OBITUARY : Hugh Lawson

Hugh Lawson was elected as Common Wealth MP for Skipton at a celebrated by-election in January 1944, sensationally overturning a safe Conservative majority.

He had been deeply influenced by the speeches of Sir Richard Acland and his Forward March movement, which in 1942 merged with J.B. Priestley's 1941 Committee to form the Common Wealth Party. This was a socialist group believing in the principles of common ownership of land and major industrial resources, proportional representation, devolution, social security, honesty in politics and world unity. The Common Wealth Party was opposed to the wartime electoral truce between the Labour, Liberal and Conservative parties who had agreed not to fight the sitting party at by-elections. Common Wealth thought that this denied the people an opportunity to express their views at the ballot box and in 1943 Lawson returned to Britain from Gibraltar, where he was serving in the Royal Engineers, in order to stand for Parliament.

During his time as an MP Lawson supported the introduction of Child Benefit and was instrumental in ensuring that it was paid direct to the mother for the benefit of the child, so that it was not merely pocketed by the father. He introduced the idea of weekly "surgeries" where local people could bring their problems direct to their MP.

Lawson was born in 1912 in Leeds. He moved to West Bridgford, Nottingham, in 1915 when his father, a pharmaceutical chemist and general manager of Daisy Pharmaceuticals, was headhunted by Sir Jesse Boot, founder of Boot's Pure Drug Co. The family all became active members of the Methodist church in West Bridgford.

Hugh was educated at Nottingham High School and Nottingham University (then University College, Nottingham, awarding external degrees from London University). He obtained a BSc in Civil Engineering in 1932 and was articled to the Borough Water Engineer in Preston for a two-year apprenticeship. He held appointments first in Daventry and then Bromley, Kent, as an assistant engineer, before joining the Nottingham City Engineers Department in 1937, the same year he married Dorothy Mallinson, daughter of a Methodist minister.

When war broke out Lawson immediately volunteered for service in the Royal Engineers. He spent three years in Gibraltar working on the construction of defences on the rock.

From the time they were married, Hugh and Dorothy Lawson worked for peace among the nations and were supporters of the League of Nations. Lawson's strong socialist principles were well aired even in Gibraltar where he served as "Prime Minister" of a mock parliament run by the Garrison Literary and Debating Society which drafted several revolutionary socialist bills.

In the 1945 general election, Lawson stood down as the member for Skipton because the party had pledged not to oppose the Labour candidate there. He stood unsuccessfully as Common Wealth candidate for Harrow West, but soon afterwards the party broke up and Lawson rejoined the Labour Party. He subsequently stood, unsuccessfully, as Labour candidate for the Nottingham Rushcliffe division at the 1950 election and for King's Lynn in 1955.

Returning to Nottingham City Engineers Department after the war, in 1948 he was appointed Deputy City Engineer and Surveyor of Nottingham, a post which he held for 25 years. During this time he was responsible for the city's development plan and for its primary highway plan. One scheme dear to his heart was an early example of ecological thinking: the construction in the 1970s of a refuse incineration plant supplying steam which generated enough electricity to run the plant, and utilised waste heat in a district heating scheme for nearby housing and shopping centres. He was a council member and district chairman of both the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Institution of Municipal Engineers.

When local government was reorganised in 1973, Lawson was appointed Director of Leisure Services for Nottingham. This allowed him to combine his lifetime interests in the theatre, concerts, museums, local history, historic buildings and the countryside with his planning skills. He finally retired in 1976 after nearly 40 years with Nottingham City Council.

For many years Lawson and his wife were active members of the Methodist Church and among other activities he served on the Board of Social Responsibility of the Methodist Church and was chairman of its Standing Committee on Politics and Economics for 15 years. However, in later life, they both felt drawn towards the Quakers and joined the Religious Society of Friends. Here Lawson continued to be an active member serving on many committees. His ecumenical beliefs were expressed through his work for the Nottingham Council of Churches and the Nottingham Committee of the Council of Christians and Jews.

Dorothy died in 1982 and in 1988 Lawson married another Quaker, Eva Koch. Together they found what they referred to as an "unexpected and unsought love" late in life and spent two happy years together before Eva's death in 1991. Hugh Lawson planted a wood in their memory - the "Two Wives Plantation" - at Newstead Abbey.

Richard Lawson and Doug Lawson

Hugh McDowall Lawson, engineer and politician: born Leeds 13 February 1912; MP (Common Wealth) for Skipton 1944-45; Deputy City Engineer, Nottingham 1948-73; Director of Leisure Services, Nottingham City Council 1973-76; married 1937 Dorothy Mallinson (died 1982; two sons), 1988 Eva Koch (nee Holde, died 1991); died Nottingham 23 March 1997.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Project Manager / IT Project Manager

£50 - £60 per annum: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Project Manager / IT Project Ma...

Tradewind Recruitment: Permanent Class Teachers Required for 2015/2016 - Suffolk

£21000 - £50000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teachers seeking perma...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 5 Teacher Required For 2015/16 - Chelmsford

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: A popular, 'Good' school loc...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teachers Required in Norwich and Great Yarmouth

£20000 - £45000 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am working on behalf of a ...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food