FORMER MP for Richmond and parliamentary private secretary to Prime Minister Ted Heath, Sir Timothy Kitson has died.

Often regarded as a larger than life character, it was reported he once invited actress Jayne Mansfield to visit the Commons, he was also seen as a dedicated and hard working MP during his 24 years in parliament.

Sir Timothy, was born in Leeds, to parents who ran a family firm making locomotive engines, going to the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. His political career started on the former Thirsk Rural District Council where he stood originally as an independent in 1954 before joining North Riding County Council.

It was when the Richmond constituency seat became vacant in 1959 when he was just 28 and as Harold Macmillan won the Conservatives third consecutive victory that Sir Timothy entered parliament, soon serving on the committee for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

In 1970 when Ted Heath became prime minister The Times reported that he asked the popular and sociable MP for Richmond to take on the role as his parliamentary private secretary to "work the commons tea rooms for me" and "to keep in touch with the backbenchers."

In his memoir Mr Heath told the story of Sir Timothy accompanying him to Singapore to stay with the Prime Minister who banned smoking in the house. During dinner a butler gave a note to Sir Timothy and he excused himself saying he had to call London, later the same thing happened again, when later a worried Heath asked him what was going on Sir Timothy replied

'I didn't worry you because everything is perfectly all right I just had to have a smoke.'

But his closeness to Ted Heath is believed to have not endeared him to the new Conservative leader Margaret Thatcher when she took over in 1975. He was not given an appointment in the new shadow administration although he did serve as chairman of the defence select committee. He received a knighthood in Ted Heath's resignation honours list.

In 1983 he stood down from parliament with Leon Brittan taking over the Richmond seat. Married with two daughters and a son he concentrated on business interests and followed his love of shooting and farming, he lived for many years at Leases Hall, near Leeming Bar, before moving to the Constable Burton area.

His son Edward said as well as his successful political career his father was a prominent figure in the farming community.

Sir Timothy established one of Britain’s leading herds of the then uncommon Red Poll cattle. His expertise in the breed lead to his appointment as a National and International judge, travelling as far afield as Bogota, Colombia in 1960.

His son wrote: "He derived most satisfaction from his campaigns to raise Army pay to “realistic” levels, the introduction of a Nationwide brucellosis testing scheme for cows and his successful campaign to keep Northallerton railway station open in the 1980s."

Leader of North Yorkshire County Council councillor Carl Les said: "I was very sad to hear of Sit Timothy's death. He was always very supportive locally, when he was parliamentary private secretary to Ted Heath he always kept in close touch with what was happening here.

"He was a larger than life character who did things out of the ordinary, but was always keen to promote North Yorkshire."

Sir Timothy died aged 88 after a long period of illness.