HC Deb 13 July 1990 vol 176 cc589-93 9.34 am
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher)

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, to assure Her Majesty that this House profoundly shares the great joy of the nation on the occasion of the forthcoming ninetieth birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother is one of those precious people who were born in the reign of Queen Victoria and who are still enriching the life of our nation. In inviting this House to congratulate Her Majesty, we think also of all those who have attained so notable an age and have lived through so much history and have contributed to that history, but few can rival Her Majesty in the responsibilities that she has carried or in the services which she has rendered, or in the joy that she continues to bring.

Those born in 1900 suffered the agonies of the great war of 1914–18. She shares with others, then in their teens, the experience of losing close relatives. She herself nursed and administered to the wounded, seeing her Scottish home turned into an emergency hospital while she was a girl. These things helped to form that compassion which has been a mark of her service to the nation. No mere formality for her to be patron of the Red Cross, or to do all that she could for nurses in our hospitals.

In 1936 she was called to serve our people as the Queen of King George VI and in doing so became the first person of English and Scottish parentage to be the consort of our sovereign. Soon the nation found itself again in a great war which imposed exceptional burdens upon the King. These he faced with a strong sense of duty and determination. Throughout the war and the years of hardship immediately after he was sustained and encouraged by his Queen. Nothing endeared them more to their people than their decision to share the hazards faced by their subjects by remaining at the centre of the bomb-scarred capital during the blitz. The inspiration that she and the King provided during that struggle for freedom and democracy sealed for ever the place that she holds in our hearts.

Since the death of the King and since becoming Queen Mother she has not in any way diminished her service to public life. On the contrary, her circle of friendship is ever widening. She is an energetic traveller, especially to the countries of the Commonwealth, which is so important to her and whose people's affection for her matches our own.

The Queen Mother has delighted in being colonel-in-chief of historic regiments such as the Black Watch and the Queen's Own Hussars and in being the leader of the Women's Royal Naval Service.

All of us who were privileged to witness the birthday tribute to Her Majesty last month—a unique occasion—saw the great depth of affection and loyalty that flowed out to her from people of all walks of life and from all parts of the country. Each, as they marched past in parade, showed in their faces their happiness at being able to pay tribute to the Queen who continues to give so much of her time and personal interest to the hundreds of organisations which serve the community and which form the strong threads in the tapestry of our national life. It was a joyous and fitting tribute to Her Majesty.

The warmth of her affection for the nation is mirrored in the affections of the nation for her. She has come to symbolise the continuity of the royal family across four generations. The Queen's realms and Commonwealth owe her a debt that can never be repaid. May we continue to be blessed with her gracious presence for many years to come.

9.39 am
Mr. Neil Kinnock (Islwyn)

I have great pleasure in supporting the Prime Minister's motion that a message be sent from this House to congratulate Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother on her 90th birthday and to send her our warmest greetings.

This beloved and gracious lady has an incomparable place in the heart of the nation. Who else could have inspired a pre-birthday pageant which included an Aberdeen Angus bull, a selection of dachshunds and chickens, five mayors of the cinque ports, nine Old Contemptibles and 55 Fellows of the Royal Society? They represented but a small sample of the 300 civil and military organisations and activities supported and encouraged very actively by the Queen Mother in her long public life. It was the sort of spectacle that did her justice—a mixture of great fun, slightly unpredictable, entirely human and with the right shade of regality.

Today we can join with that celebration and send the gratitude of the House for a lifetime of truly meritorious service.

The Queen Mother's genius has been and is to fuse her love of family with her instinctive and strong sense of public duty and love of country. She has brought a spontaneity and energy to public life which has won her countless admirers all over the Commonwealth and all over the world. Her personal patriotism has always been distinctive and of the highest order, particularly, as the Prime Minister said, in war time when, with unrehearsed and heartfelt phrases, she identified herself completely with the people enduring the misery and the perils of the blitz. At that time and on so many other occasions, her courage and strength of character have been exemplary.

Following the death of her beloved husband with whom she shared so much, it would have been easy and understandable for the Queen Mother to have gone into retirement or semi-retirement. Instead she stayed to serve, and both our country and constitutional monarchy have benefited from that courageous decision.

The vivacity of the Queen Mother, her personal kindness, her formidable memory, her ability to make everyone feel special, her dignity and her intuition are not just charming qualities; they are the attributes of someone who has greatness. But despite that status, and despite the fact that she has attained great age and rightly commands great respect, she is the least stuffy and remote of great grandmothers. She is pre-eminently the Queen Mum, and the affection which that unique title conveys is chief amongst all the feelings held about this remarkable woman. With that affection, we thank her today for all that she has done and all she continues to do. We bid her happy birthday, and we wish her many more hale and hearty years to come.

9.42 am
Mr. Paddy Ashdown (Yeovil)

I join the Leader of the Opposition in warmly endorsing the Prime Minister's proposal that a message be sent from the House to congratulate Her Majesty the Queen Mother on the occasion of her 90th birthday next month.

There has been a common thread running through our comments today. They have all expressed joy at the Queen Mother's impending birthday and thanks for the joy that she has brought us all over her long years of service to the nation. She is a truly remarkable person whose personal warmth, sharp wit and infectious gaiety have won her a special place in the hearts and minds of the British people.

The Prime Minister is right to remind us that, as consort of King George VI during the difficult years of the war, her loyalty, steadfastness and courage were indeed an inspiration to our nation. Throughout her life she has devoted herself to serving the public, bringing her unique brand of radiance and enthusiasm to every engagement, at home and abroad.

My colleagues and I would like to join the whole House in sending our warmest congratulations to her on her 90th birthday and wishing her continued health and happiness.

Mr. Speaker

The Father of the House.

9.44 am
Sir Bernard Braine (Castle Point)

I am honoured to support the motion and to pay my tribute to a very great lady. As the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition have said, the Queen Mother has long held a warm and special place in all our hearts.

The motion rightly refers to Her Majesty's lifetime of service to the nation, and of course to the Commonwealth, and to the universal affection in which she is held. It is not difficult to see why. When fate decreed unexpectedly in the 1930s that her beloved husband should become King, she filled her new role as Queen with a natural grace which must not only have been a great support to him but which endeared her to us all. The explanation of course is that Her Majesty has always liked people. She radiates a gentle friendliness and interest wherever she goes which puts everyone at ease. There is a certain magic in her ability to unite hearts and affection.

My generation in particular can never forget the war years when, with the King and the people, she shared the dangers of living in our blitzed capital city. It would have been understandable in those grim days, when we were threatened with invasion and later with mass destruction from the skies, if the royal family had moved to a place of comparative safety. There was never any question of that. We know from her Majesty's own words: The children will not leave without me. I will not leave without the King, and the King will never leave"; and so it was, and the nation has never forgotten.

So today the House and the whole nation salutes a great lady, and wishes her a very happy 90th birthday and years more of good health and happiness.

9.47 am
Mr. Ken Maginnis (Fermanagh and South Tyrone)

I, too, support the Prime Minister's motion that a message of congratulation and good wishes should be sent to the Queen Mother on her 90th birthday. I do so on behalf of the Ulster Unionist party, and on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland where reside some of her most loyal admirers.

I am just a little too young to remember what happened during the war, but the service of the Queen Mother during that time has become a legend. During the past 20 tragic years we in Northern Ireland have seen it repeated in the Queen Mother's attention to that part of the United Kingdom. Her frequent visits to Northern Ireland have been an inspiration to the people living there, and the affection which each person there has for the Queen Mother is beyond my ability to describe.

I recall her last visit to my constituency and remember that gracious and regal lady stepping unaided from the helicopter on to the lawn and up on to the dais, again unaided, to speak to her loyal subjects. In endorsing what has been said by previous speakers, I emphasise that the people of Ulster love the Queen Mother and have a special affection for her.

9.50 am
Sir Alan Glyn (Windsor and Maidenhead)

On behalf of my constituents in Windsor and Maidenhead, I should like to add my congratulations to those of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who, in moving the motion so adequately and beautifully, expressed every facet of Her Majesty's life. The Queen Mother has many public duties. The parade showed the 300 institutions in which she has always shown an interest. Above all, the Queen Mother has always found time to take an interest in and look after all sections of our nation. She has a particular affection for Windsor. She moved there in August 1931 and since then she has shown an interest and particular affection, almost a family affection, for my constituents. Her Majesty has graced many events and we are proud to have her in our royal borough.

It is with great pleasure on behalf of my constituents that I endorse all that has been said by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and others in wishing Her Majesty good wishes on her 90th birthday and for the future.

9.52 am
Mr. Ian Stewart (Hertfordshire, North)

I have the honour to represent north Hertfordshire, which includes the village of St. Paul's Walden, where the Queen Mother spent much of her early life and to which she has always remained attached. On behalf of my constituents, I express to her our affectionate thanks for all that she has done in the district—supporting so many causes, particularly St. Mary's church, Hitchin, and the successful appeal for the new theatre in the town that bears her name. I look forward to many such occasions in future when we shall see her again; and I wish her many happy returns for her sake, of course, and also for ours.

9.53 am
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)

The Queen Mother is a Scot and proud of the fact, and we are proud that she has chosen to spend much of her leisure time in the north of Scotland, in my community, where she is a welcome visitor every year. She will come this year shortly after her strenuous birthday engagements, and we hope that she will find relaxation in our midst. She symbolises the unity of the nations of the United Kingdom and is someone we are proud to acknowledge as a friend in the community.

9.54 am
Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

I had not thought to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, but the Father of the House urged me to do so. For the past 12 years I have had the great privilege of welcoming Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother to Parliament's own church, St. Margaret's, when she attends an event that uniquely encapsulates her qualities. She comes every year to the dedication of the field of remembrance, which is a remarkable and moving occasion. She comes to commemorate those days when she lived through two world wars.

One of the most remarkable attributes of the Queen Mother is that she takes time. She always overruns the programme, speaks to everyone and makes them feel special, as has been said this morning. When she goes away she leaves a glow of remembrance and affection for her which will never be dimmed.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That an humble address be presented to Her Majesty, to assure Her Majesty that this House profoundly shares the great joy of the nation on the occasion of the forthcoming ninetieth birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Ordered, That the said Address be presented to her Majesty by such Members of this House as are of Her Majesty's most Honourable Privy Council or of Her Majesty's Household.—[The Prime Minister.]

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That a Message be sent to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, to offer to Her Majesty the heartfelt good wishes of the House upon the occasion of Her Majesty's forthcoming ninetieth birthday, praying that, in universal affection and gratitude for a lifetime of service to the nation and the Commonwealth, Her Majesty may long continue in health and happiness.—[The Prime Minister.]

Ordered, That Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, Sir Geoffrey Howe, Mr. Neil Kinnock, Mr. Paddy Ashdown, Mr. James Molyneaux and Sir Bernard Braine do wait upon Her Majesty with the said Message.—[The Prime Minister.]

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