TRIBUTES have been paid to a former Conservative MP and AM who has died at the age of 73.

Rod Richards was elected as the MP for Clwyd North West in 1992 and he was a Conservative AM for North Wales between 1999 and 2002.

Clwyd West AM Darren Millar said that Mr Richards "had fire in his belly".

"I first met Rod Richards back in 1992 during the general election campaign in which he was elected as the MP for Clwyd North West," said Mr Millar.

"I was a young teenager who had just taken an interest in politics and after studying each party manifesto, I decided I wanted to support the Conservatives.

"Rod immediately roped me into the campaign and I've been involved in politics ever since!

"He was a great encouragement to me in those formative years and helped me cut my teeth in politics.

"He had a wicked sense on humour and always had a fire in his belly when he spoke.

"Rod's political career had its ups and downs, for all sorts of reasons, but I'll always remember him as a politician who took a genuine interest in encouraging me and other young people to get away from the sidelines, get involved in politics, and to be passionate about what we believe."

Clwyd West MP David Jones said Mr Richards' flaws "were greatly outweighed by his many virtues".

In paying tribute, Mr Jones said: "Rod Richards was an impressive, naturally talented politician, but was, sadly, plagued by demons.

"He was a strong, forthright advocate for any cause that he took up.

"Often abrasive with his political foes, he was also kind and considerate to those who sought his help, and whose interests he would do his utmost to serve.

"His talents took him far: to an early ministerial position at the Welsh Office and, later, to the leadership of the Conservative group at the Welsh Assembly.

"However, his Achilles heel - like that of many others - was alcohol, a matter he acknowledged later in his life, and whose influence he did his best to combat.

"Very sadly, it cost him his career.

"So many people have told me over the days since his death of the kindnesses Rod showed them and of his untiring efforts on their behalf.

"Like most of us, he was flawed, but his flaws were greatly outweighed by his many virtues.

"He will be missed."

Leader of the Welsh Conservative Party group in the Welsh Assembly Paul Davies AM said: "My thoughts are with the family of Rod Richards on the news of his passing.

"As the first leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Rod was an able and talented politician.

"His career had its ups and downs, but he certainly made his mark on Welsh politics and devolution forever."