Norman Fowler, Baron Fowler

Peter Norman Fowler, Baron Fowler, Kt, PC (born 2 February 1938) is a British politician who served as a member of both Margaret Thatcher and John Major's ministries during the 1980s and 1990s.[1] He held the office of Lord Speaker from 1 September 2016 to 30 April 2021.

The Lord Fowler

Lord Fowler in 2018
Lord Speaker
In office
1 September 2016  30 April 2021
MonarchElizabeth II
DeputyThe Lord McFall of Alcluith
Preceded byThe Baroness D'Souza
Succeeded byThe Lord McFall of Alcluith
Shadow Home Secretary
In office
2 June 1998  14 June 1999
LeaderWilliam Hague
Preceded byBrian Mawhinney
Succeeded byAnn Widdecombe
Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions
In office
11 June 1997  1 June 1998
LeaderWilliam Hague
Preceded bySir George Young
Succeeded byGillian Shephard
Chairman of the Conservative Party
In office
11 May 1992  15 July 1994
LeaderJohn Major
Preceded byChris Patten
Succeeded byJeremy Hanley
Secretary of State for Employment
In office
13 June 1987  3 January 1990
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byThe Lord Young of Graffham
Succeeded byMichael Howard
Secretary of State for Health and Social Services
In office
14 September 1981  13 June 1987
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byPatrick Jenkin
Succeeded byJohn Moore
Secretary of State for Transport
Minister of State for Transport (1979–1981)
In office
4 May 1979  14 September 1981
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byBill Rodgers
Succeeded byDavid Howell
Shadow Minister of State for Transport
In office
15 January 1976  4 May 1979
LeaderMargaret Thatcher
Succeeded byBill Rodgers[nb]
Shadow Secretary of State for Health and Social Services
In office
18 February 1975  15 January 1976
LeaderMargaret Thatcher
Succeeded byPatrick Jenkin
Parliamentary Representation
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
Assumed office
4 July 2001
Life peerage
Member of Parliament
for Sutton Coldfield
In office
28 February 1974  14 May 2001
Preceded byGeoffrey Lloyd
Succeeded byAndrew Mitchell
Member of Parliament
for Nottingham South
In office
18 June 1970  8 February 1974
Preceded byGeorge Perry
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Personal details
Peter Norman Fowler

(1938-02-02) 2 February 1938 (age 83)
Chelmsford, Essex, UK
Political partyNon-affiliated
Other political
Conservative (until 2016)
Speaker (2016–2021)
Alma materTrinity Hall, Cambridge
n.b. ^ As Shadow Minister for Transport.

After serving as Shadow Minister of Transport, Fowler was appointed Minister of Transport in 1979, being responsible for making seat belts compulsory. Later, as Secretary of State for Health and Social Services, he drew public attention to the dangers of AIDS. He resigned from the cabinet as Employment Secretary, and was knighted in 1990.

Fowler was Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1992 to 1994, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions from 1997 to 1998, and Shadow Home Secretary from 1998 to 1999. In 2001, he was created a Conservative life peer. He renounced party political allegiance upon taking office as Lord Speaker. On 25 February 2021, he announced that in April he would be stepping down as Lord Speaker to focus on campaigning work, particularly in relation to AIDS.[2]

Early life

The son of Norman Frederick Fowler and Katherine (née Baker), he was educated at King Edward VI Grammar School in Chelmsford, Essex;[3] after which he did National Service as a second lieutenant in the Essex Regiment. Whilst studying at Trinity Hall, Cambridge (BA Economics & Law 1961), he was Chairman of the Cambridge University Conservative Association in Michaelmas 1960, in which term he entertained both the Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and Home Secretary Rab Butler. He then became a journalist, and worked on The Times.

Member of Parliament

Fowler was elected for Nottingham South in 1970; after the seat was abolished, he switched to Sutton Coldfield at the February 1974 election.

In opposition

During the mid-1970s, Fowler was Shadow Minister of Transport. In April 1976, he was photographed outside the Palace of Westminster having just taken delivery of his third four-cylinder MG MGB GT – he had reportedly rejected the idea of buying a V8 version on account of the cost.[4]

In government

Upon Margaret Thatcher becoming Prime Minister in 1979, she did not immediately appoint Fowler to her Cabinet, explaining: "we were short of one place. As a result, Norman Fowler, as Minister of State at Transport, was not able to be an official member of the Cabinet, although he attended all our meetings."[5]

As Secretary of State for Transport, Fowler drove through Lord Nugent's 1981 bill to make seat belts compulsory, a law that came into force in 1983.[6][7]

As Secretary of State for Health and Social Security in 1986, Fowler implemented the first official drive to educate the British public to the dangers of AIDS. Edwina Currie (Health) and John Major (Social Security) both served under him as junior ministers.

Backbenches, retirement and Shadow Cabinet

Fowler later resigned from the Cabinet as Employment Secretary in January 1990; he later claimed that he was the first politician to cite "to spend more time with my [his] family" as his reason for leaving office, a phrase that has been reused by many others as a reason for a resignation and is often treated as a euphemism.[8]

Following his resignation from the frontbench, Fowler was knighted in 1990.[9]

Fowler then returned twice to front-line politics, first as Chairman of the Conservative Party (as a backbencher in Parliament) from 1992 to 1994, during which time he oversaw the parliamentary boundary changes of the early 1990s; then on the Conservative front bench as Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Transport and the Regions (1997–98) and finally as Shadow Home Secretary (1998–99).

In 2001, he stepped down as a Member of Parliament.

House of Lords

Fowler speaks from the woolsack, his deputy and successor Lord McFall of Alcluith on the throne steps behind him.

After standing down from the House of Commons, he entered the House of Lords, sitting on the Conservative benches as Baron Fowler, of Sutton Coldfield, in the County of West Midlands.[10]

In 2003, Lord Fowler proposed that the European Union should appoint a high-level coordinator with ambassadorial rank to deal with the AIDS epidemic.[11]

In 2006, he chaired a House of Lords select committee which criticised the use of the television licence fee, which is used to fund the BBC.

His book A Political Suicide (Politico's Publishing ISBN 978-1-84275-227-2) was published in 2008, and was shortlisted for the Channel 4 Political Book of the Year Award.

In May 2013, Fowler gave his support to legislation aiming to extend marriage rights to same-sex couples, stating: "Parliament should value people equally in the law, and that enabling same-sex couples to marry removes the current inequity."[12]

He was elected as Lord Speaker in 2016.[13] He is the third person and first man to hold the office since it was established by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Fowler has stated that he favours reducing the House of Lords to 600 members.[14]

On 19 March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic he announced that he would be withdrawing from Westminster and working from home, with deputy speakers taking over his role in the House of Lords, but he returned in July to continue his role.[15]

On 25 February 2021, Fowler announced that he would be stepping down ahead of the introduction of a series of structural and organisational changes and announced that it would be best if those changes were "seen through by the team who will be implementing them".[16] He also stated his desire to stand down in order to "speak his mind" as an independent member of the House of Lords on issues he has campaigned for, in particular LGBT rights in the United Kingdom and HIV and AIDS.[17] In March 2021, Fowler backed calls for the UK's first ever national AIDS memorial, with the aim of fighting stigma and discrimination against those with HIV and AIDS.[18]

Work in industry

Lord Fowler has been deeply involved in industry, having served on the board of directors of several companies. He is non-executive chairman of Aggregate Industries plc.[19] He is a member of the National Union of Journalists.[20]


  1. "Mr Norman Fowler". Hansard. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  2. "Lord Speaker announces he is stepping down". UK Parliament. 25 February 2021.
  3. Dod's Parliamentary Companion 2005, 173rd edition, London, 2004, p.581.
  4. "News: An MG for Shadow Minister". Autocar. Vol. 144 (nbr 4146). 24 April 1976. p. 27.
  5. Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (HarperCollins, 1993), p. 29.
  6. "Seat belt law introduction recalled by Lord Fowler". BBC News. 21 May 2011. Archived from the original on 7 October 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  7. "RoSPA History - How Belting Up Became Law". Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Archived from the original on 15 July 2011. Retrieved 1 July 2011.
  8. Norman Fowler (5 July 2008). "Family first". Guardian Unlimited. Archived from the original on 21 February 2017. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  9. "No. 52026". The London Gazette. 23 January 1990. p. 973.
  10. "No. 56266". The London Gazette. 6 July 2001. p. 1.
  11. Michael White (21 February 2003). "Europe should appoint Aids envoy, peer says". Guardian Unlimited. Archived from the original on 4 December 2004. Retrieved 13 April 2008.
  12. "Conservative Lord Fowler: If Parliament values people equally, it must make same-sex marriage legal". PinkNews. Archived from the original on 17 May 2013. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  13. "Lord Fowler elected as new Lord Speaker". UK Parliament. 13 June 2016. Archived from the original on 9 February 2018. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
  14. "House of Lords size should be cut by 200 peers, Lords Speaker says". The Independent. 6 September 2016. Archived from the original on 17 September 2016. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  15. "Lord Speaker announces withdrawal from Parliament amid coronavirus outbreak". PoliticsHome. 19 March 2020. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
  16. Walker, Peter (25 February 2021). "Normal Fowler to step down early as Lord Speaker". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 February 2021.
  17. "Lord Fowler steps down as Lord Speaker to campaign on Aids". BBC News. 25 February 2021.
  18. "Speaker Lord Fowler backs calls for National Aids memorial". BBC News. 31 March 2021. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  19. "The board at Aggregate Industries". Archived from the original on 5 December 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
  20. "Freelance May00: Freedom of Information: your task". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 7 September 2016.