John Barnes, Historian

Colonel Sir Joseph Nall, 1st Baronet (1887 -1958)

Joseph Nall served as the Unionist MP for the Hulme Division of Manchester from 1918 to 1945, with two years out of the House when he was beaten by the Labour candidate in 1929. He was a successful industrialist, an ardent territorial and a leading member of the Institute of Transport, presiding over its annual congress in 1926 and 1932. His parliamentary activities were largely confined to working on behalf of the industrial interests of Lancashire, but he also waged a sustained, but largely unsuccessful campaign to whittle away the powers of the Central Electricity Board, when the Electricity (Supply) Bill was going through the Commons in 1926. Subsequently, his concerns over the grant of self government at the centre to India coupled with the absence of any trading safeguards made him one of the principal opponents of the national Government’s Government of India Bill, but, unlike Churchill, he agreed to serve on the Parliamentary Joint Committee 1933-34. He voted against the Bill and along with the Duchess of Atholl and three other Conservatives resigned the Conservative whip in May 1935. He indicated that he would take it again when contesting his seat in the 1935 General Election.

He was born on 24 August 1887, the son of Joseph Nall (d.1936) of Worsley in Lancashire. He was educated privately. In 1904 he joined the family firm of Joseph Nall and Company, carriers and railway cartage agents. In 1906 he joined the Bolton Artillery, a unit of the Volunteer Force. He continued his connection with the successors to the Volunteers, the Territorial Force, serving with distinction as an officer of the 42nd (East Lancashire) Division in Egypt, Gallipoli and France during First World War. He was wounded, mentioned in desptches and awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1918.1 As a member of the East Lancashire Territorial Association a great deal of his spare time was devoted to its work and the welfare of his former comrades. He eventually stood down from the Territorial Army Reserve, in which he was a Colonel, in 1948. He was also a member of the National Church Assembly. In 1916 he married Edith Elizabeth, the daughter of J.L.Francklin of Gonersal in Nottinghamshire. They had two sons, the eldest of whom succeeded to the baronetcy, and three daughters. Edith survived her husband, dying on 25 January 1963.

At the general election of 1918 he was elected as Conservative member of parliament for the Hulme constituency of Manchester. He became the parliamentary private secretary to the W C Bridgeman 1919-21. He was knighted in 1924 as part of Stanley Baldwin's resignation honours list. Nall tended to stand to the right of the party, arguing for economy and for House of Lords Reform. He was one of the major critics of the Government’s Electricity (Supply) Bill in 1926, which created the Central Electricity Board. Although he professed general support for the Bill, a series of amendments were clearly designed to emasculate it, but none were successful. On later occasions in the 1924-29 Parliament, he troubled the whips, most notably when he and 42 other Conservative MPs tried to amend the 1928 Finance Bill to ensure that in no circumstances would surtax and supertax be payable in respect of the same year’s income. He also voted against the Racecourse Betting Bill. Nall was appointed by the Speaker to the Ecclesiatical Committee of the House of Commons and in 1927 he was elected Vice Chairman of the Conservative backbench Army Committee.

Nall had held his seat in the 1922, 1923 and 1924 General Elections, although he was hard pressed by his Liberal opponent in 1923. Hulme was the only Conservative seat to survive in that election. In 1924 he had a straight fight with Labour. Ironically by 1929 Labour had become the main threat to the seat, but, with a Liberal intervening, Nall lost it to the Labour candidate, A.McElwee, by 2,465 votes. Two years later he regained the seat. He was assisted by dissensions in the Labour party over the fact that McElwee had lost his union sponsorship and by the intervention of Sir John Pratt as a New party candidate. Nall held the seat in the 1935 General Election in the face of a strong Labour campaign in which the candidate, Mrs Gould, was backed by Lady Simon, who had left the Liberal party, whose fortunes in Manchester she and Sir Ernest had done so much to uphold. It was a campaign in which he made good use of the publicity gained by his use of a coach and four for canvassing.

After the election Nall was elected to chair the Lancashire and Cheshire Conservative Group of Members and was active on their behalf and the Lancashire Cotton Spinners in seeking help for the cotton industry. In general he was a loyal supporter of the Government’s foreign policy, but like many of his generation he did not hesitate to rebel when he felt strongly on an issue. In May 1935, Nall and four other Conservative MPs had asked that the National Government whip be withdrawn from them in protest against the measure to give India self government, against the Polish Trade Agreement, and a number of measures that they believed to be socialist in tenor.2 Nall was a member of the India Defence League and had been appointed to the Parliiamentary Joint Committee on Indian constutional reform, where he had been an advocate of conceding only provincial autonomy. He had spoken out against the national Government’s policy at the Conservative party’s Central Council on 4 December 1934. He had subsequently voted against the Government in the India debate in the Commons on 12 December 1934, had supported Randolph Churchill’s candidature in the Wavertree by-election and had been one of 79 Conservatives voting against the second reading of the Government of India Bill in February 1935. When the 1935 election was announced, Nall indicated that he would resume the whip, at the same time making it clear that he would oppose the Government’s Cotton Spindles Bill. He also voted against the increase in MPs salaries and against the Population (Statistics) Bill in 1937.

In 1935 he became chairman of Joseph Nall and Company, and he held a number of directorships in companies in Northern England and the Midlands, including the Lancashire Electric Light and Power, of which he was first deputy chairman and then from 1941 chairman, the Midland Counties Electric Supply Company, where he had become a director in 1926, and Trafford Park Estates. He remained MP for Hulme until the next election, which was delayed until 1945 by the onset of the Second World War. He served on the Speaker’s Conference in 1944, which considered electoral reform and the redistribution of seats and rejected proportional representation. He was also a member of the Lancashire County Council and chairman of its planning committee. Under his guidance the committee agreed with other local authorities to contribute to the national Trust’s purchase of the Clumber Estate in 1945. He continued to be very much his own man as an MP, campaigning for support to the people of Poland, and he was one of a group of Conservative MPs who persisted in their opposition to the controversial Requisitioned Land and War Works Bill to the point of voting against its second reading. He chose not to contest Hulme in 1945.

He was the last chairman of the Lancashire Electric Light and Power Company until it was nationalised 1947, a step which he strongly opposed.3 The family firm was also taken over by the state in the following year, when it passed to the British Transport Commission. Nall continued to be the member of a number of other company boards including Lancashire United Transport, which he chaired, Walker and Homfrays, Wilson and Walker Breweries, from which he resigned in 1955, and the Northern Counties Board of the Legal and General Assurance Company Ltd. His business acumen and his knowledge of the City of Manchester were greatly valued.

Joseph Nall served as a deputy Lieutenant in both Lancashire and Nottinghamshire and as a JP in the latter County. He was the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire in 1952. In 1954 he was created the first baronet "of Hoveringham Hall in the County of Nottingham".4 He died on May 2, 1958, and his funeral took place five days later at Hoveringham, Nottinghamshire. He was buried in the Parish Church.5

1 Times Obituary 5 May 1958

2 The Times 24 May 1935 p.18

3 AGM of the Lancashire Electric Light and Power Company reported in The Times 8 April 1946.

4 The London Gazette No 40097 9 February 1954 p.465

5 The Times 8 May 1958