Backbench Business — Summer Adjournment

Part of Child Benefit Entitlement (Disqualification of Non-UK EU Nationals) – in the House of Commons at 6:23 pm on 22nd July 2014.

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Photo of Thomas Docherty Thomas Docherty Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons 6:23 pm, 22nd July 2014

It is a pleasure to respond briefly to this debate on behalf of the Opposition, and I thank the Backbench Business Committee for initiating it. It seems to be a return to the traditions that we had until 2010-11, although we are using a slightly different format today. I do not intend to cover all the issues raised because I want to provide the Deputy Leader of the House the maximum opportunity to respond, but I thought that the speech by Dr Lee was one of the most thoughtful and powerful that I have heard this year. I hope that the Deputy Leader of the House will take the opportunity to provide a substantive reply to him on the possibilities for recall during the summer recess if the situation overseas deteriorates.

I echo the comments of Jim Shannon in wishing hon. Members who are getting married this week all the best. I am sure the whole House wishes them all the best for their futures.

A number of hon. Members have taken the opportunity to thank the staff of the House. On behalf of the Opposition, I join in thanking them, in particular Sam, Elaine, Joanna and Russell, our hard-working and very talented civil servants in the Opposition Whips Office, whom I know will have a very good summer without Members getting in the way of running the business.

A number of long-serving staff have retired or are in the process of doing so, including the Librarian, John Pullinger; Christine Gillie from the Library, who has provided many years of high-quality briefing on education; James Roberston, who started 20 years ago in the Serjeant at Arms Department, and who most recently served as director of accommodation and logistics services; Janet Rissen and Judith Welham, who have given excellent HR advice over many years; Amanda Waller, who has served a number of Committees and who has most recently served in support of our delegations to parliamentary assemblies; Chris Weeds, who has been engaged in providing education; and Clare Cowan, who started Parliament’s outreach efforts. We thank all those public servants, as well as many others whom I have been unable to mention and who are moving on this year, for all their efforts.

Of course, one other retirement is taking place in just a few short weeks. Sir Robert Rogers is held in the highest regard by all Members and all members of the House of Commons service. It is worth noting briefly how much the House has changed in the 42 years since Sir Robert joined the House Service. The Clerk of the House at the time was Sir Barnett Cocks; the underground car park was a hugely controversial building project, opposed by many in the House Service and many Members of Parliament; and Parliament had not yet found additional office accommodation. The Norman Shaw buildings as we know them were yet to be acquired, and were described just a few years after Sir Robert arrived as the Savoy of office accommodation, which perhaps goes to show how much Parliament has changed during Sir Robert’s time.

I am sure I speak for all Members when I wish all staff members who will be returning—Hansard, the Doorkeepers, the Clerks and everyone else—a very enjoyable and peaceful summer.

Finally, Madam Deputy Speaker, it is fair to say that you will be aware that not many Scottish Members of Parliament will be here during our September fortnight. Not only on behalf of the Scottish tourism industry, but on behalf of the referendum campaign, my hon. Friends and other Scottish MPs, I extend a very warm welcome to all Members of Parliament who wish to spend a bit of time this July and August, and indeed September, coming to Scotland, seeing the sights and knocking on those doors to keep the UK together.