He had been suffering from a long illness, his family said. Dr Brian Mawhinney, who became Conservative Party chairman under Prime Minister John Major, was first elected to the Peterborough seat in 1979 but swapped to North West Cambridgeshire in 1997 following a reorganisation which amalgamated parts of the Peterborough and Huntingdonshire constituencies. He was knighted in the same year and was created a life peer in 2005 when he retired. Shailesh Vara, who replaced him at North-West Cambridgeshire after he stood down, said: "Brian was a formidable politician. He was very firm in his Christian faith and committed to public service. "After a distinguished career as an MP, including serving as transport secretary and party chairman, he remained active and went on to play a important role as chairman of the Football League." Mr Vara added: "Brian will be much missed not only by his family but by so many others too. My prayers and thoughts are with Betty and the family at this difficult time." Belfast born Lord Mawhinney was a member of the cabinet from 1994 until 1997, serving as transport secretary and minister without portfolio. He was party chairman under John Major's government from 1995-97. He also served as a minister state for health and as a minister in the Northern Ireland Office as well as being shadow home secretary. Away from politics, Lord Mawhinney served as chairman of the Football League where he was responsible for tightening up some of the controls over the way the sport was run, including tests to see if prospective club directors were "fit and proper" persons and the publication of club spending on agents' fees. English Football League (EFL) chairman Rick Parry said: "Everyone associated with the EFL is saddened to hear of the loss of Lord Mawhinney, a hugely respected and influential figure in our recent past, most notably for his work as chairman of the Football League but also for the significant impact he had on the wider game." "Lord Mawhinney was awarded a life membership in 2012 for the significant contribution he made to the league during his seven years at the helm, during which, he made a number of important introductions as part of a substantive programme of governance reforms. "He was also the driving force behind the league's first solidarity arrangement with the Premier League, the formation of the Football League Trust and a significant rebranding to support subsequent commercial development. "Club owners, their respective teams and staff at the EFL remember Lord Mawhinney's time at the league fondly and our collective thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad and difficult time." He was also known to take a turn in an umpire's white coat in an annual charity cricket match at Alconbury held by Dame Norma Major.