My Lords, at this saddest of times I join other noble Lords in sending sincere condolences to His Majesty the King and members of the Royal Family. This has been a very moving day because of the remarkable tributes paid by so many noble Lords. They were deeply emotional, reminding us all of the very real loss that our nation has experienced. Although a very strong nation, it will regrettably find it very difficult to come to terms with that for some time to come.
So much has been said about Her late Majesty but I should like to make two observations, one professional and one personal. Her late Majesty was patron of so many medical organisations—medical royal colleges, hospitals and other organisations—and the Queen’s example and her values inspired the professions hugely, as we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins. That inspiration was vital at many times, particularly so during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Queen was, from the very beginning of her reign, patron of the King’s Fund, and we in the fund were deeply privileged to enjoy that patronage, which had a tremendous impact on the work of the fund over 70 years. Of course, during that period things have changed tremendously: life expectancy has increased and the way that medicine and healthcare are delivered has changed substantially.
The fund was established in 1897 by the then Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, to raise funds for the hospitals dealing with the poor in London. Its purpose has changed substantially over that period, but in 2008 the fund was privileged to receive its royal charter from Her Majesty, which continued the capacity for us to pursue the work that was so strongly supported. That deep commitment to the work of healthcare professionals was not only reflected in its support of organisations here in the United Kingdom but throughout the Commonwealth, and was vital in ensuring that the values that Her late Majesty so clearly expressed and practised could remain fundamental to the practice of medicine throughout the world.
The second observation I should like to make is much more personal. It reflects Her Majesty’s deep commitment to the Commonwealth and, through that deep commitment and example, the opportunity afforded to so many from Commonwealth countries to come to the United Kingdom. Among those subjects who came from another Commonwealth country to settle here in the United Kingdom were my parents in 1961. I remember, growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, how they were deeply inspired and moved by Her Majesty’s commitment to the Commonwealth and all its peoples, and indeed to those people who decided to come and settle here in the United Kingdom. It was a vital part of ensuring, during that important period in our national history, that subjects of all backgrounds had the capacity to make their contribution, to participate in the life of our country and, in the case of my parents, to contribute to the work of the National Health Service. It was a vital opportunity, afforded by a monarch who understood the importance of the sensitivity, kindness and example that would ensure the integration of those from all over the world in societies and communities across our country, providing the opportunity for them to make their contributions.
I remembered all this at a deeply moving moment in my own time: the day I had the privilege to kneel before Her Majesty and to swear my oath of allegiance on becoming a member of Her Majesty’s Most Honourable Privy Council. I was particularly nervous that day but, as noble Lords have indicated, any audience with Her Majesty was always attended by her determination to ensure that one was put at ease. Kneeling there, I was deeply moved because I understood that it was Her Majesty’s values, her example and the work that she had done over so many decades that provided the opportunity for my family to settle here in the United Kingdom and the remarkable occurrence of my kneeling before Her Majesty to swear that oath. The fine example and the values of service, duty and commitment, always shown with kindness and thoughtfulness, are very powerful qualities that will live in the hearts of every one of Her late Majesty’s subjects. God save the King.