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[1st Day]

Part of Debate on the Address – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 21st June 2017.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 3:32 pm, 21st June 2017

I have to say to the hon. Lady that the reason why I am not welcoming the former right hon. Member to this House is because he was beaten by a Conservative in the election.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Newbury showed great skill and tenacity over his three years of negotiations on the common fisheries policy. The process started with the UK as a minority of one, and ended with the EU unanimously supporting a reform agenda, the principles of which will be at the heart of the fisheries Bill in this Queen’s Speech. He was also the Minister who secured cross-party support for moving our canals and waterways from the public to the charitable sector, creating the Canal & River Trust, one of the biggest and best endowed charities in this country. He made an excellent speech today in the finest traditions of this House.

The motion was brilliantly seconded by my hon. Friend Kwasi Kwarteng. He is a distinguished political historian and a prolific writer, as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out. I understand that my hon. Friend has a particular interest in female Prime Ministers. Indeed, Members may know that his most recent book profiled the most testing six months for our country’s first female Prime Minister. It ran to 272 pages; I fear his next book could be somewhat longer.

My hon. Friend is also widely regarded for his good looks. In fact, The Sunday Telegraph once described him as a Tory “heart-throb”, and during his time on “University Challenge”, I gather he even made it to page 3 of The Sun. Perhaps most significantly, he is confounding the Daily Mail, which cited the 1995 “University Challenge” winning team of which my hon. Friend was a member when arguing that

“all too often the brainy winners of the BBC’s flagship programme sink without trace after their moment in the spotlight.”

I could not disagree more. The House has today seen his talents on full display. He gave a tremendous speech with flair, substance and wit. He brings an historian’s wisdom to the challenges and opportunities that our country faces, and I have no doubt that he will make a major contribution in the years ahead.

Let me welcome Ian Blackford as the new leader of the Scottish National party here in Westminster. I am also, of course, particularly pleased to welcome to the Conservative Benches my 13 Scottish Conservative colleagues. It is good that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland will not have to put up with any more jokes about pandas.

Turnout at the election was higher than in 2015, including many more younger people. While those of us on this side of the House would have preferred more of them to vote for us, more young people going to the ballot box is something that we should all welcome.

Let me also welcome Jeremy Corbyn back to his place as the Leader of the Opposition. He fought a spirited campaign and he came a good second, which was better than the pundits predicted and than many of his own MPs hoped for.