Backbench Business — Valedictory Debate

Part of Elections for Positions in the House – in the House of Commons am 3:58 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Llafur, Great Grimsby 3:58, 26 Mawrth 2015

This is a difficult and somewhat moving moment in which to give a final speech in Parliament, made impossible by the need to compress 38 years of thoughts into five minutes of gabble. I realised that it was time for me to go when I found that, although I was still able to ask smart questions in the Public Accounts Committee, I was totally unable to hear the answers. That made it difficult to reply.

It is more difficult for a Back Bencher to leave than for the big beasts, so many of whom have spoken today. I have to report that I have not, so far, had any offers of £6,000-a-day jobs—not even £6.50 has been talked of. There has been no suggestion that I should mosey along the corridor to the hospice down there, although I have been allowed to dine twice in the Barry Room, perhaps as a preparation for going there.

The reaction of constituents has been less than sentimental. I have here a letter from yesterday’s Grimsby Telegraph that says:

“what has Austin Mitchell done for Grimsby??...He has been leading or hud winking the true people of Grimsby all these years. Unfortunately when I return to my beloved Grimsby it does not resemble the Town I grew up and was so proud of. The streets are neglected the roads are in need of repair. I see a lot of misfortunate people in the streets of our main town centre wondering aimlessly in the day. Where has our spirit gone? No thanks to you Austin Mitchell”.

Well, I am sorry to have made such a botch of the job, but I have worked hard for Grimsby.

Thankfully, I have had no higher ambition than to be a Back Bencher, and the Labour Front Bench has agreed with that ambition and kept me as a Back Bencher, so I am speaking today as a Back Bencher.

The best part of this job has been fighting for Grimsby. Our constituency has been sadly maligned by programmes such as “Skint” and by Sacha Baron Cohen’s forthcoming programme on Grimsby, which portrays us as a lot of under-educated Millwall fans. In fact, it was filmed in Tilbury rather than Grimsby. We have been sadly neglected because all the goodies that Government hand out tend to go to the bigger cities with bigger populations and more MPs. We have suffered more from the cuts.

I think I have been able to achieve things for Grimsby, such as compensation for the fishermen who lost their jobs in the Icelandic fishing dispute, raising the status of the college, getting Europarc and the jobs that went with it, and Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises. That has been the joy of my existence. I am happy that my Labour successor will carry on that fight for Grimsby with all the vigour and courage of somebody younger and more dynamic than I am. I am happy that better times lie ahead for Grimsby, because we shall become the centre of the North sea wind turbine industry, with maintenance and supply carried on by Grimsby Fish Dock Enterprises and construction carried on by the Able UK construction site at Stallingborough.

I am sad to be giving up the little platform of power that we have as MPs, because from it we can ask questions, taunt the Executive, and push causes. Perhaps I have pushed too many in my time, but it has been a very interesting and rewarding role. I am sad to be leaving the Select Committee, because Select Committees have been a joy of our existence. We can no longer control the Executive. We can check the Executive, as we did today, but that is only when they do something daft. We cannot control them; they control us. The job of Back Benchers, and indeed Parliament, is to heckle the steamroller of the Executive as it drives over us. However, we can audit the Executive. That is the useful job that the Select Committees are doing in absorbing so much energy and giving us such a rewarding role to replace the roles that have faded away as we have lost power as MPs. We are the auditors of the system—the auditors of power. We audit its mistakes and its policies: what it is doing wrong and what it is doing right. We need to develop that role. We are all auditors now—let’s go for it!