HC Deb 24 April 2002 vol 384 cc336-40 3.33 pm
The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair)

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Her Accession to the Throne. That the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by the whole House. I am sure that the whole House will once more accord to you, Mr. Speaker, the traditional right which has been claimed by Speakers-in-Office to express the sentiments of this House to Her Majesty in your own words. As I believe hon. Members know—informally, if not formally—Her Majesty, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, has graciously agreed to come to Westminster Hall on Tuesday 30 April to receive Addresses from both Houses of Parliament.

Typically, Her Majesty has said that the golden jubilee is an occasion for her and Prince Philip to acknowledge with gratitude the loyalty and support which they have received from so many people since her accession. But it also allows us, the people of this country and those in the Commonwealth, to celebrate 50 years of dedicated service by Her Majesty and Prince Philip.

The start of this jubilee year was overshadowed by the deaths of Princess Margaret and Her Majesty the Queen Mother. When the nation came together in sadness at the death, and gratitude for the life, of Her Majesty the Queen Mother, we demonstrated not just the honour that we felt for someone who had inspired us for over a century. We also saw the respect and loyalty which the monarchy retains in the heart of our nation. I know that, throughout the jubilee celebrations, we shall see the same public support and commitment to Her Majesty and Prince Philip. The weekend of national celebrations from 1 to 4 June will culminate with a national thanksgiving service in St. Paul's cathedral, after a ceremonial procession from Buckingham Palace.

On a tour of Africa when she was 21, Princess Elizabeth, as she then was, vowed: I declare before you all, that my whole life, whether it be long or short shall be dedicated to your service … But I shall not have the strength to carry out this resolution unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do". That vow she has kept. During the past 50 years, Her Majesty's commitment and public service has been tireless. She has carried out an outstanding range of duties, been involved as a patron of more than 600 organisations, met more people than any other monarch and undertaken 251 official visits to 128 countries. Throughout all her work she has been guided by deep-seated values, which she spelt out clearly in her Christmas address in 1999:

Fairness and compassion, justice and tolerance; these are the landmarks from the past which can guide us through the years ahead. We all have our personal memories of the Queen's reign over the last 50 years. I was just three weeks old at the time of her coronation and as a schoolboy in Durham during the 1960s, I remember seeing the Queen for the first time. It is a privilege now to serve her as her 10th Prime Minister—her first, as she reminded me in May 1997, was Winston Churchill, who was her Prime Minister before I was born. In the many meetings that I have had with Her Majesty since 1997, 1 have, time and again, as have my predecessors, had reason to be grateful to her for her wisdom, good sense and experience, which she always brings to the issues of the day.

Nationally, and internationally, the world has, of course, changed more than anyone could have imagined since that day 50 years ago when a young Queen took on the awesome responsibility of the monarchy following the tragic death of her father. Yet, through all the change, and through all the insecurities and uncertainties that change brings, which all countries have experienced in the last half century, our country has had the inestimable benefit of that symbol of principled unity and continuity so perfectly embodied in Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. With a matchless sense of duty, she has served her country. With pride, we celebrate her jubilee.

3.37 pm
Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green)

May I second the Prime Minister and associate myself and my party completely with what he has just said?

The Prime Minister was right to say that, on the evening of her 21st birthday, the then Princess Elizabeth broadcast a vow to the nation, and he was right to say that she stuck to it.

The most remarkable thing about the past 50 years is the way in which Her Majesty the Queen has literally stuck to every single word that she said in that broadcast—perhaps a real lesson in constancy and dedication to all of us of the next generation. Our admiration for her outstanding service to our country has never been higher. During 50 years in which Britain has changed so completely from the country that Her Majesty addressed as a Princess, she has symbolised the strength, stability and unity of the United Kingdom and the superiority of evolution over revolution in our national life.

At all times, Her Majesty has interpreted and executed her constitutional role with unerring judgment. The Queen has been in every sense a model constitutional monarch. Indeed, our democracy owes much to her instinctive understanding of her role and her deep love of her country.

We therefore celebrate with gratitude 50 years of service to the people of Britain and to the wider Commonwealth. Over 50 years, the Queen has touched millions of lives through her visits, through her recognition of people of achievement and courage and through the hard work that she has carried out on behalf of the many charities and other organisations of which she is patron.

As a former soldier, I know how devoted the Queen is to her regiments and the unique way in which they and the other armed services respond. All of our armed forces share an enormous sense of pride that they serve the Queen.

As the Prime Minister said, that warmth is felt all around the world because, through the Commonwealth, the Queen has made an enduring contribution to the lives of millions. To the Queen, the Commonwealth has never been just another duty, but a deep and abiding personal interest.

Throughout her reign the Queen has often had to live in a goldfish bowl of press interest. Yet, at all times, Her Majesty has conducted herself with dignity, decency and honour. Never has that been more evident than this year, with the particularly painful loss of her mother and sister. However, even when confronted with personal sadness, the Queen has never flinched from her public duty and has put her country and her people first. We pay tribute also to the Queen's husband, the Duke of Edinburgh. As the Prime Minister said, he has been a steadfast companion and his constant support has been invaluable to her.

Earlier this year, some critics and, I believe, some closet republicans predicted that there would be no public interest in the golden jubilee and that it would be a flop. I happily predict today that they will be utterly confounded by the outpouring of loyalty and affection for the monarch from people throughout the United Kingdom. Speaking on Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee, one of our predecessors said that she has been an example to every Sovereign, she has shared our anxieties and shared our triumphs, she has been throughout animated and inspired by our national ideals". I believe that those same words ring true of Her Majesty today. We thank her for her service, her devotion to her country and the dignity and decency with which she has conducted herself over the past half century. We also look forward to many, many more years of her reign.

3.41 pm
Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West)

On behalf of my hon. and right hon. Friends, it is a pleasure and a privilege to speak in support of the motion moved by the Prime Minister. This is certainly an issue on which the entire House and, indeed, the vast majority of the country are united. We pay tribute to the remarkable 50 years of national and international devotion, which are the hallmark of the Queen's reign.

All of us in the House, in all parties, know politicians from countries outside our own borders and boundaries—Commonwealth politicians in particular—who will attest to Her Majesty's extraordinarily broad and deep knowledge and her commitment over the past 50 years, which have been the hallmark of her approach not just to her duties to the citizens of this country, but to her wider and, at times, difficult Commonwealth duties.

Despite all the Commonwealth's problems and vicissitudes over the years and the changes that have occurred across the globe, it remains a source of dialogue and, therefore, understanding, and accordingly hope. Her Majesty's pivotal presence, which has been the one constant at the centre, has to have been fundamental to maintaining the Commonwealth and to maintaining that dialogue and understanding for the force of good in the world generally. That is very much the hallmark of Her Majesty.

Like the Prime Minister and the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith), we put on record our sadness at the two untimely and distressing deaths in the royal family this year, but in some ways that sadness has made people realise all the more what a debt of gratitude exists and what remains to be commemorated later this year.

Like others who have identified the Duke of Edinburgh as a pivotal presence in the life of the Queen in particular and the monarchy in general, I express best wishes for the rest of the year and for the future. On a purely personal constituency level, we on the Isle of Skye look forward to welcoming Her Majesty in a few weeks' time.

3.43 pm
Mr. David Trimble (Upper Bann)

It is indeed a privilege to express my party's support for the motion moved by the Prime Minister on presenting a Humble Address. As he and the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) have said, in the past 50 years, Her Majesty has fulfilled her promise to the nation.

I can endorse from my own experience the words of the right hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Inverness, West (Mr. Kennedy). Her Majesty does not fulfil her functions routinely or casually; she pays very close attention, and is extremely well informed on a wide range of subjects. From personal experience gained on many occasions, I can testify to her knowledge of and interest in the issues. That is true not only of her, but of the Duke of Edinburgh and other members of the royal family.

The Prime Minister also referred to the important role that the monarchy plays in the nation as a whole. Not many institutions in our United Kingdom are common to the entire kingdom, but the monarchy is one, and the most important. I make that reflection particularly coming from Northern Ireland, where we occasionally feel forgotten by some of the other institutions of our state, but not the monarchy.

I know that I am speaking not just for my party colleagues, adherents and supporters, but for a wide range of people in Northern Ireland who will also want to associate themselves with this Humble Address as a fitting way to mark Her Majesty's jubilee.

3.45 pm
Hywel Williams (Caernarfon)

On behalf of the Scottish National party and Plaid Cymru, may I add our congratulations to Queen Elizabeth on her golden jubilee? Clearly, we are not overwhelmingly convinced of the virtue of the monarchical principle, but it is right that we should acknowledge the achievements of the golden jubilee. Queen Elizabeth has outlasted a succession of Prime Ministers. To borrow a phrase from Sir Robin Day, she has outlasted many a "here today, gone tomorrow" Prime Minister, and for that matter many a "here today, gone tomorrow" Leader of the Opposition. That is no mean achievement.

It would be remiss of me as the hon. Member for Caernarfon not to note the connection that the town has had with the monarchy—with the Welsh monarchy, and in its most recent incarnation. Indeed, many Caernarfon citizens, especially from the older generation, would wish me to convey their congratulations to the Queen, and I am happy to do so today.

3.46 pm
Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North)

May I briefly associate my hon. Friends with the terms of the motion proposed by the Prime Minister? In congratulating Her Majesty on the achievement of her golden jubilee, may I, on behalf of her subjects in Northern Ireland, join with the other right hon. and hon. Members who have spoken in expressing our heartfelt gratitude to Her Majesty for her 50 years of devoted service to all the people and to all parts of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, nemine contradicente, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty on the occasion of the Fiftieth Anniversary of Her Accession to the Throne. That the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by the whole House.