My Lords, the scale of technological progress achieved during Queen Elizabeth’s remarkable reign was exceptional but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, reminded us, so too has been the change in social attitudes and values. As the noble Baroness, Lady Amos, said in her powerful speech, the Britain that the Queen leaves behind is so different from the Britain of the beginning of her reign. Indeed, the very idea that, even in the middle of her long reign, she would have made someone such as me, with a severe disability that also affects my ability to speak, a Member of your Lordships’ House I find inconceivable. The fact that I am speaking in your Lordships’ House today compels me to reflect that, surely, the richness of the legacy that she has bequeathed to us can in part be seen in the far more diverse and inclusive society she so gently nurtured.
For me, one of the most visible signs of that deep personal commitment to all her people was her unstinting support for Motability, the charity co-founded by my noble friend Lord Sterling of Plaistow. I will never forget the occasion on which I was presented to Her Majesty at Windsor, where she very kindly hosted an event for Motability as its chief patron. It was a chilly spring day as we gathered outside, yet she spent over an hour greeting and speaking to all of us. For someone who grew up in an age of discrimination, some of it state-sanctioned, on grounds of sex, race, disability and sexual orientation, her capacity to reflect evolving attitudes and, subtly but no less powerfully for that, embrace diversity and inclusion was extraordinary. As my noble friend the Lord Privy Seal said in his profoundly poignant opening remarks, she was the Queen of everyone.
As others have also said, she was a monarch of great courage as well. As we reflect on the stresses and strains of our troubled world, I am sure she would want us, as her beloved people, to draw strength from the fact that she served us, cared for us and led us through incredibly tough times, not least during the pandemic. Throughout, she always projected a supreme confidence that the resolve, resilience and resources of the diverse peoples of her United Kingdom and the Commonwealth would see us through to better times.
The Queen was the personification of public duty. Our duty is to live up to her example and, as she did, continue to nurture a more diverse and inclusive society to the benefit of us all. His Majesty the King, as the Prince of Wales, has already shown his long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusion through the wonderful work of the Prince’s Trust and his support for interfaith initiatives. He deserves our fulsome support. That would surely be a fitting tribute, to sustain her legacy. May she rest in peace.