Norman Hepple, RA, 1908 - 1994
Portrait of Sir Paul Chambers 1904 - 1981
Portrait of Sir Paul Chambers

signed and dated "1968"

oil on canvas
101.60 x 76.20 cm. (40 x 30 in.)


Chambers, Sir (Stanley) Paul (1904–1981), civil servant and industrialist, was born at 3 Russell Road, Bowes Park, Southgate, London, on 2 April 1904, sixth of the eight children (six boys and two girls) of Philip Joseph Chambers, commercial clerk (later company secretary and finally cigar merchant), and his wife, Catherine Emily Abbott. He was educated at the City of London School and as an evening student at the London School of Economics, acquiring the degrees of BCom in 1928 and MSc (Econ) in 1934. His occupation was given as ‘commercial teacher’ at the time of his marriage, on 31 July 1926, to Dorothy Alice Marion (b. 1899/1900), a shorthand typist, daughter of Thomas Gill Baltershell Copp, printer. They had no children.

In 1927 Chambers joined the Inland Revenue tax inspectorate, initially based in Leeds and in London. His brilliance there was soon recognized and in 1935 he was selected for secondment to serve on the Indian income tax inquiry committee. In 1937 he was appointed income tax adviser to the government of India, with the rank of joint secretary, and he instituted a scheme for the deduction of income tax at source from salaries and wages.

On the outbreak of war in 1939 income tax in Britain needed to be sharply raised, which would create difficulty in paying it in two half-yearly lump sums. Chambers was therefore recalled from India and in 1940 appointed assistant secretary to set up a deduction scheme. With a small committee he devised a plan whereby each deduction was a proportion of the tax assessed for the previous year. The trade unions, however, soon began agitating for deductions to be related to current pay. This at first appeared impossible and Chambers wrote a white paper saying so, but the agitation continued. Meanwhile, in 1942, he was promoted to membership of the Board of Inland Revenue. Eventually A. G. T. Shingler, a principal inspector of taxes, devised a solution to the problem with the cumulative principle, which became the basis of the PAYE (pay as you earn) system. After working out the detailed operation of the scheme, which placed a burden of tax collection on employers, Chambers succeeded in winning the consent of the rest of his department, and of ministers, trade unions, and the employers' organizations. It took effect in 1943 and played a vital role in raising revenue during the war. Another achievement of his Inland Revenue days was the negotiation with the USA of the first double taxation agreement made by Britain, which has been described as ‘a landmark in international fiscal cooperation’ (The Times, 5 Jan 1982, 10h). In 1945 Chambers was seconded to the Allied Control Commission for Germany as finance director of the British element. His success in this post helped prepare the ground for the German ‘economic miracle’.

In 1947 he resigned from the civil service and was appointed a director of Imperial Chemical Industries Ltd (ICI). In 1948 he became finance director, in 1952 one of three deputy chairmen, and from 1960 to 1968 he was chairman, the first to come from outside the company. He did much to modernize the organization and public image of ICI, and took it into Europe and America. The chemical industry was then undergoing great change as it moved from coal to oil as the basic raw material, and Chambers initiated a fundamental review of company policy. He concluded that ICI could best serve the public interest by satisfying its shareholders and concentrating on growth and profitability. The implications of this decision challenged the prevailing scientific ethos of the company, but Chambers intended to make it a major player in an increasingly competitive international market. He therefore increased borrowing to fund expanded production and oversaw a reorganization of the management structure, devolving power to divisional chairmen in order to free the directors to concentrate on the development of long-term strategy. He sought a company with a clear direction, but one capable of responding quickly to changing circumstances. In order to implement the necessary reforms Chambers called in the American management consultants McKinseys: the act of bringing in outsiders to remedy internal problems was another challenge to the corporate psychology.

During Chambers's time as chairman ICI's exports doubled in value, but his reputation was severely damaged by the failed take-over bid for Courtaulds in 1961–2. Chambers conducted the negotiations personally and his open style with the press ensured widespread publicity for the bid. He fatally misjudged, though, the price that would have to be offered to Courtaulds shareholders in order to persuade a majority to accept the merger: more than once he was forced publicly to raise his ‘final’ offer, which was finally made unconditional. This gave the Courtaulds directors, of whom he had been highly critical, valuable ammunition with which to resist the take-over. The proposal had been imaginative, indicative of ICI's ambitions under Chambers, but its failure damaged the image both of the company and of its chairman. A further blow came with a mismanagement of capital resources in 1966, which led to some expensive short-term borrowing. In 1968 he retired as chairman.

Chambers was a director from 1951 to 1974 of the National Provincial, later the National Westminster Bank, and, on leaving ICI, he was appointed chairman of three insurance companies, the Royal, the London and Lancashire, and the Liverpool and London and Globe. He was also a part-time member of the National Coal Board from 1956 to 1960. Between 1951 and 1972 he served, mostly as chairman, on committees reviewing the organization of the customs and excise department, departmental records, London Transport, and the British Medical Association. He also served various terms as president of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the British Shippers' Council, the Institute of Directors, the Royal Statistical Society, and the Advertising Association. In his later days he entered the academic world as vice-president of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (1969–74), the first treasurer of the Open University (1969–75), and pro-chancellor of the University of Kent (1972–8).

Chambers's enormous energy and drive showed in his rapid movements and speech and his quick grasp of detail. He was always ready to delegate work; he pushed people hard, but his generous appreciation of their efforts, his great personal charm, and his obvious mastery won him their support and affection. Despite being, as chairman of ICI, one of the highest-paid men in British industry at the time, Chambers lived simply. He was a keen gardener, and enjoyed music, Scrabble, and bridge, but read little. His first marriage was dissolved in 1955, and on 23 September of that year Chambers married Edith Pollack (b. 1917/18), whose previous marriage was also dissolved, second daughter of Robert Phillips Lamb, accountant, of Workington, Cumberland. They had two daughters.

Chambers was appointed CIE in 1941, CB in 1944, and KBE in 1965. He was awarded an honorary fellowship at the London School of Economics, and honorary degrees by the universities of Bristol (1963), Liverpool (1967), and Bradford (1967). The Open University gave him an honorary degree in 1975. He died at his home, 61 Northwick Avenue, Kenton, London, on 23 December 1981.

J. P. Strudwick, DNB

Artist biography

Robert Norman Hepple RA RP (18 May 1908 – 3 January 1994) was an English portrait painter, engravor and sculptor best known for his portraits of the British royal family. He was elected a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters in 1948 and served as their President from 1979 to 1983. Elected as an Associate Member to the Royal Academy of Arts in 1954, Hepple became an Academician in 1961.Hepple was born in London and was the son of the painter Robert Watkin Hepple and the nephew of Wilson Hepple, the animal painter from Northumbria. Hepple studied at Goldsmiths College of Art and then the Royal Academy Schools, under Sir Walter Russell, where he obtained a scholarship in engraving. During the 1930s Hepple illustrated the books of the Shropshire novelist Mary Webb.

At the start of the Second World War Hepple joined the Auxiliary Fire Service, which in 1941 became the National Fire Service, NFS, and served as a fire-fighter during the London Blitz. A number of other artists had joined the NFS and a firemen artists' committee had been formed which includedLeonard RosomanBernard HailstonePaul Lucien Dessau and Robert Coram. As well as contributing to both War Artists' Advisory Committee, WAAC, and specialist civil defence art shows, the firemen held several of their own exhibitions. WAAC initially purchased two paintings by Hepple, one in 1940 and another in 1941. In 1943 WAAC commissioned a series of drawings from Hepple of NFS personnel and were to purchase another five paintings, including a fine portrait of a Canadian fire-fighter, from him before the war ended. At least one painting by Hepple was included in the firemen artists exhibitions that toured America during the war.

After the war Hepple resumed his career as a professional artist. In 1950 he designed a poster for British RailwaysService to Industry and Shipbuilding. He painted portraits of Queen Elizabeth II on three occasions;- in 1965 for the Royal Marines, in 1978 for the island of Jersey and also in 1978 for the submarine officers of HMS Dolphin. He painted notable portraits of Prince CharlesPrince Philip and of the Queen Mother, who sat for him for four separate commissions. His 1978 portrait of Queen Elizabeth was adapted for use on banknotes issued in Jersey. Failing eyesight eventually curtailed his painting career. He died from injuries he received after being run over by a car whilst returning to his home in Richmond in London from a meeting at the Royal Academy.