Backbench Business — Valedictory Debate

Part of Elections for Positions in the House – in the House of Commons am 1:55 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Charles Hendry Charles Hendry Ceidwadwyr, Wealden 1:55, 26 Mawrth 2015

Thank you for that guidance, Mr Speaker, and I shall endeavour to show that consideration.

This is for me where the journey ends—a journey that started when I was an 11-year-old and met Sir Geoffrey Johnson-Smith, the MP where I grew up, and said to my parents that that was what I should like to do one day. I was incredibly fortunate some decades later to be selected as the candidate to take over from him, although, with his timeless film star looks, people wondered why he was giving way to an older man.

My journey has in many ways been one from north to south. My first seat was Clackmannan; my friends thought that I had wanted to stand in Clapham in south London but had stuttered and ended up in a mining seat in the middle of Scotland. It became clear to me in the course of that campaign that I had never really met a miner before and that they certainly had not met a Conservative before. I moved gradually further south and stood in another mining seat, in Nottinghamshire, and I worked out eventually that if I wanted to be a Tory MP, I should stop fighting mining seats. I was then very lucky to be selected for High Peak in Derbyshire and to serve there for five years before, after a break, coming back in for Wealden. To have had wonderful constituencies in glorious parts of the country has been an unbelievable and very special pleasure.

I have been given great jobs by the leaders of my party, including my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, who will be responding to this debate. If I look back at the thing in which I have greatest pride, it is that as Energy Minister I was able to drive through electricity market reform, one of the most important bits of legislation in the course of this Parliament. I feel that we do these things better when we do them collectively and when we try to take energy out of politics. When I left office—it would be more appropriate, I think, to say that the Government left me rather than that I left the Government—I received very kind messages from the leader of the Labour party, the leader of the Scottish National party and the leader of the Liberal Democrats. I thought, “Three out of four leaders; that’s not bad going.”

If we are looking at where we can make a change to Parliament, we must remember that the institution of Parliament is bigger than all of us, even collectively. I look at some aspects of it with great concern and even some sadness. We must address the opprobrium with which we are held as a collective breed and we must recognise that in some ways, that is to do with the way we do business. This Parliament is ruder and less courteous than I remember Parliament being when I first came in 23 years ago. We need to address that, because if we do not show that we believe in the institution and that the people with whom we debate on the other side of the House are as genuine and sincere as we are about what they are trying to do—they might have chosen a different way of trying to do it and might hold different values, but ultimately we are all here because we believe in serving our constituencies and our country—why should people looking in from outside believe that?

I have noticed as well a strange habit among Members of Parliament, which is that we do not shake hands. For 23 years, I found that rather strange but over the past few days I have been shaking an enormous number of hands and the policy starts to make real sense. At the end of this process, we are leaving as people who enjoy each other as people, and as friends and who value each other as human beings who all want to do the best for their constituencies.

I have been incredibly lucky. I have had wonderful constituents in two different constituencies and have had a wonderful parliamentary staff, but above all I have been supported by a wonderful family. In the course of the next Parliament, I look forward to being able to spend more time with them and to enjoying working with them and giving them the time and attention that they deserve.