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
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test