Sir Peter was born in Sussex in 1930. He was educated on scholarships at Tonbridge School and Merton College, Oxford, where he graduated with First Class Honours in Modern History and a Diploma in Economics. He was Librarian (Vice-President) of the Oxford Union and represented the Union on a debating tour of 40 American Universities in 1954.
From 1948-50 he served as a subaltern with the Royal Sussex Regiment in the Middle East. Between school and Army he worked in the Tanganyika Groundnuts Scheme. He is a Life Member of 6th Squadron RAF and has studied warfare in Kenya, Cyprus, the Congo and Vietnam. He was a member of the Trilateral Commission (from 1978 to 1998) and was financial adviser to the former Sultan of Brunei who made him a Dato (Malayan Knight). He has been Chairman of the British-Caribbean Association. He worked at the Conservative Research Department from 1954 to 1957 and was Chairman of the Coningsby Club from 1957 to 1958. During the 1955 General Election he was the Personal Assistant to Anthony Eden, the then Prime Minister.
He was a member of the London Stock Exchange from 1957 to 1990 and was for 30 years the International Partner of a leading firm of stockbrokers. He has visited more than 120 countries and has considerable knowledge of the Islamic world. He has advised many Governments and Central Banks in Arabia, Afro-Asia and the Far East on the management of their international reserves and was a member of the Business Advisory Council of the United Nations from 2001 to 2004.
He was knighted in 1985 and appointed to the Privy Council in 2011. The Political Editors voted him The Spectator "Backbencher of the Year" in 1993 and "Parliamentarian of the Year" in 2004.
He is an Honorary Fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and was, for 20 years, a Council Member of the Institute for Fiscal Studies. He is Deputy Chairman of the Mitsubishi Trust Oxford Foundation, Vice-President of the Tennyson Society and a member of the Athenaeum Club.
Sir Peter, first elected in 1959, is the longest serving MP in the House of Commons. At the age of 27, he was defeated in a by-election at Wednesbury (Staffs) in February 1957. He won West Nottingham from Labour in 1959 by just 164 votes but lost the seat in 1964. He represented Horncastle (Lincs) from 1966-83 and, following redistribution, East Lindsey (Lincs) until 1997, when he won the seat of Louth and Horncastle in May 1997 (all in Lincolnshire). In 2001 he was one of only five sitting Conservative MPs to increase his share of the vote by more than five percent.
Sir Peter was a Frontbench Spokesman on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1976-77) and on Treasury and Economic Affairs (1977-78).