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1.12 pm

Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley): I wish to say a few words as the Member for a constituency that had no specific connection with the Queen Mother. However, she was just as well loved and respected there as in those constituencies that had a more direct connection with her.

My constituency is in Lancashire, and the Queen Mother was the mother of the present Duke of Lancaster and the wife of the previous Duke of Lancaster, her much-loved husband King George VI. My first memory of the Queen Mother is of the time that I saw her when all the schools in Burnley went to see the King and the Queen, as she then was, when they visited the town at the end of the second world war. The royal family played a great part in the war and certainly boosted the morale of the country. Indeed, the present Queen, as Princess Elizabeth, gave a special speech on the radio to the children of the nation, and every child at school received a certificate at the end of the war from the King.

It was the simple things that made the Queen Mother much respected and loved. I recall her visit to Manchester in the late 1960s or early 1970s when she attended a banquet. I was in a group of about a dozen people when I was introduced to her and each person in that group thought that she was speaking to them alone and to no one else. She had the knack of being able to speak in that way.

One man was introduced to the Queen Mother and she told him that she had met him before. He said yes, but just as he was about to tell her where and when, she said, "Don't tell me." She carried on chatting to him for three or four minutes, and then suddenly said, "Did I meet you in Manchester during the blitz?" He said, "Yes, you spoke to me when I was helping to clear up Manchester cathedral after it had been bombed the night before. I was in the ARP." She had that knack of remembering people. I have an appalling memory for names and people, but she remembered many years later that she had spoken to that man.

The Queen Mother also made a most simple gesture at that banquet. It was attended by 500 people, a large number of whom were not especially pro-monarchy—indeed, some were clearly republican. We had the toasts

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and the function was drawing to a conclusion when she suddenly and unexpectedly pushed back her chair and proposed a toast to the city and people of Manchester. That hall of 500 people was electric at that moment, with everyone standing and cheering. Such simple gestures, so warmly and genuinely meant, made her the most respected and loved of all the royal family. We pay tribute to her. She will be a sad loss to the nation.

1.16 pm

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet): In supporting the Humble Address, I hope that I speak on behalf of many when I express my thanks for the work that the Queen Mother did for so many charities. I could not go through a litany of them all, but it is a source of great astonishment for those of us associated with any of them that she managed, in her busy and committed life, to become so personally involved in so many organisations to which she gave a great deal.

Much has been made of the Queen Mother's commitment to children. When she visited the Royal School for Deaf Children in Margate, she quickly put her young hosts at ease when others, more shamefully, found it difficult to communicate with them. She immediately struck a chord with them all.

The Queen Mother was patron of the Children's Country Holidays fund and took a passionate interest in the work that that little organisation does to provide holidays for the underprivileged children of east London. In this, the final year of her life, she allowed her name to be given to a rose bred specially for her called "Queen's London Child". When hon. Members on both sides of the House visit the Chelsea flower show this year, they will see that rose twinkling in the sun as a living memorial to someone whom the children of the east end of London believe to be a very great lady. They will miss her dreadfully.

1.17 pm

Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West): Lest it is thought to be an individual quirk of the Father of the House or a one-sided comment, and although we cannot debate other things today, the House and the people of this country expect the usual channels to arrange a debate at the earliest possible opportunity on the matters to which he delicately referred.

We cannot list all the 300 organisations with which the Queen Mother was associated, but she was supported in all of them by her personal and household staff. In particular, I want to mention Sir Martin Gilliat, her devoted supporter for many decades.

I saw the Queen Mother in military, civilian and voluntary service. People do not fully understand or articulate how thousands of ordinary people doing ordinary things use the inspiration of someone in her position—whether as patron, colonel or a supporter of an organisation—to achieve extraordinary results.

It is not just about what she alone did for the east end, but about the inspiration that she gave to people to put up with hardship or to do that extra bit for those around them.

The best tribute that we can give is to ask whether we can do more of what she did and what she inspired others to do.

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1.18 pm

Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire): Like many hon. Members and our constituents, I did not have the privilege of meeting the Queen Mother. Many of our colleagues have contributed to this debate on the Humble Address. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Soames) made a most moving speech on how he knew her for more than 40 years. Yet to me, all hon. Members and all my constituents, the Queen Mother was a very special lady: she was, indeed, the nation's favourite granny. One of her unique gifts was to take the love, the support and the delight that she so clearly took and gave to her own family to everyone that she met and came across. If we, as we go about our business, can just follow her example in some small way and make everyone we meet feel as special as she did, and if we can continue those small acts of kindness that she performed for all those she knew, we will have served her memory well.

1.20 pm

Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley): I rise to support the Humble Address, and on behalf of my constituents I should like to extend my sincere sympathy to Her Majesty the Queen and the royal family.

March 2002 will long be remembered by my constituents as a month of mixed emotions. Early in March, the honour of city status was conferred on the borough of Lisburn by Her Majesty the Queen, in this her golden jubilee year. We celebrated the new city of Lisburn, especially in light of our close association with the royal family, with the village of Hillsborough being the official residence of Her Majesty the Queen and having played host, on many occasions, to Her Majesty the Queen Mother. We remember those visits with affection.

As my friends and colleagues have said, those visits came at times when the people of Northern Ireland were facing great uncertainty and adversity, with the shadow of violence hanging over our part of the United Kingdom. When the Queen Mother and other members of the royal family came to visit Northern Ireland, we took hope from their interest and the time that they spent among us, and not least among the royal family was the Queen Mother who gave her time and showed her affection for Northern Ireland.

As my hon. Friend the Member for South Antrim (David Burnside) said, we were inspired by the Queen Mother's Christian faith and by the fact that she prayed for the people of Northern Ireland. We very much appreciate that, and we appreciate the contribution that she made to the life of Northern Ireland and to the life of our nation. We will greatly mourn her passing. It is at times like this that we are reminded of the contribution that the royal family make to the life of our nation. It is a contribution that many of us in Northern Ireland deeply appreciate, and we will miss the Queen Mother. She was a very special lady, and she meant much to my constituents.

1.22 pm

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): I cannot hope to match the eloquence of a number of those who have already contributed. Nevertheless, as a recently elected Member of the House, I should like to pay a brief tribute to Her Majesty the Queen Mother. She served as the

3 Apr 2002 : Column 826

Colonel-in-Chief of a number of regiments in the Army, including the University of London officer training corps and the Royal Anglian Regiment, in both of which I had the privilege to serve. All the people who served in those regiments, and indeed in all the armed forces, including those who served in two world wars and who still survive, will greatly mourn her passing.

I met the Queen Mother only once when she paid a formal visit to the London OTC several years ago. As a young second lieutenant I was deputed to have the honour of introducing her to some of the cadets in the regiment. I freely admit that when I came to this place I was slightly nervous on the day of my maiden speech, but that was as nothing to the butterflies that I experienced when the Queen Mother visited the London OTC. I pay tribute to her great skill, which others have mentioned, of putting people at ease. When she met me she immediately put me at my ease and made it very simple for me to perform my duty. On a personal level, I will always be thankful to her for that.

I conclude with a very gentle story. Some hon. Members may have heard this before, so I crave their indulgence. Several years ago, when she was in her 90s, the Queen Mother was asked by a journalist, "Your Majesty, you have travelled the world, you have met so many people and done so many wonderful things. Is there anything at all to which you still aspire?" She is reputed to have replied, "Yes—I would very much like to receive a telegram from my daughter." Of course, she did receive that telegram, and we are all very grateful that she did.

I think that Her Royal Highness the Queen Mother was something of an institution in her own right. We are all the poorer for her passing, and as a House and as a nation we will miss her tremendously.

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