Backbench Business — Valedictory Debate

Part of Elections for Positions in the House – in the House of Commons am 3:39 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Joan Walley Joan Walley Chair, Environmental Audit Committee, Chair, Environmental Audit Committee 3:39, 26 Mawrth 2015

This has been a momentous day for Parliament, and none of us thought that the day would turn out quite as it did with the votes earlier. Regarding the part of that debate that centred on your role, Mr Speaker, one of the highlights for me over the past 28 years was being invited by you to help drag you to the Chair when you took up the post of Speaker.

For someone like me, from Stoke-on-Trent, it has been an absolute privilege to represent the area that I come from and that I belong to, uninterrupted, for 28 years. I have been fortunate. To have had the trust of my constituents, to have been taken into their confidence, to have been able work to try to make a difference where it really matters—no one could ask for more. I want to say a big thank you to all those who made it possible, not least the party, which had the confidence to select me as its Member of Parliament—coming as I did from Lambeth council, where I was got rid of by Mrs Thatcher —to serve here and make a difference over these years. It has been a huge privilege.

I want to thank my school and my late head teacher, Mr E.S. Kelly. In the days before the film, “The King’s Speech”, he asked me to stand up and speak at a schools award event. I told him I was too nervous and would never be able to do that, but he told me that because of George VI, if I believed in something I had to do it. Little did he know that his words would help me to come here and represent a whole constituency here in Parliament.

I thank my family. My father never knew that I got here, but I thank my mum and the rest of my family for standing by me. It was not easy in those early days, with just 41 women MPs and a young family. I was here every night, sometimes sharing one bed in the Lady Members’ Room when we were up all night long trying to keep everything going and never winning votes, while keeping alive the thought of a Labour Government next time round. We finally got that in 1997, although, unlike my right hon. Friend Dame Anne McGuire, I was never a Blair babe.

When I think about my achievements, many things stand out. No other MP has helped rescue their football team twice, as I had to do with Port Vale. The institutions that keep our constituencies alive are also important and we must ensure that that work continues. My maiden speech was on the subject of health, and I quoted the words:

“The health of the people is the highest law.”

I still feel that that is acutely the case today. I have spent a lot of my time working on health and public health issues, and I am very grateful to the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health for giving me a lifetime award—one of only a handful of people to receive one in the 150-odd years of its existence.

I could not have had better support from my staff and family, from my children and now my grandchildren, and, in particular, I want to thank my husband Jan. The important thing is to remember that time flies and that as Big Ben chimes, time is ticking away. Environmental issues are important. We have huge uncertainty about what the next Government will bring and when that will be put in place, but important talks are going on now, later this year in Paris on the climate change convention, and in New York on the sustainable development goals. More than anything else, I ask that this House, those who elect us to it and the young people who are the next generation embed environmental sustainability into its agenda and in all that we do.

I am aware that time is limited, and it has gone by in a flash. It is like a dream. I have every confidence that my successor candidate will be successful and will carry on the work on some of those issues. Only this morning, I was particularly privileged to ask a question about ceramics and origin marking. All of us in this House must do everything we possibly can to safeguard the future of Stoke-on-Trent and the Potteries.