Great Brit: Sir Douglas Morpeth

Sir Douglas Morpeth, born 6th June 1924, who died last week, was best known as a British accountant. However, he was a distinguished soldier, innovator and highly respected British businessman.

Born in Perth, Scotland, he was educated at George Watson’s College, Edinburgh. He served in the Royal Artillery in India, Burma and Malaya, and was demobilised in 1947 with the rank of Captain. He attended Edinburgh University from 1947 to 1949, obtaining a Business Study degree. He joined the Honourable Artillery Company TA, the oldest regiment in Britain, in 1951 and commanded the 1st Regt HAC, Royal Horse Artillery from 1964–66 and was Master Gunner within the Tower of London 1966-69. He was awarded the TD in 1959.

Morpeth qualified as an English Chartered Accountant and joined George A. Touche & Co (now Deloitte). He was made a Partner in 1958 at just 34 and was Senior Partner from 1977–1985

He was a member of the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales from 1964-1984. Soon after joining the Council, he was appointed Chairman of the Institute’s Parliamentary and Law Committee which dealt with Company Law and Taxation. He started a campaign to simplify the tax system which had become complicated with several new taxes enacted by the then Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer. This campaign was very successful and the Chancellor set up a Tax Reform Committee to which Douglas was appointed. On one of his suggestions the law was changed to allow property left to a widow in her husband’s will to be free of inheritance tax.

He was one of the originators of the Accounting Standards Committee and at its inception was appointed Vice Chairman. In 1970 he was appointed Vice President, Deputy President in 1971 and President in 1972.

He was Chairman of the Institute’s Overseas Relations Committee for several years and which lead to his being a member of the International Accountants Study Group and then its Chairman.

In 1972, as President of the Institute, he was instrumental in the founding of the International Accounting Standards Committee in London in 1973.

At the end of his Presidency he was asked to join the CBI and chair the Tax Committee, but had to resign after three years to become Chairman of the Inflation Accounting Steering Committee. This was required to produce a new accounting standard to set out how companies should prepare their accounts taking into account the level of inflation and was adopted as SAP16 after a great deal of controversy and over 4 years work for the whole committee 1976 -1980.

In 1981, at the age of 57, he was knighted for his services to the Accounting Profession.

While President he was asked to start an Accountant’s Livery Company. He got the Council of the Institute to authorise it and, with the help and authority of the City, the Worshipful Company of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales was created with full Livery status in 1976. He was Senior Warden in 1976, Master in 1977-78 and is now Senior Past Master.

On retiring from Touche Ross (now Deloittes) he was the first Chairman of the Trustees of the BT Pension Fund for nine years, a director of the Allied Irish Bank, Chairman of Clerical Medical and General Assurance Group and director of several other companies before final retirement at the age of 75.

He was the honorary Treasurer of the Royal College of Music from 1981–1996 and awarded a Fellowship of the Royal College (FRCM).

Morpeth retired to Shamley Green in Surrey with his wife Lady Anne and the pair were well-known and well-respected locally into old age. A very impressive man, who shall be much missed.


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