James Brokenshire

Part of Speaker's Statement – in the House of Commons at 1:24 pm on 20th October 2021.

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Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee 1:24 pm, 20th October 2021

I, too, have more to say than I have time for. Others have talked about James’s ministerial career. I first met James when we were elected together in 2005, and when I became a Minister in the Home Office, he was my shadow. As others have said, you always had to be on your mettle, because you knew that he would be on the case. I often reflected on the fact that, when Mrs May was Home Secretary, she was very lucky to have James in that post. I did notice that his portfolio seemed to grow in that Department, but every tricky area of the Home Office—having been a Home Office Minister I know all of those tricky areas—came to James because, in all the best traditions of this place, he was an assiduous and proper Minister. In a period when we have a lot of fracture in our politics and in society, and in an era when being a YouTuber or a celebrity is seen as something very important, James did the job really well and really properly. That is often underplayed, but it is really important. All of us, whether we are in government or we aspire to be in government, should use James and the work that he did as a model for how to do the job.

The last point I want to make is about his courage. When he was Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government post-Grenfell, he gave a ministerial direction to set up a £200 million fund to provide money to deal with some of the dangerous cladding. Many Ministers do not want to give ministerial directions—that is when they have to instruct officials that they are going to spend taxpayers’ money—and he did not do so lightly; he thought it through. I remember him saying to me in a conversation that, in one case, there were about 89 owners of a block, and if he had not made this decision, it would have got caught up forever and the people living in those homes would have suffered. There is still unfinished business there, as the Father of the House has said, but James set the tone and made a bold decision. He was courageous, he was good and we will miss him in this House.