Jamie Stone – 2022 Speech on the Resignation of Lord Geidt

The speech made by Jamie Stone, the Liberal Democrat MP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, in the House of Commons on 21 June 2022.

May I say at the outset that Lord Geidt is a personal friend of my family? I do not wish to go any further than that, other than to say that I should like, along with everyone else here, to express my thanks for all that he has done.

What is at stake here, as the hon. Member for Thurrock (Jackie Doyle-Price) admirably hinted, is the issue of trust, and I want to give an example of how this works in practice. My predecessor bar two was Robert Maclennan. Bob was first elected in 1966 with a majority of 64 votes. After that, as the elections went by, he increased his majority and stayed as the Member for Caithness and Sutherland and latterly for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross until he retired. What is interesting about Bob’s career is that he changed party twice. He was elected as a Labour Member in 1966. He was then a founding member of the Social Democratic party and was one of the few SDP Members to hold his seat in 1983. He subsequently joined the Liberal Democrats, and that was what he was when he retired. That is most unusual for a politician, but the reason he held his seat was that he was trusted. He was known to be a man of integrity, decency, kindness and diligence. So, trust is crucial in what we are talking about this evening.

We describe ourselves with pride as the mother of Parliaments, but when I have talked to people in my constituency in the last few weeks, they have said, “Can you trust anything that is said in that place? How do you feel about it?” That saddens me greatly, because if we are to be the mother of Parliaments, and if we are to stand up for democracy across the world, we need to know that we do things absolutely by the book and with absolute integrity. If there is any hint that we do not, that damages the reputation of this place, and I regret that massively. I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyle), who is no longer in his place. He also came to the nub of the issue when he said that this is about trust and about being seen to do things properly.

If I were to find myself in deep trouble and in a court of law, I would have no hesitation in hiring the services of either the Minister or the hon. Member for South Leicestershire (Alberto Costa), because I am certain that those august gentlemen would provide me with a most eloquent defence and probably get me off. But we are being looked at by the general public, and the general public are not fools. They are more than capable of coming to conclusions about people. Is this person—he or she—telling the truth? Is this person to be trusted or not? Let me give the House one good Conservative example of somebody who I believe was trusted: John Major. He was seen to be a straight guy and a straight Prime Minister. So trust is there. What I say to the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General is this: be careful. Be careful about clever arguments. Be careful about the use of words that can have all sorts of different meanings, because the British public has no time for that whatsoever.

I agree with other Members. I very much hope and expect that the Minister will clarify exactly what he means about the appointment of a new ethics adviser. That is essential. It sounds a bit apocalyptic but let me say it: I believe the nation is watching right now and at stake is the reputation of this place. If we take it seriously then it matters absolutely not just how we do things or how we are seen by our electorate or the country, but across the world. I await and I hope.