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As you know, Mr Speaker, I did not vote for you to become the Speaker when you were elected in 2009, and I am sure you will recall that I spent about an hour with you, sitting down at a table over a cup of tea and explaining all the reasons why I was not going to vote for you to become Speaker. I think that it is also fair to say, Mr Speaker, that we have had our disagreements, particularly on the decisions you have made over Brexit in recent times; I do not think that will come as a great shock to anybody either in the House or outside the House, but we have always conducted those conversations in perfectly civil terms.
Mr Speaker, you have always been immensely kind to me in my time in the House of Commons, not least during the preparations for our wedding—mine and Esther’s—next year, about which you have been especially kind. I must at this point pay tribute to Rose, the chaplain—an inspired appointment by you, Mr Speaker—who has been equally amazingly kind to me and Esther, and indeed is so kind that she has even offered to come back to conduct the service even after she has left, which is a mark of her as a person and which is very special for both me and Esther; we are very privileged that that has been the case. That was an inspired appointment by you, Mr Speaker, and you have been incredibly kind.
However, Mr Speaker, I think and hope you will be most remembered for your support for Back Benchers. As you know, I am a permanent Back Bencher, Mr Speaker, so this is more important to me than anybody else; as I always say, the one thing that the Prime Minister and I always agree about is that I should be on the Back Benches. You have always been a champion of Back Benchers, to allow everybody’s opinion, whatever it is, to be heard in the Chamber, and I have always been immensely grateful for that.
Some people have very short memories, but I remember when I first entered Parliament in 2005 in Question Times we barely got beyond Question 6 or 7 on the Order Paper and at Prime Minister’s questions those with a question after Question 10 had no chance of being called, to the great irritation of many colleagues who had spent ages trying to get on the Order Paper for Prime Minister’s questions only to find that they could not even get to ask their question. I do not think anyone could possibly go back to that kind of regime now; indeed, I do not think the House will allow any Speaker to go back to such a regime, and that is because of your making sure that Back Benchers get to have their say. That has made what I think will be a permanent change to the way that this House operates.
I have been very grateful for your friendship over many years, and the fact that you came to my constituency and spoke at Beckfoot School, which those there particularly cherished. I hope we will stay in touch after you have finish your term, Mr Speaker, and I wish you every success for the future.