Obituary: Lord Harvey of Prestbury

Arthur Vere Harvey, businessman, politician: born 31 January 1906; Director, Far East Aviation Company Ltd and Far East Flying Training School Ltd, Hong Kong 1930-35; Adviser to Southern Chinese Air Forces (honorary rank of Maj-Gen) 1932-35; Sqn Ldr Auxiliary Air Force 1937; Founder and Commander, 615 County of Surrey Squadron 1939-40, Gp-Capt 1942, Air Commodore 1944; CBE 1942; MP (Conservative) for Macclesfield 1945- 71; Deputy Chairman, Handley-Page Ltd 1951-57; Kt 1957; Chairman, Ciba-Geigy (UK) Ltd 1957-74; Chairman, Conservative Members' 1922 Committee 1966-70; created 1971 Baron Harvey of Prestbury; married 1940 Jacqueline Dunnett (two sons, marriage dissolved 1954), 1955 Mrs Hilary Williams (died 1978; marriage dissolved 1977), 1978 Mrs Carol Cassar-Torreggiani; three adopted daughters; died St Martin's Port, Guernsey 5 April 1994.

VERE HARVEY was the most flamboyant of figures. His loves were flying, sailing and politics - in that order. There was a fourth, high living, which he combined with the other three, keeping a Rolls-Royce in London and a yacht in Malta. He was brave, being twice mentioned in despatches for his role in the Battle of France in 1940: although he was by then already over the stipulated age for a fighter pilot he went into action both brilliantly and recklessly, and survived.

From an early age Harvey showed a passionate interest in all matters aeronautical and joined the RAF in 1925, when he was 19. In 1930 he left the service - temporarily as it turned out - to go to Hong Kong to become Director of the Far East Aviation Company. Within two years he was advising the Chinese Air Force, and Chiang Kai- shek made him a major-general. In 1939 he returned to England, and enlisted in the Auxiliary Air Force. He was promoted to the rank of squadron leader, and founded the famous 615 County of Surrey squadron: he later persuaded Winston Churchill to be its patron.

By 1940 Harvey's fighting flying days were over, and he was posted to RAF Coltishall as station commander. At the beginning, things did not go well. He took steps to retrieve the situation. He telephoned Percy ('Laddie') Lucas, and said 'I want you here at four o'clock 48 hours from now.' When Lucas arrived he was told that the last two wing commanders had been shot down, and he was required to reverse the trend.

A little later Colitshall lost most of a squadron in circumstances which remain somewhat mysterious. Harvey summoned Lucas at seven o'clock in the morning. 'Look old cock,' he said, 'I brought you here to stop the rot. So, stop it.' Coltishall became renowned for its efficiency thereafter.

In December 1943 Harvey was sumoned to Bentley Priory to help plan the invasion of France. His officers gave a farewell dinner for him. In blunt terms in his brief speech of thanks he told them that, after the war, he would be resigning from the service, and going into business and politics. Since many of those present knew that death might not be far away, they were impressed by his sublime confidence. As he left Lucas went to say goodbye. 'Oh no, old cock,' said Harvey, 'You're coming too.'

In the 1945 general election Harvey won the seat of Macclesfield for the Conservatives. He was the most assiduous of backbenchers, but he also found time to cultivate an almost extravagant number of business interests, almost all of them concerned with aviation, and was Deputy Chairman of Handley-Page from 1951 to 1957 and Chairman of Ciba-Geigy from 1957 to 1974. He was gifted as an administrator, and tenacious in the pursuit of success in negotiations.

In 1966 he was elected chairman of the 1922 Committee, the gathering of all Conservative backbenchers. The job of the chairman is to represent backbench views to the Leader of the party. Harvey was forthright and unflinching in his pursuit of duty. Having twice refused offers of ministerial office under Harold Macmillan, he was unlikely to be fazed by Edward Heath. Indeed, it was generally held that he more than once discomfited Heath.

In 1971, however, he decided that he had had enough of politics, and retired to devote himself to business and pleasure and was made a life peer. He was a man who lived life to the full, a man of courage, and great prescience. It is sad that he suffered, in his last years from Parkinson's disease, but he will be remembered as large-hearted and brave.

(Photograph omitted)

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 People

Project Manager (Procurement & Human Resources)

Unpaid: Cancer Research UK: If you’re a professional in project management, lo...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: We require a teacher of Geogr...

HR Assistant / Human Resources Assistant

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: An HR Assistant / Human Resources Ass...

Talent Community Coordinator

£Neg + Excellent Benefits: Guru Careers: A Talent Community Coordinator is nee...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on