Business of the House

Part of Prayers - [Mr Speaker in the Chair] – in the House of Commons at 9:33 am on 13th May 2021.

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Photo of Jacob Rees-Mogg Jacob Rees-Mogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons 9:33 am, 13th May 2021

I welcome the hon. Lady to her new position. We have been neighbours or near neighbours in Somerset and Bristol for some years. I think we started debating together on “Points West”, and now we face each other across the Dispatch Box, and I am sure it will continue to be as friendly but as forceful a debate as we had all those years ago. The hon. Lady is known across the House for her good nature and kindliness but also her clarity of thinking and forcefulness, so I look forward to these sessions as a source of a bit of heat but also some light too.

I want to pay particular tribute to Valerie Vaz, who was an absolute pleasure to work with. Mr Speaker, I am sure that you found the same on the Commission, where she was committed to making things work for the whole House in a bipartisan spirit. She raised every week at the Dispatch Box important issues, particularly relating to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and the other people held improperly by a regime that does not respect the rights of individuals. Her campaigning was forceful, her questions were usually quite tricky and she was a delight to be a counterparty to.

I feel that the poor old right hon. Lady has become the Admiral Byng of the socialist party. As you may remember, Mr Speaker, Admiral Byng was ultimately disposed of because he was sent out with ships that were not good enough. HQ failed and blundered, but it had to look around and find some scapegoat, and the most senior scapegoat of Hartlepool seems to be the right hon. Lady, which seems a little bit harsh. She is the Admiral Byng memorial former shadow Leader of the House of Commons.

I turn to the important questions that Thangam Debbonaire asked. Absolutely, trying to restore a peace process is important, and the Government have called on both sides to show restraint; that is of fundamental sense. We hope that peace will be re-established, and we are working with our allies.

Of course I congratulate Dan Norris on being elected as the Mayor of WECA—the West of England Combined Authority—much though I do not think WECA should exist, because I think it is a means of taking money out of North East Somerset and giving it to Bristol, which is not something I have ever been much in favour of, but I wish him well in his new role.

It is important that elections are fair and proper. The hon. Lady mentioned that we do not have to prove who we are when voting in the Division Lobby in normal circumstances, but she is forgetting that we are not allowed to wear overcoats in the Division Lobby, just in case we send somebody through to vote in our place.