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First, I would like to thank the constituents of Chorley for allowing me to put myself forward as Speaker, and I would also like to welcome all the new Members to the House. May I offer many congratulations to you on your new role as Father of the House, Sir Peter? Of course, this is nothing new to your family; as you know, you have great history in this Room. You have served this place and your constituents for 44 and a half years—it just goes to show all the newcomers that this really can be a job for life—[Laughter.] And I do not think this is the end just yet.
It has been an absolute privilege to serve as a Deputy Speaker for the past nine years and as Speaker for a full two days; I have to say that that made the election pretty easy. Of course, Parliament was dissolved last month and it would be an honour to serve again in this Parliament—I hope that this time it would be for a little longer.
As I have said before, a Speaker has to be trusted, and I believe I was trusted as Deputy Speaker. I have a proven track record of being impartial, independent and fair, allowing Members to exercise their right to speak regardless of the length of their service. [Interruption.] I would have thought the new MPs would have given me a bit of a boost on that—do not let those who have been here a lot longer start dictating already! Having served on the Back Benches for 13 years myself, I understand how important it is for Back Benchers to be able to hold the Government to account and to promote the causes that are dear to them. On that basis, I submit myself to the House as your Speaker and your champion. I will ensure that my office is open to all.
I am delighted to propose someone who has been a great friend, not just to me but for many of us from all parts of the House. When I arrived in this place nearly 10 years ago as a newly elected MP, it was a daunting experience. For those of us who have not spent most of our lives in buildings like these, it can be incredibly overwhelming. As the former Member for North West Durham, Laura Pidcock, said when she arrived, this place reeks of privilege. Finding our confidence and our voice for our constituents takes practice and time, but it also takes friendship and support from other people.
It should be of comfort to all new Members of this House to know that they will find a great friend in our Speaker. With his typical Lancashire warmth, Members will always find his door open for a mug of Yorkshire tea—[Interruption]—and, of course, a Hobnob. A few years ago I was told the story of when Lindsay arrived unannounced, as he often does, in another MP’s office. He sat down and said, “Right, put the kettle on then.” “Yorkshire tea?” said the MP. “Absolutely,” said Lindsay, with enthusiasm, adding, “There are only two good things about Yorkshire: the tea and the M62 taking you back to Lancashire.” [Laughter.] If any Yorkshire MPs would like to change their minds, now is the time, but I am sure they will not, because above all else Lindsay has always been a fair and non-partisan Deputy Speaker, even to those who hail from God’s own country. He knows that to privilege some voices over others is to silence people in our communities up and down the country.
Lindsay can take his lack of partisanship a little bit too far. In 2017, he asked me to come and launch his general election campaign in what was then his marginal constituency of Chorley. It is one junction on the motorway from Wigan to Chorley. I was driving down the motorway and I started to see these enormous billboards looming up out of the distance: great big blue billboards saying, “For a strong and stable Chorley”. I started to panic and thought, “My God, they are targeting this place. Lindsay hasn’t got a hope. I have to get there, motivate his supporters and get people out.” Then, I looked closer, and on these billboards was Lindsay’s face: “Vote Lindsay Hoyle for a strong and stable Chorley”. I think Mrs May will be pleased to have inspired such mischief. That slogan may not have worked out so well for the other side, but it certainly worked out well for Lindsay, who was returned to this place and became Deputy Speaker again.
Lindsay has always made the effort to work with people and respect people from all sides of the House. Many of us on the Opposition Benches are deeply saddened by the loss from this place of our friend, the former MP for Bolsover, but it is a comfort to know that Lindsay has a cat named Dennis Skinner. The House should be reassured that he never picks sides: he also has a parrot called Boris.
There is a more serious point to make. When we chose Lindsay Hoyle to be our Speaker, someone back home said to me, “I can’t believe that he was allowed to do it.” Wigan and Chorley are right next door to each other, and they are towns where people have felt for a very long time that things are not working for them. Just let that sink in for a moment: “I can’t believe that he was allowed to do it.” What does it say about how people feel in those communities—communities that have just sent shock waves through the political system, many changing hands for the first time in 100 years? What does it say that they see Parliament as a whole as a bastion of privilege, where ordinary people like them cannot wield power?
All of us in the House, whether we have won or lost, have done this place a service by electing to be our face and our voice someone who people many miles distant from here see as one of their own. Many of us in this place have known for some time that the system is not working. I have had those conversations in the Division Lobby and behind closed doors with Members of Parliament from all political parties. We can feel the ground crumbling beneath our feet. We have seen it and we have felt it, and we must give voice to it. That is why I am relieved, proud and honoured to propose that Sir Lindsay Hoyle takes the Chair today.
Question put forthwith (
Question put and agreed to.
(standing on the upper step): Before I take the Chair as Speaker-Elect, I wish first to thank the House for the honour that it has again bestowed upon me. I am aware that it is the greatest honour it can give to any of its Members. I pray that I shall justify its continuing confidence and I propose to do all within my power to preserve and to cherish its best traditions.
The Speaker-Elect sat down in the Chair and the Mace was placed upon the Table.
Before I call the Prime Minister, I just say that we have a very busy day ahead of us, with further ceremony in the House of Lords and most returning hon. Members having to be sworn in. I therefore encourage short speeches from party leaders and discourage other Members from seeking to catch my eye. As much as I would like to bask, it is more important to get Members sworn in. That is my commitment to the House.
Mr Speaker-Elect, I am sure that the whole House will join me in sending condolences to the families and friends of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who were murdered in the terrorist attack near London Bridge during the election campaign. We pay tribute once again to the emergency services and to members of the public for the bravery they showed.
Mr Speaker-Elect, I congratulate you on your office, and Lisa Nandy who has just spoken. I do not know about you, Mr Speaker-Elect, as you survey the House from your eminence, with the characteristic beam that has brought you such deserved popularity, but I mean no disrespect to those who are no longer with us when I say that I think this Parliament is a vast improvement on its predecessor. Indeed, I would say it is one of the best Parliaments that this country has ever produced, with more female Members than ever before and more black and minority ethnic Members than ever before. It is also, incarnated in your person, Mr Speaker-Elect, a vastly more democratic Parliament, because it will not waste the nation’s time in deadlock, division and delay. On Friday, this Parliament will put the withdrawal agreement in the popty ping, as we say in Wales. Then this new democratic Parliament—this people’s Parliament—is going to do something. I wonder, Mr Speaker-Elect, if you can guess what it is. What is this Parliament going to do? We are going to get Brexit done. [Hon. Members: “Get Brexit done.”] Even your parrot would be able to recite that one by now.
We are going to get on with delivering the priorities of the British people—transforming the NHS; investing massively in education and the police; and uniting and levelling up across the whole UK. It is my belief that most hon. Members in this House believe we should resist the calls of those who would break up the United Kingdom. As the Parliament of the United Kingdom, we should politely and respectfully defend that partnership and the Union. I can tell the House that, after three and a half years of wrangling and division, the Government will do whatever we can to reach out across the House to find common ground, to heal the divisions of our country and to find a new and generous spirit in which we conduct all our political dealings with one another that will last beyond the immediate season of Christmas goodwill.
In that spirit, Mr Speaker-Elect, I congratulate you once again on your election and I look forward to the months and years ahead under your guidance.
May I join the Prime Minister in remembering the horror of what happened at London Bridge just three weeks ago? It is the third time in the last two general election campaigns that we have witnessed appalling and depraved terrorist attacks on our communities. Our hearts must go out to the families of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt. When the Prime Minister and I attended a memorial event at the Guildhall, I had the honour of meeting many of the students who had been at college with Jack, and they were just devastated. In his memory, they wanted his work and his message to carry on. We should also remember the very good words of his father David about how proud he was of his son on that day. That attack was an attempt to damage our democracy, to halt the process. It did not succeed and it never should succeed, because we have to make sure that our democracy is fully intact.
I would like to offer my congratulations to the Prime Minister on winning the election and being returned to office, and I want to pay tribute to those Members, from my party particularly, who sadly lost their seats in the election and therefore will not be here. In particular, although many will be remembered, obviously Dennis Skinner is somebody who comes very much to mind on this occasion.
In the campaign, the Prime Minister made many promises and therefore has tremendous responsibilities to live up to. He will be judged on whether he keeps those promises by the communities that he has made them to. Our job in the Labour party will be to hold the Government to account and stand up for the communities we represent and for the more than 10 million people who voted for our party in the general election. Because that is what parliamentary democracy is about—holding the Government to account and representing the people who sent us here on their behalf.
I also offer my congratulations to Sir Peter Bottomley on taking up his position as Father of the House. I first encountered him at the Woolwich West by-election in 1975. I was a trade union organiser at the time, and I made a very strong recommendation to all the members of my union that they should vote for the Labour candidate, not him. I do not want to embarrass the hon. Gentleman, but some of them went to see him and said, “He seems such a very nice man. We might well vote for him.” I do not want to tarnish his reputation further, but whenever I was trying in the past to get an all-party consensus together on an early-day motion—sometimes a difficult task—he would often give it a Conservative character by supporting such moves. I thank him for that and wish him well as Father of the House.
May I take this opportunity to welcome all newly elected Members to the House? It is a very daunting day for them—their first day here after being elected to this place on behalf of their constituents, with all the responsibility that goes with that. There is no greater honour than to be elected to this House to represent our constituents, and one of the greatest strengths of our political system is that every one of us represents a community and every one of us has a constituency. We are here to represent the homeless and the desperate as well as those who are better off and lead more comfortable existences. We are here to represent all of them, and that surely ought to be the watchword of our House and our democracy.
This is the first time that a majority of Labour MPs are women, and I congratulate them all on being elected. Twenty of the 26 newly elected Labour MPs are women, which compares rather favourably to the Conservative party’s performance in that regard. This is also the most diverse Parliament in history, and I am proud that 41 of the 65 black and minority ethnic MPs are on the Labour Benches. I know they will do a fantastic job representing their constituencies and wider community interests.
Finally, Mr Speaker-Elect, I offer my warmest congratulations to you as you resume your place in the Speaker’s Chair. It is great to see you back. Your role goes beyond the pomp and ceremony, as you well understand. I am keen to work with you, as many others are, on all the issues facing this House. This House cannot function without Members’ staff and House staff—vsecurity, administration, caterers, cleaners and officials—who do so much good work here; they all make a contribution to ensure that our democracy functions properly. But there is also enormous pressure on MPs, staff and many others, and I know that you take very seriously the mental health and wellbeing of us all. I hope that we in this House ensure that that is taken seriously.
Mr Speaker-Elect, there are portraits of all your predecessors in Speaker’s House. One of the most famous, of course, is Speaker Lenthall, who resisted the autocracy of Charles I in support of the freedoms of Parliament. Our democracy needs you as a Speaker who will stand firm against abuses of power by the Executive or anybody else. In doing so, you are defending the rights not just of this House, but of millions of people who put their faith in a democratic system to elect a Parliament, and therefore a Government, who are answerable to them. Our rights and freedoms are always precious, but also often precarious. Democracy is not a given. It is something that we have to extend and defend. I am sure that you, in your role as Speaker-Elect—and hopefully Speaker very soon—will do exactly that. I congratulate you on your election and look forward to working with you.
Let me tell the Leader of the Opposition that he only heard half the Woolwich West story, since I was a member of the 1/128 branch of the Transport and General Workers’ Union in Transport House and knew quite a lot about what was going on. For instance, I knew which MPs were not standing again—such as Peter Shore—because they had not applied for re-sponsorship and the like. It was a marvellous experience for me. Let me also say to the Leader of the Opposition that none of us is always right and none of us is always wrong; and on the issues where he and I have agreed, I think we have been right.
Mr Speaker-Elect, the advice that you might give in private—but which I will give in public—to those joining us for the first or even the second time is that they should listen to their Whips, obey the Chair, think of the interests of their constituency and the nation, and do what they think is right. I think that is the kind of thing that Speakers would remind us to do. May I conclude by saying that there are many good things to say about many of your predecessors, but I do not think that any of them have been such a welcome choice as Speaker, and Speaker again, as you?
May I associate myself with the remarks of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition about the absolutely dreadful attacks at Fishmongers’ Hall and London Bridge? We must all stand together against terrorism and stand up together for democracy.
Mr Speaker-Elect, the expanded SNP Westminster group welcomes you to your new role. In the previous Parliament, I appreciated the fair and balanced approach taken by the last Speaker, and I have no doubt that you will conduct proceedings with the same vigour and transparency. These are uncertain and challenging times. The public are now looking to this place for leadership. We owe it to all those who put their trust in us to conduct debate here with respect and to treat each other with dignity.
I give you, Mr Speaker-Elect, the best wishes from the Scottish National party, and I look forward to taking on the case for Scotland in this new Parliament with integrity and with dignity. All the very best to you, Mr Speaker-Elect.
May I, Mr Speaker-Elect, give you heartfelt congratulations from those on the Liberal Democrat Benches and wish you the very best as you manage the proceedings of this House? In your election in the last Parliament, you struck a chord with many Members when you spoke about improving the security of Members, staff and our families. It is sad to say that you were right to lead on this, not least as we remember the two young victims of the terrorist attack on London Bridge—Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt, two young people dedicated to helping others to whom we should pay tribute today as this House returns.
Mr Speaker-Elect, I was delighted that in your acceptance speech before the election you spoke eloquently and positively about the speaking rights of smaller parties. I can assure you, Sir, that Liberal Democrat Members want to make their voices heard, not least on behalf of the 3.7 million people who voted for us last Thursday. Under proportional voting, we would now easily be the third largest party in this House with 70 MPs—a fact that I know, Sir, you will take account of.
You will appreciate, Mr Speaker-Elect, that the past few days have been difficult for my colleagues and I, having seen our friend Jo Swinson lose her seat. Jo consistently said during the election that there is an issue even bigger than Brexit—namely, the climate emergency. On these Benches, we will be seeking your help as we raise this issue and argue for the radical climate change policies that Jo advocated. Thank you, Mr Speaker-Elect.
On behalf of the Democratic Unionist party, Mr Speaker-Elect, I want to associate ourselves with the remarks of the Prime Minister. Coming from Northern Ireland, we know all too well the impact that terrorism can have and the devastation it wreaks on families, and our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims of that atrocity.
I congratulate you, Mr Speaker-Elect, on your re-election as Speaker. We regard you as someone who is fair and upholds the rights of all Members in this House, and we look forward to working with you.
I also congratulate the Prime Minister and the Conservative party on their victory in the election. We look forward to working with them going forward, particularly in relation to the matters that the Prime Minister spoke of—the Union of our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. As the Prime Minister takes forward his proposals on Brexit, we want to ensure that Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom is secured and that the economic, political and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom is respected.
May I, Mr Speaker-Elect, pay tribute to my colleagues the former Members for Belfast North, Nigel Dodds, and for Belfast South, Emma Little-Pengelly, who are not with us but who made a massive contribution to the work of this House in the last Parliament—and indeed, in the case of Nigel, over many years? I welcome my hon. Friend Carla Lockhart to our ranks, but also the other Members from Northern Ireland who are today taking their seats for the first time in this House. We welcome the fact that they are here and take their seats—unlike others—and will no doubt make a contribution to this House and to the democratic process.
So, Mr Speaker-Elect, we wish you and all colleagues well in this Parliament. We look forward to outlining the voice of Northern Ireland along with our colleagues and ensuring that our place in this Union is secure.
Diolch yn fawr, Mr Darpar-Lefarydd, a llongyfarchiadau i chi yn eich parchus, arswydus swydd newydd. Thank you, Mr Speaker-Elect, and congratulations to you on your respected, sublime new role. I and many people here were present on
Let me take the opportunity to call on you, Mr Speaker-Elect, to work with the Llywydd in our Senedd in Wales, the Presiding Officer in the Scottish Parliament and the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly in the spirit of equality and mutual respect. I call on you also to continue to develop the principles of equality, including equality of voice and equality of opportunity, much of which was upheld in the Speaker’s intern scheme, an excellent scheme that has brought people into this place who would not otherwise have had the opportunity.
I close by saying that all Members here were returned in exactly the same way: by their—our—constituents. Those constituents all stand equal, regardless of whether their MP is a member of the Government or the Opposition; of a large party or a small party; or, indeed, the single representative here. All those constituents are equal and they deserve respect. I have every confidence, Mr Speaker-Elect, that you will ensure that their representatives here will have that equality of voice so that they can best represent their constituents.
I join those who have paid tribute to the two young people who were tragically killed on London bridge.
Mr Speaker-Elect, on behalf of an admittedly small party, but one with a lot of ambition, I should like to add my congratulations to you. I know from my own experience just how serious you are when you say that you will champion the interests of all of us from smaller parties. With our democracy being tested to its limits in recent months, I look forward to seeing your strong sense of fairness prevail, so that we can ensure that we hold the Executive to account, especially by continuing to uphold your long tradition of giving Back Benchers the opportunities to be heard and to play our part, no matter the size of the political party from which we hail.