Jill Knight

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The Baroness Knight
of Collingtree
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
23 September 1997 – 24 March 2016
Life Peerage
Member of Parliament
for Birmingham Edgbaston
In office
31 March 1966 – 8 April 1997
Preceded byEdith Pitt
Succeeded byGisela Stuart
Personal details
Born
Joan Christabel Jill Christie

(1923-07-09) 9 July 1923 (age 98)
Bristol, England
Political partyConservative
Spouse(s)
James Montague Knight
(m. 1947; died 1986)
Children2

Joan Christabel Jill Knight, Baroness Knight of Collingtree, DBE (née Christie; born 9 July 1923)[1] is a former British Conservative Member of Parliament. She was created a life peer as "Baroness Knight of Collingtree, of Collingtree in the County of Northamptonshire" in 1997 after she had stood down at that year's general election, and retired from the House of Lords on 24 March 2016. She was appointed an MBE in 1964, and elevated to a DBE in 1985.

Knight represented the Birmingham Edgbaston constituency in the House of Commons from 1966 to 1997.

Early life[edit]

Christie was born in Bristol in 1923,[2] although she later shaved several years off her age: when seeking election, she put down her year of birth as 1930. Her parents divorced when she was a child. Her mother was a teacher and a graduate of Bristol University. Christie attended Fairfield Secondary and Higher Grade School in Bristol and the King Edward Grammar School for Girls, Birmingham. In 1941, she joined the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). Her unit served in Amiens, moving later to Hamburg, following the British advance, performing ground control of aircraft. She also appeared on British Forces Network radio.[2]

Upon her return to the UK, she joined the Young Conservatives in London. On 14 June 1947, she married James Montague "Monty" Knight (an optician, who had served in the war as a lieutenant in the Royal Navy), and moved to Northampton.[2]

Political career[edit]

She was elected as a councillor on Northampton Borough Council, serving from 1956 to 1966, and became a whip. She unsuccessfully contested the parliamentary seat of Northampton at the 1959 and 1964 general elections for the Conservative Party.[3][4] She was elected Member of Parliament (MP) for Birmingham Edgbaston in the 1966 general election, and held that seat in successive elections until she stood down at the 1997 election. The Conservative MP for Edgbaston, Dame Edith Pitt, had died on 27 January 1966 and it was the first time that a female Member of Parliament had been succeeded by another woman.[5]

Knight was a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Race Relations and Immigration, 1969–72. For more than two decades she was an active member of the Conservative Monday Club and was an outspoken opponent of the Irish Republican Army. Following the February 1972 Aldershot Bombing by the IRA she called for legislation to outlaw the IRA, and attacked supporters and sympathisers on the mainland.

She was on the Select Committee for the Council of Europe from 1977, the Select Committee for Home Affairs from 1980 to 1983, Lady Chairman of the Lords and Commons All-Party Child and Family Protection Group from 1978, on the Conservative Back-bench Health and Social Services Committee from 1982 and Secretary to the 1922 Committee from 1983 to 1987. Knight was President of the West Midlands Conservative Political Centre from 1980 to 1983, and Lady Chairman of the Western European Union Relations with Parliaments Committee from 1984 to 1988. She also served on the Council of Europe (1977–88), and as Chairman of the British Inter-Parliamentary Union (1994–97).

One slogan in the aftermath of the New Cross house fire, which left 13 young Black Britons dead, read: "Dame Jill Knight Set The Fire Alight!"; this was an apparent reference to a controversial speech by Knight which was widely interpreted as condoning or even encouraging direct action against noisy parties.[6][7]

Knight was created a Life Peer as Baroness Knight of Collingtree, of Collingtree in the County of Northamptonshire in 1997[8] after standing down at that year's general election, and retired from the House of Lords on 24 March 2016.[9] She was Vice-Chairman of the Association of Conservative Peers from 2002 to 2005.[10]

Her memoirs, About the House, were published in 1995.[11] She was interviewed in 2012 as part of The History of Parliament's oral history project.[12][13]

Section 28[edit]

Knight, along with David Wilshire, introduced the Section 28 amendment to the Local Government Act 1988, which barred local authorities, including schools, from 'promoting' homosexuality.[14] While promoting the new clause, Knight claimed that children under two had access to gay and lesbian books in Lambeth, a claim which has never been substantiated.[15] She linked discussion of homosexuality in schools to the spread of AIDS, also describing homosexuality as "perverted" and "desperately dangerous".[16] She has been described as a key force behind the legislation and a "dedicated – not to say fanatical – anti-gay MP".[17]

In June 2013, she opposed same-sex marriage legislation, arguing that Parliament cannot change the fact that "marriage is not about just love. It is about a man and a woman, themselves created to produce children, producing children. A man can no more bear a child, than a woman can produce sperm, and no law on earth can change that. This is not a homophobic view. It may be sad, it may be unequal, but it's true."[18] In the same year, she claimed it was wrong for the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to apologise for the legacy of Section 28, while appearing to defend herself from accusations of homophobia by claiming that gay people are "very good at antiques".[19]

In 2018, when she was confronted by former attitude magazine editor Matthew Todd, who interviewed Knight about her role as an architect of and a main driving force behind Section 28, she said "I'm sorry if anything I did upset you. All I was trying to do was acting on what people wrote to me, said to me, what the papers said." Knight stated that her motivation had only been to maintain the welfare of children.[20]

Outside Parliament[edit]

From 1986 to 1995, Knight was Vice-President of Townswomen's Guilds. She was director of Computeach International plc from 1991 to 2006 and Heckett Multiserv from 1999 to 2006. Knight has been President of Sulgrave Manor Trust since 2012; she was its Chairman from 2007 to 2012.[10]

Honours[edit]

Knight was appointed an MBE in 1964,[21] and elevated to a DBE in 1985.[22][23] She was awarded an honorary DSc by Aston University in 1999. Knight was made a Kentucky Colonel in 1973; a Nebraska Admiral in 1980; and has been an honorary Texas Ranger since 2014.[10]

Personal life[edit]

Knight's husband, James Montague Knight, died in 1986. The couple had two children. Her recreations are music, reading, tapestry work, theatre-going and antique-hunting.[10]

Arms[edit]

Coat of arms of Jill Knight
Escutcheon
Argent an oak tree eradicated Azure fructed Or within a mascle Azure thereon four needles in lozenge Argent each enfilled and entwined by a thread Or the ends thereof knotted in chief and in base.
Supporters
On either side a lynx Azure gorged with a plain collar attached thereto a chain reflexed over the back.

[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Mrs Jill Knight (Hansard)". api.parliament.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Profile, historyofparliamentonline.org; accessed 16 May 2016.
  3. ^ Kimber, Richard. "UK General Election results 1959". Political Science Resources. Archived from the original on 8 October 2016. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  4. ^ Kimber, Richard. "UK General Election results 1964". Political Science Resources. Retrieved 17 October 2016.
  5. ^ Phillips (1980): p. 80
  6. ^ Darcus Howe, "New Cross: the blaze we cannot forget", The Guardian, 17 January 2011.
  7. ^ Kurt Barling, "New Cross fire - a turning point?", Barling's London, BBC, 18 January 2011.
  8. ^ "No. 54904". The London Gazette. 29 September 1997. p. 10969.
  9. ^ "Retired members of the House of Lords". parliament.uk. Retrieved 25 March 2016.
  10. ^ a b c d "Knight of Collingtree, Baroness, (Joan Christabel Jill Knight)". WHO'S WHO & WHO WAS WHO. 2007. doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u23317. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  11. ^ "About The House". Goodreads.com. Retrieved 15 March 2021.
  12. ^ "Oral history: KNIGHT, Jill (b.1923)". The History of Parliament. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  13. ^ "Baroness Knight of Collingtree interviewed by Mike Greenwood". British Library Sound Archive. Retrieved 26 January 2018.
  14. ^ Nicholas Billingham (7 June 2015). "Letters: Section 28 anti-gay law was not devised in the Department of Education". The Guardian.
  15. ^ "The Destruction Caused by Clause 28". Glasgow Women's Library. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  16. ^ "AMENDMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1986 (Hansard, 8 May 1987)". api.parliament.uk. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  17. ^ Letters (7 June 2015). "Section 28 anti-gay law was not devised in the Department of Education - Letters". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  18. ^ Joseph Patrick McCormick, Baroness Knight: Parliament can't help blind people see, so can't help 'artistic' gays get married, Pink News, 3 June 2013.
  19. ^ "Baroness Knight: The gays are still good at antiques and Section 28 was right". PinkNews - Gay news, reviews and comment from the world's most read lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans news service. 10 June 2013. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  20. ^ Salisbury, Josh (25 May 2018). "Baroness Knight: Section 28 architect says she's sorry 'if the law hurt anyone'". PinkNews.
  21. ^ "No. 43200". The London Gazette (Supplement). 1 January 1964. p. 17.
  22. ^ "No. 50154". The London Gazette (Supplement). 15 June 1985. p. 7.
  23. ^ "KNIGHT, Jill (b. 1923)". Interview with the History of Parliament oral history project. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  24. ^ Debrett's Peerage & Baronetage. 2000.

Sources[edit]

  • Phillips, Melanie (1980). The Divided House. London: Jonathan Cape Sidgwick & Jackson. ISBN 9780283985478.
  • Copping, Robert. The Monday Club - Crisis and After, Current Affairs Information Service, Ilford, Essex, May 1976, pp. 5, 9, 16–18, 21-22
  • Dod's Parliamentary Companion 1973, 160th edition, Epsom: Sell's Publications Ltd
  • Dod's Parliamentary Companion 1990, 171st edition, London
  • Knight, Jill. About the House. Churchill Press, 1995; ISBN 0-902782-29-0
  • Who's Who, London: A. & C. Black (various editions)

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Birmingham Edgbaston
19661997
Succeeded by