Labour mourns 'a clever and generous man'

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Indy Politics

In an upper chamber often dismissed as a "House of Cronies", Lord Williams of Mostyn stood out as someone who had actually earned the right to be there.

A lawyer by profession, Gareth Williams had impressed in a great many arenas before taking his place on the red benches.

Educated at Queen's College, Cambridge, before being called to the Bar in the Sixties, he became a QC and a deputy High Court judge in 1986. This successful legal career was acknowledged in his appointment as chairman of the Bar Council in 1992, the same year he was made a life peer.

Once in the Lords, the Labour Party was quick to capitalise on Lord Williams's expertise, making him the Opposition spokesman on legal affairs until the election in 1997 and then, in Government, a Home Office minister, then Attorney General, before his most recent post as Leader of the House of Lords.

It is clear from the tributes that poured in last night, when news of the 62-year-old's sudden death was made public, that Lord Williams will be missed as a husband and father - he is survived by a widow, three daughters and a son - as a friend and as a politician.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, who led the tributes, last night described him as a "fine politician with excellent judgment who earned the respect of colleagues of all parties". He was also a "kind and generous man" and "a superb and entertaining speaker".

In his final days, Lord Williams had been working to build consensus on the future of the Lords - and, as someone respected across the parties, his death will be a setback to the controversial proposals.

Lord Newby, the Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman in the Lords, said he was one of its "most widely respected members, combining a delightful wit with a complete mastery of his brief. His death will be a tremendous shock to all his friends and colleagues."

Rhodri Morgan, Wales's First Minister, added: "His death is a huge loss to Parliament, the Cabinet, public life in Wales and Britain as a whole and all my sympathies go to his wife and family."

And Shadow Leader Lord Strathclyde added: "Today we have lost a fine political figure."