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British Industrial History

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Oliver Lyttelton

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Oliver Lyttelton, first Viscount Chandos (1893–1972), businessman and politician

1919 joined the banking firm of Brown Shipley and Co.

1920 he married Lady Moira Godolphin Osborne (1891–1976). They had a daughter and three sons.

1920 Lyttelton was invited to join the British Metal Corporation, a firm established at the instigation of the British government with the long-term strategic objective of undermining Germany's domination of the metal trade and making the British empire self-supporting in non-ferrous metals. After a brief apprenticeship Lyttelton served as general manager of the corporation and subsequently as managing director.

He also became chairman of the London Tin Corporation and joined the boards of a number of foreign companies, including that of the German firm Metallgesellschaft.

1939 On the outbreak of war he was appointed controller of non-ferrous metals. He set about exploiting his extensive network of personal contacts and his intimate knowledge of the mining industry in order to secure for Britain vital supplies of metals at highly advantageous rates.

1940 Appointed by his old friend Churchill as President of the Board of Trade. Later that year became MP for Aldershot

1942 Lyttelton succeeded Lord Beaverbrook as Minister of Production

1945 He remained Minister of Production during Churchill's caretaker government of May to July 1945, combining this with his old job as president of the Board of Trade.

After the Conservatives' defeat in the 1945 general election, he became chairman of Associated Electrical Industries. He retained his parliamentary seat and acted as a prominent member of Churchill's front-bench team. As chairman of the Conservative back-bench trade and industry committee, he led opposition in the Commons to the government's proposals to nationalize the steel industry.

1951 After the Conservatives returned to government, he was offered the Ministry of Materials, but declined; instead he was made secretary of state at the Colonial Office, a post that had been occupied by his father in Balfour's administration.

1953 Lyttelton warned Churchill that his various financial commitments would compel him to seek more remunerative employment. He wished to take up the chairmanship of his old firm, AEI, which was about to fall vacant. Churchill persuaded the directors of AEI not to press for Lyttelton's early resignation from government.

1954 Lyttelton remained at the Colonial Office until the end of July. He was subsequently elevated to the House of Lords as Viscount Chandos.

He undertook an ambitious programme of expansion and development at AEI but profits declined.

1963 He retired from AEI; 4 years later the company was absorbed by GEC.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • Biography of Oliver Lyttelton, ODNB