Tributes to former Milton Keynes MP Sir Bill Benyon

MPMC Bill Benyon
MPMC Bill Benyon

The ‘gentleman’ MP who served the people of Milton Keynes for more than 20 years has died at the age of 84.

Sir Bill Benyon, whose favourite TV programmes were Happy Days and Basil Brush, was known as a people’s politician despite his privileged background.

Neither pompous nor vain, he spent countless hours in village halls and community centres holding surgeries to help solve his constituents’ problems.

Current city mayor and former MP Brian White told the Citizen: “When I was first elected to Parliament Bill Benyon was my benchmark figure. He was the person I wanted to emulate as an MP.

“We may have been different political parties but the principles were the same: work hard and always be there for the people you represent.”

Mr Benyon was first elected for the Buckingham constituency, which then encompassed Milton Keynes, in 1970, defeating former Daily Mirror proprietor Robert Maxwell.

He retained his seat for three terms then opted to stand for the large new Milton Keynes constituency when it was formed in 1983.

At the time he told the Citizen: “We don’t need a crystal ball in Milton Keynes to see into the future, we see it all around us. The jobs of the future will come from the energetic and creative individuals in our new enterprise and businesses, exploiting new markets.”

Mr Benyon was famed in the House of Commons for his campaign to tighten the law on abortion and also for his rebellion against the community charge tax, which he branded “inefficient, expensive and unfair to the disadvantaged.”

A former Royal Navy Lieutenant, he showed nerves of steel when a bomb scare once threatened to disrupt an event he organised.

He had amassed a traffic cavalcade to protest about plans to build a third London airport at Cublington, but it ground to a halt when police found a suspected bomb in the road.

Realising it was a hoax, Mr Benyon calmly picked up the device and threw it over a hedge - where it landed right at the feet of a policeman sheltering for safety.

By the time the MP retired in 1992, the Milton Keynes electorate, with 130,000 voters, was the largest in Britain and split into two constituencies.

Current MP for Milton Keynes South, Iain Stewart, said this week: “I was very sad to hear about the passing of Bill Benyon, one of my predecessors as MP for Milton Keynes. He was a true gentleman.

“His passion for and belief in Milton Keynes was demonstrated in 1983 when his old constituency was split in two and he opted to stand in the Milton Keynes seat rather than the electorally safer Buckingham division. He truly believed in the potential of Milton Keynes and worked hard to secure it.”

“Over 20 years after he retired, I still meet local residents who talk about him fondly and remember the exemplary care and compassion he showed to his constituents. My thoughts are with his family, including his son Richard who is MP for Newbury.”

> Our picture marks the 40th anniversary of Bill Benyon beating Robert Maxwel in Buckingham constituency, with from left, Sir Nicholas Bonsor, Richard Benyon MP for Newbury, Mrs Benyon, Bill Benyon, Jeremy Quin Chm Buckingham Constituency, Earl Buckingham President Buckingham Constituency