The long-standing Labour MP Paul Flynn has died aged 84, the party has announced.

Mr Flynn, who represented Newport West for 32 years, was described as an “independent thinker” who would be “greatly missed”.

He held several shadow cabinet posts during his parliamentary career, including a brief stint as shadow secretary of state for Wales in 2016, but had not been active in the Commons in recent months.

His local association said in a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday night: “It’s with great sadness that we let you know that our MP, Paul Flynn, has died today.

“Paul is a hero to many of us in the Newport Labour family and we mourn for his family’s loss. We would ask that the privacy of Paul’s family is respected at this difficult time.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “I’m very sad at the passing of my good friend Paul Flynn. He had such love for Newport, knowledge of radical South Wales history and a dry wit.

“He was an independent thinker who was a credit to the Labour Party. He will be greatly missed.”

Newport West constituency profile(PA Graphics)

First Minister of Wales and Welsh Labour leader Mark Drakeford described Mr Flynn as a “giant of the Welsh Labour movement”.

He added: “Today’s news will be a source of great sadness to all those who knew him.

“He was one of the most effective communicators of his generation – inside the House of Commons and outside. But it was Paul’s willingness to speak up for causes beyond the political mainstream which marked him out as a politician of real courage and integrity.”

Conservative MP Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales, also paid tribute, tweeting: “He was an exceptional constituency MP & it was a privilege to work with him taking the Wales Bill through Parliament when he was Shadow SoS for Wales. We always had a warm & friendly relationship”.

Mr Flynn was a strong advocate for the medicinal use of cannabis, and in 2017 urged people to “break the law” by using cannabis at the Houses of Parliament.

Speaking during a debate on drugs policy in the Commons, Mr Flynn said: “I would call on people, and I know we’re not supposed to do this as members, to break the law.

“To come here and use cannabis here and see what happens and challenge the Government, the authorities, to arrest them and take them in.

“That’s the only way we can get through the common mind of the Government, which is set in concrete and the whole laws are evidence free and prejudice rich – let’s see them do that.”

Later the same year, he also called for a second referendum on Brexit.

Speaking in the Commons he asked: “Isn’t it right that three years after the referendum, when we’re thinking of taking this step, we allow the public to have a second opinion on this in the knowledge that second thoughts are always superior to first thoughts?”

He announced in October that he intended to stand down as an MP due to health reasons, telling the Press Association he would “wait for a convenient time to go” and had “loved every minute” of his time in Westminster.

He said at the time: “It’s been a great, wonderful, rich experience. I lasted 31 years.”