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Tributes to the Speaker’s Chaplain

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:51 pm on 31st October 2019.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee 3:51 pm, 31st October 2019

Well that was extraordinary and magnificent. I thank the hon. Lady for her excessively generous personal remarks as regards me, but what is much more important is what she said about Rose and I want to underline and reinforce that.

Colleagues, I am extremely grateful to each and every one of you, as we approach the end of this Parliament, for sparing the time and making the commitment to share your experience of and demonstrate your—I was going to say respect for—devotion to the Reverend Rose, who has after all been devoted to us for nine years. In every particular—I say this not so much for colleagues, but for those observing our proceedings—Rose has not just done the job, she has excelled beyond anything that we could reasonably have imagined or contemplated. Her daily commitment is there for all to see, day after day, combining her duties in the Chamber with the responsibility for the conduct of services and the need to attend to St Mary-at-Hill in the City and to interact with large numbers of people on the parliamentary estate.

On big occasions, as so many colleagues have eloquently evidenced, Rose has found the words that needed to be expressed. She has expressed them with feeling and with a transparent and undeniable sincerity. It is that authenticity about her that impresses everybody who hears or meets her. We all know, of course, that a very important part of Rose’s role, as has been referred to by many colleagues during these tributes, is the offer of pastoral care. To Members, to Members’ staff, to the staff of the House, to anyone not employed by the House but contracted to work for it, or to anyone who has reason to be on the parliamentary estate who needs help, Rose has been there to provide that help. It has been a singular and unforgettable contribution.

I certainly do not mind vouchsafing to the House that as well as being aware in many cases of when, how and to what extent Rose helped other colleagues, she has been a terrific source of support, succour and counsel to me. Until my dying day, I will appreciate that support, that succour, that counsel and that camaraderie, which she has been able to provide. Many people have also referred to the circumstances of the terrorist attacks. In those circumstances, we could not have wanted anyone, for the purpose of providing comfort and mitigation of pain, other than Rose.

So many people over the past three years have referred to our departed and beloved colleague, Jo Cox, and someone referred earlier to Birstall in Yorkshire, where the then Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition went the day after the appalling murder of Jo. Of course I went as well, but what was really significant was how Rose went, and each of us, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and I, observed the impact of Rose’s presence and persona—her love, kindness, compassion and empathy—on people who were experiencing quite unendurable pain. That pain could not be removed, but it could at least be mitigated, and it could be mitigated by no one better than the Reverend Rose. I have a sense, my friends and colleagues, that we are all agreed in this Chamber that the House of Commons’ loss is Canterbury and Dover’s gain.