We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Well, that is certainly not a fault with you, Mr Speaker. Your memory and recollection of every single name and detail regarding every colleague is beyond extraordinary.
I have spent the last fortnight or so on the Speaker election hustings. The candidates have not agreed on everything, but one thing that all nine of us have agreed on is that you have done the most superb job for Back Benchers. You have done this through the urgent question revolution, through Back-Bench debates and through calling colleagues to speak when you know that they have a particular constituency interest.
We also agree that what you have done for outreach, for children and for schools has been transformational. In the past, when school parties came down from Norfolk, they would meet me in Central Lobby and we would struggle to find a Committee Room and there was nowhere to go for a cup of coffee. Now, they can go to the Jubilee Café and to the new Education Centre, and it is a completely different experience, thanks to you. You have made the lives of those children much more fulfilling in terms of their understanding of democracy than was ever the case before.
I entirely agree with the Leader of the House that you look out for colleagues who have individual constituency cases. When there is a real issue, you come to the rescue of those colleagues and help them to get justice and some form of satisfaction for their constituents. Ian Mearns and I were both on the HS2 Select Committee and, during that inquiry, we spent a lot of time going along the route of HS2. That included a number of days in your constituency, Mr Speaker, where we had meetings with action groups and residents in communities and villages. One of the things that struck me—and, I am sure, the hon. Member for Gateshead—was that, whenever you arrived at a meeting of distraught village residents, you not only knew the name of every single one of them, but you knew everything there was to know about the village. You were the local MP who was on their side, and you were admired and respected in a way that few of us could aspire to achieve. You were able to do that in spite of also carrying out your duties here as Speaker.
I thank you for the way in which you have helped me on a lot of different issues, to do with my constituency and elsewise, both in my capacity as a Minister and as a Back Bencher. You can leave this place confident and secure in the knowledge that you are leaving behind a powerful, special and long-lasting legacy.