Hugh Brown: Workhorse Scottish Office minister

Hugh Brown, MP for Glasgow Provan for more than 20 years, was a self-effacing but effective Under-Secretary at the Scottish Office, working dutifully and loyally for Harold Wilson's Secretary of State Willie Ross and Jim Callaghan's Secretary of State Bruce Millan.

He confined himself in Parliament mostly to Scottish affairs, but he did render considerable and skilful service to the UK government as one of the Fisheries ministers in the Scottish Office involved in the day-to-day delicate negotiations with Iceland – the so-called Cod War. Brown was far more tactful than the lead negotiator, Tony Crosland (who was also MP for Grimsby). The Icelanders had a huge respect for Brown and the fairness of his judgement.

Hugh Brown was a product of Clydeside in the 1930s. His father was an engineer and Brown claimed to inherit from him admiration for craft skills. He described his father as a man who would not put a handle on a chest of drawers without using a micrometer.

Both his father and mother were members of the ILP, the Independent Labour Party, and he told me that they regularly received a turkey at Christmas, for having sold the most prize tickets. "The first thing that interested me about politics," Brown said, "was when I was a telegraph messenger, going up and down through George Square in the 1930s, when there were demonstrations every other day. It was that and the Spanish Civil War which first involved me, after I had left school, at 14, and joined the Post Office."

In 1947 Brown married Mary Carmichael and into a highly political family. His father-in-law was Jimmy Carmichael, ILP Member of Parliament for Glasgow Bridgeton and his brother-in-law Neil Carmichael was to be the MP for Glasgow Woodside, elected at a by-election in 1963.

On leaving school, Brown had entered the civil service and rose to be a manager of the National Insurance Office, dealing with a whole range of welfare requirements. During the first Wilson government and subsequently during the years of opposition, Brown's contribution to the more technical debates on pensions policy and social security issues were invaluable and ever constructive, coming from a background of detailed knowledge. I do not know of any other manager of a National Insurance Office who has become an MP and Brown contributed significantly to the committee work of the House.

In 1962 when he was selected as a prospective parliamentary candidate, he was flung out of the civil service and had to eke out a living for two years waiting for the general election. Gaining 29,830 votes, he romped home in the 1964 general election in the Provan division of Glasgow, which was to be an un-impregnable base until he decided to retire in 1987. He was a parliamentary workhorse and no Scottish MP occupied more footage in the columns of Hansard during the time of the Labour government of 1974 to 1979.

As one of his colleagues, I know at first hand that he would go into meticulous detail about any of our constituency issues, for which he was the minister responsible in the Scottish Office. But, above all, his interests centred on improving the lot of those who lived in his own city of Glasgow.

His handling of the very delicate matter of the closure of Robroyston Hospital in August 1976 was an exemplary performance. His colleague Richard Buchanan, the predecessor of the Speaker Michael Martin as MP for Glasgow Springburn, had raised in an adjournment debate the strong feelings of people in Glasgow. Brown ended his reply:

Expansion is taking place in some areas of the country, there is a holding operation in others, and in some there may even be a contraction in services linked to a shrinking population. I am certain that the provision of services to patients in the areas which he and I represent will continue at a high level. The quality of staff makes the provision extremely good, and that will continue even though they have to be allocated positions in other hospitals.

It was typical of Brown that he did not let the matter rest there. He made a point of conducting on Friday evenings and Saturdays a whole series of meetings of various groups in different areas of Glasgow, in order to explain the Government's position. Thereby, as in many other actions, he enhanced the reputation of the job of Member of Parliament.

Tam Dalyell

Hugh Dunbar Brown, civil servant and politician: born Glasgow 18 May 1919; MP (Labour) for Glasgow Provan 1964-87; Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office 1974-79; married 1947 Mary Carmichael (died 2000; one daughter); died Glasgow 10 March 2008.

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn