Whitelaw of Penrith, William Stephen Ian Whitelaw, Viscount

Whitelaw of Penrith, William Stephen Ian Whitelaw, Viscount, 1918–99, British politician. A Scottish landowner and cattle farmer, he was elected to Parliament as a Conservative in 1955 and served as parliamentary private secretary in various ministries (1956–64). As lord president of the council and leader of the House of Commons (1970–72) he was one of Prime Minister Edward Heath's closest advisers. In 1972, with the institution of direct British rule in Northern Ireland, Whitelaw became secretary of state for the province. He attempted to bring the Roman Catholic and Protestant political groups into negotiations with each other, lifted the ban on protest marches, relaxed the policy of internment of suspected members of the Irish Republican Army, and created a short-lived legislative assembly and executive in which Protestants and Catholics shared power. As secretary of state for employment (1973–74), he unsuccessfully attempted to reach a wage settlement with the miners' union, whose ban on overtime, followed by a strike, threw Britain into a severe economic crisis. He became chairman of the Conservative party (1974) but lost the party leadership to Margaret Thatcher (1975). As deputy leader, he was Thatcher's close adviser and was home secretary (1979–83). In 1983 he was created a viscount and led the House of Lords until his retirement in 1988.

See his autobiography (1989).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: British and Irish History: Biographies