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The BBC's Alan Mackay reports
"John Mackay had been a teacher in Oban - but politics was the life he chose"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 21 February, 2001, 19:03 GMT
Former Tory minister dies
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish
Lord Mackay once served as social security minister
Former Conservative minister Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish has died at the age of 62 after a suspected heart attack.

Peers were told on Wednesday by Lords Leader Lady Jay that he had collapsed on his way to the chamber and died while being taken to St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London.

He will be greatly missed and our thoughts and sympathy are with his family

William Hague

Lord Mackay had earlier been on duty at a 13-hour overnight sitting in the House of Lords, which ended at 0332 GMT.

Conservative leader William Hague paid tribute to Lord Mackay's record and the "enormous contribution" he had made to the House of Lords.

"All of John Mackay's many friends will be greatly shocked to learn of his death," Mr Hague said.

"John was a distinguished politician, having held senior positions in both government and opposition.

"In particular, I will always be grateful for the tremendous support and friendship which he gave to me when we served together as ministers in the department of social security."

He was a distinguished minister... and a formidable debater

Sir David Steel
Tory party chairman Michael Ancram hailed Lord Mackay's "courageous and dynamic" work as a minister.

"John Mackay was a great servant of the Conservative Party," he added.

The former MP for Argyll and Bute recently joined the crossbenches on his appointment as Chairman of Committees - in effect the deputy speaker in the House of Lords under Lord Chancellor Lord Irvine.

Before that he was deputy leader of the opposition in the Lords and previously served as social security minister from 1994 to 1997.

Lady Jay informed peers of Lord Mackay's death in a brief statement, adding: "Many of us will wish to take the chance to pay proper tribute to him and that will be done on Monday afternoon when the House resumes after the brief recess."

'Terrible shock'

Other politicians joining in the tributes included Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Sir David Steel who said: "I am terribly shocked to hear of John Mackay's death.

"He was a distinguished minister at the Scottish Office and a formidable debater in the House of Lords.

"It is sad that he had only just taken up his new high office."

Scottish Conservative chairman Raymond Robertson said he had heard the tragic news "with great regret".

"John was a key player and an influential figure in the Scottish Conservative party since the mid 1970s.

"John was a formidable campaigner and a great inspiration."

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