I have to inform the House that I have received the following letter from the Clerk of the House:
“Dear Mr Speaker,
I write to inform you that I have indicated to Her Majesty The Queen that I wish to surrender my Patent as Clerk of the House at the end of August this year. I shall then have served the House for 42 years, over eleven Parliaments, and for the last decade at the Table.
As Clerk of the House I have been fortunate indeed to have the best job in the service of any Parliament—indeed one of the best jobs in the world.
I have been lucky enough to have been involved in most of the innovations in the procedure and business of the House over the last ten years. Whatever the vicissitudes of Parliamentary life, and whatever brickbats may be thrown at it, I can truly say that the House now is a more effective scrutineer of the executive, and more topical, relevant and independent-minded, than I have ever known it.
As Chief Executive of the House Service of some 2,000 staff I have had the great privilege of leading a remarkable group of talented people, deeply committed to the House and, whatever their role here, all rightly proud of being stewards of the central institution in our democracy.
That commitment and pride has been a feature of working life here for as long as I can remember; but in recent years it has been coupled with increasing levels of professionalism and teamwork and an ever clearer focus on delivering the services required by the House and its Members, as well as reaching out, through education and information, to the world beyond Westminster.
I am so grateful to have had, throughout my service, and especially over the last three years, the support and friendship of Members on all sides of the House, and especially of the occupants of the Chair, as well as the happy camaraderie, support and counsel of my colleagues at all levels.
I have spent much of my career seeking to make the House and its work, and the work of its Members, better understood by those whom it serves: the citizens of the United Kingdom. For I believe that with understanding comes valuing, and with valuing comes ownership. And our citizens should feel pride in the ownership of their Parliament.
The House of Commons, across the centuries, has never expected to be popular, and indeed it should not court popularity. But the work it does in calling governments to account, and its role as a crucible of ideas and challenge, deserves to be better known, better understood, and so properly valued. So too does the work of individual Members: not only working for the interests of their constituencies and constituents, but often as the last resort of the homeless and hopeless, the people whom society has let down. This is a worthy calling, and should be properly acknowledged and appreciated.
This House is the precious centre of our Parliamentary democracy; and with all my heart I wish it well.
That spontaneous reaction—
It may be unparliamentary, but it bears eloquent testimony to the esteem in which Robert is held.
In myself acknowledging the wisdom and dedication that the Clerk and Chief Executive of the House has demonstrated, I know that colleagues will wish me to assure them that there will be an opportunity to pay the traditional tribute to the Clerk at a later date. I should also mention, for the convenience of the House, that I shall naturally put in place a competition for the appointment of the Clerk’s successor.