Obituary: Iain Mills

Elected a Conservative MP at his first attempt in 1979, Iain Mills was a robust defender of the interests of his constituents in Meriden, which takes in parts of Solihull and Birmingham Airport. He loved England and especially Meriden, and was often in the forefront of campaigns warning against incursions into the surrounding green belt. He was cautious about European developments.

A behind-the-scenes man, Mills seldom claimed the limelight and that was true of his important work on the Committee corridor of the House of Commons, where he served diligently on backbench, standing and select committees on such subjects as employment, transport safety, Community trademarks and European legislation. Often he was in the chair, having been appointed by the Speaker as a member of the Speaker's panel of chairmen. A crucial ingredient of his work on committees - and most certainly why he was appointed - was that he was trusted and respected by all parties represented on them.

Born in Hillhead, Glasgow, in 1940, the son of an accountant and company director, he grew up in what was then Rhodesia - now Zimbabwe - and was educated at Prince Edward's School in Salisbury, and at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, where he read Chemical Engineering. In 1961 he began his service with Dunlop in Rhodesia, spending three years as a tyre designer, before moving to England as Marketing Planning Manager and the designer in charge of Dunlop's racing tyre development - where he was involved in the detail, and excitement, of Grand Prix racing. He made an important input into the design of the tyres on which Jackie Stewart won the world motor racing title in 1969, 1971 and 1973.

Mills's specialisms in Parliament, within a wide and eclectic range of interests, were the motor industry (he co-chaired the All Party Motor Industry Group) and what are rather clumsily known as intellectual property matters: copyright, patents, counterfeiting. He worked tirelessly to try to get the European Patents Office sited in London, rather than Munich, and in wider ways to stop the penetration of European markets by unsatisfactory and substandard imitation products and components. He was also a keen campaigner for animal rights, and on one occasion tried to ban goldfish as fairground prizes.

His parliamentary work was preceded in politics by assiduous local government service in Staffordshire and in particular in Lichfield, where he served on the district council from 1974 to 1976. He was a bluff and hearty man and a careful friend. He liked a drink and a joke with his friends when his relentless daily schedule was done.

Before settling down to the crucial committee burden, which he accepted cheerfully, he had been Parliamentary Private Secretary to Norman Tebbit (1981-87). They worked well together. But ministerial office did not come Mills's way and this may have been a disappointment.

When I became his next-door neighbour as the MP for the other half of the borough of Solihull he immediately suggested we ignore the convention about not being seen about in another Member's constituency without that Member's consent and I readily agreed. He was an easy and considerate man to work with.

Iain Campbell Mills, politician: born Glasgow 21 April 1940; MP (Conservative) for Meriden 1979-97; PPS to Minister of State for Industry 1981-82, to Secretary of State for Employment 1982-83, to Secretary of State for Trade and Industry 1983-85, to Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster 1985-87; Chairman, Community Trade Mark Committee 1984-97; Joint Chairman, All Party Motor Industry Group 1992-97; married 1971 Gaynor Jeffries; died London 16 January 1997.

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