoys, and took part in the fierce battles off Crete, where he was awarded the DSC. Post-war, he continued ocean sailing and was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron.

After a short spell in shipbuilding at Vickers Armstrong on the Tyne, he returned in 1948 to Cambridge as an engineering lecturer. Whilst there he was appointed a director of the English Electric Company and later joined the firm full-time, as managing director of English Electric Aviation. The company had been successful with their Canberra bombers and Lightning fighters and Caldecote expanded their business by winning a large Saudi Arabian order for Lightnings.

As a result of government pressure the aircraft industry was reorganised and Caldecote negotiated with the Government and Sir George Edwards of Vickers Armstrong for the formation of the British Aircraft Corporation in 1959. Caldecote took up the appointment there of deputy managing director, remaining as chairman of English Electric Guided Weapons.

The new company designed and built the TSH 2 tactical bomber/reconnaissance aircraft which flew successfully in September 1964, only to be cancelled by Denis Healey, then Secretary of State for Defence, in April 1965. This was a huge blow to the British aviation industry and Caldecote warned the Government that unless it was prepared to support a long-term development programme Britain's aviation industry would be swamped by the Americans.

In 1968 the English Electric Company merged with GEC but as Caldecote had opposed the merger he resigned from the company early in 1969. Subsequently he presided every year over a dinner gathering of other former senior English Electric managers and 30 years later he would have presided over their gathering in November this year.

His next industrial job was chairman of the Delta Metal Company, the electrical engineering and industrial services company, where he developed overseas manufacture and a strong export performance. He believed passionately that Britain needed a strong manufacturing industry and in the House of Lords and in his many public positions he forcefully drew attention to the importance of engineering and science to the national economy coupled with a solid manufacturing base.

His company interests widened and he became chairman of Investors in Industry (now 3i) and Legal and General, and a director of Consolidated Goldfields, W.S. Atkins and Lloyds Bank. In 1981 he succeeded Lord Hinton as President of the Fellowship of Engineering (now Royal Academy of Engineering), where for five years he applied his personal leadership, enthusiasm, tact and relationships with government and Parliament to build up this national academy. He welded together by his democratic style Britain's most eminent engineers to promote excellence in engineering.

He was sought after for a large number of public appointments. In 1990 Margaret Thatcher nominated him to be Chairman of the Crown Appointments Committee, which had responsibility for nominating Robert Runcie's successor as Archbishop of Canterbury.

He was Chairman of the Design Council from 1972 to 1980, Pro-Chancellor of Cranfield Institute of Technology, 1976-84, Chairman of the Marie Rose Trust, 1983-92, and President of the Royal Institute of Naval Architects.

Robert Andrew Inskip, engineer and industrialist: born 8 October 1917; DSC 1941; succeeded 1947 as second Viscount Caldecote; Fellow, King's College, Cambridge 1948-55; Lecturer, Engineering Department, Cambridge University 1948-55; director, English Electric Company 1953-69; managing director, English Electric Aviation 1960-63; deputy managing director, British Aircraft Corporation 1961-67; chairman, Delta Group plc (Delta Metal Co) 1972-82; Chairman, Design Council 1972-80; Pro-Chancellor, Cranfield Institute of Technology 1976-84; FEng 1977; Chairman, Investors in Industry (Finance for Industry) 1980-87; KBE 1987; married 1942 Jean Hamilton (one son, two daughters); died South Harting, West Sussex 20 September 1999.