Former chancellor Thorneycroft dies

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LORD THORNEYCROFT, once the youngest member of Winston Churchill's post-war Cabinet, Harold Macmillan's Chancellor of the Exchequer and Margaret Thatcher's party chairman, died yesterday at his central London home, aged 84.

He was a founder member of the Tory Reform Group, set up to press for implementation of the Beveridge Report on social security, and a staunch pro- European.

The most dramatic event in his political career occurred in 1958 when he resigned as Macmillan's Chancellor, taking a strictly monetarist line and saying that to print money would lead to inflation. Macmillan described the departure as 'a little local difficulty'.

Ironically, when Thorneycroft quit as Conservative Party chairman in 1981 he seemed to adopt the opposite view, saying later: 'They'd (the government) do better not to kick themselves every time they spend a bit of money that was popular . . . if you've got to spend this money, stop swearing about it and take the credit for it.'

An old-style Conservative who always appeared in the Commons in morning dress, Peter Thorneycroft was educated at Eton and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, but resigned his commission after three years to pursue a legal career.

He was elected to Parliament in 1938 and his first step up the political ladder came in 1945 when he was appointed parliamentary secretary at the Ministry of Transport in the 'caretaker' government. Churchill appointed him president of the Board of Trade in 1951 when, at 42, he was the youngest member of the Cabinet.

Harold Macmillan made him Chancellor in January 1957 - a post he resigned after 12 months. Two years later, however, he was brought back as minister of aviation. When Macmillan purged his Cabinet in the 'Night of the Long Knives' in July 1962, Thorneycroft survived to become minister of defence. In 1966 he lost his parliamentary seat but was made a life peer the following year.

Mrs Thatcher made him party chairman when she became Conservative leader in 1975. His position became untenable when, in August 1981, he publicly disagreed with the assessment by the Chancellor Sir Geoffrey Howe that the recession was over. Mrs Thatcher sacked him the following month, though there was no public bitterness.'