James Heappey Excerpts
Friday 24th May 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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James Heappey Portrait James Heappey (Wells) (Con)
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I rise to speak briefly on sanctions, but before I do so, I congratulate the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Chris Webb) on an excellent maiden speech. It is my privilege to give my final speech on the back of such a brilliant first speech. Although I am sure that those in Conservative central office will have other ideas, I hope it is the first of many speeches he gives in this House.

This place matters in terms of the way the UK competes with our adversaries and those who challenge us all around the world. It is not just what the Government do through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, our embassies and other Departments. It is important that Parliament shows its resolve. As any colleague in the House who has had the pleasure of travelling to do the Government’s business overseas will know, we are routinely beaten up by Ministers in foreign countries for things that are said on these Benches. Therefore, the resolve of the House to give resolute support to the Government of the day on our foreign policy is enormously important. We do that through not just the employment of our military, with whom it has been my great pleasure to work during the past four years, but the way we pull all the levers of government to achieve effect, through both hard and soft power, all around the world. Therefore, at the back end of this Parliament, these are important measures before us today and it is right that they are being put through with cross-party consensus.

My personal circumstances mean that I cannot be here later today, Mr Speaker, so I hope you will indulge me if I say one or two quick thank yous as I draw my parliamentary account to a close. As I segue from the strategic and the international, I wish, first, to thank all of those ministerial colleagues with whom I have had the pleasure of serving over the past four years, as we have gone through an incredible period of challenge to our nation. I have served alongside many who have made me a better person, through all their expertise and all that they have been able to teach me, but none more so than my right hon. Friend the Member for Wyre and Preston North (Mr Wallace). I have worked alongside him in some of the darkest moments our nation has faced in generations, during the pandemic, the Kabul airlift and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and that will stick with me as one of the proudest times of my life. It was a great honour to serve alongside you, Secretary of State.

I also wish to thank my partner, family and friends, particularly my children, Charlie and Tilly, for all their love and support over the past nine years. I thank my staff, both in my constituency office and here in Westminster. I thank those in the Wells Conservative Association for their support and kindness. I thank my constituents for sending me here; whether or not they voted for me, representing them has been a huge privilege.

As you know well, Mr Speaker, our public discourse is changing for the worse and there is a toxicity to it now that means it requires real bravery to come to sit on these Benches. You have been a great protector of this House and of those who have the courage to sit on these green Benches, to speak up for their opinions and their constituencies, and to try to make a positive difference for those they represent and our country at large. Thank you for your leadership and guidance during this very difficult Parliament. Thank you for all your support—and for the occasional bollocking when I have gone for too long at the Dispatch Box.

I thank all colleagues, on both sides of the House. When we have disagreed, it has always been with courtesy and respect. Not enough people beyond this place see that that is the way the affairs of this House are mostly conducted. Most of all, I wish all good fortune and success to all those who will arrive here in July—in particular, my successor in the new seat of Wells and Mendip Hills—having been returned to represent their communities and to make a difference on behalf of this country, in what will be incredibly challenging times. It has been a great pleasure and a real honour to serve here.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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It is a sad day. I call the Scottish National party spokesperson.