Obituary: Sir Jack Rampton
Monday 18 April 1994
JACK RAMPTON was Permanent Secretary of the Department of Energy during a period when the course of the British economy was dominated by energy issues. He became its Permanent Secretary when the department was hived off from the Department of Trade and Industry in 1974 after the disruption to energy supply caused by the double impact in Britain of the miners' overtime ban and the first Opec oil strike.
Although coal output was restored following the change of government and the concessions made to the miners, he saw the main task of the department in the years that followed as being to ensure that there could be no repetition of such an energy shortage. The key to this was the development of nuclear energy and of the newly discovered potential of North Sea oil and gas. Rampton had clear and strongly held views on what should be done by the department and he had frequent disagreements on this subject with Tony Benn when the latter was Secretary of State for Energy, especially over the choice of reactor type for the next phase of nuclear development.
Rampton's achievements were in maintaining awareness in government of the complex technical problems that industry had to cope with in developing the North Sea, in helping to get a reasonable balance of interests in the regulatory regime for the North Sea, and in encouraging research into alternative energy sources.
He was born in 1920 and educated at Tonbridge and Trinity College, Oxford. He captained the university squash team and kept himself fit and slim throughout his working life, in his Treasury days often limiting himself to just an apple for lunch. He joined the Treasury in 1941 and was Assistant Private Secretary to two Chancellors of the Exchequer, Sir Kingsley Wood and Sir John Anderson. He progressed through the Treasury, earning a reputation as an outstanding Assistant Secretary and was promoted to Under-Secretary in 1964.
Rampton's transfer to the Ministry of Technology in 1968 on promotion to Deputy Secretary initiated an interest in the problems of energy and of British industry, which continued for the rest of his life. He moved to the Department of Trade and Industry in 1970 when it absorbed the Ministry of Technology and in 1972 he became Second Permanent Secretary with special responsibilities for industrial development. When it was decided in 1974 that a separate energy department was once again necessary, he was a natural choice to head it.
On retirement from Whitehall in 1980 he became a director of several companies connected with energy and he had a special interest in Australia and in South-East Asia, dating back to a secondment to the British High Commission in Malaysia in 1959-61. He made frequent visits to Australia and was chairman of the British-Australia Society and the Cook Society and adviser to the Robert Menzies Memorial Trust. He was a board member of English National Opera and with his wife an enthusiastic attender of their performances.
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