MPs pay tribute to former Labour politician and anti-war campaigner Tony Benn

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MPs have paid tribute to former cabinet minister and veteran left-wing campaigner Tony Benn.

Mr Benn, who was a Labour MP for 51 years, died at his home on Friday morning.

He served in the cabinet under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan and narrowly missed out on the deputy leadership in 1981.

He was a popular public speaker, anti-war campaigner and political diarist.

The 88-year-old made many appearances at the Durham Miners’ Gala over its 130-year history and in recent years his face was made a feature on Blackhall’s miners’ banner.

Hartlepool Labour MP Mr Wright, who met Mr Benn in the House of Commons’ tea room on numerous occasions, has paid tribute to Mr Benn’s “energy, passion and conviction”.

He said: “He had some remarkable achievements during his time as an MP and as a Government minister.

“He changed the British constitution to ensure that hereditary peers could resign and become MPs who sat in the House of Commons.

“I think an often over-looked achievement was he was Harold Wilson’s minister for technology and in the subsequent Government he was secretary of state for industry.

“He sought to have co-operation between Government and industry, particularly industrial policy that’s still recognised today and he introduced the Health and Safety At Work Act 1974.

“There will be people who previously may have died or been seriously injured at work who didn’t as a direct result of Tony Benn’s legislation.

“An awful lot of working people have got an awful lot to thank him for.”

Easington MP Grahame Morris said: “Tony Benn was a tremendous orator and distinguished Parliamentarian. He was a staunch champion of the rights of working people and stood up for social justice.”

Dave Hopper, general secretary of the Durham Miners’ Association (DMA), Durham Miners’ Gala organiser, said the DMA looked on Mr Benn as “Labour’s lost leader”, adding: “I think we have lost a tremendous man in the movement. He was a great, great man.” Councillor Geoff Lilley, deputy leader of the Putting Hartlepool First Party and ex-Labour councillor, said: “He is one of those one-offs – we probably won’t see another Tony Benn politician for many, many years.”