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Valedictory Debate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:49 pm on 5th November 2019.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 6:49 pm, 5th November 2019

It is very humbling to close this debate. I have worked out that there is over 540 years of experience in the Members who are standing down and if you place that end to end, I think that gets us back to the middle of the reign of the first Queen Elizabeth. It is an extraordinary degree of experience and political contribution. Mr Speaker, this is my first opportunity to congratulate you as you take the Chair. I think of all the work, and all the restoration and renewal, that you are going to do, both to the buildings and to our culture, which I think we are all looking forward to.

Like the right hon. Lady, at the end of a Session I thank, on behalf of all Members, the staff of the House, the members’ staff, security staff, the Doorkeepers, the civil servants and all those who keep the show on the road and are always here when we need them. Gratitude to the staff came through in all the speeches that were made, including that of my right hon Friend Mr Hurd, who has hereditary staff taken on from his father. I think that that is unusual, but it nonetheless shows the commitment of staff to this House, and I pay compliment to him while I am mentioning his staff.

Now it is my privilege to go through the Members who have spoken. I have nine minutes to do it, so forgive me for being brief. I am saving up one or two for the end. Sir Kevin Barron has been such a fantastic servant of this House. Running the Standards and Privileges Committee was a very hard job to do and his non-Oscar speech was better than most Oscar speeches.

I am not sure whether my right hon. Friend Mr Vaizey is retiring––maybe, maybe not––but his protection of the arts and his service are noble. His point about technology and the economy is fundamental.

Dare I say that Kate Hoey is every Tory’s favourite socialist, though I think the word “socialist” may be unfair in her case? I find that I agree with her on almost everything, so either I have moved to the left at some point mysteriously or she has moved some way to the right. She will be enormously missed. I loved her comment that there is always tradition for a reason, which is practically my motto, so I very much agreed with that.

My right hon. Friend Sir Michael Fallon served four Prime Ministers and very kindly invited me to speak at Chartwell. One of the greatest honours that I have ever had was to speak in the home of perhaps our greatest ever Prime Minister. My right hon. Friend shows great kindness to new Members, which is perhaps little known, but it also makes one think about fate. I supported him to be Chairman of the Treasury Committee, which, by great good fortune, he did not get but went on to a glittering Cabinet career instead, which was probably better all round. My noble Friend Lord Tyrie got the Treasury Committee, which he served with great distinction.

We heard the tributes to Ann Clwyd––I probably massacred my pronunciation––with the tributes to our previous Speaker. I do not know the right hon. Lady enormously well, but it became so clear during those tributes that she is loved across the House and must be one of the most popular Members for her work in favour of peace and human rights and to stop child abuse. I salute her on behalf of the whole House for what she has done.

I have a compliment for my right hon. Friend Justine Greening from one of my civil servants which, if I may, I will read out:

“She has always taken the House very seriously and as a Minister, she impressed upon her Department the need to think constantly about Parliament, to make a case to Parliament and to convince Members across the House that the Department was doing the right thing.”

I think that that is a noble tribute and it has not come from me; it is not a political tribute but is from the civil servants with whom she worked. I so agree with her in her efforts to make social mobility a reality. That is something we should all want to do, and I am glad she is going to continue to work on that.

Mr Bailey first contested a seat at the age of 24, which is a very young age at which to contest a seat. He has been a distinguished Member of this House and is still very passionate about what he believes in, about what he wants to do and about his commitment to Select Committees, which is of importance to the whole House.

Norman Lamb showed in his final few words his amazing campaigning zeal. Though we all tease the Liberal Democrats, what we love about the true Liberals is that they believe in campaigning and they have strong principles for which they campaign. He has been such a champion for his constituency; he has been a champion for what it believes in and what it voted for.

My right hon. Friend Alistair Burt is, I think, just one of the most gentlemanly, gentle and kindly Members of this House. He was enormously helpful to new MPs, and he probably has the best manners of anybody in this House.

My hon. Friend David Tredinnick has been such a campaigner for what he chooses to believe in, and the advice he gave us at the end was brilliant. Seneca is normally only quoted by my right hon Friend the Prime Minister, so it was an ambitious quotation. “Choose enemies carefully,” has a touch of steel about it, “Stay out of the bars,” has a touch of realism about it and we know, “Never forget your constituency base,” only too well, particularly as the election looms. We hope that we have not forgotten that in recent years.

My hon. Friend Seema Kennedy made a brief point of order. It was her first point of order and, like all points of order, it was a bogus point of order, but it was charmingly bogus. We are very sorry to be losing her, but her three splendid sons are the beneficiaries.

Helen Jones made the most charming speech and reminded us about the Tea Room staff, who look after us so extraordinarily well at all hours. She has the one job in this place that I once wanted, which is Chair of the Petitions Committee. I was on the Procedure Committee to set it up, and I am afraid that I had my eyes on the post and then it became an Opposition post. When I mentioned to the Whips that I was keen on it, I think they thought that it had better be an Opposition post, and the hon. Lady has run that brilliant and important Committee with great panache.

Mr Simpson lamented the decline of old Etonians as Members of the House of Commons. I do sympathise with that position, and I am glad he made the point. I thought it might have been a little bit too much coming from me, but coming from him I am allowed, I think, to reinforce it. He is a great Tory Member, a great supporter of Tory Members, and a teacher of Tory Members with his fabulous book list, which he regularly sends round. I hope that he will continue to do so, because his reading list is always interesting. I would also highlight his work for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, which is valued by everybody.

I cannot understand why Ian C. Lucas is retiring. He made a political commentary of importance, and I think he should stand at the next election and bring those points back to the House. I urge him to change his mind.

My hon. Friend Sarah Newton is the kindest lady in the House of Commons. She has been a friend towards me since we were elected at the same time, even when we have disagreed, and I love her confidence in Hansard. Hansard is so brilliant. Not only does it make a verbatim report, but it improves one’s English. It takes out all the split infinitives. I have only one disagreement with it, and that is that it thinks that “Government” is a plural, and I think it is a singular. My hon. Friend’s suggestion that Hansard should do even more work got nods and smiles from the Hansard representatives, so that will happen.

With all its heritage, Dr Blackman-Woods has a wonderful city to represent. She called the Library staff the unsung heroes, and we must sing more to the Library staff. There must be a tune for the parliamentary choir.

My hon. Friend Peter Heaton-Jones is a wonderful champion of local service. He will be missed, and his views on the BBC are noted.

Turning to Stephen Twigg, we all remember the Portillo moment. I had not realised that it was up there with the moon landings and the release of Nelson Mandela, but it was very humble of him—there has been humility in so many contributions—to say that that was based on a poll of readers of The Observer and Channel 4 viewers.

The Health and Social Care (Safety and Quality) Act 2015 that my hon. Friend Jeremy Lefroy presented is of great importance, and I so support his campaign for religious freedom and freedom of speech. I hope that his work will be continued when he is no longer in the House.

The most touching and moving speech of the day was from Teresa Pearce. I have hardly been more moved by a speech in this House. On that basis, I know that she will be missed. What she said about historical institutional abuse was really very shocking—what an extraordinary thing for her family to have coped with.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend Nick Herbert is supporting the PM. I am sorry that he has decided to leave at short notice.

I congratulate John Woodcock on the new baby, and I say to Paul Farrelly that 31 votes is enough.

I briefly want to mention my right hon. Friends the Members for Derbyshire Dales (Sir Patrick McLoughlin) and for Aylesbury (Sir David Lidington) and, the comedian of the House, Stephen Pound. What brilliant people we are losing. My right hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire Dales put me through to the candidates list. I would not be here without him, so he has that resting upon his conscience, but what a fine and distinguished career he has had. He is one of the true fantastic figures of the House. I clashed with my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury over Europe, but he is so courteous and so well informed and his arms never stop moving, which is fantastic. I will finish with our comedian: what will we do without him?

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House
has considered matters to be raised before the forthcoming Dissolution.