Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim) (DUP): Mr. Speaker, I came to this House more than 35 years ago, when I sat on the Government Benches. I was judged very swiftly by the Speaker, who said that I spoke too loud and that the Lords were having trouble carrying out their business[Interruption.] I had thought that that should be a credit to me!
I should like to congratulate the Father of the House and endorse all that has been said about Tam Dalyell. I always admired him because he stuck to what he believed in and he kept at it, which I believe are good principles to follow in the House.
I am glad that you, Mr. Speaker, are in a minority, because we both refrain from indulging in the stronger watersor the devil's buttermilk, as I sometimes call it. Although we differ in religion, we have long felt mutual admiration, and I must say that I have been graciously received by you, Mr. Speaker, and your good wife on many occasions, which I greatly appreciate.
I said on the last opening sitting that I hoped that you would remember, Mr. Speaker, that the numbers on the Democratic Unionist Benches had increased. Some of my colleagues do not think that you have learned that lesson, so we thought that we would increase again in order to teach the same lesson again. As you looked over at me, Mr. Speaker, I wondered what you were thinking. I think that you may have thought that Paisley had gone left or taken a left turning. If I took a left turning to sit a little further up these Benches, that would be okay, but I want to assure you that I am still the same as I always was and I hope to continue that way. I wish you well, Sir, and I hope that you will remember that there are nine of us now.
Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan) (SNP):
Mr. Speaker, speaking as someone who partakes very modestly in the devil's buttermilk, I do not think that I shall ever need a microphone system to hear the voice of the hon. Member for North Antrim (Rev. Ian Paisley).
11 May 2005 : Column 10
On behalf of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru, I warmly congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your second unanimous re-election by the House. I also congratulate you, despite the best efforts of my party, on your thumping majority in Glasgow, North-East. Your campaigning in a non-political way is perhaps, given your thumping majority, a tactic that we should all employ.
It is five yearsquite recent historysince you, Mr. Speaker, were first elected. At that time, a number of voices were raisedsome in the House, many elsewherewith question marks about your nationality, your class and even, in some cases, about your religious persuasion. It strikes me now how still those voices are as, over the past five years, your command and authority over the House has grown enormously. Your authority is based not on draconian punishmentthough I would advise new Members not to chance their arm too far, and I speak from some personal experience in these mattersbut on our belief in your fairness, your impartiality and the trust that we have in you to be a Speaker for all parts of the House.
I am encouraged that you have committed yourself, Mr. Speaker, to be a Speaker of this House, not of the Executive. I also greatly welcome your commitment, which has been demonstrated over the last five years, to listen to all parts of the House and to encourage the voices of minorities to be heard. That was particularly important when there were large majorities in the House, and it is nowduring these interesting times in which the House now liveseven more important.