Robin Butler, Baron Butler of Brockwell

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Butler of Brockwell
Gater robe Lord Butler.jpg
Lord Butler in the robes of a Knight Companion of the Order of the Garter.
Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
In office
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Preceded by Clive Whitmore
Succeeded by Nigel Wicks
Cabinet Secretary & Head of the Home Civil Service
In office
Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
John Major
Tony Blair
Preceded by Sir Robert Armstrong
Succeeded by Sir Richard Wilson
Personal details
Born (1938-01-03) 3 January 1938 (age 81)
Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, England, UK
Spouse(s) Gillian Lois Galley (1962-present)
Children 3
Alma mater University College, Oxford

Frederick Edward Robin Butler, Baron Butler of Brockwell, KG GCB CVO PC (born 3 January 1938) is a retired British civil servant, now sitting in the House of Lords.

Early life and family

Butler was born in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, on 3 January 1938. He went to Orley Farm School & Harrow School (where he was Head Boy), then taught for a year at St Dunstan's School, Burnham-on-Sea, before going up to University College, Oxford, where he took a double first in Mods and Greats and twice gained a Rugby Blue. He married Gillian Lois Galley in 1962. They have a son and two daughters.[1]

Civil service career

Butler had a high profile career in the civil service from 1961 to 1998, serving as Private Secretary to five Prime Ministers. He was Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service from 1988 to 1998.[2]

He joined HM Treasury in 1961, becoming Private Secretary to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury 1964–66 and Secretary to the Budget Committee 1965–69.[2]

Early in his career, he was occasionally confused with his namesake Rab Butler. Memos for Rab Butler, some highly sensitive, ended up on his desk, and some of his ended up on Rab's. It was agreed that all memos ambiguously addressed to "R Butler" should go to Rab's office first, and then Rab's office would send on any intended for the other R Butler. It is said that one day the young Butler, who was still playing first class rugby, received a letter that read: "You have been selected for the Harlequins 1st XV on Saturday. Please be at Twickenham by 2 p.m.". Underneath, in Rab's distinctive handwriting, was the message: "Dear Robin, I am not free on Saturday. Please could you deputise for me? Rab"![3]

In 1969, he was seconded to the Bank of England and several City institutions. Later at HM Treasury as Assistant Secretary, General Expenditure Intelligence Division, he led the team which installed the UK Government's computerised financial information system 1975&–77. He had been a founder member of the Central Policy Review Staff under Lord Rothschild 1971–2. After several senior appointments at the Treasury, he became second Permanent Secretary, Public Expenditure, 1985–87.

He was Private Secretary to Prime Ministers Edward Heath (1972–74) and Harold Wilson (1974–75), and Principal Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher (1982–85).[1][2] Along with Thatcher, he was almost killed in the 1984 IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton.[1] He was also Cabinet Secretary during the premierships of Margaret Thatcher, John Major and Tony Blair.[1][2]

Other activities

After retiring from the Civil Service, he was Master of University College, Oxford, 1998–2008,[2] and was made a Life Peer as Baron Butler of Brockwell, of Herne Hill in the London Borough of Lambeth in the 1998 New Year Honours List.

He became a non-executive Director of HSBC Group from 1998 to 2008. He is also Chairman of the Corporate Sustainability Committee and the HSBC Global Education Trust. In 2011, he was elected Master of the Worshipful Company of Salters.[2]

In 2004, Lord Butler chaired the Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, widely known as the 'Butler Review', which reviewed the use of intelligence in the lead up to the 2003 Iraq War. The report concluded that some of the intelligence about Iraq's possession of Weapons of Mass Destruction was seriously flawed.[citation needed] The report also concluded, in regards the so-called Niger uranium forgeries, that the report Saddam's government was seeking uranium in Africa appeared "well-founded".[4]

Styles, honours, and arms


  • Mr Robin Butler (1938–1986)
  • Mr Robin Butler, CVO (1986–1988)
  • Sir Robin Butler, KCB, CVO (1988–1992)
  • Sir Robin Butler, GCB, CVO (1992–1998)
  • The Rt Hon. The Lord Butler of Brockwell, GCB, CVO (1998–2003)
  • The Rt Hon. The Lord Butler of Brockwell, KG, GCB, CVO (2003–2004)
  • The Rt Hon. The Lord Butler of Brockwell, KG, GCB, CVO, PC (2004–present)



Arms of Robin Butler, Baron Butler of Brockwell
Coat of Arms of Robin, Baron Butler Brockwell.svg
The Right Honourable The Baron Butler Brockwell bears the Coat of Arms granted to him by the College of Arms. A banner of his arms, a carving in wood of his crest, and a stall plate showing his whole achievement are set up in the choir of the Chapel of St George in Windsor, which is the chapel of the Most Noble Order of the Garter. Lord Butler of Brockwell, Master of University College, Oxford, and formerly Secretary of the Cabinet and Head of the Home Civil Service, was created a life peer on 12 February 1998. In 2003, he was invested as a Knight of the Garter and as such he places the Garter around his shield.
Coronet of a Baron
Out of a Well a demi Badger Azure the head Argent and eye-stripes Azure.
Mantling Or and Azure.
Azure a Cross flory and parted Or between four Covered Cups bases inwards Argent.
On either side a Lion Argent armed and langued Azure and holding in the interior forepaw a Lymphad flags flying Or.
Latin: Serve and maintain
The Order of the Garter circlet.
Other elements
Ribbon of KG appended[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 BBC News Profile: Lord Butler of Brockwell
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Salt Talk issue 9 (2011) p6 "The Master"
  3. D. R. Thorpe (2011) "Supermac - the Life of Harold MacMillan" Random House, ISBN 1844135411, page 751
  4. Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction, HC 898 (London: The Stationery Office, 14 July 2004) via BBC. Section 499, p. 137 for "well-founded". Retrieved 2011-09-03.
  5. The Arms of The Right Honourable Baron Butler of Brockwell, Grants of Arms (December 2003). College of Arms website. Retrieved 19 December 2013.

Offices held

Government offices
Preceded by
Clive Whitmore
Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister
Succeeded by
Nigel Wicks
Preceded by
Sir Robert Armstrong
Cabinet Secretary & Head of the Home Civil Service
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Wilson
Academic offices
Preceded by
John Albery
Master of University College, Oxford
Succeeded by
Sir Ivor Crewe

External links