It was a huge pleasure to serve for nearly two years as Leader of the House of Commons and Lord President of the Council, and I am grateful to everyone who supported me in my role.
From my magnificent civil servants who worked tirelessly throughout to ensure we achieved our shared objectives, to my two brilliant Special Advisers, Marc and Lucia, who provided tremendous support on every aspect, to my fantastic PPS, Victoria Prentis MP, who was a fierce and loyal advocate for me in my position as Commons Leader. The role of Leader gives you the most incredible bird’s-eye view of Government, and there is no better place to work, at this momentous time for our country, than within Parliament. I will never forget the time I spent in Room 4 of the Palace of Westminster - a door I hope every MP felt able to knock on to discuss a huge range of ideas and issues with me.
I am very proud of the work we achieved together, particularly to tackle bullying, harassment and sexual harassment in Westminster; to protect the Palace of Westminster, a UNESCO world-heritage site, for generations to come; to introduce proxy voting for MPs; to ensure better support for families so that every child gets the best possible start in life; to champion democracy and our democratic institutions through the Youth Parliament and the 100th anniversary of votes for women; and many more great moments.
The landmark Independent Complaints & Grievance Scheme seeks to ensure that everyone in and working for Parliament is respected and valued, as well as taking a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct. Unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with by serious and effective sanctions. We want to be a role model for legislatures around the world in our determination to tackle our own challenges head on. Many millions of people across the world look to Westminster as a beacon of democracy and freedom, and I am proud that we have taken this bold step towards a fairer workplace.
The Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill, which passed its second reading in my last week as Commons Leader, will ensure that we protect the thousands of people working here and the millions who come to visit, whilst seeking to make sure of the best value of taxpayers money. I passionately believe in making Parliament a more family-friendly place to work. R&R will provide an opportunity to help make our workplace the best it can be in supporting Members to balance the long hours they work in this House with their family commitments, and better reflect the public we are here to represent.
I was absolutely committed to making progress on the issue of proxy voting, and I was therefore truly delighted that the House passed a substantive motion on proxy voting in the case of maternity, paternity and adoption earlier this year. It was a perfect example of how Parliament can work collaboratively to bring about important change, demonstrating the work of many colleagues, from all parties, who have been determined to see this happen. A really positive moment for many colleagues across the House.
The Prime Minister had asked me to chair a cross-Whitehall inter-ministerial group to look at how the Government can best support parents to give their child the best start. This has long been an area that I am passionate about, as the founding patron of a national charity focused on this, and I was really pleased that the group concluded its recommendations in my last week. I look forward to seeing how these will be implemented into policy.
I had the pleasure, as Leader of the Commons, of opening two sessions of the Youth Parliament. It was fantastic to see so many young people engaged with politics in a serious way, and our MPs could learn a lot from their debating style! And, in the year we celebrated women getting the vote, it was an honour to work with so many colleagues across both Houses and all parties to champion those pioneers who paved the way for us today.
The role has flourished into so much more than I imagined at the beginning. In challenging times for our country, we must never forget what Parliament and democracy means to us. I am proud to have championed both as Leader - and I will continue to do so in everything I do next.