I hope that my right honourable and honourable friends will bear with me during this personal statement. It’s been a few years since I’ve made a speech in this chamber and I’m sad to say that this is the speech. As many of you will know, following recent allegations I was charged with alleged offences yesterday.
I now have the opportunity to robustly defend my innocence and seek acquittal. I have therefore decided that the best course of action is for me to the back benches and this a decision that I have made myself after careful consideration.
I did not have the Conservative whip as Deputy Speaker, and I am not seeking its return until after the conclusion of events. I will sit as an independent member of parliament for the Ribble Valley.
It was one of the happiest days of my life when I was elected Deputy Speaker in 2010. It was an endorsement of my abilities to do the job by my colleagues, and for that I am grateful.
Since these allegations I’ve not been able to fully fulfil my duties in the chair, which left me in a land of limbo. None of us were elected to the fine office of Member of Parliament to be put in that invidious position, unable to fulfil the reason we were sent here.
I am so grateful to the Speaker and to the two other Deputy Speakers, the Right Honourable member for Chorley, and the Right Honourable member for Bristol South for the unstinting support they have given me over the three years, but particularly since May 4th, in filling in for me on my chair duties.
When I told the member for Bristol South on Saturday my decision, I even got a hug from her. Thank you, Dawn. I have had so many hugs, prayers and good wishes since May 4th and I would like to thank everyone who has shown me such compassionate consideration: my family particularly: my association, who have been marvellous: and even seasoned, crusty journalists have displayed a heart which I had never before witnessed. You know who you are.
I was told I will soon see who my real friends are, and that has been true, but the truth is there have been so many of them, so thank-you to my dearest loyal friends, including loyal members of my staff at Westminster and the Ribble Valley. And to you, my colleagues on all sides of the House who have spoken with me, looked after me and just shown loving attention.
Party divisions can disappear at times like this, and they have, so thank you.
Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Speaker’s chaplain, and Andrew Tremlett, the canon of Westminster Abbey have given me superb spiritual guidance which has given me the one thing that everyone in this world needs alongside air, water and food, and that is hope.
Hope is that essential key to giving us a fulfilled life and they have ensured that I have retained my hope. This is clearly the most painful thing that I have endured in my life alongside the loss of my mother in 2009, and the loss of my brother earlier this year.
Winston Churchill said ‘when you’re going through hell, keep going’. Sage advice, and so I will see this through to the end, with the support of people who mean so much to me.
Returning to the back-benches gives me the opportunity to speak out on issues such as the overbuilding of new homes in the Ribble Valley, theats to the Sladeburn doctors’ surgery and cuts to rural bus services, and so many other issues. It’s the bread-and-butter of politics;. giving support to the people who put me in the mother of Parliaments, my home for the last 21 years, and a place that has meant so much to me.
I am proud to serve the people of the Ribble Valley, and the best tribute that I can give them now is to get on with the job that they sent me here to do.
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