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Speaker’s Statement

Volume 654: debated on Wednesday 13 February 2019

Colleagues, imminently we will come to the motion on the retirement of the Clerk of the House and I will look to the Leader of the House to move the motion of congratulation to Sir David Natzler. Just before I do, I should like to record my own brief tribute.

People across the House will know that David Natzler has served without interruption in this House for over four decades. If memory serves me correctly, he began in our service in 1975. That service has been unstinting, selfless, formidable and, I think and hope all would agree, quite exceptional. Blessed with a brilliant brain, an understated manner, unfailing courtesy, and an absolute and undiluted passion for Parliament, he has given both of his skills and of his endeavours throughout his time here in a manner which I think is universally appreciated. I mention that he has served for over four decades. My own experience of him, I confess, dates back only just over two, but I would like to record a couple of relevant facts.

I got to know David when he served as Clerk of the Trade and Industry Select Committee. I was briefly a member of that Committee, from 1998 to 1999, and was on it with the hon. Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham), and indeed, the now right hon. Member for Chorley (Sir Lindsay Hoyle), the Senior Deputy Speaker of this House. The now Chairman of Ways and Means and I, and the hon. Gentleman, worked with and hugely benefited from David Natzler’s expertise—his procedural expertise and his ability to get to grips with the brief of the Committee and to offer us informed and invaluable advice on the vast miscellany of different inquiries that the Committee undertook.

As a Committee, we also travelled with David Natzler. Even if you are travelling somewhere very pleasant and staying in moderately salubrious surroundings, the camaraderie of the group, as I think all colleagues can testify, is important, and part of that is the contribution of our professional staff. David Natzler was a brilliant Clerk of the Committee. I am sure that that will be remembered, too, by its Chair for a decade, the former Member of this House and, between 1997 and 2005, the Member of Parliament for Ochil, now a Member of the other place—namely, Lord O’Neill of Clackmannan, known to many of us as Martin O’Neill. David was superb and he made a big and decisive difference to the operation of the Select Committee.

As Speaker, I have been privileged to know David Natzler in four of the roles that he has discharged for the House—as Clerk of Committees, Clerk of Legislation, Clerk Assistant and, since 2015, as Clerk of the House. As he approaches retirement, he will of course mark four years as Clerk of the House, which is a very normal period to serve as our Clerk, in the final role that a member of the Clerks service discharges to Parliament.

There is much that David has contributed, but I have a sense that he will be particularly proud of the work that he did back in 2009-10 on, and in support of, the Select Committee on Reform of the House of Commons. Colleagues will recall that that Committee was chaired with great skill, courtesy and even-handedness by the former Member of this place for Cannock Chase, Dr Tony Wright.

I do not think I give much away if I say that David Natzler thirsted to clerk that Committee. He knew that it was the will of the House that reforms should be made to the running of this place—not only to the operation of the Chamber, but to the work, remit and manner of composition of our treasured Select Committees. David felt that he could input invaluably to that work, and I hope that colleagues will agree that he most assuredly did. That work had to be discharged, not least because of the proximity of a general election, with considerable dispatch, but with attention to detail and proper discrimination—I use the word “discrimination” in its best sense—between what was important and could not wait and what might be important but could. I think that if Tony Wright were in this Chamber now, he would agree that David Natzler clerked that Committee, to which I remember giving evidence, among many others, brilliantly.

David has been the most assiduous and dedicated servant of the House. He signalled to me, probably a year, if not 18 months ago, his desire to retire around now. I hope that all colleagues will join me—I very much look forward to what the Leader of the House has to say by way of tribute—in wishing Sir David and his wife, Hilary, a very long, rewarding and happy retirement.