Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
Thank you very much. Yes, I remember our first few days here. If you come in in a by-election, it is always more difficult to assimilate. I am glad that my hon. Friend is still here. I have not always agreed with him, as he well knows, but I respect him for his diligence and persistence, because those are two things that a Member of Parliament needs to do: to be diligent and persistent, and not to give up.
One of the things I have been keen on is the promotion and protection of international human rights, and I have given my long-standing support to people in other countries, in the middle east, Turkey, Cambodia and East Timor. We always have arguments in this place about the arms trade, and I do hope that we are ultra-careful in future about who we sell arms to. One sadness for me is that we did not manage to get a report out in the last Session of Parliament on arms sales to Saudi Arabia. A sustained and strategic use of the parliamentary mandate and platform is therefore crucial to furthering causes and ensuring that the Government of the day are being properly scrutinised. Parliamentary questions and debates are important, and I found out that I have spoken in debates in the House 2,200 times. That is a useless fact, but somebody produced it today.
A friend of mine in the House of Lords, Baroness Quin, phoned me a short time ago. She was in the European Parliament with me, and she reminded me of various things. She and I were in Senegal for a women’s rights conference—I do not know how many years ago—and suddenly there was a phone call for Joyce Quin to say that Captain Kent Kirk had landed on the coastline of her constituency to protest about fishing rights. Joyce was getting phone calls all the time from her constituents, who had no idea she was in Senegal. Of course, very often our constituents did not realise that part of our work was travelling to other countries and contributing to debates there.
I have been committed to cross-party scrutiny through my long-term engagement with the International Development Committee, the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Committee on Arms Export Controls. I have also chaired the all-party parliamentary human rights group for many years, which has allowed me to work with colleagues from all over the world from across the political spectrum to raise awareness of serious human rights violations and breaches of international humanitarian law, as well as giving victims a voice and supporting them in getting reform and redress. Human rights is thereby depoliticised, as it should be. Some colleagues have also worked on the executive of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.
I have supported the work of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. We do not talk enough in this place about the IPU, particularly the British group, which enables me and fellow BGIPU members to communicate concerns, including human rights, when countries sometimes have to be called out. We build greater consensus on big issues and crises facing the world, such as climate change, international development, poverty alleviation and the refugee crisis. I pay tribute to the staff and secretariat of the IPU and highlight the work of its committee on the human rights of parliamentarians, which I have chaired several times and of which I was a long-time member. My vision for the Cynon Valley, the UK and the international community is unfinished business, a lot of it, as far as I am concerned.
Most of all, I thank people in the House for their friendship, comradeship and support. I mean all sections of the House, particularly the doorkeepers, because when I was hobbling around on my new knee, I had great assistance from them. In fact, I got quite to rely on them. They gave me every help and they still do, even when I say “No, I'm all right now, thank you. I can get to the back row now, so you do not need to help me any more.” Particularly to all my colleagues and friends, I want to say that this has been a great place for building friendships. I thank you all and I am very sorry to be leaving you all.