I rise to make two points, about James and the work he did and about James as a friend.
I followed James in two ministerial positions. I took over from him as Minister with responsibility for modern slavery when he became the Minister for security and immigration, and then I followed him into the Northern Ireland Office. His were very big shoes to fill. Goodness me, the way that officials talked about him: “JB will do it, JB will sort it, JB has this organised.” It was quite overwhelming at times to follow in those footsteps and to see the work he had done.
My right hon. Friend Mrs May summed it up. James was diligent, he was careful in his decision making and he was thoughtful. He always remembered that people were affected by the decisions he was taking. He never took decisions in the abstract. He always thought about the people who would be directly affected.
I had to cover for James for a couple of weeks when he was Immigration Minister—I covered his role while he had a medical procedure—and, typical James, he made sure it was during a recess so that he did not take any time away from this place. I was astonished when one red box arrived for me and then two red boxes arrived with James’s work. Every single day, James was getting through at least double the workload that anybody else in the Department was covering, and he read every single one of those letters, particularly the letters about immigration. He dealt with them all personally, and he thought carefully about what he was doing to try to make sure that the people affected were helped.
In Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire should be the person who is remembered as the architect of the agreement that got Stormont back in January 2020. If not for James’s diligent work, Stormont would not be sitting now. He achieved so much, and I know from the messages I have received from people across Northern Ireland how warmly he was regarded there.
James was my friend. He had a great sense of humour. We keep hearing that he was nice. He was so much more than nice; goodness me, his sense of humour was wicked at times. He was so easy to talk to, but he also had judgment. He could give advice and wise counsel. We were both at his 50th birthday party, Madam Deputy Speaker, and it was a wonderful occasion. His family put on the most marvellous tribute, and we all learned so much about James and his life.
I will miss him so very much, and I am so grateful to have been allowed to speak in this debate.