My Lords, I pay tribute to all noble Lords’ speeches, particularly those of the Front Benches when they started this afternoon. I had the privilege of meeting Her Majesty the late Queen when I was made a Government Whip and became a Baroness in Waiting. For all of us who meet Her Majesty for the first time, it is one of the most daunting and frightening experiences, especially when you are asked to curtsy. I said to the then Chief Whip, my noble friend Lady Anelay, “I’m not sure my dodgy knee will allow me to get back up if I do that curtsy. May I just do a quick bow?” The Chief Whip said, “I’m sure that will be fine”. As all noble Lords know, I am constantly hurting my ankles and knees. In the Queen I met somebody who knew how to put you at ease straightaway. It was just fantastic to be able not to have to start our conversation about India—she obviously knew that I was of Indian origin—as she so warmly started it herself.
Last night, as we heard the news that Her Majesty was not well and then Chancellor the saddest of sad news, I was getting messages and phone calls from people across the world—from India, Africa and the Middle East—all saying how sad they were at hearing the news that we were all going to have to come to terms with. To me, that really demonstrated how far Her Majesty’s reach went. I could not imagine for one moment the hurt, grief and mourning that her family must be facing today. Not only do they have to mourn, they have duty to perform. My heart went out to them.
I picked up the phone to my mother, one of the biggest royalists ever, and said, “Mum, have you heard?” She said, “Just put the phone down. I need a few minutes to absorb what I’m listening to”. I think that was all of us last night. We were all just trying to absorb what of course we all knew was going to happen but—I do not know why—we all just felt that Her Majesty had this magic power and would always be with us.
Last night I was reminded by many community groups to make sure that I mentioned her visits to Leicester, how they all loved it when she visited and how she made each and every one of those who were involved, whether from the charity sector or from local communities, feel so special. I just hope that, if I can be even a tiny bit in the shadows of the public service that Her Majesty was able to deliver, that would be a great achievement over my lifetime.
We will all mourn her and of course will play our role in your Lordships’ House in making sure that we are the biggest support for King Charles III as we all come together to heal and offer strength to each other and to Her Majesty’s family. One of my community leaders asked me to end by saying “Shanti, shanti, shanti”. In Hindi that means “Peace, peace, peace”. May Her Majesty the Queen rest in peace.