Lord Lucas of Chilworth

Tuesday 11 December 2001 01:00
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Michael William George Lucas, car dealer and politician: born 26 April 1926; succeeded 1967 as second Baron Lucas of Chilworth; President, League of Safe Drivers 1976-80; President, Institute of Transport Administration 1980-83; Lord in Waiting 1983-84; Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry 1984-87; married 1955 Ann-Marie Buck (two sons, one daughter; marriage dissolved 1989), 1998 Jill MacKean; died Stockbridge, Hampshire 10 November 2001.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of Lord Lucas of Chilworth's life was his failure by a narrow margin to secure election to the reformed House of Lords in 1999. He had served in Margaret Thatcher's second administration, first as a whip and then for three years as Parliamentary Secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry. With little legislation emanating from the department, Lucas was largely confined to the small change of politics, but as always he was a hard worker, conscientious, invariably courteous, popular in the House and a pleasant colleague.

Michael Lucas was educated at Peter Symond's School, Winchester, and Luton Technical College. From 1940 to 1943 he was an apprentice at Vauxhall Motors Ltd and when called up served with the Royal Armoured Corps. He was later commissioned in the 8th Royal Tank Regiment. On returning to civilian life in 1947, he followed his father into the family business in Southampton and eventually became managing director of Perrins Motors Ltd and Cliffbank Motors. By profession a mechanical engineer, he was Fellow of the Institute of the Motor Industry, whose Vice-President he became in 1993, and of the Institute of Transport Administration. He was proud of his driving record and served four four years as President of the League of Safe Drivers.

His father, George Lucas, was a prominent figure in the motor trade. He held a Vauxhall dealership in Southampton and was President of the Motor Agents Association in the 1920s and again during the Second World War. He chaired the National Joint Industrial Council of the Motor Vehicle Retail and Repair Trade from 1941 to 1946, and had caught Attlee's eye. As a result in 1946 he found himself elevated to the House of Lords where he served first as a whip and latterly as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport. Michael's mother, née Sonia Finkelstein, came from Latvia.

When his father died in October 1967, Lucas took the Conservative whip in the House of Lords, but it was not until 1980 that he began to make a major mark on its deliberations. He served on the Select Committee on Science and Technology from 1980 to 1983 and speedily found himself selected to be one of the delegates to the North Atlantic Assembly. After the 1983 election he was appointed a Lord in Waiting, answering for the Government on transport and the environment, and a year later was promoted to junior office in the DTI.

Never a wealthy man, he was known to have some difficulty managing on his ministerial salary. When he returned to the backbenches after the 1987 election, he resumed his place on the public policy committee of the RAC and became a hard-working member of the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities. From 1988 until 1998 he was again a delegate to the North Atlantic Assembly.

An excellent shot, Lucas was a regular competitor at Bisley, but he also enjoyed the quieter pursuit of gardening.

John Barnes

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