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Ed Milliband leads tributes to long-serving Middlesbrough MP
1:39pm Saturday 13th October 2012 in News
LABOUR leader Ed Milliband has led tribues to long-serving Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell has died after a short battle with pancreatic cancer.
The 74-year-old had been MP for Middlesbrough for nearly three decades, and served in key positions in Parliament.
Mr Miliband said:
"Sir Stuart's death will come as a huge blow to his family and many friends and colleagues.
"He spent the long years of opposition fighting for the Labour Party to regain power and championed, throughout his life, the many causes that were close to his heart.
"He resigned from the opposition front bench to pursue his calls for justice for the children and families of the Cleveland child abuse scandal.
"He served the House of Commons and the Church of England as the Church Commissioner, a position he held for thirteen years and was a passionate campaigner on European issues.
"The son of a North-East miner Stuart was fiercely proud to represent Middlesbrough.
"Stuart was a dedicated family man and had a formidable partnership with his wife Margaret. All our thoughts are with her and his children."
Also paying tribute to the MP, Middlesbrough Mayor Ray Mallon said: “To say that I am shocked to learn of Sir Stuart’s death would be a considerable understatement, and my thoughts are with his wife Margaret and the whole family.
“I have known Stuart Bell for more than ten years, and I since I became elected Mayor we have supported one another through thick and thin.
“He has done a great deal for me personally and for the town as a whole, and it is common knowledge that I held him in the highest regard.
“He was extremely personable and knowledgeable, and I will not forget how much I enjoyed seeing and listening to him.”
Tom Blenkinsop, MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, expressed his sorrow at the news.
He said: "I am extremely saddened to hear the news that my colleague and fellow Middlesbrough Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell has passed away after losing his fight with pancreatic cancer.
"My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with his wife Margaret, his children, his office staff and all his family and friends."
GMB Union Northern Regional Secretary Tom Brennan added: “Sir Stuart Bell was a very experienced and respected Labour Member of Parliament who was a passionate and tireless advocate for our people."
He added: "He was a very loyal GMB friend of the Northern Region and his contribution to our members' lives will be missed but never forgotten.
Our thoughts are with Sir Stuart's family at this very sad time."
Sir Stuart was the son of a Durham miner, and, after a grammar school education, was briefly a colliery clerk and newspaper reporter before becoming a barrister.
Having lived and worked in Paris for a spell, he returned in 1977 to pursue a career in politics.
He unsuccessfully contested Hexham in 1979, and was a member of Newcastle City Council until he won Middlesbrough in 1983. He went on to hold the seat through seven general elections.
While never serving as a minister, Sir Stuart was the party's Northern Ireland spokesman during the 1980s.
And later in his career he was handed a powerful role on the Commons Commission - the body responsible for running the House.
He played a central role during one of Parliament's most difficult periods, as the long-running scandal of MPs expenses abuses finally emerged in 2009.
Mr Bell, who was married with one son, was knighted in 2004 for services to Parliament and was also awarded the Legion dHonneur in 2006 for his contributions to Anglo-French relations.
A published novelist as well as the writer of several political works, his role as as MP saw him finally reach the Commons - where as a young man he had dreamed of working for the official record, Hansard.
He was soon appointed a Commons aide to Labour's deputy leader Roy Hattersley before taking on the Northern Ireland role - as well as working with families affected by the Cleveland child abuse scandal.
After the 1992 general election, he was shadow trade minister under both John Smith and Tony Blair and went on to serve for 13 years from 1997 as Second Church Estates Commissioner, handling church/state relations.
Among his political missions was to secure voting reform, leading Labour campaigns for a switch to AV - but he was an active opponent of the partys proposals to replace the House of Lords with a senate.
Labour former Europe minister Chris Bryant paid tribute to the ardent and intelligent pro-European Labour MP as parliamentary colleagues began to register their sorrow at his death via Twitter.
Ian Swales, the Liberal Democrat MP for neighbouring Redcar, wrote: "Very sad to hear of the death of Stuart Bell MP. Always a total gentleman to me."
Sir Stuart, who had been suffering pancreatic cancer, died at home this morning with his family around him.