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Valedictory Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:36 pm on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Valerie Vaz Valerie Vaz Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 6:36 pm, 5th November 2019

Thank you, Mr Speaker. I congratulate you on your victory, and I know that you will make a very good Speaker.

When I first sat here today, 60 Members were saying that they would be leaving the House. The number has now risen to 62, following the announcements by Nick Herbert and the ex-Chancellor, Mr Hammond that they would be standing down.

The speeches were a bit like maiden speeches to start with—everyone has such a beautiful constituency—but what was clear was the amazing array of talent that we are losing. Sir Patrick McLoughlin has served his party so well. He has been an excellent Chief Whip—I do not suppose that many people say that, but I will—and has given 33 years of devotion to the House. I also thank Mrs McLoughlin. My right hon. Friend Sir Kevin Barron has had extensive experience of posts ranging from parliamentary private secretary to Chair of a Select Committee.

Mr Vaizey—I know that he added “Didcot”, but the annunciator said “Wantage”—is not standing down; he was contributing to the pre-Dissolution debate. He talked about the arts, and I want to thank him, because when he was in opposition he visited the New Art Gallery in Walsall, where anyone who goes into the lift will hear the voice of Noddy Holder.

My hon. Friend Kate Hoey was true to herself. She is also a formidable coach of Arsenal Ladies Football Club. I agree with her about Balj Rai—he is absolutely fantastic—and I want to pay tribute to Max Freedman, in her office, who made a great contribution to the independent complaints and grievance process.

Sir Michael Fallon leaves a huge legacy. He was what people refer to as the “dead cat on the table”—he was always the one who diverted people and moved them to another point in the debate—but his nickname was “the Minister for the ‘Today’ programme”. He is right about debates on foreign affairs: we need more of those. I hope the Leader of the House does not mind my raising again the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and expressing the hope that she will soon be released from prison.

My right hon. Friend Ann Clwyd is an extensive human rights champion, and a champion for miners’ compensation—the subject of miners was a thread running through the debate—and, of course, she was a human rights envoy. She has produced an incredible body of public service, both as a Member of the European Parliament and as an MP. Wales is also losing my hon. Friend Owen Smith and my hon. Friend Albert Owen, whom I have worked with. I hope he will continue his work with Welsh tourism.

What can we say about my hon. Friend Ian C. Lucas? An outstanding solicitor and an outstanding Minister who has a great way of asking important questions. He has made an important contribution to the debate today about how we run our elections. He will be missed, but we can see him in the documentary “The Great Hack.”

When I first came to this House in 2010, Justine Greening said that Michael Howard had visited her constituency, and had resigned as leader. Maybe he knew—this is what came across to me when I first saw her at the Dispatch Box—that she could be a future leader of her party. I am sorry that she is standing down because I think she would have been an excellent leader and an excellent Prime Minister. She did some fantastic work at the Department for International Development. The logo for UK Aid was down to her, as was the audit of all the money that was given out to everyone; I cited that to some students I spoke to in the House. I thank her for her excellent work on that.

I will put together my hon. Friends the Members for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey), for Warrington North (Helen Jones) and for Liverpool, Riverside (Dame Louise Ellman) as they make me think of Donald Dewar. He said that he could never get selected and then when he finally did, and was elected to the House, he was confronted by people who beat him. Those three Members all beat me; I was runner-up to all three of them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington North has made a huge contribution to the Petitions Committee; it is now a very important part of the work we do here and she rightly paid tribute to the Clerks of the Committee.

What can I say about Sir David Lidington? He was an absolutely fantastic Leader of the House. I do not have time to do justice to the work that he has done here. He started out as a special adviser to Douglas Hurd and I keep saying, “Where are those members of the Conservative party like Douglas Hurd, like the right hon. Gentleman and indeed like Douglas Hurd’s son, Mr Hurd?” They are all going, and all are incredible public servants. The right hon. Member for Aylesbury was very kind to me when I first became shadow Leader of the House and we had very important conversations that we knew were not going anywhere. He made an important point for us to take forward for the future—we must ensure that this House moves forward. I hope he will continue to play an active role in public life because he is needed.

Norman Lamb was a Health Minister when I visited him and asked him to take up the cause of John’s campaign with Nicci Gerrard, Julia Jones and Francis Wheen, which was to allow family members to visit people in hospital who have dementia. Nicci Gerrard found that her father did not have an opportunity for interaction with his family—perhaps just playing a game of chess—and that that had a detrimental effect. When the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister he facilitated that opportunity for visiting.

Alistair Burt was an outstanding Minister and an outstanding parliamentarian, and is an outstanding human being. Oh, I am not the right person to be doing this, given my past record of breaking down. I do not know what we will do without him. He has been absolutely fantastic. We walked arm in arm to St Margaret’s church when we paid tribute to Jo Cox. It was a very special day, and I will never forget his kindness. He talks about kindness; he is a really decent person. As he has said to me, his constituency is lucky as it has two MPs, because of course he is ably supported by Eve who did a fantastic job for Christians in Parliament.

I will turn now to my hon. Friend Stephen Pound. There are four of us here who used to be on the council in Ealing together: my hon. Friend, my right hon. Friend Hilary Benn, my hon. Friend Mr Sharma and I. My hon. Friend the Member for Ealing North always used to show us up when he was a councillor. People used to say, “You’ve got to be like Steve Pound, because he turns up and fixes our boiler.” He actually went into people’s lofts and did the work—we would write the letters and he would do the work.

David Tredinnick and I served on the Health Committee. It showed how cross-party work can be done in this House, and I hope he will continue with his work on health.

There was an important point of order that you missed, Mr Speaker, and I therefore want to mention Seema Kennedy. She was the first woman Parliamentary Private Secretary to a Prime Minister, a role she performed really well at a very difficult time. She has been an excellent colleague and an excellent Minister, and she will be missed.

I will turn now to Mr Simpson. I should not have been in the Lobby with him, but he was in the Lobby with me and I know how deeply he struggled with voting the way he did. He voted for his country rather than his party; he put his personal loyalties aside and made sure that he did that for his country. He will be a fantastic loss. The sad thing about this is that we now see how wonderful everyone is, in the way they speak and the stories they tell. He is truly an honourable gentleman.

I have watched Sarah Newton nurse other hon. Members in this House when she was a vice-chair of the Tory party; she has been an assiduous vice-chair. She has been very kind to her colleagues and I know that she has been an excellent Minister. All the replies I have received from her have been absolutely fantastic, and she will be missed. Her manner is a gentle one, but she has a lot of strength. I know that her point about the Official Report and what we can do in that regard will be taken forward, and I am happy to work with the Leader of the House on that.

My hon. Friend Dr Blackman-Woods has done some great work in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and I hope she continues to do that, along with her work with universities and higher education. She, too, will be missed.

Peter Heaton-Jones is right about mental health care, and I hope that he continues to work on this important policy. He is also right about free TV licences for the over-75s; I am glad that he said that.

Turning to my hon. Friend Stephen Twigg: yes, we were all up for Portillo. He and I met a long time ago when we were going down to the Labour party conference. At that time, there was a section 28, which has now completely disappeared, so we know that politics can change and that we can make a difference.

Jeremy Lefroy has been a wonderful colleague. We have worked well together on hospital issues and he will certainly be remembered for his work for the Francis report. He has also been a champion for getting funds for the NHS. I also want to thank him for introducing me to Bananagrams, which is like Scrabble without the arguments.

The struggle that my hon. Friend Teresa Pearce had to become a Labour candidate has turned her into an absolutely exemplary Member of Parliament, and her life story has shown why she will be missed; her strength and her story are absolutely fantastic. Andrew, who works for me, is a constituent of hers, and he says that she is a fantastic MP. Sadly, she has chosen to be an MP no longer; she wants to be with her family.

The right hon. Member for Arundel and South Downs made a speech that was something of an emergency intervention. We are sorry to see him go, as he has been absolutely fantastic and a really assiduous Minister. I asked a colleague why the right hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber for this debate, and now we know. He had seven minutes to set out his case, which might be slightly more than he had for his maiden speech. It is true that he does have a very nice constituency.

It is good to see my hon. Friend John Woodcock back here. He has been through some really difficult times, but he has always worked with, for and on behalf of his constituents, wherever he has been. I wish him well with his new family and his new post.

My hon. Friend Paul Farrelly has done some sterling work on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Finally, I just want to say to Sir David Amess, because this is a pre-recess Adjournment debate, that I must make a bid for Southend to get city status.

As this is the final day, I want to thank everyone. I want the Clerk of the House to pass down to everyone in his directorate our thanks for all the work they have done. I thank all the Clerks who, during difficult times, have given us excellent advice. I also want to thank all those in the Official Report, the Library and the Tea Room, the cleaning and catering staff, the Speaker’s Office and the post room. I post something here at seven o’clock and it arrives in Walsall the next day. I thank all our staff, including my Chief Whip, the Whips and Luke and Simon. We have the most amazing, talented people in this House who will no longer be here, and I hope that they will think about serving their country. I want to thank them for all the work they have done, and I want to wish every hon. Member all the best for their campaigns.