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Valedictory Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:28 pm on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Kate Hoey Kate Hoey Labour, Vauxhall 3:28 pm, 5th November 2019

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman knows that he has to be re-elected, of course, but he is not retiring. [Interruption.] Now I am very unclear whether he is retiring or just putting himself forward for re-election—fine.

Like Sir Patrick McLoughlin, who spoke first in the debate, I came in at a by-election in 1989. I will not go through my whole history, but I just point out that it is very different being a Member of Parliament who is literally five minutes away from their constituency. He was my constituent in Kennington for a very long time and he took a great interest in many of the community events; I am very grateful for that. Coming in as a new Member in that by-election back in 1989 was very different: we had no television covering the house, no mobile phones, no emails, no 24-hour news—it all sounds wonderful now. Members who come in now probably do not really understand how different it was 30 years ago.

Some of the improvements have been wonderful. For example, I waited for an office for a very long time. All the things that are now done for new Members did not happen then and we were very much left to find our own way. I should also say that I do not like some of the changes. I am very pleased that we have a new Speaker who will be extremely fair and show the kindness—quite honestly, I am not a hypocrite—that the previous Speaker did not show to Members, and I hope that the new Parliament will realise that some changes from the so-called modernisation do not necessarily change the standard of the debate in this place or the way that people behave. I think we need to look at that very carefully, and I hope that the new Speaker will do so. There is not just the question of clapping. Practically every tradition in this House has been introduced over the years for a reason. I remember being one of those people who came in and immediately said, “Why are we wasting so much time in the Division Lobbies? Why are we not getting through right away? Why are we not able to not vote in a different way?” However, I would not dream of voting to get rid of the Division Lobbies now, because it is such a useful time to talk to people from both sides of the House—if someone is not always voting with their party, as I have not been a few times—and to see Members from our own party. I spent most evenings going over to Vauxhall to community meetings, friends groups and tenants associations, so I did not have the luxury of being able to stay around in the House and have lots of nice meals, with the wonderful catering staff and wonderful food. We need to be careful about modernising this place so much that it is treated in a way that loses the absolute value of history that we have in this place.

One part of my life that will be very unhappy about me leaving is my wonderful, old, traditional, original Mini, because it literally knows its way from the House of Commons over Westminster bridge and back over Lambeth bridge. Some days I would do the journey perhaps two or three times, so my Mini will get a great rest when I leave, and it will not know what has hit it now that it will not be doing that journey.

I want to say a couple of very important thank yous. This place is made up of people who work so hard for us all and who very often do not get the thanks and tributes. I thank all the members of Royal Mail, for example—the postmen and women who have delivered our mail and have been so kind over the years. I thank Yiannis in the Travel Office, who has been fantastic. Most importantly for me, as someone who came in and was not in any way computer-savvy—I still do not really like technology—one person in the Digital Service, Balj Rai, has been just wonderful. He knows exactly how to be patient with someone like me, and I thank him.

Finally, I want to thank my personal staff. I have had Kathy Duffy working for me for 26 years—I must not get emotional; this is silly. I have had Max Freedman for 15 years; Lara Nicholson for 11 years; Ada During for six years; and my wonderful paralegal Ashleah Skinner, who has done a brilliant job, for four years. They have all made my life here so much better. I also thank all my constituents who have sent me such wonderful letters and shown kindness. I will not miss many of my party political activists, but I will miss my constituents, my community organisers and the people who really wanted to work with me to make Vauxhall a better place. One thing I said when I came in here was that my country would always come before my party—and it still does.