Remembering Shirley Williams: 'The best MP I have ever met.'
- Credit: PA/Pete Perry
A Stevenage man has paid tribute to the late Baroness Williams, who died on Monday age 90.
With the help of Mrs Williams, Pete Perry helped bring about the One Parent Family Allowance, which would also support widowed fathers.
After the tragic loss of his first wife Dorothy - who died suddenly aged 31 after suffering a brain aneurism in 1967 - Pete discovered that although women who lost their husbands were entitled to a Widow's Pension, men who had lost their wives were entitled to nothing.
Grieving, Pete was left to raise his two young daughters Vivien, five, and 14-month-old Deborah on his own. Living in Blackpool at the time, Pete relocated his family to Walthamstow, before resettling in Stevenage, where he and Dorothy had started their married life.
Pete initially reached out to Walthamstow MP to no avail and, after moving to Stevenage, he wrote to then-Labour MP Shirley Williams for her aid.
Acknowledging Pete's determination to raise his young daughters independently, Shirley pledged her support to his cause to ensure he and his daughters - and others who found themselves in a similar position - were taken care of.
"She took up the baton and ran with it," Pete told the Comet.
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The legislation took four years to pass through parliament, and was made available in 1971. Although by this time Pete had remarried, he admired the tenacity and drive of his MP.
"Due to this campaign, she became a valued and respected friend," he added.
"I was in need, and she came to my aid. I've always had great respect for Baroness Williams because of that.
"Other people have said that she's helped them to get housing in Stevenage and all sorts of things.
"She was that rare thing of being a very good MP that looked after her constituents."
Baroness Williams also managed to prevent water companies from cutting off water supplies for those who were unable to pay their bills on the basis of hygiene, as well as making changes to the law that provided baby changing rooms for parents of both genders in the town centre, which especially helped single parents like Pete.
"In a way, we changed a lot between us," he said.
"Rest in peace, Shirley. The best MP I have ever met."