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Let me add my congratulations to you, Mr Speaker, on a fantastic 10 years as Speaker during what has probably been one of the most turbulent and difficult times that this House and this Parliament have seen. I echo all the points raised by others about how you have reformed the way the House works, and the causes you have championed. Our relationship has changed over the years. I have been a Back Bencher asking questions, as well as a shadow Minister, a Minister, and a Secretary of State—all while you sat in that Chair and adjudicated over our proceedings.
In my experience, the approach that you have taken to parliamentary matters, in particular urgent questions that have allowed Members to raise issues with Ministers and Departments, has been unfailingly fair. Whenever a Department has been genuinely getting on with an issue and had a good case to make for a question not being urgent, you have looked at that point and processed it fairly. I was a Minister for many years, and I never had any issues with the way you made such a decision. Indeed, I welcomed the chance for my Department and ministerial team to be held to account in the Chamber. In my view, your decision made us behave more appropriately and up our game, which is exactly what it was meant to do.
One final point that has not yet been highlighted is the Speaker’s parliamentary placement scheme, which has enabled the House to become accessible to a range of young people from backgrounds that are very different from those of the more traditional cohorts of MPs and employees. Like a number of other Members, I have had two candidates from the scheme in my office over the past two years, and they were both outstanding. Not only did they learn, I hope, from the chance to take part in the scheme that you set up, but my office, my team and I also learned and grew from having those candidates as part of our team. The chance to open up Parliament to a new generation of young people who would otherwise not get the chance to come here, and let them realise that this is everybody’s Parliament, is one of the most powerful steps you have taken. I very much hope that your successor will continue the scheme, and consider how it can be expanded so that young people from all over the country, and many more MPs, have the chance to experience the wonderful Speaker’s Parliamentary placement scheme.
Mr Speaker, you have been a parliamentary referee during perhaps the toughest game that we have played here for many years. I am sure that has taken its toll on both you and your family, and the support you have received from them has been amazing. I wish you well in the next phase of your life. As I, too, leave this House, perhaps our paths will cross again, but in different capacities.