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Flags tribute as Lord Bilston dies aged 71

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: March 08, 2014

Lord Bilston

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FLAGS flew at half-mast at Wolverhampton Civic Centre last week in tribute to Dennis Turner, Lord Bilston, who died on Tuesday, February 25, aged 71.

Lord Bilston, who was born in Bradley in 1942 and lived in the area all his life, served on Wolverhampton Council and West Midlands County Council, was MP for Wolverhampton South East and a life peer.

The Mayor of Wolverhampton, Councillor Milkinder Jaspal, said: "He was one of the rare individuals who was born and grew up in the area that he was to represent with great distinction. He was one of the few politicians who connected with the people. Everyone knew him and he knew everyone."

Councillor Roger Lawrence, Leader of Wolverhampton City Council, said: "Dennis was a hugely popular councillor, MP and member of the Lords. He was an unashamed advocate for Bradley, Bilston and Wolverhampton. Just like Bilston steel, they don't make them like that any more."

Lord Bilston's successor as MP for Wolverhampton South East, Pat McFadden, said: "It's very sad to hear the news that Dennis Turner has passed away. Our city has lost a great son. Dennis was a true Bilston patriot.

"He devoted his whole life to working for the people of Wolverhampton and Bilston. Few MPs know their constituents and local community as well as Dennis did. His philosophy was to go through life making friends, not enemies. He faced his final illness over the past few months with characteristic spirit and bravery. He will be greatly missed."

The son of Thomas Herbert Turner and Mary Elizabeth Peasley, Lord Bilston attended Stonefield Secondary Modern School and Bilston College of Further Education and went on to be a market trader and a steelworker.

In 1966 he was elected to Wolverhampton Council, aged only 22. He went on to serve as a councillor for 20 years, including seven years as deputy leader; he was also a member of West Midlands County Council from 1973 to 1986.

Lord Turner won the Wolverhampton South East seat at the 1987 general election and held it until ill health forced him to stand down in 2005. He never held high office but served as an Opposition whip and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Clare Short at the Department for International Development; he once introduced a private members' bill seeking to clarify in law the correct amount of froth at the top of a pint of beer.

He was created a life peer in June 2005. At home he served as patron of Wolverhampton Interfaith, chaired the Wolverhampton Fairtrade Partnership, was President of the Bilston Community Association and was granted Freedom of the City of Wolverhampton in 2006.

Last year Lord Bilston was diagnosed with cancer, with tumours on his spine. He received treatment at Oswestry and Wolverhampton's New Cross Hospital but spent his final weeks at home with his family.

He is survived by his wife Pat, son Brendon, daughter Jenny and granddaughter Bella.

Did you or your family ever meet Lord Bilston? Email your memories to editor@black countrybugle.co.uk, write to us at 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL, or log on to www.blackcountrybugle.co.uk to leave a tribute to him.

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