Duke of Edinburgh proved you 'could do public service with a sense of humour', Yorkshire MP says

Yorkshire MPs have joined with colleagues in the Commons to pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh.

MPs observing a minute's silence to remember the life of the Duke of Edinburgh in the House of Commons, London. Photo: PA

Donned in black MPs held a minute’s silence in Parliament today, with peers in the Lords observing the same, and Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle led tributes saying Philip, who died on Friday aged 99, was “without doubt the father of the nation”.

The Prime Minister said Philip, through his achievements including the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, had touched the lives of millions of people.

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He said that “in due course” the House of Commons and the country would consider a “suitable memorial” to the duke.

Labour MP for Huddersfield Barry Sheerman, returning to the Commons for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak, said he had held some similarities with the duke and he learned from him that he “could do public service with a sense of humour”.

Remembering his time with the Duke of Edinburgh at the Royal Society of Arts, Mr Sheerman said Philip had “loved teasing the politicians”.

“I always got teased by him because at one stage when the present Prime Minister was the editor of the Spectator he awarded me the parliamentary speaker of the year award for my speech on fox hunting, and so the Duke of Edinburgh never ceased teasing me about that,” he said.

Labour MP for Normanton, Pontefract, and Castleford said Philip had gone “from royal, to refugee, to royal once more”.

She recalled how six years ago Philip had come to the opening of West Yorkshire Police’s new training centre in Wakefield.

She said he “described himself then as the world's most experienced plaque unveiler, he wasn't wrong”.

And she said the Duke of Edinburgh scheme which he pioneered was felt “more important, with more potential and significance now even than it did over 60 years ago, when young people have had such a tough time this year, when they've too often been held back or been stuck inside or been unable to reach out or spread their wings”.

“Now is when the Duke of Edinburgh scheme feels more apt than ever,” she said. “It is a great legacy and we now must make sure it keeps reaching more and more young people so he can keep reaching new generations.”

While Hilary Benn, Labour MP for Leeds Central, remembered how Philip had commented on the parliament of Ghana having just 200 members.

“He quipped, I trust with a smile on his face, ‘that's about the right number, we have 650 and most of them are a complete bloody waste of time’,” Mr Benn said

The Prime Minister told MPs, recalled from their Easter recess a day early to pay tribute to the duke: “He gave us, and he gives us all, a model of selflessness and of putting others before ourselves.”

Mr Johnson, whose usually unruly hair had been trimmed ahead of the Commons session, said although the duke might have been “embarrassed or even faintly exasperated” to receive the tributes, he “made this country a better place and for that he will be remembered with gratitude and with fondness for generations to come”.

Sir Lindsay said the duke “never let the Queen down”.

Philip was “without doubt the father of the nation, and will sorely be missed and impossible to replace”, the Speaker said.

Mr Johnson highlighted the duke’s service in the Royal Navy during the Second World War, his interest in the environment and his passion for invention and innovation.

The Prime Minister said it was fitting that the duke “will be conveyed to his final resting place in a Land Rover which Prince Philip designed himself”, customised with a long wheel base and “capacious rear cabin”.

“That vehicle’s unique and idiosyncratic silhouette reminds the world that he was above all a practical man, who could take something very traditional, whether a machine or, indeed, a great national institution, and find a way by his own ingenuity to improve it, to adapt it for the 20th and 21st century,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr Johnson said successive prime ministers had been catered for by the duke at Balmoral, with Philip cooking the meat on a barbecue of his own design.

The Prime Minister, no stranger to controversial comments himself, acknowledged the duke “occasionally drove a coach and horses through the finer points of diplomatic protocol, and he coined a new word, dontopedalogy, for the experience of putting your foot in your mouth”.

Amongst his “more parliamentary expressions” he “commented adversely on the French concept of breakfast,” Mr Johnson said.

“He told a British student in Papua New Guinea that he was lucky not to be eaten, and the people of the Cayman Islands that they were descended from pirates, and that he would like to go to Russia except that, as he put it, ‘the bastards murdered half my family’.”

But “the world did not hold it against him” and understood that he was “trying to break the ice, to get things moving, to get people laughing, and to forget their nerves”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “Britain will not be the same in his absence.

“For most of us, there’s never been a time when the Duke of Edinburgh was not present. At every stage of our national story for the last seven decades, he has been there.

“A symbol of the nation we hope to be at our best. A source of stability. A rock.

“Her Majesty once said that ‘grief is the price we pay for love’. The duke loved this country and Britain loved him in return. That’s why we grieve today.”

Sir Keir, who participated in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme, said: “My final activity was wandering around Dartmoor in a small team, with a compass and a map in the pouring rain, frantically trying to find our way – if that doesn’t prepare you for coming into politics, nothing will.”