HC Deb 24 June 1982 vol 26 cc447-50 4.17 pm
The Prime Minister

I beg to move, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty offering the congratulations of this House to Her Majesty, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and their Royal Highnesses The Prince and Princess of Wales on the birth of a son to Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, and signifying to Her Majesty the great pleasure given to Her faithful Commons by this happy event. For generations, Mr. Speaker, there has been an opportunity for the House to express its happiness at the birth of a Royal Prince or Princess, and to assure the Sovereign of our enduring loyalty.

Every new young Prince or Princess represents the continuity of our Royal Family, and reminds us of the unique service which our monarchy renders to the British people at home and abroad.

When Sir Winston Churchill spoke in this House on the birth of the Prince of Wales, he recalled that it is the British monarchy which presides … over all the treasures that have been saved from the past and all the glories we write in the annals of our country".—[Official Report, 16 November 1948, Vol. 458, c. 212–3.] I can find no better words than those to express our loyalty to Her Majesty, and to record the debt we owe to the Royal Family. The world has changed dramatically since the Prince of Wales was born, but the traditions of the monarchy are cherished by the British people as deeply as ever.

Today is not just an historic occasion. It is also a family occasion. Over the past 35 years, the nation has shared in the joy and pride of Her Majesty's family. We have watched as each Prince and Princess grew to adulthood, and we have admired the example set by the Royal Family in their devotion to duty. Now we see the beginnings of a new family, and the House will unite in offering our congratulations to Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, and to the Prince and Princess of Wales. We will be joined as well by the millions round the world whose hearts were captured by the Prince and his young bride last summer.

We wish the new Prince health, happiness and long life. His birth has brought great joy to us all.

4.20 pm
Mr. Michael Foot (Ebbw Vale)

I am glad to join the Prime Minister in supporting the motion. In doing so, the House will have echoed a widespread feeling throughout the country. It is proper that we should also express that feeling. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) has tabled a notable addition to the motion. We were not told at the beginning of the proceedings whether the amendment was to be called. If it were, that would have the happy effect of making the motion unanimous. I should also be glad to support that.

I fully accept that the humble Address will be widely supported throughout the country. The newspapers published the genealogical table. That showed the interesting fact that both the Prince and Princess of Wales are descended from James I.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

James VI.

Mr. Foot

James VI of Scotland, but James I of England. Both the Prince and Princess of Wales are descended from James I. He is not my favourite Monarch, but we cannot all be pleased all the time. At school we used to hear the jingle about James I—that he never said a foolish thing and never did a wise one. In the light of what has occurred, we must revise our judgment on the matter. All should be congratulated.

All of us join in congratulating the Prince and Princess of Wales. I join the Prime Minister in wishing them the best of success in the many years that I am sure they will be here to assist the good purposes of the nation.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I apologise for not having told the House that I had not selected the amendment.

4.22 pm
Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)

I am not sure whether the Leader of the Opposition got his Kings right. On behalf of my Liberal colleagues and the Social Democratic Party, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Scottish National Party—

Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)

The leader.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Where is Jenkins? Where is Owen? They are out canvassing.

Mr. Steel

They have asked on this happy occasion to be associated with the humble Address. I gladly join the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in sending our greetings and congratulations to Her Majesty and the Royal Family.

The birth of a first child is a uniquely special event in any family. As the Prime Minister said, the Prince and Princess of Wales have in a short time endeared themselves as a couple to the people of our country. They will have done so further in the past few days by the example of the Prince of Wales being present with his wife at the birth of their son. The safe arrival of the future heir to the Throne is an appropriate time for the House to express its gratitude for the tradition of constitutional monarchy, which makes the British monarchy the most ancient and secure in the world.

We salute our future King and wish him and his family continued health and happiness.

4.24 pm
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

When I saw the motion yesterday, I felt that it was not as broad as it should be. When one considers that the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana have been round the country visiting towns and cities meeting thousands of families it seems appropriate to broaden the motion to include all those who became parents last week as well as all those who became parents in 1982, although the amendment does not specify that. It would be more sensible for the House to convey a message to the nation and to the Royal Family stating that we were concerned about the plight of all our people.

In her address the Prime Minister said that this was a family occasion. Of course, it is a family occasion, but it should be an occasion for the whole of the family and the whole of the nation. The right hon. Lady said when she first became Prime Minister that she was concerned about the nation as a whole. Therefore, we should understand that this event is set against a background of a great deal of misery for many members of our nation family. There are 4 million people out of work and many parents among them. I have no doubt that they are concerned about how they will bring up their children in the next five, l0 or 15 years. We should consider all those who are wandering about in Tebbit's YOP scheme, the "out of work" schemes and all the other schemes.

The Royal Family should understand that in the House some of us believe that on these occasions and on all others messages should go out stating that we are concerned about the whole nation family, as the Prime Minister said. We should also recall the wonderful way in which the nurses and ancillary workers deliver babies.

Mr. Cryer

That is right.

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Skinner

What is wrong with that?

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Bolsover must wait and find out. He strayed far from the motion, which is simple and relates to whether the House should send a message of congratulation to the Royal Family on the birth of the child. That is the motion before the House and it is no wider than that.

Mr. Skinner

However, we all know that many people ensure that all the new babies in the country are brought up in decent conditions. I have no doubt that there are parents working in Buckingham Palace who are struggling to make ends meet.

The motion is not broad enough. It is too narrow. The inclusion of my amendment is the sensible way of getting across my message. All the Government's attacks on all our families should be ended to ensure that child benefit—

Mr. Speaker

Order. This is not the occasion for such a speech. The motion before the House is clear in its terms.

Mr. Skinner

If my speech helps to get a few more nursery schools and such provision for our children, if it ensures that no children will be evicted because their parents are up to their neck in rent arrears because of the rent increase imposed by the Government, and if it turns the Government one inch from their attack on families, it will not have done any harm.

4.29 pm
Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, Central)

I hope that the country, the House and the world will note that on this auspicious occasion fewer than 40 Conservative Members are present, and fewer than 20 Labour Members are present, I am glad to say. That is a measure of the great loyalty expressed by the Prime Minister. I thought that the House might like to hear a few abrasively constructive comments on the motion. [HON. MEMBERS: "No thanks."]

The Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have expressed their congratulations. When there is cosy collusion between the two Front Benches it makes me feel a little queasy. It is amazing how corrupting our language can be when we speak of the institution of monarchy in the House. [AN HON. MEMBER: "Ask your wife."]

The Government are trying to get through the House, with the minimum of publicity and debate, a Bill relating directly to the people mentioned in the motion. I refer to the Duchy of Cornwall Management Bill. The Government have sought to prevent debate of the Bill on the Floor of the House. It is apposite because very soon after the event which is the subject of the motion, I guess that the father of this infant will come to the Chancellor and demand that he gets the full tax-free income from the Duchy of Cornwall—which amounts to well over £1 million a year—to keep the wolf from the infant's door.

It is as well that we should say these things when the occasion arises, because the occasion does not arise very often on the Floor of the House to say some of the things that many of my hon. Friends have said to me in private but are unwilling to say in public. The media, the Government and the establishment have brainwashed even Members of Parliament about the sanctity of the institution of monarchy. We are awash. The media have soddened us with slush, mush and sentimental rubbish over the past few weeks. We shall get weeks and months and years of it. It is unhealthy to put any institution or any individual belonging to that institution on a pedestal.

I object strongly to the lauding of the monarchy or any other institution. It should be subject to healthy and abrasive criticism more often in the House. I hope that we shall very soon get a radical Government who will be prepared to modernise and democratise the monarchy and make it much more accountable to the House and to the nation.

4.33 pm
Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

I should like to make a small contribution to the debate. I endorse heartily the sending of such an Address. I should like to comment on the somewhat prejudicial remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) about the numbers present in the House. He should know, as most of us know, that we cannot all sit here all day on all the matters that are before the House. At this moment the House is suffering from the English addiction to tea, which is the main reason why there are so few hon. Members here.

Mr. William Hamilton

More important than the Royal Family.

Mr. Faulds

Not every day. There are occasions when the Royal Family is slightly more important than a cup of tea.

I hope I have the agreement of the House when I suggest that the most valuable gift that this young boy and his mother can be given is that, as he and she share his years of development, they are spared the lupine attentions of irresponsible sections of the British press. The young boy's life would be much happier if that unlikely eventuality were to happen.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty offering the congratulations of this House to Her Majesty, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh and their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales on the birth of a son to Her Royal Highness the Princess of Wales, and signifying to Her Majesty the great pleasure given to Her faithful Commons by this happy event.

To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of Her Majesty's Household.