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Thursday 23rd February 2012 | 21:39
“Yes I am happy to offer thoughts about that. Let me say however, first, that I think that we’ve had more reform in the last three years than there has been in the previous 30. The House, I am delighted to say, is not subsiding any longer. In fact it is probably now capable of an extension and that is a real advance on where we were but three short years ago."
"I think it has been demonstrated pretty conclusively that it is possible for backbenchers to occupy the centre stage in parliamentary life and that didn’t used to be the case, and I think also with reference to UQs, what I would say is that the urgent question really has become the new prime minister’s question because it’s a precious opportunity frankly, pretty much a unique chance, to seize national attention. It existed in the sense that it was part of the arsenal but it was very rarely taken advantage of by members and the evidence shows that it just wasn’t part of the culture of the House: witness the two granted UQS in the 12 months before I took office by comparison with, I think 88, in the 30 months, 32 months whatever, since I took over. That’s the background, but I will answer very specifically those points. What do I think about sitting hours was one? What do I think about September sittings and what about a major item still to be done. Answer as follows.”
“On sitting hours I am fundamentally sympathetic to what I call more family friendly hours and so I’ve made no secret of that fact that it would be more desirable if the house met earlier on a Tuesday and finished earlier. I don’t think parliament is a 9 to 5 and although there may be colleagues who genuinely would prefer a much earlier start and a much earlier finish I don’t have the sense that is likely to be anything like a majority view. I think the main debate on the sitting hours is about Tuesdays, possible people are thinking about a bit earlier on Wednesdays ok, all I would say is I have given you a very honest answer that that is my view but I am the servant of the house as people will be quick to remind me if I don’t make the point myself and wont grumble with whatever the House decides. I am not trying to influence the decision. I’m just trying to do what we’re always accused of not doing which is give a straight answer to a straight question.”
“As to which way it will go I don’t know. The procedure committee is looking at it they will no doubt set out the options and possibly some arguments one way or t’other but ultimately I think members can decide this for themselves and all members will have a view and I’m not sure how influenced they will be by lobbying on one side of the argument or the other but my personal view is that it would be better to have more family friendly hours and I would prefer and earlier start on Tuesday and an earlier finish but if that’s not what the house decides then of course I will accept whatever they decide. As to whether we might start earlier on Wednesday and finish earlier, would I be sanguine about that? I would be entirely sanguine about that. We’ll have to see what happens.”
“On September sittings I remain a firm fan. I haven’t shifted my ground on that in anyway. I understand why some people object they say well, we’re coming back only for a couple of weeks and then going away again, and in the couple of weeks that were back we don’t always have that much substantive business. I think if you look back at last September it was rather more substantive than the previous September. And I think if the argument is that the business isn’t sufficiently substantive…my argument is well, make it more substantive. Surely none of us is seriously saying to the electorate we have nothing useful, worthwhile, important, or urgent to consider. So if it’s simply the programming of the business well perhaps that an argument for improving the scheduling and the thought process that goes into it. I don’t think it’s an argument against meeting in September.”
“As to the argument that says: “well it may well be that for the period we are here we are considerably more substantive business but we are only here for a short period and you know that makes it unsatisfactory my response to that is we shouldn’t let the best be the enemy of the good. I think there is a serious problem of accountability to the electorate on this issue which is why I think I was right to argue for September sittings and I personally think the prime minister was right after the election to decide to re introduce and to stick with September sittings.”
“I do not say that people do not work when they are not here. I do, and I don’t think I am different from or better than my colleagues. The vast majority of colleagues are working when they are not here but this is our main place of work. Most people have an annual holiday entitlement and unless they are taking annual holiday they will ordinarily be at work in September and I think a lot of our electorate think given that the mps finished in the latter part of July why are they not back in their place of work undertaking their scrutiny, standing up for the interests, debating our concerns. In September they should be. And frankly I agree with that.”
“And when people say oh well it is’ only two weeks, well if people will be more sympathetic to September sittings if the sittings were somewhat longer, well I’m entirely up for that. There’s this little matter of the party conferences seems to intrude. Now it may be easier for me to say this now that I am no longer a party member I have never myself found it persuasive that we should up sticks and abandon our main responsibility for which were paid by the taxpayer in order to trog off for week long conferences. If the political parties wanted to stage conferences at weekends perhaps running from a non sitting Friday until the Sunday afternoon they could be perfectly well do so and then it wouldn’t intrude on our professional time when we’re otherwise available to serve our constituents and the country as a whole. Then there are people who say ah yes but these agreements, these contracts with conference centres, you know, ties us down for years, well the answer to that is if ever we are going to change the situation we’ve got to call time on that. Now that isn’t a decision for me, but all I am saying is when people say as though it’s an immutable fact that we meet only for two weeks in September because of the conferences my answer is what is so utterly sacrosanct about these lengthy conferences they could perfectly well take place Friday to Sunday in a very disciplined and business like fashion would that be a change? Yes. Things might be change.”
“Ah. I was coming to that. First of all I think we’re very fortunate to have an exceptionally enlightened leader of the house, and deputy leader of the house, and for that matter shadow leader of the house, and we should as a house exploit that asset. I was very heartened when the leader of the house on at least one occasion reiterated the commitment of the coalition government to the establishment of a House business committee and I think I am right in saying that Sir George, when pressed on this matter either by Mr Bone or Mr Bryant or someone else, acknowledged that the commitment was not to introduce such a business committee three years into the parliament or after three years. The commitment, I think I am right, in saying was to do so in the third year. Forgive me if you think I am being pedantic, but I don’t think I actually am being pedantic, it is a bit of a difference. The commitment isn’t that it will happen from May 2012 onwards, that isn’t the commitment. The commitment is to do so between May 12 and May 13. I think that’s actually more than just a minor difference. It’s quite an important difference and Sir George to his credit has acknowledged that. He and David Heath have said again under questioning that the commitments stands and so I am naturally taking at face value the very explicit commitment that they have made and my view about it is that if the House means business that must mean a House business committee. Any self respecting football club would expect to control its own fixture list and given that the House is the cockpit of our democracy it ought surely to have a major say in what it debates, when and for how long.”
“First of all I think it would say that Mr Bone has championed it with some vigour. If you listened to business questions you would have heard him talk about it. I think I am right in saying Chris Bryant has mentioned it several times. I mention those two names not obviously entirely at random and I think you will find also that there are other members who feel strongly about it. I mention in passing Bernard Jenkin, [he] is one colleague I know who feels strongly about it and I think there are several others. In the name of equality treatment between the three biggest parties I was just trying to think off the top off my head which of the Liberal Democrats is pursuing it with particular vigour. It used to be Evan Harris, I can’t recall off the top of my head but I am sure they are Liberal Democrat members who are supportive of it. Jo Swinson for example is a keen support of parliamentary reform. Whether it’s one of her priorities, I don’t know. I think several members have mentioned it. I think what I would add is that I myself will be devoting a whole speech to the matter on Thursday night. [It’s] not the only, but perhaps the single biggest item of unfinished business.”
“I think the question of who chairs it is important. There is scope for a number of different views about who should best chair it and whether that person should be appointed or potentially elected. My own view is that it would be a good thing if, for example, it were chaired by the senior deputy speaker, the chairman of the ways and means, in this case Lindsay Hoyle. I think there is a lot to be said for that. I don’t think anybody is seriously have to say that I don’t think that it’s really the right thing, pressing me to chair it, and I wouldn’t be looking to chair it either. I think from time to time there would probably be controversies of one sought or another. On the whole it’s probably something that the speaker shouldn’t chair and I’m certainly not bidding to do so in anyway.”
“In fact I am very specifically saying that if pressed as to a preference yes it would be preferable to be chaired by a backbencher and I’ve given you the office holder of who I think would be best equipped. I think it is characteristically self effacing of Natascha Engel to eschew the idea that she should chair it. Would she be capable of doing so? She would, she’d be perfectly capable. But of course she does chair the backbench business committee as you’ve said…. I believe that the, as I argue in the speech, the Backbench business committee and the hopefully to be established House business committee should not be conflated. I do not myself believe for one moment that the backbench business committee should be merged into and dare I say it absorbed by a house business committee. There may be some people who would think it a most splendid idea to absorb the backbench business committee into a house business committee. The idea occurs to me that that might have the effect, dare I say it of suffocating, extinguishing the life of spirit of the BBBC, but I am sure that no honourable or right honourable member would entertain such an unworthy objective. It could be an inadvertent and unfortunate consequence of said merger and I am against it.”
“Well, I was candid about the fact that I was very displeased by the leaking and organised systematic public commentary on the autumn statement. It wasn’t even so much in the sense that it was leaked. It was the fact that it almost appeared to have been released to the media on an organised basis and whether that is so or not, clearly an interview cannot be an unorganised affair. Interviews which ministers did about it were clearly prepared, booked, agreed to, advertised, and I was very unhappy about that. Just before Christmas when I was talking to Keith Mcdougal on BBC Parliament I made it clear that I thought apart from anything else it was worth running the autumn statement exchanges very fully so that I could established whether the chancellor of the exchequer had anything to say inside the chamber that he hadn’t already said outside it. So yeah, I have been petty blunt about that.”
“As far as prime minister’s questions is concerned, I haven’t a deliberate policy of running PMQS longer than half an hour. You’re quite right, you may so you enjoy it, it is allocated 30 minutes of house time but I think there are a couple of caveats to that. If for example the prime minister has a relevant announcement to make at the start and let’s be absolutely clear I am not in any way shape or from criticising the prime minister for doing so, some allowance, in my opinion, and ultimately it does fall to me to make a judgment, should be made for that. If it’s because he is referring to the tragic loss of life of our service mean or he is paying tribute to her majesty or for whatever other reason I think its absolutely right the prime minister should do that and highly honourable and laudatory that he should but I don’t think it should come out of the half an hour and I think that if there is a lot of noise that can eat in to the time.”
“The thing is of course, can differ about that. People could say ‘oh well if you’re just going to extend it that will encourage people to make noise’. I don’t think some of my colleagues sometimes require much encouragement to make noise but equally there are colleagues who are not making noise, and there are colleagues who are on the order paper and quite low down, who cannot be reached. They can’t be reached if it involves going to 12:45 or anywhere near 12:45, but if by extending it just a little bit in the light of possibly something that has been said at the start that’s taken up a few seconds and in the light of noise by other members who let’s face it are not try to ask a question, but if by just being a little bit flexible I can allow somebody at the end to get it then I think that from time to time I might want to do so.”
“The last point I would make is that on the whole we do make much more progress now but if answers are very comprehensive, you know, I am sure the house in many ways would welcome that, but it would be a pity if the comprehensiveness of the answers caused a colleague who might otherwise to be reached not to be reached.”
“If enough members wanted to look at it I am certainly not going to object or to try to impose my view. I think that would be wrong. I think I should be open-minded. If you asked me the question in a different way, I am trying to give you the full picture, if you asked me do I think that the way in which we conduct prayers is reasonable and generally popular the answer is I do, if you ask me do I find it an enjoyable start to the Parliamentary day, I do, if you ask me do I think that having a speaker’s chaplain, and in particular having this speakers chaplain, is a positive for the House, I absolutely do. I think Rose is brimming with charm, warmth and empathy and is a very popular figure and does it very well and does the pastoral work very well. I know you’re not asking about that but that is part of the speaker’s chaplain’s role and I think all of those things are very positive.”
“Personally I admit I would prefer to keep it as it is. Yes, I am reformer, but just because you are a reformer doesn’t mean you have to change everything, and in many ways I believe in changing in order to, to make the House stronger, I don’t myself think that for example getting rid of prayers would in any way make the House any stronger. You could ask, and you rightly say, we’re not bound by the courts on this, and the National Secular Society won’t have any impact as far as I can see on what we in the house do and no should it, is it in anyway discriminatory to go back to this point about whether prayers are before or after the start of official business, you can argue the toss on this, the prayers that we have in the house are before the start of our main business, no significant item of, no item of business takes place before prayers at all, they are not compulsory, nobody has to come along if they don’t want to do so.”
“Somebody made the point, I am being quite anorakish about this but I am trying to be fair and give you an honest response, a member of the audience raised the point on Any Answers on the Saturday, somebody phoned up and said it wasn’t true to say that it was non discriminatory, the way the House of Commons did it was discriminatory because by going to prayers people put in a prayer card and book their seat and if they don’t put in prayer card or if they put in a prayer card and don’t turn up for prayers they have not got a seat booked and therefore they lose out compared to members who have turned up for prayers. I think if I may say so that’s one of those situations where technically he has got a point but I think in practice it isn’t remotely a problem.”
“There are two days a year at most, in fact it hasn’t applied since May 2010 because we haven’t had a queen speech since then, on the day of the Queen’s Speech, the House is usually packed and on the day of the budget the house is usually packed, and if you haven’t put in a prayer card but still wanted to sit down at the start for the prime minister’s speech or the leader of the opposition’s speech on the day of the budget, for the budget statement, you might struggle to find a seat, but would you be prevented from speaking? Well no, because the chancellor’s budget statement is a statement and not a speech so it’s not interrupted. On the day of the queen’s speech theoretically there could be a member who was keen to intervene on the prime minister in the opening speech and therefore would like to be firmly within the boundaries of the chamber but didn’t want to come to prayers to put in a prayer card, there are quite a lot of ifs here. I suppose what I’m saying is theoretically, you know, there is a grounds for criticism but I think there should be a degree of reason, balance, and common sense. If my colleagues feel strongly about it, am I, because of some strong religiosity or personal dogmatism, because I like it, am I going to be awkward about it? No.”
“I know people don’t think of me as a very modest chap. And I don’t think I’ll ever win a reputation for being very modest. And there’s no point in me taking the Hercule Poirot approach: “I will exceed all other people in my humbleness”. I don’t think that’s a very good way of approaching it. I’m never going to persuade you that I’m a humble person. But I’m not actually a particularly dogmatic person and I am conscious that I am here to serve the House not to try to rule over it, but when we were asked for a reaction.... I gave a reaction.”
“[I was] extremely displeased. I was horrified by it. One of the things you find in any large organisation is however much you feel you are basically au fait with most of the major issues in your place of work there are always things of which you are unaware. And of course a really severe critic could say well, you know, disgrace, he shouldn’t be unaware he ought to have known. Well maybe, in which case I hold up my hands, then maybe I should have been….. I wasn’t, frankly. I had no my idea of the cost the house had been incurring.”
“Apparently the contract was done I think it was 2000, so it goes back a long time, and obviously that was nothing to do with me, but the issue remains live because as I understand it we’re still incurring on the contract an annual cost of about £30000. You’re asking me if I was pleased or displeased about it. Displeased. I regard it as an absolutely exorbitant cost. I would like to see something done about it. I am open minded about the merit or otherwise or having trees. I’m sorry, in the media I know you like to deal in black and white and I have given you some black and white answers, on trees you know I am relatively agnostic about it. Am I massively pro–tree? Would it matter to me particularly if we didn’t have trees there? No, it wouldn’t particularly matter to me. There may be colleagues who feel otherwise. There are people who say it is a part of a very pleasant environment and it probably has some beneficial effect in terms of minimising or calibrating noise levels and so on. That may well be true. But you know, things at a cost may be worth preserving but I think this is an exorbitant and horrific cost.”
“The reason I am sorry about it, there’s no point getting angry about it, there’s a point in trying to sort it out, is that I think that although people can laugh about it and say ‘ho ho’, there will be members of the public out there, and I think probably quite lot, who are not taking notice of all the good work of the backbench business committee or the plans for the house business committee, or of the incidence of urgent questions but who will have noticed the story of the house of commons trees and inevitably and understandably it will cause people out there to think these people are living in another universe… you know, I’ve cut down on buying flowers in our home because of budgetary restraints, well I no longer buy flowers other than on special occasions…these people have got trees in their work place and they’re nearly spending £30000 a year on them.”
“You’ve asked me if something should be done about it. The honest answer is the contract should absolutely be revisited. It’s not for me now to say you know exactly what the outcome will be and I think I could be criticised by relevant committees of the house if I tried to preordain what the outcome is, but if you ask me does it particularly matter to me that we have tress in the House, no it doesn’t, do I feel strongly that we definitely shouldn’t, no, but if we are going to have trees they absolutely shouldn’t be trees that cause us to fleece the taxpayer in this way and that must change at the earliest opportunity, and when I say earliest opportunity I do mean earliest opportunity to change the contract. I hope the media, I don’t hold out any great hope, but I hope the media will be reasonable about that. You know, if there is a contract and it’s going to cost us more to get out of it immediately then it may well have to wait until I think it’s September, but should the present arrangement continue beyond September. I think I can give you a straight answer – my opinion: absolutely not.”
“An unpredictable House is a more effective House. It’s a good thing if perhaps the Government cannot always tell what is going to happen next.”
COMMERCIALISING THE COMMONS
“I’m open to some of it because I do think we should try to improve our revenue raising. But I’m a little anxious about some of what I read. By all means let’s look to increase revenue and I’m not very sympathetic when people say we shouldn’t be selling more gift items on the premises or having a shop outside the House where House items can be sold. The argument there is they’re selling pap.
“If we don’t open up to anything then they will say ‘pompous, self-important Members of Parliament think they shouldn’t do what most institutions, the National Trust and the Royal Family, Buckingham Palace, they’re doing it. What a disgrace’.
“On the other hand if we open up fully and sell what some people, the snobbish element of the media will be very sniffy and say 'It’s all very down market why are they doing this?'
“My point, and it’s nothing to do with being sniffy or snobby, is I’m a little anxious about the idea that large corporates should buy their way into the House. I’m uncomfortable with that. I just feel we’ve got to be careful.
“Do I have a rooted objection to changing anything, to having displays or exhibitions in Westminster Hall or whatever? No not necessarily at all, I think we should take an open minded look at these issues and look at what we might do and what it might yield. We could hire out Westminster Hall for weddings but I’ve got some unease about that. Relatively prosperous people could spend quite a lot of money on having a wedding here even though they’ve got no connection with the House. Would I like the idea of large companies thinking 'well lets have our annual dinner in Westminster Hall'? There are concerns about companies buying their way in.”
COMMONS SECURITY POST-MURDOCH PIE
“I think that some lessons have been learnt. In relation to that particular incident I think it’s true to say that lessons have been learnt about the security presence and policing within the room and about the arrangements for visitors to the room. So for example, on the occasion of the Rupert Murdoch appearance I think there was a concern that the police were situated some distance away from where there turned out to be trouble and that wasn’t ideal. Although there was much focus on the fact of the pie in theory at least it could have been no pie and no offensive weapon at all. It could simply have been the individual concerned physically lashing out with his own fist at Rupert Murdoch.
“One thing that can be considered and it should be considered on a case by case basis. Is the configuration of the room. First of all in the sense that there is some argument for saying that people should be a bit further back, a buffer zone, a bit like in Westminster Hall. One could argue that the gap where the public are sitting and where prominent witnesses are sitting should be larger. There is some argument saying, I’m not sure this would be altogether popular with my Parliamentary colleagues, that in a situation of that kind it would have been better to have had the public seated behind the chairman of the committee than behind the prominent witness. Because with no disrespect to John Whittingdale, I think he would accept that he would be a less likely target for a protestor than the controversial and extremely famous witness.
“Whether a Select Committee chairman would want a potentially excited or aggrieved audience sitting behind him or her is another matter but I think there is some argument for that. I also think there is a very good argument for saying either bags should be checked again before they go into the committee room or and I would say this is preferable, bags should be left outside or better still they should be put in a neighbouring room. Why do members of the public need to be accompanied by bags in a situation like that?
“We do have to have a calibrated approach to risk. I understand the general argument that says we seek to treat people equally but that doesn’t necessarily mean all people being treated the same. If for example there is a witness from Oxfam that witness is a million times less likely to be attacked than a hugely powerful and controversial media mogul. I think the lesson we can learn is that..we can improve the attention we give to the question of how the room is configured and made safe once the session gets underway. It should be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”
WOULD YOU STAND AS SPEAKER IN 2015?
“Yes. I always said that I would do nine years and I wouldn’t expect to do more than nine years. Now if we get to the end of this Parliament, I will have done six and I would hope and expect to do the bulk of the next Parliament.
“I wouldn’t be tempted to go on and on. I highlighted the fact that Speaker Onslow had served more than 30 years, he served from 1727 to 1761 and I said there is no danger of that in my case.”
“I think it’s a mistake to try and overdo it.
“One member who is moderately supportive of me said to me the other day: 'can I appeal to you that you should go during and not at the end of a Parliament?'
“There are colleagues who say it is unfair to expect new members at the start of a Parliament who realistically don’t know the candidates for Speaker to judge. Do I think automatically the argument is for [a new Speaker in] either 2015 or 2020? No I don’t think that follows at all. I think there are different models.
“I like and respect the overwhelming majority of my colleagues and the evidence will show that I do treat colleagues fairly. I think the overwhelming majority of my colleagues can see that I’m conscientiously trying to do what’s right and fair by backbenchers. If there are particularly colleagues who harbour grudges or hold an ill opinion of me that’s absolutely their prerogative. If over a period some of the people who have been very critical actually start to think again…
“It’s a matter of fact that Mark Pritchard and I have clashed in the past. Mark Pritchard has quite openly said that he thinks I do the right thing by backbenchers, he’s very supportive and I know of a number of other people in that category. If there are other people who are still hostile or critical, for whatever reason they never wanted me to be Speaker, not the right sort of chap, whatever, they are perfectly entitled to their views.”
WOULD YOU ACCEPT A PEERAGE?
“I’ve no idea what’s going to happen in the future. I’m simply not going to get into that.”
"Andrew Adonis made the announcement in March 2010, but we remain on very friendly terms. It was a most unwelcome announcement as far as I was concerned and as far as all the Buckinghamshire MPs and a great many others were concerned.
“A backbencher can raise the issue on the floor of the House, at Question Time in debates, by presenting petitions, by tabling motions etcetera. Obviously David Lidington, Cheryl Gillan and Dominic Grieve and I are in a different category. Has that prevented me making the case for my constituents against HS2? No, it hasn’t done.. I like they make representations to ministers in correspondence. I’m seeing Justine Greening very shortly to discuss the issues further. Although people say aren’t you constrained in your ability to represent us, I have simply to explain my situation is analogous to a minister. What is more I can speak publicly about HS2 and have done at innumerable public meetings. What I think is seemly and proper is for the Speaker to judge in what forum it is appropriate to speak out. Public meeting in my constituency, yes, meeting with the minister, yes.”
THE 'DING DONG' OVER SALLY'S APPEARANCE ON CELEBRITY BIG BROTHER
“We had a candid exchange of views on the merits of her participating in that programme. But in the end it was her choice and I do respect the fact that it was her right to choose.”
“I’m not going to be a hypocrite about it and say that I was in favour of her taking part. I felt that the programme was not a high quality programme and I did feel, Richard Desmond will not be surprised to hear me say this, that if he wanted to give money to her and indeed my favourite charity, Ambitious About Autism, it was perfectly open for him to do so without her going on the programme. And I thought that it was not necessary or desirable for her to go on it. But in the end she decided she wanted to do so and I did respect her decision about it. If you’re asking ‘is it still the source of argument or consternation between us?’, I can honestly say to you it isn’t. I do stand by my view on this matter which is that we are independent of each other. Yes we are married to each other and people will always comment on that fact. But she is not my chattel and she is free to make her own choices.
“I once got a letter from a member of the public who described herself as a citizen and taxpayer of the United Kingdom, who wrote to say she was appalled by Sally’s – I hasten to add we have had some very friendly letters saying ‘keep going, you’re a breath of fresh, your wife’s absolutely right to do as she wishes – but this woman wrote to say ‘what a disgrace’ and ‘there was a time I would remind you Mr Bercow when it was assumed that the views of a wife were those of her husband. It would perhaps be desirable (it was a very pompously written letter) if we were to return to that situation’. I honestly thought it was almost a spoof.”
THE SALLY MET PADDY DOHERTY PROGRAMME
“I’m very relaxed about it. I met him at a charity dinner in London. She likes Paddy, she thinks Paddy’s a nice guy and she gets on well with him and his wife. Is it qualitatively in a different category I think it is actually. I think that When Paddy Met Sally is a rather better programme. I think a lot of the media are not really terribly interested in this."
HIS MEDIA CRITICS
"There are one or two prominent snobs and bigots who are really operating at the light entertainment end of the market, they’re not what you’d call serious political journalists, they probably think they are but they are not serious commentators. So obviously the bigot faction is out there in the media and no doubt it will stay.
“In the end, they won’t see it like this. They simply don’t matter.”
Asked if he’s referring to Quentin Letts, the Daily Mail sketchwriter who has been scathing about the Speaker, he gives the mock reply: “Who?”
“They’re scribbling away their verbal banalities and breathtaking insignificance. Intellectually there’s no weight, politically they are not particularly savvy. They scribble away and the world goes on. I’m very happy. I’m sorry if it makes them unhappy that I’m happy but I’m very happy. I have no plans to die tomorrow but if I die tomorrow I will die a very happy man. I feel I’m very lucky. There’s no point in worrying about things you can’t influence.
“One thing that all of us in politics have got to accept is that on the whole it is much better to have a free media than not. The alternatives are in my view unthinkable. We maybe need a better, voluntary, self-regulation scheme, but on the whole it is better to have the media we have got than a state controlled media without a shadow of a doubt.”
SALLY'S CLAIM THAT THE NUMBER OF WOMEN HITTING ON HIM HAS RISEN DRAMATICALLY SINCE HE BECAME SPEAKER:
“I have not noticed any such thing, not as far as I am aware. I have not looked for it and wouldn’t want it and I love my wife very much. And I have never looked at another woman since I’ve been married to Sally.”
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