Tributes paid to former Melton MP Sir Michael Latham following his death

Former Melton MP, Sir Michael Latham (right), who has died, pictured making a presentation to legendary bowler David Bryant at Melton Bowls Club EMN-170611-113647001

Melton MP Sir Alan Duncan has paid tribute to his predecessor in the role, Sir Michael Latham, who died on Thursday aged 74.

Sir Michael was elected MP for Melton in 1974 and continued in the post when the constituency borders changed to Rutland and Melton in 1983.

Sir Michael Latham, MP for Melton from 1974 until 1992, who has died aged 74 EMN-170711-133014001

He stood down in 1992 and fellow Conservative Sir Alan was then elected to the vacant seat.

Sir Alan said: “ Michael was enormously respected as the MP for Melton, and then Rutland and Melton following boundary changes.

“He served his constituents for 18 years and always fought hard for them.

“He and his late wife Caroline were always enormously approachable and solved people’s problems very diligently.

“Michael was a great expert on housing and was a really thoughtful influence on government policy.

“He was one of those capable people who deserved to be a Minister but sadly never was.

“He has left behind him a great personal reputation.”

Born in Southport, near Liverpool, Sir Michael cut his political teeth while working on Westminster City Council.

He succceeded Melton’s only ever woman MP, Mervyn Pike, who had served for 18 years, when elected in 1974 with a sizeable majority over Liberal candidate John Barclay Pick.

The nation went to the polls again just eight months later, when Sir Michael slightly increased his majority, this time from Labour’s David Knaggs.

Sir Michael’s majority rose by nearly 10 per cent at the 1979 General Election and he garnered more than 60 per cent of the votes when the constituency changed to Rutland and Melton in 1983 and four years later.

His son. Richard (38) told the Melton Times this week: “Dad never became a Minister and I believe that was because he didn’t want to spend any more time away from the family.

“He used to travel down to London on Sunday evenings, come back on Thursdays and then take surgeries in Melton on Saturdays - he worked very hard but I know he was proud of serving people in Melton and was very keen to see Rutland regain its independence.

“He served under both Thatcher and Major and I know he was very well respected and liked across all parties.”

Sir Michael met Caroline at a meeting of Chelsea Young Conservatives and they were married from 1969 until her death in 2006.

The couple had two sons - Richard and 41-year-old James - and two grandchildren.

After stepping down as an MP 27 years ago, Sir Michael became a captain of industry working in the construction sector.

In July 1984, he identified a number of deficiencies in the UK construction industry through his pivotal investigation called The Latham Report.

Richard recalled: “Dad got lots of honorary degrees from universities because of his work in construction. My brother and I used to giggle because he could barely rewire a plug at home.”

Sir Michael lived at the family home, at Gretton, Northamptonshire, where he was a lay reader at the village church, but went into a residential home in his final years after developing dementia.

Richard added: “I was only born in 1979 but I remember as a young boy being shown around parliament by my dad and being incredibly proud that he worked in those exciting secret corridors of power.”

A funeral service will be held on Monday November 20, at St James’ Church in Gretton, at 1.30pm, followed by cremation.

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