Lord Fanshawe of Richmond
THE LORD FANSHAWE OF RICHMOND, the former Conservative MP for Richmond, Surrey, Anthony Royle, who has died aged 74, achieved the notable feat of appearing in the dissolution honours of both Ted Heath and Margaret Thatcher.
He served as a junior Foreign Office minister under Heath, gaining a knighthood in 1974. In the early 1980s, under Margaret Thatcher, he served as Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party Organisation, before retiring from Parliament with a peerage at the 1983 General Election.
This double prize was thought by some to show remarkable qualities of accommodation – he was, after all, a languid example of the party’s pro-European “silver spoon” brigade that Mrs Thatcher so disliked. But others saw it as a fitting reward for years of unswerving loyalty to the leader of the day.
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Distinguished if somewhat bland looking, during his 24 years as MP for Richmond in Surrey, Royle never rebelled and seldom made the headlines, preferring to keep his nose clean, alternate politics with business and concentrate on issues of concern to his constituents – whom he nevertheless visited infrequently.
One of his abiding themes was the problem of aircraft noise, a subject which combined both personal interest (he lived at South Cerney, Gloucestershire, near the Fairford airfield) and constituency pressure (Richmond lies under the Heathrow flight path).
Another abiding interest was the problem of the purchase of art works at auction by “auction rings” of dealers at below their market value.
As Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Foreign Office between 1970 and 1974, he led negotiations with China which led in 1972 to the restoration of diplomatic relations.
He also paved the way for a visit to China by Mr Heath and took the initiative in arranging the loan of the contents of two recently-excavated Chinese royal tombs for an exhibition staged at the Royal Academy in 1973.
Anthony Henry Fanshawe Royle was born on March 27 1927, the son of Sir Lancelot Royle, the famous Olympic sprinter who became a successful and wealthy company director.
Anthony Royle followed in his father’s footsteps to Harrow; he would later recall a thanksgiving service after a German bombing raid in 1940, attended by Sir Winston Churchill: “Winston wept copiously throughout the singing”, Royle recalled, “which amused all of us small boys.”
From Harrow, Royle went on to Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Life Guards in 1945, serving in Germany, Egypt, Palestine and Transjordan. Later he joined the 21st SAS Regiment as a trooper, training as a parachutist.
In 1950 he was commissioned into an independent squadron of the SAS and shipped out to Korea. En route, he contracted polio and had to be offloaded in Malaysia where he fought for his life in an iron lung. He survived, but the disease left him with a permanent limp.
On his return to London, his father provided him with the wherewithal to become a Lloyd’s name and in 1951 he joined Sedgwick’s, where he made rapid progress. He also became involved in politics as a candidate in local elections and served as President of the Western Area Young Conservatives from 1958 to 1959.
In 1955 he fought the General Election as Conservative candidate for the safe Labour seat of St Pancras North. Later that year he was adopted as candidate for the Tory marginal of Torrington, Devon.
In 1958 he fought to hold the seat at a by-election caused by the elevation of the previous MP, George Lambert, to the House of Lords as Viscount Lambert. Royle’s main opponent in the bitterly fought contest was the young Liberal Mark Bonham-Carter, the fashionable publisher and war hero.
Royle did not help his own cause by playing the lofty outsider, pretending not to know the name of his Labour opponent, a train driver. Surprisingly, Bonham-Carter’s victory, by just 219 votes, did Royle’s political reputation no harm; by common consent he had put up a splendid fight. A few months later he departed for the safer pastures of Richmond.
Royle entered Parliament at the General Election of 1959; a year later he became Parliamentary Private Secretary to Julian Amery, the Parliamentary Undersecretary for the Colonies. He later moved with Amery to the Ministry of Aviation.
As Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party Foreign Affairs Committee from 1965 to 1967, Royle became the first Conservative MP to visit President Castro in Cuba, and he was appointed Party Whip in 1967.
After serving as a junior minister in the Foreign Office, Royle resigned a month before the February 1974 General Election to take over a clutch of directorships from his father.
After Labour’s victory in 1974, Royle was prominent in the campaign for a `yes’ vote in the 1975 European referendum. He became vice-president of the Franco-British Council in 1975 and a member of the Select Committee on Direct Elections to the European Parliament in 1976.
In the same year he was commissioned by Mrs Thatcher to prepare a list of Tory sympathisers among the “great and good” for future appointment to quangos. In early 1979 she appointed him Chairman of the party’s International Office and, following the General Election, vice-chairman of the Conservative Party Organisation.
During the early 1980s Royle introduced a new selection system, incorporating modern business recruiting techniques and weekend residential “parliamentary selection boards”.
These were designed to entrench the Party’s new meritocratic image, weed out undesirables, and encourage candidates with “a sense of caring”, as well as women, to put their names forward. It was Royle who encouraged Virginia Bottomley to apply to join the candidates’ list and participate in one of these weekend ordeals – she came out top.
Royle’s reforms were regarded with some scepticism in the party. One Cabinet minister was heard to observe that, on reflection, he could think of only about six “caring” colleagues and the new system would, with luck, be unlikely to raise the tally above nine.
In Parliament, Royle chaired the Commons select committee on broadcasting in 1983. The same year he asked the Hong Kong Government to ban restaurants serving parrots’ tongues and monkeys’ brains, though the Government denied that any such items had appeared on colonial menus in recent times.
Anthony Royle retired from Parliament at the 1983 General Election to concentrate on his business interests. He was chairman of the Wilkinson Sword Group from 1980 to 1983 and chairman of the Sedgwick Group from 1993 to 1997. He also served on the boards of the Westland Group, Xerox UK, and of the TI group.
He married, in 1957, the fashion model Shirley Worthington. They had two daughters.