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Volume 622: debated on Monday 27 February 2017

[Mr Speaker in the Chair]

Business Before Questions

Death of a Member (Father of the House)

It is with great sadness that I have to report to the House the death of the right hon. Sir Gerald Kaufman, Labour Member of Parliament for Manchester Gorton. He will be sorely missed by his relatives, by his friends, by his constituents and by his parliamentary colleagues, not to mention very large numbers of people across this country and around the world.

Colleagues, before Gerald entered Parliament, and after leaving Leeds Grammar School and Oxford University, Gerald worked as assistant general secretary of the Fabian Society and subsequently as a journalist on the Daily Mirror and for the New Statesman. Thereafter, he was parliamentary press liaison officer for the Labour party, working closely with Harold Wilson.

He entered this House, as colleagues will know, in June 1970, as the Member of Parliament for Manchester, Ardwick, which constituency he represented until 1983. Thereafter, and following boundary changes, he represented Manchester Gorton from 1983 without interruption. He was, as we know, the Father of the House. He served in this place diligently, with principle and utter dedication, for well over 46 years.

Under Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan, Gerald served as a Minister with responsibility for the environment and subsequently with responsibility for industry. In opposition, he was a long-serving and distinguished member of Labour’s shadow Cabinet, serving as shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, as shadow Home Secretary and, indeed, as shadow Foreign Secretary. Many people will know that he was a prolific writer and the author of several books, not least, and perhaps most memorably, a book entitled “How to be a Minister”.

After he ceased to serve on the Front Bench, Gerald chaired, initially, the Select Committee on National Heritage for, if memory serves, a full Parliament, and then, when the Committee took its new form—the Culture, Media and Sport Committee—Gerald chaired that Committee for two whole Parliaments.

Since 2010, Gerald has been the longest serving Labour Member of Parliament, and since 2015 he has, of course, been Father of the House. In more recent years, I have been privileged to be supported by Gerald on the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, of which he was, if I can put it this way, a highly distinguished ornament.

Gerald was, of course, a passionate, eloquent, relentless, indefatigable campaigner for social justice at home and abroad. I will not pretend that he was always the easiest of colleagues. If you were lauded or praised by Gerald, you doubtless took delight in the experience; if you were attacked or denounced by Sir Gerald, you could be in no doubt on the matter. But there was that fidelity to principle, that commitment to causes and that insistence on doing his duty by his constituents, by his party and by his country.

Gerald will be mourned very widely indeed, and in expressing, I hope on behalf of the House, our condolences to his relatives and friends, I should perhaps just take this opportunity to say to the House that colleagues will have a chance to pay tribute to Sir Gerald later this week.