Castle, Barbara, 1910-

Alternative names
Birth 1910-10-06
Death 2002-05-03

Biographical notes:

Barbara Anne Betts was born in Chesterfield in 1910. Her father, a civil servant, was a member of the Independent Labour Party and became a contributor to the ILP journal, The Bradford pioneer, which he later edited. Barbara was educated at Bradford Girls' Grammar School and St Hugh's College, Oxford. A left-wing member of the Labour Party, Castle was one of the founders of Tribune, the socialist weekly. In the 1945 General Election Barbara Castle (she had married Ted Castle, a journalist, in 1944) was elected M.P. for Blackburn, a seat that she retained for 34 years. Following the Labour victory in 1964, Prime Minister Harold Wilson put Castle in charge of the newly-created Ministry of Overseas Development. "I decided on 26 January that I ought to start keeping a regular record of what was happening" : begun in January 1965, she maintained this political diary throughout her periods in office. Her success at this Ministry was recognised and she was made Minister of Transport in 1965, where she was responsible for the introduction of breathalysers, compulsory seat belts and national speed limits. In 1968 Castle became Secretary of State for Employment : she worked on equal pay legislation, redundancy payments, and on prices and incomes policy. Much of this was received favourably, but the partial implementation of the 1969 white paper on industrial relations, In Place of Strife, brought conflict with the trades unions and from within the Labour Party. Labour lost power in the General Election of 1970 but returned to government in 1974. Castle was made Secretary of State for Social Services, and in this post she introduced payment of child benefit to mothers and worked on the State Earnings Related Pensions Scheme. Her attempt to equalise services in the National Health Service with abolition of pay beds met with considerable opposition, and legislation was still in process when Harold Wilson resigned as prime minister in 1976. His successor, James Callaghan, dropped Castle from the cabinet, ostensibly on the grounds of age. Castle was a Member of the European Parliament from 1979 to 1989. In 1990 she entered the House of Lords as Baroness Castle of Blackburn. She continued to campaign on a range of issues, particularly on pension rights. She died on the 3rd May 2002.

From the guide to the The Barbara Castle Cabinet Diaries, 1965-1976, (Bradford University Library)


Loading Relationships


Ark ID:


  • Stateswomen Great Britain Diaries


not available for this record


  • Great Britain Politics and government 1964- (as recorded)