Thatcher's first education minister dies, aged 76

29th July 2005 at 01:00
Lord Carlisle of Bucklow, who battled against school cuts as education secretary, has died at the age of 76.

Mark Carlisle experienced an uncomfortable two years in Margaret Thatcher's first cabinet before she sacked him in 1981.

During his tenure as education secretary he announced cuts of pound;70 million to school budgets, introduced assisted places for poorer pupils at private schools, scrapped subsidies for school meals and tried, unsuccessfully, to introduce charges for school transport. But he fought the Treasury to prevent further cuts of up to pound;1 billion that were planned for education.

This led Tory right-wingers to criticise him for being soft, including Lady Thatcher who wrote in her memoirs that he "had not proved a particularly effective Education Secretary".

Sir Robert Balchin, the Conservative education adviser, said Lord Carlisle's greatest legacy was to have made schools reveal their exam results and publish prospectuses. "In a way he was the founder of league tables," Sir Robert said. "Before then schools were shrouded in secrecy."

The National Union of Teachers gave Lord Carlisle a frosty reception at their conference in 1980, sitting through his speech in silence.

However, Fred Jarvis, who was NUT general secretary between 1975 and 1989, said he had been impressed by decisions the minister made which led to pay rises for teachers. "He was approachable and a very liberal Tory - which was no doubt his undoing."

Born in Uruguay, the son of a Manchester cotton farmer, Lord Carlisle was also a crown court judge. As a lawyer he advised the Daily Mirror against suggesting that Liberace was homosexual. The libel action which followed resulted in record damages.

He maintained an interest in schools after being replaced as education secretary by Sir Keith Joseph, arguing against the Tories' vouchers policy and plans to divorce schools from local authorities.

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