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Business of the House

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:04 pm on 25th March 2020.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 1:04 pm, 25th March 2020

Indeed. When I was first elected to Parliament, there was a distinguished figure who sat at the far end of the Opposition Benches. He was in Parliament the whole time, he spoke regularly, and he was a very committed parliamentarian. Then he became leader of his party. As a new MP, I sat on the far side of my Benches, observing affairs, and although I do not have the right hon. Gentleman’s level of ambition, I too ended up on the Front Bench. It seems that those corners are good ones to sit in.

But there is a principled point behind this. Those of us who sit in the far reaches of the House are often very independent minded. We have a great commitment to public service, which the right hon. Gentleman unquestionably has, and strong principles about how we think this country might be better governed. It is no surprise to anybody that the principles held by the right hon. Gentleman and by me are different, but we are both committed to ensuring the good government of this country. The model that he has shown of how a Back-Bench Member may make an enormous contribution over many years, and then lead his party with distinction, is one that should be remembered. Principles in politics are fundamental to how we do what we do, and how we achieve it. I pay a most sincere tribute to the right hon. Gentleman, and I note what he said to the Prime Minister earlier: this is not retirement; he is merely moving to a different part of the Front Bench in a few weeks. [Interruption.] I understand that that is what has been asked for— “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find.”

The right hon. Lady is right to pay tribute to all the people who have kept the House operating. They have done a terrific job. The security teams, the Doorkeepers, the cleaners—as the Leader of the Opposition said—and, of course, the Clerks, have worked marvellously well to ensure that we are operating, and flexibility is being shown to ensure that scrutiny may continue via Select Committees. Finally, the right hon. Lady wished everybody good health. We always ask people how they are, as a normal courtesy wandering about our daily lives. At the moment, when we make that inquiry we really mean it, and I, too, wish everybody good health.