Whittaker, Thomas Palmer

WM businessman, Liberal politican and prohibitionist, born on 7 January 1850 in Scarborough, the son of Whittaker, Thomas and Louisa Whittaker (nee Palmer) (1810-75). Whittaker was educated at Huddersfield College and entered business at the age of sixteen, selling hardware and iron goods as assistant to his elder brother Meredith Thompson Whittaker (1841-1931). From 1882 he developed interests in the newspaper industry, subsequently moving to London. He was also chairman and managing director of the Life Insurance Institution. A staunch Liberal, Whittaker was elected MP for Spen Valley in 1892 and retained the seat until his death, although in 1918 he was returned as a Coalition Liberal. His commitment to the Temperance cause created some tensions with his party allegiance; he was an advocate for prohibition on the Royal Commission on Licensing (1896-99), and energetic in canvassing support for the Minority Report which argued for a timetable for the withdrawal of licences without compensation. He chaired the Select Committee on Parliamentary Procedures in 1914 and the Royal Commission on the Importation of Paper in 1918: his connections with the newspaper industry were significant in this work. Knighted in 1906 and made a Privy Councillor in 1908, he died on 9 November 1919 while visiting Eastbourne, Sussex. He was survived by his wife Emma Mary (nee Theedam) (1849-1938).

  • 'Death of Sir Thomas Whittaker', The Times, 10 November 1919, p. 20
  • A.E. Dingle, The Campaign for Prohibition in Victorian England (London, 1980)
  • Brian Harrison, Drink and the Victorians (London, 1971)
  • David M. Fahey, 'Temperance and the Liberal Party - Lord Peel's Report, 1899', Journal of British Studies, vol. 10, no. 2 (May 1971), pp. 132-59