The British government today named Peter Jay, the son-in-law of Prime Minister James Callaghan, as the next ambassador to the United States.

Jay, who is economics editor of The Times of London, will replace Sir Peter Ramsbotham, who will become the governor of Bermuda.

The appointment brought criticism from Callaghan's fellow Labor Party members in Parliament as well as from opposition Conservatives. Some Laborites said that Callaghan, who is already vulnerable politically because of the country's economic problems, has unnecessarily added to his problems by leaving himself open to the charge of nepotism.

Jay, 40, will receive a salary of $32,000 a year as well as allowances of more than $68,000.

Foreign Secretary David Owen, who is also under fire because he is a close personal friend friend of Jay, defended the appointment in a meeting with reporters. Owen said he considered Jay "one of the most able people of my generation. I believe that he will establish an easy and informal relationship with many of the people of his own generation who have prominent positions in the new American administration."

The foreign secretary said he had warned Prime Minister Callaghan about the possible accusation of nepotism but urged that the appointment be made anyway.

There was no official comment from the Conservative Party leadership but sources indicated that it was unlikely that Jay would stay in Washington if the Conservatives came to power.

The Manchester Guardian reported:

Jay, a graduate of Christ Church College, Oxford, joined the Treasury following a year of postgraduate work in economics. He was quickly promoted to a high post.

His contacts at the Treasury and his political links served him well later in journalism. He enraged former Labor Prime Minister Harold Wilson by sharp criticism of the 1967 devaluation of the pound. His father-in-law, then chancellor of the exchequer, was generally not treated very severaly in his writings.

In 1972, he added a weekly television program on current events to his skein. It soon became one of the more important shows of that kind in Britain.

Most people who know him, including his friends, use the word "arrogant" to describe him. The Sunday Times once did a profile on him and called him "the cleverest young man of his generation."