Breaking news – former MP dies

Keys to new Hospital in Pontefract hand over, Lord Lofthouse in the Lord Lofthouse rehabilitation garden
Keys to new Hospital in Pontefract hand over, Lord Lofthouse in the Lord Lofthouse rehabilitation garden

FORMER Pontefract and Castleford MP Lord Geoffrey Lofthouse has died aged 86.

As Geoffrey Lofthouse, he served as the area’s MP from 1978 until 1997, when he was given a life peerage as Baron Lofthouse of Pontefract. He died on Thursday November 1.

Before his career in politics, Lord Lofthouse worked as a miner from the age of 14, at Ackton Hall Colliery in Featherstone, becoming president of the local branch of the NUM at 29.

He went to Leeds University in 1957, gaining a BA in political studies, and in 1962 became a councillor on Pontefract Borough Council, becoming Mayor of Pontefract in 1967 and leader of the council from 1969 to 1973. He was then a councillor on the newly-formed Wakefield Council

He married his late wife Sarah, aged 20, and they had one daughter.

Lord Lofthouse won a by-election in 1978 to become MP for Pontefract and Castleford. In 1992 and until his retirement he served as Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons to Betty Boothroyd. He also became Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords.

Among his Parliamentary achievements was fighting for compensation for miners affected by industrial disease.

Lord Lofthouse wrote two volumes of autobiography, A Very Miner MP and From Coalsack to Woolsack.

Yvette Cooper, who succeeded Lord Lofthouse as Pontefract and Castleford MP, said: “I will miss Geoff very much. He was a dear friend, always wise, thoughtful, and compassionate but also determined in the fight against injustice and unswerving in his loyal service for people of this area. Geoff’s fight to get compensation for miners with emphysema and other illnesses was a powerful campaign for justice and has helped thousands of families across the coalfields. He fought hard to stop health officials who wanted to close Pontefract Hospital, and never stopped campaigning – joining our most recent campaign to reopen A&E.

“He was also much respected throughout the Labour Party and across the country, rising to be Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons and then Lord Lofthouse of Pontefract.

“But I will always remember the long chats we used to have, Geoff’s no-nonsense approach and also his warm chuckle. My thoughts and sympathies are with all Geoff’s family and friends now. I think the whole community will want to pay tribute to Geoff and the immense contribution to our area he made.”

Bill O’Brien, former Normanton MP, said: “The one thing about Geoff was he didn’t forget his roots and where he came from. We worked together in the mining industry, the trade union movement and then in Parliament, I have known him a long, long time.

“He was a good servant to Pontefract and a good Pontefract man, and he will be remembered for the good he did and the help he gave to people.”