In a world that has been transformed in her lifetime
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  • In a world that has been transformed in her lifetime

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

    That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty to offer the cordial congratulations of this House on the occasion of Her Majesty's eightieth birthday, and to express its appreciation of Her Majesty's unfailing devotion to the duties of State, the Nation and the Commonwealth, and our warmest good wishes for her long continuing health and happiness.

    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.

    This week we celebrate the 80th birthday of one of the most respected people of our times, whose sense of duty and service has had a profound impact on our country, the Commonwealth and the world.

    Years before the premature death of her father and her unexpected succession to the throne, the then Princess Elizabeth publicly dedicated her life to the service of her nation, but declared that she would need the support of the country to ensure that she could fulfil that promise. She has, as we know, carried out this pledge through all the changes, both in her life and in this country, with extraordinary grace and dedication, and her people, here and across the Commonwealth, who share in the celebration of her 80th birthday this year, have responded, as she hoped that they would, with their affection and support.

    In a world that has been transformed in her lifetime, she has been a truly remarkable source of constancy and of strength. Our country has faced tremendous trials, witnessed the horrors of the World War II and celebrated some extraordinary triumphs in her 80 years. Throughout, as part of the royal family and as the Queen, she has been a reassuring and unifying presence for her people.

    She has also responded to a world that has become more interdependent than ever by travelling extensively. In all, the Queen has undertaken over 256 official overseas visits to 129 different countries. Her Majesty shows no sign of slowing down. She has just undertaken her 14th tour of Australia, including the official opening of the Commonwealth games in Melbourne. She attends hundreds of public engagements every year and is an active patron of over 620 charities and organisations. There is simply no aspect of our national life which she does not have an interest in and a deep understanding of.

    Her Prime Ministers have better reason than most to know and appreciate her knowledge and experience. I am the tenth Prime Minister to serve her. Like each of my predecessors, I am profoundly grateful for her wise counsel. She has superb judgment, an intuitive empathy with people and, above all, an unshakeable and profound sense of duty. It is this sense of duty that motivates her and defines her reign and, since it communicates itself unobtrusively but none the less obviously to her subjects, brings her, I believe,the love of the people of this country.

    It is difficult in this day and age for the monarchy to balance the natural demands for accessibility and openness with the dignity and majesty of the monarch, but it is a balance that she has struck with immense skill.

    So I know that I speak for the whole House and, indeed, a grateful nation when I convey to Her Majesty the Queen our best wishes on her 80th birthday and say, "Long may she reign over us."

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