A giant of politics

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TONY Benn was one of the great giants of the left in Parliament a MP who could fill the Commons chamber from left and right of politics to listen to his speeches even though for many of us we disagree with him.A giant of politics

For me personally I owe a great personal debt to Tony Benn. At the height of the first Gulf war in 1990 he went, as did Ted Heath, to Baghdad to negotiate with Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi security forces had rounded up a number of hostages who they had kept at the Baghdad Hilton and threatened to use them as a human shield.

At the time I was parliamentary private secretary to the Secretary of State in the Northern Ireland office, travelling between Belfast, London and Dublin. Our department was very concerned with IRA terrorism which was at its height and we suspected international terrorism groups had contact with middle eastern anti-British regimes, and this included the IRA .

Unknown to the Iraqis among the human shield hostages was a cousin of mine, Anthony Brummitt,who was working as an accountant in the Gulf states but they had not made a connection between one of the hostages and a member of the British government. The Foreign Office and NI Office were seriously concerned about my cousin’s personal safety.

Discussions with the foreign secretary Douglas Hurd MP led to Tony Benn being briefed and my cousin being included in a list of British citizens which he requested be released in his discussions with Saddam Hussein .

The Iraqi government released my cousin without ever making the connection and never asked why an accountant in private practise from Manchester was so important to the British. This was a secret kept at the time between Tony Benn, my cousin’s employers the government ministers and departments involved. My family and I will always be very grateful to Tony Benn for this great service which typified the integrity and humanity of the man, he will always be remembered by this Conservative with respect and affection.

Ken Hind

former Conservative MP for West Lancashire, Clitheroe