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Tributes to the Speaker’s Chaplain

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:45 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of Laurence Robertson Laurence Robertson Conservative, Tewkesbury 3:45 pm, 31st October 2019

At the beginning of my short address, perhaps you will allow me, Mr Speaker, to thank you for and congratulate you on your work. I think we have known each other in excess of a quarter of a century. You have visited my constituency, and you were very helpful to me when I was Chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee. You have championed Back Benchers; I have a long record of being one. I would like to thank you and wish you well for the future.

Mr Speaker, you very kindly allowed me to use your state rooms on the occasion of my wedding reception on 7 February 2015. Mentioning that leads me seamlessly into thanking Rose for her work, because she did me the great honour of marrying my wife Annie and me on that date in the chapel downstairs—St Mary Undercroft. What a wonderful day it was. No one who attended will ever forget it. It still gives us strength and fills us with great affection when we look back at it. I well remember that I had to be interviewed separately, Annie had to be interviewed separately and then we had to be interviewed together before Rose recommended to the Dean of Westminster that we should be allowed to be married, and it was a wonderful occasion. That is my personal recollection.

It has also been wonderful to see Rose in action over the past 10 years. I have attended many services. I tend to go to the one at 12.45 pm in the chapel downstairs, which is immediately after Prime Minister’s questions, and it is a welcome contrast from that experience to hear Rose tell us about Christianity, peace, love and how important the way we treat each other is. I hope that one of her many legacies, as she goes, will be for us to remember that how we treat each other is very important. Personally, I will never say anything in this Chamber in a tone or in words that I would not say outside it to the person I am talking about or to, and I hope that we could all try to do that as we move forward. I think the public would really like us to take on the lesson that Rose has taught us.

It hardly seems credible that, 25 years ago, there was a terrible split in the Church of England about whether to ordain women. That seems incredible thinking back. I was very much on the side of ordaining women because I believe that the person who should get the job is the one who is best qualified and best able to do that job, regardless of whether they are a man or a woman. I am glad the right side won in that debate, because we would have been deprived of the services of Rose if that debate had gone the wrong way. Many years on, when it came to the question of women bishops, it was hardly a debate at all—quite rightly—and that has enabled Rose to move on to be appointed as the Bishop of Dover.

I would like to thank Rose for all the enormous work she has done in this place, and the messages she has instilled in us about Christianity, the beliefs and what it means to be Christian. I would like to wish her all the very best as she goes forward.