Last week was a week of ‘lasts’. On Tuesday evening I was summoned to the PM’s Commons office. He said some nice things about the importance of long-serving and loyal friends and the values of the Parliamentary party and he restored the Conservative whip to the ten of us who were there. He was keen to emphasise his One Nation commitment and described himself as a sort of ‘Brexiteer Heseltine’; the older ones of you will know what he was talking about. Whilst there has been a certain freedom in being an independent, it will come as no surprise that I remain a loyal Conservative, a traditional One Nation Tory who believes that at its best the Conservative party can do great things for people, particularly those who are vulnerable. I am pleased to be leaving Parliament with the whip restored.
The previous evening I made my last speech in the Chamber, in the debate on the Environment Bill. Whatever happens on December 12th this is the overriding issue of our time and in some form or another will come back to the new session of Parliament. I made the point that this Bill has many positives – biodiversity net gain, the 25 year plan being put on a statutory footing, the nature recovery strategies and plans on waste and plastic – and I urged Members on all sides to see the value of what is being proposed. At the same time I want to see safeguards in place so that future Governments cannot give themselves powers to amend difficult targets once we leave the regulatory framework of the European Union. The next speaker was Labour MP Mary Creagh who echoed my concerns; we should be really pleased that in the UK, the environment and climate change are seen as cross-party issues, unlike the USA where views divide dangerously along party lines.
Finally, on Wednesday, I asked the last question at the last Prime Minister’s Questions. I thanked the Speaker for representing the constituents of my father’s old constituency of Buckingham and recalled the moment when Boris Johnson was asked by the Newbury Weekly News whether there was any chance of him becoming Prime Minister. His response back in 2005 was that there was more chance of him being decapitated by a Frisbee. His ability to defy those odds makes me hopeful for the future. My question? That was to ask him to commit to continue this country’s bold ambition on ocean conservation in which we are a world leader. His response ranged across a dog show in Newbury and British Emperor penguins but somewhere in there he also said that the UK protects a vast expanse of the oceans, more than any country on earth, and that it is right that we have put this at the forefront of our politics. Hear hear.