I think we all share the real sense of sadness that, in the space of two days, we are meeting again to pay tribute to another deceased colleague. Two colleagues taken in very different circumstances, but both taken well before their time. James Brokenshire was a young man who clearly had so much more to give. That is what must be so tragic for his colleagues and friends on the Government benches, and we are all conscious of and compassionate to the pain they must be feeling this week. But most especially, we think of James’s young family. The thoughts and prayers of all on the Scottish National party Benches are with his wife Catherine, his son Ben and his daughters Sophie and Jemma. It is important to mark the manner in which the family have dealt with their grief, because I know they have been deeply involved in remarkable fundraising efforts since James’s untimely death. The spirit the family have shown since his death is no doubt a tribute to the way in which James himself dealt with his illness. All of us across this House looked on with deep admiration and awe at the sheer bravery he showed while bravely battling against the cancer that, sadly, ultimately took his life.
My own experience and engagement with James was mainly when he was a Home Office Minister. When he was Immigration Minister, I remember dealing with James in some detail on a particular case concerning a family in the highlands who were being threatened with deportation. I am glad to say that, after some considerable effort from all involved, the family eventually got the resolution they desperately needed.
I know from colleagues in Northern Ireland that, although his time there came during a politically delicate and difficult period, he remained on very good terms with all the parties during his period as Secretary of State. It is fair to say that that, in itself, is no mean feat for any British Secretary of State who serves there. I can only think it was because of the way he approached people and the way he approached his work.
It has been very rightly said that he was not a man who was interested in the insubstantial distractions of politics. He quietly got on with his job. He was, above all else, diligent and determined. The mark of the man, and our memory of him, will be of a dedicated Minister, a loyal friend and a dedicated father. James battled to the very end against his cancer. Now that his battle is over, may he rest in peace. God bless you, James.