Below is the text of the speech made by Cheryl Gillan in the House of Commons on 21 April 2016.
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for calling me, on what I think is a momentous day, to celebrate the birthday of our longest-serving monarch. I have to say that it is also today that I celebrate my birthday, although I am a little younger than Her Majesty. I feel that a Beatles song would be most appropriate if I find it among my birthday presents.
I have always been tremendously proud to share the date of my birth with our monarch. When I was very little, in Cardiff, my father always used to kid me that the 24-gun salute in Sophia Gardens was, in fact, for me, but I found out fairly soon that it was for a much more important lady.
Like many who are here today, I am a modern Elizabethan. We have never known any other monarch, and we are staunchly proud to live in the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. She is truly a beacon and an exemplar of dedication to the people of the United Kingdom, and an exemplar of devotion to duty. She is also a wonderful role model for women not just in this country but around the world, particularly as women try to take their place in public life and to have a voice in the Governments of their countries.
In this House and in Parliament, we know about public service, but none of us will ever equal what our Queen does as a matter of course in caring for all the people of this kingdom and across the globe, in the countries of the Commonwealth. The Queen’s achievement in drawing all those countries together for their mutual support and benefit is truly magnificent. It is a notable achievement in this day and age, and one that is a testament to her gentle guardianship and powerful advocacy.
The poet John Milton lived for a while in Chalfont St Giles, in my constituency, and his cottage is still there, preserved as a monument to his work. He was a parliamentarian and a person who argued against the restoration of the monarchy—a servant of the then Commonwealth—but I would like to think that had John Milton known our monarch, he would have altered his view. As it is, I turn to the words that he wrote about Shakespeare, whose 400th anniversary we celebrate in two days’ time. He wrote that the poet and playwright needed no monument, because
“Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a live-long monument.”
Throughout the ceaseless work of a long life, with the welfare of her people always at the heart and centre of her being, Her Majesty the Queen has created such a monument.
This place is often described as “the mother of Parliaments”, but Her Majesty is truly the mother of our parliamentary democracy, and easily commands our love and respect. Long may the Queen rule over us, and, your Majesty, a very happy birthday too.