As I approach, at a somewhat uncertain pace, the end of my time in Parliament, I am more than ever conscious of the people on whom I have relied to help me with my work in West Dorset over the past, many years.

High on this list come the Citizens Advice Bureaux, one of which I happened to be visiting on Friday. The bureaux play much more of a part in the life of our community than is often realised. Their combination of expertise, incisiveness and dogged persistence has helped and continues to help many of our fellow citizens to negotiate with bureaucracies and big businesses that would otherwise prove too daunting. Their skilled professionals, working alongside numerous, talented volunteers, can often penetrate the mysteries of complicated cases and distinguish what should have happened from what has actually happened in those cases.

Of course, the prime (and intended) beneficiaries are the unfortunate citizens who would otherwise have been faced with unfair or incorrect decisions made by ostensibly implacable and apparently faceless bureaucracies. By cutting through to

the frequently overworked and usually well intentioned individuals within those bureaucracies, and by presenting them with clearly reasoned and well organised expositions of the rules and facts, the CAB bring about, on a daily basis, little miracles that transform lives.

But the secondary beneficiary of this remarkable, and too often unknown work is the local MP.

Over and over again, it has been the patient work of a CAB that has enabled me to obtain from some government department or agency a sensible result for a constituent that it would otherwise have been quite impossible or much more difficult to secure.

So, as I wave a gradual goodbye, it is accompanied by heartfelt thanks.

The oddest thing about this is that, in the first 40 years of my life, during which I was not an MP, I had barely heard of the existence of the Citizens Advice Bureaux. As a person who had been lucky enough to avoid any particularly perplexing or distressing encounters with bureaucracies or big businesses, I hadn’t needed to draw on their services myself; and the bureaux, if they don’t positively hide their lights under bushels, certainly don’t waste any of their slender funds on self-promotion. So it would be all to easy for the vast majority of our fellow citizens to go through their entire lives unaware (or at most, very dimly aware) of the presence of these wonderful organisations in our midst.

They are genuinely unsung heroes.