Backbench Business — Valedictory Debate

Part of Elections for Positions in the House – in the House of Commons am 2:04 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Malcolm Bruce Malcolm Bruce Chair, International Development Committee, Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats, Chair, International Development Committee 2:04, 26 Mawrth 2015

I entered the House on the same day as Mr Brown, and I was recalling just how much has changed in this place. When we arrived, there were no mobile phones, no e-mail and virtually no staff. My local party provided me with a rent-free office and a part-time secretary, so all those who accuse us of exploiting the expenses system should remember that we were exploited by it at the beginning.

When I was re-elected at the following election, I remember the Marchioness of Aberdeen, a great stalwart of Haddo house who lived to a great age, saying to me, “I’m so glad you got back. You had a small majority. I was so worried that I nearly voted for you.” That is the kind of thing we experience in life—the people who nearly voted for us. Fortunately, enough did vote for me to have the privilege of being here for 32 years, which I never expected when I set out.

Like other Members, there are particular things that I wanted to record and remember from my time here. I have served for long periods under a Conservative Government, a Labour Government and, latterly, a coalition Government—interesting and different experiences. Fundamentally, as others have said, it is the connection with one’s constituents and the ability to work on their behalf, whoever forms the Government, that I think most of us who are speaking today would regard as the privilege of being a constituency Member of Parliament.

One of the most important events of my time here was the establishment of the Scottish Parliament. I was very pleased, having been the leader of my party in Scotland at the time, to work with the late Donald Dewar in setting up the framework for what became the Scotland Act 1998, which he and I helped to deliver. I had one disagreement with him, however, and I think that the outcome shows that I was right. It was about the voting system. I supported it, as did he in the end, but we had an argument about whether the additional Members should be elected on the basis of a second vote or an adjustment of the first vote. My view was that we should adjust the first vote, and I think that I was right, because we would not have a Scottish National party majority if we had stuck with that system. Unfortunately, that tells us that we are going to have to address the issue in future.

I have had the privilege of serving on many Select Committees, ranging from the Scottish Affairs Committee to the Trade and Industry Committee, the Treasury Committee and the International Development Committee, which I have chaired for the past 10 years. I believe that Select Committees are one of the things we do best and that the Members who serve on them achieve a great deal, because their work is based on evidence, seeking consensus and really shaping policy, and that is invaluable. They are one of the great strengths of the House. It has been a privilege to be part of it.

It has been a privilege to see in this Parliament the delivery of the commitment, enshrined in law, to contribute 0.7% of national income to development assistance, although I absolutely agree that it is not the money that counts, but what is done with it and how effectively it is used, whether that is to champion the rights of women and girls and the poor around the world or to tackle climate change or disease. We, as a country, are now the second biggest donor in the world, which gives us the capacity to change and transform things, and it has been a privilege to be even a small part of that. Mr Speaker, you served on the International Development Committee —I very much enjoyed your company, both in the Committee and on our visits abroad—as did Dame Joan Ruddock and the Secretary of State for Health, so it has been a wonderful training ground, as Ministers, Speakers and all kinds of people have come through that route.

Mr Speaker, we had a rather tetchy debate just before this one. All I want to say about that is that if we are to have a secret ballot for the role of Speaker, the right time to introduce that is when you stand down, at a time of your choosing, so that we can decide how to elect the next Speaker. I have valued and appreciated your support and friendship, which, in terms of speaking in this House, I will not require again, but I hope that the friendship will last beyond that.

My final point is that the most important industry in my part of the world is the oil and gas industry, which is going through a difficult time at the moment. I want to pay tribute to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my right hon. Friend Mr Davey, for the work he did in commissioning the Wood review and setting up the oil and gas regulator, which I believe, along with the industry’s determination to get costs down, will in the long run make the industry more competitive, despite the difficulties today, including Shell’s announcement of new redundancies.

I never expected to be here for 32 years. As the former Member for Manchester Central, Tony Lloyd, once told me, you have to keep reinventing yourself. I guess that I have. It is time to reinvent myself, as of Sunday night, as a private citizen, and I am really looking forward to it.