Ms Harriet Harman (Camberwell and Peckham) (Lab): I am pleased to follow the Prime Minister’s tribute to Her Majesty the Queen. As he did, I want to start with her words when she was 21 years old:
“I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service.”
Those words, remarkable from such a young woman, were a solemn vow to this country that she has kept through the 63 years and 218 days of her reign. She had not expected to succeed to the throne, but even before she was crowned she was clear that her life would be dedicated to the service of her country.
There can be no doubt about the commitment that she has made and the public service she has given and continues to give. Even today, at the age of 89, she is undertaking a public engagement. Her life has been a great sweep of British history—the second world war, the cold war and the fall of the Berlin wall—and she has presided over the transition from empire to Commonwealth. Her reign spans profound changes in all respects: in work life, family life, our communities and technology. She has gone from sending telegrams to sending tweets. At a time of so much change, her reign is the reassurance of continuity, a defining feature of this country both at home and abroad. At home, she has done thousands of official engagements, including visits, walkabouts, meeting and greeting the public and welcoming thousands to Buckingham Palace every year. In the one year of her golden jubilee, she visited 70 cities and towns across the country. There is a great commitment to her in every part of this country.
Abroad, she has been tireless in her international engagements, and in her long reign she has made official visits to more than 116 countries. It is no exaggeration to say that she is admired by billions of people all around the world, particularly in the Commonwealth, including those who come to live here in the UK, like many in my constituency of Camberwell and Peckham. People respect the fact that she has stayed fastidiously neutral and above politics, yet at times she has played a significant role in key political moments, such as the extraordinary personal generosity she displayed during the peace process in Northern Ireland.
She is now on her 12th Prime Minister, although we on the Opposition Benches had hoped that she would now be on her 13th. She reigns over more than 140 million people, a huge number, nearly as large as the number of registered Labour party supporters. It is entirely characteristic of her that she has let it be known that she does not want a fuss to be made about today, but we are making a fuss, and deservedly so. We send her our warmest congratulations, our appreciation and, above all, our thanks.