New Forest East



Dr Julian Lewis: As I have listened to the successive tributes, I have been looking at my page of notes of all the things that I wanted to say in order to show appreciation for everything that Rose has brought to this place during her years of service here, and I have been having to cross them off one after another, because the heartfelt speeches so far have really encapsulated everything. But, as we know, Mr Speaker, in politics, everything may already have been said, but the show is not over until everyone has said it.

I wish to try to say something that has not been said explicitly from a slightly unusual perspective in this context. What I mean is that most of the tributes that have been made so far have clearly come from people blessed with deep religious belief, but, sadly, I am not such a person, having had my religious belief holed below the waterline when I read too much for someone at a young age of some of the things that had happened in British and European history in the first half of the 20th century.

If, as some people say, religion is irrational, then also agnosticism can be irrational, too. What do I mean by that? I mean that somebody who does not have a particular religious belief is nevertheless hugely touched and impressed by those people who do, and particularly by those people who do and who put it into practice by praying on one’s behalf. At the risk of slightly embarrassing him, and I suspect that he will be the next to be called, the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) has a habit of sending little notes to colleagues on the eve of elections – [Interruption.]

Mr Speaker: Order. I know that the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) would want to hear this. The right hon. Gentleman is referring to him and I am sure that he will want to hear it.

Dr Lewis: As I was in mid-sentence saying, the hon. Gentleman has a wonderful habit of sending little notes to colleagues at election time and at other times when he thinks that they may need a little bit of encouragement saying, without any sort of patronising air, but with an air of true Christian love, that he is praying for them and their welfare. As someone who is not blessed with deep religious faith, I know how much I deeply appreciate that, and that is, I am sure, one of the reasons why he, irrespective of politics, is loved and respected in all parts of this Chamber. Rose Hudson-Wilkin falls into, from my perspective, exactly the same character. It must have been very daunting for her to descend into this pit of monstrous egos, but she carried it off tremendously. She has never talked down to us or scolded us. She has gently guided us. As has been said, she has given hints through the choice of appropriate prayers and appropriate language, and through the putting forward of a philosophy of righteousness, encouragement and love from which we all have benefited, whether we are religious, whether we have faith or whether we lack it. For that and for her kindness to all who work in this place, I thank her.

Jim Shannon: It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Dr Lewis). He has come through a hard time in relation ​to health. As I was aware of that, I made it my business to hold him very much in my prayers, as I do many people in this House – not that anyone will know, because our prayers are private. The right hon. Gentleman does know that, however, because I spoke to him about it. ...