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Lord Renton's 95th Birthday Dinner

1st August 2003

Lord Renton's 95th Birthday Dinner

Could I extend a warm welcome to our many guests here this evening, who have joined us at Huntingdon Town Hall, some from a very far distance, to celebrate Lord Renton's 95th birthday? It is particularly nice to welcome David's daughters and also Lady Thatcher, whom we are very honoured to have with us this evening, not least considering the difficult, personal times she has experienced recently.

My first meeting with David was immediately after my final selection for the Huntingdon seat, which he had quietly attended to watch the proceedings. A photograph was taken of us together with John Major, a photo which sits proudly on my mantelpiece at home and which is fairly unique considering that it contained all of the MPs for this constituency since the Second World War. That is, of course, in itself a testament to the long and dedicated service, 35 years as an MP alone, that David has given to this constituency.

As a new Member of Parliament myself, David has been a great influence on me in terms of his dedication to public service and indeed his consistency. Barely a day passes when he does not contribute something to a debate in Parliament and the number of his years bears no relation to his ability to be productive or his enthusiasm for all that he does or indeed his remarkable understanding of events in a contemporary context. To my mind these qualities are truly exceptional and everyone locally took great pride when David was recently appointed Life President of the Association of Conservative Peers.

There are many here this evening who have known David for very much longer than I and some of those people have spoken this evening and others will do so later. But if there is one particular thing that I would like to mention it would be to highlight David's understanding and concern for the people and history of Huntingdonshire. We fairly regularly meet for lunch, alternating between the Commons and the Lords Dining Rooms, and our conversation invariably turns to local history, whether contemporary or much further back and I always look forward to our chats as no one in this county has a deeper appreciation of its history than David.

It is therefore most fitting that this evening we dine in the very square that Oliver Cromwell frequented as both a Town Councillor and as a local Member of Parliament. Although quiet tonight, this same square once resounded to the orders of the sergeant majors of the New Model Army, who recruited from the Falcon Inn just across the road. Recently, David and I attended a lecture on Oliver Cromwell's dismissal of the 1653 Parliament at the Commemoration Hall in the High Street. Leaving for our cars was about a five minute walk, but this rapidly became a three quarters of an hour fascinating expedition as David recounted the history of virtually every building on the High Street.

David, let me just finish by saying that as I go round our constituency, people regularly mention things that you have done for them and for this constituency over the years. Your input into the life of Huntingdonshire now too forms part of our rich local history. I wish you a very happy birthday.

1 August 2003
Huntingdon Town Hall

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