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Last Updated: Monday, 4 February 2008, 18:16 GMT
First Tory Welsh secretary dies
Peter Thomas
Peter Thomas was MP for Conway before representing a London seat
The first Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, Lord Thomas of Gwydir, has died at the age of 87, it has been announced.

Prime Minister Edward Heath chose him after the 1970 general election.

Peter Thomas was also the first secretary of state not to sit for a Welsh constituency.

Although he was MP for Conway for 15 years, by the time he joined the Cabinet he had lost that seat and represented Hendon South in London.

A year after taking office, he agreed to set up the Welsh Water Authority to protect the interests of Wales in a politically sensitive area.

His final months in government were dominated by the miners' strike that led to Mr Heath calling a general election in February 1974, which saw Labour returned to power.

Lord Thomas (third right in background) was appointed to the Wales post by Ted Heath
Edward Heath and his cabinet in 1973

His ministerial career included posts in the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Labour. He was also chairman of the Conservative Party for two years.

As a backbencher - and a fluent Welsh speaker - he was responsible for changing the law to allow local councils to support the National Eisteddfod, the Welsh cultural festival.

The son of a Llanrwst solicitor and a barrister by profession, he was given a life peerage on his retirement as an MP in 1987.

He took the title Lord Thomas of Gwydir. Gwydir House in London is the headquarters of the Wales Office in London.

Lord Roberts of Conwy, who was Lord Thomas's parliamentary private secretary for four years from 1970, paid tribute to him, saying he will be "greatly missed".

"Peter Thomas was a fine man and a fine secretary of state who was very much admired by his contemporaries, he said.

"He was a man of very considerable ability and someone who brought a great deal of experience to the Welsh Office."

Shadow Secretary of State for Wales Cheryl Gillan described Lord Thomas as "one of the great Welsh Conservative politicians with a lifetime of public service".


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