Maastricht rebel Sir Richard Shepherd dies aged 79

The former Conservative MP – and Maastricht rebel – Sir Richard Shepherd has died aged 79, his family said.

Sir Richard, who represented the constituency of Aldridge-Brownhills for 36 years, was best known as one of the Tory Eurosceptics who proved a thorn in the side of prime minister Sir John Major through their opposition to the Maastricht Treaty on the EU.

At one stage he had the Conservative whip withdrawn after voting against the Government in a key division in the House of Commons – only to have it restored four months later.

A natural libertarian, he infuriated Margaret Thatcher when he attempted to loosen elements of the Official Secrets Act to better protect whistleblowers.The then-prime minister imposed a three line whip ordering Conservative MPs to vote against Sir Richard’s private member’s Bill.

Sir Richard stood down as an MP at the 2015 general election.

His brother John Shepherd said: “As a family our hearts are broken today
but we take great reassurance from the fact that his was a life well lived and that he was a real gold medal winner in so many ways.”