HC Deb 25 October 1973 vol 861 cc1491-2
Mr. Speaker

I have received a letter which I wish to place before the House. It reads as follows: 24th October 1973. My dear Mr. Speaker, It is with very great regret that I write to ask to be released from my office as First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means from the end of this Session and to tender my resignation from this office to the House. As you know, it is my belief that a Member who intends to seek re-election and who has held this office for a continuous period of as long as three and a half years representing a constituency 500 miles away should be free to return to the back benches. In tendering my resignation, I should like to say how greatly honoured I have been to take the Chair as Deputy to successive Speakers, and as the first woman to do so I thank the House for its whole-hearted acceptance of what has been in many ways a departure from precedent. It has been a privilege to work with the Chairman of Ways and Means and with my fellow Deputy Chairman. Above all, I should like to put on record my pride in having served you personally and to have had the co-operation and friendship of the whole House. I am also grateful for the unfailing assistance and kindness I have received at all times in my work as Deputy Chairman from the Clerks at the Table and from all the Officials of the House. Yours very sincerely, Betty Harvie Anderson.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. James Prior)

It is with great regret that the House will have heard of my hon. Friend's decision to resign from the office of First Deputy Chairman of Ways and Means. As she pointed out in her letter to you, Mr. Speaker, history was made in appointing a woman to this office. It was an innovation much in tune with the mood of today, and no one can doubt its success.

The hon. Lady has presided over our proceedings with firmness tempered with grace and complete fairness to all hon. Members in the highest traditions of an extremely exacting office. While we fully sympathise with my hon. Friend's reasons for her decision, we much regret it, and we shall miss her in the Chair. We are delighted to know that she is continuing as an hon. Member of the House.

Mr. Edward Short

On behalf of my right hon. Friend and hon. Friends and myself I should like to be associated with the Leader of the House's comments. The hon. Lady has presided over us with a great deal of ability, confidence and fairness and at the same time with dignity, kindliness and tolerance. There have been many occasions when her stern voice could have scared the life out of us had we not known that behind it lay a great deal of kindliness, friendliness and warmth. She has served the House well. We shall always be grateful to her.

Hon. Members

Hear, hear.