Obituary: Sir Peter Mills

Peter McLay Mills, politician: born 22 September 1921; MP (Conservative) Torrington 1964-74, Devon West 1974-83, Torridge and West Devon 1983-87; Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries 1972; Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office 1972-74; Chairman, Houses of Parliament Christian Fellowship 1970-87, Conservative Agriculture Committee 1979-87, Ministry of Agriculture Panel for South-west England 1988-93; Kt 1982; married 1948 Joan Wetherley (one son, one daughter); died 16 August 1993.

PETER MILLS was, superficially, a contradictory character. A man of immense bonhomie, he could, quite suddenly, become most grave and serious about matters which had no connection - or one that he alone saw - with the subject in hand.

Thus, I had lunch with him in Stormont Castle when he was a junior minister in the Northern Ireland Office during the time of the Heath government. I wanted to glean what I could about the Government's policy towards Ulster. He fenced amiably for a few minutes and, then, suddenly asked me whether I still held the view I had expressed seven years earlier opposing the liberalisation of the law on abortion on the mainland.

I told him that I did. He immediately asked me whether I supported capital punishment, particularly for terrorists. Again, we were in agreement. He then went into a moving soliloquy. He saw his role in Northern Ireland as striving as best he could to bring about reconciliation between the Catholic and Protestant peoples. This was entirely appropriate for a man who was to become chairman of the Houses of Parliament Christian Fellowship, but seemed to many who disagreed with him to be entirely inappropriate in a minister in a government which put measures placatory of the Ulster Catholic community, and the Dublin government, above all other priorities in Ulster.

To understand Mills, you have to understand that he was a West Countryman through and through, with all the stubborness and independence of spirit that the description implies. He cared nothing for ministerial office. He became a Conservative MP for Torrington in 1964, seeing off both Mark (now Lord) Bonham-Carter and David (now Lord) Owen with ease. But he had not applied for the candidacy: he was invited to take it on. However, even though the Boundary Commissioners arranged things to his apparent disadvantage, he had little difficulty in keeping the seat until his retirement in 1987. In the meantime, apart from Northern Ireland, he had served as a junior agriculture minister, as became a skilled and devoted farmer.

Above all, however, he was an MP of consummate devotion and skill. No problem arose in his constituency that he did not know about. No difficulty attended the affairs of a constituent that he did not act upon. He was both gregarious and dedicated. The Torrington Tories lost a lot when he decided to retire in 1987. The West Country has lost a doughty champion.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

SharePoint Administrator/Developer (C#, VB.NET, VISUAL STUDIO 2

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SharePoi...

European HR Director, London

£80000 - £95000 per annum: Charter Selection: A leading Global organisation Ja...

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players