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Election of Speaker

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:29 pm on 4th November 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn Leader of Her Majesty's Official Opposition, Leader of the Labour Party 8:29 pm, 4th November 2019

Mr Speaker-Elect, may I join others in offering my congratulations to you on winning the election, and thank the Father of the House for conducting the election in the way in which he did? Congratulations and commiserations to the other candidates who did not succeed in getting elected, but who nevertheless made sure that we had a good campaign and serious debate all across the House; that was very important.

We are well aware, Mr Speaker-Elect, of your abilities at chairing the House because we have been through Finance Bills and Budgets in which you are robust in ensuring that people stick to the point and the subject of the debate, as some comrades on my side of the House and Members on the Government side sometimes deviate from the subject in hand—unprecedented, I know, but there we are.

In your position, Mr Speaker-Elect, you are going to need eyes in the back of your head. It is a difficult job; you do not know what is coming at you next. I realise that you have actually been in training in this regard, because I have been looking at a photograph of you at the weekend apparently watching the rugby world cup final while at the same time not watching the television. The only conclusion that I can draw from this is that you literally do have eyes in the back of your head, because you were able to make some very wise comments about the progress of the match that you were apparently not watching at the same time. These qualities alone equip you to be an absolutely brilliant Chair of this House.

Mr Speaker-Elect, as you have said and many know, the job of Speaker is not just a ceremonial one. It is about the rights of Back Benchers to be able to speak up, and the power of Parliament to hold the Government to account. The whole principle and point of a parliamentary democracy is that we have a strong Parliament that can hold the Executive to account, and I know that you will stand up for that principle because that is what you believe in. It is absolutely at the heart of our political system.

Mr Speaker-Elect, you take the wellbeing of everybody who works in this building, and of Members, very seriously. This is a fevered and imaginative place that we all work in. People are put under enormous stress, and both staff and Members of this House sometimes find themselves in a lonely and desperate place because of that. I know that you take your responsibilities in that area very seriously, and that you want to make this an even more compassionate and humane place in which to work.

Mr Speaker-Elect, thank you for your work and for taking this job on, but also for assuring us that you will always stand up for the democratic values that this House represents, and the power of an elected Parliament to express its views and hold the Executive to account, because that is the whole principle behind our parliamentary democracy.