I speak in this debate to represent the people of Hastings and Rye who hold Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh and the Royal Family in great affection and respect.
On behalf of Hastings and Rye residents, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and her family on their loss and our hearts are with them in this time of sorrow.
The Monarchy and our Royal Family is priceless to our country.
Hastings has a long-standing relationship with royalty dating back to 1066! And it is that long, proud association that also characterises Prince Philip’s life of service, duty and devotion. He was a part of our nation life for over seventy years, providing us all with stability, humour, inspiration and yes at times challenge.
In Hastings we have had the good fortune to have received Prince Philip on a visit back in 1966. When he accompanied her Majesty the Queen on a visit to the town. On this visit he himself was made an honorary member of the famous Hastings Winkle Club, which had other notable members like Sir Winston Churchill, The Queen Mother and our present Monarch.
Many have spoken today of the Duke of Edinburgh’s impressive military service and selfless long-serving public service to the Crown and to this country, and perhaps most importantly to us all, the unseen devotion, support and love he provided The Queen throughout seventy-three years of marriage. However, I want to focus now on one of Prince Philip’s most important legacies - the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.
This has initiative has inspired and transformed the lives of so many young people from all walks of life.
The Duke knew about the pressures faced by young people and was an advocate for them, believing in each individual's potential. He wanted to encourage young people to take on new experiences and so develop themselves into ‘more rounded people’.
It is a rigorous, challenging award that requires hard work and a strong commitment required from participants to complete all levels of bronze, silver and gold. I suppose one could say that it is ‘character building’.
Launched in 1956 and aimed at both able-bodied and disabled youngsters between the age of 14-25, the ‘DofE’ has become one of the best-known self-development and adventure schemes in the world, transforming young lives, building resilience, self-reliance, confidence and self-esteem, commitment, responsibility and service to the community, as well as giving opportunities and adventure.
Any young person can do their DofE – regardless of ability, gender, background or where they live. All young people - especially those from marginalised groups - can benefit from the better educational outcomes, employment prospects, working as a team, community ties and better mental health that are associated with doing DofE.
Achieving an Award isn’t a competition or about winning – being first. It’s about setting your own personal challenges and pushing personal boundaries. I am delighted that many schools, such as The Hastings Academy in my constituency, voluntary organisations such as the Scouts and Explorers, and businesses too, promote and encourage young people to take part, even providing financial support for those who are not able to afford the expedition fee so that cost is not a barrier for a student to be able to take part.
More than six million have joined the scheme in the UK with over 3 million achieving awards, and millions of others have taken part across the globe, with more than 140 countries and territories running DofE programmes.
The Health and Wellbeing Report commissioned by the DofE (in September last year) A Brighter Future, found that the DofE has a positive impact on young people’s general wellbeing, their confidence and resilience and on young people’s communication, teamwork and leadership skills.
The Volunteering section gives young people the ability to think about the needs of others and give time to helping others, for no tangible reward. This is more important now than ever before with the distractions of social media and often self-preoccupation.
Prince Philip was hugely important to the people of this country, the Commonwealth and many other parts of the world and we will continue to hold a special place in our hearts for him. May perpetual light shine upon him and may he rest in eternal peace.