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The Papers of John Biffen

Reference Code: GBR/0014/BIFF

Scope and Contents

Personal and political papers, including, correspondence, press cuttings, campaign material, drafts of memoir, administrative, articles, speeches and appointment diaries. The collection covers his early life, university life and political career.


  • Creation: 1940 - 2008


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is closed until catalogued.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.

Biographical / Historical

William John Biffen was born in Bridgwater, Somerset, 3 November 1930, the son of Victor William Biffen and Edith Annie (Tish) Biffen (née Bennett). Biffen was educated at Dr Morgan's School, Bridgwater and then Jesus College, Cambridge. During this time Biffen was chairman of Cambridge University Conservation Association. Before attending Jesus College, Biffen served for two years as a clerk in the Royal Engineers, in which he reached the rank of lance-corporal. He married Sarah Wood (née Drew) in 1979 and had one step-son and one step-daughter.

Upon finishing his degree Biffen worked for Tube Investments Ltd from 1953-1960, this was followed by a brief stint at Economist Intelligence Unit from 1960-1961. Biffen was elected as MP for Oswestry (renamed Shropshire North in 1983) in a by-election in November 1961, a seat which he held until his retirement from the House of Commons in 1997.

His political career included the following posts: Opposition Spokesman on Energy, 1976; Opposition Spokesman on Industry, 1976-1977; Opposition Spokesman on Small Business 1978-1979; Chief Secretary to the Treasury, 1979-1981; Secretary of State for Trade, 1981-1982; Lord President of the Council, 1982-1983; Leader of House of Commons, 1982-1987 and Lord Privy Seal, 1983-1987. He was made a life peer in 1997.

Biffen served as director of the following companies: Glynwed International, 1987-2000; J. Bibby & Sons, 1988-1997; Rockware Group, 1988-1991; and Barlow International, 1998-2000.

Alongside these various roles, from 1994-2002 Biffen was a trustee of the London Clinic, and he also served as Deputy Lieutenant for Shropshire in 1993.

He died in Shrewsbury on 14 August 2007.

His publications include: Inside the House of Commons, 1989; and Inside Westminster, 1996


112 archive box(es)

Language of Materials


Other Finding Aids

Copies of this finding aid are available for consultation at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge, the National Register of Archives, London, and on the Janus website

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was deposited at the Churchill Archives Centre in April 2015.


Autobiography 'Semi-Detached' (2013)


This collection level description was prepared by Natasha Swainston at Churchill Archives Centre. Biographical information was obtained from Biffen's 'Who Was Who' entry and the entry on ODNB.


Biffen, William John, 1930-2007, Baron of Tanat, politician


2017-11-10 12:57:08.967000+00:00
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Churchill Archives Centre Repository

Churchill Archives Centre
Churchill College
Cambridge Cambridgeshire CB3 0DS United Kingdom
+44 (0)1223 336087