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Reginald Ernest Prentice, Baron Prentice, PC (16 July 1923, Croydon – 18 January 2001) was a British politician who held ministerial office in both Labour and Conservative Party governments. He remains the only serving Labour MP and the most senior Labour figure ever to defect to the Conservative party.

Reg Prentice was educated at Whitgift School in South Croydon, South London, then at the London School of Economics. Having served in Austria and Italy in the Second World War, he joined the staff of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) in 1950.


Early politics

Prentice was a councillor for Whitehorse Manor in the then-County Borough of Croydon from 1949, having stood unsuccessfully in Thornton Heath ward in 1947. He served on the Housing, Libraries, Planning & Development, Water and Reconstruction Committees. He first stood — unsuccessfully — for Parliament in Croydon North in 1950 and 1951, then Streatham in 1955. As Labour Member of Parliament from 1957 for East Ham North, later Newham North East, he was a minister of state in Harold Wilson's first government at Education and Science (1964-1966), then served as Minister of Public Buildings and Works (1966-1967), and finally was put in charge of the still-new Ministry of Overseas Development (1967-1969).

When Labour regained power, he served as Secretary of State for Education and Science between 1974 and 1975, subsequently becoming Minister for Overseas Development with a seat in the cabinet until 1976.

In 1976, he was deselected by his Constituency Labour Party. He appealed unsuccessfully for the National Executive Committee to overturn their endorsement of his deselection from the rostrum of the Labour Party Conference.

Switch of Party

In 1977, Reg Prentice left the Labour Party in protest over its drift to the left and joined the Conservative Party.

Prentice was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament for Daventry in the 1979 general election and served as a Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Security in Margaret Thatcher's government between 1979 and 1981. He left the government owing to ill health.[1] He was knighted in 1987, the year he stepped down as an MP. In 1992, he was raised to the Peerage as Baron Prentice, of Daventry in the County of Northamptonshire.

In his last few years before his death, in Wiltshire, at 77, Prentice was President of the Devizes Conservative Association.

Lord Prentice's daughter, Christine, followed her father by serving as a London Borough of Croydon councillor (for Coulsdon East ward, 25 June 1992 - 10 May 1998).



  1. ^ Michael White "Obituary: Lord Prentice of Daventry", The Guardian, 22 January 2001

External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Percy Daines
Member of Parliament for East Ham North
1957–February 1974
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Newham North East
February 19741979
Succeeded by
Ron Leighton
Preceded by
Arthur Jones
Member of Parliament for Daventry
Succeeded by
Tim Boswell
Political offices
Preceded by
Charles Pannell
Minister of Public Buildings and Works
Succeeded by
Robert Mellish
Preceded by
Arthur Bottomley
Minister of Overseas Development
Succeeded by
Judith Hart
Preceded by
Margaret Thatcher
Secretary of State for Education and Science
Succeeded by
Frederick Mulley
Preceded by
Judith Hart
Minister for Overseas Development
Succeeded by
Frank Judd


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