TRIBUTES have been paid to an independently minded former MP, who has died aged 70.

Gerry Steinberg was the Labour MP for Durham City from 1987 until his retirement in 2005.

His successor, Roberta Blackman-Woods, said he served the constituency for many, many years and would be fondly remembered.

At Westminster, Mr Steinberg was known as an independently minded, even rebellious, constituency MP, voting against Tony Blair’s government nine times between 2001 and the end of 2004 alone.

Famously, he quit as chair of Labour’s parliamentary education committee in 1996 in protest at Harriet Harman’s decision to send her 11-year-old son to a selective grammar school, saying the move went against everything Labour had been fighting for in support of comprehensive education.

He also spoke out against the introduction of university top-up fees.

Before entering Parliament, Mr Steinberg worked as a teacher at several special schools and was head teacher at Whitworth House Special School in Spennymoor.

He sat on the House of Commons’ Education and Skills Committee and, from 1998, the powerful Public Accounts Committee.

Mr Steinberg was born and educated in Durham, attending St Margaret’s CE Primary, Whinney Hill Secondary Modern and Durham Johnston Grammar.

He was co-leader of Durham City Council from 1983 to 1987 and later, while an MP, often clashed with the authority after it came under Liberal Democrat control.

Mr Steinberg played a key role in Durham landing its Passport Office in 2000, the expansion of Dryburn hospital into the University Hospital of North Durham and the Millennium City development.

Upon being made an honorary freeman of the city following his retirement from parliament in 2005, he told reporters he had refused a lordship in the late 1990s because “it wasn’t a sincere offer”.

Dr Blackman-Woods said: “I was very sorry to hear the sad news about the passing of Gerry.

“He served the City of Durham constituency for many, many years and will be fondly remembered by many of the City of Durham constituents for the work he did on their behalf both in Westminster and Durham.

“He will also be remembered for his challenging presence on the Public Accounts Committee. Our sincere condolences go to his family and friends.”

Mr Steinberg, who lived in Pity Me, died earlier this week following a long illness. He is survived by his wife Meg, son Harry, daughter Lyanne and grandchildren.