I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty on the occasion of the Sixtieth Anniversary of Her Accession to the Throne.
That the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by the whole House.
On her first address to the nation as Queen, Her Majesty pledged that throughout all her life, and with all her heart, she would strive to be worthy of the people’s trust: this she has achieved beyond question. The nation holds her in its heart, not just as the figurehead of an institution but as an individual who has served this country with unerring grace, dignity and decency.
The reign of Queen Elizabeth has been one of unparalleled change, from rationing through to the jet age, to the space age, to the digital age. At her first investiture as Queen, the very first decoration she presented was a Victoria Cross for heroism in the Korean war. Since then, members of the armed forces—her armed forces—have been in action all over the world, from Aden to the Falklands, the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. Around the world, dictatorships have died and democracies have been born, and across the old British empire a vibrant Commonwealth of nations has expanded and flourished.
Throughout this extraordinary change, the longest-lived monarch in our history has remained resolutely unchanged in her commitment and studious in her duties. It does not matter whether it is something we suspect she enjoys, such as the highland games at Braemar, or things we suspect she might be less keen on, such as spending new year’s eve in the millennium dome, she never, ever falters. She has always done her duty, and that stability is essential for our national life.
While the sands of culture shift and the tides of politics ebb and flow, Her Majesty has been a permanent anchor, bracing Britain against the storms, grounding us in certainty. Crucially, simultaneously, she has moved the monarchy forward. It has been said that the art of progress is to preserve order amid change and change amid order, and in this the Queen is unparalleled. She has never shut the door on the future; instead, she has led the way through it, ushering in the television cameras, opening up the royal collection and the palaces and hosting receptions and award ceremonies for every area of public life. It is easy now to take these things for granted, but we should remember that they were her initiatives. She was broadcasting to the nation every Christmas day 30 years before we let cameras into this House.
In doing those things, the Queen ended a 1,000 year distance that existed between British monarchs and their people. Indeed, while much of her life has been governed by tradition and protocol, the Queen has always taken a thoroughly pragmatic view of such matters. On arriving at one engagement in Scotland, she noticed that the local lord lieutenant was having considerable trouble extracting both himself and his sword from the official car in order to perform the introductions. While embarrassed civic dignitaries cleared their throats, the Queen cut straight through the seemingly insoluble ceremonial problem by walking up to the greeting line, hand outstretched, with the words, “My lord lieutenant appears to be having difficulty in getting out of the car, so I’d better introduce myself. I’m the Queen.”
That human connection is a hallmark of the Queen’s reign. Over 60 years, according to one royal biographer, she has met 4 million people in person, which is equivalent to the entire population of New Zealand. At garden parties alone, she has invited some 2 million people to tea. She is, of course, Queen of 16 countries, and has surely travelled more widely than any other Head of State in history. As she herself has been heard to say—it is a lesson, perhaps for all of us in this House—“I have to be seen to be believed.” All this has given her remarkable insight. Like her previous 11 Prime Ministers, I have been struck by Her Majesty’s perspective on world events, and like my predecessors I am truly grateful for the way she handles our national interests.
Last year’s visit to Ireland was a lesson in statecraft. It showed once again that the Queen can extend the hand of friendship like no other. She was the first monarch to visit China, the first to visit Russia and the first to pay a state visit to the Vatican, and her trip to post-apartheid South Africa was a statement that resounded across continents.
And, of course, there is the Commonwealth. It is doubtful whether that great alliance would ever have thrived without the dedication of Her Majesty. When the Queen became head of the Commonwealth in 1952, it had eight members; today it has 54. No one has done more to promote this unique family of nations spanning every continent, all the main religions and nearly a third of the world’s population. In all her realms, from Tuvalu to Barbados, from Papua New Guinea to St Vincent and the Grenadines, from Britain to Jamaica, she is loved because she is a Queen of everyone—for each of us and for all of us.
The diamond jubilee gives us the chance to show our gratitude. By the time she opens the Olympics, the Queen’s jubilee tour will have taken her and Prince Philip to every part of the United Kingdom. In June, London will see a huge pop concert, a great procession and the largest gathering on the Thames for more than three centuries: barges and cutters, narrow boats and motor boats, square riggers, naval vessels, the little ships of Dunkirk—all will be there to pay tribute to our magnificent Queen.
“Diamond” is the appropriate epithet for this jubilee. For 60 years, Her Majesty has been a point of light in our national life—brilliant, enduring and resilient. For that, she has the respect of the House and the enduring affection of all her people.
May I second the motion and associate myself and my party entirely with the sentiments that the Prime Minister has just expressed?
As the Prime Minister has so accurately described, Her Majesty the Queen has dedicated herself tirelessly and constantly to the people of our country and the Commonwealth for 60 years. Her Majesty has led an extraordinary life of service, which sets an example to us all.
Truly remarkable though her reign has been, it is striking that it is in keeping with the reputation and spirit of the young Princess Elizabeth before she ascended the throne. During the second world war, her work with the Auxiliary Territorial Service gave inspiration and hope to millions, especially young women desperate to play their part while their loved ones were fighting at the front.
Almost 65 years ago, as the House marked Her Majesty’s wedding to the Duke of Edinburgh, Clement Attlee observed that Princess Elizabeth was already celebrated across the globe for her “unerring graciousness and understanding”. His words echo down the years.
We have learnt so much more about Her Majesty: selfless, tireless in duty, unflinching in service, unerring in her commitment to the people of Britain, stoical in the face of personal loss, and proud, as the Prime Minister said, of the extraordinary reach of the monarchy and its values to the Commonwealth.
With Prince Philip at her side, she has shown the most extraordinary dedication to duty. When we tell each other her remarkable story, we speak, too, of the timeless characteristics of our country and all the people who have served us.
Her Majesty’s life reminds us of the true value of service. Her reign is a golden thread that links people within and across the generations. For the generation that emerged from the war, the coronation provided the opportunity to come together in celebration. There was often only one house with a television set on a street, and people crowded round to watch, sharing in community with one another.
For our generation growing up, the event was the silver jubilee in 1977. I remember being in Hyde park as a seven-year-old as part of those celebrations. Then came the golden jubilee on those glorious summer days in 2002. This year in June, it will be the next generation’s turn to share in the excitement.
In these moments, we are reminded that we are far more than just disparate individuals and communities: we are a nation with a shared sense of purpose and integrity. When we celebrated the golden jubilee, it fittingly became not only a celebration of the Queen’s reign, but of the very best features of our country.
As the Prime Minister said, in her 60 years the Queen has witnessed an astonishing array of changes throughout our society. Some have brought huge improvements to our lives; others have been more challenging.
On one occasion, I attended a meeting of the Privy Council shortly after Buckingham palace had shown its commitment to fighting climate change by adopting energy-saving light bulbs. I believe that I was the Minister responsible. Unfortunately, the transition had not been entirely smooth because the light was pretty dim—in fact, it was almost dark.
As Her Majesty valiantly struggled through the gloom to read the names of the Bills being passed, she caught my eye fixedly and remarked on the impact of “these new bulbs”. As Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, I confessed my responsibility, but I am pleased to say that she broke into a smile. Her reaction showed once again her great capacity to put people at ease, no matter what the circumstances.
Whatever she has been confronted with, Her Majesty the Queen has responded with genuine spirit. That spirit means that the Queen is received with reverence, respect and genuine affection wherever she travels in the world. In respect for that spirit, we all come together to celebrate in this, the year of her diamond jubilee.
At the time of the last diamond jubilee, the Father of the House was Charles Villiers. He had started his distinguished political career in the Parliament of King William IV, had sat in this House continuously for 63 years, and was aged 95. By comparison with him, I am a mere parliamentary debutante.
However, I vividly remember the fireworks that celebrated the silver jubilee of Her Majesty’s grandfather, King George V, in 1935. The hit tune of the time was “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze”, a prophetically accurate description of Prince William today.
Shortly before the debate on the Loyal Address in 1897, Villiers sent Queen Victoria his personal gift as Father of the House of a parasol. I have presumed to follow his example. His parasol was dressed in Chantilly lace. Mine has not been dressed in French lace; it has been dressed in Nottingham lace, from the city that first sent me to this place 53 years ago.
For my generation, the abiding memory of our Queen is her stunning beauty when she came to the throne. There is nothing more inspiriting in the whole world than a beautiful woman.
The bedrock of her success has been the constitution—not our constitution but hers, because she has always had the most astonishing stamina. In 1953, accompanied as always by the indomitable Duke of Edinburgh, she travelled 53,000 miles. In 1977, the year of her silver jubilee, she travelled 56,000 miles. I once asked a courtier how she did it, to which I received the characteristic reply: “By not eating salads, shellfish and water melon while travelling.”
The Queen’s great-great-grandmother was Empress of India at a time when one quarter of the globe was painted red. She has lived through years of worldwide and often revolutionary change. In the single year of 1960, 16 African countries achieved independence and became sovereign member states of the United Nations. What was to be the role of the Crown in this new world? Her Majesty saw the challenge and seized the opportunity. She made the monarchy mobile. In the second year of her reign, she delivered her Christmas message to Britain and the Commonwealth from New Zealand.
Although always impeccably attentive to her duties in the United Kingdom, she threw herself, with wholehearted energy and commitment, into a new world role as the Head of the Commonwealth. She has visited nearly every member of it, many of them tens of times, from the north Atlantic to the south Pacific. Since her visit to Tuvalu in the south Pacific, sea levels around that threatened island have actually fallen. How jealous King Canute must be!
Her Majesty has presided over 18 Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings. These have not always been plain sailing. In 1979, the choice of Lusaka as a venue was a matter of controversy. Zambia was surrounded at the time by warring countries—Mozambique, Southern Rhodesia and Angola—and some thought it dangerous or politically unwise for her to go. Her Majesty made it publicly clear that whoever did or did not go, she was determined to be there. The Lusaka conference was a great success. It was even widely reported that Her Majesty’s only female Prime Minister in Britain had much enjoyed her foxtrot with Kenneth Kaunda.
Of a reign spanning nine Prime Ministers and 12 Presidents of the United States, and notwithstanding her triumph among us here at home, I believe that future historians will record that the impetus and character that she has uniquely given to the Commonwealth will be remembered as her greatest achievement. How fortunate we have been to be reigned over for 60 years by a lady of such poise, grace and beauty—the exemplary daughter of an enchanting mother.
I conclude by repeating the exquisite words of a poet and parliamentarian composed in honour of a queen of hearts of an earlier era—words that are absolutely true of our own beloved Queen:
“Tell me, if she were not designed
The eclipse and glory of her kind”.
It is a great honour to speak in this debate and particularly to follow the right hon. Member for Louth and Horncastle (Sir Peter Tapsell), the Father of the House. I hope, Mr Speaker, that you, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, having listened with care to the address by the Father of the House, will have it in mind that the next diamond jubilee to be organised should be the one to celebrate his 60th year in the House—such has he become a national treasure and an entertainment to us all.
Of the many privileges that go with the best job in the British Cabinet—that of Foreign Secretary—the greatest is that the whole office is expected to accompany Her Majesty the Queen on state visits abroad. During my five years as Foreign Secretary, I went with Her Majesty to, among other places, Germany, France, Malta and Nigeria. Those visits gave me the opportunity to witness at close hand the extraordinary preparation, dedication, commitment and time that Her Majesty and Prince Philip devoted to these sometimes very difficult public engagements. The pace that the Queen and the Prince set for these visits would have tired somebody half their age.
In Nigeria, the arrangements for the day-to-day engagements showed a little flexibility—to be delicate about the matter—and Her Majesty and Prince Philip had to accommodate that flexibility. She had taken part in one engagement at which I thought she did stunningly well. I said to her afterwards, “Ma’am, if I may say so, that showed extraordinary professionalism.” There was a pause. She looked at me and said, with a benign motherly smile, “Foreign Secretary, it should have been professional. I’ve been doing this for long enough.”
As Home Secretary and then Lord Chancellor, I had a rather less public duty—that of administering the oath of homage, which all new bishops of the Church of England have to make to the sovereign, and have done since the age of Henry VIII. Through that prism, I was able to observe the profound seriousness with which the Queen treats her duties as Head of our established Church, as well as her encyclopaedic knowledge of the parishes and personalities of the Anglican communion.
As Member of Parliament for Blackburn for the past 33 years, I have seen the excitement and, more importantly, the sense of recognition that visits by Her Majesty and other members of the royal family have brought to the people of my area, as they have to every constituency and to people of every ethnic background and religion. These are but a handful of examples of the extraordinary, exemplary way in which Her Majesty has led our nation over the past 60 years.
Of the three most recent of the Queen’s dozen Prime Ministers, one was in nappies and two were not born when she acceded to the throne in February 1952. I guess that I am one of a diminishing band of Members who can recall that day and period. Food and clothes rationing were still in operation and, much more importantly for a six-year-old, so was sweet rationing. There was an acute housing shortage. Vast areas of our great towns and cities were still bombed wastelands, Britain was almost exclusively a white society and, at primary school, I can still recall, in the second year of infant school, the map of the world that our teacher had permanently fixed on the wall and to which he pointed with great regularity. It showed a quarter of the world’s land mass painted pink to signify the British empire.
Six decades on, the world is a very different place, and so is the United Kingdom. We are now a heterogeneous society, with people from many religious and ethnic backgrounds proud to call themselves British. The empire has gone, to be replaced by the Commonwealth. The rate of social, industrial and technological change has been breathtaking. But through all this change, there has been the Queen—constant, reassuring, providing a sense of security and stability in an uncertain world, yet, remarkably, remaining in touch. I am delighted to support the Prime Minister’s motion.
It is a great honour to join my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and other colleagues in the House’s tribute to Her Majesty the Queen on the presentation of an Humble Address.
On the night of Monday 4 April 1955, on the eve of his resignation as Prime Minister, my kinsman Sir Winston Churchill gave a dinner at No. 10 Downing street for the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. It was attended by Churchill’s closest political and military colleagues and friends, and by members of his private office and his family. The Prime Minister, in proposing the Queen’s health, said this:
“I propose a health to Your Majesty which I used to drink in the days when I was a young Officer in the 4th Hussars in the reign of Your Majesty’s great, great grandmother, Queen Victoria”.
He ended with the following words:
“And I drink to the wise and kindly way of life of which Your Majesty is the young and gleaming champion”.
I am sure that this whole House will agree that Her Majesty the Queen has, throughout her long reign, indeed been a gleaming champion for her country and for the Commonwealth. Crowned in the same abbey church as William the Conqueror, at the same age—26—as the first Queen Elizabeth 400 years earlier, she embodies all the best qualities and the continuity that are so important to our country and its splendid, independent people. This diamond jubilee will thus be an occasion for the nation to thank the Queen, who has served us so professionally, so loyally and so conscientiously through these extraordinary 60 years of some of the most tumultuous social, economic and technological change that Britain has ever seen.
The Queen brings to our national life an experience and knowledge of politics and events all around the world which is truly unrivalled by any other person in the land. Throughout her long reign, she has displayed great, good judgment, tolerance and absolute political neutrality at all times. When she ascended to the throne, her first Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, was of an age to have charged with the 21st Lancers at the battle of Omdurman in 1898, while her present Prime Minister was not even born in 1952. Such is the scale and breadth of the life that she has so triumphantly lived through.
The Queen is a source of powerful influence for this country throughout the world, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said. She is the Queen of 16 countries, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the Head of the Commonwealth, an organisation that includes more than a quarter of the earth’s population. She thus brings a vital and often unrecognised addition to our efforts and our influence overseas. We in this House in particular should recognise this as an irreplaceable national asset of the first importance.
Every country needs someone who can represent the whole nation. It may seem primitive—and indeed it is—but if nationhood is to mean anything, it has to have a focus. In our case, for 60 years that focus has been, and remains, the Queen. Nations do have values, and they should be proud of them and willing to express that pride. That is what we are able to do with our monarchy and our Queen, and what we will do this year.
The Queen, blessed with a happy marriage to a remarkable consort who has done so much to support her, does a job that demands tremendous physical and mental toughness and energy. Quite apart from her still extensive public engagements, her work follows her wherever she goes, and always has done. Her life has truly been one of selfless duty. Yet sadly, there is probably no day when she will not read something about her or her family in the media or see something on television that is untrue, cruel or just plain silly.
We are indeed blessed to have in the Queen someone who is truly a remarkable example of dedication, efficiency and common sense, with a tremendously good judgment of people and—last, but by no means least—an excellent sense of humour. Those attributes, added to a perfectly wondrous dislike of pomposity and vanity, and an absolute inability to pretend to be anything other than herself, make the Queen what she is: arguably the most respected and admired—indeed, loved—public figure in the world.
I conclude as I started, with Churchill on the Queen. Broadcasting to the nation on 7 February 1952, on the death of King George VI, he ended with these words:
“I, whose youth was passed in the august, unchallenged and tranquil glories of the Victorian Era, may well feel a thrill in invoking, once more, the prayer and the Anthem ‘God Save the Queen’.”
And, 60 years on, so do we all, Mr Speaker—with all our hearts.
I rise to support the motion in the name of the Prime Minister and to associate myself with the comments that hon. and right hon. Members have made with great eloquence so far.
While I have the indulgence of the House, I want briefly to take only a few moments to report that the city of Leicester—and indeed, my constituency—is immensely proud, delighted, excited and honoured to be hosting Her Majesty the Queen, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge tomorrow, for the start of the diamond jubilee tour. Tomorrow, Her Majesty will be visiting one of the country’s most dynamic universities—De Montfort, in the city of Leicester. Our cathedral will be hosting the Queen—I believe for her first visit—for a service led by the Bishop of Leicester, and our directly elected mayor, Sir Peter Soulsby, will welcome Her Majesty to the iconic clock tower in our city centre.
As well as celebrating Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee, tomorrow is also about celebrating the city of Leicester and the thousands of Leicester people, of all backgrounds, who make our city the strong, diverse and vibrant place it is today. Throughout the last 60 years, families have come from all parts of the Commonwealth and all parts of the world to make Leicester their home. Under Her Majesty’s reign, Leicester and Britain have become more diverse, and stronger, too. Although we are diverse, we are united as a city. Tomorrow, people from Leicester, of all backgrounds, all communities and all faiths, will welcome their Queen—their Head of State. Perhaps they will welcome her in the varied dialects spoken in our city: “A Salaam O Alikum”, perhaps; “Namaste”, perhaps; “Sat sri akaal”, perhaps; or, more simply, perhaps the more familiar “Welcome to Leicester, your Majesty.”
The preamble to every Act of Parliament that has received Royal Assent in the last 60 years refers to the fact that it is enacted by
“the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty”,
as well as by the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and by the Commons, in Parliament assembled. That is indeed fitting terminology, in that there has been a real excellence in Her Majesty the Queen’s devotion, integrity, honour, service and duty to her people over the past 60 years. The Queen serves as an indefatigable unifying influence in an increasingly diverse nation and a Commonwealth of Nations composed of a plethora of countries with different languages, cultures, religions and forms of government.
Her Majesty’s commitment and public service are without parallel. When she was on a tour of Africa at the age of 21, the then Princess Elizabeth declared that her
“whole life, whether it be long or short, would be dedicated to the service”
of her people. And it has been. I venture to suggest that Queen Elizabeth’s ancestors would be proud of her—her late father particularly so—and that her heirs and successors will be driven to follow her example. The Queen is a model sovereign, who has performed her demanding constitutional functions with extraordinarily consistent good judgment. She has touched millions of lives through her innumerable visits. She inspires utter devotion from her regiments and the Church of which she is supreme governor. In the Commonwealth, the Queen has made an enduring contribution to the lives of millions of her people around the world. By her side throughout this period of change has been His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, who has been in her heart and mind since she was 13 years of age.
In 1977, for the silver jubilee, and in 2002, for the golden jubilee, peers and Members of Parliament contributed to a gift on the parliamentary estate to be enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors. Late in 2010, in keeping with that tradition, I established an all-party group. With the help of the then Serjeant at Arms of this House, Jill Pay, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, Lieutenant-General David Leakey, and the conservation architect of the estate, Adam Watrobski, I was soon able to approach you, Mr Speaker, and the then Lord Speaker, Baroness Hayman, in order to seek, through your good offices, a request to any Member of this House or the other place who wished to contribute, to make such private donation as they saw fit to a stained glass depiction of the royal arms, to be placed in the north window of Westminster Hall. After renovations have been completed in the coming months, that window will show the first royal arms to be displayed in the north window since the time of King Henry VIII. They will be opposite the arms of His late Majesty, King George VI, the Queen’s father.
No public funds whatever have been used for the manufacture of the stained glass window, or for its monumental display case or its forthcoming installation. That is thanks to the generosity of hundreds of parliamentarians from all sides in both Houses who, in response to your letter, Mr Speaker, have donated a total of £98,396 for this gift, which will allow a modest surplus to be remitted to the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust charity. That generosity is a manifestation of the enormous respect and profound gratitude felt by this Parliament for the selfless and uninterrupted service of our beloved sovereign. God save the Queen.
In supporting the motion, I know that I speak on behalf of the bulk of the people in my beloved city of Sheffield in offering my congratulations and reflecting on the respect and affection in which Her Majesty has been held over the past 60 years. Reference has been made to the enormity of the change that has taken place in that time. I was reminded, listening to the radio this morning, that the first edition of the New Musical Express, published 60 years ago, featured Paul Robeson. I do not know what Her Majesty will make of this year’s Eurovision song contest, but some things never really change. Some changes have been very much for the better, in regard to tackling discrimination and gross inequality, and creating a care across the world that did not exist 60 years ago. Some of them have illustrated a loss, however, including the loss of the mutuality and reciprocity that were a feature of many of our communities 60 years ago.
One thing is absolutely certain: over those 60 years, I have managed to achieve the dishonour of making mistakes in front of the Queen on a number of occasions. The first was not, in fact, in front of Her Majesty. It involved a little boy, coming up to the age of six, in a school for the blind, when we were celebrating the coronation. Elgar was blaring out from a loudspeaker, and I rushed across the playground only to smash into a little four-year-old girl, spilling lemonade all over her skirt and blouse, which resulted in her bursting into floods of tears. That was the first, but not the last, occasion on which I have made people cry over the past 60 years.
Many moons ago, as leader of Sheffield City Council, I tasted the tea before Her Majesty arrived and described it as “absolutely disgusting”. I had it changed, only to discover that I had set aside her favourite brew. On another occasion when I was leader of Sheffield City Council, I made the mistake of declining Her Majesty’s help at lunch, when she offered to help me with a Barnsley chop. Had I accepted her help, I would have been spared the embarrassment of being told, at the end of the meal, that she was quite used to cutting up the meat for the corgis.
Dogs are a feature of Her Majesty’s life, and I could not let this occasion go by without recalling how much dogs’ instincts affect us, in the political arena as well as in their capacity as pets and social companions. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw) will remember our hosting an official visit by President Putin, in his first incarnation as President of the Russian Federation. As the arms were presented, my then dog, Sadie, uttered a deep growl from her chest which developed into a bark. That was obviously a precursor to the political change that we have seen in the Russian Federation.
My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition referred to the Queen’s ability to put people at their ease. Perhaps I should mention the way in which she put me at my ease when I made another blunder. It was when I was being inducted as a member of the Privy Council in 1997. My right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn will recall that he had set me in the right direction to kneel on the cushion, but I missed it slightly. I was put right, and the Queen gently assured me that I did actually brush her hand with my lips, rather than her elbow with my mouth, which was the direction in which I had been heading.
These have been 60 years of a Queen for her people here and in the Commonwealth. She has been a Queen who has touched the hearts of those of all classes, distinctions, races, ethnicities and religions. We have had a Queen who has been able to hold our nation together, and I hope that her life will be long and that, in the years to come, she will be able to hold the United Kingdom together in the way that many of us wish for.
It is a privilege and a pleasure to support the Prime Minister in his motion to send an Address to the Queen on the occasion of her diamond jubilee. Like the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett), and everyone else in the House and beyond who have met her on a one-to-one basis, I have been daunted by the prospect as well as humbled by the experience. That is not surprising, given the record that she has achieved. She is not only the second-longest serving monarch we have ever had on these islands, but the second-longest serving Head of State in the world at the moment. I suppose if this were a primary school, I would offer a prize to anyone who could tell me who the longest serving Head of State is—
I will tell you later.
Picking up on the comments made by the Father of the House, I find it extraordinary that we have a monarch who has met nearly a quarter of all the Presidents of the United States throughout its history, and who has known a fifth of all British Prime Ministers. Those are extraordinary records.
In paying tribute to the Queen, I should also like to pay tribute to Prince Philip, who has stood alongside her for every month of those 60 years, and more.
Unlike the Father of the House, I am not old enough to remember the accession or the coronation, although I must be honest and tell the House that I was just alive at the time, and I am sure that my family were celebrating. Other events have been significant throughout the Queen’s life. When she has visited our communities, those visits have been really important. There have been conventional events, such as her visit to Llandaff cathedral when I was a little boy. It had been restored after sustaining bomb damage during the war. There have been conventional events relating to past jubilees. She came to the King’s Stairs gardens in Bermondsey, by Edward III’s manor house, to mark her silver jubilee, for example. There have also been some esoteric events. She came to an event near London Bridge a few years ago, in which she unveiled a stone in honour of a native American Indian who was buried there—a fact that came as a surprise to us all. It was a slightly unexpected mixture, seeing the Queen next to a red Indian chief somewhere near London Bridge station.
As the Prime Minister indicated, the Queen has certainly also gone beyond the call of duty on many occasions. The example that most comes to mind is indeed the blessed millennium eve celebrations at the dome. I think that she was reassured by stopping off at Southwark cathedral first, which she enjoyed and found highly appropriate. That visit probably also gave her the spiritual strength and courage to go on to the events that straddled midnight.
People have rightly paid tribute to the Queen’s international as well as national service. It is extraordinary that she is Queen of 16 countries, and of about 130 million people around the world. She is Queen of the second-largest country in the world—Canada—as well as of Tuvalu, a country of only 10,000 people. It is absolutely consistent with her service that the trust set up to mark the jubilee is intended to serve the poorest peoples of the Commonwealth—exactly the sort of mission she has always supported herself.
The Queen has been pre-eminent in making sure that people in the public service, and particularly those in military service, have been honoured and supported by her. We thank her for that, because they do the bravest and most difficult of jobs. She has also always gone out of her way to support those in voluntary service, commending that non-paid activity in our country and beyond. She has also been particular in making sure that she has supported and encouraged people of all faiths and backgrounds.
People have paid many tributes in this place on occasions during the 60 years. They have highlighted the Queen’s unassuming virtues and her faultless example. In fact, she has stood like a rock in a sea of troubles, she has lived out the promises made at her accession and coronation and she has exemplified dignity, experience, wisdom and, above all, her incomparable sense of duty.
As we say our grateful thank you to a Queen who has been our monarch for 60 years, it is also fair to say that she has also been our servant—the people’s servant—for 60 years. She has been a servant monarch, which is what she said she would be when she took the coronation oath.
Let me finish with two short personal comments. I am a member of the Christian Church. There are people in this Parliament of many faiths and of none. Speaking as someone of faith, may I say on behalf of those who have faith in general and of Christians in particular that when the Queen has expressed her views about the truths and good news of the Christian gospel, as she did in her Christmas broadcast last year, she has done so more honestly, more simply and more clearly than probably any other Christian leader in the world? People of all faiths should be thankful for that. She has absolutely got it right in expressing the faith in which she so clearly believes.
I am privileged to be the MP whose constituency includes the Old Kent road. The Prime Minister alluded to a relevant description earlier. We regularly call people—we are not the only people to do so—“diamond geezers”. I am not sure that the Queen would be overly keen on the second part of the description, but in the vernacular of Bermondsey, the Old Kent road and everywhere else: she is a diamond; she has been a diamond; and for the many more years we hope she reigns, she will go on being a diamond. On behalf of all my colleagues—and so say all of us.
On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, it is a great privilege and pleasure to endorse and to be associated with the statements of the Prime Minister and of other right hon. and hon. Members in support of this motion. For most of us and for most of the country, Queen Elizabeth II is the only monarch we have ever known. Only one other monarch, Queen Victoria, has reached this tremendous milestone. It is not just the length of service that has been so impressive, but the manner in which Her Majesty has served the people of this country. Dedication, commitment, judgment and sacrifice are words that spring to mind when we think of the Queen’s service to our country and to the Commonwealth over the course of her entire life.
At 21 years of age, Her Majesty pledged that
“my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”
That promise has been well and truly fulfilled. During Her Majesty’s reign, she has of course been supported superbly by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, who has obviously been a great source of strength to Her Majesty, as well as serving our country in his own inimitable right.
We from Northern Ireland appreciate deeply the commitment that the Queen has shown to our part of the United Kingdom over the course of her reign. Her Majesty has visited Northern Ireland on some 15 official visits over the last 60 years. She has travelled even during very difficult and dangerous periods when her visits brought with them severe risks to her personal security. I well recall one particular visit when, during very dark and troubled days indeed, I had the great honour as lord mayor of the great city of Belfast of welcoming her to the city. Her intense concern for and interest in the welfare of all of the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland was evident. People in our Province have always enjoyed visits by the Queen and members of the royal family. We look forward eagerly to Her Majesty’s visit later this year, so that once again we can show our respect and affection for her and the royal household.
On the first occasion that Her Majesty visited Northern Ireland as Queen in 1953, she spoke to the Northern Ireland House of Commons, saying:
“I assure you that I will always strive to repay your loyalty and devotion with my steadfast service to you.”
The then Speaker responded by saying:
“It is our heartfelt prayer that Your Majesty may be blessed with health and strength, long to reign over us.”
As we give thanks to almighty God today for the life and service of Her Majesty, we affirm that this continues to be our sincere prayer today. God save the Queen.
As the Member of Parliament for Windsor, I wholeheartedly associate myself with the words of the Prime Minister and of other right hon. and hon. Members. During 60 years of service, there have been 60 years of change, but one thing has not changed and has remained constant—Her Majesty’s dedication and sense of duty towards our country and its people. On behalf of the people of Windsor, I wish to express my thanks and my best wishes to Her Majesty and the royal family. She is as welcome in her home in Windsor as she is throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
I join my fellow former member of Oxford university Labour club, the Father of the House, in paying tribute to Her Majesty. What has impressed me about her, among many other noble attributes, is her knowledgeability and her imperturbality.
I attended a meeting of the Privy Council, at which Her Majesty had the responsibility to prick sheriffs. She held an object that looks like a large knitting needle and in front a parchment roll, not dissimilar to another kind of roll, was unrolled before her. As the official read out the names, the Queen leaned forward and stabbed the roll. On one occasion when a name was read out, Her Majesty said, “But he’s dead,” to which the official’s response was, “Yes, Your Majesty, but if you will prick it, I will explain later.”
Her Majesty goes to enormous pains to obtain information in order to carry out her duties. When I attended the investiture at Buckingham palace, the Queen tapped me on the shoulder. She then made comments to me, which made it clear that she had taken the trouble to find out something about me. What I found even more encouraging and remarkable was that as each person being honoured came before her—there were a very large number—she had something to say to each one of them. It struck me as impressive that she went to all that trouble to make the day memorable for the people attending at Buckingham palace.
I want to pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh, too. I have been involved in a number of events with His Royal Highness. I particularly remember meeting His Royal Highness at Farnborough air show at the time when I was shepherding through legislation to nationalise the aircraft industry and to create British Aerospace. He had some extremely forthright comments and pieces of advice to offer about how British Aerospace should be nationalised. I took due account of what he said when we carried the legislation through Parliament.
While there are Presidents in countries all over the world, this country has what some might regard as an anomaly, whereby the Head of State is an hereditary monarch. The greatest achievement of Her Majesty is that she has proved by the way in which she has presided over this country for 60 years that hereditary monarchy provides a better basis for genuine democracy than any of the presidencies we see in different parts of the world. Her impartiality and knowledgability have demonstrated to all of us that we, who have the best democracy in the world—despite occasional electoral aberrations—owe that democracy, in which all of us are free, to Her Majesty. What she has done in making this United Kingdom a permanent democracy, a democracy that is impregnable, is perhaps the greatest of her many achievements.
I am honoured to have the opportunity to contribute a few words to this humble Address to Her Majesty on the 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne. I strongly support the words of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who gave a powerful and poignant summary of what the Queen has done for this country.
When Queen Elizabeth II became our monarch in February 1952, the United Kingdom was a pretty austere place. It was only seven years after the end of the second world war, and tea rationing was still in place. The Queen was faced with a crisis almost immediately when the great smog of London killed about 12,000 people in December 1952, an event that shocked the world into starting the environmental movement. In her first Christmas message, aged just 26, she called on her people to
“set out to build a truer knowledge of ourselves and our fellowmen, to work for tolerance and understanding among the nations and to use the tremendous forces of science and learning for the betterment of man’s lot upon this earth.”
Those are wise words even today, as they were then.
As others have already pointed out, the Queen has witnessed some incredible innovations during her 60-year reign: the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, the first man on the moon, the first and last supersonic flights on Concorde, the first test-tube baby, the first personal computer and the world wide web, and the introduction of the mobile phone. About 90% of people in the United Kingdom now have mobile phones.
Her Majesty has also been a constant presence during many significant world events, such as Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, the construction and fall of the Berlin wall, the recessions of the 1970s and 1990s, and the economic crisis of more recent years. She has discussed the politics of the day with 12 Prime Ministers, from Sir Winston Churchill in 1951 to my right hon. Friend our current Prime Minister. That makes her probably the most experienced and well-briefed person in the country today. She has been at the heart of what has been important to Britain, and the challenges that we have had to face as a country over these 60 years. Our world has changed more in the Queen’s lifetime than in those of any of her predecessors, but she has remained a calm presence at the centre, earning the respect and affection of everyone.
I first met Her Majesty in May 1998 at Balmoral castle, beside the beautiful banks of the River Dee, in my role as part of the royal household. On that first evening, over dinner, I saw her wonderful humour, heard story after story of experiences that she had been through, listened to the pipes being played by Pipe Major Jim Motherwell, and talked about Scotland, which, of course, I consider to be an important part of the United Kingdom.
During my time as policy adviser, I saw at first hand the unbelievable work load that Her Majesty undertook daily as part of her unstinting service to this country and the Commonwealth. Her devotion to duty is unparalleled, and is reflected not just in her work load, but in the number of engagements that she attends and the visitors to this country whom she entertains. The Queen is patron to more than 600 wide-ranging organisations that support children, sport, the arts, health, science, animals, industry, education and the military, to name just a few. She takes a particular interest in all the armed forces in both the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and is, of course, the wife, mother and grandmother of individuals who have served, or are currently serving, in the armed forces.
For me, the Queen represents the best of British values—loyalty, respect, family, volunteering—and reminds us of what it means to be British. In her diamond jubilee message, she asked us all to remember
“the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness.”
All those things are so important at the moment to everyone in the United Kingdom and throughout the Commonwealth.
The Queen even has the ability to transcend boundaries. I flew in this morning after looking at emerging and high-growth markets and businesses in Asia, and spoke to an American gentleman who said to me enthusiastically, “We love her, and we feel that she is our Queen too.” When I pressed him to tell me why, he said, “She embodies dignity, stability and grace.” I could not have agreed more.
His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William, spoke recently of how his grandmother had
“carved her own way completely”
and had managed to deal with the difficult balance between public demands and private life. At the same time, the Queen has not been afraid to listen to feedback from the general public, and to take action when it is needed. She has personally overseen a radical modernisation of the royal household to reduce spending, support female succession and embrace technology. Grants to the Queen and the royal household amount to less than 70p per person in the country, a figure that is far outweighed by their payments to the Treasury and the benefits of tourism to the economy. The Queen has also opened up the way for the royal household to share information. More than half a million people like her Facebook page, which I suspect is more than most Members of Parliament can say.
In 1897, on the day of her own diamond jubilee celebrations, Queen Victoria wrote in her diary:
“The streets were beautifully decorated, also the balconies of the houses, with flowers, flags and draperies of every hue.”
I look forward to similar festivities throughout the country during the celebration weekend in June, and encourage all local communities to hold the street parties and other events that do so much to bring us together in our own communities. Let us use this year of the diamond jubilee and the Olympics and Paralympics to regain our sense of Britishness. Let us be proud to be British. Let us talk up British business and, most of all, our people: those who really make Britain what it is today, with the Queen at the helm.
I want to join everyone here today in paying the warmest possible tribute to Her Majesty the Queen. Her devotion to duty and her energy are inspirational, and we cannot thank her enough for all that she does for our country and the Commonwealth. If we all did a fraction of what she does, our communities would surely be stronger and better. Members of Parliament are elected to serve our constituents and to make a difference to our country. What better example of service could they follow than that of Her Majesty the Queen? She has made an impression on so many people. She is a role model and an inspiration, for me, for women, for citizens of the UK and the Commonwealth, and for generations to come.
In supporting the Prime Minister’s motion and thanking the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, I end my speech with words from our national anthem:
“God save our gracious Queen”.
Long may she reign over us!
It is a pleasure to contribute to the humble Address, and to support the motion.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth) told us earlier, tomorrow morning Her Majesty the Queen, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge will visit Leicester on the first stop of the diamond jubilee tour. That is a great honour for our city. Under the Queen’s reign, Leicester has prospered and changed. We have welcomed people from throughout the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the rest of the world. It is therefore fitting that tomorrow’s royal visit will begin with a dance that celebrates our city’s diversity.
Leicester has a long history in textiles, hosiery and shoemaking. Students on De Montfort university’s world-renowned footwear design course have been busy making a pair of shoes for the Duchess of Cambridge, and the royal party will watch a fashion show at the university. They will also hear about De Montfort’s Square Mile project, which aims to help local residents in Newfoundpool, Fosse and Woodgate, which are in my constituency. Students from Leicester college, including my constituent Amrik Mudher, will then help to make the royal lunch at St Martin’s house before the visitors proceed to Leicester cathedral and our historic clock tower.
We in Leicester treasure our history, we celebrate our present and we are confident about the future. There is a huge sense of anticipation and excitement about tomorrow’s visit. I know that tomorrow the citizens of Leicester will give the Queen, in the 60th year of her reign, a welcome of which our whole city, and country, can be proud.
It is a great privilege to be called to speak in this debate and thereby have an opportunity to pay tribute to Her Majesty the Queen, both on my own part as her humble subject and on behalf of the residents of Suffolk Coastal. For so many of us, she is the only monarch we have ever known, and what a wonderful example she has set of service, of family and of true commitment to our United Kingdom. Members of my family proudly serve in the armed forces, and the Queen also served during world war two, showing that what was good enough for her subjects was good enough for her. The example she set then was an important part of the national war effort.
I also pay tribute to the Queen’s steadfast consort, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. It is fantastic that he has recovered from his recent minor illness, and I am delighted that he will be starting the jubilee tour with his wife tomorrow in Leicester.
I pay tribute to the Queen for her visit to the Republic of Ireland last year. I wonder whether Her Majesty will ever realise the true extent of the impact she made. It may be a little controversial to say that it was a great parliamentarian, Cromwell, who tore Ireland apart. I think that the Queen’s visit last year will have gone a long way towards restoring the relationship between our two great nations.
I do not pretend to have had any contact with Her Majesty, but we have heard some wonderful insights and amusing anecdotes today. I do know, however, that the people who receive honours from her and those who attend her garden parties are thrilled to do so, as are all the people who queue up as I did as little girl in 1977—I also got a commemorative mug—and line the streets of Liverpool, Wrexham and other places because we want to see our monarch. The only times that I have had any contact with Her Majesty are when she was gracious enough to grant Royal Assent to a private Member’s Bill of mine, and thereby make it an Act of Parliament, and, of course, when I swore the oath to take office here in Parliament for the first time.
I think it is fair to say that Her Majesty has also touched the world. She is the Head of State for over a quarter of the world’s population. That is celebrated in Commonwealth week and at the Commonwealth games—and I hope she will open the Olympic games later this year. I encourage colleagues to take the opportunity of diamond jubilee week to host a Commonwealth day reception in their constituencies, to mark the Queen’s contribution not only to our country, but around the world.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames) said, there have been many changes during Her Majesty’s reign. When the Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Member for Doncaster North (Edward Miliband), mentioned TV sets, I remembered my mother telling me that the coronation was the first time she watched television. In Wrexham, people crowded into one particular shop, because the shopkeeper had bought a television just to be able to watch that ceremony, which changed history. Many other things have changed—one of my favourite dishes, coronation chicken, was invented for that day and is one of its lasting legacies.
We cannot praise Her Majesty’s service to our country too highly. She is a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother. As has been said, she enjoys the company of dogs and horses, and on a visit to Suffolk earlier in the year, she went to Newmarket. On Her Majesty’s special weekend, we will all join her in celebrating what is great about our country. I am sure that she will continue to serve us for years to come.
The hon. Member for Suffolk Coastal (Dr Coffey) made a fine comment about His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, who will begin the royal tour tomorrow on schedule. We all welcome that news.
It is a great pleasure to attend this debate and to listen so many fine and noble speeches. I was impressed by the speeches of the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Nicholas Soames) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr Straw). I remember the death of George VI, but not the radio broadcast by his kinsman the following night. I certainly remember the Queen’s coronation and the feeling in the country that we were entering a new Elizabethan era. That era has lasted longer than anyone would have imagined and has been to our country’s credit and honour.
Many right hon. and hon. Members have described their personal experiences of the Queen, the Duke and the rest of the royal family. I first visited Buckingham palace in 1984, accompanied by my wife. I saw the very first copy of Disraeli’s “Sybil, or The Two Nations” in an exhibition of manuscripts from Windsor castle. Her Majesty and Prince Philip came along and talked to us all very nicely. Dame Angela Rumbold, a former Minister of the Crown and Member of Parliament, was also there. Her husband, John, died recently, which is a great sadness to us all. Angela and I were officially paired in the House, and when I proudly told the Duke that, he turned to my wife and asked, “And you have an official pair, my dear?” He had that twinkle in his eye that I am not quite sure about. Fortunately for me, however, my wife held her peace.
Her Majesty visited Middlesbrough in 1992, when she and the Duke were touring the British isles for the last time on the royal yacht Britannia—former Prime Minister Tony Blair came to regret the decision to abandon the yacht. The yacht was docked in Hartlepool, but Her Majesty visited my Middlesbrough constituency, where she opened a children’s playground at Pallister park. The Queen clearly has greater knowledge of our parliamentary system than some Members, because she looked at me and said, “The Whips have let you off today, have they?”
One of my constituents asked me if I had been invited to a dinner on the royal yacht that evening. I somewhat shyly and diffidently said that my wife and I had, indeed, been invited. My constituent said, “I sent her a cruet set for her 40th anniversary. Will you ask her if she received it, and if she uses it?” It is always wise to seek to do a constituent’s bidding, of course, but I must admit that my courage failed me on that occasion.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough (Mr Blunkett) described various mistakes made in the Queen’s presence. I have often said to people that one thing we must never do is address the Queen; we must wait for her to address us. On one occasion, commanded again to Buckingham palace, I stood in line to be introduced. When my turn came, I blurted out: “Your Majesty, I am your Second Church Estates Commissioner.” She replied, “Oh, really.” It took me some time to get over that. Later on, however, she came up to me and asked what the General Synod had been discussing last weekend—the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) will have taken note of that—which made me feel a lot better.
I was Her Majesty’s Second Church Estates Commissioner for 13 years, and I saw very clearly her dedication and devotion to her duties to state and to Church—my right hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn also mentioned that. I remember her opening the General Synod at Westminster abbey. She is, of course, Supreme Governor of the Church of England through her coronation oath, which dates back to the time of Henry VIII. I saw how she looked at the people around her and took in the atmosphere. It was clear that she enjoyed the event; she was smiling in enjoyment and pleasure at her role as Supreme Governor—in marked contrast to what happened at the opening of the millennium dome, to which the Prime Minister referred.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth) mentioned the Queen’s interest in other faiths. When she visited Lambeth palace on 15 February, she talked of nine families of faith. She referred to the significant position of the Church of England in our nation’s life and its duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in this country.
I have referred to various visits to Buckingham palace, and I would not wish to omit the final visit I made to see Her Majesty there with other Members of Parliament. We do get invited to Buckingham palace from time to time. On this occasion I was with a group of MPs that included the hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing), who I am sure would not miss this occasion today, when Her Majesty came to talk to us. Three years later, it was our time again, and the hon. Member for Epping Forest— now a friend—said, “Wouldn’t it be nice if Her Majesty came along and spoke to us again?” I spoke to the equerry and he managed to get Her Majesty to come and speak to us, and the hon. Lady said, “Your Majesty, we were together three years ago and you spoke to us then.” Her Majesty uttered the immortal words, “And we are all still here,” and so, 60 years on from her coronation, are Her Majesty and the Duke. It has been a mighty achievement for a monarch to reign for 60 years and that is why we pay tribute to Her Majesty and the Duke. We wish her well in her reign and we look back in satisfaction and gratitude at the service she has rendered to this country.
I am very happy to verify the story of the hon. Member for Middlesbrough (Sir Stuart Bell). In supporting the Humble Address may I say that those of us who strive to show that there should be no barriers to a woman being able to achieve all that a man can achieve have in Her Majesty a shining example and a wonderful inspiration?
May I add my support to the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition following recent devastating events in Afghanistan? We must never forget that those who serve are the lions of our country. We owe them all an enormous debt of gratitude and I am sure that the thoughts of the whole House will be with the families of those who have tragically lost their lives in Afghanistan.
It is an honour to speak in today’s Humble Address to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. As Her Majesty prepares to begin the next chapter in her remarkable history, it is right that we remind ourselves of the changes to the country and the world that have accompanied her most distinguished reign on the British throne. While the world has changed at a rapid rate, the Queen has struck the balance perfectly between stability and tradition versus change and modernisation. She reigns steadfast in her belief in duty, commitment and loyalty, steadfast in her belief in peace and prosperity both at home and overseas, and steadfast as a mother and grandmother who works tirelessly for her nation and her family. The Queen has served her country dutifully and with a quiet dignity and grace. I know that the Queen’s support for our armed forces really does matter to them and their families, especially on days such as today. I believe that the Queen’s service is best defined by one word—duty.
Her Majesty is undoubtedly formidable, but we know that she also has a sense of humour. I recall a story about a mayoress from a town that shall remain nameless, although I will say that it was not Barnsley, who showed the Queen around a refurbished town hall. During the tour, the Queen and mayoress arrived at an open cabinet containing a rather formal robe, which prompted the Queen to ask, “What is that robe for?” The mayoress replied, “This is our ceremonial robe, but we only use it for very special occasions.” A wry smile from the Queen said all that needed to be said.
In complex and challenging times for Britain and the world, the Queen has remained a reassuring constant. Her Majesty has worked tirelessly to support all her Prime Ministers and to build strong working relationships with countless foreign Heads of State and leaders of the Commonwealth countries. The Queen is well placed to head a country that has culture, the arts, heritage, design and technology at its core. Around the world, portraits of the Queen have become synonymous with the traditions of the British monarchy. Rolf Harris and Lucien Freud, to name just two, have had the opportunity to paint Her Majesty. Oh to have been a fly on the wall during one of Freud’s sittings with Her Majesty!
As we move into 2012, Her Majesty will inspire her nation again. In July, she will become the third British monarch officially to open the London Olympic games, following in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, Edward VII, in 1908 and her father, George VI, in 1948. Before that, the nation will gather to celebrate the diamond jubilee. In South Yorkshire, we will celebrate with festivals and street parties. Over the next 12 months, the eyes of the world will be on the Queen to inspire her people. I am confident, as, I am sure, are the whole House and the whole country, that she will, as ever, with a grace and devotion to duty that is admired and respected the world over, once more make this country very proud.
It is a great privilege to have this opportunity, on behalf of the Witham constituency, to support the Humble Address to Her Majesty the Queen.
In October 2010, my constituency was honoured by the first visit of Her Majesty to that part of Essex for a generation. She came to visit Wilkin and Sons in Tiptree, which has a royal warrant. As right hon. and hon. Members will know, the company makes the finest jams and preserves in the world. In the weeks leading up to the visit, the air of excitement and anticipation was immense. That seems unimaginable in today’s era of short-term celebrity culture, but business men, schoolchildren and pensioners were all enthused and excited about her presence in Tiptree. The visit brought everyone together as nothing else could and blew us all away on the day. It is a testament to her remarkable character that everyone who met her felt inspired and delighted that the Queen had engaged in conversation with them. Despite the fact that that visit was only one of the hundreds she makes each year, everyone felt special to have spent time with Her Majesty.
Just as Tiptree celebrated Her Majesty’s visit, people across my constituency are now embracing the diamond jubilee celebrations. Witham town council has organised a competition for local schoolchildren to design a logo to mark this momentous occasion. With so many events, street parties and activities taking place in her honour, we can see that Her Majesty is perhaps the only living person who can command this level of respect and loyalty and bring our great nation together.
It is absolutely fitting, with the celebrations taking place across the country and the Commonwealth, that the House should pay its own tribute to the 60 years of selfless service that Her Majesty has given to the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. She has relentlessly promoted Britain throughout the world, and there is barely a corner of the earth that she has not reached. Her Majesty has supported numerous charities and great causes throughout our country. She has acted as a confidante to a dozen Prime Ministers throughout her reign and done tremendous work. Her strong work ethic is inspiring, and her eternal optimism for this country is a great source of comfort in an era of change. As her visit to my constituency demonstrated, our sovereign lady is a true believer in the people and businesses that make our country the greatest in the world. Her Majesty is the embodiment of the British spirit, and long may her reign continue.
My reason for speaking is that I have lived under four monarchs, and I would like to present a view that will represent a diversity of opinion in the country, which probably has not been expressed so far in the debate. A Head of State wearing a green dress and bowing her head to Croke Park was a very powerful symbol of reconciliation, which I believe will have a profound effect on healing the wounds that have disfigured life in the island of Ireland for generations.
The Queen is still working, doing a full-time job, having been born in 1926. What a splendid example to the nation and to the House, which has just two hon. Members who are octogenarians. Their distinguished contributions should ensure that we encourage greater diversity in the House. It is one area where we fail. Great progress has been made; there is a larger proportion of women Members and more Members from the minorities, although not yet enough, but we fail dismally on the number of people who can remember what it was like before there was a health service, for instance. We should look with gratitude to the Queen for providing a magnificent example.
My third positive point is from the writings of Robert Rhodes James, a former Member for Cambridge and a respected historian. He raised a fascinating point about the feelings in the Conservative party when Mrs Thatcher’s premiership was coming to an end. He wrote of concern in Conservative circles that Mrs Thatcher might decide to call a general election, acting in her own interests rather than those of the nation, and that the Conservative party, the House and the Cabinet would not be able to stop her. The only person who could have stopped her was the Head of State, and I believe all of us agree that the Queen’s strength of character and the fact that she had served many other Prime Ministers would give us full confidence that she was the best person in that situation or any situation when a Prime Minister decided to act in his or her interests rather than the interests of the country.
Another tradition is represented in this country, certainly in my constituency when, in 1839, a group of Chartists demonstrated and their purpose was not entirely benign towards Queen Victoria. Twenty of them were shot. It is right that we look at the relationship between the sovereign and ourselves in a modern Parliament. One welcomes the fact that a new coat of arms will be added to the many already displayed in the House, but sadly there is virtually no pictorial depiction of the struggles for democracy by the Chartists, the Tolpuddle martyrs, the suffragettes and others who shaped the rich and strong democracy we have today. We should put that right.
The speeches that have been made so far have been sincere and heartfelt, and virtually all were true, but if someone wants to be critical, they are not allowed to be. If a monarch, or just a relative of the monarch, strayed from the paths of sainthood and perfection, it would be impossible for a Member of the House to be critical of that person. That is not sensible. If that circumstance should arise, we should be allowed to talk freely if words of criticism are necessary.
It is right, too, that the quarter of the population who describe themselves as republican should have their views heard. We know that figure is reflected in the membership of the House. When there was a debate some years ago about whether there should be an alternative Oath, more than 100 Members voted for it. To avoid the verbal rigmarole that republicans have to go through when taking the Oath, we should have an alternative.
Finally, I am sure that even with the history of my city, where republicanism has existed for at least 200 years, all the people I represent, whether they see themselves as subjects or citizens, royalists or republicans, will wish the Queen well on this occasion.
On behalf of my constituents of Romford and Hornchurch, I rise in support of the Prime Minister in the Humble Address to the Queen, and add my congratulations and heartfelt thanks to her Majesty for her service and dedication to our nation in this, the 60th year of her reign as our Head of State, sovereign and defender of the faith.
The diamond jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen will be a wonderful celebration for all the people of these islands, and a truly historic occasion for British people throughout the world. Let us remember that although Her Majesty is dear to all of us in this country, she is also loved by millions across the globe. The Queen reigns over not only the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but 15 other realms, five Crown dependencies and 16 overseas territories, and 11 external territories of which Australia and New Zealand are sovereign; in total, 135 million people throughout 48 realms and territories, representing more than 18.8 million square miles of the world remain under the Crown.
From the Arctic north of Canada to the British Antarctic Territory at the most southerly end of the planet, from Norfolk island on the eastern side of the Pacific to the Pitcairn islands on the western side, from the Caribbean to the Indian ocean, and from the Falkland Islands of the south Atlantic to the Rock of Gibraltar, people across the world will be celebrating this joyful occasion. Today, in this mother of Parliaments, let us remember all Her Majesty’s loyal subjects from every corner of the globe, and together celebrate our shared heritage, represented so magnificently by Queen Elizabeth II.
On behalf of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru, I add our congratulations to the Queen and wish her well on the tremendous occasion of her 60th jubilee.
This is my second speech on an Humble Address; the other was six years ago on the occasion of the Queen’s 80th birthday. Of the six Members who contributed that day, only two have done so again today: the Prime Minister did so from a different position, but I speak from the same place and am happy to provide continuity for the Humble Address.
Her Majesty has had a long and impressive reign. I noted from a recent TV documentary that 60 years ago she pledged to serve the “imperial family”. Time has moved on, and so has the Queen, although not her inner gracious qualities and decorum. The imperial family has changed into a Commonwealth, as the Prime Minister noted earlier, and Her Majesty is now Queen of 16 independent states, a number that may be added to in coming years—a veritable growing family.
In the year of Her Majesty’s 80th birthday, six years ago, she cruised around the Hebrides—my constituency, Na h-Eileanan an Iar—perhaps her favourite destination in all her realms. Before she becomes our longest reigning monarch—God willing—on 9 September 2015, I hope that she may again have the opportunity to cruise around the Hebrides, as this year may be a bit busy for her.
In my childhood it was always a high point when Her Majesty visited the islands south of Barra, and travelled there in peace, and the three masts of the royal yacht Britannia were visible behind the hills when it was anchored in Vatersay bay.
Finally, I say in Gaelic—the old but also the modern language of Scotland—“Meallaibh ar naidheachd a Bhanrighinn Elasdaid is tha mi an dochas gum bi ioma Bliadhna sona roimhibh.”
Opening today’s debate on the Humble Address, the Prime Minister mentioned how much Her Majesty enjoys the Braemar gathering, which takes place in my constituency. The secret of the success to which we have paid tribute today is the royal family’s ability to recharge the batteries in the highland retreat of Balmoral in the heart of my constituency. On behalf of the many neighbours who live in West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, I associate myself with the remarks made today. I wish Her Majesty well in her diamond jubilee and support the Humble Address.
I support the very gracious words of the Prime Minister and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition.
It seems to me that if we were political scientists creating a state, as we did after the second world war, we would not begin with a monarchy in this day and age. It is an irrational, arbitrary, often deranged institution that depends upon the luck of genes, and it does not always work out well for the country, but not in this case. We must also, it seems, be careful about aligning too closely the history and identity of Britain with the history and identity of monarchy. Royal families come and go; some have very strong connections with the nation, others very weak ones—indeed, some do not even speak the same language as we do.
But there is no doubt that in the post-war years the monarchy of Queen Elizabeth II closely aligned itself with the changing history and identity of Britain, and often for the most curious reasons. On the one hand, Her Majesty was lucky. History is clear that those who do not wait around for the throne—those who have it thrust upon them at an early age—often prove to be among the most successful of our monarchs. In terms of longevity and achievement, being a queen rather than a king also plays well, particularly for the history of England. Added to that have been the remarkable personal virtues that have been spelled out so effectively by right hon. and hon. Members: patience, dignity, resolve, discretion, duty.
What has been so remarkable in Her Majesty’s reign has been the ability to let the monarchy assist in the transformation of post-war Britain. On her watch, Britain has changed from a predominantly Protestant, white and hierarchical society to a multi-cultural, mixed-race, secular nation inherently hostile towards privilege and inherited position. And yet, through all these extraordinary social and cultural upheavals, which have seen monarchies come and go on the continent, Her Majesty has managed to retain the nation’s abiding affection and provided some sense of the unity of values that we have discussed.
This is partly the product of the nature of monarchy, which is non-sectarian, imperial and then Commonwealth in its reach, curiously suited for the identities of a diffuse, globalised age. Similarly, as the right hon. Member for Bermondsey and Old Southwark (Simon Hughes) suggested, one of the ironies of the Queen’s strength is her sense of faith in a multi-religious age, a deep commitment to the Church of England and its teachings; providing that official sanction for faith provides space for other faiths to express themselves. At times of repeated difficulties, the Queen has wisely kept the monarchy outside politics and stuck to the old royal aphorism that Ministers are king in this country.
But the work goes on. The monarchy and Her Majesty’s Government are going to have to deal very deftly with the growing calls for republican autonomy in former colonies, as we heard so recently in Jamaica and, inevitably, in Australia. The House of Windsor will also have to confront the challenge of separatism within the UK and perhaps the return to a fully federal vision of monarchy. There is certainly more to be done on both physical and intellectual access to the royal estates, their archives and their histories, but none of this should be an insurmountable challenge.
Finally, I am always wary when the House is too reverential towards monarchy. We should, as my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Paul Flynn), who has departed, suggested, also speak to our different traditions. We should have a healthy respect but also a critical eye on the actions of the sovereign and on the sovereign’s finances, power and estate. We have our own history and identity in this place, a democratic rather than monarchical heritage that Britain also speaks to. As such, we can all pay deep respects to the enormous personal contribution of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
I can say that particularly from my constituency, Stoke-on-Trent, where the order books are strong and employment is up on the back of this summer’s celebrations. In the Potteries the kilns are hot for the diamond jubilee and, on behalf of my constituents, I am delighted to add my support to the Humble Address.
May I associate myself with the comments of the Leader of the Opposition and my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister about the sad loss in Afghanistan today? One of the soldiers was a member of the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment, and my thoughts are with the family and all those who have given their lives—the ultimate sacrifice—in fighting for Afghanistan.
I support the Humble Address today. Before I came into the House, I served Her Majesty the Queen and Duke of Lancaster as a member of the Scots Guards for nine years, and I am currently a member of the Queen’s bodyguard for Scotland. Now that our colleagues, the Scottish National party, have become monarchists too, perhaps there is less cause for me to use that body to guard Her Majesty in future.
I saw behind the scenes of the monarchy in my time before entering politics. We in the House know more than most that it is not easy to make people feel special on their occasion. It is not easy to show interest in the things they do every day, which they take to be so important. It is not easy to live under the daily gaze of the media, both in private life and in public life. We do this on occasion, but Her Majesty the Queen has done it for 60 years. Her family does it every day.
Not only does Her Majesty do that to the highest standard, but she leaves everybody she meets with the feeling that they have been touched by the monarchy and by the nation. When people are given an award by Her Majesty the Queen, it is not because of politics or favour but because our nation values what they do. That is something that she herself embodies. She also leaves with all of us a story of our encounters with the Queen or members of the royal family.
On one occasion I was the officer of the guard at Buckingham palace and I had to accompany Her Majesty the Queen to an investiture. I was at that time seeking a seat in the Scottish Parliament and I had been for the selection meeting on the Monday at Balmoral, in Crathie, to try and stand for the seat of West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine in the Scottish Parliament. I was not lucky and did not get through to the final round. However, Her Majesty the Queen asked me what I had done and I said that I had been up in her neck of the woods, but unfortunately I thought that members of the selection board thought I was a bit too young. She said, “I think they should think again.” The next day I got a phone call, to be told that the shortlist of two was too small and would be expanded to five. I was then selected as the Conservative candidate for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, and elected to the Scottish Parliament, and perhaps that is why I am standing here today.
The Queen also embodies the Sandhurst tradition of serve to lead, which is all about public duty. She taught me at Sandhurst that you give yourself to lead your country. Perhaps she is the true inspiration of the big society. We forget so much about the value and importance of public duty. People today need more stability. They need less politics, not more, and they need impartiality. Her Majesty the Queen has provided all that for our nation, and she has allowed our nation to feel secure in itself and to continue to achieve the greatness that this country achieves and stands for throughout the world.
On behalf of all the armed forces that I served with and the veterans whom I now represent in Lancashire, and my constituents in the Duchy of Lancaster and my constituency, Wyre and Preston North, I wish Her Majesty a happy and successful diamond jubilee, and long may she reign.
I add my support to the motion in the name of the Prime Minister and express my best wishes to Her Majesty the Queen in her diamond jubilee year. I recognise the very important contribution she has made to this country over that time and also to our relationships with other nations around the world. It is a remarkable and inspiring achievement that 60 years on from her accession to the throne, she continues to serve with undiminished energy, vigour, dedication and grace.
Other Members have highlighted the Queen’s service and dedication in many spheres of national life, but in my brief remarks I wish to focus on just one example that is of particular importance to me and those I represent, and to which the Prime Minister has already referred. Other Members have spoken of the changing times during which the Queen has reigned. Even during my lifetime we have witnessed some remarkable improvements in relations between Ireland and Britain, particularly over the past few years. However, the state visit to Ireland last year, hosted by the former President, Mary McAleese, which was the first state visit by a British monarch to that state in 100 years, lifted those relationships to an entirely new level and, I believe, have helped to make a tangible contribution to the building of a more shared and prosperous future in Northern Ireland.
Although the success of that historic royal visit was the result of detailed planning, careful management, sensitive choreography and strong political leadership, it was also in no small measure due to the unique warmth of the relationship between those two female Heads of State, who engaged with each other and with the hugely emotive and sensitive issues raised by the visit with the kind of dignity and humility that should mark our approach to all such difficult issues. The transformational effects that the powerful images and thoughtful reflections on our nations’ shared history generated by the visit had on healing the wounds of our difficult past are significant not only in their own right, but in laying out a template and a tone for our future engagement with each other. It was a vivid demonstration of the power of reconciliation and the generosity required for real leadership.
Although that special contribution was a very small part of her past 60 years of service to this country, I believe that it was nevertheless of huge value in Northern Ireland and in these islands and therefore deserves particular recognition as we mark this historic occasion. I pay tribute to the Queen and to Prince Philip for their service to date and wish them God’s richest blessing in the years ahead.
On behalf of my constituents, I want to describe how the Queen comes across to a great many of us. I have never met Her Majesty, and until I attended a garden party last year I had never seen her in the flesh. Indeed, even then I saw her only from a distance. That is the great experience of many of my constituents and many in this country. However, one thing overrides all that. Many people regard Her Majesty almost as a member of the family, because they know her so well. In a time of crisis she is always there on our television screens. Indeed, Christmas day simply would not be Christmas day without Her Majesty’s 3 o’clock address.
One thing that shines out about having a monarch who is well above the political process is what she does when we have disasters and tragedies in our country, such as the tragic events of 7 July 2005. When she was able to visit the hospital and meet the people who had been so tragically and grievously wounded, the country was able to share in its mourning behind Her Majesty, a lady who is in no way linked to political organisations. During the Falklands war, when some suggested that it was simply too dangerous for her son to be sent into conflict, Her Majesty, never one to shy away from responsibility, would hear nothing of it. She said that he was a serving member of the armed forces and so would go and do his duty. With that comes the respect of the nation and of those who serve Her Majesty and this country. I will keep this short: on behalf of my constituents in Elmet and Rothwell, I simply say “God save the Queen.”
As the Member of Parliament for Britain’s oldest recorded town and the first capital of Roman Britain, I wish to be associated with the Address and much of what has been said. I can recall being a five-year-old at Myland primary school when King George VI died. I can also remember 16 months later seeing television for the first time and watching the coronation at a family friend’s house in Mile End in Colchester.
Like others, I wish to pay tribute not only to Her Majesty the Queen, but to the Duke of Edinburgh for all his support over the years. In particular, I want to mention the support that both have given to many youth organisations over the past 60 years. As a Queen’s scout, I will mention the scout movement and the guide movement. Of course, as Princess Elizabeth, our Queen was a girl guide, and there are other youth organisations that she and Prince Philip have supported. Of the many charities and organisations that she is directly associated with as a patron, I wish to mention LEPRA, the international charity tackling leprosy around the world, whose international headquarters are based in my constituency.
The Queen has made three visits to Colchester in her glorious reign, and I have had the pleasure of witnessing all of them: first as a pupil at St Helena secondary modern school for boys; secondly as deputy mayor of Colchester; and thirdly as the town’s MP. On two occasions the Queen has also visited the university of Essex in Colchester, an institution of which you, Mr Speaker, have fond memories as both a graduate and an honorary graduate. You will know that it is the most international of Britain’s universities. I think it is a safe bet that every Commonwealth country will at some stage be represented there, if they are not already, because over 120 nationalities are represented there. The Queen has also been a great supporter of our armed forces. As I represent the garrison town of Colchester, I wish to associate the garrison with my greetings to Her Majesty.
I am a constitutional monarchist. When we look at Presidents of the United States and of France, I think we see that constitutional monarchy has more than the edge. Finally, 2000 years ago Colchester was a Roman city. In the mists of time, somehow that status was lost. It would be marvellous if in this the diamond jubilee year the city status could be restored.
When the first Queen Elizabeth made her golden speech back in 1601, she acknowledged that, more than anything else, it was the affection of her people that had sustained her through her long reign. Addressing one of your predecessors, Mr Speaker, she said:
“And, though God hath raised me high, yet this I count the glory of my Crown, that I have reigned with your loves.”
Over 400 years later, in our age of constitutional monarchy, we are fortunate indeed to have a monarch who, like her illustrious predecessor, has always understood that it is the affection of her people that is most important. The solemn oath that Her Majesty took at her coronation has been and is being fulfilled in every possible way. May I, on behalf of my constituents, offer praise and thanks for her 60 years of service as our Queen and head of the Commonwealth? She has truly lived a life triumphant. May God save our diamond Queen.
I join others in congratulating Her Majesty the Queen on the occasion of her diamond jubilee. As you know, Mr Speaker, this is a unique occasion, because normally we are not allowed to mention members of the royal family in this place. For 60 years Her Majesty, beyond all call of duty, has managed to be charming to her subjects. Having spent half that number of years in public service, I certainly find it a strain to be pleasant to people morning, noon and night. As I represent the constituency with the largest number of centenarians in the country, I can tell the House that they greatly look forward to the telegram they receive from Her Majesty the Queen—my own mother, Maud, is looking forward to her telegram on 2 May. Finally, I have a question for your good self, Mr Speaker: when Her Majesty celebrates her 100th birthday, who will send her a telegram? Long may she reign over us.
Question put and agreed to, nemine contradicente.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty on the occasion of the Sixtieth Anniversary of Her Accession to the Throne.
That the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by the whole House.