Geoffrey Howe

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Richard Edward Geoffrey Howe, Baron Howe of Aberavon, CH, PC, QC (born 20 December, 1926), known until 1992 as Sir Geoffrey Howe, is a senior British Conservative politician. He was Margaret Thatcher's longest-serving Cabinet minister, successively holding the posts of Chancellor of the Exchequer, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, and finally Leader of the House of Commons and Deputy Prime Minister. His resignation on 1 November 1990 is widely thought to have hastened Thatcher's own downfall three weeks later, in perhaps the most dramatic period of British Conservative politics in recent times.


  • The well-being of the British people and the health of our economy are far more important than any government's commitment to a particular strategy, but to change course now would be fatal to the whole counter-inflation strategy.
    • "Chancellor determined not to change course in the fight against inflation", The Times, 11 March 1981, p. 6.
    • 1981 budget speech.
  • Denis Healey: Can he assure us there is no question of American military intervention as this could only make the situation worse?
    Sir Geoffrey Howe: There is no question of that.
    • "British and American warships standing by", The Times, 25 October 1983, p. 4.
    • Answering a question on Grenada in the House of Commons, 24 October 1983. The United States invaded that night.
  • In this case, the United States had particular reason to consult most closely with those Caribbean countries which had called on it to help resolve the crisis. Nevertheless, their lack of consultation was regrettably less than we would have wished.
    • "Foreign Secretary regrets lack of consultation by US", The Times, 27 October 1983; p. 4.
    • Remarks in the House of Commons, 26 October 1983, on the United States' decision to invade Grenada (a Commonwealth country) without consultation with the United Kingdom.
  • How on earth are the Chancellor and the Governor of the Bank of England, commending the 'Hard ECU' as they strive to, to be taken as serious participants in the debate against that kind of background noise? I believe that both the Chancellor and the Governor are cricketing enthusiasts, so I hope that there is no monopoly of cricketing metaphors. It is rather like sending your opening batsmen to the crease only for them to find, the moment the first balls are bowled, that their bats have been broken before the game by the team captain.
    • Hansard, House of Commons, 6th series, vol. 180 col. 464.
    • Personal statement in the House of Commons on his resignation, 13 November 1990.
  • The conflict of loyalty, of loyalty to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister--and, after all, in two decades together that instinct of loyalty is still very real--and of loyalty to what I perceive to be the true interests of the nation, has become all too great. I no longer believe it possible to resolve that conflict from within this Government. That is why I have resigned. In doing so, I have done what I believe to be right for my party and my country. The time has come for others to consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long.
    • Hansard, House of Commons, 6th series, vol. 180 col. 465.
    • Conclusion of personal statement in the House of Commons on his resignation, 13 November 1990. Howe's invitation to "others to consider their own response" was interpreted as a direct call to Michael Heseltine to challenge Margaret Thatcher for the leadership of the Conservative Party.


  • I start with the measures which the Government announced last Thursday, and which are the immediate occasion of today's debate, and to which the right hon. Gentleman finally came round – a trifle nervously, I thought - after ploughing through that tedious and tendentious farrago of moth-eaten cuttings presented to him by the Conservative Research Department. I must say that part of his speech was rather like being savaged by a dead sheep.
    • Hansard, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 951 col. 1027.
    • Denis Healey, Howe's opposite number as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour government, speaking in the House of Commons on 14 June, 1978.

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