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Former Wycombe MP Ray Whitney dies
TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Wycombe MP who has been described as hardworking, professional and a man of principle.
Sir Ray Whitney died on August 15, aged 81, and served as a Conservative MP for Wycombe from 1978 to 2001.
Before he entered politics he had a fascinating career in the Diplomatic Service.
MP for Beaconsfield, Dominic Grieve, served a term in parliament with Sir Ray.
He said: “I am sorry to hear of his death. He was a good friend and a good colleague.”
He said he was “an outstanding professional man who was very hard working” and said he was “very well respected.”
Mr Grieve said he would sometimes talk of his time as a diplomat, and said the job brought him into parliament as a very level headed man. He said: “I welcomed his companionship in parliament.”
MP for Chesham and Amersham Cheryl Gillan said: "Sir Ray Whitney was always particularly kind to me when I was first elected and was then the youngest woman MP on our benches. He always had a kind word and good advice.
“He served his country and his constituency with great distinction.
“He was always held in great esteem for his service in China and also as a Minister.
“My thoughts are with his family. He was a very lovely man."
Sir Ray was born in 1930 in Northampton and educated at Wellingborough School. He attended Sandhurst and was commissioned to Northamptonshire Regiment in 1951 and seconded to Australian Army HQ from 1960 to 1963.
He entered Diplomatic Service in 1964 and held various senior posts in Peking, Buenos Aires, Dacca and London.
His first posting was to Peking where he encountered mounting hostility from the Red Guards during China’s Cultural Revolution and on numerous occasions was attacked.
For almost a year he was not allowed to leave the country and during this time he was given an OBE.
Sir Ray was selected as Conservative candidate in 1978 for a Wycombe by-election following the death of Sir John Hall.
Former Conservative cllr Darren Hayday said: “I remember my first taste of politics was in receiving a welcome letter from Sir Ray Whitney when I reached my 18th birthday as I was then eligible to vote.
“I may still have kept the same letter for all of these years as it meant something to me.
“I also have a copy of one of the books which he published on the NHS (National Health Crisis: A Modern Solution) “Not one person had anything bad to say or to criticise Sir Ray, he was a man of principle and we were extremely lucky to have him as our MP for Wycombe.
“My thoughts go out to his wife Shelia and to his two sons. May he rest in peace.”
Sir Ray was Parliamentary Private Secretary to Treasury Ministers from 1979-80, Under Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office between 1983 and 84. And then for the Department of Health and Social Security from 1982 to 87. He was a senior member of Conservative Parliamentary Committees and in 1997 was knighted for political service.
Sir Ray married Sheila Prince in 1956 and had two sons, Simon and Mark. Wycombe District Councillor Lesley Clarke said Sir Ray was MP when she started as a councillor in 1991.
She said: "He was ably supported by his wife, Sheila. They were a team actually. "He was really a very nice person. He was a very effective MP."
Wycombe MP, Steve Baker, wrote on his website: “I was sorry to learn yesterday of the passing of Sir Ray Whitney, MP for Wycombe from 1978 to 2001. Sir Ray is fondly remembered here for the honour, integrity and dignity with which he fulfilled the role.”
He added: “I am sorry that I did not have the opportunity better to know him.”
He was later a licensed lay minister in Sunninghill, near Ascot. When Sir Ray retired from politics he told the Free Press: "The number of friends I've made and the number of people I've been able to help is memorable."