Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

Pontypridd MP Kim Howells standing down at election

Dr Kim Howells is planning to paint and climb mountains when he stands down

Former government minister Kim Howells has announced he will step down at next year's general election.

The 63-year-old MP has held the Pontypridd seat for Labour since 1989.

His ministerial career took in the departments of education, trade and industry, culture, media and sport, transport and the Foreign Office.

After leaving government in a reshuffle last year he became chair of the Security and Intelligence Committee, overseeing the work of MI5 and MI6.

Secretary of State for Wales Peter Hain said Dr Howells would be "hugely missed".

He added: "He is a good friend who assisted me on a daily basis during my Neath by-election in 1991.

"He is an exceptionally talented and independently spirited Labour man.

"His departure will be a blow for the Labour group at Westminster, because his combination of a miner's background, intellectual rigour, and knowledge of Welsh and socialist history is virtually unique. I wish him and his family all the best for the future."

Garry Owen, chair of Welsh Labour, thanked Dr Howells for "all his work as the MP for Pontypridd and as a minister".

He added: "I am a close friend and I have worked as his election agent for what will be 21 years by next February.

"I know his great attributes and skills.

"He is also a political character who will be missed when he steps down from parliament next year."

Dr Howells won the Pontypridd seat in a by-election in February 1989.

Previously he had worked as a TV presenter and journalist and before that was a leading figure in the 1984 miners' strike in south Wales, as a NUM official, although an opponent of Arthur Scargill.

Idea of hell

Dr Howells won a majority of 13,191 over the Liberal Democrats at the 2005 election.

Last month, he called for a phased and planned withdrawal of British soldiers from Afghanistan.

"How long do we put up with brave young men and women dying and being injured in Afghanistan?" Mr Howells said.

The former minister has been known for colourful and outspoken remarks.

The arts school graduate left a note after a visit to a Tate exhibition saying that British art was "lost" if that was the best it could produce.

His note said: "The attempts at conceptualisation are particularly pathetic and symptomatic of a lack of conviction."

And turning to the arts establishment in Wales, he once said it was in the grip of "constipated old wrinklies".

He also said in the Commons during a debate on music licences that Somerset folk music was his idea of hell, although he later said he was only being light-hearted during exchanges.

Pontypridd's Assembly Member, Environment Minister Jane Davidson, is also standing down at the 2011 election.

Profile: Kim Howells
13 Jan 06 |  UK Politics
Labour MP urges Afghan withdrawal
04 Nov 09 |  UK Politics
Howells leaves in Brown reshuffle
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Howells' miners' strike regret
12 Mar 04 |  Wales
Minister slams obesity 'hysteria'
28 May 04 |  UK Politics
Art lover's Howells of protest
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