By Jonathan Isaby
Last night saw an historic moment in the Commons – the first debate initiated by the newly-created Backbench Business Committee. The motion commended the Speaker for reasserting that Ministers should make important statements first to the Commons chamber and reiterated the importance of Ministers doing so if backbenchers are to properly hold the Government to account.
In rising to deliver his maiden speech, Glyn Davies began by explaining why he is one of the last few of the new Conservative MPs to make his maiden speech (by my calculation, six of the 146 are still to do so – Fiona Bruce, Jonathan Lord, Stephen Metcalfe, Priti Patel, Dan Poulter and Julian Smith).
“First, I must say that I am very relieved that I managed to arrive here to make my maiden speech without incurring any serious injury. The first time I sought to catch your eye, Mr Speaker, was during the Queen’s Speech debate. I moved on quickly, however, because my hon. Friend the Member for Shrewsbury and Atcham (Daniel Kawczynski) had secured a debate in Westminster Hall on an issue of interest to me, and I quickly wrote to tell you, Mr Speaker, that I would like to speak in it, but then, unfortunately, my hon. Friend had to go to hospital for a couple of weeks. I hope that that was not a result of my desire to speak, but I suspect that it might have been because a fortnight later I asked if I could speak in the debate on the emergency Budget only then to finish up in hospital myself for a week. I am relieved to arrive here undamaged on this occasion, therefore.”
He paid tribute to a number of his predecessors as MP for his home seat of Montgomeryshire in mid Wales, not least his immediate predecessor, Lembit Öpik:
“He was a man of great talent in many, many areas of activity—and I must say that in some areas he achieved a level of excellence that I am sure I will not be able to match. He served his constituents very well, however, and I wish him well in his new chosen careers.”
And on the topic of the debate in question, he enlarged upon the “great thrill” of being part of what happens in the Chamber and its importance in British democracy:
“Since I have been here, we have seen some amazing things happen. We have seen two of the great parties of Britain come together to form a dynamic coalition, rising phoenix-like from the ashes and smouldering embers of the Labour party—I am sure that it will be able to recover. It was a dramatic event to have been here in the presence of and to have witnessed.
“I sat at the back of this Chamber watching and listening to the statement on the Saville inquiry. I was in some sort of enrapture, because it was a most wonderful occasion. I am certain that it was the sheer power of the words and the speeches that brought that hugely damaging issue to a conclusion that is to the benefit of us all. The reputation and presence of this House, and its historical context in which we speak, helped to solve what was a dreadful scar on our history.
“This is a very special place, and I think we probably all know that. Several Members, including the hon. Member for Ealing North (Stephen Pound), who spoke before me, have made reference to the issue of where we go from here. Dealing with that is the next step, because there is general agreement across the whole House that there is an issue that we need to address. I must say that I think it is a matter for the Procedure Committee. We must await its response and take what it says seriously, because dealing with this matter is complex.
“There is a temptation for us to move into the realms of various punishments, but I am not going to do that. What I will say—this is the only comment that I wish to make on this matter—is that to be asked to apologise in this House for committing something that we all consider to be a serious misdemeanour is a serious punishment. If I ever became a Minister and such a punishment was visited on me, I would consider that to be a huge blow. All the other punishments would be small in comparison with the damage I would feel to my reputation if that happened. So I do not think that we should underplay this.
“I have come to this House to represent the people of Montgomeryshire and my constituency, and to represent Wales, the nation that I love. I have come here to do what I can to protect and enhance the reputation of this House. Contributing to this debate and supporting the intention espoused so eloquently by my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) at its outset is what I really want to do.”