Ivor Seward Richard – aka Baron Richard of Ammanford.

The tiny village of Betws must hold some sort of record for having produced not one, but two cabinet ministers in the twentieth century – with one of them becoming first an Ambassador, next an EEC Commissioner and then a Lord, no less.

Jim Griffiths was the first who, along with fellow Welsh miner Aneurin Bevan, was one of the architects of the modern Welfare State as Minister of State for National Insurance in Clement Atlee's post-war Labour government. He also later became the first Secretary of State for Wales in Harold Wilson's 1964 administration (see under a separate essay in the 'People' section of this website).

Ivor Richard finally sat in Tony Blair's cabinet in 1997 as Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lord's, having been "ennobled" in 1990 as a life peer – Baron Richard of Ammanford.

Both had been initially educated in Betws Primary School and both had connections with the mining industry. But there any similarity must end. Jim Griffiths started as a lowly miner whose father had been a blacksmith, while Ivor Richard's father had been a mining electrical engineer with an elevated management position in the mining industry. Jim Griffiths' home was a blacksmith's cottage, while Ivor Richard's family lived in one of the grand houses of Betws, the country house built by their relative Colonel Morris after whom Colonel Road is named. Colonel Morris was sufficiently important to be mentioned by name, along with Ammanford's major landowners, in the 1910 edition of 'Kelly's Directory for South Wales':

Brynffin, is the property and residence of Lieut.-Col. David Morris. The Hon. W. F. Rice [ie the 7th Baron Dynevor, Walter Fitz Uryan Rice], Mrs. Jones of Carregamman, and W. N. Jones esq. J.P. are the principal landowners.

Once out of Betws primary school, however, their paths diverged in no uncertain manner, Jim Griffiths going down the mines at 12 and Ivor Richard receiving private education all the way to Oxford University and the Bar.

Here is a comparison of their careers, side by side, for closer inspection:

Ivor Seward Richard 1932 –

Born 1932, Betws, Ammanford. Father mining and electrical engineer

Education – Betws Primary School; St Michael's School, Bryn, Llanelli, (Public school); Cheltenham College (Public school); Oxford University


1964 - 1974 Elected Labour MP for Barons Court, London

1969 - 1970 Parliamentary Under Secretary, Ministry of Defence (in Labour Government)

1971 Queens Councillor (QC)

1974 - 1979 UK Permanent Representative (ie Ambassador) to the United Nations (under Labour Government).

1981 - 1984 EEC Commissioner (under Conservative Government)

1990 Created Baron Richard of Ammanford (under Conservative Government)

1997 - 1999 Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords (a cabinet position). Appointed by Labour government – and sacked by a Labour government.

2002 – Appointed by Welsh Assembly leader Rhodri Morgan as Chairman of a Commission to investigate the powers of the Welsh Assembly.

Jim Griffiths 1890-1975

1890 Born in Betws, Ammanford. Father blacksmith.

Education – Betws Primary School. Left at 12 to work in mines.


1916 - 1919 First secretary of Ammanford Trades Council (the local TUC).

1925 Elected Miners' Agent to Miners' Anthracite Association, the mining unions in the West Wales anthracite coalfield.

1934 - 1936 President of the South Wales Miners Federation (SWMF)

1936 - 1970 Elected MP for Llanelli

1945 - 1950 Minister for National Insurance in the post war Labour Government when the Welfare State was being formed.

1950 - 1951 Secretary of State for the Colonies.

1955 - 1959 Deputy leader of the Labour Party (Labour were in opposition)

1964 - 1966 First Secretary of State for Wales, a new post created by Harold Wilson, when Labour were returned to Government.

1966 Made Companion of Honour (CH) by the Queen.

1970 Retired from the House of Commons.

1975 Dies.

It's interesting to note that Ivor Richard, though a labour MP, found as much favour with Conservative governments as with his own Labour Party. The top appointment of EEC Commissioner was made by Margaret Thatcher and his Peerage was also granted by a Tory Government – though to be fair to Ivor Richard, the UK had two EEC Commissioners at that time and the practice had been to appoint one from the Conservative ranks and one from Labour. Nevertheless, politics has become a much more flexible, career oriented activity since Jim Griffiths day, it would seem.

Still, whatever route each men took on their political journeys, it surely is astonishing that Betws should have produced these two people, chalk and cheese though they may be. It may be a small village, but it certainly lives up to its description locally as "Betws Mas o'r Byd" – "Betws Out of the World." Many of the older, Welsh speaking members of the village also remember a popular colloquialism of the area, used by parents to reassure children of their importance in the world at large: "Chi'n werth y Byd a'r Betws – You're worth the World and Betws." Once out of Betws, both men made their way in the world in no uncertain manner.

Ivor Richard given top job by Welsh Assembly

Ivor Richard had been appointed Leader of the House of Lords by Tony Blair in 1997 - and then sacked by him in 1999 in favour of Baroness Jay, daughter of former Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan. In April of 2002, Rhodri Morgan, leader of the Welsh Assembly, brought Lord Richard out of the political wilderness by appointing him head of a special commission to investigate the powers of the Welsh Assembly. The chattering classes, never known to let an opportunity pass them by, sprang into action at this news as the following items, taken from the BBC web site, demonstrate:

Current home of the Welsh Assemby in Cardiff Bay - at least until their £40 million new building is completed.

Peer reports on boosting Assembly power:

Lord Richard was the UK's man at the United Nations. First Minister Rhodri Morgan has named the man he wants to decide on whether Welsh Assembly powers are beefed up. The Labour Party's former House of Lords leader Lord Richard of Ammanford is to chair an independent commission to advise on stronger, legislative powers for the devolved government. Tax-raising abilities and regulation of Welsh media could be on the cards when his panel of politicians reports back next autumn. The commission will review the assembly's work since its inception in 1999 in arriving at an answer.
.....Lord Richard will now consult with party leaders and is expected to emerge from talks with four of the panel's 10 members drawn from the assembly membership. The rest will be sought through an advertisement and the commission will begin its work in the summer. Rhodri Morgan is forming the group to gauge opinion on whether his government should follow the law-making path tread by the Scottish Parliament.

Power struggle
But the new group will not have the final say on whether the Welsh body gets a shot in the arm. The first minister will consider Lord Richard's recommendation, but only Westminster can tweak the devolution settlement. And it is at Downing Street the report could meet a stormy passage.
..... Lord Richard, 70, was sacked by Tony Blair for calling for a speedy reform of the house and wanting half of the membership put to an election. His wife, Janet Jones, wrote the book 'Labour Of Love', in which she savaged Labour lynchpin Lord Irvine and fiercely criticised New Labour backbiting.

A barrister, the Rt Hon Ivor Richard QC was UK Permanent Representative at the UN from 1974 to 1979.
He was a European Commissioner from 1981 to 1985.
He was World Trade Centre, Wales, chairman from 1985 to 1987.

.....The assembly governs agriculture, culture, economic development, education and training, the environment, health and health services, highways, housing and industry. It also oversees local government, social services, sport and leisure, tourism, town and country, planning, transport and roads, the Welsh language and ancient monuments.
..... But the administration at Cardiff Bay cannot make or alter laws. Labour Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy has consistently warned there is no public demand for further constitutional change. Plaid Cymru advocate more devolution and the Liberal Democrats, too, want Cardiff to have the same powers as Edinburgh.

BBC Wales's political commentator Patrick Hannan on the appointment of Lord Richard of Ammanford heading a review of Welsh Assembly powers:

In his entry in 'Who's Who', along with piano playing and watching football matches, Ivor Richard – Lord Richard of Ammanford – lists talking as one of his hobbies. Which is just as well, really, since he'll get plenty of that in his new role as chairman of the commission that's going to investigate the powers of the Welsh assembly. Luckily his career has meant that he's well practised at listening, too, which is what almost all Welsh politicians believe to be the proper role for the rest of humanity. Indeed, it's difficult to think of anyone more suitable for this job than Lord Richard who, after all, has been the UK's permanent representative at the United Nations and a European commissioner.
..... If it's experience of ill-feeling, intrigue, bureaucracy, special pleading, bitter rivalries and cultural misunderstandings you're after, then he's your man. He's a distinguished lawyer, too, experience that will be particularly valuable in trying to unravel the intricacies of this investigation. After all, assembly members can't agree on what their powers are at the moment, never mind what they should be in the future.
..... In the context of lawyers, by the way, and given the assembly's commitment to openness, it's interesting to be told that Lord Richard will be paid a "daily rate" for his duties as chairman but not what that daily rate actually is.
..... Well, as I say, he's well qualified for this task except perhaps in one respect: Lord Richard lost his seat in the Commons in 1974 because of boundary changes and never won another.

'Indiscreet book'
The pain was considerably eased by the high-profile and well-rewarded jobs he was given instead, but British domestic politics still had a considerable attraction for him. So it must have been a particular satisfaction in 1997 to make it into the British cabinet at last as leader of the House of Lords. It didn't last long. In the summer of 1998 Tony Blair sacked him. The reasons are obscure, but perhaps as much connected with Lord Richard's style as his abilities.
..... It was no secret, though, that he was very angry about the whole business, something made very clear by an indiscreet book later published by his wife. Because of this it's being suggested by some people that any report produced by Lord Richard will get short shrift in Downing Street where agreement would be necessary for changes to the powers of the Welsh assembly. Appointing him as chairman of the commission is a way, as the political jargon has it, of kicking the whole business into the long grass. There are a number of reasons for thinking that is not the case.
..... Most important is the fact that once you have opened this particular box it's very difficult to get the lid back on again. Once there is a report, whatever it says, then the argument will begin with full vigour. We can say this with confidence because it's already happened. The royal commission on the constitution, set up by the Labour government in 1969, was a traditional device intended to delay matters in the hope that the whole business would go away. Political circumstances meant it did no such thing.
..... In its turn the 1979 referendum was meant to be decisive, and certainly many people (myself included) thought the idea of a Welsh assembly would not resurface in our lifetimes. Twenty years later, though, the Assembly was being opened by the Queen..
..... Simply appointing a commission at all is a political act that implies things won't stay the same. If the commission recommends only minor changes there'll be a row; major changes and there'll be a different kind of row. Agreement is highly unlikely. If he can sort this lot out Lord Richard will certainly have earned his daily rate, whatever that may be.

Summary of Life and Career

Ivor Richard, Baron Richard of Ammanford

Ivor Seward Richard, Baron Richard, PC (born May 30, 1932), is a British politician and former member of the Commission of the European Communities.
....Richard is a native of Carmarthenshire in South West Wales, and went to school in Llanelli before attending the fee-paying Cheltenham College. He won the Wightwick Scholarship to Pembroke College, Oxford, where he studied Jurisprudence. He was called to the Bar in 1955 and practised as a Barrister in London.
....He had been an active member of the Labour Party and the Fabian Society since University and stood for Parliament in South Kensington in the general election of 1959. This was one of the most prosperous constituencies in the whole of the country and he came third, but was intended as no more than an opportunity to try his campaigning skills. For the 1964 election, Richard was adopted as candidate for Baron's Court, a highly marginal constituency between Hammersmith and Fulham. Baron's Court had seen knife-edge contests before and the presence of the BBC television centre nearby ensured good media coverage.
....Richard won the seat by just over 1,000 votes. In Parliament he served briefly as an assistant to Denis Healey as Secretary of State for Defence, and was appointed as Minister for the Army in 1969. He was lucky to keep his seat despite the swing to the Conservatives in the 1970 election, and became an opposition spokesman on telecommunications. He lost this job when he voted in favour of joining the European Communities (Common Market) in 1971, but was swiftly reappointed as a Foreign Affairs spokesman.
....However, the Baron's Court seat was too small to survive the Boundary Commission's redistribution of 1969 and Richard found it difficult to find a new seat, as pro-Europeanism was not popular within the Labour Party at that time. He was eventually chosen at the last minute to fight Blyth against the sitting Labour MP who had been deselected in a row over his allegations of the corruption of the local Labour Party. With no background in the area, and a popular opponent, Richard was defeated convincingly.
....The incoming Labour government appointed him in June 1974 as the UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, where he served for five years. Richard played a role in trying to bring together the sides in the Middle East conflict. He became a figure of controversy after the then US Ambassador, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, criticised the UN for passing a resolution stating that zionism was a form of racism, and Richard denounced him for behaving "like the Wyatt Earp of international politics"; shortly thereafter Moynihan was removed from office by Henry Kissinger.
....The incoming Conservative government in 1979 replaced Richard within months. However, in 1980 he was chosen by the Labour Party to take one of the posts on the European Commission (replacing Roy Jenkins). It was known that he was the Labour Party's third choice for the position: former Treasury Minister Joel Barnett had rejected an invitation, and former Defence Secretary Fred Mulley had been vetoed by the Conservative government. Richard took responsibility for Employment, Social Policy, Education and Training.
....Richard returned to Wales in 1985 and was appointed Chairman of World Trade Centre Wales Ltd., trying to persuade international business to invest in the country of his birth. In 1990, his name was included in a list of Labour Party 'Working Peers' and he became an opposition spokesman in the House of Lords. His Barrister's style led to his appointment as Leader of the Labour Peers from 1992, which brought with it appointment to the Privy Council. Richard attempted to step up the Labour attack in the Lords and pioneered a Motion of No Confidence in the Government.
....When Labour won the 1997 election, Richard became Lord Privy Seal and Leader of the House of Lords. With Labour policy favouring a reform of the House starting with removal of the Hereditary Peers, Richard began work on the new composition of the House, but was shocked when he was suddenly removed at the first reshuffle in July 1998 to be replaced by Baroness Jay of Paddington. His thoughts on the reform of the House were published in Unfinished Business in 1999 and Richard became a critical friend of the Government.
....The Coalition Government in the National Assembly for Wales invited Richard to Chair a Commission on the future powers of the Assembly from 2002. The report was published on March 31, 2004 and recommended that the Assembly have full primary legislative powers in devolved areas from 2011, a recommendation that was controversial with Wales' Labour MPs. [From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.]

There are extensive biographies of Ivor Richard and Jim Griffiths in Chapter 11 – Village Celebrities – of Betws Mas o'r Byd, a history of Betws published by Betws History Group in 2001.

This page last updated on October 1, 2010