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Tributes are paid to veteran Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell

Tributes are paid to veteran Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell

TRIBUTES have been paid to the veteran Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell who has passed away. He was 74.

Sir Stuart had been a successful commercial lawyer before entering Parliament in 1983 as MP for Middlesborough. He had been selected for the safe Labour seat from a shortlist which had included a young Tony Blair.

But Labour’s long period out of power was to deny Sir Stuart the opportunity to hold ministerial office. A year after entering the Commons, Sir Stuart, who was knighted in 2004, had been appointed as the shadow spokesman on Northern Ireland by the then Labour leader Neil Kinnock.

Sir Stuart was never one to shy away from expressing his views in a forthright manner and in 1987 he became embroiled in what was eventually branded as the Cleveland child sex abuse scandal — after dozens of children had been incorrectly diagnosed as having been abused. Sir Stuart battled on behalf of the parents and demanded that action be taken against medical experts.

When Labour swept to power in 1997, Sir Stuart was by then 58 and was not selected by Tony Blair as one of his ministers. There were some who believed that the new Prime Minister did not like the MP for Middlesborough, but when Sir Stuart published his autobiography he used the title Tony Really Loves Me.

The Prime Minister did appoint Sir Stuart as second church estates commissioner — which involved him answering questions from MPs on matters regarding the Church of England. He held the post until 2010. 

Sir Stuart also held powerful positions within the House of Commons, including being chairman of the finance and services select committee. 

When the MPs’ expenses scandal broke in 2009, Sir Stuart came out battling for his fellow politicians (see below), accusing Sir Thomas Legg, who had been appointed to investigate the scandal, of retrospectively changing the rules.

Sir Stuart faced criticism in 2011 when it was revealed that he had not held constituency surgery since 1997, but he pointed out that he instead met with voters on an appointments-only basis since he had been threatened by one constituent.

For many years before becoming an MP, Sir Stuart had lived and worked in Paris. In 2006 he was awarded the Légion d’Honneur for his contribution to British-French relations.

To view an interview in which Sir Stuart Bell expresses his belief that MPs were facing unfair rulings by Sir Thomas Legg in the wake of the expenses scandal, click here.


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