BRITAIN: Barbara Castle, a heroine of the Labour movement for more than 50 years, died in her sleep yesterday afternoon, aged 91. She had been ill for several weeks after a fall at her home in Buckinghamshire.
The Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, leading tributes from the Westminster establishment, said: "Britain has lost one of its great political figures and the Labour movement a great heroine."
A passionate campaigner for women's rights, Baroness Castle will be remembered for linking the state pension with earnings and introducing the breathalyser.
One of Harold Wilson's closest political friends, she was a minister in all his cabinets. She was variously secretary of state for employment, health and social services, transport and overseas development. She was also on the party's ruling national executive for more than 30 years.
After she retired as an MP in 1979, she was a member of the European parliament for 10 years, before going to the Lords, where she continued her lifelong argument with the forces of conservatism.
She was often an outspoken critic of New Labour, and the prime minister last night praised her independence of spirit.
He said: "Barbara Castle was one of the dominating figures of the Labour movement of the last 50 years, a radical independent spirit and an extraordinary pioneer for women in politics.
"Courageous, determined, tireless and principled, she was never afraid to speak her mind or stand up for her beliefs." Baroness Castle, who represented Blackburn as an MP for 34 years, died with her family at her bedside.
She spoke at last year's party conference - with the determination which made Mr Gordon Brown describe her as "my mentor and tormentor" - despite a black eye from a cataract operation.
She was adored by the party's old Labour rank and file, who cheered on her protests at what she saw as the neutering of the party's policy-making processes and the taming of the annual conference.
She also continued fighting against hunting with dogs.
Baroness Boothroyd, former speaker of the Commons, said her death created a vacuum on the political scene.