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The Lord Wise of King’s Lynn: Norfolk farmer and champion for home-grown food

PUBLISHED: 12:30 09 November 2012

Lord John Clayton Wise of Kings Lynn.

Lord John Clayton Wise of Kings Lynn.

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A champion of home-grown food production and East Anglia, Lord Wise of King’s Lynn, has died peacefully aged 89.

In 30 years in the House of Lords, he made 151 speeches on issues from red squirrels to supporting the horticultural sector.

As a farmer in Norfolk until 1984, he persuaded fellow peers to give more protection for red squirrels which had gone from his Ramsley Farm, North Elmham.

John Clayton Wise was born in Somerton, Oxfordshire, on June 6, 1923, the son of Major Frederick Wise, Labour MP for King’s Lynn between 1945 and 1951. He went to King Edward VI School, Bury St Edmunds, where he was later a governor for 10 years until 1980.

He farmed in north Oxfordshire, then Northamptonshire and moved to Norfolk in 1954. On a mixed farm, he also had Kerry Hill sheep, which became the second largest breeding flock in Norfolk.

When he retired from active farming in 1984, he moved to Blakeney. for about two years. Then he bought a grassland farm in East Sussex before retiring to Somerset in 1999.

He was a member of the former Mitford and Launditch RDC for seven years until 1967. A keen sportsman, he played football for North Elmham and cricket for Brisley, just across the hedge from his farm. Later, he took up sailing, initially at Horning Sailing Club and then Hunstanton, where he was a former club president.

In 1969, he took his seat as the second Baron Wise on the death of his father. He spoke on many topics, from the crossbenches for a year before becoming a Tory peer. He urged that central Norfolk and an improved A47 east-west link should not play second fiddle to ambitious growth plans for a greater Norwich.

In his last speech, almost 30 years to the day from his maiden speech, he championed home-grown food production and argued that the horticultural industry would bring more benefits to the local economy than reliance on imports.

He remained at Westminster until hereditary peers were removed by the 1999 House of Lords Act.

As a member of the House of Lords Sailing Club, he relished the annual match against the Commons, winning it on one occasion.

He campaigned for so-called SME (small medium enterprises) and start-up companies and for six years until 1996 chaired the Enterprise Advisory Service, based in Hampshire.

With friends, he set up a charity to screen potential recruits for statutory authorities, working in health and welfare for children and mentally ill in the residential care sector.

In the mid-1970s, he campaigned with the late Lord Winchelsea to highlight the plight of the Saharawi people in North Africa. His efforts, later involving former US president Jimmy Carter, helped to reach a settlement of Western Sahara conflict under the auspices of the United Nations. The Saharawi Refugee Aid Trust’s Rainbow Rover convoys delivered vitally-needed medical and food supplies to the refugees between 1988 and 2010.

A keen caravaner, he set up a successful certified location site on his Norfolk farm in 1971 and was parliamentary advisor to the Caravan Club. He was later elected a vice-president, which was a post he valued greatly.

A long-standing member of the Farmers’ Club, he loved working dogs, especially border collies, which always featured in his Christmas cards.

Married twice, he is survived by his first wife, Margaret, whom he divorced in 1986. He leaves two sons, Christopher and Martin, both educated at Norwich School.

A funeral has taken place.

Michael Pollitt

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