Below is the text of the speech made by Gerald Howarth in the House of Commons on 21 April 2016.
Mr Speaker, thank you very much indeed for calling me, and I hope that in the event that the Whip on duty on the delegated legislation Committee that I am supposed now to be attending chastises me, you may come to my aid. I am delighted to join my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in, once again, saluting Her Majesty’s extraordinary, dedicated service to the nation and to the Commonwealth, and in wishing her many happy returns on her 90th birthday.
I do so as the Member privileged to represent Aldershot, home of the British Army, and I am authorised by the most senior officer in Aldershot, Lieutenant General James Bashall, to associate the garrison most warmly with today’s tributes. Her Majesty is head of her armed forces, Colonel-in-Chief of 17 British Army regiments and of 24 Commonwealth regiments. Soldiers, sailors and airmen, like Members of Parliament, swear an oath of allegiance to the sovereign. It is she they serve, and that bond between the sovereign and the men and women of the armed forces is a very special one, not least because in her is personified the ideal of service and duty. Although King George II was the last sovereign to lead his forces into battle—in the battle of Dettingen, in 1743—Elizabeth II has led from the front by example, as my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said, not least in upholding her commitment to defend the faith, our Christian faith. My own modest commission in the Royal Air Force volunteer reserve hangs prominently on my study wall, to remind me of the duty I owe to my sovereign.
My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister knows how important the support of a spouse is as he discharges his duties, and I am sure that he obtains advice, welcome and sometimes perhaps unwelcome, from his spouse—I certainly do. It is therefore right today that we should reflect also on the support that His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh has given the Queen throughout her life. Although we have not been privileged to know the nature of any advice he may have had the temerity to proffer to Her Majesty, we can be sure that his immense reservoir of common sense and capacity for candid, plain speaking, which has so endeared him to the British people, will have been an added blessing to her.
As others have said, not least the Leader of the Opposition, Her Majesty does have a wonderful sense of humour. I recall the story, as many others may do, of the Privy Council meeting where, unfortunately, a Cabinet Minister’s telephone had not been switched off. When it rang, the Cabinet Minister took the phone out of her handbag and duly moved away to answer it. When she had finished the call, Her Majesty turned to her and said, “Somebody important, was it?”
Finally, Mr Speaker, I conclude with the admirable editorial in this week’s Country Life, which has just relocated to Farnborough in my constituency: It said:
“Often accused in the past of being too traditional, it is now her old-fashioned values and steadfastness that have made her someone to be admired and emulated the world over. Her long reign and vast accumulated wisdom have helped to stabilise relations across the world, especially within the Commonwealth.”
We owe Her Majesty a great debt of gratitude. God save the Queen.