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)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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 Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources Officer

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen at th...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - London - £40,000 + Bonus

£36000 - £40000 per annum + Bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...