Sir George joined in the tributes to Michael Martin, during his last appearance in the House on Wednesday.
Please see text below.
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): May I add a brief footnote to the generous tributes that have been paid to you, Mr. Speaker? I begin by saying how very much I welcome what you said in your statement about the issue of privilege. I was delighted to hear that we are now going to make progress with it, as it does indeed need addressing.
Mr. Speaker, you may have forgotten the conversation that we had shortly after you saw off a large number of contenders for your job some nine years ago. I asked you whether, on the assumption that we were both returned in the 2001 general election, I might propose you as Speaker at the beginning of the new Parliament. We both felt that that would be a good way of healing any wounds, and you generously agreed to it.
I have been looking at what I said then, almost exactly eight years ago to the day, at the beginning of that Parliament, and I would say the same today. I referred to your commitment and long service to the
House, your deep roots in the Back Benches, your earlier work on the Chairmen’s Panel and Domestic Committees and your experience in the Chair as Deputy Speaker. I mentioned your genial and approachable manner, underpinned by a deep affection for and commitment to the House. I said that all those qualities struck a chord with the House. They did then, and they do today.
The Prime Minister referred to your background in the trade union movement, and I wish to mention one role related to that. It is not the role of negotiating with management, because after all you are the management, but that of shop steward. It is the role of someone whom a Member can approach for advice and comfort when they have a problem—the so-called pastoral role. I know that you have done a lot of that as Speaker, and it is an important role, particularly at this difficult time for the House and its Members. I hope that that role may continue, and I wish you and Mary a long and happy retirement.