Backbench Business — Valedictory Debate

Part of Elections for Positions in the House – in the House of Commons am 3:06 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Frank Doran Frank Doran Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art 3:06, 26 Mawrth 2015

It is a pleasure to follow Mr Lansley. We served together on the House of Commons Commission for a number of years and learned a lot about each other.

I was first elected in 1987. I have to say it was an accident, because I did not expect to win. I took a Conservative seat that had only ever once been won by my party, when Donald Dewar won it in 1966. It is quite an experience when one does not expect to be elected. I lasted until 1992 when the inevitable happened and I lost the seat, but I managed to come back in 1997 as a retread. I now have had what I think is likely to be the unique privilege of representing three separate seats in the city of Aberdeen—Aberdeen South, Aberdeen Central and Aberdeen North—all because of boundary reviews. In the 23 years that I have represented the city, I have been moving firmly further north. I am now, I think, the most northerly Labour Member of Parliament.

This year, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first discovery of viable quantities of hydrocarbons in the North sea. In that time, Aberdeen has grown from a city that depended on agriculture, fishing and light engineering to become the undisputed energy capital of Europe. It has been a privilege and an honour to have represented the city for 23 years.

The oil industry has brought great wealth to the city, but it has also brought tragedy. The Piper Alpha disaster in 1988 was, with 167 deaths, by far the worst disaster in any offshore industry in the world. The impact and the aftermath have been a huge part not just of my political life, but my life generally. It is not something one shakes off easily. When preparing for these sorts of events, one tends to pick out the main areas that one has concentrated on. I have concentrated on the Piper Alpha disaster and its consequences for offshore health and safety.

I have had a substantial number of opportunities. One I want to say a little about was the part I played in the minimum wage legislation. I think the right hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire was a member of the Public Bill Committee along with you, Mr Speaker. We spent many happy nights in Committee. I remember one occasion when we sat through the night from 10.30 on Tuesday to 1 pm on Wednesday. We were prepared and the other side were not, and I have to say we enjoyed it immensely. I have also spent much of my political life on trade union issues, and I am proud to have been for 14 years—until relatively recently—the secretary of the trade union group of Labour MPs, which works closely with the trade unions. I have always valued that connection.

I have followed a different career from most. I became the first Chairman of the Administration Committee when it was formed in 2005, and from there I graduated to the Commission, on which I have served with you, Mr Speaker, for the whole of this Parliament, and, as I said, with the right hon. Member for South Cambridgeshire. I learned a lot from my time with both Committees about how this place is run, and on this point I think we have to work harder. I quickly discovered how much I did not know about how this place operated and functioned, and I think most Members are in the same position; they do not find out about something unless they need to. There does not seem to be a ready need to find out how this place functions and is managed, or about the many staff it employs.