James Brokenshire

Part of Speaker's Statement – in the House of Commons at 1:00 pm on 20th October 2021.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Robert Buckland Robert Buckland Conservative, South Swindon 1:00 pm, 20th October 2021

It is with mixed feelings that I address the House today: feelings of pride in having known my dear friend James Brokenshire, and feelings of deep sadness that he is not here in his rightful place to carry on the outstanding work that he did for his constituency, for my party and for our country. James and I share a birth year, 1968—I like to think it was a very fine vintage indeed. As my right hon. Friend Karen Bradley rightly said, at his 50th birthday party, we were able to share really happy memories and positive thoughts about a life that had been well and fully lived. At that point, unbeknown to us, his friends—his family knew about the diagnosis—it was a life about to take a dramatic turn for James. The last three years have been challenging and tough for Cathy and the family, but they have also been positive in terms of what James achieved for research into and the profile of the disease of lung cancer. As we speak today, the Roy Castle Lung Foundation will already be richer to the tune of more than £50,000 because of the tribute page that has been set up in James’s memory by Cathy and the family.

I would advise all Members to look at the tributes on that page. I want to read out one, which is from an anonymous donor. This person clearly was an official who knew James well. He said this:

“I have not worked with anyone finer. A man of true integrity, always entirely across his brief, fiercely intelligent and incredibly kind. He was respectful to his officials, as well as rigorous in his questioning of and the testing of policy and legal positions presented to him. He was fantastic at distilling complex information into articulate and clear responses in Parliament. I had nothing but respect and admiration for how he did his job and his dedication to public service.”

Amen to that.

Keir Starmer mentioned Bill Committees. At one point, we thought that James was about to gather the record for the number of Bill Committees he conducted as a Minister. Indeed, in the particular Committee that the right hon. and learned Gentleman remembers, I was the other Minister sparring with him. We were lawyers together, but it was done with not just the respect for process, but a thought as to the outcome. James was rigorously focused on the outcome: what solution could we bring to the problem and what benefit could we bring to the wider country?

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands said, the word “nice” just does not cut it for James. Let me give the House the adjectives I would associate with my friend: driven, quick, persuasive, funny, kind and decent. Don’t make the mistake of confusing those qualities with mere niceness; he was much, much more than that. Farewell, my friend. Thank you for everything.