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Mr. Peter Brooke (Cities of London and Westminster): Madam Speaker, there are myriad reasons why the memories of your speakership will live on in the minds of those of us who have been lucky enough to serve in this House during your remarkable tenure of office.
Madam Speaker, events outside the Chamber, such as your doing the Lambeth Walk in your apartments will be remembered for ever by those of us who were there. Of course, the mainsprings of memory are events in the Chamber, membership of which confers on you the authority that you exercise so notably on our behalf and much to our, and Parliament's, advantage. One afternoon in April 1992, I congratulated you and said that I would seek to remain within the bounds of order. You have richly rewarded me wholly beyond my desserts, however poor my self-discipline.
All of us view you from subjective perspectives but, on everyone's behalf, your speakership has been distinguished, robust, warm, direct, colourful, candid and kind. I have particular reason to know how fortunate I have been to serve in the Chamber in the last eight and a half years, and I am delighted that you have clearly enjoyed that time every bit as much. Thank you, Madam Speaker; I support the Prime Minister's motion.
Mr. David Marshall (Glasgow, Shettleston): Madam Speaker, for more than eight years, since April 1992, you have been the honorary president of the British group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which has over 1,200 members from both Houses of Parliament, including associate members.
In the past six years, as vice-chairman and then chairman, I have had the pleasure and privilege of working with you on IPU matters, Madam Speaker. You have supported strongly the aims and values of the IPU and you have given a great deal of your time to our work, as well as taking great interest in it. You have presided over our annual general meetings, taken an active role in the selection of delegations to other countries and entertained many of the numerous parliamentarians from other IPU member countries who visit this country. You have done all of that with tremendous enthusiasm and great good humour.
Madam Speaker, you are the best known Speaker in the world, and at all of the IPU international conferences--which you, of course, cannot attend--many parliamentarians from the 139 member nations ask after you kindly and express their admiration for you. It is therefore appropriate that one of your last acts as Speaker of the House will be to represent the mother of Parliaments at the special IPU millennium conference of Presiding Officers of national Parliaments which will be held in the United Nations building in New York at the end of August and in which you will play a major role.
Madam Speaker, I very much regret the fact that you will not now preside over our AGM in the autumn, when I will stand down as chairman, having completed my three years in office. I therefore wish to take this opportunity to say a big thank you from all the members of the IPU for all your unstinting efforts on our behalf.
Two weeks ago, when you announced your intention to relinquish the position of Speaker, you said to the House, "Be happy for me". I, for one, am very happy for you and I wish you most sincerely a long, happy and healthy retirement.
Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon): As one who has also been bitten by the retirement bug, may I associate myself and my colleagues in Plaid Cymru with today's motion and the comments that have been made? I thank you, Madam Speaker, for the way in which you have handled the House with fairness to all parties, and acknowledge the way in which you have perhaps protected me from myself. During your time in the Chair, I have not been the recipient of a red card or been led to break the Speaker's Chair, which, regrettably, I cannot say for earlier periods.
You have presided over a period of significant constitutional change. You have had to deal with new institutions--the National Assembly for Wales; the Scottish Parliament; and changes in Northern Ireland--and the consequential effects that those have had on our procedures. "Erskine May" will rely heavily on the rulings that you made during that period.
When you were elected, you quoted Mr. Speaker Weatherill, who said that a Speaker has no friends. You will know by now that that just is not true. You will leave with the friendship of the whole House, and we wish you iechyd, hir oes a hapusrwydd--health, a long life and happiness--and many joyous memories of a job well done.
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down): The privilege and honour of speaking on behalf of my colleagues in the Social Democratic and Labour party falls to me. May I convey to you, Madam Speaker, the apologies for the absence of my leader, who is not well?
Those of us in the minor parties in the House owe you a great debt of gratitude for your tolerance, understanding and help, both personal and on a party basis. The years in which you have held office have been difficult for parliamentary representatives from Northern Ireland, because we have had a great distraction from the affairs of this House as a result of the events occurring in our constituencies. You, in particular, took great cognisance of, and interest in, those difficulties and made allowances for us when, over that period, we failed to appear in the House at appropriate times. For that, we are individually and collectively extremely grateful.
Other speakers this evening have eloquently expressed, on behalf of the minor parties, the great care that you always took to ensure that minority opinions were heard on both sides of the House. You added that essential dimension to the debates in this Chamber. We shall always remember that and we hope that it will be continued by your successor. The example that you have set will be difficult to follow, but the atmosphere that you have created in the House will no doubt continue in your absence.
We are grateful for your end-of-term report, which you gave the House this evening and which we must all take on board, ponder and act upon in the coming years. You will have been pleased that, at what was perhaps your last performance in the House, you played to a full House. I had great difficulty in getting a seat, as there was standing room only. That is the ultimate tribute to any office or performance. Thank you very much for all that you have done for us. We wish you many happy years of retirement ad multos annos.
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): In the 30 years and more that I have been in the House, Madam Speaker, I have sat under various Speakers--that is, when I was permitted to sit under them, because some of them had me removed, as you did yourself.
I understand that when you fought your last election, you wore a green rosette. It was not the green of my friend, if I might call him that, the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady); it was the green of this House of Commons. Nevertheless, although you wore that green rosette for your election, you have dealt fairly with those who would rather have the orange.
At the beginning of my parliamentary career, I listened intently to the various Speakers of the House. Speaker King was a man of very distinguished character. Speaker Lloyd was a different character altogether. Perhaps he was distinguished in the Chair as being not distinguished at all. He was not a very distinguished Chairman, probably because he had been in the Cabinet too long, and I do not think that Cabinet Ministers make good Speakers.
Speakers Thomas and Weatherill were very distinguished, although different. People always asked who would follow the acts of Speakers Thomas and Weatherill, but you, Madam Speaker, have more than followed them, and you have today seen the unanimity that is in the House. It is not often that I can say a loud "Amen" to what the Prime Minister says, or even to what the Leader of the Opposition or the leader of the official Unionist party says--[Interruption.] We did walk together at one time.
You, Madam Speaker, gave the House at a difficult time in the politics of this United Kingdom a salutary example of what can be done by one parliamentarian, determined and dedicated to the task that was given to you. When you were elected I said that I could not have gone home if I had not voted for you, because I would have had to face the wrath of four Paisley ladies. I did not say that I was more afraid of the dog, who was also a female, because I might have been bitten on the calf, but I will say it today, and I am glad that my wife is present in the House for the occasion of your farewell.
Your unyielding determination to control the House and yet, as we would say in Ulster, give it its head, was amazing, and everyone here today admits that. I remember the day when I had a real tangle with you, Madam Speaker, and I was removed from the Chamber. At the end of the day, I actually walked out--I have been carried out from other places at various times--but out of respect to you I left the Chamber. The House did divide
You, Madam Speaker, have shown stamina of which all of us are jealous. You have kept up with the work load, presided in the House and carried out the many duties attached to your office while always looking well. You were always in tremendous form and you brought a sparkle to the audiences that you addressed. That put back into our public life the fact that Parliament can be interesting. It is a good thing that we all have a sense of humour and that we can all laugh at ourselves. It is a good thing that, in the basics of our calling, we have a dedication to democracy.
I, for one, would like to say that your stand was deeply appreciated in Northern Ireland when an attempt was made to alter the rules of membership of the House so that others should have certain offices. Those who follow my way of life in Northern Ireland admired your stand in defending the ancient rules of the House, saying that the House could not be bullied even by appeals to European courts, but stood on its own as the sovereign Parliament of this United Kingdom.
We salute you, Madam Speaker, today. We wish you well and we believe that there is much ahead of you which will bring much credit to the House, of which you were Speaker, and also to the country that we all love.