Below is the text of the speech made by Eleanor Laing, the Deputy Speaker, in the House of Commons on 9 May 2019.
In commending the hon. Gentleman’s excellent speech, may I say for the sake of wider consumption and for those who pay attention to our proceedings here that the lack of hon. Members in the Chamber at this particular moment is absolutely no reflection on the way in which this debate is perceived by hon. Members in general?
Listening to the hon. Gentleman, I had a tear in my eye. I remember very well exactly where I was when I heard the news about John Smith. I can confirm what the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) said about the Scottish Conservative party conference, which was immediately suspended on that day. Perhaps I am somewhat biased as a West of Scotland, Church of Scotland, Scots lawyer, albeit a Conservative, in my absolute respect and liking for John Smith. I had the opportunity to speak to him reasonably often, and I held him in the highest regard.
What the hon. Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) said about the lessons we can learn, 25 years on, from the way in which John Smith conducted his political life and political relationships is a very strong message indeed. I simply repeat that the fact there is not a very large number of Members here to reiterate that message does not mean it is not held in very great honour. The memory of John Smith in this place will go on and on.