Kenneth Robinson

Kenneth Robinson

The Rt. Hon. Kenneth Robinson (19 March 1911-16 February 1996) was a British Labour politician who served as Minister of Health in Harold Wilson's first government, from 1964 to 1968, when the position was merged into the new title of Secretary of State for Social Services.

Early life

The son of a doctor, Robinson was educated at Oundle School and worked as a writer, insurance broker and company secretary. He joined the Royal Navy during World War II as an ordinary seaman, commissioned in 1942 and promoted to lieutenant-commander in 1944. He served on the HMS King George V.

Political career

Robinson was a St Pancras borough councillor 1945-1949. He was elected to the House of Commons for St. Pancras North in a by-election in 1949. He was a government whip from 1950 until 1951. He joined the cabinet and was made a Privy Counsellor in 1964. Reforms he oversaw include the banning on cigarette television advertising and the reintroduction of prescription charges. When his position of Minister of Health was abolished in 1968, Robinson was appointed Minister for Planning and Land, only for this position to be abolished a year later. Robinson left Parliament in 1970.

Robinson was probably one of the UK's most respected Health Ministers. He was always willing to listen, and indeed took informal advice from his local GPs during difficult negotiations over the GP Charter in 1965. John Horder stated of Robinson's role as Minister of Health: "Kenneth brought to this crisis a mind that was well prepared and the calmness, consideration and personality which we all have known." Robinson noticed problems with Britain's approach to General Practice Medicine, and quickly sought to reach agreement with practitioners and change the organization, funding, and nature of practice in the system. Robinson published the first consultative document on reorganisation and the need for administrative reform of the National Health System. One compromise he instituted was to reduced the number of hospital beds, under an argument of current under-utilization, and in agreement with the medical profession. In return, the government lifted the limits on fees that medical consultants could charge to patients. These actions helped to form the basis for the 1966 General Practitioner's Charter, which Robinson negotiated with Dr. James Cameron, the General Medical Services Committee chairman. Robinson also placed emphasis on nursing, appointing Sir Brian Salmon to a special committee of management experts and nurses, which looked into ways to advise and prepare senior staff at hospitals for their posts.

Scientology in the 1960s

Robinson had served as the first chairman of the National Association of Mental Health (now known as Mind). His interest in mental health issues brought him into conflict with the Church of Scientology, considered to hold controversial views on mental health: as Minister, he told the House of Commons that he was satisfied that "scientology is socially harmful." Robinson stated that there was a "grave concern" among local government at the time about Scientology, and its potential effects on the town of East Grinstead. Robinson stated in 1968 in the House of Commons that Scientology was: "a pseudo-philosophical cult." Time Magazine also quoted Robinson as stating: that the Church of Scientology was: "socially harmful ... a potential menace to the personality" and "a serious danger to health." In this speech, Robinson referred to the Anderson Report, cited additional evidence of why the group should be considered a cult, and stated that there was evidence children were being indoctrinated. Robinson announced that a series of measures would be undertaken against Scientology in Britain.

In 1968, the Church of Scientology started publishing articles that were of defamatory nature toward Robinson. Eventually Robinson sued the Church of Scientology of California and L. Ron Hubbard for libel. The case appeared before Justice Ackner, and was entitled: Robinson v Church of Scientology of California and Others. This resulted in a settlement between the parties on June 1973, where the Church of Scientology acknowledged that there was no truth to the published allegations, and offered its apologies to Robinson along with a "substantial sum to mark the gravity of the libels."

Homosexual law reform

He was a campaigner for homosexual law reform and a member of the Homosexual Law Reform Society's executive committee. In June 1960, he introduced the first full-scale Commons debate on the Wolfenden Report's proposals to end the law which criminalised consenting sex between men in private. He had also put forward a bill in 1961 to legalise abortion. His bill failed but Robinson was Minister of Health in 1967 when the Abortion Act 1967 came into force. In 1967, Robinson announced the British government's intentions to limit forms of promotional advertising for cigarettes, and cigarette-coupon schemes. Hilton described him as: "a persistent Labour critic of the tobacco industry". Robinson helped to put forth the 1968 Health Services and Public Health Act, which made home help service for the elderly a mandate to the government, rather than a permissive duty. Robinson was supportive of voluntary hospitals and health services, and voiced his encouragement to these institutions in a speech to the National Association of Leagues of Hospital Friends.

Robinson wrote a biography of Wilkie Collins and a guide to Parliament, called Look At Parliament, for young people.


Further reading (1955). The Times House of Commons 1955. The Times.

See also

Search another word or see Kenneth Robinsonon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature