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Tributes to the Speaker

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:28 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of David Drew David Drew Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) 1:28 pm, 31st October 2019

May I start by saying what an honour it is to sit next to my right hon. Friend Ann Clwyd who will be sadly missed? I completely associate myself with the remarks that were made by Dr Lewis.

I want to say something rather different, Mr Speaker. I want to take you back to a trip that we made together to Sudan. I know that you agreed to go at quite short notice: we needed a Conservative Member and you agreed to come on that trip. I had never been to Sudan—and this was pre-secession—without getting unwell. When we say that someone looks green, we are usually greatly exaggerating, but I can assure Members that, when we flew round on that trip, I looked at you and you were green—you were absolutely unwell—but you carried on and we got to Nyala, which was, at that time, the heart of the struggle for Darfur. As we got there, all the lights went out, but it was wonderful because our hosts said, “Don’t worry, we’ll go to the local takeaway and get you something to eat.” I remember that we had not had anything to eat all day; we probably did not want anything. I am a vegetarian and could not eat the food that they brought back, and I am eternally grateful to you for being there, because you did eat it.

The great tribute that our hosts paid us was that we were to share the President’s bedroom, so you and I went to the President’s bedroom—and that was fine. But we were then able to take advantage of using the President’s toilet. Now, I do not know whether or not it was a Sudanese tradition, but the President’s toilet had previously been used. And I now know why you are such a steadfast Speaker, able to sit in the Chair for nine hours. It is because you and I decided that it was one ask too many to use the President’s toilet, and waited. Dare I say that the constitution of this Speaker was built in that President’s palace in Nyala?

People do not realise that making such trips—visiting the trouble spots of the world—is part of our role and responsibility. You did that, and I hope that you will do so in the future, because you will be welcomed and admired. People will see you not only as the former Speaker—unlike in the States, where people are always referred to as Congressmen and Senators, even when they are no longer in office. It has been an honour to call you a friend, and that trip will always stand in my memory even though I have been a number of times since. Long may your life continue, and I hope that future toilets will be slightly better than the one we were asked to use on that occasion. Thank you, Mr Speaker.