The House has paid tribute to James’s kindness and his courage in facing his illness, but I would like to underline his effectiveness as a Minister and the consequences of that for ordinary people who perhaps are not aware of the impact. When he was Northern Ireland Secretary, the Bombardier aerospace company was facing a ruinous trade dispute with Boeing, which, had James not immediately sprang to life and activated the very considerable networks of influence and friends of Northern Ireland in Washington, would have been the end of that employer in Northern Ireland. As a result, against all expectations, the dispute was settled in favour of Bombardier, and many thousands of people owe their continued livelihoods to James’s brilliant advocacy.
It was fitting that James became Local Government Secretary because, as the Father of the House said, his father Peter had been the chief executive of Epping Forest District Council before he was the chief executive of the London Borough of Greenwich. James was widely admired, not just by his officials in the Department —although, as my right hon. Friends have said, that was universal—but by councillors of all parties, up and down the country. In fact, his permanent secretary, Melanie Dawes, described him as
“a dedicated, brilliant and kind man”.
I think she spoke for all of local government.
I last met James in July. Our daughters were classmates at school and we last met at the speech day, which was our daughters’ leaving day at that school, so my last image of James is a happy one: celebrating the wonderful success of his daughter; seeing her move on to the next stage of her life; having succeeded in raising a wonderful young woman. He will be greatly missed by his family and by this whole House.