It is with deep sadness that I must report to the House the death of the former Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, Charles Kennedy.
Charles represented his constituency, in its various forms, for nearly 32 years. It is, moreover, a matter of record that he led his party, the Liberal Democrats, from 1999 until 2006, achieving the best parliamentary representation of his party in the House of Commons in living memory.
On a personal note, let me say that I was always grateful to Charles for his support, encouragement and co-operation. I think that I carry the House with me in saying that Charles Kennedy was a principled, progressive and passionate politician, and, very importantly, a proud parliamentarian. In an age of pervasive cynicism about politics and politicians, Charles had that rare and uncanny capacity to cut through to large numbers of voters of all political persuasions and of none, right across the country. He was doubtless assisted in that by his obvious sincerity, his relaxed style, and his geniality. I know that he was widely liked and respected in all parts of the House, and he will be sadly missed. I am sure that the House will want to join me in offering heartfelt condolences to his family and friends.
It will be appropriate today for there to be very brief references to Charles, but I hope that the House will more widely take my lead when I say that tomorrow, after Prime Minister’s Question Time, there will be a dedicated session of tributes, when people will be able to say what they think, feel and remember about our departed colleague, Charles Kennedy.