I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty offering the congratulations of this House to Her Majesty, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of Prince George;
and signifying to Her Majesty the great pleasure given to the House by this happy event.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the message on the birth of Prince George of Cambridge.
Many generations in the House of Windsor have been welcomed by many generations in this House of Commons, and we are delighted to do so again today. Of course, in centuries past things were slightly different. When a royal birth of this significance took place, the entire Cabinet would assemble at the birthplace and the Home Secretary would actually be in the room at the time of the birth. [Interruption.] One of my hon. Friends says, “Quite right.” I can assure you, Mr Speaker, that this was not seen as appropriate on this occasion.
The birth of Prince George was a national moment—a time to recognise, once again, what a vital part of our national life the monarchy is. In the past few years we have seen a surge of affection for our royal family, from the royal wedding to the diamond jubilee and coronation celebrations. This summer, millions cheered the news of the royal birth.
We must remember, however, that this birth has been not just a national event, but, first and foremost, a private and family event. It is right that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been given the space and privacy to get to know their new son. In the coming years they must continue to be allowed that space.
For now, I know the whole House will join me in congratulating the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and in wishing Prince George a long and happy life at the heart of our nation.
May I second the motion in the name of the Prime Minister, and associate myself and my party entirely with the sentiments he has expressed? I congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of the new Prince George.
As the Prime Minister said, there has been an opportunity for the House, over many generations, to express its happiness at the birth of a royal prince or princess. Every new arrival represents the continuity of our royal family, and reminds us of the unique service that our monarchy renders to the British people at home and abroad. As the Prime Minister also said, each occasion reflects the generation in which the prince or princess is born. In 1688, King James II’s son was born with more than 80 witnesses in attendance. I think we can all agree that it is right that times have moved on, and, to coin a phrase, we are pursuing traditional values in a modern setting.
On this occasion, I think we will all have been struck by the informality and joy of the new royal parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Any parent will have recognised the emotions of excitement—and, indeed, a bit of trepidation—about the new world of parenthood into which they were arriving. In their case, with the eyes of the world on them, they carry a heavy sense of responsibility. I am sure I speak for Members the House when I say that they carried it off absolutely brilliantly—as did Prince George, with what was generously interpreted as a first royal wave, when he appeared in front of the cameras. I am sure the House will unite in offering our congratulations to Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, and to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. We wish the new prince and his parents health, happiness and a long life.
I should like on behalf of myself and my right hon. and hon. Friends to endorse completely the sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The pleasure and pride of the duke and duchess has been plain for all to see, although there seemed to be a hint of realism about the responsibilities of parenthood when, in the course of a television interview, the duke described his new son as a “bit of a rascal”.
The birth has given great pleasure, but nowhere has it given more pleasure than in St Andrews and, in particular, St Andrews university, where the duke and duchess first met and where they graduated on the same day. The university is engaged in its 600th anniversary celebrations, which have been much enhanced by the unqualified support for the duke and duchess, but St Andrews is not alone: the whole nation congratulates the duke and duchess and wishes them and their son well.
It is a pleasure to follow the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition and Sir Menzies Campbell in supporting the motion. We are marking the very happy news for the Earl and Countess of Strathearn on the birth of Prince George of Cambridge. As we have heard, few places have a stronger connection for them both than St Andrews, where they both attended and met at what is the oldest university in Scotland. That joy is shared across the nations and regions of the United Kingdom, as it is in all 16 realms and across the Commonwealth.
The arrival of baby Prince George is clearly a tremendous joy for the parents and both their families, but for Her Majesty, the birth of Prince George equals the remarkable record of Queen Victoria, who during her lifetime also had three contemporary, following generations of heirs to the throne. Just as much has changed during the reign of our current monarch, much more perhaps will change before Prince George ascends to the throne—one imagines, in the second half of this century. We wish him, his parents and extended families every success and happiness.
This is indeed a joyous occasion. It is somewhat bizarre that we are paying tribute to a five-week-old baby who is blissfully unaware of all our plaudits, but that is rather fine in many ways. For somebody such as me, with my beliefs, it sums up the virtue of the monarchy.
This is an opportunity for us to ask ourselves again why the monarch is so popular. Why is something that is, in many people’s view, an essentially irrational institution so popular, when it is clearly not democratic? There are no doubt many clever five-week-old babies—highly intelligent, young Ed Milibands and David Camerons—who could never get the job, but the young prince will one day be our Head of State. I think that is a rather fine thing. We have to ask ourselves why the monarchy is so popular. I think it is mainly because of what the Queen has been doing. She is so popular precisely because she never asked for the job—she never campaigned for it. She just sees her role in terms of duty—not to be popular, but just to do her job well.
The other thing about the monarchy and what it can teach us is that there are limits to the inevitability of reason and democracy, but the monarchy modernises itself in a way in which the essential structures are always kept. I was reminded of that when I went to Portsmouth the other week and looked at HMS Victory. The ship is seemingly the same as on the day of the battle of Trafalgar, but not many people know that in fact the masts are made of steel and virtually every plank has been changed. In the same way, the monarchy is constantly changing and modernising itself. No doubt the monarchy will be very different indeed when Prince George becomes King, but it will still be essentially the same. That is why it remains enduringly popular.
I have no wish to oppose the motion, and I am sure that we all send our congratulations to those involved as stated in the motion moved by the Prime Minister and supported by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition. As we are discussing one child, however, I think that it would be relevant to point out that it should concern the House that at least 3.5 million children in this country are still living in households in which poverty exists after housing costs have been met. I should also mention that, according to the latest available figures, nearly 7 million children in the world die before reaching their fifth birthday, and that two thirds of those deaths could be prevented if modern medical facilities were available. I just hope that by the time the subject of this motion becomes 18—or better still, well before then—it will no longer be necessary for a Member of Parliament to stand up in this House and cite such figures.
I am so glad that this debate has gone on long enough to allow at least one hon. Member to sound a dissenting voice, because debates in this Chamber would not be complete without a variety of voices being heard. Mr Winnick has underlined the point that this young child has been born into a family with responsibilities, and that that family would not enjoy the extraordinary support that they do if they did not show the same sincerity and concern for the least fortunate in society that he has demonstrated in his speech.
It is also worth remembering that this child is going to be a prisoner of public life for his whole life. Even if the monarchy were abolished, he would remain a public figure. In some respects, children born into the royal family are the least fortunate in society. Every one of us in the House chose to be in public life, but he will have no choice. It is an illustration of the extraordinary self-sacrifice of the royal family that they accept their duty with alacrity; that gives my hon. Friend Sir Edward Leigh an explanation of why the royal family remain so enduringly popular, even though they have had their ups and downs.
Much has been said about continuity. The constitutional value of the royal family is the uncontroversial continuity provided by the continuation of the monarchy. Other countries look with jealousy at the stability of our system of government and at how it has remained stable through general strikes, world wars and economic depressions while others have strained to remain democratic. This is one of the things that we owe to the continuation of our monarchy, and that is why it is appropriate that a democratic Parliament should choose an occasion such as this to pay tribute to the institution.
It is a pleasure to add my congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son, Prince George. In doing so, I shall unashamedly promote my constituency, the beautiful Isle of Anglesey, which provided the first home for the royal couple. Before their wedding, in February 2011, Prince William and the then Miss Middleton undertook their first public engagement together in my constituency, when they launched the Royal National Lifeboat Institution’s new lifeboat, the Hereford Endeavour. That event received worldwide attention through not only BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Radio Wales and various local television channels, but Sky News, CNN and Australia’s Channel 9, among others. All those broadcasters saw the good side of Anglesey, which Prince William and Kate were proud to share. Also, a few days ago, they undertook their first engagement since the birth of Prince George. That, too, was on the Isle of Anglesey, where they set off the Anglesey ultra-marathon, the Ring O’Fire, around the island. Their public engagements have been well documented but, as the Prime Minister said, they have had time as residents of Anglesey to have a private life as well. There has been mutual respect between the royal couple and the people of Anglesey in that regard.
The Duke of Cambridge coined the term “Anglesonians” to describe the people of Anglesey. We are all Anglesonians now. He promoted the Isle of Anglesey a few weeks ago at the Anglesey show when he said:
“I know that I speak for Catherine when I say that I have never in my life known somewhere as beautiful and as welcoming as Anglesey. This island had been our first home together, and it will always be an immensely special place for us both. Catherine and I look forward to returning” some day. I hope that they will bring Prince George with them. I add my congratulations to them and wish them “Iechyd da” or good health.
On behalf of all my constituents, I warmly congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their new son, Prince George, and wish him a long and happy life. The royal family provide our nation with stability and an example of service and commitment to us all. I know that the new prince and his parents will be given a very warm welcome, should they have occasion to visit Bury, Ramsbottom and Tottington.
I would like to add my congratulations on the birth of Prince George on behalf of all my constituents, many of whom, because it was so near, stood outside the hospital for many hours. That occasion showed the huge interest of the international press and of people from all around the world. This shows just what a privilege it is to have a monarchy in this country. I am an unashamed monarchist, and I genuinely feel that the stability and continuity of our country have been greatly dependent on the monarchy, even if there have been some ups and downs, as Mr Jenkin said.
I was in Northern Ireland when the birth happened. I have just seen in their place someone representing Northern Ireland, but I wanted to say what a wonderful reception the birth received in Northern Ireland, too. In all parts of the United Kingdom, we share in the joy of the parents. Very few of us will be around when Prince George becomes King. A few might hope to be, but I doubt that. We are nevertheless taking part today in a bit of history. That is why I wanted to add my congratulations to the whole royal family.
I apologise for not being in my place at the beginning of this debate. I also apologise on behalf of my colleagues in the Democratic Unionist party, the Alliance party and the Social and Democratic Labour party. We have not decided to absent ourselves, to a man and a woman, this afternoon. In fact, there is a most unusual meeting taking place: the Northern Ireland Grand Committee is meeting in the Senate Chamber in Stormont. It is good for the people of Northern Ireland to see their MPs, of all parties, in action there. However, I wanted to put on record our very good wishes. As the only Independent MP from Northern Ireland here, it is wonderful to be able to speak for those from other parties and to send our congratulations to the wonderful Queen, her wonderful husband and to the parents of Prince George. We are delighted with Prince George’s safe arrival in this world.
Any birth is a joy, and this is a joy for the people of this country. I am particularly happy because a great grandfather in the Duchess’s family was a coal miner in the area where I worked for 20 very happy years. I hope that the inherent spirit and generosity of miners and their care for others will flow through this child’s blood, so that he can play his part, along with whoever takes over from us in this House in years to come, to prevent such things as I heard about on Saturday morning: a 13-year-old girl in my constituency who has just had a spinal operation is sleeping in a camp bed, because of over-overcrowding, in her grandmother’s house. I hope that whoever takes over from us will be able to work together, along with the royal family, to make something like that a thing of the past.
Question put and agreed to.
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty offering the congratulations of this House to Her Majesty, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of Prince George; and signifying to Her Majesty the great pleasure given to the House by this happy event.