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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 15:28 GMT
Tories in shock over Colvin fire

Firefighters spent hours attempting to put out the blaze

Conservative leaders have been speaking of their shock at the feared death of Tory MP Michael Colvin and his wife Nichola in a massive fire which gutted their country mansion.

Fire crews were still damping down the shell of the Colvins' home hours after being called to the blaze in the early morning.

Police say that they believe that the Colvins were in the house when the fire started though the remains of the building are currently too dangerous for anyone to enter.

'Distinguished career'

Conservative Party leader William Hague said that he was receiving updates on the fate of Mr Colvin and his wife, Nichola, and he had been "shocked and deeply saddened" by events.

"Our thoughts are with their family at this difficult time," Mr Hague said.

"I knew Michael as a true Tory, in the best sense of the word.

"He cared about his country and he cared about the countryside.

"Throughout his distinguished career in Parliament, most particularly when he was chairman of the Defence Select Committee, he spoke with intelligence and passion on defence issues.

"We saw that again earlier this week during the defence debate when he gave an excellent speech. Michael has always been a strong voice for the countryside and for country sports at a time when the rural way of life is under increasing attack.

"I visited Michael's constituency last year and was struck, as one could not fail to be, by the great affection both he and Nichola were held in by members of their local party and by his constituents."

'True Conservative'

Michael Ancram, chairman of the party, described Mr Colvin as a "highly respected and valued" MP who had proved himself to be a "true Conservative, champion of the party and a stalwart fighter for all of his constituents."

Bruce George, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said that news had been "deeply distressing to me personally and to the Defence Committee".

"I have known Michael and his wife for over 20 years and served as his deputy chairman of the Defence Committee and, in turn, he served as my deputy until he left two weeks ago."

He said that the Romsey MP's contribution to parliamentary scrutiny was "immense".

Sir Archie Hamilton, chairman of the backbench 1922 committee, one of the most influential bodies of Tory MPs, said that Mr Colvin was an "active and involved member" and had always shown himself to be "good and loyal" party man.

He described Mrs Colvin as someone who had always been "tremendously active" in campaigning and fund-raising for the party.

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See also:
24 Feb 00 |  UK Politics
Michael Colvin MP: Tory squire
24 Feb 00 |  UK
MP feared dead in fire

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