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Sunday, 9 December, 2001, 14:38 GMT
Veteran Labour MP dies
Sir Ray Powell
Sir Ray Powell was a formidable Labour Whip
Sir Ray Powell, the veteran MP for Ogmore, south Wales, has died, aged 73.

It is believed he died of an asthma attack.

Sir Ray was a traditional Labour stalwart, who enjoyed the bustle of politics behind the party scenes, working on internal party elections and fixing up MPs with Commons offices.

His daughter Janice Gregory, the Assembly Member for Ogmore, said the family was deeply upset by his death.
Janice Gregory AM
Janice Gregory AM: 'Devastated'

"We cannot begin to describe the devastation we as a family feel at the sudden loss of someone who was so beloved and respected by all those who came into contact with him," she said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sir Ray had been a "servant of the people and a champion of the Valleys".

"He was also a long-standing and loyal member of the Labour Party and an excellent Member of Parliament. He will be greatly missed."

Sir Ray's strength of character was shown during 10 years as a Labour whip, when he was in charge of organising which MPs got the best offices in the cramped Westminster corridors.

Sir Ray kept a young, feisty MP called Ken Livingstone - now mayor of London - waiting for an office for a year to keep him in his place.
Tony Blair, Prime Minister
Tony Blair led the tributes to Sir Ray

He went on to play a key role in seeing Portcullis House was built to house MPs in modern offices.

In the run-up to the 1997 general election, he claimed he had been offered a peerage in exchange for his seat if he agreed to stand down.

In the referendum on devolution during that same year, Sir Ray was one of a handful of rebel Labour MPs.

He claimed he was not against having a National Assembly, just the proportional voting system used to elect it.

His time as a whip won him enemies and friends among MPs - and led to long-running feuds with, among others, the former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies.

During shadow cabinet elections, he lobbied hard for his friend Barry, now Lord Jones.

He always denied allegations that he filled in ballot papers on behalf of other MPs.

He had been a member of several select committees and chairman of the Commons accommodation committee.

Sunday trading

The controversial Portcullis House project cost 250m but Sir Ray's contribution was acknowledged with a knighthood - a rare honour for a Labour MP.

A former shopkeeper and active member of the shopworkers' union USDAW, he fought tenaciously plans to legalise Sunday trading.

He was a member of the Keep Sunday Special committee.

Earlier this year, he again came under pressure to retire but stood firm despite the wishes of family.

Sir Ray took his seat in the Commons in 1979, leaving his job with the Welsh Water Authority for a life in politics.

At the last election, he held his Ogmore seat with a majority of more than 14,000.

He was educated at Pentre Grammar School and the London School of Economics.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Wales's David Cornock
"Sir Ray Powell was an old style Labour politician"
BBC Wales's Westminster correspondent David Cornock
"There will be a by-election in Ogmore in the New Year"
See also:

08 Dec 01 | Wales
Tributes to 'valued ally'
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