OBITUARY: Margaret Hall

Margaret Hall was one of Oxford's lifetime college tutors who was also widely involved in the work of public bodies. A Fellow and tutor in economics at Somerville College, Oxford, for 26 years from 1949 until her retirement in 1975, she also held a number of public appointments, including membership of the Monopolies Commission and the National Economic Development Office.

Teaching at the college and the university made her known to generations of undergraduates. Her lectures on the contemporary British economy were directed towards the quaintly named paper Economic Organisation, then compulsory for all students reading PPE. College tutorial teaching was, however, the channel through which her influence was most pervasive. The triumphs, including six Firsts out of eight candidates in one notable year, were acknowledged modestly.

At that time the PPE degree at Oxford required all three subjects, philosophy, politics and economics, to be carried through to final examinations. Inevitably not all Somerville undergraduates proved to have a marked aptitude for economics. Hall was never sentimental, but her acerbic comments to colleagues did not conceal her supportive approach and concern to make the subject interesting and accessible to those more comfortable with philosophy or politics.

The mother of two daughters, both undergraduates at Oxford, she ridiculed the in loco parentis approach of colleges which, even in the 1960s, required undergraduates to be back in the college by midnight. A formidable alliance with Enid Starkie, then tutor in French, led to a successful campaign for the introduction of late-gate keys. But her sympathy for student liberties did not extend to the wider student protest movement. As she tartly informed one of her undergraduates who had been involved in a sit-in in university buildings, ``My dear, if breaking and entering is your chosen profession, you should study elsewhere than at Oxford.''

Within economics her own area of specialism was the distributive trades, when the service industries were much less fashionable and well-regarded than now. This drew her into the public policy domain. She was sharply critical of the Selective Employment Tax, the brain-child of Nicholas Kaldor, introduced to assist manufacturing by imposing a differential tax on employment in the service sector. She was an influential advocate of the abolition of resale price maintenance. Yet she was far from being a free-marketeer. One of her favourite phrases, from Professor Joan Robinson, a colleague of J.M. Keynes, was ``competition is about killing off the competition''.

Her expertise in the distributive trades led her to membership of the watchdog Monopolies and Mergers Commission in the 1970s, and to involvement with the Little Neddy for the Distributive Trades within the National Economic Development Office; she set in motion an ambitious review of the sector, with the co-operation of many of the industry's senior figures, who were pleased to feel that its economic importance was at last receiving recognition.

Her first marriage, to Robert Hall (later Lord Roberthall), the government economic adviser, spanned the difficult wartime years. Like many of their contemporaries, they decided to send their children abroad, to his family in Australia. Margaret Hall then found herself unable to return to England, making her way via the west coast of the United States to Washington, where friends found her a job with the Price Commission until the family could be reunited in London at the end of the war. Later, when her husband became Principal of Hertford College, in 1964, she presided with charm and vivacity over college entertaining in the Lodgings - while the college saw to the practical arrangements.

A second marriage, to Sir Donald MacDougall, brought 20 years of happy retirement, in which she took up fishing, although the salmon she promised herself from the Thames was always to elude her.

Mary Gregory

Laura Margaret Linfoot, economist: born Sheffield 27 August 1910; Fellow and Tutor in Economics, Somerville College, Oxford 1949-75 (Honorary Fellow 1975-95); married 1932 Robert Hall (created 1969 Lord Roberthall, died 1988; two daughters; marriage dissolved 1968), 1977 Donald MacDougall; died London 8 March 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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 People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine