As I listened to this debate’s opening tributes, the contribution by Mr Speaker described His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh very aptly. It was a description that many people across the United Kingdom would recognise and agree with: the father of the nation. Since his sad passing on Friday, I have watched tributes pour in from every corner of this country and beyond. Kings, Prime Ministers and Presidents have joined butchers, scrap metal dealers and postmen to describe the humour, intelligence and humanity of this special man. Locally in Hyndburn and Haslingden, many people have been sharing the photos they captured during the royal visit of 2012 to mark the diamond jubilee. Every photo I have seen of the occasion, and every person with those memories, share one telling similarity—they are all smiling.
As we mourn together, many of us mourn a man of true dedication and service. A man who was a much loved public figure, but first and foremost a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a great-grandfather. Behind the public face, the thousands of engagements, the hundreds of charities, and the decades of service, we find a man who loved a good barbeque. That resounds with us all, and not only the barbeque. As I spoke to constituents this weekend, the sense of loss of a man who truly gave his life to this country, and who brought meaning to many young people’s lives, and gave them opportunities for adventure, contribution, self-improvement and empowerment, was palpable.
Like many hon. Members, I suspect I was one of a fortunate band who headed off on the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition. As it happens, I am sure many of my team on that expedition wish we had not done so, as I immediately led them in the wrong direction for nearly an hour, adding extra distance to the already long journey ahead. Another thing I remember is that the bag was definitely bigger than I was. I will remember that expedition for the rest of my life, as I am sure will my team mates, and all those across the country who were given that opportunity. That is the secret of the Duke’s enduring popularity. He was not flashy or brash; he simply got on with the job, and in doing so made a huge contribution to our society. As we meet here today to remember the life of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, on behalf of Hyndburn and Haslingden, I thank him for everything he has done for our country. I thank his family for sharing him with us all. May he rest in peace.