Backbench Business — Valedictory Debate

Part of Elections for Positions in the House – in the House of Commons am 4:13 pm ar 26 Mawrth 2015.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Shadow Leader of the House of Commons 4:13, 26 Mawrth 2015

This debate is a Backbench Business Committee innovation, and I suspect that we will probably have such debates in subsequent Parliaments. Today has been a fascinating insight into many careers: some have been longer, greater and grander than others, but all have added value to our life as a democracy and have assisted our constituents.

I think that I can safely say that I am the only Member in the Chamber who actually wishes to be returned to serve in this place after the general election. [Interruption.] Oh, sorry—some may have a harder job than others. It has been important to listen to the valedictory speeches, but I certainly hope that this is not mine.

I have been adding it up—this is probably wrong—but I have calculated that we have heard from right hon. and hon. Members with 677 years of experience serving in the House. Obviously that is all squashed together and not linear, but the House has benefited from that experience over the years. Such experience will be missed when hon. Members call it a day and Parliament prorogues, dissolved and ceases to be, and they go on their way to live and—I hope—very much enjoy the rest of their lives, be it in retirement or other vigorous work and experience.

We have listened to some gems in this Parliament’s final debate, and we have heard from three Leaders of the House whom it has been my privilege and fun to serve opposite during my three and half years as shadow Leader of the House. We heard from the right hon.

Members for North West Hampshire (Sir George Young), for South Cambridgeshire (Mr Lansley), and for Richmond (Yorks) (Mr Hague)—I note that it is the birthday of the current Leader of the House, so I wish him a happy birthday. I suspect he has had rather happier birthdays than today, but I hope it gets better later on. Those three Leaders of the House have had rather contrasting styles, but I have enjoyed working with them on the House of Commons Commission and serving opposite them. I had a little joke and verbal joust at their expense, the occasional barb of which might have hit home, but I have been punched back as many times as I have managed to land my own blows.

We also heard from a distinguished ex-Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend Mr Brown, who spoke about the future after his 32 years in Parliament. His passion for equality and the developing world—he is currently the UN special envoy on global education—was evident, as was his morality, the approach he takes to equality in politics, and his passion for football. More than anything, we heard his warnings about the dangers that we approach if we balkanise our country, and he said he would “fight, fight and fight again” to save the Union. His unquenchable faith in the future also came through in his remarks, and he reminded us that we work best as a country when we co-operate rather than collapse in a morass of contention.

We heard from many distinguished “big beasts”—that is how my hon. Friend Austin Mitchell described them—including my right hon. Friends the Members for Neath (Mr Hain), for Blackburn (Mr Straw), and for Dulwich and West Norwood (Dame Tessa Jowell), who have all had fantastic achievements. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood had the triumph of the Olympics, but we should also remember the sensitive way in which she handled the relatives after 7/7. Somehow I do not think she is intending to leave politics altogether, and I wish her luck and will support her in any future bids she may make.

My hon. Friend Mr Doran spoke about representing the entire constituency thanks to evolving boundary changes over the years, and about the transformation that Aberdeen’s emergence as the energy capital of Europe has made. He said that one of the best parts of his parliamentary career was going to Hollywood and meeting Jean Simmons and Maureen O’Hara, and he asked if anyone could better that. All I can say is that I think I can, because I was introduced to K D Lang by Chrissie Hynde. They are also two very interesting women to get to meet, and I am sure that I enjoyed my discussions with them as much as he enjoyed his time in Hollywood.

We have heard many gems of speeches. What shone through in all of them is the glory of our constituency system, in which people look after particular geographical areas, the dedication with which they do that and the way in which having that connection with real communities puts us more in touch with what is going on in our country than many people who comment on politics. I hope that is one aspect of our political system that will never be changed. What has shone through for me in this debate is the dedication, hard work and enduring commitment that Members, whether they have served here for five years or 42, have given their constituents.

I wish everyone who is retiring a long and happy retirement, and I wish everyone who is going on to pastures new, happy green pastures.