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Points of Order

Volume 654: debated on Monday 18 February 2019

On a point of order, Mr Speaker. Following on from your very warm tribute earlier, which I know has been much appreciated, I wonder whether I might be permitted, as a constituency neighbour, to put on record condolences to Paul Flynn’s wife Sam and family following the very sad news of his death yesterday.

Paul was certainly one of a kind, and it is hard to know how to even begin to describe his contribution in this place and in his beloved city of Newport. His representation of Newport West spanned 31 years of unbroken service. He was a ferocious campaigner for many causes, in many of which he was far ahead of his time, and he was a tireless advocate for his constituents. He did so with a wit and a humour that cut through any tendency to pomposity in this place, although it is fair to say that he was not the easiest to whip; I say that having been his Whip.

Paul had a few stints on the Opposition Front Bench, most recently taking through the Wales Bill as the shadow Secretary of State for Wales—a role that delighted him not least because, as he said, octogenarians were under-represented on the Front Bench. His grasp of social media put most of us to shame, particularly his incisive tweets and blogging. However, as you said earlier, Mr Speaker, it was the role of Back Bencher that he loved most.

Above all, Paul was an absolutely passionate Newportonian who took every opportunity to champion our city. I know that this weekend he would have been especially proud of Newport County. Their manager is also a Flynn, which led Paul to declare that Flynns “always deliver for Newport”.

On a personal note, Paul was the most generous of constituency neighbours. He was genuinely the most wonderful company, and he was a huge support to me and others in Newport West, including Welsh Assembly Member Jayne Bryant. I know we will all miss him in this place—in the top corner of the Chamber, looking to catch your eye, Mr Speaker—but I know his legacy will live on through his campaigns, through those he inspired and through his books. We send our love to Sam and family and friends.

I must say to the hon. Lady that that was the most gracious and beautifully crafted and delivered tribute to Paul Flynn. I know that it will be warmly appreciated by Sam, by the family, by all his constituents, by people across Wales and by his many admirers in this House and indeed, for that matter, in Parliaments across Europe and around the world, where he was very well known. I cannot help but feel that after he left the Front Bench, he felt deep down that he had been promoted to the Back Bench.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I would be most grateful if you permitted me to add my own words about Paul Flynn. As Chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee, I inherited him as a long-standing artefact of the Committee who had contributed to and had a huge knowledge of the Committee’s work over a great many Parliaments. I have to say that he and I contributed to some creative and very productive friction on the Committee. Nevertheless, every member of the Committee had a very high regard for his extraordinary commitment and his sense of principle—the fact that at times he was the conscience of the Committee, on issues such as conflict of interest—and we will greatly miss him from our work. I send my best wishes to his family.

That was a parliamentarian’s tribute; I do not think I can speak more highly of what the hon. Gentleman has said than to make that observation. I thank both colleagues.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I knew Paul long before he was a Member of Parliament, when he was a county councillor in Gwent in the 1980s. I would just like to add to the wonderful tribute from my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) by saying that all of us fall into different categories as politicians: some are factory farmed, and some are free range, but Paul was the most free range, organic of politicians, and we should all aspire to follow his example.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I just wanted to mention that I served on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe with Paul Flynn, and he was highly respected in that body by people from all the countries represented in it—he was a very active member of it. He also teased me in his book, and we used to laugh about that quite a bit. He was a very nice man and a very effective parliamentarian, and I just wanted to put that on the record. Obviously, our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

Further to that point of order, Mr Speaker. I would also like to add to the very warm-hearted comments from the hon. Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden). I first got to know the hon. Member for Newport West when I came to this House in 2010. We had many issues we agreed on. There were also many things we probably did not agree on, but we agreed on one thing, and that was human rights. Whenever there was a debate in Westminster Hall, or a debate or a question on that in this Chamber, he would be there putting forward his viewpoints in support of human rights. I was always very pleased to be alongside him, taking the same stance on those things, which we agreed on. In later years, I wondered about his incapacity, and I said to one of my colleagues in the Chamber one day, “If that man was not in that chair, he would move this House by himself, such is his energy and his strength.”

The hon. Lady referred—you will know what is coming, Mr Speaker—to the Flynn of Newport County beating my team, Leicester City. They won against us at football, and I am sure Paul Flynn enjoyed every bit of that—I am afraid I did not, but that is by the way.

I just wanted to add to all the comments that have been made. I found Paul Flynn interesting and funny and a joy to be beside. I know we did not agree on things sometimes, but I was very pleased and honoured to have him as a friend in this House.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for what he said. I spoke to Paul’s widow, Sam, on the telephone this morning. It is perfectly possible that she has listened live to these tributes to Paul. However, in any event, I hope the House will be reassured to know that I shall certainly be sending her a copy of the Official Report with a covering letter. In these very difficult and harrowing times, I hope she will derive some succour from knowledge of the affection and esteem in which Paul was held across the House of Commons.