Henry Brooke, Baron Brooke of Cumnor

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Brooke of Cumnor
File:Henry Brooke MP in 1965.jpg
Home Secretary
In office
14 July 1962 – 16 October 1964
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Sir Alec Douglas-Home
Preceded by Rab Butler
Succeeded by Sir Frank Soskice
Personal details
Born (1903-04-09)9 April 1903
Died 29 March 1984(1984-03-29) (aged 80)
Nationality British
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) The Baroness Brooke of Ystradfellte
Alma mater Balliol College, Oxford

Henry Brooke, Baron Brooke of Cumnor, CH, PC (9 April 1903 – 29 March 1984) was a British Conservative Party politician.


Brooke was educated at Marlborough College and Balliol College, Oxford.

Political career

Brooke became a founder of the Conservative Research Department in 1929. He was elected as a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) for Lewisham West in a 1938 by-election. He was an ardent defender of Neville Chamberlain in the debate of May 1940, just before the prime minister's fall from power, and Brooke himself was defeated in the 1945 general election. The next year he was elected to the London County Council, and served as Conservative leader on the council until 1951, continuing to serve on the Council and the Hampstead borough council until 1955.

Brooke returned to parliament in 1950, and entered Winston Churchill's government in 1954 as Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He continued in this job until 1957, when he became Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister of Welsh Affairs in the Macmillan government, entering the Cabinet, and in 1961 he became the first Chief Secretary to the Treasury. In 1962 he reached his highest level in government, becoming Home Secretary following Harold Macmillan's "Night of the Long Knives" when many senior ministers were sacked. As Home Secretary, Brooke was not particularly successful, and his actions caused controversy on several occasions, including a failure to provide adequate security for a state visit by King Paul and Queen Frederica of Greece. Brooke indeed is widely regarded as one of the worst Home Secretaries of the twentieth century.

Further ignominy was piled on Brooke after his initial reaction to the case of Carmen Bryan became widely known in 1962.[1] Bryan was a 22-year-old Jamaican woman and first offender, who pleaded guilty to petty larceny (shoplifting goods worth £2) and was recommended for deportation by Paddington magistrates. Brooke's acquiescence to the court order and her six-week detention in Holloway Prison pending deportation was seen widely as both unnecessary and unjust. Neither bail or the opportunity for her to appeal were offered directly to her. Standing firm, Brooke told the House of Commons, "I think it would be a great act of injustice if I were to stand in the way of her returning to Jamaica. I am not prepared to look at this case again". However, parliamentary outrage and the media spotlight combined to force a speedy review where, four days later, Brooke recanted, freeing Bryan and allowing her to remain. Deportations for misdemeanours were subsequently suspended. There had been more than eighty recommendations for deportation in the seven weeks following the Conservative Government's introduction of the tendentious Commonwealth Immigrants Act (1962).

Brooke was one of many politicians to receive unprecedented criticism on That Was The Week That Was on BBC Television in 1962–63, which called him "the most hated man in Britain" and ended a mock profile of him with the phrase "If you're Home Secretary, you can get away with murder". He was also involved in the passage of various new anti-drug laws, including ones banning possession of amphetamines and the growing of cannabis. As the final arbiter in death penalty cases he was the last Home Secretary to allow a death sentence to go ahead. Brooke went into opposition following the Conservative defeat in 1964, and he lost his seat in the subsequent election in 1966. Having been appointed to the Order of the Companions of Honour (CH) in 1964,[2] he was created a life peer as Baron Brooke of Cumnor, of Cumnor in the Royal County of Berkshire on 20 July 1966,[3] but largely retired from public life.


Brooke was the younger son of the English writer Leonard Leslie Brooke, and his wife Sybil Diana Brooke. Their only other child, his elder brother, died in World War I.[4]

Brooke married Barbara Muriel, daughter of Reverend Alfred Augustus Mathews, in 1933. As she was made a life peer too, they were one of the few couples who both held titles in their own right. Their eldest son, Peter Brooke, also served as a Conservative Member of Parliament and Secretary of State, while their second son Sir Henry Brooke became a Lord Justice of Appeal. The couple also had two daughters. Made a dame in 1960, Barbara Brooke was created a life peer in her own right in 1964. Lord Brooke of Cumnor died from Parkinson's disease in March 1984, aged 80. His wife died in September 2000, aged 92.


  1. "Miss Carmen Bryan (Deportation order)" Hansard, HC Deb 19 July 1962 vol 663 cc635-41, retrieved 16 Jan 2010
  2. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 43502. p. 10228. 27 November 1964.
  3. The London Gazette: no. 44059. p. 8227. 21 July 1966.
  4. thepeerage.com retrieved 29 July 2009


Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Philip Dawson
Member of Parliament for Lewisham West
Succeeded by
Arthur Skeffington
Preceded by
Charles Challen
Member of Parliament for Hampstead
Succeeded by
Ben Whitaker
Political offices
Preceded by
John Boyd-Carpenter
Financial Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
Enoch Powell
Preceded by
Sir Walter Monckton
Minister of Housing and Local Government and Welsh Affairs
Succeeded by
Charles Hill
Preceded by
Office Created
Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Succeeded by
John Boyd-Carpenter
Preceded by
The Lord Mills
Succeeded by
John Boyd-Carpenter
Preceded by
Rab Butler
Secretary of State for the Home Department
Succeeded by
Sir Frank Soskice