I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty on the seventieth birthday of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, to assure Her Majesty of the great pleasure felt by this House on so joyful an occasion.
That the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by such Members of the House as are of Her Majesty’s most Honourable Privy Council or of Her Majesty’s Household.
That a Message be sent to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, to offer His Royal Highness the warmest good wishes of the House upon the occasion of his seventieth birthday, expressing the gratitude of the nation for his lifetime of service to the country and the Commonwealth and praying that His Royal Highness may long continue in health and happiness.
That Mr Speaker, the Prime Minister, Andrea Leadsom, Jeremy Corbyn and Ian Blackford do wait upon His Royal Highness with the said Message.
Over the past 70 years, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales has played many roles in our national life. As a sailor, he commanded a minesweeper in the Royal Navy. As an airman, he gained his wings with the RAF. As the founder of the Prince’s Trust, he has worked tirelessly to help more than 900,000 vulnerable young people turn their lives around. As a farmer and entrepreneur he created and built a successful business, one that turns over more than £200 million a year and whose profits help support charitable causes. And, as heir to the throne, he has unstintingly supported Her Majesty the Queen for many decades, working with and representing our monarch and our country both at home and abroad. Binding those diverse strands together is a common thread; one that is encapsulated in the motto that, for hundreds of years, has adorned the Prince of Wales feathers: “Ich Dien”—I serve.
Throughout the Prince of Wales’s life, his commitment to public service has been total. That is true of his royal duties, which see him performing well over 600 official engagements every year. It is true of his work with the Commonwealth, in which he has played an active role for many years. The esteem in which he is held by the Commonwealth was made clear at the Heads of Government meeting earlier this year, when the member states unanimously chose to name him as the next head of the organisation—another role in which I am sure he will excel. It is also true of his wider work. First and foremost there is the Prince’s Trust and his other charities, of course. There is also his involvement with groups as diverse as the British Red Cross and the Turquoise Mountain Foundation, which has helped to regenerate the historic centre of Kabul—just two of the more than 400 organisations that he serves as patron.
Yet this public work only begins to scratch the surface of the Prince of Wales’s life. He is also an author, an artist, and a sportsman. As a student, when he became the first heir apparent to graduate from university, he also displayed an aptitude for comic acting. I am told that his impression of Peter Sellers’ Bluebottle, from his beloved “Goon Show”, is particularly on point. He is, I believe, the only public figure to have appeared on both “Gardeners’ Question Time” and “MasterChef Australia”, not to mention once delivering the weather forecast on BBC Scotland. He has a great and wide-ranging love of music. Indeed, he remarked in 1974:
“If I hear rhythmic music, I just want to get up and dance.”
That is something, I am sure, that many of us empathise with.
The more one looks at the prince’s life, the more one sees a man who has spent 70 years defying expectations and refusing to be categorised. It is an approach that has seen him delivering a speech in Pidgin to an audience in Nigeria only last week, during an official Commonwealth tour; encouraging his sons to spend childhood holidays collecting litter from the local countryside; and choosing to celebrate his 40th birthday with 1,500 young people from deprived backgrounds. It is an approach that often shows him to be a man ahead of his time.
In one of his first major public speeches, in 1970, the Prince of Wales warned of the
“horrifying effect of pollution in all its forms”,
with particular criticism reserved for the “mountains of refuse” created by plastic bottles that are used once and discarded. Half a century later, the UK and the world have woken up to the plastic threat and are taking action to tackle it.
In his debating debut at the Cambridge Union, the young prince spoke about the potentially dehumanising effects of technology in the workplace—another issue that is now at the front of many minds as we consider the impact of artificial intelligence. The same foresight can be seen in his long-held views on urban regeneration, on sustainable agriculture, on inter-faith dialogue and on improving the quality of the built environment, each of them issues that, after being raised by the prince, have moved to the mainstream, becoming widely embraced and accepted.
We could not pay tribute to His Royal Highness without mentioning perhaps his most important role of all—that of father and, more recently, of grandfather. Regardless of background or resources, raising children is never an easy task. It is made all the more difficult when they suffer a devastating loss at an early age. So today, as Prince William and Prince Harry make their own way in the world and begin to raise their own families, I know that I speak for all of us when I say that they are a true credit to their father. We as a nation are immensely proud of them, and I am sure that he is too.
On behalf of the whole House, it gives me great pleasure to wish His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales a very happy 70th birthday, and to offer him our very best wishes for the years ahead as he continues his remarkable record of service to his Queen, his country and his Commonwealth.
It is a pleasure to support this motion. Many people across the country will be wishing His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales a very happy 70th birthday. It might come as a surprise to many that His Royal Highness and I have something in common—we are both, it seems, leaving it late when it comes to career progression, although he has had a lifetime preparing for this role.
People in this country may have varying opinions about the institution of monarchy, but no one would say that being the heir to the throne of the UK as well as of 15 other nations is an easy job. His Royal Highness has shown a commitment to public service and charity and a passion for several notable causes throughout his life.
People say the past is a different place, and the Britain of 1948—the year the prince was born—was a very different place from the Britain of today. In many ways, it was a time of great optimism. It was the year of the universal declaration of human rights, which aims to give universal rights to everybody across the globe no matter who they are. It was, of course, also the year of the founding of the national health service, which is celebrating its 70th birthday this year. It was also a time of hardship, with the country emerging from the horrors and destruction of world war two. We had beaten fascism, but there was little rest to be had as work had to be done to rebuild Europe in the aftermath of that war.
In those days, our country was considerably poorer, both economically and culturally, not having benefited from the richness of multiculturalism that we enjoy today. It was, of course, the year that the Empire Windrush docked in Tilbury, bringing people from Jamaica and the Caribbean to start new lives here in Britain. Many of them and their children and grandchildren now form an integral part of our society, our country and, indeed, this House.
In 1948, British towns and cities were still scarred with bomb craters, rationing for food and clothing remained in place and censorship was enforced on stage and in our theatres. Prince Charles might have regretted the ending of censorship when, at a televised awards ceremony in 1994, the late great Spike Milligan, who was a good friend of the prince, infamously described him in words that I am sure, even today, Mr Speaker, you would not permit me to use in the House. Spike later faxed the prince to apologise, asking, “I suppose a knighthood is out of the question now?” Obviously, Prince Charles accepted the apology, because Spike did indeed later get an honorary knighthood.
Throughout his life, the Prince of Wales has committed himself to public service, as the Prime Minister said. The Prince’s Charities, supported by the Prince’s Charities Foundation, comprises 19 different charities. The charities focus on issues from the arts to the natural world. They include initiatives such as the British Asian Trust, which celebrates our country’s openness to the world and aims to help lift people out of poverty both in south Asia and here in Britain.
The trust picks up on another of the prince’s own passions, which I have regularly talked to him about: giving support to young people from all backgrounds and every part of the country. The trust has done unrivalled work in opening up opportunities for young people, helping them to find employment, education and training, unlocking their talents so they are able to lead the lives that they want and deserve to lead.
One example of the work the trust does is at Dumfries House in Ayrshire, where it supports courses for young people, teaching practical crafts such as stone masonry and carpentry. The work done there reminds me of a quote by the Victorian socialist and promoter of such skilled crafts, William Morris, whose work I believe the prince appreciates. Morris wrote:
“I do not want art for a few, any more than education for a few, or freedom for a few.”
Instead of writing people off, as some people are often too willing to do, the Prince’s Trust, its supporters and its hard-working staff have endeavoured to make a real difference to young people’s lives and to provide the support and encouragement that, for whatever reason, had previously been absent from their lives.
The prince has also shown a consistent commitment to our often ignored natural world. As our climate and soils are being destroyed before our very eyes, the prince’s interest in the natural environment has not gone unnoticed. My friend the late great MP Michael Meacher once recalled that when he was an Environment Minister, he and His Royal Highness would “consort” to persuade the Government to do more on green energy. Asked by the press if there was a constitutional problem with a member of the royal family advocating a political opinion, Michael—a committed republican—replied:
“Maybe he was pushing it a bit. I was delighted, of course.”
It is a vital principle that the royal family remains above politics, but Prince Charles is an ambassador for a country that does take seriously the scientific realities of climate destruction. I do wonder whether, if there is anyone on this planet who might be able to get that message through to the President of the United States, it could well be Prince Charles. Indeed, His Royal Highness may be a Knight of the Garter and a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, but few accolades can compare to when a brand new species native to Ecuador was discovered in 2012 and named the Prince Charles stream tree frog.
His Royal Highness’s horticultural exploits are well known. As a keen gardener and allotment holder, I can sympathise with the prince’s desire to talk to plants. I have certainly found them better listeners than many Members of this House over the years. It is traditional to give gifts, especially when one reaches a milestone such as a 70th birthday, so I was thinking of giving His Royal Highness a jar of Corbyn Originals jam from my allotment. But I am now suffering from a deep crisis of confidence. Will my jam match up to the standard of the prince’s Duchy Originals jam? I do not know how to deal with this conundrum. If His Royal Highness is listening, perhaps he could offer some advice.
As the Prince of Wales reaches 70, I wish him and his family a very happy birthday on behalf of everyone on the Opposition Benches.
It is a pleasure to follow two incredibly generous speeches. I absolutely endorse and support everything that has been said so far about His Royal Highness, the Prince’s Trust and the other foundations. I have had the privilege and the honour of working closely with His Royal Highness in my capacity as the MP for North West Norfolk, which includes the Sandringham estate. When I was in the Foreign Office, I also had the privilege of accompanying him on two foreign visits, so I had a chance to see for myself his extraordinary personality.
Sandringham is a large and highly diversified estate that employs a significant number of people in my constituency and generates many more jobs through tourism. It is, without doubt, one of the most innovative estates in the country, with a lot of pioneering work going on around organic farming and soil structures, habitat management, forestry, coastline and marshland preservation, and eco-housing for rent. His Royal Highness has played a pivotal role in all this, especially on the housing front. The Sandringham estate has built a number of new developments to be rented out—not just to people working on the estate, but to retired people and local people. In this way, it is setting the highest possible standards, and I applaud and salute that work.
His Royal Highness takes a very close interest in west Norfolk and the wider local community, and his advice and input has always been discreet, tactful and very much aware of the local political constraints. On occasions, I have had the opportunity to deal with him myself alongside the local borough council. When we have gone to him for advice, we have always found him incredibly approachable, but above all else is his convening power—a power to bring together different experts. Depending on what the situation demands, he has the experts to bring together, although he also has the most extraordinary knowledge himself.
I do not want to run through a lot of examples, but I should say that his foundation was absolutely indispensable in the redevelopment of King’s Lynn town centre, ensuring that we moved from what was going to be a very ordinary design to one that was quite exceptional. The Norfolk coastal footpath provides another example. And although recycling policy may sound very prosaic and boring, his input has been crucial at different times. He has also been involved in our work regarding the Construction Industry Training Board, which has a proud history in west Norfolk. We are doing our level best to persuade the board to keep its presence in west Norfolk, to develop the site and, above all, to make sure that when it puts its training contracts out to tender, we have the right people running those contracts so that we can use the organisation to help with skills and the whole apprenticeship agenda.
Behind the scenes, His Royal Highness has always shown so much interest, huge energy and a great sense of humour. Above all, he has an extraordinary ability to inspire, motivate and bring out the best in other people, so I join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in saluting Prince Charles on his 70th birthday.
It is a pleasure to participate in this debate on the Humble Address. I am pleased to join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in wishing His Royal Highness—the Duke of Rothesay, as he is known in Scotland—a very happy 70th birthday on behalf of the Scottish National party. I would like to take this opportunity to put on the record the appreciation of His Royal Highness by the people of Scotland, with whom he has had a lifetime connection, and to discuss his commitment to our country. His Royal Highness has always shared with us a rich and emotional history with Scotland, as his historical title of the Duke of Rothesay has traditionally been held by the heir to the Scottish throne.
Throughout the decades, His Royal Highness has been a regular visitor across Scotland, in particular visiting Balmoral, where he spent part of his honeymoon with the Duchess of Cornwall. His Royal Highness has a real affection for Scotland. I recall him once expressing:
“I cannot tell you how much I miss Balmoral and the hills and the air—I feel very empty and incomplete without it all.”
His Royal Highness is not only the Duke of Rothesay, but the Lord of the Isles, and he is a very frequent visitor to the islands. I recall that he spent a week on the island of Berneray in 1987, to be immersed in the art of crofting. He engaged in many of the wide variety of activities that crofters often do, such as planting potatoes, lifting peat and engaging in sheep dipping. I understand from the writings of the time that he very much enjoyed his life on an island croft. May I respectfully say to him that if he wishes to return and help me on my croft, particularly over the lambing time in spring, he would be more than welcome as a guest of ours?
His Royal Highness makes a point of attending the annual Braemar Gathering, which is Scotland’s most famous highland games. He was also educated in Scotland, attending Gordonstoun School in the north-east. Today, the Duke of Rothesay remains the Royal Colonel of both the 3rd and the 7th Battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland. But His Royal Highness’s connections are not just with our beautiful country, but also with our people. Over the years, his dedication to helping advance the lives of people in Scotland through various projects has been invaluable to our society.
The Prince’s Foundation recently announced a new partnership with the Royal Lochnagar distillery. For those who have not experienced the whisky, I highly recommend it. The foundation has also been involved in building the new Duke of Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion and a visitor centre that charts the history of Scotland’s highland games. Again, I extend a welcome to His Royal Highness; there are many highland games throughout the country, not least in my own constituency, and there is no better way to spend a holiday than by participating in the rich variety of life that happens throughout the highland games season.
His Royal Highness is also a patron of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and he has been hugely supportive of its work in its four gardens at Edinburgh, Benmore, Logan and Dawyck.
The Prince’s Foundation has created workshops in traditional arts and crafts, with educational facilities for many schools. One notable project that stands out is the support from the Prince’s Trust for Dumfries House, saved by the intervention of His Royal Highness, who used £20 million of his own charitable foundation’s money and personally brokered a £45 million deal to secure the house for the future. This has helped to create a sustainable business in an effort to support the regeneration of the local economy in east Ayrshire. Your Royal Highness, we applaud you for work in this regard. The outdoor centre there now supports a variety of residential opportunities. The activities and facilities at the outdoor centre help students to develop leadership skills and encourage personal development. The Get Into programmes at Dumfries are part of an effort to get young people aged 16 to 24 who are not in employment, education or training to a positive destination—a worthwhile project and a credit to His Royal Highness’s work in Scotland.
While there are many of us here who want to see a different future for our nations, we acknowledge the aspects of our shared cultures, our heritage and our history. For me, this is something we must acknowledge when we look at the role that His Royal Highness has across the UK, but of course also in Scotland.
Today, His Royal Highness celebrates his 70th birthday —a remarkable milestone for all who reach it, but particularly for someone who is so dedicated to a lifetime of public service. I thank His Royal Highness for his friendship with Scotland. On behalf of my party and all those we represent, I warmly wish him all the very best on this special day and for many years to come.
It is a great privilege to follow the generous addresses that we have just heard.
For decades, the Prince of Wales has been a champion of the natural environment, and I want to take a moment of the House’s time to comment on that. Some people have pejoratively described it as meddling; I would call it contributing. He has been way ahead of most of us on many of these issues. He was talking about the danger of plastics in our oceans decades ago. His work on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change caused, at times, criticism—but again, he was way ahead of his time. Now he speaks a language that really has a remarkable affinity right across the political divide in this country. He raised these issues when it was unfashionable to do so. There is also his work on promoting the circular economy, which is now being mainstreamed by all parties in this House, moving away from the “extract, use, dump” culture to one that really does deal with how we use our natural resources in this country. In his book “Harmony”, which he co-wrote with Tony Juniper, he connected the environment with related issues such as health and wellbeing in a way that was really prescient for its time.
Let me conclude by mentioning—I think that this has already been commented on—his power as a convenor. There are very few people in this world who have the power to say, “There is a problem, which we need to talk about,” and world leaders, captains of industry and cultural figures will then jump on a plane to go to any corner of the world to engage in that problem. I have seen at first hand how he has been able to do that on issues such as oceans and fisheries and wildlife crime, with the extraordinary work of his International Sustainability Unit.
I am not a constitutional expert, so I cannot say what is or is not possible in the future. However, I want to take this opportunity to thank His Royal Highness for what he has provided and, I hope, will continue to provide—that is, thought, dialogue, reason and challenge.
It is a great privilege to join these tributes to the Prince of Wales. As somebody who crossed the milestone of a 70th birthday some years ago, I suggest that this is very much an opportunity for celebration rather than regret. Let me also add from personal experience that it should not represent a glass ceiling for progression to a bigger job. I have to say that in my five years in the Cabinet, I never received one of those letters in spidery handwriting requesting that I take action. I do not know whether to be offended or relieved that I did not.
I did have an opportunity, however, to see at first hand many of the achievements that stemmed from the prince’s commitment to helping disadvantaged young people—in particular, the role played by the Prince’s Trust, which was absolutely crucial in, for example, making a success of the start-up loans scheme, which operates with the British Business Bank and has launched thousands of young people with an opportunity to begin a life as entrepreneurs.
Several colleagues have already made a point of acknowledging the prince’s contribution to environmental thinking. We need to stress that he showed some courage in doing so—going way, way ahead of his time—while making the important point that we have to think about these issues both globally and locally. He has challenged many of the threats to the planet, but he has also sought to apply his thinking in practice in such gestures as taking his sons litter picking, for example. I add to the Prime Minister’s comment about the contribution he has made by bringing up his sons in this tradition of public service and commitment to tackling some of our difficult contemporary issues. We see this now in the excellent work by the two princes through the Royal Foundation in fields like mental health and early intervention.
Finally, I acknowledge the fact that the prince has been willing to tackle some very sensitive but important issues that directly bear on the royal family, most notably his advocacy of the fact that the role of the monarch should be the defender of faiths rather than the single faith. I wish to add my tribute and wish him and his family every happiness.
It is a great pleasure and a privilege, on behalf of myself and my constituents, to wish His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales—or, indeed, the Duke of Rothesay, as he is better known north of the border—many happy returns on his 70th birthday.
His Royal Highness is a weel-kent and welcome face in Scotland. He has taken a considerable interest in the architectural heritage of this nation, not least in preserving for the community and the nation the beautiful Dumfries House in my constituency. In hosting events such as the annual Boswell book festival, farming conferences and a recent Police Scotland seminar, Dumfries House remains a focal point for the whole community in East Ayrshire. It also stimulates tourism and is an excellent source of employment and training locally, which is vital. His Royal Highness has given hope and opportunity to many, many young people.
The prince has also embraced and supported other projects locally, working in New Cumnock in partnership with the Sir Tom Hunter Foundation and others towards the restoration of the beautiful red sandstone of New Cumnock town hall, as ever utilising good-quality construction and design methods. Also in New Cumnock, he was a driving force for not so much the refurbishment but the rebuilding of the New Cumnock outdoor swimming pool—which will be the best in the United Kingdom, I am sure, and is well worth a visit. The Prince’s Foundation also supports the very popular Cumnock Tryst music festival held there each year, which celebrated its fifth anniversary this very year.
On behalf of the residents of Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock—and, indeed, Scotland—I would very much like to wish His Royal Highness many happy returns on his threescore years and ten today. Finally, as a former firefighter, I would ask His Royal Highness to be careful with the candles on his cake.
On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, and the people we represent in Northern Ireland, I am delighted to speak in this Humble Address and to endorse what has already been said by the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, and the other speakers so far. We express our heartfelt congratulations and best wishes to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
His Royal Highness has, over the course of his entire life, shown total devotion to supporting Her Majesty in the discharge of her duties both at home and abroad, and he has made a massive contribution in his own right to the role of the monarchy in our national life and across the globe.
In addition to supporting Her Majesty the Queen, with an almost unrivalled schedule of duties and commitments, he champions many important causes that have helped to transform the lives of countless people across the United Kingdom. His has been a life of duty that has earned His Royal Highness the thanks of a grateful nation. He has had a truly enriching impact upon our country, our precious Union and our Commonwealth, transcending borders, language and generations. His pursuit of the causes of peace, prosperity, the countryside and the environment has touched the lives of so many.
For me, one of the highlights of his work was the founding of the Prince’s Trust, which to this day continues to support those most in need in our society. I have no doubt that Members from all parties can testify to the amazing impact that the Prince’s Trust has had on the lives of their constituents and in many communities. For those facing homelessness, health problems, educational disadvantage or difficult times, the Prince’s Trust has often been there to put their lives back on track.
His Royal Highness holds a special place in the hearts of the people of Northern Ireland, shown by the warmth with which he has been received on his countless visits to Ulster. During the darkest days of our recent past, His Royal Highness continued to visit Northern Ireland very regularly in the face of threats and danger. It is his willingness to support those who suffered so much at the hands of terrorism, combined with his own personal loss, that made him a figure of so much admiration. A particularly poignant quote that has stuck with me came from the families of the victims of the Omagh bombing, who said on His Royal Highness’s visit to the site of the bombing, “It shows he hasn’t forgotten our suffering.” His Royal Highness has exemplified the qualities of duty, sacrifice and service to our country, and for the future may he and his family know God’s richest blessing.
I gently point out that there are a number of Members standing and seeking to catch my eye who did not indicate any intention to take part in these exchanges. It seems rather curious for a Member not to have put in to speak but suddenly to bob. It is simply not in conformity with our procedures, and we have a Second Reading of a Bill. I hope I have made the position clear.
I shall keep my words brief. Windsor is home to the military in the form of the Household Cavalry, which is the presentation regiment for the royal household and the protection unit, and to the monarchy, with Windsor castle being the longest continuously inhabited castle in the country.
It strikes me whenever I meet the prince just how dedicated he is to public life, over so many years and to so many different causes. The Prince’s Trust takes care of disadvantaged youngsters by providing entrepreneurial loans so that they can make their own way in life, which is a fine thing to do. His passions for the environment and architecture are well known.
Prince Charles has a strong heart and a good heart, with a strong voice in convening people around the issues in which he believes. We know in this place just how challenging it can be to speak out on key issues—one is often condemned if one does, and condemned if one does not—and yet the prince has managed to speak out on many issues, without causing offence, and in a way that opens up areas for public debate that we may otherwise not have opened up.
In this place we are volunteers, and yet the prince has taken on his duties and his responsibilities through a sense of commitment to the country. On behalf of the residents of the Windsor constituency, and on behalf of myself and other Members, I wish Prince Charles a very happy birthday.
You may ask, Mr Speaker, why somebody committed to Welsh independence and an elected Head of State would want to take part in this debate on the Humble Address. One of the main lessons I have learned in politics is that it is always wise to be nice to one’s constituents. As Members may know, the Welsh residency of His Royal Highness is situated in the north of my constituency, in the Tywi valley. He is held in huge regard by many of my constituents, and I know that he shares my deep love for the county of Carmarthenshire and the Tywi valley in particular.
I have met the prince on several occasions, and he is a deeply intelligent and humorous person. I will share one short story with the House. I met him for the first time soon after being elected in 2010, at the opening of Frank’s Ice Cream in Carmarthenshire, which makes the best ice cream in Wales, if not the world. In the line-up to meet the prince was my father, who is the local county councillor, Councillor Kevin Madge, the leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, and myself. As the prince worked his way down the line, he got to me; the lord lieutenant whispered in his ear that he had just met my father, and the prince said, quick as a flash, “Ah! Hereditary”.
In all seriousness, whatever anyone thinks of the monarchy as an institution, the prince’s lifetime of commitment to public service is something to be commended, and I am happy to do so on behalf of my party today.
I want to briefly express my admiration for the Prince of Wales and all his work on climate change, the environment and our oceans. In particular, I want to thank him and his wife, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall, for their great patronage of our nation’s armed forces and the ships, regiments and squadrons of which they are colonels.
I have seen at first hand just how close a relationship they have with those regiments and the personal interest they take in not only the lives of the men and women serving in those units, but their families, those who have served in the units previously, those who are bereaved as a result of soldiers, sailors and airmen serving in those units being killed in action and those who have been injured in the course of their duties. On behalf of my constituents and all those soldiers, sailors and airmen who hold both His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall in such high regard, I wish him a happy birthday.
I rise to pay my respects and to wish His Royal Highness a very happy birthday, as well as to acknowledge all the work he has done on the environment and his interfaith work, sometimes against being popular, to ensure that there is the respect for all faiths that our country needs at every level of our society.
I want briefly to mention the prince’s work in supporting teachers and excellence in teaching, particularly through the Prince’s Teaching Institute. That institute and its chief executive, Chris Pope, have been very important and supportive in a project that we have started in Hounslow, Hounslow’s Promise, which supports social mobility, education and employability. The support and interest of the prince and his charity make a huge difference in our local endeavours. It is a mark of the prince that he takes a great interest in how what he does nationally makes a difference locally. For that reason, I wish him a very happy birthday and hope that his family enjoy their celebrations.
I apologise for my error, Mr Speaker—I thought that we did not have to put in to speak in a Humble Address debate. I will be very brief.
I was driven to speak because I grew up on a family farm that belonged to Prince Charles, so we were effectively his tenants; perhaps I should declare an interest. It was a wonderful farm on which to grow up. Prince Charles is such an advocate for farming, and his farms are prevalent in the west country. He should be applauded for the ease and insight with which he engages with the farming community.
I remember when he came to our farm one time. It was all top-secret, but we were invited to lunch with him, and he engaged, with great insight, with everybody on every subject to do with farming. I was also pleased that, of all the puddings on the table, he chose mine to eat.
I want to pay tribute to his wider work in the rural community. Prince Charles really understands why we need our rural communities to remain vibrant. He does a great amount of work on that through his Duchy College and his skills, training and apprenticeship courses. That is very important.
Colleagues have mentioned the prince’s work on the wider environment and nature, biodiversity and wildlife, and he has really helped to get soils on the agenda. All his climate change work has to be applauded. As others have said, he was ahead of the game on that, and many people are now following on the work he began.
The prince has a great interest in horticulture and gardening, and he is a great advocate worldwide. The UK is the home of gardening, and to have somebody in our royal family who is an advocate for it is brilliant for the tourism that it attracts and the wider industry. He has a show garden at Highgrove. I was lucky enough to go there with the Somerset Gardens Trust. It is a tremendous place to visit, if people get the chance. It is a tremendous advert for us worldwide. I share something in common with Prince Charles: he talks to his plants, and so do I. I do not see anything wrong with it. On that note, I wish him a very happy birthday and a blossoming next few decades.
As you are aware, Mr Speaker, I represent a far-flung and far away part of the British Isles. It is on behalf of the people who live there that I want to thank the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Rothesay. For some years, he has been coming to stay in his grandmother’s old home, the castle of Mey in Caithness. He loves that castle as much as one can imagine. He comes in August, and every time he takes the trouble to go on a series of visits to businesses, enterprises and such like right throughout my constituency. The time and trouble he takes on those visits to talk to everyone beggars belief. In fact, I do not think he ever has lunch. One of the things I do is put a Mars bar in my pocket.
The prince’s schedules almost always overrun because he is so busy saying hello to absolutely everyone. I cannot tell you, Mr Speaker, how much that means to my constituents. We are far, far away from London. I think what lies behind it is that he feels at ease in my part of the world. I feel easy with him, and there is a real thread of kindness. The milk of human kindness is there, and that is appreciated by my constituents. On behalf of the good people of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, I wish him many, many happy returns. It is my privilege to do so.