Obituary: Baroness Ewart-Biggs

WHEN, after the tragic death of her husband, Jane Ewart-Biggs found herself bringing up three young children on her own, she quickly became aware of the stigma which attached to one-parent families, writes Catherine Porteous. Then, as now, it was the fashion to ascribe most of society's ills to the shortcomings of lone parents, whether they were widowed, unmarried or divorced. Typically, she determined to challenge what she saw as unfair and damaging prejudice, and to do whatever she could to bring about a change in public attitudes.

She joined the management committee of the National Council for One-Parent Families, where she enlivened the proceedings not just by her purposeful perseverance in hard times, but also by her sense of fun, and her gentle debunking of both official pomposity and politically correct hypocrisy.

Her skill in defusing potential confrontation with calm common sense or well-timed wit was unbeatable, and she won the confidence not only of her committee colleagues, but also of the council's staff, whose opinions she sought out and respected.

Later, as a Vice-President of the National Council, she brought the needs of one-parent families to the attention of the House of Lords. Her hatred of extremism led her to be equally opposed to the wilder manifestations of permissiveness, and to calls for a return to soi-disant Victorian values, but once she was convinced of the justice of, or the practical need for, any piece of legislation, neither personal inconvenience nor the disapproval of her political colleagues could deflect her support for it. Always carefully briefed and meticulously prepared, she was a champion of the nation's one-parent families, who owe her much, and who will greatly miss her.

(Photograph omitted)