Lord Plowden was born on 6th January 1907, 4th son of Roger H. Plowden. He was educated in Switzerland and at Pembroke College, Cambridge, and in 1933 married Bridget Horatia Richmond; they had two sons and two daughters.
Plowden began his Civil Service career as a Temporary Civil Servant at the Ministry of Economic Warfare (1939-40) before moving to the Ministry of Aircraft Production (1940-46). Towards the end of his time at the Ministry he also served as Chief Executive and Member of the Aircraft Supply Council (1945-46). He then worked for a time in the Cabinet Office (1947), and then the Treasury (1947-53), as Chief Planning Officer and Chairman of the Economic Planning Board. Outside the Government, Plowden served as Vice-Chairman of the Temporary Council Committee of NATO (1951-52). On leaving the Treasury, Plowden became Adviser at the Atomic Energy Organisation (1953-54), then Chairman of the Atomic Energy Authority (1954-59).
Plowden served as Chairman of the following Committees of Enquiry: Treasury control of Public Expenditure (1959-61); organisation of Representational Services Overseas (1963-64); Aircraft Industry (1964-65); Structure of Electricity Supply in England and Wales (1974-75); into the Confederation of British Industry's Aims and Organisation (1974-75). Plowden was also: Deputy Chairman of the Committee of Inquiry on Police (1977-79), Chairman of the Police Complaints Board (1976-81) and Independent Chairman of the Police Negotiating Board (1979-82); Chairman of the Top Salaries Review Body, (1981-89) (Member 1977).
In the business world, Plowden's positions included: President of TI Group, formerly Tube Investments Limited, (1976-90) (Chairman 1963-76); Director of the Commercial Union Assurance Company Limited (1946-78), and of National Westminster Bank Limited (1960-77); Chairman of Equity Capital for Industry Limited (1976-82); Chairman of the CBI Companies Committee (1976-80); Vice-Chairman of the CBI Presidents' Committee (1977-80); President of the London Graduate School of Business Studies (1976) (Chairman 1964-76); Chairman of the Standing Advisory Committee on Pay of Higher Civil Service (1968-1970).
Plowden's honours included a GBE in 1987 (KBE 1946) and a KCB in 1951. He was created a life peer in 1959. He died on 15th February 2001.
The Plowden Papers include: engagement diaries (1947-93); a wide range of political and personal correspondence (1946-94); copies of speeches (1960-90); working papers and correspondence on Plowden's autobiography "An Industrialist in the Treasury"; a large amount of papers relating to public commitments such as atomic energy, Plowden's various committees, political groups and business interests, enquiries into the police, the review board on top salaries etc (1957-95); press cuttings and photographs.
The collection was deposited at Churchill Archives Centre in two separate accessions, by Lord Plowden in November 1994, and Francis Plowden in June 2003.
This collection is owned by Churchill College, Cambridge.