HC Deb 12 May 1983 vol 42 cc919-30 3.30 pm
Mr. Speaker

I have a personal statement to make of a valedictory nature.

I wish to express my deep and sincere gratitude to all those who have served the House during my time as Speaker. I am conscious that the House functions as well as it does only because of the dedicated service given by those who serve in the various Departments of the House.

To the Clerks of the House; the Serjeant at Arms and his staff; the Library staff; Hansard; the Vote Office; the Refreshment Department; the Fees Office; the Establishments Office; the police and custodians; and all who work on the maintenance and cleaning arrangements in the House, I express profound appreciation.

I am particularly in debt to all those who have served as Deputy Speakers during my period of office. Each is a personal friend whose loyalty and support have enriched my Speakership. I want also to express gratitude to those hon. Members who have served on the Panel of Chairmen, for without their service our Committee system could not survive.

I express gratitude to the Lobby and the Press Gallery for the way in which they honour our traditions, for I believe that a free and responsible press is as important as freedom of speech for Members of the House.

During my period of office there have been three different Chaplains to the Speaker. Each has brought faithful dedication to the service of the House, and I am grateful to them.

The House will understand that I want to pay special tribute to the personal staff in Speaker's House where I have been protected and cared for in a most wonderful way. Indeed, they have been as my family. The devotion of the staff of my constituency secretary and my housekeeper makes me a singularly fortunate man. My office has been presided over by two Principal Secretaries and I shall always feel that I am in their debt.

I am not alone in leaving the House after long service. There are many other right hon. and hon. Members who will be bidding farewell to the House which they love and honour, and I know that the House will wish them well.

I want to express to the House the humble pride that I shall always have in the knowledge that for seven years I have been trusted by the House with the high and honourable office of Speaker of this House of Commons at Westminster. One of the great joys of my life has been to forge friendships in all parties in the House. My office has also led to friendship with Speakers throughout our Commonwealth, in Europe and in other parts of the world. I am proud that the House is still held by other Parliaments in affectionate respect and referred to as the Mother of Parliaments.

Throughout my 38 years' membership of the House I have always felt deep affection and respect for its traditions. Traditions which have survived the test of time should not lightly be discarded. There is a meaning and a strength behind the traditions that we observe and I rejoice to know that the House still guards them. I rejoice in the place the House has in our national life. Despite all our human frailties, the House is still Britain's bastion for democracy. It is here in this Chamber and in Parliament as a whole that the liberties of our people must be protected. We are a great parliamentary democracy and I trust that the House will ever protect the values that brought greatness to our history.

My heart will be with you all, and I shall never forget the steadfast support and friendship that I have received from both sides of the House and which is reflected in the early-day motion on the Order Paper today, for which I express deep gratitude.

God bless you all. God bless this House and our country that we may always cherish the heritage of freedom handed to us by our fathers. Thank you for the privilege of serving as your Speaker.

Resolved, That the thanks of this House be given to Mr. Speaker for what he has said this day to the House; and that the same be entered in the Journals of this House.—[The Prime Minister.]

Mr. Speaker

I would have taken a poor view had the motion not been resolved.

3.38 pm
The Prime Minister

I beg to move, That the thanks of this House be given to the Right honourable George Thomas for the great distinction with which he has upheld the traditions of the Speakership during the past seven years; that he be assured that his unfailing fairness, personal kindness and dedication to the House have earned him its respect and affection; and that all Members unite in wishing him every happiness in his retirement. It is difficult to find adequate words, Mr. Speaker, to follow you or to thank you for everything that you have done in that Chair. It was my privilege when I was Leader of the Opposition to congratulate the then Speaker-elect just before Her Majesty the Queen had approved our choice of you, Sir, as our 153rd Speaker. The choice which the House made was unanimous. All of us who were then Members of this place, whether new or with a longer period of service, recognised your outstanding, nay, your unique, qualities.

Seven years and more have passed. Throughout those years the way that you have fulfilled your responsibilities has outshone even our highest expectation.

When you were elected as our Speaker you had already served in this House for 31 years. You brought to your high office a wealth of experience as a Minister, as a member of the Cabinet, as the first Chairman of the Welsh Grand Committee and then as Chairman of Ways and Means. Many great men have occupied your Chair, but it is a measure of your Speakership that you have become a legend in your lifetime. Your voice, which has been broadcast every day when the House has been sitting, has become familiar to millions throughout the world as the Speaker of the Mother of Parliaments. You have often reminded the House by word and example of your abiding affection for the House of Commons and of your reverence for the institution of parliamentary democracy, as you did, once again, today. You have upheld with a special combination of impartiality and authority the dignity of your office and of this House, for which we are grateful.

There are two other qualities that we who have had the privilege of serving under your Speakership will remember. You have been not only our Speaker but our friend. You have often displayed at moments of drama or tension a characteristically Celtic sense of humour that has delighted us all. We realise what a poignant day this is for you, as it is for us. Your occupancy of the Chair will be a model and a guide for those who follow you. Your wise advice on many matters will be eagerly sought by your abundant friends. In our several capacities, we hope to see much of you in the future. I am sure that the wish of the new Parliament, in accordance with our tradition, will be to approve the customary address to honour your period of office.

Wherever we sit or work in this building, Mr. Speaker, we join in gratitude for your service to us and in good wishes for your retirement. We say farewell to one of our greatest Speakers.

3.42 pm
Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

Mr. Speaker, the Opposition are most grateful to the Prime Minister for the motion that she has placed on the Order Paper and for the terms in which she has presented it to the House. The Opposition take a naturally special pride in the way in which you have discharged your functions to the House and to the country. You have brought nothing but honour and distinction to the high office to which you were elected. We are grateful for that. As the Prime Minister said, thanks to the introduction of the broadcasting of the proceedings of the House, which is not necessarily an unmitigated boon, a special flavour has been given to the way in which the business of the House has been conducted, and the bewitching and appeasing lilt of Tonypandy has been heard across the entire country and perhaps across the entire world. It has given a special colour to the affairs of the House.

Only a few weeks ago, Mr. Speaker, I paid a visit to your home town of Tonypandy to commemorate the services given to the House by the former right hon. Member for Rhondda, Alec Jones. I am sure that if he were present he would be one of the first and most eager of hon. Members to join in the tributes to you. He had special knowledge of your service to the House. He also had special knowledge of how much your election as Speaker of the House meant to the people of Tonypandy and of the way in which you discharged your duties.

I recall that some time ago I went to Cardiff where your Speakership was also celebrated. It celebrated the special combination of qualities that you have brought to the office—qualities of wit, humour, practical experience, Welsh courtesy and Welsh guile, all in their special quantities. I assure you that they have all been appreciated.

I had a special opportunity of seeking some of those qualities in action as I attended some meetings or functions when my right hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) was Prime Minister and you were Speaker. They gave to me, as a naive politician from the valleys, an insight into the way in which Cardiff politics are conducted, which I have never forgotten and never betrayed.

The most famous of all speeches ever made by any of your distinguished predecessors was that made by Speaker Lenthall on the most famous of occasions when the rights of the House were protected. All right hon. and hon. Members know the speech. Speaker Lenthall said: May it please Your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me, whose servant I am here;". That, I am sure, is what you, Mr. Speaker, would have said on that occasion if you had been in charge. It is a good lesson for all subsequent Speakers. I shall not press the comparison too strongly because Speaker Lenthall, despite his great service to the House and country on that occasion, was subsequently involved in financial dealings that led to an investigation. He wavered in his party allegiance, although I am not sure in which direction. He ended up in Oliver Cromwell's House of Lords. I do not know whether any such fate is to befall you, Mr. Speaker.

You, Mr. Speaker, have always followed the traditions of Speaker Lenthall in defending and sustaining the rights of the House with a peculiar grace and charm that nobody else could have matched. There is a Methodism in your magnificence. It will be extremely difficult for anybody to follow in your footsteps. I pity your successor, for you have followed, which it is not always possible to achieve, a straight and narrow path to a destination of universal acclaim. Some right hon. and hon. Members wish that we could do the same.

I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that you will carry away from this occasion the good wishes of us all. We wish to see you on many occasions in the future. We consider that you still have a great contribution to make to the political life of the country. Nobody could have given their services to the House and to the country more generously and more magnanimously than you.

3.47 pm
Mr. Roy Jenkins (Glasgow, Hillhead)

I add the tribute of my hon. and right hon. Friends to those in the speeches that have already been made by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. I have at least one disqualification for this task. I was, Mr. Speaker, a Member of this House for just the first and last years of your Speakership, but that gives me a perspective of comparisons. At the beginning, you were in gentle command and at the end your were supreme, but still gentle.

I have, however, one special qualification to balance the disqualification. I am the only hon. Member to have had the temerity to be your departmental chief. How I ever managed to exercise appropriate authority in those circumstances is almost beyond my imagination. You had, however, developed a quality that has been an important ingredient in your success in the Chair. When I first went to the Home Office at the end of 1965, you were Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office. A tradition had already developed under my predecessor that whenever the Home Office was in more trouble than usual in this House the cry went up, "Let George do it. He will disarm." Indeed, had you not been occupied in your exalted office, you might even have been useful in recent times to the present Home Secretary. However, all that was a long time ago.

There have been six Speakers since the war. Few of us have served under all of them. None of them has been bad, most have been good, but without question you have enhanced the standard during your seven years of office. Reference has already been made to the introduction of broadcasting. There is clearly room for differing views about its impact on the public consciousness of the House, but there is no doubt that it has enhanced the public impact of the Speaker and that popular respect for both the office and the man has greatly increased.

To add even temporary lustre to an office that has existed for more than 600 years is a difficult feat. To add a little that will last is almost impossible, yet I believe that you have achieved that. More domestically, we in the Social Democratic party and the Liberal party—not, in parliamentary terms, one of the juggernauts of our jousting politics — are grateful to you for your courtesy and fairness. We join with others in expressing our respect, affection and warmest wishes for a future in which you will be sustained by the lasting gratitude of this House and the respect of the nation.

3.51 pm
Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

It is a privilege and pleasure for me to add a small word of appreciation to the felicitous speeches by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the eminent right hon. Members for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Foot) and for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins), who addressed us from the Opposition Benches.

On 9 May 1979 you were elected Speaker following the proposal of myself, seconded by the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey). The conventions of the House compel me to refer to him as the right hon. Member, but he is, of course, my right hon. Friend in every real sense of the word, and I am very glad to see him in his place today. I only wish that all my clients had turned out as well as you, Mr. Speaker.

In submitting yourself, Mr. Speaker, in accordance with ancient custom to the will of the House, you used the following words: The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East has now proposed or seconded the re-election of the Speaker more often than I have preached Methodist sennons." —[Official Report, 9 May 1979; Vol. 967, c. 7.] Modesty forbids me to continue the citation, but I cannot suppress the gratitude I feel. In the words of Cicero, so familiar to all here present— Laetus sum laudare a laudato viro. You, Mr. Speaker, are certainly a man highly praised, and rightly and universally praised.

I am honoured to have proposed your election as Speaker, and the House will readily appreciate that toovercome, so triumphantly, the initial handicap of assuming high office on my proposition points clearly and conclusively to a very high quality indeed. The high quality of your performance, Mr. Speaker, in the great office of Speaker, rests on much more substantial evidence than any mere testimony of mine. It is evidenced by the record known to, and appreciated by, us all.

When I had the honour to second your initial election as Speaker on 3 February 1976 I used these words of you: He is richly endowed with those qualities that make a good parliamentarian and a much-loved colleague — not only eloquence and judgment, although he has both in good measure, but courtesy and consideration, affability and sensibility, kindliness and good humour, and a wit that often scores but never wounds." — [Official Report, 3 February 1976; Vol. 904, c. 1156.] Today, I reaffirm those words, but I do more. What I said then as to your quality is confirmed and proven, clear beyond peradventure. What was then expectation is now realisation. What was then confident surmise is now established fact. What was then aspiration for the future is now present certainty, based on the solid foundation of past performance.

I have known six Speakers in 11 Parliaments and, indeed, the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead has referred to them. They all had distinctive qualities and all made a valuable contribution to the service of this House. However, your contribution, Mr. Speaker, has been second to none and is not even excelled by that of my much loved and greatly venerated friend, "Shakes" Morrison, who was Speaker in the 1950s. It is not for me to dilate on the great eminence of the office of Speaker, which you have filled with such distinction, because such matter; are known to us all.

In his office, Mr. Speaker is a sign and symbol of the authority of Parliament and a sign and symbol too of those great parliamentary institutions which, cradled here in Westminster in the mists of the middle ages, have gone out to the uttermost ends of the earth. The Speaker of the House of Commons is the custodian of our parliamentary rights, the guardian of our parliamentary liberties and of our heritage, acquired for us by our forefathers over long and laborious years. By his office, Mr. Speaker is the head and front of British parliamentary institutions, themselves a model and exemplar far beyond these shores, wherever democracy is practised and liberty is prized.

Today, we salute you, omnium consensu. It is perhaps good for us to remember, on the eve of a period of vigorous exchanges on the hustings, that in this great democracy of ours the things that unite us are deeper and more lasting than those that put us asunder. One and all, irrespective of party, are here a goodly company and heirs to a great tradition, exercising on behalf of those we here represent those democratic rights and freedoms taken perhaps for granted through long enjoyment in this country, but envied by many people in many lands who have them not. They are like the air we breathe—little noticed in their presence but valued beyond price in the event of deprivation.

If I continued longer the House would weary not of your excellence but of my iteration. We salute you here today. This is the last speech that I shall make in the House that I have known so long, loved so well and sought to serve a little. I cannot adequately express to you, Mr. Speaker, the deep and abiding pleasure it gives me that this last speech should be made in tribute to your high quality and great service, assisted at all times by the zeal, expertise and unvaried helpfulness of our distinguished Clerk of the House and his admirable team.

In gratitude and affection, I thank you, Mr. Speaker, from the bottom of my heart and wish you well, now and at all times.

3.58 pm
Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

I hope that the House will forgive me if I take a few moments to speak in support of the Prime Minister's motion, which was moved so generously and was supported by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.

You and I, Mr. Speaker, have been parliamentary neighbours for 38 years. We have been close personal friends for more than 40 years, and I suppose that there ha .s never been a parliamentary partnership as long-standing as ours. We fought our first campaigns together when we were young men. When we first entered the House, rather nervously on that first proud day, when we sat side by side, I do not think that I then saw in you the qualities that have distinguished you since as Speaker. I do not think that I recognised that cool, judicial approach. What is more, I am certain that you did not think that I would ever make a Prime Minister. We were very proud of ourselves on that day. You and I were proud to enter the House together. We have been proud to serve it ever since.

Perhaps I am in a unique position as Mr. Speaker's parliamentary neighbour. I shall take a few minutes to speak of the deep respect and affection in which he is held in his constituency and throughout Cardiff by political supporters, political opponents and by members of all parties and of none. Mr. Speaker is referred to as "Our George", which in itself is sufficient testimony of the deep love that people have for him.

If friendship is one of the most rewarding gifts, Mr. Speaker is the wealthiest man alive. He gives himself so spontaneously and so generously that all he meets find him quite irresistible. He is a living example of the old truth that it is better to give than to receive. His generosity of spirit has come back to him and brought him very great happiness. Although he has maintained a strictly judicial approach to his duties as Speaker, those of us who know him best are only too aware of the passionate nature that lurks beneath that wig and robes and that occasionally he fails to conceal.

I know, as most of us know, Mr. Speaker, that your strong moral convictions are derived from the Christian Socialist precepts that were instilled into you by your beloved mother. They have guided you throughout your life. Those who have known you only as Speaker will not have seen what a passionate controversialist you can be, as you showed in your long and successful fight for leasehold enfranchisement for the people of South Wales.

Most of us know of Mr. Speaker's infectious good humour. We know that he seldom, if ever, uses his famous wit at the expense of hon. Members. In eloquence, Mr. Speaker is of the self-mocking type. Despite his great achievements, he has always been unduly modest about his own very considerable ability. By general consent, he has been an outstanding Speaker. By his conduct in the Chair and with the aid of broadcasting, he has transformed what always has been an important, but nevertheless relatively obscure, office into one that is known and respected throughout the length and breadth of Britain.

In doing that, Mr. Speaker, you have elevated Parliament and made it the rightful focus and centre of the nation's attention. No one could leave behind a more valuable testimony than that to the democratic traditions that you hold so dear.

Although you are leaving the House, Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that your influence will remain. Your concept of the way in which Mr. Speaker's responsibilities and powers should be exercised is stamped upon our practices. Knowing your ardent spirit, I do not expect that you will fade into silence. Indeed, I trust that you will continue to remain a force in our public life. For me the House will never be quite the same again. I cannot even be sure that I shall again be called to speak. As one old friend to another, thank you and God bless you.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I shall call spokesmen from all parties. I shall have mercy on the House and see that we do not continue too long, but I wish to call several right hon. and hon. Members.

4.5 pm

Mr. James Molyneaux (Antrim, South)

The Prime Minister's motion acknowledges that your many fine qualities Mr. Speaker, have earned for you the respect, admiration and affection of the House. That respect and admiration are much in evidence throughout the kingdom. I want to express briefly but sincerely the appreciation of my colleagues and myself for your sympathy and your understanding of the people of Ulster and of their representatives here. We wish you well in the future.

4.6 pm

Mr. Edward du Cann (Taunton)

Following the many distinguished right hon. and hon. Members and leaders of parties, I wish to express in a few short sentences the best thanks of the many Back Benchers who would like to speak if time allowed them the opportunity. To you, Sir, for your service—your incomparable service—to us all I express my own deep gratitude for your constant encouragement and friendship. Brevity is to be the rule of the day, but that is directly in inverse proportion to the emotion which we all feel this afternoon.

You, Sir, have been respected as your office deserves and as you have merited. Your strength—the basis of all your conduct in this place—has been your obvious affection for Parliament, your understanding of its needs and purposes, and your determination to protect its traditions and to enhance them if possible in the modern context.

One aspect which is little known and merits record. Over the last decade I have sought to establish, without blunting our party differences, a practical liaison between the Parliamentary Labour Party and the 1922 Committee. The right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), who is in his place, and the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) have been fine colleagues and companions in that endeavour. We have sought to discuss and advance matters of common interest to Back Benchers and to all hon. Members wherever they sit, especially in relation to our conditions of work here and to our service.

Decisions about such matters are for the House and not, as too often we have permitted in the past, for the Government of the day or party leaderships alone. We have made some progress and I have no doubt that we shall make some more in the next Parliament. In that respect, Mr. Speaker, you are the custodian of the rights of all Members and have been the staunchest of allies and companions. Your support has been invaluable.

As we all know, and as has been hinted at in the admirable speeches to which we have listened, the office of Speaker is lonely. Mr. Speaker is not always popular, for the selection of participants in debates is invidious and the imposition of discipline in the general interest is often resented by individuals and groups. Dispassionate rulings may not always be acceptable to the Government, who invariably have an axe to grind, or to the Opposition, who in prejudice are always the Government's rival.

You, Mr. Speaker, never courted regard. Instead, proudly, you earned it and deserved it. As the right hon. Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) said, none of us envies your successor, for you are no easy man to follow, whether in skill in the Chair or in humour. Whoever the House chooses as Speaker in the next Parliament will respect your example and aspire to it. May that be your continuing testimony and memorial in the years to come and may the words which you spoke today, which were so admirable, be a continuing inspiration to us all. HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."

4.10 pm
Mr. Jack Dormand (Easington)

The motion before us states that your qualities, Mr. Speaker, have earned you respect and affection. That is most certainly true, but they have also earned you justifiable fame.

I had an experience yesterday which was a repetition of previous experiences. I was showing a group of sixth formers from my constituency around the Palace and expounding on the history and the happenings of the place but I kept getting gentle interruptions. "Where does the Speaker sit? Are you a friend of the Speaker? Do you not think that Speaker Thomas is a good headmaster?" Dare I say—perhaps I should not confess this—that I felt just the tiniest tinge of jealousy. I felt like saying, although I did not, Sir, "I am your Member of Parliament, not Mr. Speaker."

I recount that episode because I think it is another illustration of the fact that you, Mr. Speaker, have captured the hearts of young and old alike. The allusion to your being a good headmaster was apt. You and I, Mr. Speaker, have experienced the world of schools. We know that a headmaster must be firm, fair and, if he is to be really successful, be endowed with an appealing personality. Sir, you have all those qualities and more in full measure. Your humour is legendary. It will be greatly missed and talked about for generations.

I said that we had our educational backgrounds in common. There is an even greater bond—your part of the country and mine, South Wales and Durham. Our people are the same kind of human beings. No one appreciates more than they do the qualities of their sons in achieving high office by dint of hard work, fairness and strength of purpose. You have brought great honour to Wales, not only in coming to the office of Speaker but in the manner in which you have carried out your most onerous duties. In my own part of the country among the same kind of people, I have basked in the glory of being able to say that you are a personal friend. I know that I speak for all of my right hon. and hon. Friends on the Opposition Benches when I offer my most sincere thanks for your fairness, your guidance and for the help you have given us. We wish you, Sir, a very long and happy retirement.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

May I say to the Father of the House that once I have called him that will be the end of the debate.

4.13 pm
Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

I rise not to speak on behalf of my party, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) has already done so, but to refer to two aspects of your work which have not so far been mentioned.

You are, Sir, the first Speaker to be chairman of the House of Commons Commission—the body set up at the instigation of the right hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Mr. Bottomley) which took unto the House's charge so many matters that had previously been the charge of Government. It has been my privilege to serve on it—I think I am the only Member to have do so — since the day you became its chairman. In discharging that task, you have sought to strengthen the rights and traditions of the House and to ensure the continuance of the House's work into the future. Members for many generations to come will be grateful for the work that has been done. Those of us who have been members of the Commission are deeply grateful for the way in which you have conducted its proceedings.

Secondly, I wish to express a few words on behalf of those younger Members—there are many of us —to whose families you have shown particular consideration. —[Hon. Members: "Hear, Hear."] I do not believe that there can have been a time—certainly not in recent memory—when children have been so welcome in the Speaker's House and when Members' families have felt that they had a friend in the Speaker's Chair.

I hope, with the time that will now be available to you —I say this particularly as a Methodist—that you will fill many of our chapels, and on many public platforms will address yourself to the children and young people whose imagination, as the hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Dormand) pointed out, you have captured. I hope that you will continue to advocate and preach to them the fine spiritual and democratic heritage that has meant so much to our country and upon which it depends.

Several Hon. Members rose

Mr. Speaker

Order. I make my usual speech. I propose to call those hon. Members who have been rising as long as they do not speak for too long.

4.16 pm
Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

Among the great and lasting services that you, Mr. Speaker, have performed for the House during your Speakership is the extent to which you have drawn back to your elected office powers nominally reposed in it by the House but which, with the effluxion of time have this century passed from elected hands into others. In so doing you have, I believe, performed a timely and very important service to the House.

That process is best illuminated by your decision that private rulings by Mr. Speaker which might be regarded as precedents are to be published in the Votes and Proceedings in the exact words in which Mr. Speaker gives the rulings, so that all Members of the House and the country outside may know the ruling given by Mr. Speaker and not have it merely produced as a surprise, in words which were not Mr. Speaker's and on occasions which he did not foresee. You have performed a great service to the House in that as in so many other ways.

The extent to which your Christian conviction has illuminated your Speakership and your attitude to your fellow Members puts me in mind of those lovely words used by Queen Elizabeth I in her last speech from the Throne: Though God hath raised me High, yet this I count the glory of my Crown, that I have Reigned with your loves. You have reigned over us, Mr. Speaker, with our loves.

Mr. Speaker

Thank you very much.

4.18 pm
Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North)

I shall probably be the only Member to speak on this motion who has run foul of your rulings on two occasions—once on the Floor of the House and once in the Gallery. I wish to make it clear that I am not here today as a penitent, but that with great gladness I join other Members in paying to you the eulogy you deserve. Coming from that part of Ireland where Patrick first evangelised, perhaps I might say that I am presenting you with a shamrock tribute. There is nothing sham about it, and it is not like the eulogies that some politicians in Ulster receive—a literal rain of stones. The rock is solid and we wish you well

I call the attention of the House to one thing that happened in the House today which I think illustrates your character and your convictions. It was so nice that, at the end of Prayers, you repeated the Grace. Acting perhaps in another capacity, I would simply say to you, as a staunch Calvinist to a staunch Arminian and Methodist, "May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you for ever." Thank you.

4.19 pm
Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

If I may cause our proceedings slight delay, To thank you for the things you do In helping out the the IPU"—

Mr. Arthur Bottomley (Middlesbrough)

And the CPA.

Mr. Page

When Outward delegations went to Lima, Cairo or Tashkent, You never failed to take the Chair, Adjudging with the greatest care Which members from those who applied Should go or should be set aside.

Disappointed chaps were cowed To know by whom they weren't allowed, When Inward delegations came They were invited in your name And said the part they liked the most Was dining with you as their host.

In Speaker's House they grandly sit, Responding to your charm and wit.

And when at last they travelled from us, Like us they praise our Speaker Thomas.

4.20 pm
Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

As Father of the House, Mr. Speaker, I wish to say on behalf of all Back Benchers how much we have appreciated your position as Speaker. I have been here for 48 years, and there have been seven Speakers and 11 Prime Ministers during that time. It is worth remembering that Speakerships tend to last longer than Prime Ministerships. You have always been considerate to each Member, Mr. Speaker, but at the same time you have maintained law and order.

I remember the first Speaker in my time, Captain Fitzroy. He was definitely a bit of a tartar. He disliked new young Members. When he was in the Chair, if someone spoke for too long he banged his hand on the side of his Chair. The longer the Member continued to speak, the more vigorously he hit the Chair. Everyone saw that except, unfortunately, the Member who was speaking, who was not deterred. Captain Fitzroy took a firm revenge and did not call that Member for a long time.

Captain Fitzroy once told me that, as a descendant of Nell Gwynne and Charles II, the most embarrassing thing that he had had to do in the House was to announce the abdication of Edward VIII. He found that awkward and embarrassing.

The House has very much appreciated your period in office, Mr. Speaker. We wish you every good luck. It has been a memorable Speakership—the most memorable of the past 50 years. We congratulate you on that and hope that you will have a happy retirement.

Mr. Speaker

I shall content myself with saying "Thank you".

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That the thanks of this House be given to the Right honourable George Thomas for the great distinction with which he has upheld the traditions of the Speakership during the past seven years; that he be assured that his unfailing fairness, personal kindness and dedication to the House have earned him its respect and affection; and that all Members unite in wishing him every happiness in his retirement.

Mr. Speaker

Tomorrow morning, after we take Prayers, I shall suspend the Sitting for long enough to shake by the hand those hon. Members who are present. I shall then take my farewell of this Chamber for the last time. The Deputy Speakers will continue with the day's business.