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Gordon Brown makes his first Commons speech since the general election

By Jonathan Isaby

Picture 17 Until yesterday, Gordon Brown had only been spotted momentarily in the chamber of the Commons once and voted in just three of the 102 divisions (all on September 6th).

Yesterday, however, he decided to break his post-election silence by seeking to catch the Speaker's eye during yesterday's end-of-day adjournment debate introduced by his parliamentary neighbour in Fife, Thomas Docherty, on the subject of aircraft carriers. He even deigned to vote in the 10pm division just before the debate (his voting record now standing at attending four out of 107 divisions).

As the pictures below show, the former Prime Minister (wearing what appears to be a somewhat ill-fitting suit) took his seat in the third row behind the Opposition front bench in what was a packed chamber for an adjournment debate.

His purpose in making the intervention was to speak up for Fife's Rosyth dockyard, although began by paying tribute to the  armed forces in general:

"At the start of any defence debate, even one on the Adjournment, it is important to recognise the quality and commitment of our armed forces: our Army, our Navy, our Air Force, and the civilian defence staff who work for the security, strength and safety of our country. Speaking as someone who has visited Iraq and Afghanistan on many occasions, I think it is important to pay tribute to all those serving in Afghanistan at the moment and to their contribution to the security of this country.

"In the week that precedes Armistice day, I also think it important to recognise those who gave their lives in the service of this country. On this day and in this month, it is important to say that those who lost their lives in Afghanistan will never be forgotten and that their influence lives on in the lives of the people they leave behind.

"I have been Member of Parliament for one of the Fife constituencies for 27 years. I am pleased that the other MPs for Fife are with us this evening, and I applaud my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) for securing this debate and for securing this above-average attendance for an Adjournment debate. In the course of those 27 years, the whole history of Fife has revolved around the future and the fate of Rosyth dockyard.

"Winston Churchill said that Rosyth was the best defended war harbour in the world, in recognition of Rosyth's work during the second world war, when it refitted as an emergency all the vessels sent to sea from that area of Scotland. Over the past 30 years, the naval base has closed; the Rosyth dockyard and naval base, which once employed 15,000 people now employs 1,500 people. Rosyth is the only base that can assemble the aircraft carriers that this country has commissioned. It is also the only base that can serve us by refitting the carriers in the future. When announcements are to be made by the Ministry of Defence, it is important to recognise that Rosyth is the base best able to refit the carriers in the years to come."

Read the rest of his short contribution here.

Relpying to the debate, Defence Minister Peter Luff noted that Members present were witnessing a "footnote in parliamentary history", saying of Brown:

"I am tempted to say some of the things that are on my mind, but I shall leave them for another occasion... I particularly welcomed the contribution of the right hon. Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. I well remember sitting on the Opposition Benches and making similar points on behalf of my own constituents, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will find my response as constructive as I found many Government responses then."

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