Nicholas Soames (Mid Sussex) (Con): May I, with the indulgence of the House, add a few personal words in support of the excellent speeches of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition? I have had the great good fortune and the inestimable honour to have known His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh for 50 years. I first met him when I was, as the psalmist said, yet
“in the slippery paths of youth”.
I want to take this brief moment, therefore, to add my own salute to Prince Philip. He is, in my view, one of the most exceptional men of his generation. No one can fail to be struck by the great breadth of his interests, the profound depth of his knowledge of them, and his distinguished and energetic contribution to our national life through the many organisations with which he is closely associated and over which he takes so much time and trouble.
As both my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition made clear, all of us in our constituency duties will have come across the beaming faces of the young who have taken part at one level or another in the Duke of Edinburgh’s award schemes, an organisation in which millions of young people in more than 60 countries have taken part. That in itself is a remarkable achievement and one of which I hope Prince Philip is properly proud. In his work as the first president of the World Wildlife Fund—in which, incidentally, he was well ahead of his time—and through his profound interest in nature and wildlife conservation, as well as in environmental questions more generally, he has played an important, innovative and highly influential role for many years, both at home and abroad.
On a day like today one cannot hope to do full justice to Prince Philip’s inspirational work in the promotion of science, design and industry, or his work with the armed forces, but I conclude by saying that we in the House feel gratitude, respect and pride for Prince Philip’s exceptional service to his country, and recall that he is part of that remarkable generation that served with distinction during the war, did their duty and just got on with it, and then got on with the rebuilding of Britain afterwards.
Prince Philip certainly is a formidable man and, refreshingly, does not suffer fools gladly, as I know to my cost. He is, above all, to himself true, and a most especially devoted and loving husband, father and grandfather. His many qualities should shine brightly for us today since they march with great good humour, a complete lack of any side or pomposity, and a clear, thoughtful and generous understanding of the world in which we all live. I join my parliamentary colleagues in sending to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh my warmest congratulations and most profound respects on his 90th birthday.
The full tribute may be downloaded via the following link: