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Peel, Arthur Wellesley Peel, 1st Viscount

PEEL, ARTHUR WELLESLEY PEEL, 1ST VISCOUNT (1829- ), English statesman, youngest son of the great Sir Robert Peel, was born on the 3rd of August 1829, and was educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford. He unsuccessfully contested Coventry in 1863; in 1865 he was elected in the liberal interest for Warwick, for which he sat until his elevation to the peerage. In December 1 868 he was appointed parliamentary secretary to the poor law board. This office he filled until 1871, when he became secretary to the board of trade, an appointment which he held for two years. In 1873-1874 he was patronage secretary to the treasury, and in 1880 he became undersecretary for the home department. On the retirement of Mr Brand (afterwards Viscount Hampden)in 1884, Peel was elected Speaker. He was thrice re-elected to the post, twice in 1886, and again in 1892.. Throughout his career as Speaker he exhibited conspicuous impartiality, combined with a perfect knowledge of the traditions, usages and forms of the house, soundness of judgment, and readiness of decision upon all occasions; and he will always rank as one of the greatest holders of this important office. On the 8th of April 1895 he announced that for reasons of health he was compelled to retire. The farewell ceremony was of a most impressive character, and warm tributes were paid from all parts of the house. He was created a viscount and granted a pension of 4000 for life. He was presented with the freedom of the City of London in July 1895. The public interest in the ex-Speaker's later life centred entirely in his somewhat controversial connexion with the drink traffic. A royal commission was appointed in April 1896 to inquire into the operation and administration of the licensing laws, and Viscount Peel was appointed chairman. In July 1898 Lord Peel drew up a draft report for discussion, in five parts. Some differences of opinion arose in connexion with the report, and at a meeting of the commissioners on the 12th of April 1899, when part 5 of the draft report was to be considered, a proposal was made to substitute an alternative draft for Lord Peel's, and also a series of alternative drafts for the four sections already discussed. Lord Peel declined to put these proposals, and left the room. Sir Algernon West was elected to the chair, and ultimately two main reports were presented, one section agreeing with Lord Peel, and the other including the majority of the commissioners presenting a report which differed from his in several important respects. The Peel report recommended that a large reduction in the number of licensed houses should be immediately effected, and that no compensation should be paid from the public rates or taxes, the money for this purpose being raised by an annual licence-rental levied on the rateable value of the licensed premises; it at once became a valuable weapon in the hands of advanced reformers.

Lord Peel married in 1862, and had four sons and two daughters (married to Mr J. Rochfort Maguire and to Mr C. S. Goldman). His eldest son, William Robert Wellesley Peel (b. 1866), married the daughter of Lord Ashton; he was Unionist M.P. for South Manchester from 1900 to 1905, and later for Taunton, and also acted as Municipal Reform leader on the London County Council.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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