When Lord Hutton went up to Magdalen College, Oxford in 1973, he joined the Labour, Conservative and Liberal parties – principally to “meet girls”, writes David Blair.

Among his contemporaries at the same college was a campaigning Labour student called Chris Huhne, now the Liberal Democrat energy secretary but, if the two ever met, the encounter has slipped Lord Hutton’s memory.

After graduating in law, Lord Hutton worked as legal adviser to the CBI, the employers’ organisation, and lectured at Newcastle Polytechnic before being elected Labour MP for Barrow-in-Furness in 1992.

He rose rapidly through the ranks after the party won power in 1997, becoming a junior health minister the following year and then holding four cabinet jobs in quick succession. Between 2005 and 2009, Lord Hutton was minister in the cabinet office and then secretary of state for work and pensions, business and latterly defence.

When he became business secretary in 2007, energy policy was on his list of responsibilities. Lord Hutton has been a passionate supporter of nuclear power throughout his political career: his old Cumbrian constituency is where BAE Systems builds the UK’s nuclear submarines, while also being close to the country’s biggest nuclear facility at Sellafield.

When he started out in Labour politics, backing nuclear power was often an isolated and unpopular position to take. He notes with relief that Labour has changed course and joined the political consensus behind building a new generation of power stations.

Lord Hutton, 56, stepped down as defence secretary in 2009 and left the House of Commons at the last election.

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