Shailesh Vara speaks in the House of Commons to congratulate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on her Platinum Jubilee.
It is a great privilege and honour to congratulate Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on her platinum jubilee on behalf of my constituents of North West Cambridgeshire.
On a tour of Africa, the then 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth took a vow, which has been referred to by earlier speakers. Taking that vow, she said:
“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be dedicated to your service”.
Her Majesty has truly kept that vow. With her matchless sense of duty, she has worked tirelessly and given the nation and the Commonwealth 70 years of dedicated service. Throughout that period, until very recently, she had the unwavering support by her side of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.
During Her Majesty’s reign, there have been 14 UK Prime Ministers, the first being Sir Winston Churchill. There have been 14 US Presidents, starting with Harry S. Truman, and Pope Pius XII was the first of seven popes. There have also been 10 Speakers, beginning with William Morrison, covering 19 Parliaments. In 1952, there were only eight Commonwealth countries, compared with the 54 that we now have.
It has been an extraordinary reign, during which our country and the world have witnessed enormous change. To put matters into perspective, I was born in Kakira in Uganda at a time when Uganda was still part of the British empire. My family arrived here in the ‘60s and now I, the son of an immigrant carpenter, proudly stand in this House paying tribute to Her Majesty on behalf of my constituents from North West Cambridgeshire.
Compared with 1952, there are now in the UK more opportunities for people to rise as far as their talent and ability will take them, and more opportunities for education, home ownership, better health, more leisure time and more prosperity generally. As has been mentioned by previous speakers, we are a much more diverse nation—diversity of race, diversity of faith and diversity of culture. Through it all, Her Majesty has provided continuity, a platinum thread through the decades, a voice for good whose advice has been sought by world leaders across the four corners of the world. Her Majesty has also played a crucial constitutional role. She has been the guarantor of the constitutional integrity of our nation, providing stability and constancy throughout the decades.
On a more local level, my constituency is relatively new, having been formed in 1997. It comprises the southern part of Peterborough and 100 or so villages, including many in the northern part of Huntingdonshire. Records show that, in 1978, Her Majesty visited the national Shire Horse Society centenary show at Alwalton. She opened the Peterborough Building Society’s head office at Lynch Wood in 1988, and in 1991 there were traffic hold-ups as 3,000 extra visitors tried to see the Queen at the East of England Show.
Moreover, in June 2012, Her Majesty was the guest of Lady Victoria and Mr Simon Leatham, marking the Queen’s diamond jubilee picnic at Burghley House, when some 7,000 people came along to enjoy music and aerial displays.
My constituency has changed in many ways in the past 70 years. A large part of it—the Peterborough part —was, until 1974, part of Northamptonshire. However, while much has changed during Her Majesty’s reign, some things are timeless. I am sure that, were T.S. Eliot alive today, he would agree that the village of Little Gidding, of “Four Quartets” fame, is the same now as it was in 1945 when he published his poem.
Something else that is timeless is the love and affection that my constituents feel for Her Majesty. Sir John Colville spoke for many when he said in his book “The Elizabethans”:
“In an age of melting convictions and questionable needs the Queen’s unassuming virtues and faultless example have stood out like a rock in a sea of troubles.”
My congratulations again, and I thank Her Majesty for a lifetime of service to our nation and the Commonwealth.