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Discrete CollectionsPolitics, economics and social science collections
TitleSteel; David Martin Scott (1938-); Baron Steel of Aikwood; politician
Extent231 boxes
Admin Biographical HistoryDavid Steel was born 31 March 1938 in Scotland. He was educated at Prince of Wales School, Nairobi, and George Watson's College, Edinburgh University, from where he graduated with an MA in 1960 and a law degree in 1962. Whilst at Edinburgh University he served as the President of the Edinburgh University Liberals (1959) and the Students' Representative Council (1960).

On leaving university he worked for a short time as a journalist which included employment as a BBC television interviewer in Scotland. From 1962 until 1964 Steel was the Assistant Secretary, for the Scottish Liberal Party. In 1964 he became the Liberal Parliamentary candidate for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles. He was unsuccessful in the General Election of that year but won the seat in the 1965 by-election after the death of the Conservative MP, C E M Donaldson. He remained MP for the constituency (re-drawn and re-named Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale in 1983), firstly for the Liberal Party, and after 1988, for the Liberal Democrats, until he stepped down at the 1997 election.

In 1966 Steel introduced a controversial Private Members Bill to reform the law on abortion. The Abortion Act, which was passed the following year, legalised abortion and was a major achievement for social reform. In his early political career Steel was the Liberal Party's employment spokesman (1965-1967), spokesman on Commonwealth Affairs (1967-1970), Chief Whip (1970-1975) and spokesman on Foreign Affairs (1974-1976). After the resignation of Jeremy Thorpe in 1976, Steel was elected leader of the Party after a contest against John Pardoe.

With Steel as Leader the Liberal Party enjoyed the highest share of the popular vote cast for a third party in fifty years, and the Liberals won more seats in Parliament and local government than it had held since the Second World War. In 1977 Steel led the Party into the Lib-Lab pact, thus keeping the Labour Party in government. After the formation of the Social Democratic Party in 1981, the Liberals formed an Alliance with the new party, which resulted in the parties' merge and the formation of the Liberal Democrats (Lib Dems) in 1988. Steel decided to step down as Leader at this point and went on to work as the Lib Dems Foreign Affairs Spokesman between 1989 and 1994.

After stepping down as Leader Steel pursued two key interests - foreign affairs and constitutional reform. In 1989 he became the co-chair of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, which worked to establish home rule for Scotland. The work of the Convention laid the groundwork for the Scotland Act of 1998 and in 1999 Steel was elected to the Scottish Parliament as the MSP for the Lothians. In the same year he was elected as the Presiding Officer (Speaker) of the Scottish Parliament, a position he retired from in 2003.

In addition to his role as Foreign Affairs Spokesman Steel has a keen interest in the progress towards democracy and human rights in the developing world, and in particular in Africa. He served as President of the Anti-Apartheid Movement of Great Britain between 1966 and 1969. He has also promoted the monitoring of elections by international observers. Between 1994 and 1996 he served as the President of Liberal International.

Further commitments have included: Member of the Parliamentary Delegation to the UN General Assembly, 1967, Chairman of Shelter in Scotland, 1969-1973; Rector, Edinburgh University, 1982-1985; Chubb Fellow, Yale University, USA, 1987, President of the Countryside Movement, 1995-1997, and membership of the British Council of Churches, 1971-1975, Council of Management, Centre for Studies in Social Policy, 1971-1976 and the Advisory Council, European Discussion Centre, 1971-1976.

Steel was knighted in 1990 and in 1997 was made a Life Peer. He has worked as Deputy Leader of the House of Lords.

He has written a number of publications (listed below), including some with Judy, his wife. He has two sons and one daughter. His interests include classic cars, angling and writing.

Publications: 'No entry: the background and implications of the Commonwealth Immigrants Act' (C Hurst and Co, London, 1969); 'The Liberal way forward' (Liberal Publication Department, London, 1975); 'Boost for the Borders' (1964); 'Out of Control' (1968); 'No Entry' (1969); 'A New Political Agenda' (1976); ' Militant for the reasonable man' (1977); 'A new majority for a new parliament' (Liberal Publications Department, London, 1978); 'The high ground of politics' (Liberal Publication Department, 1979); 'A house divided: the Lib-Lab Pact and the future of British politics' (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1980); 'Labour at 80: time to retire' (Liberal Publication Department, London, 1980); 'Partners in one nation: a new vision of Britain' 2000 (Bodley Head, London, 1985); 'Border Country' (with Judy Steel, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1985); 'The decade of realignment: the leadership speeches of David Steel' (Hebden Royd Publications, Hebden Bridge, 1986); 'Sharing profits: the partnership path to economic recovery' (Hebden Royd Publications, Hebden Bridge, 1986); 'Mary Stuart's Scotland' (with Judy Steel, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1987); 'The time has come: partnership for progress' (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1987); 'Against Goliath' (Autobiography, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1989).
DescriptionPapers of David Martin Scott Steel, Baron Steel of Aikwood, 1966-1999, including correspondence, 1976-1999, relating to his role as Liberal Party leader, Liberal Party funding and party political broadcasts, European monetary union and foreign affairs; material concerning elections, 1975-1987, notably correspondence and reports by the Joseph Rowntree Social Services Trust Ltd on tactical seats and seat assessments, papers of the General Election Committee concerning policy and election strategy, and correspondence and publications relating to by-elections; papers relating to the Lib-Lab Pact, 1977-1978, including notes on shadow administration committees and correspondence with Labour politicians; material concerning the Liberal/SDP Alliance, 1982-1988, including minutes and working papers of the Joint Leaders Advisory Committee, the Alliance Planning Group and the Alliance Strategy Committee, correspondence concerning the Alliance defence policy and the Alliance Fund; papers concerning the Liberal Party and SDP merger, 1987-1988, notably general correspondence and memoranda concerning the merger negotiations, and media coverage; constituency (Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale) correspondence and casework, 1971-1994; subject files, 1986-1995,comprising correspondence and papers on subjects including agriculture, defence, environment, housing, health, education, transport and Scottish home affairs; general party papers, 1970-1993, relating to party policy, election campaigns and conferences; correspondence and papers regarding foreign affairs c1989-1999, including papers regarding democratic elections, government and human rights in Malawi 1991-1999 and Kenya 1992-1997; desk diaries, 1966-1998; papers concerning Liberal International meetings, 1981-1995; correspondence and papers relating to EDLR meetings 1982-1992; papers regarding Scottish home rule, including the work of the Scottish Constitutional Convention 1969-1994; membership of organisations and charities 1978-1994; audiotapes and videotapes with appearances by Steel c1978-1999; and speeches, articles and press releases (1974-1993).
Related MaterialPapers held at LSE:
MEADE/11/17, MEADE/13/11
COLL MISC/0401/3/17, 0692/18/9, 0711/711/13, 0738/1/66

Papers held elsewhere:
Wellcome Library for the History and Understanding of Medicine - papers relating to abortion law reform (1965-1968)
Papers re Scotland held by National Library of Scotland
Further papers are held by the Politics dept at the University of Edinburgh
Access StatusMainly closed; some items open
Access ConditionsAll material less than 20 years old is closed. The handlist is available to researchers who may contact Sir David about special access. Some files are closed under data protection.
Copyright TypeCopyright is held by the depositor
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