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Monday, May 10, 1999 Published at 16:16 GMT 17:16 UK

UK Politics

Tributes for Foreign Office minister

Derek Fatchett at the Ministry of Defence on Saturday

Prime Minister Tony Blair has paid tribute to the Foreign Office minister Derek Fatchett who died suddenly aged 53.

The BBC's Christine Stewart: He was admired for being an effective minister
Mr Fatchett was taken ill on Sunday evening and died following a massive heart attack in Pinderfields Hospital, Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

It is believed Mr Fatchett collapsed soon after arriving at a pub near his home in Wakefield yesterday evening.

In a statement, Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "I was shocked and saddened to hear of Derek's death.

"He was somebody who took to government immediately and was an excellent minister and first class MP.

"His colleagues and constituents will miss him, but of course at the moment our thoughts are with his family."

Foreign Secretary Robin Cook: He had so much more to give
Only last week Mr Fatchett completed two days of talks with leaders in Jordan, prior to this week's visit by King Abdullah to the UK.

On Saturday, he was present at a Ministry of Defence briefing, at which he admitted Nato's role in the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade.

[ image: Derek Fatchett on a recent fact-finding tour of East Timor]
Derek Fatchett on a recent fact-finding tour of East Timor
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said Mr Fatchett had not just been a good colleague but also a long-standing friend.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he had spoken to Mr Fatchett's widow Anita who was very proud of what her husband had achieved.

Mr Cook said: "She has every right to be proud, he made a great contribution to government.

"Only a fortnight ago he was in East Timor on a brave visit which was the first visit by a western minister to East Timor for many years.

"He had so much more to give and this early tragic death cruelly robs us of his contribution to government and the love he had for his family."

Mr Cook praised Mr Fatchett's commitment to "getting his sleeves rolled up, getting stuck in" with great skill and to great effect.

He added: "He was willing to take on tasks that went beyond his own immediate area.

"Only last Saturday he and I shared the daily briefing on the Kosovo crisis and I had no idea that when we said goodbye it would be for the last time."

Sir John Kerr, head of the diplomatic service, said: "All in the service greatly admired him and will miss him as a keen and effective minister and a good friend."

Defence Secretary George Robertson said he had been stunned to hear the news.

Mr Robertson said: "He was a man of enormous character.

"He was the deputy foreign secretary of this country, he had made a huge impact not just in Parliament, not just domestically but in the countries that he visited.

"To have a parliamentary colleague exactly the same age as myself to die so suddenly leaves us all aghast.

"There will be a much sadder House of Commons, a much sadder government today and all our feelings go out to his family."

Mr Fatchett entered Parliament as MP for Leeds Central in 1983.

His parliamentary private secretary, Rotherham MP Denis MacShane, said Mr Fatchett's death had robbed the nation of superb foreign minister.

Mr MacShane praised Mr Fatchett's round-the-clock work to promote "British values of global democracy and human rights as well as the specific interests of exporters from the UK".

He said: "He was great fun to work with and while being 200% focused on his Foreign Office work, had a wide range of other policy interests."

Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Howard said he was "deeply shocked" by Mr Fatchett's death.

He said: "Despite our political differences I always had the highest respect for him.

"He will be greatly missed and my sympathy goes out to him and his family."

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