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Tributes to the Speaker

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:08 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Thangam Debbonaire Thangam Debbonaire Opposition Whip (Commons) 1:08 pm, 31st October 2019

I want to thank you, Mr Speaker, on behalf of three groups of people. As other Members have mentioned, the schoolchildren who have been through the Education Centre, thanks to you, have been inspired by that experience. I echo the tribute on that that others have paid to you.

There are two other groups, and one of them is my constituents. You have a lot of fans in Bristol West, so if ever you feel like popping down, you will get a warm welcome. Many of them have asked me to pass on to you their admiration and to tell you that they have been glued to the television over the past year. It is an interesting by-product of where we have been politically that people text me to say, “What’s that funny thing you do when you bow at the table?” You have facilitated that sort of interest.

This is a slightly quirky one, but I want to thank you on behalf of the very unofficial parliamentary string quartet, the Statutory Instruments. It was in your Speaker’s palace at a Christmas celebration last year that Emily Benn and I first hatched the plot. We were enjoying the Christmas tree, and I think probably some Christmas carols and possibly some mince pies. I will always be grateful to you for being there at the birth of the parliamentary string quartet, and then at its first performance. Every time we play, we will be thinking of you. We are a little bit thwarted, because we were supposed to play at a concert for the Archbishop of Canterbury on 12 December but I gather we are doing something else on that day. Nevertheless, the Statutory Instruments are grateful to you.

Other people have said this, but I feel I must add that you and Reverend Rose—I cannot be here for her tribute—have been here for us at our darkest hours, as well as our moments of joy and celebration. Those dark moments been very dark indeed: June 2016 in particular and, as my hon. Friend Paula Sherriff mentioned, the murder of PC Keith Palmer. There have been other times as well. You have been here for us and it has been incredible. It is a source of great support and comfort, both spiritual and non-spiritual, that the two of you have given to us as individuals, and to me as a Whip.

Your views on Whips are well known, Mr Speaker. Despite what has been said about your views on Whips, I have always known you to be really rather kind and helpful to us. I have sat in Whips’ corner for three years now—I cannot believe it has been three years, but I think my Chief Whip will confirm that I have been an Opposition Whip for three years—and you have been extraordinary. I have learned such a lot from working by your side and also, of course, from Peter, Ian and Jim, to whom I also owe a great debt of thanks. I hope they will not be leaving us, even if you are.

The Leader of the House could perhaps have cleared up a mystery for us. He said that to him the word “modernisation” is an expletive; if that is so, I am slightly perplexed as to why he has not taken this opportunity to confirm that your 10 years of public service will be rewarded in the traditional manner. I think it would be courteous if somebody on the Treasury Bench could clear up that mystery for us at some point in the not-too-distant future. I think the traditional time to do that would be today.