Page last updated at 21:58 GMT, Tuesday, 29 July 2008 22:58 UK

Former minister Varley dies at 75

Lord Varley
Lord Varley left Parliament for a position in the coal industry

Former Cabinet minister Lord Varley has died at the age of 75, the Labour Party has announced.

Eric Varley served as energy secretary from 1974 to 1975 and industry secretary from 1975 to 1979.

He was MP for Chesterfield for 20 years until 1984 before becoming chairman of private coalmining company Coalite.

Sir Gerald Kaufman, who served under him in the Department of Industry, said he was a "very loyal member of Labour and widely respected Cabinet minister".

Lord Varley was given a life peerage as Baron Varley of Chesterfield in 1990.

'Great loss'

Among the other Labour Party figures paying tribute was Tony Benn, who succeeded Lord Varley as Energy Secretary in 1975 and also took over from him as Chesterfield MP in 1984 after boundary changes meant Mr Benn lost his Bristol South East constituency.

Mr Benn said: "I worked very closely with Eric Varley over the years.

"He had a very long stretch as an MP and was very well respected. It is a great loss to the party."

Lord Varley was born in Poolsbrook, Derbyshire, and educated at Chesterfield Technical College and Sheffield University.

By 1968, he was parliamentary private secretary to Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

He quit the Commons in the aftermath of Labour's disastrous 1983 general election campaign.

Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "The prime minister was sad to hear the news of Lord Varley's death and his thoughts are with his family and friends at this very difficult time."

Lord Varley leaves a wife and one son.

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