High Commission celebrates the 87th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

On 14 June 2013, the British High Commissioner, James Thornton, gave a speech to mark the celebration of the Official Birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth at the Residence.

Our Guest of Honour, the Hon. Ronald Chitotela, Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Security

Your Excellency Dr Kenneth Kaunda, First President of the Republic of Zambia The Second Lady, Dr Charlotte Harland-Scott

Other Ministers, Deputy Ministers and MPs present

Ambassadors, High Commissioners and representatives of international organisations Senior officials

Members of the press

Friends of the United Kingdom

I count you all as friends of the United Kingdom. So I regard myself as having observed all protocols!

Thank you very much for coming in such numbers today.

Two years ago we brought you live coverage of the wedding of the most glamorous couple in the world. Last year we brought you a real live princess – though my younger daughter was a little disappointed that she did not wear a tiara and Disney-style robes.

So I was a little worried that today’s event would be an anti-climax. But my new Deputy said: “James, you have to have the Melodians!”

I did my grumpy old man act and said I would rather have a string quartet. But Sean was right – the Melodians are fantastic. They are the best of British, and I am very pleased that they were able to come. Thanks, guys. Next week they will be the headline act at the Livingstone International Arts and Cultural Festival. The Southern Sun hotel here and the Zambezi Waterfront hotel in Livingstone have kindly provided accommodation for them.

I am very grateful to all the people who have done so much to make this event happen. Firstly to Sean, to my wife, and to all the staff at the High Commission.

Secondly I am grateful to our sponsors. The biggest sponsor is Gemfields Plc. Gemfields is responsible for around half of Zambia’s production of emeralds, and pays some 80% of the taxes raised here from the gemstones sector.

Our other major sponsor is Jaguar Land Rover, in partnership with their new concessionaire here in Lusaka, Alliance Motors Zambia. You saw some of their splendid vehicles on your way in.

Our additional sponsors are Barclays Bank, Zambia Sugar and G4S. Barclays is one of the worlds’ great banks, and is looking to expand its operations across Africa. You all know Zambia Sugar, a pillar of the economy of the Mazabuka area with their progressive outgrower scheme. And the local G4S is underpinned by the expertise and reputation of one of the biggest security firms in the world.

Lastly, we have had sponsorship in kind from Zambian Breweries and from The Wine Shop. My thanks to all of these.

I am also very grateful to my elder daughter, Helena, for letting us host this event on her birthday. She had her own celebration last weekend instead.

It is a commonplace for hosts at national days to describe their countries and Zambia as sharing common interests and values. However, I believe that the UK really does have values and strengths that make us a natural partner for Zambia.

The past year has been a very big one for the United Kingdom. Last June Her Majesty the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. We were honoured that His Excellency the President travelled to London for the occasion.

I see in the Queen someone with enormous dignity. She also has great devotion to duty. At the great age of eighty-seven she still carries out a busy programme of engagements. Princess Anne is also a really hard worker. She spent five days here – a long visit by today’s standards. We organised twenty events for her, in addition to her attendance for much of an agricultural conference in Livingstone. Everywhere she went she made sure she interacted in a very personal way with as many people as possible.

Her brother, Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex, will be visiting later this year to promote the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme – a youth training programme founded by the Queen’s husband, which many young Zambians follow, as do others from around the world. I am very pleased that the Duke of Edinburgh continues to make a good recovery from his recent surgery. And we are all delighted that Nelson Mandela, one of the great heroes of the twentieth century, also seems to be making good progress.

Just under a year ago we had the Olympics. The facilities were of state of the art design, yet were all ready a year before the games began. And the event itself ran without a hitch. Ten thousand athletes, even more national officials, seventy thousand volunteers and millions of spectators were all organised to be where they needed to be at the right time. If you want a high-tech facility built or a complex event managed, look to UK expertise.

The UK’s own athletes did particularly well at the Games. UK Sport, our government agency which promotes high level sport has a development programme in Zambia, and I am delighted that its Chief Executive, Liz Nicholl, is here today.

If London was known last year for the Olympics, it is known every year as one of the world’s major financial centres. The Government of Zambia chose two London-based banks to lead on the placement of Zambia’s sovereign bond issue last September, and a UK firm did the legal work. One of the banks was our sponsor, Barclays!

Over the past few years, despite the financial crisis and austerity at home, the UK has been raising its spending on international development. This year we will be the first G20 country ever to meet the UN’s ambitious target for development spending. And we are committed to going on doing so year after year.

And now the UK is about to host the summit meeting of the G8 group of major economies. The last time we had the G8 Chairmanship we corralled the big economies into increasing their financial commitment to Africa and the developing world. In the same year, at the urging of our then Finance Minister, Gordon Brown, the G8 enabled Zambia and other developing countries to write off their crippling debts to the IMF and the World Bank.

This time too our focus is on the requirements of development. But we are focussing on the economic institutions that countries need in order for their economies to grow. Our agenda is the three Ts – trade, tax and transparency – all of which are very relevant to countries like Zambia. Critically, we want tougher international action to combat tax evasion and aggressive tax avoidance by some multinationals.

As part of our G8 “season”, the UK hosted the “hunger summit” last weekend. This raised up to the equivalent of KR 20bn in extra pledges of aid from the international community to tackle global malnutrition. The UK’s pledges alone amounted to up to half a billion Kwacha over the next seven years.

We were very pleased that His Honour the Vice-President was able to represent Zambia at the event and to showcase Zambia’s own commitments in this area.

Here in Zambia the UK is extending its development programme. Various new commitments by our Department for International Development are in the pipeline. This year DFID expects to spend more than ever before on Zambia – well over half a billion rebased Kwacha on Zambian development.

Much of our focus is on alleviating poverty, with, for example, a big programme of small direct cash payments to the poorest people in the poorest areas. But we also focus on political and economic institutions and structures. For example we are developing a programme to increase the accountability of Parliament to the people. Another programme, begun this year, helps small farmers sell their produce on the local market.

These days DFID is widely recognised as a great British brand. Another such is the British Council. They have moved into new premises near Arcades, in the commercial heart of Lusaka. They continue to prioritise education, with future plans also including arts and governance programmes.

I am constantly amazed at the personal and institutional links between Zambia and the UK. Many of you here have studied in the UK – a good choice, as our universities are widely recognised as being amongst the best in the world. Many Zambians live in the UK. And among the many expatriate Britons living here are businessmen and women creating jobs for Zambians.

Thank you very much for listening. I hope I have shown that the UK is a natural and committed partner of Zambia, in commercial matters, development, education and so many other areas.

It now remains for me to propose a toast to the people of Zambia, to the good health of our Guest of Honour, Mr Roland Chitotela, and of course to the continued health and well-being of His Excellency the President of Zambia, Mr Michael Chilufya Sata. Cheers.