MEMBERS of the community formerly represented by Lord Derek Foster have paid tribute to him during a service to commemorate his life.

The service was held to celebrate the life and achievements of former Bishop Auckland MP Derek Foster, who died on January 5, at the age of 81.

Family, friends and colleagues of Lord Foster, who was MP between 1979 and 2005, paid tribute to him as a man of strong faith and strong political convictions, generous with his encouragement and firm in his sense of purpose.

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Lord Derek Foster

The Right Reverend Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham, said: "Foster by name, Foster by nature. Derek sought to live up to his name.

"To foster is to encourage, to promote, to advantage, to help, to inspire, to strengthen, to develop. Throughout his life, he sought to do this for others, for the community, the region and the nation he served.

"He wanted to best from people and he wanted the best for people."

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Enter CIC put on a performance during the service at St Andrew's Church, Bishop Auckland

Among those to speak at the service at St Andrew's Church, in Bishop Auckland, was Newcastle MP Nick Brown, Councillor Simon Henig, leader of Durham County Council, Northern Echo journalist Chris Lloyd, former Newcastle United owner Sir John Hall, agent Billy Neilson, philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer and Paul Adams, from the Salvation Army.

Anne, his wife of more than 40 years, was also in attendance.

Contributors shared warm memories of his friendship, commitment to his constituency and "dapper" dress sense, describing him as a "wonderful friend", a "man of the people" and as a "Salvationist, socialist and gentleman."

Mr Brown said: "Derek was a man of faith and a man of strong political conviction.

"His faith ran deep and his political outlook never faltered. He wanted to help his people, the working class people of the North-East."

Born in Sunderland in 1937, he was the son of a shipyard fitter, proud Black Cats supporter and member of the Salvation Army, from which he gained his love of brass band music.

He became MP for Bishop Auckland in 1979, serving as Labour's chief whip for a decade.

After retiring as an MP in 2005, he became a lord, remaining involved in organisations across the North-East.

Cllr Henig said: "I believe it speaks volumes he was so well respected locally, regionally in the North-East and nationally in Westminster.

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Durham County Council leader Simon Henig

"Derek was widely regarded for many decades and his record and how he conducted himself should be a lesson to us all."

Music was provided by Spennymoor Town Band and Shildon Salvation Army Band, while there was also a solo by Val MacConachie and a musical contribution by young people from Enter CIC, a cultural social enterprise based in Ferryhill.

A retiring collection was taken to support the work of churches in Bishop Auckland and the 700 Club, which supports the homeless.

Eldon Drift Miners Banner was displayed during the service, alongside the banner of the Salvation Army.

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Bishop Auckland philanthropist Jonathan Ruffer

Mr Ruffer said: "I think that man changed this place and he changed people and I know he was a thoroughly good egg."