LORD FOSTER, who was the Labour MP for Bishop Auckland for more than 25 years, has died at the age of 81.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn immediately led tributes, saying: "“I am saddened by the death of our former colleague Derek Foster and send our condolences to his family and friends.

"As Chief Whip, he was always kind to me and supportive of new MPs. He served with distinction.”

Lord Foster, who was born in Sunderland, was the party's Chief Whip during a very turbulent decade to 1995, and represented Bishop Auckland from 1979.

The current chief whip, Nick Brown, said: “As Member of Parliament for Bishop Auckland, Derek Foster was the longest serving Chief Whip to the Parliamentary Labour Party in modern times, serving for ten years.

"His shrewd judgement and fair-mindedness won the respect of his colleagues. He was passionate about the North-East and in particular the jobs, pay and life chances of those living in the region. He was a lifelong campaigner for social justice. His wife Anne, family and friends are in our thoughts at this most sad time.”

Helen Goodman, who succeeded Lord Foster as Bishop Auckland MP in 2005, said: "Derek was very successful at attracting business investment, creating jobs and building relationships which was of great benefit to his constituents. I don't think people realise how much work he did and how good he was at it, and the most obvious monument to his success is the Locomotion museum in Shildon.

"He was rooted in the North-East - his father was a shipbuilder in Sunderland - and he was passionate about education and training."

Phil Wilson, the Sedgefield MP, said: "It is very sad news. I've known Derek for more than 30 years, and he was always deeply committed to the Labour Party and his constituents who he served diligently for many years. He was very helpful to me when I first arrived in Parliament, and my thoughts are with his wife, Anne."

Despite his working class beginnings, Lord Foster went to Sunderland grammar school and then Oxford University where he studied politics, philosophy and economics. Prior to becoming an MP, he was chairman of the North-East Development Council. He was also deeply committed to the Salvation Army.

Lord Foster died on Saturday evening in Sunderland hospital of cancer