Eric Lubbock, 4th Baron Avebury

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Avebury
Lord Avebury in 2006
Liberal Chief Whip
In office
1963 – 18 June 1970
Leader Jo Grimond
Jeremy Thorpe
Preceded by Arthur Holt
Succeeded by David Steel
Member of the United Kingdom Parliament
for Orpington
In office
15 March 1962 – 18 June 1970
Preceded by Donald Sumner
Succeeded by Ivor Stanbrook
Personal details
Born Eric Reginald Lubbock
(1928-09-29)29 September 1928
Orpington, Kent, England
Died 14 February 2016(2016-02-14) (aged 87)
London, England
Nationality British
Political party Liberal
Liberal Democrat
  • Kina-Maria O'Kelly de Gallagh (m. 1953; div. 1983)
  • Lindsay Stewart (m. 1985)
Children Lyulph
John William
Education Upper Canada College
Harrow School
Balliol College, Oxford
Occupation Politician

Eric Reginald Lubbock, 4th Baron Avebury, (29 September 1928 – 14 February 2016) was an English politician. He served as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Orpington from 1962 to 1970. He then served in the House of Lords, having inherited the title of Baron Avebury in 1971, until his death; in 1999, when most hereditary peers were removed from the House of Lords, he was elected by his fellow Liberal Democrats to remain. When he died, he was the longest serving Liberal Democrat peer.

Early life and career[edit]

A descendant of William Lubbock (1701–54), he was the son of the Honourable Maurice Fox Pitt Lubbock (the sixth son of John Lubbock, 1st Baron Avebury) and the Honourable Mary Katherine Adelaide Stanley, daughter of Arthur Lyulph Stanley, 5th Baron Sheffield and Stanley of Alderley.

Lubbock was educated at Upper Canada College, an all-boys private school in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, and at Harrow School, an all-boys public school in London, England. He read Engineering Science at Balliol College, Oxford.

He served as a Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards and joined Rolls-Royce in 1951. At the company, he was employed as a production manager (1951–1956) and as a production engineer (1956–1960).

Parliamentary career[edit]

Having joined the Liberal Party in 1960 and become a councillor the following year, Lubbock stood as his party's candidate at the Orpington by-election on 15 March 1962, and gained the seat with a majority of 7,855,[1] this election victory, with a swing of nearly 22% from the Conservatives, was seen as a revival of the Liberal Party at the time. and brought the number of Liberal MPs to seven.[1][2] Subsequently, Lubbock was dubbed "Orpington Man".[3] However, the party did not make the anticipated recovery; it was hampered by organisational difficulties and progress was slow, with a loss of votes and seats under Harold Wilson’s Labour government.

As the MP for Orpington, he was appointed Chief Whip by Jo Grimond in 1963, a post he held until 1970. When the party leader Jo Grimond resigned in 1967, Eric Lubbock was one of the three Liberal MPs who stood for the position. Jeremy Thorpe, however, won with six votes to Emlyn Hooson's and Lubbock's three apiece.

In the Commons, Lubbock was on the Speaker's Commission on Electoral Law (1964–66), and proposed STV in multi-member constituencies, only to be voted down by 18–1, he also proposed reducing the voting age to 18, on which two Labour Members supported him. Orpington reverted to being a Conservative seat at the 1970 general election, on losing the seat Lubbock said, "In 1962 the wise, far-seeing people of Orpington elected me as their Member; in 1970 the fools threw me out".

The following year, John Lubbock, 3rd Baron Avebury died without a male heir and Eric Lubbock, his cousin, succeeded him. Now Baron Avebury, he sat on the Royal Commission on Standards of Conduct in Public Life (1974–76), and was Liberal Spokesman on Immigration and Race Relations (1971–83). Throughout his time in politics he was involved in human rights activism, both in and beyond Parliament; in 1976, he founded the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, which he chaired for the next 21 years. He continued as Vice-Chair after standing down.

In 1987, as a jocular protest against the cost of cremation, he offered to leave his body to Battersea dogs home "to vary the inmates’ diet." On being advised that the dogs would probably accept but the home's management wouldn't, he made the same offer to the cats.[4] He was a member of the Liberal Democrat Foreign Affairs Team, speaking on conflict resolution and human rights.

Eric Avebury in his office at his home in South London in 2014
Eric Avebury in his office at his home in South London in 2014

Human rights[edit]

Eric was a keen advocate of human rights and the separation of church and state, he was as a patron of the British Humanist Association and an honorary associate of the National Secular Society, which awarded him Secularist of the Year 2009 for his role alongside Evan Harris in the abolition of blasphemous libel. In September 2010, Avebury, along with 54 other public figures, signed an open letter for the British Humanist Association in The Guardian, stating their opposition to Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to the UK.[5]

He was President of the Peru Support Group, and advocates on human rights issues in Peru, and was a Patron of Prisoners Abroad, a charity that supports the welfare of Britons imprisoned overseas and their families. Lord Avebury was a Co-Chair of the CHT (Chittagong Hill Tracts) Commission, which monitors the implementation of the CHT Peace Accord by the Bangladesh Government, and a member of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group. He frequently raised matters related to British nationality law in Parliament; in 1964 he sought a review of the Timothy Evans case. Evans was subsequently granted a posthumous pardon,[4] he was a strong supporter of the citizenship rights of the solely British ethnic minorities in Hong Kong, and fought for their rights.

In recognition of his human rights work, Eric was made the inaugural recipient of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Peace Prize in 2009.[6]

Maurice Lubbock Memorial Fund[edit]

Trained as an engineer, Lord Avebury retained an interest in science and engineering. Together with his mother in 1957, he set up the Maurice Lubbock Memorial Fund to commemorate his father, following his early death, this established a Trust, which he chaired for 56 years, aimed at supporting Engineering and Management at Balliol College, Oxford. The Trust is still active and is one of the longest lasting of such ventures, he was elected to an Honorary Fellowship at Balliol College in 2004.

Conservation Society[edit]

Lubbock was the President of the Conservation Society from 1972-1984, during his Presidency, he proposed a form of words to introduce the concept of 'sustainable development' into Article 2 of the Treaty of Rome in a letter to The Times of 20 January 1975. This contributed to the successful debate on changing the wording of Article 2 to include a reference to sustainable development.[7]

Private life[edit]

He married twice:

  1. Kina-Maria O'Kelly de Gallagh (2 September 1953 – 1983)
    1. Lyulph Ambrose Jonathan Lubbock, 5th Baron Avebury (born 15 June 1954); married Susan MacDonald 14 May 1977, with issue.
    2. The Hon. Maurice Patrick Guy Lubbock (born 5 November 1955); married Diana Tobin 1982 with issue.
    3. The Hon. Victoria Sarah Maria Lubbock (born 27 April 1959); married Alan Binnie 1983 with issue.
  2. Lindsay Stewart (1985–2016)
    1. The Hon. John William Stewart Lubbock (born 8 August 1985)

Lord Avebury lived in Camberwell, London, he was an atheist and humanist; he was both a member of the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group and a patron of the British Humanist Association.[8] He reconciled his humanist beliefs with Buddhism, and lived as a secular Buddhist,[9] he died in London on 14 February 2016 from myelofibrosis.[10]


  1. ^ a b "BBC ON THIS DAY | 15 | 1962: Liberals seize Orpington". BBC News. 15 March 1990. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  2. ^ Macrory, Sam (24 April 2010). "Top Ten: Lib Dem 'breakthrough moments'". Archived from the original on 12 May 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2011. 
  3. ^ "Orpington". BBC News. 2001. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  4. ^ a b "Lord Avebury - obituary". Daily Telegraph. 14 February 2016. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 
  5. ^ "Letters: Harsh judgments on the pope and religion". The Guardian. London. 15 September 2010. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  6. ^ "Muslim leader praises British spirit of tolerance". Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. Press Secretary AMJ International. 28 March 2011. Retrieved April 3, 2015. 
  7. ^ Haigh, Nigel (2016). EU Environmental Policy, Its Journey to Centre Stage. Abingdon, Oxford: Routledge. pp. 29–44. ISBN 978-1-138-89031-2. 'The European Environmental Bureau suggested none in its manifesto for the 1979 elections that called for amendment of Article 2 even if one of its members, the Conservation Society, had proposed the following words for Article 2: "the highest quality of living conditions for all the people within the Community that are consonant with the paramount need, having regard to the interests of succeeding generations, to conserve the natural resources and the environment."' 
  8. ^ "BHA mourns Lord Avebury (1928–2016), human rights campaigner and humanist". British Humanist Association. 15 February 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016. 
  9. ^ "Eric Avebury". Liberal Democrats. 
  10. ^ Perraudin, Frances (14 February 2016). "Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury dies aged 87". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 February 2016. 

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Donald Sumner
Member of Parliament for Orpington
Succeeded by
Ivor Stanbrook
Party political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Holt
Liberal Chief Whip
Succeeded by
David Steel
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
John Lubbock
Baron Avebury
Succeeded by
Lyulph Lubbock