Lord Milner of Leeds -2003

Lord Milner of Leeds, who died on August 20 2003 aged 79, combined a career as a solicitor, specialising in property, with that of being a busy, if modest, member of the House of Lords.

He served as a junior Labour whip during the Heath government from 1971 to 1974, but afterwards rarely spoke in debate, though he was a sedulous attender of debates on whom whips could rely to remain in the House as long as he was needed. He served on the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills and then the Select Committees on Private Bills. When Tony Blair introduced his constitutional changes in 1999 he was one of the two hereditary Labour peers elected.

Arthur James Michael Milner was born on September 12 1923 into a family of Leeds solicitors. His father was a solicitor and Labour MP for Leeds, who became the 1st Lord Milner of Leeds and a Deputy Speaker of the Lords. Young Mike was brought up in Leeds and sent to Oundle before going into the RAF. After the war, he went to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, to read Law and, as a member of the Royal Auxiliary Air Force, flew Spitfires with 609 (West Riding) Squadron at weekends. In 1952, he came out to specialise in property law with the family firm, based in London.

After succeeding his father in 1967, Milner drew on his experience with safety belts, which he had installed for his children before they were compulsory, to issue a warning in his maiden speech about the dangers of the hooked-on variety. He concluded by proposing as a suitable maxim for safe driving, “Treat pedestrians as children and other drivers as criminal lunatics”.
A rally driver in his younger days, Milner was a useful member of the Lords swimming team. Although broadly supportive of the Blair government’s constitutional changes, he was bemused by the way they were introduced. His own death creates a by-election in the Lords amongst Labour hereditaries.

Milner married, in 1951, Sheila Margaret Hartley, who died in 2000; in 2002, he married Helen Cutting Wilmerding. There were two daughters, one of whom predeceased him, and a son, Richard James Milner (born in 1959), who succeeds in the peerage.