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Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): Madam Speaker, you and I have one thing in common: we entered this splendid House, the mother of all Parliaments, at by-elections in the early 1970s. I remain firmly ensconced on the Back Benches; you have achieved the highest office that the House has to offer.
One or two hon. Members have reminisced about experiences in your company. I remember an occasion not so long ago when you were entertaining people in your wonderful apartments and you were let down by the pianist. You turned to several colleagues and asked, "Can you find me a pianist?" I fortunately knew of the proficiency on the piano of Sir Ivan Lawrence, who was then Member of Parliament for Burton. He fulfilled the role that was available that night. From then on, he became your in-House pianist.
I rise as the longest serving member of your Chairmen's Panel and as the current Chairman of the Procedure Committee. I salute you for the service that you have given the House in standing up for the authority and integrity of the Chamber of the House of Commons. Time and again, as Speaker, you have expressed your belief in the vital role of the Back Bencher. That is most valuable. It is too easy in a modern Parliament for the role of the Back Bencher to be underestimated and rendered irrelevant. Time and again, through your words and actions, you have shown the political parties and the Government of the day, of whatever party, that the House is about the role of the Back Bencher.
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East): We have now reached the stage in our tributes when almost everything that can be said has been said, but not everyone has said it. Politicians will always find an opportunity for saying a few more golden words.
I rise on behalf of the members of the United Kingdom branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association to say thank you, Madam Speaker, for all that you have done for us, and to tell the House about the esteem in which you are held throughout the Commonwealth and by all the many parliamentarians to whom you have given hospitality in what was described as your chambers. In every way, you have shown yourself to be a wonderful Commonwealth figure.
Even before the eight years of your speakership, you were a member of our executive and a joint honorary chairman of our group. During your speakership, you have always gone the extra mile in welcoming Commonwealth parliamentarians to our two main events--the March parliamentary seminar and the May visit. For many, the joyful welcome that you gave them was the highlight of their visit.
One of your last official functions--if not the last--will take place when we hold the millennium conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association here, in the mother of Parliaments, in September. The conference will be held in London and subsequently in Edinburgh. When you made your announcement on 12 July, I was a little afraid that you might not be with us. We were relieved and delighted that you will, as President of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, preside at our functions, doubtless in the same happy way in which you have presided over the House.
Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray): I happily associate myself and my hon. Friends from the Scottish National party with the motion and, indeed, all the words of praise that have been heaped on you, Madam Speaker, this afternoon. I sincerely thank you for your courtesy, which has meant that you have made yourself available to us when we wished to discuss matters directly with you; for your discipline, which was sometimes directed severely towards these Benches; and for your humour, which has earned you the laughter and love of friends throughout the House.
When you were elected you had the support of all the parties in the House, which in itself was no mean achievement. It is a matter of courtesy to record that you have retained that support during your eight and a half year tenure of office. All those candidates who aspire to be your successor might bear that seriously in mind. From these Benches, we wish you everything that you would wish yourself in your retirement and hope that that retirement will not be too private. We do not see you taking up embroidery and knitting and hope that you will be very much in the public eye and very much involved in public life.
Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): I feel that I should say a few words on your retirement, Madam Speaker. It will cause great sadness among television viewers, and the viewing figures for parliamentary programmes will fall. With all respect to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, I know that people such as my neighbour Mike Turnbull and millions of others in the country think that you are the No. 1 attraction in the House. They believe that you perform your role from the Chair with humour, dignity and a character that has endeared you to people way beyond the House, throughout the country and throughout the world who have watched our Parliament on television.
You will recall that I first met you at the Nelson and Colne by-election following the death of Sidney Silverman. I was a full-time party organiser running Bradley ward, one of the key wards in Nelson. It was evident from day one that we would not win because the tide was against us, but Paul Carmody, your agent, had us at the bus station delivering leaflets to shift workers at 5 o'clock in the morning and pushing leaflets through doors, making sure that your face was on the topside. We were not allowed to deliver the leaflets in any other way. In fact, we were given lessons.
Although the result was inevitable, your character and hard work kept the spirit of the workers alive throughout the campaign and they were willing to work right up to the last minute. On polling day, we had so many workers that I was not sure how we would be able to feed them all. Suddenly, a massive van arrived and four people carried out a potato pie. One of the Nelson party members was a master baker and we had the biggest potato pie that I have ever seen in my life.
At the West Bromwich by-election, you took the seat of Maurice Foley, who is perhaps best remembered for his role in the bombing of the wreck of the Torrey Canyon to try to get rid of its oil. In a quirk of fate, I took his council seat in Merton and Morden in 1962 when he resigned to try to get a parliamentary seat. Ultimately, he preceded you in West Bromwich.
You took the Chair as Deputy Speaker on 9 July 1987. On 10 July, when I was in the middle of a speech on industry, I looked up to see that you were in the Chair and, to this day, I remember asking what we should call you. You said, "Call me Madam." I am sure that you remember that that was not accepted for several weeks in the softback edition of Hansard, which continued to print "Mr. Deputy Speaker". However, the bound volumes are correct and you are called what you wanted to be called.
I thank you for the way in which you have performed your duties during the whole of that period, Madam Speaker. You have been a credit to the House and a credit to all of us. I wish you well on your retirement, and I hope that you enjoy the many years ahead of you.
Mr. Dennis Turner (Wolverhampton, South-East): Madam Speaker, it would be appropriate for the black country to have the last word. As a black country man and a man of few words, all I want to say to you is "yo've been a bosting good spayker." We love you. We think the world of you in the black country, as you know. We shall still be together, because you will not be far away from us. On behalf of the Catering Committee, we have bought you a lovely bunch of flowers, and they are outside the Chamber. Thank you for all the work that you have done. We hope that you continue to enjoy your fish, chips and mushy peas. God bless you.