JohnbiffenLord Biffen, as he became in 1997, served Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Trade, and as Leader of the House of Commons.

As Secretary of State for Trade he controversially declined to refer Rupert Murdoch’s purchase of Times newspapers to the competition authorities.

He was dropped by Margaret Thatcher in 1987 after he had called for a more balanced conservatism.  Bernard Ingham, Mrs Thatcher’s press secretary, famously described him as semi-detached after his remarks.

Just described by Lord Heseltine on Today as one of the original Powellites, Biffen was both an opponent of the poll tax and of the Maastricht Treaty.

Reactions: BBC | Telegraph | Times | Iain Dale | EU Referendum | Conservative History Group

10.30am update: A tribute from Owen Paterson, John Biffen’s successor as MP for Shropshire North:

“John Biffen was an exceptional man. He was MP for North Shropshire for 35 years and people of all parties and all interests owe him a great debt. He was greatly admired as a constituency MP for his conscientious hard work, his judgement and his kindness to all regardless of their political affiliation.

On the national stage, he was first and foremost a great parliamentarian, still remembered as one of the finest leaders of the House of the last fifty years. Liked and respected by both friends and opponents, he handled the House with fairness and a deft sense of humour. He was a staunch believer in the sovereignty of the House of Commons.

He played a key role in the revival of the Conservative party’s fortunes in the 1970s as a member of Margaret Thatcher’s inner circle, rethinking and developing the policies that led to 18 years of Conservatives Government and the transformation of Great Britain.

However, to the end he was brave and independent minded, never afraid to part company with the party line if he believed it to be wrong.

My thoughts go out to his wife Sarah and his step children Lucy and Nicholas. She has always been a tower of strength and in particular, has looked after him with unfailing care in recent years as his health declined.”

David Cameron said: "John Biffen was a thoughtful and principled politician. He was also a great House of Commons man and was liked and respected across all parties.  I know that he will be missed by his family and my thoughts are with his wife, Sarah."

3.30pm: Iain Dale has set up a Facebook group to pay tribute to John Biffen.