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I am disappointed that I am not able to put my question to the Leader of the House regarding the lack of funding from the national lottery for Southend West and the lousy ticket machines installed by c2c, but I will get over that.
The House is at its best when we are being nice to one another. This will not last, as we are about to embark upon a general election campaign. Mr Speaker, you and I have known each other for a long time, and I cannot imagine how you and the others who are leaving this place voluntarily must feel today. I wish each and every one of those colleagues every good fortune for the future.
You and I followed very different paths to this place. It has not been easy for you being the Speaker, particularly in the circumstances in which you took that great office, but you have been a champion of Back Benchers, in so far as you have ensured that every voice is heard, particularly when you notice that a voice is not always heard within a Member’s own political party. You would be the first to say that you could not have done the job so well without your magnificent backroom team—I am not going to show favouritism—of Peter, Ian and Jim. They have been wonderful.
I know that we will have tributes to Reverend Rose later, but she was an inspired choice. For those of the Catholic brethren who were in the Crypt last night, it was particularly wonderful to hear her speak with my great pal Father Pat Browne, who has just celebrated 10 years as the Catholic chaplain to the House.
Mr Speaker, among the things that you have done, you have made sure that it is worth while being on the Order Paper. It took colleagues a little time to get the hang of it, but you gave everyone on the Order Paper a chance to have their say. You have also done a magnificent job in promoting the work that you do throughout the country.
The election of the new Speaker will be held on Monday. A number of the contestants are in the Chamber at the moment, and each and every one of them would do the job splendidly. I did not seek to fill your shoes because those shoes would pinch. I do not have your control of the bladder, and I certainly do not have your photographic memory, but if there is an opportunity for a slightly different role, I will certainly be a candidate.
My final point is about your family. You and Sally can look after yourselves. This is a very tough job when you have children. When my children were young, they did not take kindly to the fact that not every member of the general public thought their father was wonderful. Your children have somehow got through all that, and they are a credit to you and Sally—of that there can be no doubt. I wish you every future success and every happiness, especially in your new role as a sports commentator.