David Cameron leads tributes to Lord Roberts of Conwy, 83

Wyn Roberts as a journalist and as a minister

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The prime minister has led tributes to Lord Roberts of Conwy, who has died aged 83.

Wyn Roberts piloted the Welsh Language Act in 1993 and served as Conservative MP for Conwy for 27 years until he joined the House of Lords in 1997.

David Cameron called him "a devoted public servant, and a tireless ambassador for Wales".

In 18 years at the Welsh Office, he became the longest-serving minister in the same department.

Mr Cameron added: "Wyn was one of the kindest and most compassionate colleagues I had the pleasure to work with.

"But his gentle nature could not disguise his skill as a front-line politician and his resolve to be a champion for his beloved Wales."

Welsh Secretary David Jones called him "an extraordinary man" and a "powerful exponent" of the Welsh language.

The non conformist minister's son from Anglesey turned to politics after starting his career in journalism.

After Margaret Thatcher won the 1979 election, Wyn Roberts was made Welsh Office minister and his responsibilities included the Welsh language.

He never made it into the cabinet but served under four Secretaries of State and two prime ministers.

He became Baron Roberts of Conwy when he retired as an MP in 1997 and was as an opposition spokesman on Welsh affairs in the Lords until 2007.

Lord Roberts leaves a wife, Enid - who he married in 1956 - and sons Huw and Geraint. His son Rhys died in 2004.

TRIBUTE FROM PRIME MINISTER DAVID CAMERON

Lord Roberts of Conwy

"It is with great sadness that I learnt of the death of Lord Roberts of Conwy.

"Wyn was one of the kindest and most compassionate colleagues I had the pleasure to work with. But his gentle nature could not disguise his skill as a front-line politician and his resolve to be a champion for his beloved Wales.

"As a Member of Parliament for almost three decades, Wyn gave unstinting service to the Welsh Office as a Minister between 1979 and 1994.

"And in the Lords, Wyn was never one to watch events from the sidelines, returning to the Front Bench as a Shadow Minister for a decade after 1997. Wyn remained active until very recently, leading a review into Welsh devolution for me in 2008.

"The driving force behind the Welsh Language Act, Wyn often could be heard across Parliament talking to colleagues and guests in the language he felt so passionate about.

"Highly respected across the House, he was a devoted public servant, and a tireless ambassador for Wales.

"Samantha joins me in sending Enid and Wyn's family our heartfelt condolences.

"Wales has lost a formidable champion; the Conservative Party has lost a great Conservative; but they have lost a devoted husband and father. My thoughts and prayers are with them."

Welsh Secretary David Jones said Lord Roberts had been "a very active man" in the House of Lords until becoming ill a few months ago.

He called him "the greatest Welshman of his generation."

"The greatest of his many political achievements was the Welsh Language Act, which gave full and proper recognition in public life to the language of which he was such a masterful and powerful exponent, and which he loved so much," said Mr Jones.

'Guardian angel'

He said this was his "personal achievement" and marked him as "doing more for Welsh cultural life than any man of his generation."

Mr Jones added that Lord Roberts was "an extraordinary man, very kind, extremely wise with a tremendous sense humour."

"To me, he was a kind friend and wise counsellor. He will be greatly missed, both in Wales and in Westminster."

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies AM called Lord Roberts "a great politician and a great man".

He added: "His hard work and commitment to public service had a hugely positive impact upon the future of the Welsh language and Wales as a whole.

"I know he will be greatly missed and my heartfelt condolences go out to his family on this very sad day."

Lord Crickhowell, who as Nicholas Edwards was Welsh Secretary in two Thatcher governments, told the BBC News website: "He was a splendid Welshman and made great contributions to the Welsh language, apart from anything else.

"He was my advisor and guru.

"He also made a great contribution the health service in Wales.

LORD ROBERTS, 1930-2013

  • Born 10 July 1930, Llansadwrn, Anglesey
  • Educated at Harrow (scholarship) and Oxford
  • Married Enid, three sons
  • Former journalist with The Liverpool Post, BBC Wales, TWW and programme executive Harlech TV
  • MP for Conwy 1970-1997
  • Opposition spokesman on Welsh Aff 1974-79
  • Parliamentary Under Sec Welsh Office 1979-87, Minister of State for Wales 1987-94
  • Opposition spokesman on constitutional affairs (Wales) House of Lords 1997-2001, and Welsh Affairs 2001-07
  • President of Univ of Wales College of Medicine 1997-2004, vice-pres Univ of Cardiff 2004-07; member Gorsedd National Eisteddfod 1966; honorary fellow Bangor Univ 1995, Aberystwyth Univ 1997; honorary doctorate Univ of Wales 2005

"He will be greatly missed in the Lords. He was a very hard-working figure, and an indispensable number two to me.

"I know he was disappointed that he never became a secretary of state but those of us who knew him knew that probably wouldn't have revealed him at his best because he was one of those people who was extremely good at providing back-up and support."

Describing him as a "very good friend," Lord Crickhowell added: "I have to say, in every sense it's terribly sad but he was desperately ill, so in that sense it may be a relief.

"I talked to him in the last two or three weeks on the phone and he couldn't use his hands, or read, or do anything very much."

There were also tributes from political opponents.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: "I am saddened to hear of the death of Lord Roberts of Conwy and my thoughts go out to his family and friends at this time.

"Lord Roberts was a leading figure in Welsh politics for more than 30 years. As well as a long career in the Welsh Office he will be particularly remembered for his work on the Welsh language and for piloting the Welsh Language Act.

"He will be greatly missed by Welsh politics as a whole."

Lord Barry Jones - the former Shadow Welsh Secretary and Alyn and Deeside MP - said: "Had there been any justice in politics he would have been Secretary of State for Wales. His memoirs were superb.

"Wyn built more roads than the Romans. He was the quintessential Welsh Conservative with an outstanding track record of service."

Plaid Cymru's parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd MP said his passing was a "big loss to us as a nation".

"Over the years, I crossed paths with the late Wyn Roberts on various occasions within the political world," he said.

"He didn't have much sympathy with my politics and neither did I with his, but we always agreed on matters relating to the language.

"We must remember that Wyn was the Welsh language's greatest advocate within the Tory government and he was the author of the 1993 Language Act.

"On a personal level Wyn was always a polite gentleman with a great sense of humour."

Huw Jones, chairman of the S4C Authority, called Lord Roberts "a guardian angel for the Welsh language and for S4C within the Conservative government of the 80s and 90s".

"Both were close to his heart and he did everything he could to promote and support them."

Mr Jones added: "Alongside his measured and careful style, he had humour and mischief in his eye and great personal warmth.

"He made a huge contribution at a critical time for the Welsh language and he will be greatly missed."

Veteran journalist and friend Derek Bellis told BBC Radio Wales: "He was a very kind, gentle and humorous man with a giant intellect but no ego at all.

"I never saw him have a single cross word. He often had to run the brunt of demonstrations but took it all in good heart."

Mr Bellis added: "I visited him over the last few months when he was ill but his brain was as sharp as a tack.

"He was no toff was Wyn - he was a man of the people."

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