Speaking in the House of Commons Shailesh Vara pays tribute to HRH The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
May I start by conveying my condolences and those of my constituents to Her Majesty the Queen and the rest of the royal family? Of Prince Philip’s many achievements, perhaps most visible is the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, started in 1956. With nearly 7 million participants, including many in my constituency, it has benefited generations of young people, equipping them with skills and giving them confidence and a sense of independence for the rest of their lives.
I recently spoke to a lady in her 60s. The daughter of immigrants, brought up in a deprived area, she spoke fondly of her memories of the activities that she undertook as part of the scheme. One memory that she particularly cherished was the opportunity to walk up Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. It gave her enormous confidence for the rest of her life, but she made the point that, given her background and her circumstances, she would never have been able to do that were it not for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme.
On a personal note, like others I had the opportunity to meet Prince Philip on a number of occasions, and on one such occasion, he asked about my background. I told him that I was of Indian origin and born in Uganda. Then we had a conversation, which made it absolutely clear to me that here was a prince who had a real depth of knowledge. He spoke of the expulsion of the Asians from Uganda in 1972. He spoke of the individuals who came to this country with nothing but the clothes on their backs. He spoke of the success that they had made for themselves and their families. Importantly, he spoke of the contribution that these people had made to the UK generally. Here was a prince who made a point of understanding and knowing about all the citizens in the United Kingdom.
The royal family has lost a husband, a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather. We as a nation, and the Commonwealth and the rest of the world, have lost an extraordinary individual who led an exceptional life. His deeds and achievements and their impact will continue long after we are all gone.