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Dick Taverne, Baron Taverne, QC (born 18 October 1928) is an English Liberal Democrat politician and life peer in the House of Lords.

The Lord Taverne

Official portrait of Lord Taverne crop 2.jpg
Director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies
In office
Preceded byPosition Established
Succeeded byJohn Kay
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
In office
13 October 1969 – 19 June 1970
Prime MinisterHarold Wilson
Preceded byHarold Lever
Succeeded byPatrick Jenkin
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
5 February 1996
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Lincoln
In office
8 March 1962 – 10 October 1974
Preceded byGeoffrey de Freitas
Succeeded byMargaret Jackson
Personal details
Born (1928-10-18) 18 October 1928 (age 90)
Political partyLabour (−1972)
Democratic Labour (1972–80) Social Democratic (1981–88) Liberal Democrats (1988–)
Alma materBalliol College, Oxford

In the 1970s, as a Labour Member of Parliament (MP), he was dissatisfied with the party's political direction, so he left Labour and resigned his seat, forcing a by-election which he won.

Taverne's 1973 victory in Lincoln was short-lived: Labour regained the seat at the October 1974 general election. However, his success opened the possibility of a realignment on the left of British politics, which took shape in 1981 as the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which Taverne joined. He later joined the Liberal Democrats when the SDP merged with the Liberal Party.


Educated at Charterhouse School, and then Balliol College, Oxford, he graduated in Philosophy and Ancient History, qualified as a barrister in 1954 and became a Queen's Counsel (QC) in 1965.

He unsuccessfully contested Putney as the Labour Party candidate at the 1959 general election,[1] and was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP) for Lincoln at a by-election in March 1962.[1] Under Harold Wilson's premiership in the 1960s, he served as a Home Office Minister from 1966 to 1968, Minister of State at the Treasury from 1968 to 1969 and then as Financial Secretary to the Treasury from 1969 to 1970.[citation needed] In 1970, he helped to launch the Institute for Fiscal Studies, now an influential independent think tank and was the first Director, later chairman.[2]

In 1972 he was asked to stand down by the Lincoln Constituency Labour Party, who disagreed with his pro-European Economic Community views. Instead he resigned from the Labour Party and from Parliament, and formed the Lincoln Democratic Labour Association. He was re-elected as an Independent Democratic Labour candidate at a by-election in March 1973, and held the seat at the February 1974 general election.

Taverne lost his seat in Parliament at the October 1974 general election, but he continued to remain active with the Democratic Labour Association until it folded after the 1979 general election. He was a leading social democratic thinker, publishing The Future of the Left: Lincoln and After in 1974.

When the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was formed in the early 1980s, he joined them, serving on their national committee from 1981 until 1987. He stood as an SDP candidate in the 1982 Peckham by-election, coming second with 32% of the vote, and in the 1983 general election, he stood in Dulwich, coming third with 22%. When the SDP merged with the Liberal Party he joined the new Liberal Democrats, serving on its Federal Policy Committee from 1989 until 1990. On 5 February 1996 he was created a life peer as Baron Taverne, of Pimlico in the City of Westminster,[3] and sits in the House of Lords as a Liberal Democrat. In May 2006 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Liberal Democrats in local elections to Westminster City Council in the Marylebone High Street ward.[4]

In 1955, he married Janice Hennessey, a scientist.[clarification needed] He became interested in science and public policy, and in 2002 founded Sense About Science, a charity with the objective of advancing public understanding of science and the evidence-based approach to scientific issues. He was elected President of the Research Defence Society in 2004. He was a member of the House of Lords Committee on the Use of Animals in Scientific Procedures, and is currently a member of the Science and Technology Committee of the House of Lords. He is the author of The March of Unreason, published by Oxford University Press in March 2005.[citation needed]

He is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society[5] and a Distinguished Supporter of Humanists UK, as well as a vice-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group.[6] He is a former member of the Steering Committee of the Bilderberg Group.[7] He won the Science Writers' Award as Parliamentary Science Communicator of the Year 2005. He is a listed member of Republic, the campaign for abolishing the monarchy.

On 15 September 2010, Taverne, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter published in The Guardian, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK.[8]

Taverne was interviewed in 2012 as part of The History of Parliament's oral history project.[9][10]

In 2014 Taverne published his memoir, Against the Tide.


  • The Future of the Left: Lincoln and After. 1974. ISBN 0-224-00950-8.
  • The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy and the New Fundamentalism. 2005. ISBN 0-19-280485-5.
  • Contributed to Panic Nation: Unpicking the Myths We're Told About Food and Health. John Blake. ISBN 9781857828405.
  • Against The Tide: Politics and Beyond. 2014. ISBN 978-1849546690.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Stenton, Michael; Lees, Stephens (1981). Who's Who of British Members of Parliament: Volume IV, 1945–1979. Brighton: The Harvester Press. p. 360. ISBN 0-85527-335-6.
  2. ^ Taverne, Dick (March 2014). Against the Tide:politics and beyond (PDF). p. 201.
  3. ^ "No. 54312". The London Gazette. 9 February 1996. p. 2027.
  4. ^ London Borough Council Elections May 2006 Archived 17 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine (2006) at, accessed 30 July 2015
  5. ^ "National Secular Society Honorary Associates". National Secular Society. Retrieved 27 July 2019
  6. ^ "All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group". British Humanist Association. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
  7. ^ "Former Steering Committee Members". Bilderberg Group. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 8 February 2014.
  8. ^ "Letters: Harsh judgments on the pope and religion". The Guardian. London. 15 September 2010. Archived from the original on 30 June 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2010.
  9. ^ "Oral history: TAVERNE, Dick (b.1928)". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  10. ^ "Lord Taverne interviewed by Jason Lower". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 14 July 2016.

External linksEdit

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Sir Geoffrey de Freitas
Member of Parliament for Lincoln
1962Oct 1974
Succeeded by
Margaret Jackson
Political offices
Preceded by
Harold Lever
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Patrick Jenkin
Orders of precedence in the United Kingdom
Preceded by
The Lord Bowness
Baron Taverne
Followed by
The Lord Thomas of Gresford