ParliamentRoyal FamilySpeeches

Craig Whittaker – 2022 Tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II

The tribute made by Craig Whittaker, the Conservative MP for Calder Valley, in the House of Commons on 10 September 2022.

I rise on behalf of my constituents of the Calder Valley to thank Her Majesty the Queen for her lifetime of service to us, her peoples, and to her country, the Commonwealth and the territories for all the very many reasons that have been mentioned here by colleagues over the past two days. I will not repeat them but will instead reflect on my own wonderful experiences of meeting Her Majesty.

I am what I would call a true working-class lad. We emigrated to Australia when I was five. I am the son of a boilermaker and a seamstress. We were £10 Poms who emigrated to the once great steel and shipbuilding towns and cities of Australia.

My first experience of seeing the Queen in real life was back in the late 1970s. I was just 15—Madam Deputy Speaker, I can see that you are aghast at that. I remember watching in awe as the Royal Yacht Britannia brought Her Majesty the Queen and Prince Philip to meet the then Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser. The amount of people who turned out to greet them was a magnificent sight. Never once then did I ever imagine that I would one day be Her Majesty’s Vice-Chamberlain and be having one-to-one audiences with her at Buckingham Palace.

Let me briefly return to my working-class roots. When I left school, my mum was absolutely horrified that I went to work in an office. Such was the harshness of my background that she often asked why I did not get a proper job like my dad and my brother, who also had a trade—although, I would not change it for anything. This badgering from my mum has gone on my whole life. Even when I became an MP, in devilment she would say to me, “Just remind me what exactly is it that you do?”

A few years ago, when my mum was in her late 70s, she came back to the UK from Australia for a holiday. It was around the same time as the State Opening of Parliament. Not telling her a thing, I brought her here to London for a visit. I got her a seat in the House of Lords Gallery, overlooking the Queen—straight in front of the Queen.

Then, for good measure, I got her a seat in the Special Gallery on the Floor of the House, courtesy of Mr Speaker’s predecessor. No one has ever seen my mother speechless in her life, but I can tell you, Madam Deputy Speaker, that she was. I can also tell you that she has never once since said to me, “So tell me, what is it you actually do?”

That was the power of the respect Her Majesty gained from every generation of Britons, my good old mum included. I will take to my dying day the ease I felt with and the compassion and the love I had for my Queen—our Queen—as her Vice-Chamberlain. Her interest in and knowledge of the Calder Valley or any subject we discussed was flawless. May you rest in peace, Your Majesty. You have more than deserved and earned your peace. God save the Queen, and God save the King.