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A tory minister who torched a headmaster's study as a schoolboy is now at the centre of massive cuts in the fire service.

Gwilym Jones is under secretary at the Welsh Office, which is slashing funding to the fire brigade by pounds 2 million.

Mike Smith of the Fire Brigade's Union said: "Our service is millions of pounds short and has 40 firemen less than it should. No stations have had to close yet, but that is my fear. The fight for more money is still on, but it has been made clear by the Welsh Office that our chances are slim."

As a 13-year-old, Jones burnt down the head's study at Whitchurch High School in Cardiff.

He was placed on probation for two years and ordered to see a psychiatrist. Jones, 49, said: "It was wrong and I still bitterly regret it. It wrecked my school career. I left with little in the way of qualifications."

Despite his criminal past, the former insurance broker rose quickly through the Tory ranks after being elected MP for Cardiff North in 1983.

Jones was also slammed in 1992 when he was Welsh Office spokesman on health in a row over jobs for the boys when his secretary was given a pounds 5,000-a-year grace and favour post on a Welsh health quango. The secretary, Carolyn Jones, was married to his election agent David Charles Jones. She quit when allegations of favouritism were raised in the House of Commons.

Mr Jones has also hit the headlines as a fiery campaigner for the rights of smokers, branding the anti-smoking lobby "hysterical and negative".

Last night Mr Jones was on a trade mission to the Far East and unavailable for comment.
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Sutton, Ricky
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 13, 1996
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