John Peyton, Baron Peyton of Yeovil

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Peyton of Yeovil
Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
In office
19 November 1976 – 4 May 1979
Leader Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Michael Jopling
Succeeded by Roy Mason
Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
In office
29 October 1974 – 19 November 1976
Leader Edward Heath
Preceded by James Prior
Succeeded by Francis Pym
Minister of Transport
In office
23 June 1970 – 15 October 1970
Prime Minister Edward Heath
Preceded by Fred Mulley
Succeeded by Peter Walker
Member of Parliament
for Yeovil
In office
25 October 1951 – 9 June 1983
Preceded by William Kingsmill
Succeeded by Paddy Ashdown
Personal details
Born 13 February 1919
Died 22 November 2006
Political party Conservative
Alma mater Trinity College, Oxford

John Wynne William Peyton, Baron Peyton of Yeovil PC, FZS (13 February 1919 – 22 November 2006) was a British politician. He was Conservative Member of Parliament for Yeovil for 32 years, from 1951 to 1983, and an early and leading member of the Conservative Monday Club. He served as Minister of Transport (later renamed Minister of Transport Industries in the Department of the Environment) from 1970 to 1974. He was a candidate for leader of the Conservative Party in 1975, losing to Margaret Thatcher.

Early years

Peyton was educated at Eton College. As a member of the Eton OTC, he was a member of the honour guard within the grounds of Windsor Castle at the state funeral of King George V in 1936. He read law at Trinity College, Oxford from 1937, but took a commission in the 15/19 Hussars in 1939 on the outbreak of World War II. He was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force, but was captured in Belgium in May 1940, and spent 5 years in German prisoner of war camps, first in Laufen in Bavaria, then Warburg in Westphalia, then Eichstätt in Bavaria in mid 1942, and finally Moosburg in Bavaria from early 1945. He was liberated by American troops later in 1945. A brother was killed at St Nazaire in 1942.

Peyton studied law while confined, and became a barrister, being called to the bar in 1945. He accompanied Sir Walter Monckton, advisor to the Nizam of Hyderabad, to India in 1946 and 1947, in the run up to Indian independence. He became a broker at Lloyd's of London in 1947, and then pursued a political career.


He was married twice. He married Diana, daughter of Douglas Clinch, in 1947, but was divorced in early 1966. They had two sons, one of whom died young, and a daughter. He remarried on 27 July 1966, to Mary Cobbold, daughter of Colonel Humphrey Wyndham (also her second marriage).


Peyton unsuccessfully contested the safe Labour seat of Bristol Central for the Conservative Party in the 1950 general election. He was subsequently elected a Member of Parliament for Yeovil in the 1951 general election. He became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Nigel Birch, a junior defence minister, from 1952 to 1958. He supported the Suez War. He then served as Parliamentary Secretary to Richard Wood and Frederick Erroll, the Ministers of Power from 1962 to 1964. He remained opposition spokesman on power in opposition, until 1966.

He became Minister of Transport in the government of Edward Heath after the 1970 general election, one of six Monday Club MP members to achieve high office. His ministerial office was renamed Minister of Transport Industries when it was combined into the new Department of the Environment in October 1970. He remained in this position until the February 1974 general election. He was in office when the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board collapsed; he privatised British Rail's travel agency, Thomas Cook & Son, in 1972; and made helmets compulsory for motorcyclists. He also delivered a Green Paper that proposed the Channel Tunnel.

He became Shadow Leader of the House of Commons in opposition. In 1975, he sought to become leader of the Conservative Party, standing in the second ballot after Margaret Thatcher defeated Edward Heath in the first ballot. He gained only eleven votes in the election, coming bottom of the poll, and Thatcher was elected by a convincing majority. He was shadow Minister for Agriculture in Thatcher's shadow cabinet, and was offered the position of Minister of Transport after the Conservative victory in the 1979 general election, but refused to return to his old office and became the only member of the shadow cabinet not to secure a ministerial position in the new government.

Peyton stood down from the House of Commons at the 1983 general election, and Yeovil was won by Paddy Ashdown for the Liberal Party. Peyton was created a life peer as Baron Peyton of Yeovil, of Yeovil in the County of Somerset on 5 October 1983.[1]

He held right-wing views, but consistently opposed capital punishment, and he led a rebellion against the privatisation of the British rail industry under John Major in 1990. He also supported reform of the House of Lords to create a wholly directly elected second chamber.

Outside politics

Peyton was chairman of the British subsidiary of the Texas Instruments from 1974 to 1990. He also held positions with the London and Manchester Assurance Company, Trusthouse Forte, and British Aluminium, of which he was chairman from 1987 to 1991. He was treasurer of the Zoological Society of London from 1984 to 1991.

He published an autobiography, Without Benefit of Laundry in 1997, and a biography of Solly Zuckerman in 2001.

He was survived by his second wife, Mary, and his daughter and surviving son from his first marriage.


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
William Kingsmill
Member of Parliament for Yeovil
Succeeded by
Paddy Ashdown