Thank you Mr Speaker, it is a pleasure to second the Humble Address.
Many people across the country today will be wishing Her Majesty a happy 90th birthday and these benches send our warmest greetings.
May I say, Mr Speaker, as a relatively young whipper-snapper that I am fully in favour of our country having leaders of a finer vintage.
Today we are talking about a highly respected individual who is 90. Whatever differing views people might have of the institution the vast majority of people share an opinion that Her Majesty has served this country with overwhelming public support and a clear sense of public service and duty.
She has carried out that duty with great warmth. My dear friend, Mildred Gordon, the former member for Bow & Poplar, who recently died aged 92, whose funeral is tomorrow, met the Queen at the opening of the Docklands Light Railway and said to her she felt she had little power to help her constituents. The Queen replied with customary wit, “Once they find out you lot can’t help them, they all write to me”.
Her Majesty was born less than a month before the General Strike, the first daughter who would later, and unexpectedly, become heir to the throne. Yet it was two years into her life before all women in Britain got the vote.
Her childhood was during the mass poverty and long slump of the 1930s. Her teenage years through the brutal carnage of the Second World War. At war’s end, she experienced first-hand the joy of the people as the young princess walked through the streets of London and her moving oral history was replayed on Radio 4 this morning.
She became Queen at just 25 years old following the death of her father and she has reigned for nearly 64 years, the longest reigning monarch in our history.
In that time our country has become a better and more civilised place. We have enacted equality legislation, we have ended colonisation, we have created the NHS, the welfare state and the Open University.
And as the Head of the Commonwealth she has been a defender of this incredible multicultural institution.
Today I am welcoming two nonagenarians from my constituency to Parliament; Iris Monaghan and George Durack.
Iris was born in what is now the Republic of Ireland, but was then part of Britain. She came to London in 1951 and was a crown civil servant in the Inland Revenue.
George fought in the Second World War, serving in the 1st Battalion of the Rifle Brigade, attached to the 7th Armoured Division, and had a daily close affinity with Her Majesty throughout his working life working for Royal Mail, delivering Her Majesty’s head through people’s doors.
Yesterday, I was present at the graduation of Pat Bishop a 91 year old constituent who has just completed her third degree, a Masters no less, at Birkbeck College.
It is their generation, the Queen’s generation, and my parents’ generation, that defeated the horrors of fascism in Europe, endured the privations of the post-war era, and who built a more civilised and equal Britain. We have much for which we should be grateful to that generation.
On the day of her coronation in 1953, Her Majesty was driven through Upper Street in my constituency but her crowning achievement in Islington was surely some 50 years later.
In 2006, Her Majesty was due to open the new Emirates stadium in my constituency but had to pull out due to injury. Unfortunately, Mr Speaker, this is a fate that has afflicted far too many of Arsenal’s squad in the years since so we must congratulate her on her prescience.
My Hon Friend, the member for Hornsey & Wood Green, then the Leader of Islington Council, accompanied the squad to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen. We know that Her Majesty is above politics, and she may be above football too but many locals have taken that meeting as an indication that she is a secret Gooner.
In her reign, she has seen off 12 Prime Ministers. While I recently attended my first state dinner, she has received over 100 state visits and visited over 100 countries on behalf of our nation.
I admire her energy and wish her well in continuing her outstanding commitment to public service.
Happy 90th Birthday.