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Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art: Frequency of Reports

Volume 667: debated on Thursday 31 October 2019

1. How frequently the Commission receives reports from the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art. (900269)

The Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art publishes an annual report, which is considered by the House’s Finance Committee. The Commission does not receive routine updates. The annual report for 2018-19 was published on the Committee’s website yesterday.

The right hon. Gentleman will be amazed that I am not asking him about electronic voting for a change. This question was originally on the Order Paper in July, when Winnie Ewing was celebrating her 90th birthday. In a couple of weeks—on 2 November—we will mark 52 years since her historic by-election win and of the continuous representation of the Scottish National party in the House of Commons. Has the Commission been advised of any discussion by the Committee regarding commemorating Winnie’s immense contribution in this place with a portrait somewhere on the estate?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, although I am disappointed he did not manage to work electronic voting into it. He will be pleased to know that the Committee is conscious that Winnie Ewing is currently a notable absence from the parliamentary art collection. It is investigating the possibility of a temporary loan of a portrait for display in Parliament, and it will continue to search for a portrait painting or drawing to acquire for the permanent collection.

Mr Speaker, may I quickly say what a joy you have been for all genuine Back Benchers during your time in the Chair? We started a relationship early in your career here, and I saw you improve as a parliamentarian step by step. People sometimes forget the great inquiry you made into special educational needs under Tony Blair. I also remember other good things that you did with me, and others, on anti-bullying, as well as a cross-party campaign on autism.

Someone should also mention what you had to put up with due to the concerted malicious press campaign that was run against you, and your family, at a certain time in your career. It was a disgrace to British journalism and the profession of journalism. It did not come from the redtops—it was The Times and the Prime Minister’s Daily Telegraph. It came from journalists from whom we had expected better. Some of us stood by you at that time, and we will continue to stand by you. You are a young man with a career in front of you. I hope that you will do startling things, and that this miserable Prime Minister, who yesterday could not even pay tribute to the Father of the House, will put you in the House of Lords as your office deserves.

That is extraordinarily kind of the hon. Gentleman. I think he was also going to ask about the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art.

I like the range of art that we have, Mr Speaker, but it should be more accessible. Why do we have to pay a surcharge in our shops to pay for your art?

Very good. The hon. Gentleman is a dextrous parliamentarian who can always think on his feet.

I believe that was probably a bid for a portrait of you to be provided in the House, Mr Speaker, so we look forward to that.