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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 01:19 GMT
Brittan returns to Parliament as peer

Sir Leon Brittan: Resigned as an EC commissioner this spring

Former European Commissioner and Conservative cabinet minister Sir Leon Brittan has been made a life peer in the New Year Honours List.

Sir Leon was among the commissioners who resigned en masse earlier this year and was replaced in Brussels by fellow Tory Europhile Chris Patten.

Also in the New Year's honours is the former private secretary and foreign affairs adviser to Mrs Thatcher, Sir Charles Powell, the brother of Tony Blair's chief of staff Jonathan Powell, who becomes a life peer.

Sir Charles Powell: Life peerage
The former Serjeant at Arms in the House of Commons Peter Jennings, an ex-Royal Marine, gets a knighthood for five years spent in charge of security and administration at Westminster.

Sir Leon, 60, was personally untainted by this spring's critical report on the commission and his resignation led him to bow out of a post he was due to relinquish a few months later anyway.

Became MP in 1974

The resignation was the second in his political career, coming almost 15 years after he left Baroness Thatcher's government following the Westland affair.

Having entered Parliament in 1974 as MP for Cleveland and Whitby and then later nearby Richmond, Sir Leon became a minister following the Tory victory of 1979.

Later, he was promoted to become chief secretary to the Treasury, becoming the youngest member of the Cabinet.

Following the 1983 general election, Sir Leon was promoted to home secretary, the youngest since Sir Winston Churchill.

Chris Patten: Took over as commissioner
His tenure at the Home Office saw the siege at the Libyan People's Bureau in London during which a policewoman was shot, the miners' strike and the forging of an extradition treaty with Spain despite the Gibraltar dispute.

In September 1985, in a government reshuffle, Sir Leon was made trade and industry secretary and within months, the Westland affair hit the headlines.

The affair, over the future of the troubled Westland company and whether it would link up with an American or European company, led to the resignation of both the then Defence Secretary, Michael Heseltine, and Sir Leon.

The trade and industry secretary resigned after he was forced to apologise to the House about a letter which he had denied receiving from British Aerospace.

It later became clear Sir Leon had put pressure on BAe to leave a European consortium bidding for Westland. He had also urged GEC to play a less prominent part in the European bid.

That was followed by the revelation he had authorised the leaking of the solicitor general's letter to Mr Heseltine, in which the former defence secretary was warned of a material inaccuracy in a letter he had sent to a merchant bank about Westland.

A report by the Defence Select Committee into the leaking of the letter was critical of Mr Brittan who had refused to answer several of its questions.

Sir Leon was offered a life peerage when he left the Commons in 1989 but he chose to become a European commissioner.

Many believed he might have been a plausible candidate for the commission presidency in 1995, had he not been British. Instead he served as a vice-president under Jacques Santer.

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