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Election of Speaker

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:43 pm on 4th November 2019.

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Photo of Edward Leigh Edward Leigh Conservative, Gainsborough 2:43 pm, 4th November 2019

What an honour it is to stand for this job. Like all those standing, I love this place and I only wish to serve it. I think that it is pretty good training to be Speaker to have been, as I have been, a Back Bencher for 33 out of the last 36 years—although, to be absolutely honest, nobody asked me to serve any longer on the Front Bench.

One of the reasons many people enjoy their service on the Back Benches is that they love holding the Government to account and being sincere to their beliefs, however unpopular those beliefs are. That is the sort of Back Bencher that I want to encourage.

That is enough of me. I just want to take a moment to talk about what I believe the Speaker should be. I am with Chris and Rosie on this. I think the Speaker should submerge his or her character in the job. The Speaker should be the servant of the House. The Speaker should be a dignified and quiet voice, and I believe that all the candidates standing today can achieve that.

I believe that we in this Parliament should not be contemptuous of what we have achieved over the past three years. Insults have been hurled at us, but Chris mentioned our famous forebear and how he, as our Speaker, made it clear that he was only the servant of the House. We who sit in this House should be proud of what we have achieved over the past three years as the cockpit of the political nation, where every point of view can be heard, debated and thrashed out. I believe that we can make this place even better. It is no accident that the great speeches in history in this place were precisely that: speeches. They were not interminable self-regarding interventions or points of order or statements that go on forever. We should recreate the great debates in this place and allow adequate time and be fair to everybody, so that everybody gets a fair crack of the whip, literally, to put their point of view.

We can go from strength to strength, but this place is not just about words—important as they are—or votes; it is also about a sense of history and a sense of place. I particularly wanted to stand in this election to make this point: we must preserve this world heritage site, but we must preserve it in a way—here I speak as somebody who served for 18 years as Chairman either of the Public Accounts Committee or the Public Accounts Commission—that looks after the interests of our paymasters, the taxpayers. We cannot waste billions of pounds. We have to do the job properly, but we have to do it right. You have all received a letter from SAVE Britain’s Heritage, which proves that we can do the job cheaply and efficiently with the erection of a temporary Chamber, rather by demolishing Richmond house and wasting billions of pounds. I particularly wanted to make that point, because we have a duty of care to our constituents in terms of the money.

Those are my priorities, and I want to ensure that once again this place can be the forum of great, determined and sincere speeches. I end by saying that nobody here should worry about what they have done or what they have achieved in recent years. Be of good heart, be of good cheer, be sincere to your beliefs and above all, dear friends, hold the Executive to account whoever they are, because that is what this place is all about.