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Former Welsh Secretary Nicholas Edwards dies aged 84

Nicholas Edwards was Welsh Secretary from 1979 to 1987, when he became Lord Crickhowellll Credit: PA

The death of Nicholas Edwards, Lord Crickhowell, has been announced in the House of Lords.

He died on Saturday, aged 84.

Nicholas Edwards was Margaret Thatcher's Welsh Secretary for eight years from 1979 to 1987.

Here is how our Political Editor Adrian Masters summed up his career when Lord Crickhowell received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Welsh Political Awards in 2012.

The recipient of this year’s lifetime achievement award is someone who played a pivotal role in the development of Wales during a time of significant – and often painful - change both here and throughout the UK.

When Nicholas Edwards made his maiden speech as MP for Pembrokeshire, back in 1970, he paid tribute to his predecessor Desmond Donnelly’s ‘rugged independence,’ adding that ‘rugged independence is something which I too value, particularly when it seems necessary for the prosperity and well being of those whom I have been elected to represent.’

It was an attitude which he needed and was tested during the first two Thatcher governments when he notched up eight years in the post of Secretary of State for Wales. He remains the longest-serving Welsh Secretary.

He said of his approach to implementing some of her more controversial policies that, ‘Thatcherite policies were adaptable and there’s no doubt in Wales we adapted them quite freely.’

That adaptation saw him supportive of Thatcherite privatisation and efficiency policies but willing to take a more Heseltine approach to intervention. It was seen in his embrace of a body the Tories had opposed – the WDA – for interventionist purposes - to try to win inward investment from overseas to lessen the impact of job losses in traditional industries such as coal and steel.

He led the way in Wales with the move towards care in the community, which despite later controversies, was based on what Professor Mark Drakeford described as ‘an ideological determination that a mixed economy of community care was preferable to state-provided institutional solutions.’

Despite their policy differences, he’s named in one biography of Margaret Thatcher as one of the few cabinet ministers who tried to socialise with her – inviting her and Dennis for supper one Sunday evening. She was said to be tense, but relaxed after a few whiskies.

Cabinet papers show his role in letting her know how deep the anger was here in Wales about her refusal to create a Welsh language television channel, a position that she eventually, of course, abandoned.

He pushed through the idea of a barrage to create a large lagoon as means to regenerate the old docks area of Cardiff - pushed through in five different Cardiff Bay Barrage bills and in the face of considerable opposition from environmentalists, Cardiff residents and politicians and it seems the Prime Minister herself. And she only relented, according to cabinet papers, when he threatened to resign.

Key to his vision was the creation of an Opera House and he chaired the Cardiff Bay Opera House trust from 1993 to 1997. When that plan was scuppered, he publicly criticised the Conservative government.

After his surprise decision to stand down after 17 years as MP for Pembroke in 1987, he became a peer and the first chair of the National Rivers Authority – remaining in that post from its creation to its abolition and replacement by the Environment Agency.

He used that role as a platform to campaign for protection of the environment and against industrial polluters.

Amongst his other roles he’s been president of the University of Wales and was chairman of HTV from 1997 to 2002.

– Lifetime Achievement Presentation to Lord Crickhowell