Lord Islwyn – 2003

Lord Islwyn – better known as Roy Hughes – was Labour MP for Newport from 1966 to 1983 and for Newport East 1983-1997. He died just before Christmas 2003, aged 78, after suffering a heart attack.

Royston John Hughes was born in 1925, at Pontllanfraith, Monmouthshire, now Gwent. He was the son of a miner. On leaving the local grammar school, aged 15, he worked as a miner – a Bevin Boy – down Nine Mile Pit from 1940 to 1943. He was then called up for wartime military service in the Welch Regiment. He joined the Labour Party in 1946 after de-mobilisation and moved to Coventry to work in the motor industry. He was very active in the T&GWU as a shop steward and later as a full-time Officer. Through the union he went to Ruskin College. By the early 1960s he was a member of Coventry City Council and Secretary of the Coventry Borough Labour Party. In 1966 he returned to South Wales, to succeed the former Labour Home Secretary, Sir Frank Soskice as MP for Newport, defeating Peter Temple-Morris in that election.

In Parliament he was heavily involved as a T&G-sponsored MP with the many travails of the motor industry and also with the steel industry. The massive Llanwern steel works was in his constituency and Roy was for 12 years throughout the great trials and tribulations of the steel industry the Chairman of the PLP’s Steel Group (1975-87). He served two terms as Chair of the T&GWU Parliamentary Group, was Chairman of the Welsh Group of the PLP 1969-70 and was twice Chairman of the Welsh Grand Committee.

He was strongly opposed to Britain’s entry into the EEC and in the early 70s, representing anti-marketeers, was Chairman of the PLP’s Europe Group. In 1974-75 he was PPS to Fred Mulley, first at the Ministry of Transport and then at Defence. He was on the Opposition Front Bench between 1984 and 1988 as the junior Welsh Affairs Spokesman, a position from which he resigned after an altercation with the National Farmers Union. He was Chairman of the All-Party Roads Group from 1983 to 1987 and the All-Party Motors Group 1986 to 1997. From 1990 to 1997 he served on the Council of Europe.

After retiring from the Commons at the 1997 General Election he was elevated to the Peerage as Lord Islwyn. He was active in the Lords right up until his death.

Alan Howarth, PLP