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European Single Currency (Referendum)

Mr. John Maples accordingly presented a Bill to provide for a referendum on 28th September 2000 to decide whether the United Kingdom should join the European Single Currency: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 21 July, and to be printed [Bill 156].

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Orders of the Day

Hundredth Birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother

4.22 pm

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair): I beg to move,

That the said Address be presented to Her Majesty by such Members of the House as are of Her Majesty's most Honourable Privy Council or of Her Majesty's Household;
That a Message be sent to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother rejoicing with Her on the attainment of Her hundredth birthday; expressing to Her Majesty the people's gratitude for Her lifelong example of trust in the Lord, and courage and service in war and in peace; and praying for Her health and happiness in days to come;
That Madam Speaker, the Prime Minister, Margaret Beckett, Mr. William Hague and Mr. Charles Kennedy do wait upon Her Majesty with the said Message.

I have moved the motion to assure Her Majesty of the great pleasure that this House shares with the nation on the occasion of the forthcoming 100th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother holds a unique place in the heart of the nation and of many people across the world. As we think back over the multitude of events in her long life, many will recall first the remarkable part played by the Queen Mother as Queen and Consort to her much loved husband, the late King George VI. Countless people have etched on their minds the wartime pictures of the Queen and her husband engaging with the hazards of the capital during the blitz. Sustaining the nation's morale and strengthening its resolve in the epic battle for freedom, she was a source of inspiration which sealed her in our nation's heart, just as, during the first world war, the young Lady Elizabeth had provided care and welfare in the hospital at Glamis castle helping others in her direct, straightforward and positive way.

Her Majesty gives her support to some 350 organisations as patron or president--charities, voluntary bodies and other organisations: a vast tapestry of public service. She is Commandant-in-Chief for women in the Royal Navy and of women in the Royal Air Force, as well as Colonel-in-Chief of seven Army regiments and one Army corps. For many years, she was President of the British Red Cross and remains Commandant-in-Chief of the nursing division of St. John Ambulance. She has enthused countless people, for countless good causes, with her familiar smile, her sparkle and, of course, her wonderful hats.

Representatives from many of those organisations will come together in a unique tribute on Horseguards parade next week. Young and old, soldiers and civilians, will appear with race horses, corgis and, I am told, even camels to capture Her Majesty's huge range of interests.

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We remember, too, the Queen Mother opening the Victory in Europe 50th anniversary commemorations in Hyde park and taking her place on the balcony at Buckingham palace. We have seen her there on state and royal occasions. We have seen her present at Cenotaph ceremonies on Remembrance Sunday, and she has represented this country on numerous occasions in the Commonwealth and elsewhere. Whether an occasion is sad or celebratory, formal or intimate, it is always enhanced by her presence.

Today, Her Majesty remains at the centre of the royal family's life and work, important to every generation and--as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother--bringing stability and continuity to our monarchy.

Often when people reach 100, others ask them for their recipe for a long and happy life. I do not know what the Queen Mother's reply would be. I might guess that her secret lies in her genuine and unaffected interest in people, and in her zest for life. She has indeed lived out the Strathmore motto--"In you, Lord, have I put my trust"--and has combined a strong faith and a compassion for others with a great sense of fun. She has moved with the times, but has consistently displayed the age-old values of loyalty, duty and constancy.

The Queen Mother has been witness to, and has played a prominent role in, 100 years of change. Amid that change--faster in our world today than at any time in our history--she, and the monarchy, have acted as a rock of stability and strength to our nation. We wish her health and happiness, and we offer from the House our heartfelt greetings and gratitude at this very special time.

4.26 pm

Mr. William Hague (Richmond, Yorks): It is a privilege for me to associate myself fully, on behalf of the Opposition, with the tribute that the Prime Minister has just paid to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and to support the motion that a message should be sent from the House conveying our warmest congratulations to Her Majesty on the occasion of her forthcoming 100th birthday. I believe that, in doing so, we are reflecting the sentiments of millions of people throughout the United Kingdom who hold this truly remarkable lady in the highest possible affection. The Queen Mother's 100th birthday is an occasion to unite the entire nation--and, indeed, people throughout the Commonwealth that has always meant so much to her.

Everywhere she goes, the Queen Mother radiates warmth, charm and dignity, combined with a sense of fun that captivates everyone who meets her. Born in the final year of the reign of Queen Victoria, she has come to represent the continuity and strength of the monarchy, and its central role in the affairs of our nation. She has helped to bring home to people the stability that constitutional monarchy brings to our country--and, in the opinion of many, how much better we are served by it than by any of the alternatives that are sometimes suggested.

In both her public and her private life, the Queen Mother has been an immense source of strength. That was most apparent in the way in which she supported the monarchy and the country, and supported King George VI after he acceded to the throne. Together, they sought successfully to restore public confidence in the monarchy. For most people, it was the leadership and inspiration that the King and Queen showed during the war that ensured

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their lasting place in the hearts of the nation. Their refusal to leave London at the height of the blitz--especially after Buckingham palace itself was bombed--and their sense of duty and determination established them as the focal point for national unity, at the time of Britain's gravest as well as finest hour.

Everyone remembers the Queen Mother's remark about being able to look the east end in the face, but to me the comment that best encapsulates her attitude is her response to the suggestion that her daughters be evacuated: "They will not leave without me, I will not leave without the King, and the King will never leave."

Few of us here today who were privileged to see it will ever forget the emotion of the Queen Mother's appearance on the balcony at Buckingham palace in 1995 to recreate, with her two daughters, the scene on VE day 50 years before. It reminded us why the Queen Mother, devoted to her family and her country, has come to symbolise the sacrifices that our parents and grandparents made to preserve the freedoms that we all enjoy in Britain today. Since the war, and the death of the King in 1952, she has devoted herself tirelessly and selflessly to public duty, carrying out more than 40 official visits abroad, and serving as patron and president of more than 350 organisations. She is still carrying out public duties in her 100th year.

Two years ago, the Prince of Wales described his grandmother as indestructible. Nothing better sums up the strength and spirit of a lady who, as she approaches her 100th birthday, continues to enrich the life of our nation. Her birthday is a matter of rejoicing for us all; and, as we celebrate it, we do so in the hope that this "indestructible" and gracious lady will enjoy still more in the years to come.

4.30 pm

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West): On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Liberal Democrat party may I equally entirely associate myself with the sentiments that were expressed by the Prime Minister on this unique occasion? I think that all the party leaders who were present earlier today at that magnificent ceremony in St. Paul's will be in no doubt as to the breadth as well as the depth of respect and affection in which Her Majesty is properly held.

If one looks at this unique and remarkable life, it is in so many ways the story of the 20th century itself. It has spanned the 20th century and seen everything from the discovery of penicillin to two world wars, the emergence and then disappearance of the Soviet Union, as well as all the vast social changes in our country, the continent of Europe and the Commonwealth as a whole. She is an inspiration and a beacon. We all share in her pleasure and happiness today. She has enriched many people's lives and our lives have been enriched accordingly.

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