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Tributes to the Speaker

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:12 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Ann Clwyd Ann Clwyd Labour, Cynon Valley 12:12 pm, 31st October 2019

I do not use many words, but I want to say to you, Mr Speaker, that I cannot imagine this place without you. I have been here a very long time now, as Dr Lewis and my hon. Friend Mr Sheerman know. When it was difficult for women to get into politics, my hon. Friend helped me to become the MEP for Mid and West Wales, and I thank him for that. I have disagreed with the right hon. Member for New Forest East, particularly on defence matters over the years, but I still look on him as a friend.

As for you, Mr Speaker, the BBC, apparently, has a particular tribute to you. It talks about your catchphrase,

“the traditional cry of Commons speakers through the centuries…‘Order!’, often elongated and twisted into an extraordinary sound that is all his own.

To mark his retirement, the BBC has analysed 100 years of Hansard—the official Parliamentary record—to discover just how different he was to any previous occupant of the chair.

The first thing we discovered is that he has said ‘Order!’
nearly 14,000 times.”

I think that must be a record, but it

“is just the beginning of the Bercow story in statistics.”

I want to thank you in particular, Mr Speaker, on behalf of those of us in this place who are older. There is a place for older people in this Parliament. Sometimes we are not able to jump to our feet quite as fast as we used to when we first came here 35 years ago. I am grateful that, when I had a new knee, you allowed me to sit down but still get in on questions. Thank you for that.

Thank you also for understanding people’s weaknesses and strengths in this place. I have sat here since 1984—I cannot count under how many Speakers, but it is quite a number—and you, in my view, have been the best, because you have given us Back Benchers, in particular, the opportunity to get in on questions, urgent questions, statements and all the rest. Sometimes it has been difficult to catch your eye, although I usually wear a red coat. However, I quite understand that, and I feel grateful to you for opening up this Parliament to everybody, which many of my hon. Friends have mentioned. That is particularly the case with Speaker’s House. People from outside who have come here have been amazed by how accessible you have been to the public.

You have been particularly nice to children. My nieces and nephews wrote to you after being here. They wanted to know what you have for breakfast; you had some conversation with them about food. They were very young and kept asking me that question, so I said, “Why don’t you write and ask him?” I think they got an answer as well.

Thank you for everything. Thank you for being such a good human being. You were very active before you were Speaker, particularly on human rights, so I hope you will continue to be the voice for people who need your help all over the world. I am sure you will be, because that is your natural instinct.

Diolch yn fawr, Llefarydd—thank you, Mr Speaker. Welsh is my first language; I spoke my first few words here in Welsh. Thank you very much from all of us. I will not say happy retirement. I do not like the word “retirement” because those of us who want to keep on talking will, I am sure, use every opportunity to do so.