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Tributes to the Speaker

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:47 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North 12:47 pm, 31st October 2019

I should like to carry on this theme about names. When I was selected as a candidate, my constituency neighbour, John Prescott, seemed to have a problem with my name. He kept calling me Melanie. Then, when I got to the House of Commons, the then Speaker seemed to have a problem with my name as well, because he referred to me as Jacqui. So I am delighted that you have never had a problem with my name, Mr Speaker. You have always called me Diana, for which I am very grateful.

First, I want to thank you on behalf of the children of Hull, because through the Hull Children’s University, so many of them have been able to visit Parliament and to use the Education Centre, which I know is very dear to your heart. Huddersfield is a long way from Westminster, but Hull is even further, so this is a great tribute to your commitment to ensuring that this place is accessible to children from all around the country. I also want to thank you on behalf of the Youth Parliament for the work you have done to support those budding politicians and for inviting them into this Chamber and overseeing their proceedings.

I personally would like to thank you for the kindness you have shown me when I have come to you with illness or adversity. You have always been a very decent, kind man, and I very much appreciate that.

Your use of urgent questions has been remarked on by many in the House today. I think I probably have the record for the number of urgent questions you have granted to any Back Bencher, and they have been on the issue of contaminated blood. I know that the community who have been infected and affected by that awful scandal in the NHS hold you in very high esteem and regard for allowing parliamentarians to pursue the Government of the day and to seek justice for what happened to them. I want to say a very big thank you on behalf of that group.

You have also been innovative with urgent questions. I remember coming to speak to you when the Church of England made the ridiculous decision not to allow women bishops, and I asked you what Parliament could do to make the Church of England think again. You advised me that, although it had never happened before, an urgent question could be submitted to bring the Second Church Estates Commissioner to the House to answer for the Church of England, so a big thank you for that. I am delighted that we have one of the women bishops in the Church of England with us today.

You have always been a great champion of women’s rights, particularly on sensitive issues such as abortion. You have allowed debate in this Chamber on issues that people find difficult and sensitive. The way that you have allowed debates to take place, particularly on the issue in Northern Ireland, has been really important. My hon. Friend Stella Creasy is a doughty champion of women’s rights, and I know that she holds you in high regard.

I am going to miss you, and I send you every good wish for whatever it is you go on to do. Whatever it is, it will be an enormous success, but we will miss you.