aFORMER actor and ex-Labour MP Andrew Faulds has died at the age of 77.

MP for the Birmingham constituencies of Smethwick between 1966 and 1974, and Warley East until 1997, Mr Faulds died yesterday at a nursing home in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire.

Mr Faulds liked to be known as a Scot despite being born the son of a minister in East Africa in 1923.

His claim could have been seen as well founded after spending his formative years being educated at various Scottish schools including George Watson's and Daniel Stewart's in Edinburgh, Stirling High School and Glasgow University. He also spent a short time in Ireland being educated at King Edward VI Grammar School, Louth.

A close friend of the former MP, Sandwell Borough Councillor Roger Page, said: ''He was a tremendous character who was extremely well-liked and respected and popular.''

As an actor, Mr Faulds' famous roles included Jet Morgan in the BBC's 1950s radio series Journey into Space, and Carver Doone in television's Lorna Doone.

His booming, theatrical voice became one of the features of the Commons chamber, and his uncompromising views led him twice to be sacked from the post as Labour's arts spokesman.

His only brief taste of Government was as parliamentary private secretary to John Stonehouse, the then Postmaster General, between 1967 and 1969.

Mr Faulds was said to have joined the Labour Party at the urging of Paul Robeson in 1959. He first contested a parliamentary seat in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1963, in the by-election caused by the resignation of ex-War Minister John Profumo.

The seat of Smethwick then became vacant and Mr Faulds' parliamentary career began in 1966 after winning the seat with a majority of 3490. Smethwick had been a traditional Labour seat until 1964 when Tory candidate Peter Griffiths won on a platform against immigration into Britain.

Mr Faulds quickly gained prominence in Parliament, warning Harold Wilson that he should have used force against Ian Smith, the leader of Rhodesia's illegal regime. At one point Mr Faulds said Mr Smith should be hanged.

He faced threats of expulsion from the Commons for trading insults with pro-Smith Tory MPs.

Mr Faulds attracted attention by using shock tactics. Once he attacked Norman St John-Stevas - now Lord St John of Fawsley - for discussing abortion as a man who ''has not the capacity to put a bun in anybody's oven''.

He was also forced to apologise in 1978, for having referred to the then Shadow Foreign Secretary, John Davies, as ''that fat-arsed twit''. Ten years later, he was censured for describing a Tory back bencher, David Shaw, as ''an honourable shit''.

He was named as an arts spokesman by Wilson in June 1970, only to be dismissed for a quip about a Zionist Labour MP three years later. He was reappointed arts spokesman in 1979, but was dismissed again, this time for voting against the Government on the Falklands in 1982, when the official Labour line was to abstain.

Labour Party Assistant General Secretary Phil Murphy said: ''Andrew Faulds was one of the great personalities of the House of Commons. His dramatic flair brought colour and character to the chamber.''

The Labour MP for West Bromwich East, Peter Snape, said: ''He was a great character - wonderfully outrageous in an endearing way.''

Despite Mr Faulds' ferocious, bearded aspect and daunting voice, he was an infrequent speaker in the Commons, and his voting record was sometimes among the worst of Labour back benchers.

However, he had a commanding presence and some of his spectacular interjections had about them more of the flamboyant Victorian tragedian than of the back bencher that he was.

Mr Faulds, who retired from the Commons in 1997 when his Warley East seat disappeared under boundary changes, is survived by his wife and daughter.