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I congratulate the Father of the House on his conduct of today's proceedings. It is not necessary for me to emphasise the way in which he has built a reputation over the years as a Back Bencher who has held Governments of all colours to account. That reminds us that that is the prime function that many of us have in the House. I am sure, Mr. Speaker-Elect, that with your consideration for Back Benchers and for the primary role of the House, you will always be ready to assist us in ensuring that the Government are held to account.
It is commonplace these days to regret the decline of the standing of the House, but we would all do well to remember that its standing depends upon each and every one of us in the contribution that we make to the House. I am sure that we shall all be conscious of that responsibility. However, we rely upon you, Mr. Speaker-Elect, when it comes to issues where government may perhaps wish to cut corners or to do things elsewhere, to insist upon the primacy of the House.
I shall make a cautionary comment on the remarks of the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy), the leader of the Liberal Democrats. We want to see the procedures of the House become more effective and clearly and easily understood. However, virtually every time that the reform of our procedures is broached, the result is that the life of government is made easier. That is not our objective.
I congratulate also my old friend the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell). He represents a constituency of which I have some knowledge. I thought that I hadseen everything in 10 successful, gruelling campaigns involving the hon. Gentleman since the 1960s. However, the election tactic of being injured in the service of the Linlithgow Rose football club is breathtaking. The hon. Gentleman has our profound congratulations on being the senior Member of this place.
I congratulate you, especially, Mr. Speaker-Elect, on your resounding victory in the Glasgow, Springburn constituency, despite the best efforts of my party. It was not the most nail-biting contest of the election evening. Given the size of your majority, I am sure that the secret weapon of being able to tell your constituents that you had something useful to do here stood you in excellent stead.
It took almost seven hours to elect you last October. I remarked then that the qualities that some people regarded as controversial were excellent reasons for your occupying the Chair. I am delighted that that view is now
People who listened to your remarks today will take heart from your declaration that you are the servant not of the Executive but of the Chamber. Those of us in the minority parties already have reason to be grateful for your fairness, impartiality and protection of minority rights in the House.
Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): I congratulate you, Mr. Speaker-Elect, on your return to the Chair. I also warmly congratulate the Father of the House, whom I admire greatly. He has inspired me to keep on about a subject until the Executive takes action. Even if the Executive does not take action, at least everyone in the country knows what the subject is about.
You have a more difficult task, Mr. Speaker-Elect, because my party has enlarged itself. I am sure that you know that in the Bible, five is the number of grace. You will need grace to deal with the five Democratic Unionist Members; we are also the fifth largest party in the House. I am sure that you will ask for grace in your prayers, which you mentioned. I assure you that the good Lord will give you grace.
Matters in the country that I come from need much debate in the House. I trust that hon. Members will listen to the electors of Northern Ireland. The turnout in the general election was higher there than in any other part of the United Kingdom. Alas, hundreds of people in my constituency were not allowed to vote. Although they had queued for 45 minutes to an hour, they were not given access to the ballot box. That is a disgrace. We need access to the ballot box when an election is called.
Hon. Members do not want to hear some of the things that I say, but there will be plenty time to say and emphasise them. I am most happy to serve under your Chairmanship. The courtesy and fair play that you have given the point of view that I express will be sustained by your continued occupancy of the Chair.