I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to offer the heartfelt good wishes of the House on the occasion of Her Majesty’s ninetieth birthday, expressing its deep gratitude for Her Majesty’s lifelong commitment to the service of the country and the Commonwealth, and praying that Her Majesty may long continue in health and happiness.
That Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister, Chris Grayling, Jeremy Corbyn, Chris Bryant, Angus Robertson, Mr Nigel Dodds, Tim Farron, Hywel Williams, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, Danny Kinahan, Caroline Lucas and Mr Douglas Carswell do wait upon Her Majesty with the said Message.
The motion stands in my name and those of the Leader of the Opposition and the leader of the Scottish National party.
Today we celebrate the 90th birthday of our country’s longest reigning monarch. Her Majesty the Queen—our Queen—has lived a life of service that began long before her accession to the throne. In 1940, at just 14 years old, the then Princess Elizabeth made her first BBC radio broadcast, to bring comfort and hope to children who had been evacuated from Britain’s cities during the war. At 18, she became the first female member of the royal family to join the armed forces, joining the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, training as a driver and a mechanic. At just 21, she made the exquisite and defining broadcast from Cape Town in which she uttered the famous words
“my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service”.
Never has such an extraordinary promise been so profoundly fulfilled.
As I said when we gathered in September to mark Her Majesty becoming our longest reigning monarch, for all of us in this Chamber who seek to play our part in public service, it is truly humbling to comprehend the scale of service that Her Majesty has given to our country over so many years. If we think of the vital landmark in completing our journey to democracy when everyone over 21 was finally given the vote in 1928, it means that Her Majesty has presided over two thirds of our history as a full democracy. In that time, she has met a quarter of all the American Presidents since independence. She has provided counsel to no fewer than 12 Prime Ministers, and that is just in Britain. She has worked with well over 150 Prime Ministers in her other realms. If anyone can come up with a collective noun for a group of Prime Ministers, it is probably Her Majesty. I think I will leave it her to make some suggestions.
I know that, like me, every Prime Minister has found Her Majesty’s counsel an incredibly valuable part of the job. Her perspective and length of experience are unique and utterly invaluable. Her first Prime Minister, in 1952, was Winston Churchill. Like him and all those who have followed, I can testify that she is quite simply one of the best audiences in the world. There is no one else in public life to whom any Prime Minister can really speak in total confidence, and no other country has a Head of State with such wisdom and such patience. There are some who suspect that, at times, I may have put her patience to the test. In the play “The Audience”, the character who portrays me goes on and on about Europe so long that she falls asleep, but I can guarantee that that has never happened. I may not have kept my promise not to bang on about Europe in every forum, but this is certainly the one where I try the hardest.
As some have pointed out, Her Majesty is now entering her 10th decade and starting to take things a little easier, which is why in the last year alone she has only undertaken 177 public engagements. In 90 years, Her Majesty has lived through some extraordinary times in our world, from the second world war, when her parents, the King and Queen, were nearly killed as bombs were dropped on Buckingham Palace, to the rations with which she bought the material for her wedding dress; from presenting the World cup to England at Wembley in 1966, to man landing on the moon three years later; and from the end of the cold war to peace in Northern Ireland.
Throughout it all, as the sands of culture shift and the tides of politics ebb and flow, Her Majesty has been steadfast—a rock of strength for our nation, for our Commonwealth and, on many occasions, for the whole world. As her grandson, Prince William, has said:
“Time and again, quietly and modestly, the Queen has shown us all that we can confidently embrace the future without compromising the things that are important.”
As Her Majesty said in her first televised Christmas broadcast in 1957, it is necessary to hold fast to “ageless ideals” and “fundamental principles”, and that requires a
“special kind of courage…which makes us stand up for everything we know is right, everything that is true and honest.”
In this modern Elizabethan era, Her Majesty has led a gentle evolution of our monarchy. From the first televised Christmas Day message, more than three decades before cameras were allowed into this House, to the opening up of the royal palaces and the invention of the royal walkabout, she has brought the monarchy closer to the people while retaining its dignity.
Her Majesty’s role as supreme governor of the Church of England has also been incredibly important to her. She has often said that her life is inspired not only by her love of this great country but by her faith in God. As she has said,
“I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God.”
In standing up for Christianity, she has been clear that the Church of England has a duty to protect the free practice of all faiths in our country.
Her Majesty always performs her constitutional duty as Head of State impeccably, but as head of our nation she is held in even higher regard for the way in which she represents the United Kingdom. It has rightly been said by some constitutional experts that Her Majesty the Queen is the only person born in the United Kingdom who is not English, Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish; she is all and none of those things and can represent all the nations of the United Kingdom on an equal basis in a way that no President ever could.
The Queen has also constantly represented the nation when abroad. Foreign leaders from President Truman to Nelson Mandela and Ronald Reagan have all testified to her extraordinary ability both to represent this country and to understand the world. On her hugely important and healing state visit to Ireland in 2011, Her Majesty began her remarks in Irish and spoke about the history of the troubled relationship between the UK and Ireland. She did so with a kindness as well as an authority that went far beyond anything that would be possible for an elected politician.
As a diplomat and ambassador for the United Kingdom, the Queen has represented our country on 266 official visits to 116 different countries. As I saw again at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta last year, she has made an extraordinary contribution to the future of our Commonwealth, growing it from eight Members in 1952 to 53 today. In doing so, she has helped to build a unique family of nations that spans every continent, all the main religions, a quarter of the members of the United Nations and nearly a third of the world’s population. The reach of Her Majesty’s diplomacy is without parallel—so much so that, as a result of a visit to Balmoral, she can claim to be the only woman ever to have driven the King of Saudi Arabia around in a car. I have that story sourced from both the participants.
Through it all, Her Majesty has carried herself with the most extraordinary grace and humility. When people meet the Queen, they talk about it for the rest of their lives. She understands that, and she shows a genuine interest in all she meets. They can really see that she cares. As the constitutional historian Vernon Bogdanor has said, Her Majesty understands what might be called
“the soul of the British people.”
Her Majesty has done so much throughout her life that when it comes to her 90th birthday, there cannot be much that is new for her to try, but I am pleased to hear that she will be sampling the orange drizzle birthday cake baked by the winner of “The Great British Bake Off”, Nadiya Hussain.
As she lights the first in a chain of 1,000 beacons, Her Majesty will be joined, as ever, by her family, including her son the Prince of Wales and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh, who has stood by her side throughout her extraordinary reign. They have both served this country with an unshakeable sense of duty, and their work, including the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme and the Prince’s Trust, has inspired millions of young people around the world. As we see in those delightful birthday portraits released this week, family has always been at the heart of Her Majesty’s long life.
Mr Speaker, we are uniquely blessed in our country. Her Majesty’s service is extraordinary, and it is a joy for us all to celebrate, to cherish and to honour it. In June, the whole country will share in this special milestone, with a service of thanksgiving in St Paul’s cathedral and a wonderful royal street party. But today, I know the whole House and the whole country will want to join me in wishing Her Majesty the Queen health, happiness and, above all, a very special 90th birthday.
It is a pleasure to second the Humble Address. Many people across the country today will be wishing Her Majesty a very happy 90th birthday, and we on the Labour Benches send our warmest greetings to add to them. May I say, as a relatively young whippersnapper, that I am fully in favour of our country having leaders of a finer vintage?
Today, we are talking about a highly respected individual who is 90. Whatever differing views people across this country have about the institution, the vast majority share an opinion that Her Majesty has served this country, and has overwhelming support in doing so, with a clear sense of public service and public duty, as the Prime Minister has indicated.
Her Majesty has carried out that duty with great warmth. My dear friend Mildred Gordon, the former Member for Bow and Poplar, who recently died aged 92 and whose funeral is tomorrow, met the Queen at the opening of the docklands light railway. The Queen asked Mildred how she was getting on as a newly elected MP, and Mildred replied, with the devastating honesty with which she replied to everything, by saying that she felt she had very little power to help her constituents. The Queen took her on one side and said, with her customary wit:
“Once they find out you lot can’t help them, they all write to me”.
Her Majesty was born less than a month before the general strike. A first daughter, who would later unexpectedly become heir to the throne, she was born two years before all women in Britain got the vote, as the Prime Minister pointed out. Her childhood was during the mass poverty of the long slump of the 1930s and she had her teenage years during the brutal carnage of the second world war. At war’s end, she experienced people’s joy first hand, as the young princess walked through the streets of London; I am pleased that this morning Radio 4 replayed that very moving oral history of our time and lives—indeed, of before the time of most of us in the House.
Her Majesty became Queen at just 25, following the death of her father, and has reigned for nearly 64 years. She is the longest reigning monarch in our history. In that time, our country has become a better and more civilised place. We have enacted equality legislation, ended colonialism and created the national health service, the welfare state and the Open University. As Head of the Commonwealth, she has been a defender of that incredible multicultural global institution. We are all very grateful for the way in which she has stood up for the Commonwealth; she has visited every Commonwealth country, I think. The Prime Minister was quite right to draw attention to her historic visit to Ireland in 2011, and her speaking in the Irish language at the reception held for her in Dublin during that visit.
Today I am welcoming two nonagenarians from my constituency to Parliament. Both have a link with the celebrations that we are conducting today. They are Iris Monaghan and George Durack. Iris was born in what is now the Republic of Ireland, but was then part of Britain. She came to London in 1951, before the coronation, and was a Crown civil servant in the Inland Revenue. She has helped to collect taxes since 1951, keeping us all in the state to which we are accustomed.
George fought in the second world war, serving in the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, attached to the 7th Armoured Division. He had a daily close affinity with Her Majesty throughout his working life, as he worked for the Royal Mail, delivering Her Majesty’s head through letterboxes all over north London.
Yesterday, I was present at the graduation of a 91-year-old constituent who has just completed her third degree—a master’s no less—at Birkbeck, University of London. That proves that it is never too late to take up a new career and learn something else.
It is their generation—that of the Queen and of my parents—that defeated the horrors of fascism in Europe, endured the privations of the post-war era and built a more civilised and equal Britain. We have much to be grateful to them for.
On the day of her coronation in 1953, Her Majesty was driven through Upper Street in my borough. But her crowning achievement in Islington was to come some years later—you will enjoy this, Mr Speaker. In 2006, she was due to open the new Emirates Stadium in my constituency, but had to pull out due to an injury. Unfortunately, that is a fate that has afflicted far too many of Arsenal’s squad in subsequent years, so we must congratulate her on her prescience. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Catherine West) was then leader of Islington Council. As the Queen could not attend the opening, the whole squad was invited to Buckingham Palace to meet her, and my hon. Friend accompanied them. We know that the Queen is absolutely above politics. She may be above football, too, but many locals harbour a quiet, secret view that she is actually privately a gooner.
In her reign, the Queen has seen off 12 Prime Ministers. I recently attended my first state dinner; she has received over 100 state visits, and, as the Prime Minister indicated, visited well over 100 countries on our behalf. I admire her energy and wish her well in her continuing and outstanding commitment to public life. I wish her a very happy 90th birthday.
May I associate myself with the excellent tribute paid by the Prime Minister to the Queen, and on behalf of myself and my constituents, may I congratulate the Queen on this great milestone in a life of service and punctilious duty, dedicated entirely to her people in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and as the most formidable ambassador to the rest of the world that this country has ever had? It has been a life of devotion, fortitude, good judgment, selfless duty, great good humour and uncomplaining hard work. In all that, she has been supported by a loving family, and blessed with a happy marriage to a remarkable consort who has done so much for her and for our country. The Queen was crowned in the same abbey church as William the Conqueror, and at the age of 26—the same age as Queen Elizabeth I had been 400 years earlier. She embodies all the best qualities that are most important to our country, and lends such distinction to our nation.
The Queen brings to our national life an experience and knowledge of government and events, and of men and women all over the world, which is truly unrivalled by any other person in the land. Throughout her long reign, she has displayed judgment of the first order, great tolerance, and absolute 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, armed with a sword and a pistol, yet her current Prime Minister was not even born in 1952. Such is the scale and breadth of the life that she has so triumphantly lived through. During those extraordinary 90 years of some of the most tumultuous social, economic and technological change that Britain has ever seen, she has provided a very firm hand on the tiller.
The Queen is a source of powerful influence for this country throughout the world. She is the Queen of 16 countries, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and the Head of the Commonwealth—a greatly undervalued organisation that includes more than a quarter of the world’s population. She thus brings a vital and often unrecognised addition to our efforts and influence overseas, and the House should pay great tribute to her work down the years in that remarkable organisation since 1949.
Every country needs someone who can represent the whole nation. That may seem primitive—and indeed it is—but if nationhood is to mean anything, it must have a focus. In our case, for many years that focus has been and remains the Queen. Nations 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.
It is my firmly held belief that the Queen is the single most important, respected, admired and loved public figure in the world today, and if I may, I will conclude with a vignette that I have told in the House before but that bears repeating. On the night of 4 April 1955, on the eve of his resignation as Prime Minister, Churchill gave a dinner at No. 10 in honour of the Queen. It was agreed between the private offices that there would be no speeches, but the Queen, greatly moved by the impending retirement of her first Prime Minister, whom she had known since she was a very small child, rose in her place and lifted her glass with a toast to “My Prime Minister”. And Churchill, a very old man in the full-dress evening uniform of a Knight of the Garter, completely unprepared, pulled himself to his feet, and this is what he said to the Queen:
“Madam, I propose a toast to your Majesty which I used to enjoy drinking as a subaltern officer in the 4th Hussars at Bangalore in India in the reign of your Majesty’s great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. I drink to the wise and kindly way of life, of which your Majesty is the young and gleaming champion.”
For 90 years of her life and 64 years of her reign, she has always been the same. God save the Queen!
It is an honour to co-sponsor today’s motion with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and to follow the right hon. Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) who spoke so eloquently.
I would like to take the opportunity to put on record the appreciation of Her Majesty by the people of Scotland, with whom she has had a lifetime connection and a commitment to the country. While she has managed to serve as Head of State to a remarkable 32 independent countries during her unprecedented and successful reign, her association with Scotland is enduring and it is special.
Just last year, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh marked the day she became the UK’s longest-reigning monarch with a steam-train ride from Edinburgh to the opening of the new Borders Railway. When the Queen was born, she was delivered by a Scottish nurse, Nurse Barrie, and since then she has made regular visits north of the border. Her youngest days were spent at Glamis in Angus, where her mother and grandparents were from, and much of her childhood was spent at Balmoral, while part of her honeymoon was at nearby Birkhall.
On becoming Queen after the death of her father King George VI, one of her first official tasks was to plant a cherry tree at the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh, the parish church for the Palace of Holyroodhouse. After her coronation, crowds lined the streets of the Scottish capital as the Queen received the honours of Scotland: the Scottish crown, the sceptre and the sword of state. Notwithstanding concerns from some in the 1950s about how Her Majesty could be Queen Elizabeth II of Scotland when we have never had a Queen Elizabeth I, an elegant solution was found on postboxes north of the border, where there is a Scottish crown rather than the ERII royal cypher.
Throughout the decades of her reign, the Queen has been a regular visitor across Scotland. For me, the most remarkable events have been in recent years, including the 1999 re-opening of the Scottish Parliament after a recess of nearly 300 years. Who could forget the entire chamber, all MSPs of all parties, the public gallery, Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh all singing “A Man’s a Man for A’ That” by Robert Burns?
As Head of the Commonwealth, the Queen attended the Glasgow 2014 games opening ceremony and, always good at keeping up with the times, Her Majesty went viral on Twitter following a trip to the Glasgow national hockey centre after appearing to “photobomb” a selfie by an Australian player by smiling in the background.
While the Queen’s official visits and functions in Scotland are well received, there is an appreciation that it is at Balmoral that she likes to be most. Queen Victoria described Balmoral as her “heaven on earth”, while the current Queen is said to be “never happier” than when spending her summer break at the north-east estate, her private home which was handed down through generations of royals. The usual two-month stay in August and September traditionally includes a visit to the nearby Braemar Gathering where the Queen is Chieftain of the Highland games event and attends Crathie Kirk as a member of the Church of Scotland.
Her Majesty also has a love of the Hebrides and cruising around the islands and coastline. One story I particularly recall is from 2006 when the royal party was moored by the island of Gigha off the west coast of Kintyre. The Queen wanted to see the famous Achamore Gardens. However, no advance arrangements had been made, so Princess Anne apparently cycled to the local newsagents to see if there was a way for her mother to be transported around. That duly happened in the newsagent’s people carrier by the newsagent—now that must have been a sight to behold.
There is a legion of stories of tourists and visitors encountering a lady bearing a striking resemblance to Her Majesty walking her dogs alone on Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh by the Palace of Holyroodhouse, or being offered a lift as she drove her Land Rover on Royal Deeside. I am sure that, if he is able to catch your eye, Mr Speaker, my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Stuart Blair Donaldson), whose constituency includes Balmoral, will have more stories of that kind to recount. Her Majesty’s connections with Balmoral and the north-east of Scotland are abiding. She is a reader of the Aberdeen Press and Journal, and we have learned in recent days, from an interview with her cousin, that she is an accomplished speaker of the Doric, which is no mean feat. The Queen’s connections with the north of Scotland are also highly prized by leading small and large companies and businesses, including Speyside firms Walkers of Abelour, Baxters of Fochabers and Johnstons of Elgin. More than 80 Scottish companies hold royal warrants, and no doubt many others would like to be warrant-holders as well.
A 90th birthday is a remarkable milestone for all who reach it, but particularly for our Head of State and her ongoing lifetime of public service. We wish her, the Duke of Edinburgh, and all her family well, and look forward to many further years of outstanding public service.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me, on what I think is a momentous day, to celebrate the birthday of our longest-serving monarch. I have to say that it is also today that I celebrate my birthday, although I am a little younger than Her Majesty. I feel that a Beatles song would be most appropriate if I find it among my birthday presents.
I have always been tremendously proud to share the date of my birth with our monarch. When I was very little, in Cardiff, my father always used to kid me that the 24-gun salute in Sophia Gardens was, in fact, for me, but I found out fairly soon that it was for a much more important lady.
Like many who are here today, I am a modern Elizabethan. We have never known any other monarch, and we are staunchly proud to live in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. She is truly a beacon and an exemplar of dedication to the people of the United Kingdom, and an exemplar of devotion to duty. She is also a wonderful role model for women not just in this country but around the world, particularly as women try to take their place in public life and to have a voice in the Governments of their countries.
In this House and in Parliament, we know about public service, but none of us will ever equal what our Queen does as a matter of course in caring for all the people of this kingdom and across the globe, in the countries of the Commonwealth. The Queen’s achievement in drawing all those countries together for their mutual support and benefit is truly magnificent. It is a notable achievement in this day and age, and one that is a testament to her gentle guardianship and powerful advocacy.
The poet John Milton lived for a while in Chalfont St Giles, in my constituency, and his cottage is still there, preserved as a monument to his work. He was a parliamentarian and a person who argued against the restoration of the monarchy—a servant of the then Commonwealth—but I would like to think that had John Milton known our monarch, he would have altered his view. As it is, I turn to the words that he wrote about Shakespeare, whose 400th anniversary we celebrate in two days’ time. He wrote that the poet and playwright needed no monument, because
“Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a live-long monument.”
Throughout the ceaseless work of a long life, with the welfare of her people always at the heart and centre of her being, Her Majesty the Queen has created such a monument.
This place is often described as “the mother of Parliaments”, but Her Majesty is truly the mother of our parliamentary democracy, and easily commands our love and respect. Long may the Queen rule over us, and, your Majesty, a very happy birthday too.
This morning, when I was buying my muffin in Portcullis House, I noticed Elizabeth II on the coin with which I paid. However, today is not about the Elizabeth on our coins; it is about the Elizabeth in our hearts. She is of course Her Majesty the Queen, but today is not a royal occasion, even though it is an occasion about a royal. Turning 90 is a marvellous signpost in life, as I hope to experience myself before long. Not long ago, one of my sisters turned 90 and we had a huge family celebration. Today, the national family is celebrating, and that very much includes those in this House.
I remember the celebrations of King George V’s silver jubilee. I was five years old at the time, and I was in hospital recovering from having my tonsils out. I remember the ceremony of the jubilee being broadcast on the wireless throughout the ward. It was very impressive, even to someone of my age. It was respected, but it was remote. Over the generations, Her Majesty the Queen’s family has had its share of vicissitudes, some of which have been handled with greater adroitness than others. However, over the years, Her Majesty the Queen has sustained and increased the potency of the monarchy. That emerges from her own personality and from the fact that she has been brought up to serve and that it is her instinct to serve and to associate.
The basis of these celebrations today is that Her Majesty the Queen has turned the nation into a united family in a way that has never been achieved, or even attempted, by any previous monarch. We are all together, and that is why people feel so strongly about the celebrations and so happy about them. As shown in the photographs of a recent visit by Her Majesty to my constituency, which I have in my house, people are not only honoured to meet the Queen but delighted to do so. They are honoured by the position, but they are delighted by the person, and that is the reason that we celebrate so gladly today. It is not just “Congratulations, your Majesty”; it is “Happy birthday, Elizabeth.”
Two of my best memories of seeing the Queen are at schools and academies. In 1999, she came to the Durrington High School in Worthing, and it was a delight to see the young people and all the staff—academic staff and support staff—so pleased by her recognition of what they were doing together.
On 26 October 2012, she came to the Drapers Academy in Harold Hill, and I do not think I have ever seen young people chatting so amiably during their school lunch as they did with her when they got her talking about her experiences during the war.
I look on the Queen as someone who provides a focus for voluntary service, the civil service and the military service. One of my best friends was very proud to have held her warrant as a police constable. That is something he had in common with chief constables; they are all equal in serving their country through the Queen. My father held her appointment as an ambassador and, previously, a royal warrant as a second lieutenant in the Army.
To be in a country where we can change our Prime Minister during a war without everything falling to pieces, as we did during the great war and the second world war, shows the value of having a monarchy that is accepted by people on all sides.
There are many other things that one could say, but I shall be brief in adding my congratulations to those offered by Members who have spoken already. They have set a tone that will be welcomed by the Queen. If we can live up to her example, we will be doing pretty well for the country. She has helped to lead this country through difficult times and good times. Most of all, she has given a great deal of pleasure to those who are trying to do their duty to others.
We gather today not only to rejoice in the Queen having lived a long and glorious life, but to celebrate the reign that encompasses so much of it as well as the lives of almost everyone over whom she rules today.
We must remember that the Queen was not born to this role. She was not an heir and not expected to ascend the throne. Instead, with her mother, father and sister, she was part of a loving and contented family, growing up in devoted respect for her grandfather, King George V, and in the shade of her glamorous uncle, the Prince of Wales. That peaceful life came to an end for the Duke of York and his family with the trauma of the abdication. With the support of Elizabeth, later the Queen Mother, and their loyal daughters, His Majesty King George VI ensured that the Crown remained at the heart of its people’s affections. Together, they embodied our will to defeat the supreme evil of living memory and win the war that ensured that civilisation, decency and democracy prospered, rather than perished, in Europe and across the world. Her Majesty, iconic and perpetual as she sometimes seems, is not a symbol; she is a reminder to us all of the generation who did great things and stopped terrible things being done to us. The great history of our nation, of which we can be truly proud, is not something that our Queen merely symbolises; it is something that she and her generation lived for us. Thank God that she and they did.
In deserved and romantic fashion, the Queen saw a dashing young hero enter her life after the war. In her choice of husband, Her Majesty has kept us all alert, invigorated and—more than once—amused. Their life together, rising to some 70 years, is a tribute to the character of both our Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Only yesterday, we saw the wonderful picture of Her Majesty, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and the young Prince George all together—continuity and change in one loving and beloved image. The gift of the Queen’s long life includes seeing the future that assuredly lies in store. We in the Commonwealth that she has done so much to sustain see that the Crown rests securely on a sure line of succession.
In a country such as ours and in the other realms over which she reigns, the crown worn by the Queen embodies our unity. In my corner of this kingdom, Northern Ireland, it will never be forgotten how steadfast the Queen was in her support for and affection towards our afflicted Province. From my time as Lord Mayor of the great city of Belfast, I can personally attest to her compassion and concern for those affected by the violence. Those dark days are, we pray, now over, but Her Majesty’s enduring interest and contribution towards peace in Northern Ireland continues. Her frequent visits and those of other members of the royal family are always warmly received right across the community. For that and so much more, we from Northern Ireland are immensely grateful.
Like most, I have known no other sovereign. We have been blessed through the generations to have one so dedicated to the service of our country and the Commonwealth. The nations of the Commonwealth are joining with us today in our tributes to the Queen. As we have been reminded, the Commonwealth is a powerful expression of the unifying and inspirational spirit of its great Head. It is but one of Her Majesty’s enduring legacies. She has been the rock upon which this country has continued to flourish and built a modern democracy so envied across the world. Her shining faith has been a constant and unwavering inspiration through times of national celebration and national occasion. In times of personal sadness, Her Majesty has exhibited the great grace that comes with great faith.
We are thankful for the wonderful life that God has given us in His servant Queen Elizabeth, and may He in his great wisdom and His great mercy be pleased to grant Her Majesty and we her people the continued blessing of having her reign over us for many, many more years to come. We wish her a very, very happy birthday. God save the Queen.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much indeed for calling me, and I hope that in the event that the Whip on duty on the delegated legislation Committee that I am supposed now to be attending chastises me, you may come to my aid. I am delighted to join my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in, once again, saluting Her Majesty’s extraordinary, dedicated service to the nation and to the Commonwealth, and in wishing her many happy returns on her 90th birthday.
I do so as the Member privileged to represent Aldershot, home of the British Army, and I am authorised by the most senior officer in Aldershot, Lieutenant General James Bashall, to associate the garrison most warmly with today’s tributes. Her Majesty is head of her armed forces, Colonel-in-Chief of 17 British Army regiments and of 24 Commonwealth regiments. Soldiers, sailors and airmen, like Members of Parliament, swear an oath of allegiance to the sovereign. It is she they serve, and that bond between the sovereign and the men and women of the armed forces is a very special one, not least because in her is personified the ideal of service and duty. Although King George II was the last sovereign to lead his forces into battle—in the battle of Dettingen, in 1743—Elizabeth II has led from the front by example, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, not least in upholding her commitment to defend the faith, our Christian faith. My own modest commission in the Royal Air Force volunteer reserve hangs prominently on my study wall, to remind me of the duty I owe to my sovereign.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister knows how important the support of a spouse is as he discharges his duties, and I am sure that he obtains advice, welcome and sometimes perhaps unwelcome, from his spouse—I certainly do. It is therefore right today that we should reflect also on the support that His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh has given the Queen throughout her life. Although we have not been privileged to know the nature of any advice he may have had the temerity to proffer to Her Majesty, we can be sure that his immense reservoir of common sense and capacity for candid, plain speaking, which has so endeared him to the British people, will have been an added blessing to her.
As others have said, not least the Leader of the Opposition, Her Majesty does have a wonderful sense of humour. I recall the story, as many others may do, of the Privy Council meeting where, unfortunately, a Cabinet Minister’s telephone had not been switched off. When it rang, the Cabinet Minister took the phone out of her handbag and duly moved away to answer it. When she had finished the call, Her Majesty turned to her and said, “Somebody important, was it?” [Laughter.]
Finally, Mr Speaker, I conclude with the admirable editorial in this week’s Country Life, which has just relocated to Farnborough in my constituency: It said:
“Often accused in the past of being too traditional, it is now her old-fashioned values and steadfastness that have made her someone to be admired and emulated the world over. Her long reign and vast accumulated wisdom have helped to stabilise relations across the world, especially within the Commonwealth.”
We owe Her Majesty a great debt of gratitude. God save the Queen.
I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for Aldershot (Sir Gerald Howarth), and I am grateful to be able to contribute to this collective greeting. I just wish to relate three experiences from my period as the Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty’s Household between 2003 and 2005. I see that another former Vice-Chamberlain, the right hon. Member for Guildford (Anne Milton), is in the Chamber. As colleagues will know, the Vice-Chamberlain, who traditionally is a senior Government Whip, has a variety of duties to fulfil, three of which are: to design a daily message to send to Her Majesty outlining what is happening here; to act as hostage during state openings of Parliament; and to take to Her Majesty treaties to be signed and presented to the House of Commons.
I was first presented to Her Majesty in 2003. When I asked her what she would like to see in the message—the same question, I am sure, that all my predecessors and successors have asked—she answered, “That which generally does not make the papers will be of interest.” In other words: “Just give us the gossip—that which is not fit to print.” Given how we are reported in today’s media, that was a pretty high bar, but I managed to achieve it at least once.
The second duty is to act as hostage. Since our predecessors executed Charles I in 1649, every time the monarch comes to visit us, we have to send a senior MP to act as a hostage, which I did on two occasions. I felt like Patrick McGoohan in “The Prisoner” and that I was not allowed to leave, although I never actually tried. The Buckingham Palace officials were very generous and hospitable. They said that I could watch television, read the paper, have a coffee or a gin and tonic, or walk about, but I was not leaving. When I expressed my anxiety at this experience a short time later to the then head of our armed forces, Sir Mike Jackson, he said, “Jim, you shouldn’t have worried.” I said, “Shouldn’t I, Mike?” and he said, “No, if anything had happened to Her Majesty, we would just have shot you.” He was not kidding, as I am sure that Members know.
One Easter, when we needed a document to be signed and then presented to the House, the civil servants in the Whips Office contacted Buckingham Palace, which responded that Her Majesty was not at Buckingham Palace, but at Windsor. Our officials said, “Well, Fitzpatrick will go to Windsor to get the document signed.” The message came back from Her Majesty, and the officials looked at me and said, “Her Majesty said, ‘If Mr Fitzpatrick is coming all the way to Windsor, ask him if he would like to stay to lunch’”. My civil servants said, “Do you want to stay?” I said, “Bite her royal hand off”—except I do not think that I used the word “royal”.
When I was being driven down in the Government car to Windsor castle, on a beautiful, sunny Easter Monday, I wondered, “How many people does Her Majesty entertain to lunch on an Easter Monday?” There were six of us: her private secretary, three equerries, me and Her Majesty. I was totally unprepared. It was a measure of the dear lady’s humanness that for an hour and a half she commanded the conversation around the table and included everybody. Not having known her before, I saw her charm, generosity and regality.
I am grateful for the experience of being Vice-Chamberlain for two years and am pleased to add my and my constituents’ greetings to Her Majesty on this auspicious day.
Her Majesty the Queen came to the throne in the year I was born, so she is the only monarch I have ever known, and because of the way she has fulfilled her duties, I am a staunch royalist. In my time in this place, we had one Prime Minister who increasingly behaved as if he was a president, and that certainly confirmed me in my view of how blessed we are to have a monarch rather than a president.
I have seen at first hand the joy that the Queen brings to people’s lives. I will never forget her visits in 1999 to the two constituencies I have represented. Residents were spontaneously thrilled with her visits, which is something that we politicians struggle to achieve. I represent the highest number of centenarians in the country, and I am constantly attending centenarian birthday parties. My own mother, who is 14 years older than the Queen, was thrilled to receive her telegram, and I have told her that the good Lord needs to spare her for another year if she is to receive her second telegram. When I had the good fortune of being invested at Windsor castle last year, I was in awe of how a woman of nearly 90 could stand for over an hour and, with her conversation and manner, make the occasion so special and memorable for each of the recipients.
I should say that Her Majesty has made only one mistake in her life, and that was when she observed that I had been a Member of Parliament for a long time and asked me whether I had seen many changes. Her eyes glazed over as I went on and on about all the changes I had seen. You and I know only too well, Mr Speaker, what a challenge it can be to be nice to people morning, noon and night. Well, Her Majesty certainly succeeds in that regard, unlike myself.
This wonderful and gracious lady has served our country with integrity, charm and dignity all her life, through the upheavals and tribulations our nation has faced. Her personal life, with all its tragedies and sorrows, has never been allowed to come between her and her subjects. She has been a constant example to us all, rising above party politics, and the ebb and flow of public opinion. She has been faultlessly impartial and loyal to her people. The natural warmth and empathy that she has shown throughout her long reign have endeared her to even the most hardened republican, and she is now more loved than she has ever been. So yes, long may she reign over us. God save the Queen. And, Mr Speaker, can we please all have a piece of this birthday cake we keep hearing about?
As a hardened republican, I think I have been introduced by the hon. Member for Southend West (Sir David Amess), for which I am grateful.
I believe that possibly the most momentous moment of the Queen’s reign, and certainly of her visit to Ireland, was when she stood dressed in green in Croke Park and bowed her head in penitence because of the terrible massacre that took place there. It was an act of humility and majesty that had, and will continue to have, an enormous symbolic effect on relations between the nations of these islands.
I want to say a special word of thanks to Her Majesty on behalf of those—a quarter of the country—who regard themselves as proud republicans. My affection for her goes back a very long time, although I did know another monarch in this country, and until today she was a fellow octogenarian. She teaches us a great lesson—an example that this House should take. We have done well on diversity as far as ethnic minorities and women are concerned—we have done nothing like enough, but we are improving—but we are still dreadfully under-represented by octogenarians in this House. She has led with a splendid example of continuing service. The speech made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition reminded me of Mildred Gordon who, when she became an MP, followed Ian Mikardo. He stood down because he felt he was too old, but then the wise people of the Poplar Labour party chose Mildred Gordon, who was older than Ian Mikardo. She served with distinction in this institution.
There is a distinction between respect for Her Majesty and criticism of the institution of monarchy. She has continued the institution, giving it new life and meaning, because of her personality and her decision not to be embroiled in any way in affairs that are political. The late Member for Cambridge, Robert Rhodes James, wrote an article describing what might have been a crisis in his party when Mrs Thatcher was about to leave office. She was more popular in the country than she was in the House or her party at the time. The fear that Robert Rhodes James expressed was that if she had decided to call a general election, the Conservative party could not have stopped her, and neither could Parliament, the Cabinet or anyone else; but the Queen could. I believe that was an example of where, because of her personality, the Queen would have acted in the interests of the country, rather than in the interests of a Prime Minister, and that is the supreme job of any monarch in this country.
As a republican, I am happy to speak for a city where the last attempted revolution to set up a republic took place, in 1839. It was interesting that last week Mr Mark Reckless, who is known to us in this place, came to Newport to launch his campaign and paid tribute to the attractions of Chartism as a forerunner of UKIP-ism. People have suggested that that was opportunist, but I do not think it was, because I believe that if he had stood in Coventry, he probably would have arrived in the constituency naked on a horse.
It is a great privilege to have been called in this debate. I share 81 years of life with Her Majesty and I have watched her with great interest all that time. Those of us who wish to have a new system for our Head of State can say with deep sincerity, “Happy birthday, ma’am.”
Having caught your eye, Mr Speaker, I want to pay tribute to Her Majesty as one of her five Members of Parliament, representing Sandringham, alongside those who represent Buckingham Palace, Windsor, Holyrood and Balmoral. However, first I want to endorse what the Prime Minister said. From the moment Her Majesty stepped off that flight back from Kenya on 7 February 1952 to return to a nation in mourning, her life has been one of relentless, selfless and dedicated duty to our nation and also Britain’s dependencies, our overseas territories and our realms.
I am very glad that the Prime Minister and, indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Sir Nicholas Soames) mentioned the Commonwealth, because that ceaseless service also applies to the Commonwealth. As has been pointed out, it started off as a loose association of a small number of countries, but has grown into an incredibly important organisation that includes 2 billion-plus people—30% of the world’s population. The Commonwealth is a truly global organisation that I believe has led to countries within it co-operating and collaborating as never before. Her Majesty can be proud of the way the organisation has moved forward.
This extraordinary length of ongoing service to our nation stands in stark contrast to the cult of youth that seems to have taken over so many democracies, including our own—although obviously the Leader of the Opposition is an honourable exception to that, and has given my generation a lot of hope in the process.
I want to say something about Sandringham. Her Majesty could easily be excused from coming to her beloved Sandringham to get away from London and the pressures of work and to relax with her family, her horses on the two studs and her dogs, but every year without fail she carries out numerous local visits. Many are to the same organisations, but every year she will go and visit new organisations—for example, opening new village halls or a new ward at the Queen Elizabeth hospital in King’s Lynn, or some of our local museums or local businesses. What I have noticed on those visits is that once she has met the dignitaries—the mayor, the lord lieutenant and the MP—she always makes it clear that she wants to go and meet real people. She shows to those people unfailing courtesy, good humour and a deep knowledge of west Norfolk. Time and again, she has brought untold joy and happiness to my constituents on so many different occasions.
Her Majesty personifies the dignity and civic spirit that are the very best of Norfolk and also the very best of British. As has been pointed out, very often beside her is her consort the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, who has been an indefatigable rock of support. We celebrate the birthday of a remarkable person, but we also celebrate something else. We celebrate the covenant between the monarch and the people, which under her stewardship has made the monarchy stronger than ever. Long may she reign over us.
I thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me to speak, especially as I managed to make it into the Chamber only when the Prime Minister was concluding his remarks—my apologies to him. On this occasion I am convinced that, not having heard one of his remarks, I would have agreed with them all.
It is a massive honour to give praise and to acknowledge the service of Her Majesty on her 90th birthday. Unlike many people in this place, I have spoken to Her Majesty on only a limited number of occasions. It was on one occasion really, as a very new Member of Parliament. She was asking me how I was getting on as a new MP and how I was coping with the correspondence. I did confide that, on occasions, people would come up to me in the street and say thank you, or acknowledge a letter that I had written to them, and I would sometimes just go blank. I am sure that colleagues share that sensation and think, “Right, what are they talking about? I can’t quite remember the detail.” Her Majesty said, “Yes, that happens to me all the time. I always say that it is the least I could do”. Perhaps we should all cling on to that as a good get-out-of-jail card.
Her Majesty has had occasion to visit formally my part of the world—Westmorland—on two occasions in her reign. The first was in 1956, which was 14 years before I was born. It was the year of the Suez crisis; the year of the Clean Air Act; and the year that the United Kingdom turned on its first nuclear power station. The second occasion was three years ago, when I was privileged to meet her in Kendal as the Member of Parliament for Westmorland and Lonsdale. In the 57 years between those two visits, and indeed since she assumed the throne, so much has changed for all of us. Much, much more has changed for Britain and the world in which we live. The Elizabethan age will be reviewed by history as a vast, transformational and tumultuous era, during which our Queen has provided immeasurable constancy, which will be looked back on as the thread that runs through all of it, and that has made change possible without the uncertainty and instability that could have come about otherwise.
In Her Majesty’s time, Governments have indeed come and gone. She has seen them lead Britain into the European Common Market, and then seen her people vote to remain—that was when I was five years of age. She has seen Britain lead the world by becoming the first G7 country to commit 0.7% of GDP to international development aid. She has seen Britain become a world leader in renewable energy and make great strides in tackling climate change. She has seen technological advances race ahead from when a telegram or a radio programme was a thing of great excitement to the prevalence of satellite television, the iPhone, letters being supplanted by email and playground conversations by tweets and Facebook status updates.
Through all those years of change and upheaval, Her Majesty’s selfless service to Britain has remained a constant. She is admired at home and around the world for her constant and consistent advocacy of Britain at its best. I am bound to say—others have reflected on this—that she embodies the value of a constitutional monarchy. She is a neutral person who is above politics and who is the foundation of our constitution. She is someone to whom all of us, whatever our political views, can look, and with whom we can share an allegiance. That is an immeasurably valuable thing.
Even as we contemplate the monumental things that have occurred during Her Majesty’s reign, it is worth remembering that birthdays are very personal occasions. They are opportunities to celebrate the lives we lead and give thanks with friends and families. Hers has been an extraordinary life and she is an extraordinary example to all of us in public life of the meaning of public service. As we and others pay tribute to her example, I hope that she, who has so many friends, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and a loving husband, experiences the same joy and pleasure that we all do when we get together to celebrate with those whom we love. On this wonderful and historic day, on behalf of my party and my constituents in Westmorland and Lonsdale, I pay tribute to Her Majesty, to her dedication, to a lifetime of public service and to her faith, and wish her a very happy birthday and many more to come. I thank God for her service. Long live the Queen.
I am honoured and humbled to be able to follow right hon. and hon. Members and the Prime Minister in congratulating Her Majesty the Queen on her 90th birthday, and indeed on 90 years of tremendous service to her country and the Commonwealth.
How fortunate we are in this complex modern age to be British, and to have a Head of State who is admired and respected throughout the world. The contribution Her Majesty has made to the standing of the United Kingdom in the world is hard to overestimate. From my own view, the Queen’s greatest contribution has been as a steadying influence in British life through good times and bad. She is the one guaranteed constant in all our lives. In many ways, she has become the nation’s grandmother.
At the age of 45, I am precisely half the age of the Queen. Yet when I was born she had already been Queen for 18 years and she had been a public figure for many years before that. Indeed, like so many members of the royal family, the Queen has led her entire life in the public gaze. She sat for pictures almost from birth, and she made her first solo public appearance when she was a mere 16. Indeed, she has been a lady of so many firsts. She was the first British monarch to visit China, Australia and New Zealand, the first to address the US Congress and the first Head of State to have opened not one but two Olympic games. She made the first televised Christmas broadcast in 1957, and was the first monarch—and one of the first people in the world—to send an email in 1976.
It is to Her Majesty’s credit that, while being a figure of great stability, she has also moved with the times. As we entered the digital age, the royal email address was launched in 2007, as was the royal channel on YouTube. The royal Twitter account went live in 2009 and the royal Facebook page in 2010.
Today, the British monarchy has 2.2 million followers on Twitter—and growing—and 2.7 million likes on Facebook. That is a number of which many of us in this place will be rather jealous. A Google search for “Queen Elizabeth II” returns more than 21 million results, and “the Queen” returns 214 million results—and while many others, both past and present, can claim that rather generic title, the Queen, one has to go to page 6 of the search results before one comes to any topic other than Her Majesty—incidentally, and not surprisingly, that is indeed a public house.
The Queen is probably the most recognisable figure in the world and yet, as we have heard, one of her former protection officers, Richard Griffin, has shared a most endearing story this week. I recognise that the Member who represents Balmoral is here today, so I will not share the punchline or the details of that story, but it shows how gracious Her Majesty is. So many people have personal stories of their own interactions with Her Majesty. She has met hundreds of thousands of her subjects; and millions have seen her face to face at one of the many great festivals and events that she attends each year. In 2012, during jubilee year, many residents of Worcestershire met Her Majesty when she opened the Hive library and history centre in Worcester and when she attended a reception at the Guildhall.
Such personal interactions are one of the main reasons why the Queen is so incredibly and enduringly popular. Opinion polls show that, despite considerable competition, Britons consider Queen Elizabeth II to be our greatest ever monarch. She has reigned over a new Elizabethan age, and we are fortunate to have shared that age with her. On behalf of my constituents, the loyal people of the faithful city of Worcester and all the people of Worcestershire, I wish Her Majesty a very happy 90th birthday.
It is a pleasure to join in the celebration today. I am looking forward to returning home this evening to my husband and four children for our own celebration, because today is the birthday of not only Her Majesty, but my daughter, Shansée. I remember 21 April very well. It was a particularly long day a number of years ago. My daughter has prepared her own birthday wish list. I do not know whether Her Majesty has done the same, but perhaps they may share some of the same aspirations for the future. I am delighted to wish them both a very happy birthday.
For the benefit of the House, I should add that I have just returned from the Council of Europe where I was a member of the UK delegation. I can assure Members that they will be celebrating Her Majesty’s birthday in the normal manner just about now.
For the past 64 years, Scotland has enjoyed Her Majesty’s leadership. Indeed, in 1999, she said that our country has
“a special place in my own and my family’s affections.”
I know that Scotland feels the same in return. We very much look forward to her opening the new Scottish Parliament after the elections next month.
The people of Strathearn in my constituency of Ochil and South Perthshire are very proud of their royal connections, especially our association with the Queen’s grandson, the Earl of Strathearn and his wife, the Countess.
Few 26-year-olds would have been equipped to cope with the daunting role Her Majesty inherited in 1952, but it has been clear to all that she has provided exemplary leadership over the past 64 years and, hopefully, for many to come. Over and above that, to have been seen to conduct herself in such a decorous and dignified manner in an era of unprecedented public scrutiny has been an example to all of us in public life.
I am proud to have been honoured for my work in business and in Scotland’s Asian community by receiving an OBE. One of my deepest regrets is that my dad passed away just two weeks before I received that award in Holyrood palace. He believed that the honour was not just a personal one but, in part, a commitment to the whole of the Asian community, reinforcing our valuable place in its fabric. How lovely it is that the lady preparing the birthday cake for Her Majesty is also a member of the Asian community; I have no doubt that Nadiya Hussain’s cake will be a masterpiece.
The recognition I received from Her Majesty symbolised for me and my father the fact that those of us with Pakistani heritage had all been accepted into the heart of this country. That is a gift that could only have been bestowed by someone who conducts themselves in an arena above politics and who acts overall in the national interest. I was fortunate enough to be presented with the OBE by Her Majesty herself, and what I remember most about the conversation I had with her was that she spoke so knowledgeably about the work in which I had been involved and the achievements of the organisations that I had supported. I remember thinking at the time that carrying out those duties for every single recipient she met that day with such skill and insight must have taken considerable personal commitment and preparation on her part.
By committing herself so diligently to her public duties at home and abroad and by carrying them out with such dedication, Her Majesty has shown herself to be a model and modern constitutional monarch. She has not only acted as our Head of State but has been a great servant to our democracy. I am glad to have had this opportunity to thank her once again for her public service and to wish her a very happy 90th birthday today.
I am delighted to support this Humble Address on this splendid day, celebrating the landmark 90th birthday of our beloved Queen Elizabeth. It is also an historic day on which we celebrate the life, achievements, service and dedication of our Queen, who is both Britain’s oldest and longest reigning monarch, two records that she continues to extend with each passing day, which I, for one, hope that she continues to do for many days and years to come.
On the subject of ages, Mr Speaker, I observe that when I entered Parliament last year I was a similar age to Her Majesty when she ascended to the throne. It was a great honour to swear allegiance to her on taking my seat on these Green Benches and in so doing I hope that I reflected the highest regard in which Her Majesty is held across the generations of our country, both old and young.
As we remember the Queen’s popularity here at home, we should also remember her role throughout the world and as the head of the Commonwealth, an organisation of 53 countries, while remaining the sovereign Head of State of 15 realms in addition to the United Kingdom. Her Majesty’s sense of duty is never stronger than when it comes to her dealings with the Commonwealth and now, as ever, is a fitting time to remember just how much Britain owes to the Commonwealth and how much its members and citizens have supported us in times of difficulty.
Apart from such far-flung travels around the Commonwealth, some of Her Majesty‘s duties have involved visits to my constituency of Hazel Grove. The Queen last visited the constituency in 1977, as part of the national celebrations for her silver jubilee. She opened Hazel Grove railway station, a fine example of Britain’s 1970s urban design, which is still there today. It was also my great pleasure as a councillor on Stockport Council to propose that the road currently under construction between Hazel Grove and Manchester airport be named the Queen Elizabeth II Way in her honour. If Her Majesty were keen to come and open the road on its completion, I am sure that she would be warmly welcomed by me and my constituents.
I regret to remind the House, however, that my constituency has not always enjoyed such a happy relationship with the monarchy. The town of Marple was the home of John Bradshaw, the lead judge at the trial of Charles I, who later became an MP for Cheshire. Charles I was the great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great—that is eight greats, for the benefit of the Hansard stenographer—grand-uncle of the current Queen. The assessment of my predecessor was that the then monarch was a tyrant, traitor, murderer and public enemy, but let me reassure the House that no such republican tendencies arise in me. Nor have I detected them among my constituents.
Indeed, the country has truly taken our current monarch to our collective hearts and she is much loved. I was interested to read some polling figures in the Evening Standard last week that found that 67% of respondents held the Queen in high favour. The Queen, of course, is above all this, and I understand that she is a much bigger fan of the Racing Post than the Standard. We can be sure that there are hon. and right hon. Members, including even some of my right hon. Friends, who would yearn for such popularity. In addition, her grandchildren the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry were reported to receive similar high favourability ratings, suggesting that the monarchy is in good shape for generations to come. That is great news and having a monarchy in the form we do, we are also spared the prospect of a presidential Head of State. The Queen is above politics. She is steadfast in her beliefs and resolute and she executes her duties faithfully, as she promised that she would, and she will continue to do so. In my opinion, the secret of the Queen’s success over the past 60 years and more is that she believes in what she is doing and is dedicated to the service of Britain and our place in the world. Long may she reign, God save the Queen and happy birthday, Ma’am.
All over loyal Ulster today, Her Majesty will be receiving the best birthday wishes. It is a huge and humbling treat to join my constituents in expressing those wishes. At prayers this morning, Mr Speaker, your chaplain prayed for Her Majesty the Queen with the words, “May she have long life and everlasting felicity.” That prayer asking for a long and joyous life is answered daily for Her Majesty the Queen and we thank God for his mercy to her as she enters her 91st year and for her faithfulness to not just this nation, but her religion.
It is with great joy that we extend to our gracious sovereign many happy returns and wish her many, many more in the future. Indeed, I would like to see the constitutional dilemma arise of how the Queen gets over the hurdle of sending herself a birthday card when she reaches her century, God willing. I look forward to the many celebrations in churches and civic locations across County Antrim this year. Just this week, the Lord-Lieutenant of the county invited me to a service of thanksgiving for the Queen, which I will, of course, most certainly attend.
The people of Northern Ireland are always abuzz when they learn of a royal visit. During her time as Princess Elizabeth she visited Northern Ireland on three occasions, and has made a further 20 official visits as Queen. These many visits throughout her reign have always been successful in their outreach and engagement, despite the at times very real personal threat to herself and to the royal family. On one occasion, the IRA made the very sinister threat that they would give her a visit to remember. The same IRA, of course, murdered Lord Mountbatten in Ireland. Today, she is witness to a remarkable change in which she has played no small part, including a change in attitude. Indeed, the very man who was second-in-command of the IRA at the time of that murder and that threat is now the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and in law accepts the Queen as his Queen, so much so that every piece of legislation he signs commences with the words, “Be it enacted by her gracious Majesty the Queen.” What remarkable change the Queen has reigned over, and that is no small success on her part.
Today, the Prime Minister referred to the Queen’s landmark visit to the Republic of Ireland, and what a success that was. Who knows, perhaps Her Majesty will see the 55th nation join the Commonwealth and we will see Ireland play a considerable part in trade and in the relationships within that wonderful organisation. Anyone who has met Her Majesty the Queen remembers every aspect of that meeting—the conversation and the circumstance, and the happy memories that flow from it. Indeed, tonight the Queen will light the first beacon to mark her birthday in Windsor Great Park. I am delighted that 17-year-old Army Cadet Emma-Lee Wray from Carnlough in County Antrim will be at her side representing Northern Ireland. That will be an inspiring moment for Emma-Lee that she will cherish for the rest of her life.
The release today of the stamps of Her Majesty the Queen, her son, her grandson and her great-grandson is a real inspiration to us all and emphasises the sure line of succession and the ever-increasing popularity in which the monarch is held. Long may she reign over us. Many happy returns, Ma’am, on behalf of the people of North Antrim.
As other hon. Members have said, it is a great honour to be able to pay tribute to Her Majesty the Queen today on the occasion of her 90th birthday and, as others have said, what an amazing and inspirational 90 years those have been. Her Majesty’s commitment and dedication to our nation and to public duty throughout her life, through the good times and the bad, are the envy of the world.
There are two businesses in my constituency that have been inspired as a result of receiving awards from Her Majesty. Ilkeston-based technical textiles company Baltex received the Queen’s Award for International Trade in 2009, and Long Eaton-based Douglas Gill International, renowned for its sailing clothes, received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise as a result of increasing export sales to 75% of its total revenue in 2011. Those awards are treasured and displayed with immense pride in those businesses.
Sadly, my constituents have never had the honour of a visit from the great lady. The last time a monarch visited Erewash was more than 100 years ago in June 1914, when Her Majesty’s grandfather, King George V, opened Ilkeston County Secondary School. Standing in the marketplace, the King pressed a button which opened the school gates a good half a mile away and well out of sight. The story goes that an explosive charge relayed the success of the operation back to the assembled crowds in the town centre. It is reported that the King passed by the school in his car on his way out of town and had a few words with the headmaster.
I would like to add to the list of invites that my hon. Friend the Member for Hazel Grove (William Wragg) has given and take the opportunity to invite Her Majesty to Erewash during this celebratory year to officially open the new Ilkeston train station. She will be able to alight at the station and not be half a mile away when she opens it. Despite her great years, hon. Members will know that Her Majesty is a very modern lady. As she probably will not have time today to listen to the tributes being paid in this House, I am sure she will catch up on YouTube later, so I hope that in that way she will get the invitation to open Ilkeston station.
On behalf of Erewash constituents, may I wish Her Majesty a very happy birthday and may she enjoy birthday celebrations for many years to come.
It is a great pleasure to participate in the debate today. I was on these Benches 10 years ago, when I participated on behalf of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru in the Humble Address on the Queen’s 80th birthday, as did only five other speakers, one of whom has spoken already today, having advanced, as is often the case, from being Leader of the Opposition then to being Prime Minister today. I, meanwhile, am on the same Bench as I was on 10 years ago. The Humble Address then had, as I said, six speakers and took about 15 minutes in total. Given the advance in time today, I look forward to the length of the Humble Address in 10 years’ time, if we are all spared.
The Queen is six years older than the SNP. That is not her only SNP connection. Her private secretary’s first cousin is an SNP councillor in Stornoway, and a very good councillor indeed is Rae MacKenzie.
Mentioning Stornoway gives me the opportunity seamlessly to mention one of the Queen’s great passions—islands, particularly the Outer Hebrides. Looking back on my speech 10 years ago in this place, I praised her good sense in her choice of holiday that year—sailing round the Hebrides—to mark her 80th birthday. As was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), she visited Lewis, Harris, North Uist, Benbecula, South Uist, Barra and Vatersay, where she has come many times, mostly informally. Since then I have met the Queen and asked her about the trip, and I can report happily to the House that she found it to be a very splendid occasion indeed.
In the intervening period many others have followed her example and visited the islands and have had a right royal time in other ways, I am sure. I encourage many others to follow the Queen’s example and I welcome those who come back for a revisit. I certainly hope Her Majesty has the chance to return to the islands that she has visited so often. I clearly remember seeing the royal yacht Britannia with its three masts from behind Vatersay as a youngster from my grandmother’s house in Castlebay. Clearly, the Queen’s enjoyment of the Hebrides is more than formal—it is very personal.
People in the Gaelic-speaking Hebrides were very pleased when the Queen, in Ireland, spoke in Irish Gaelic, which was a great gesture on so many levels. Therefore, as I did in the debate 10 years ago, I will end in Scottish Gaelic, the language of Eden, and say, “Co larna breith dhan Bhanrighinn Ealasaid”.
I should like to associate myself with the congratulations offered by the Prime Minister and others to Her Majesty. Following on from the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston) when he said that, perhaps, Her Majesty the Queen is the nation’s grandmother, I might add that with her commitment not only to serving our nation, but to serving God, she is the nation’s godmother too. I am delighted to add the heartfelt good wishes of the people of North East Hampshire.
We have heard from all corners of the United Kingdom, so there is not much for me to add in respect of our country. I shall therefore focus my contribution on Her Majesty’s lifelong commitment to the Commonwealth. Many countries around the world share a common history, and a shared history leads to a shared language, shared values and, I hope, a shared future. To harness this shared history, Her Majesty has overseen the creation of the Commonwealth in its current form as a force for good—a force for good for the future, given that the Commonwealth is home to 2.2 billion people, of which more than 60% are under the age of 30.
As chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on Sri Lanka, I would like to observe that, as Head of the Commonwealth, Her Majesty’s reign has overlapped with the tenures of all 14 Prime Ministers of Ceylon and, now, Sri Lanka, since the country’s independence. Her Majesty and I have at least—perhaps only—one thing in common: we have both visited Sri Lanka only twice. A former British High Commissioner said following Her Majesty’s second visit:
“Her Majesty has fond memories of her first visit to Sri Lanka in 1954…As part of official engagements during the visit, Her Majesty also addressed the nation from the historic studios of Radio Ceylon, now known as the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.”
“Her Majesty came back to Sri Lanka in 1981 as Head of the Commonwealth and people I have met travelling around the country fondly recall memories of her second visit.”
Not only do those excerpts highlight the mutual delight in each other’s involvement in the Commonwealth, but they demonstrate the strength afforded by the changes that have occurred. Her Majesty has helped make sure that Britain and Sri Lanka have continued to enjoy a long association, which has remained cordial throughout the various constitutional changes of recent decades.
That is true of the wider world. The United Kingdom’s relationship with Australia, Canada, India and other Commonwealth countries has changed, and is stronger for it. Thousands of Commonwealth students study in the United Kingdom each year at our world-class universities. The prestigious Foreign and Commonwealth Office-supported Chevening scholarship provides post-graduate study at Britain’s top universities to outstanding individuals who demonstrate leadership qualities. This provides real hope for the future. Tomorrow’s leaders across the world are being provided with the tools to create and sustain a Commonwealth that is mutually respectful, resilient, peaceful and prosperous; a Commonwealth that cherishes quality, diversity and our shared values; a Commonwealth that Her Majesty has created, is committed to and, if I may be so bold, is rightly proud of. God save the Queen.
It is a pleasure to be called to wish Her Majesty a happy 90th birthday. As the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, I have the privilege to represent the royal residence of Balmoral. That royal connection, begun under Queen Victoria, gives the area I grew up in the name Royal Deeside. It also gives the local whisky the name Royal Lochnagar, and it means that Ballater, near Balmoral, has one of the highest concentrations of royal warrant holders anywhere in the UK. Ballater has had a tough year, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the royal family for their support and to remind everyone that Ballater is open for business.
It is fair to say that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) mentioned, the royal family and Her Majesty are most at home in Royal Deeside—something I am proud to say I have in common with her. Residents of Royal Deeside, and indeed many visitors, often recount stories of encountering a kindly lady who is often wearing a headscarf and often driving a Land Rover, and they talk of engaging in light-hearted conversation or of being offered a lift. Who is to say who that kindly lady is? However, it is nice to think that it is Her Majesty.
Perhaps I could finish my brief remarks with a story, and I thank the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston) for not recounting it. While walking near Balmoral castle, Her Majesty encountered a group of American tourists. They asked whether she was local, to which she replied that she had a house nearby. They then asked whether she had met the Queen. “No,” she replied, and gesturing to her protection officer, she said, “But he has.” I wish Her Majesty a very happy 90th birthday and many happy returns.
Thank you for that enthusiastic endorsement, Mr Speaker.
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Stuart Blair Donaldson). It is a great honour to be in the House, and it is particular honour to have the opportunity to speak in the debate. Her Majesty is someone we can all look up to as an exemplar of duty and public service. I wish her a happy 90th birthday and many happy returns. I hope, and confidently expect, that she will reach her 100th birthday, and more birthdays after that. It is widely acknowledged around the world that Her Majesty has shown the most extraordinary and selfless devotion to duty and public service—for 64 years now.
The Houses of Parliament marked Her Majesty’s silver jubilee in 1977 by placing a rather special fountain in New Palace Yard, in the shadow of Big Ben. It is still working today and it gives great pleasure to many visitors and those of us here. The Houses also recognised Her Majesty’s golden jubilee in 2002, when they placed a sundial in the ground in Old Palace Yard, outside the House of Lords. More recently, in 2012, Members of both Houses of Parliament—on both sides of the political divide and both sides of the aisle, I am pleased to say—recognised Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee by placing a very special stained glass window in the north end of Westminster Hall, and it is hoped that that window will be there for many hundreds of years to come. That window shows Her Majesty’s coat of arms, and it is almost directly opposite the world war two window, which was put in in around 1950—the original Victorian window was blown out by enemy action during the war. That means that the coat of arms of Her Majesty’s late father, King George, is directly opposite her coat of arms across Westminster Hall—that ancient edifice, which is nearly 1,000 years old. It is a suitable honour for this House and the country that they have been served so well by Her Majesty and Her Majesty’s late father.
We are only five and half years from the platinum jubilee, and we need to keep that in mind. I have no doubt that both Houses of Parliament will mark it in an equally special way—and, I might add, without recourse to public funds, as also happened with the diamond jubilee, when the work was funded entirely from private donations from these Houses.
It is interesting to note that during the preparations for the window, sketches were made of the design to be used. There was some to-ing and fro-ing, and some precision work was needed, as Members can no doubt imagine. The heralds wanted to look at the exact intricacies to make sure that everything was in order. We got to the very last drawing, which was going to be signed off and sent to the glaziers for manufacture in the ancient way—the way stained glass has been made for 800 years. The drawing had been seen by the then Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister and everyone who needed to see it. However, it was noticed just in time—not by me, I hasten to add, but by one of the experts in heraldry—that the chain on the unicorn was the wrong way round, so the design was changed.
Later, when Her Majesty came to Parliament and saw the window in situ, I mentioned to her that the unicorn’s chain had nearly been the wrong way round, and Her Majesty smiled broadly. I will not indicate the conversation that we had, but perhaps I can say that somebody later remarked that it was always important to ensure that a unicorn’s chain is the right way round. I dread to think what might have happened if it had been the wrong way round—the story would no doubt have been told for a long time to come.
In fact, even though things did not go wrong, I still tell the story.
One other point I would like to make before closing is that His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who has been Her Majesty’s consort for nearly 70 years, has been a steadfast support to Her Majesty, as is clear to everyone. By being such a steadfast support to our sovereign—his wife—he has been a steadfast support to this country, for which I thank him. I wish Her Majesty a very happy birthday and many happy returns. God save the Queen!
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for allowing me to speak briefly in this really special debate.
On behalf of my constituents, I congratulate the Queen on reaching her 90th birthday. I remember the last time the Queen and Prince Philip were in North Tyneside, when she officially opened Tyne tunnel 2—it was 45 years after she opened the first Tyne tunnel—and she was welcomed on that beautiful day by many schoolchildren and our air cadets from Longbenton, who played music for her. It was a wonderful occasion.
That took me back to the day in 1967 when the Queen came to Tyneside to open the first tunnel. It was a school day for me—I was at St Cuthbert’s Primary School in North Shields. We knew the Queen was coming, and we were all excited because one boy in our class, David Bell, who happened to live near the Tyne tunnel, was going to join the crowds and see the Queen. We were all in awe because we were stuck in school. I never dreamed on that day that, in 2012, I would be at the Tyne tunnel to meet the Queen as the local MP.
I was brought up in a royalist household. My parents were very proud of the Queen, as were many of their generation who were contemporaries of that part of the royal family. Over many years, our family enjoyed watching all the royal events on TV, including the royal weddings and the annual trooping the colour. We always got into the spirit of the occasion and felt very patriotic, alongside many others who are so proud of everything our Queen has achieved. I know that, were my late mother alive today, she would be both thrilled and particularly humbled to see me standing here, on behalf of North Tyneside, wishing our Queen not only a very happy birthday, but very many happy returns.
In the Windsor constituency, the history of the monarchy runs deep and wide—from Royal Ascot to the Great Park, the barracks, the charities, good causes, hospitals, schools and way beyond. The magnificent Windsor castle is at the heart of local activities and can be seen by people nationwide. In many ways, Her Majesty runs an open home and an open life. Very few people have not paid a visit to Windsor castle, and it would be unusual not to see her and her family out and about around the constituency.
The great affection shown to the Queen is not undeserved. She has been a consistent force for social cohesion in her entire 90 years. She has been a beacon for civilised people both at home and abroad. Few features of our national life have brought such consistency, stability, happiness, joy and celebration over such a long period of our history. As the Head of State, her role is more than symbolic. She is more than a figurehead. She has been a warm and consistent presence in an often harsh and changing world.
On behalf of myself, the country, my constituents, the Commonwealth and the world, I send my heartfelt congratulations on her 90th birthday. Long may she reign, and long may she rein in the forces that seek to divide us.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for the opportunity to wish Queen Elizabeth a very happy birthday, and to do so on behalf of my hon. Friends the Members for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Liz Saville Roberts) and for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr (Jonathan Edwards). I also add the good wishes of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion (Caroline Lucas), who regrets that she cannot be here today for this very happy occasion.
As has been said, the Queen has a remarkable record of service, throughout which she has shown model devotion to her duty and to dignity in public life. That is particularly instructive these days, when so many feel a compulsion to reveal all. It also, of course, acts as a caution in respect of our activities here, as she has outlasted and probably outgunned so many “here today and gone tomorrow” Prime Ministers—and Leaders of the Opposition, for that matter.
Professor Dewi Seaborne Davies was once my parents’ MP. He was a Liberal MP for the very short period between Lloyd George moving to the other place as the Earl of Dwyfor, and the post-war Dissolution and the landslide that swept him and the Liberals away. Many years later, he and some other gentlemen of a similar vintage were standing on the square of my hometown in Pwllheli. They were approached by a younger man, who said, “You three, standing there: Duw, you’re looking good. You’re looking good.” Seaborne Davies replied, “There are four ages to man: when you’re young, when you’re middle aged, when you’re older, and when, Duw, you’re looking good!” The Queen is looking good. That is not only a statement of fact, but symbolic of the personal respect and affection that she enjoys so widely. Today is a public celebration but, more importantly, it is also a joyous family occasion. I will close by saying, “Penblwydd hapus iawn i chi ac, ar eich penblwydd yn ddeg a phedwar ugain, dymuniadau gorau at y dyfodol.” I wish her a very happy birthday and, on her 90th birthday, best wishes for the future.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for your indulgence. As promised, I rise momentarily to wish Her Majesty the Queen many happy returns on behalf of my constituents in St Helens North, one of whom, Norah Collins, also celebrates her 90th birthday today. She is originally from County Galway and I thought it was appropriate that I spoke to her this morning, because Her Majesty the Queen has done so much to further good relations between Britain and Ireland. As chair of the all-party parliamentary group on the Irish in Britain, I know that the community here felt special pride at her state visit to Ireland and the reciprocal visit here by the President of Ireland. On behalf of the all-party group and the community here I say, “Breithlá sona duit a Banríon.” Happy birthday to Her Majesty the Queen.
Of course, as you know, Mr Speaker, it will be you who properly summarises this debate, because it is for you to choose the appropriate words from it when you go to the Palace with 12 of us. This is not really a summing-up speech, but more a contribution of my own, and I am grateful for that opportunity, not least because I think I am the only Member of this House who has ever sworn the Oath of Allegiance to Her Majesty and her successors both as a Member of Parliament and as a clerk in holy orders. I would therefore like to thank her enormously for the faithfulness she has shown to the Church of England and, for that matter, the Church of Scotland. She manages to be ambidextrous in that, as in so many other things.
I am delighted to be here. It reminds me of the time when Norman St John-Stevas, who was simultaneously Leader of the House and Arts Minister, greeted Queen Elizabeth, the then Queen Mother, at the foot of the stairs of the Royal Opera House. As they climbed the stairs, the large crowd burst into a spontaneous round of applause, at which Her Majesty was distinctly heard to say, “Lucky things: two queens for the price of one.”
I cannot pretend to know Her Majesty well—or, indeed, at all—but I once canvassed the staff at Balmoral in the Kincardine and Deeside by-election. We did not get very many supporters—in fact, I think we came fourth in the by-election.
My father Rees, however, played an important part in the coronation in 1953. He was serving in the RAF in Lytham at the time, but when 31 Group, which was based in Hawarden in north Wales, decided to send 40 male and female RAF officers to march in the coronation, it was decided that somebody had to brush up their marching skills, so my 19-year-old father was sent for. He was flown up to Hawarden in a tiny aeroplane and spent a few days with the officers. Apparently my father was so good at shouting at people that he was not needed for the coronation itself.
I make that point simply to underline quite how many people’s lives Her Majesty has touched. She has visited the Rhondda many times. Indeed, a photo of her at Plas Horeb in Treherbert in 1989 was used for the 24p stamp to celebrate her 40th anniversary in 1992.
When Her Majesty came to the Rhondda in June 2002, I was asked to walk with her past the great number of people who had lined the streets of Treorchy, all of whom were singing, “She’ll be stopping in Treorchy when she comes”. I knew that my office manager, Kevin Morgan, was going to be there with his two young sons, Sam and Owen, so when I saw them waving their little Union flags, I gently steered Her Majesty towards them. The two boys were very young at the time and rather shy, so as we approached I said, “Go on, then—say hello.” Unfortunately, Her Majesty thought I was talking to her: “All right, young man!” she barked back at me, so she will probably not read this speech later.
The truth is that Her Majesty has had to put up with an awful lot in her time. She has had to suffer a phenomenal stream of politicians—she will be getting another 13 in a few days’ time—and 160 Prime Ministers in all her dominions.
Living with change is one of the most difficult things in the world, especially when you are almost powerless yourself to affect it. Yet that is exactly what she has done, in admirable style. Technology has changed faster than in any other generation, including television, computers, mobile phones, Twitter and so on. Social attitudes have changed dramatically, too. It is strange to think that in 1952 there were just 17 women in Parliament—18, I suppose, if we include her—but today there are 191 women MPs and 201 women peers. That is still not enough, but it is better than it was.
It seems incredible today, but in 1952 parents of children with cerebral palsy found it impossible to find anyone to educate their children, which is why three parents set up the Spastics Society, which became Scope. Since then, we have made enormous strides: the first Minister for Disabled People, the Disability Discrimination Acts, the Disability Rights Commission and so on. Quite often, the royal family have played a dramatic role in changing those attitudes by the way in which they have reached out. Likewise, when the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” was first published in 1952, it classified homosexuality as a mental disorder, yet very few today would hold that view, and one can even get married in Parliament in a same-sex ceremony.
When we think about what the Queen has lived through—the second world war, the cold war, the Falklands, the end of empire, the troubles and then the peace in Northern Ireland—it is difficult not to feel, in Shakespeare’s words from the end of “King Lear”:
“The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.”
For all the pomp and circumstance, regalia and deference, the reason why our constituents—republicans and monarchists alike—admire and respect the Queen is because of her fundamental decency, her manifest commitment to doing her duty and her ability to keep her counsel. At the end of Thomas Hardy’s novel “The Woodlanders”, the courageous peasant girl Marty South pays tribute to Giles Winterborne in very simple terms as “a good man” who “did good things”. I think we can all agree that we could surely say the same of Her Majesty: a good woman who does good things.
It is my privilege and honour to conclude this debate and commend the motion to the House. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister singled out the importance of faith to Her Majesty. Earlier, Mr Speaker, your Chaplain led us in extra special prayers, to which I will add one that used to be sung weekly in Catholic churches, “Domine, salvam fac reginam nostram Elisabeth, et exaudi nos in die, qua invocaverimus te.” Almighty God, we pray that Thy servant our Queen Elizabeth, who by Thy mercy has undertaken the government of this realm, may receive increase of all the virtues; so fittingly adorned, may she be enabled to avoid all foul temptations, overcome her enemies, and with her Prince Consort and the royal family, may she at the last be welcomed by Thee, who art the way, the truth and the life.
We have heard from many hon. and right hon. Members from all parts of the United Kingdom, speaking in all languages: Gaelic, Welsh, Irish—
Yes, Latin—as well as the Queen’s language. Hon. and right hon Members paid tribute to Her Majesty, citing individual stories and stories from their constituencies, and reflected widely on her service to the nation and to the Commonwealth.
As my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister pointed out, the influence of our Queen started long before she was crowned. We have heard of her special children’s broadcast during the war, and her service in the ATS. I understand that as a young girl, she reminded her father of the poem “God Knows”, also known as “The Gate of the Year”, part of which he recited in the 1939 Christmas broadcast:
“And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
‘Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.’
And he replied:
‘Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.’”
This world is uncertain, but Her Majesty brings to it a constant, calming presence, full of good counsel for all the Prime Ministers and, indeed, for our Parliament, the nation and the Commonwealth. She has especially shown that in her leadership as Head of the Commonwealth, which has brought her and the country many challenges but also many joys.
As has been pointed out, the Queen has seen much change in her 90 years. I have always thought of her as timeless and as a steady hand, but also as keeping up with the times. Technology is being used to commend her today. The hashtag #HappyBirthdayYourMajesty is trending on Twitter, and the Google icon is “Happy 90th Birthday, Ma’am”.
As the Father of the House pointed out, many people are excited and overjoyed to meet the Queen. I recall a few years ago, when the Queen opened the new Broadcasting House at the BBC, she memorably and deliberately walked into shot during the live broadcasting of the news. Even the cool kids of the BBC newsroom were running and climbing on desks simply to catch a glimpse of their very special visitor. She really does touch all hearts.
Up and down the country tonight, people will join in a traditional form of celebration, the lighting of beacons, and I will make it back to celebrate one of those events in Suffolk Coastal. We have already heard about further celebrations that will continue later this year. I, for one, hope that the Queen will enjoy time with her family as well as with the wider nation. For now, I conclude with part of the national anthem:
“Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour,
Long may she reign!
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause,
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen!”
Question put and agreed to.
Resolved, nemine contradicente,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to offer the heartfelt good wishes of the House on the occasion of Her Majesty’s ninetieth birthday, expressing its deep gratitude for Her Majesty’s lifelong commitment to the service of the country and the Commonwealth, and praying that Her Majesty may long continue in health and happiness.
That Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister, Chris Grayling, Jeremy Corbyn, Chris Bryant, Angus Robertson, Mr Nigel Dodds, Tim Farron, Hywel Williams, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, Danny Kinahan, Caroline Lucas and Mr Douglas Carswell do wait upon Her Majesty with the said Message.