Obituary: Sir John Farr

John Arnold Farr, landowner and politician: born Nottingham 25 September 1922; MP (Conservative) for Harborough 1959-92; Kt 1984; married 1960 Susan Ann Milburn (two sons); died 26 October 1997.

John Farr, who sat as Member of Parliament for Harborough from 1959 to 1992, was, above all, an old-fashioned, right-wing Tory romantic.

He had a highly traditional rural and brewing background, and a good war record in the Royal Navy. His landholdings were extensive, in Britain, in Ireland and in Zimbabwe, where he owned 10,500 acres. He was keen on hunting, shooting, fishing and cricket, but he could be very unconventional in right-wing political terms.

He was always willing to oppose the government of the day when he thought them wrong. Thus, while he staunchly upheld the rights of private gun owners, he fought strongly against the increase in the number of licences allowed by legislation in 1980, fearing that it would encourage irresponsible owners of firearms. Again in 1987, when the Government introduced restrictive legislation on the possession of firearms in the aftermath of the Hungerford massacre, Farr angered the shooting fraternity by stoutly supporting the new legislation.

In the run-up to British entry into the then Common Market Farr resolutely defied the Heath government, arguing instead for the creation of a Commonwealth parliament, which he believed would better serve the commercial and political interests of Britain. On the other hand, to the great embarrassment of the Home Office in the 1980s, he campaigned strongly for a retrial of those convicted of the Guildford and Birmingham bombings, and consistently attacked the Appeal Court for its inadequacies in reversing miscarriages of justice.

Above all, however, Farr was a countryman and conservationist, before that term became fashionable. His environmental concern was, indeed, shown in his maiden speech in 1959, criticising the use of toxic sprays. Again, in 1972, he successfully opposed a Bill to set up an oil terminal on Anglesey and in 1975 he sought to change capital transfer tax provisions in order to protect wildlife areas. As a landowner, he was sharply critical of any extension to the rights of what he called "professional ramblers". He supported the rights of the Falkland islanders long before most members of the House of Commons were aware of the Argentinian threat. In 1981, moreover, he opposed government policy on Gibraltar, arguing that Gibraltarians should be granted British nationality.

John Farr was born in Nottingham in 1922, and educated at Harrow. In 1940, at the age of 18, he enrolled in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and later fought in the Mediterranean and the South Atlantic, rising to the rank of Lieutenant-Commander. After the war he entered the family brewing firm as executive director. After contesting the unwinnable seat of Ilkeston in 1955, he embarked on his long political career as a victor in the Conservative landslide on 1959.

He was to prove himself an adept parliamentarian, serving on various Select Committees, most importantly that on Standing Orders. He was also a member of the Executive Committee of the UK Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association from 1972 to 1974, and of the Conservative backbench Agriculture Committee and Northern Ireland Committee. From 1973 until 1978 he was a delegate to the Western European Union and the Council of Europe. He had a host of other interests, including - as he confessed in 1960 - a penchant for owning racehorses, which lost him money.

He was careless of his appearance, once evoking from David McKie of the Guardian the remark that his summer suit "looks as though it has just spent the winter in someone's laundry basket . . ." But, throughout his life he was brave, tenacious and industrious in pursuit of his manifold interests and concerns. Few politicians have served their country better without ever holding ministerial office.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat