(Transcript of the speech, exactly as it was delivered)
“Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law and Ministry of Education…Ms Irene Ng Pek Hoong, Member of Parliament for Tampines GRC….Mr David Ong Kim Huat, Member of Parliament for Jurong GRC, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, on behalf of my wife Julie and me, welcome to Eden Hall for our Queen’s Birthday Party.
“Once more the weather gods have looked benevolently on us, despite the carelessness of our planning the event for the 13th.
“I would particularly like to welcome Arsenal’s u-15 team, in Singapore for the Lion City Cup. I’m delighted to report they have made it to the semi-finals tomorrow against SC Corinthians. Fellow English football fans will appreciate the irony of a late goal from a German team putting them through. Just a shame it was at the expense of Singapore’s u-16s…
“Ms Rajah, this evening we celebrate the partnership between our countries. I would like to mention briefly three key strands of activity.
“First, the increase in high level visits. Since April last year visitors to Singapore have included my Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary; the Welsh Secretary; the Defence Secretary two weeks ago for the Shangri-La Dialogue; the Lord Mayor; Ministers from the Foreign Office, Treasury, Cabinet Office and Business Department; delegations of MPs and a raft of senior officials.
“In the UK we have welcomed President Tan, both Deputy Prime Ministers, the Ministers for Health, for Environment and Water Resources, and many others.
“The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s visit to Singapore last September stands out, of course. President Tan was a gracious and generous host and the Singapore government was wonderfully supportive. The public response was extraordinary.
“Many of you met TRH here at Eden Hall – I wish I could have invited several thousand more; had I done so the Royal couple would probably still be here chatting.
“The second activity I wanted to mention was an Innovation Forum that the High Commission and British Council organised with counterparts in Singapore at the ArtScience Museum just last week.
“The Forum was opened by Ministers for Trade and Investment Lord Green and Teo Ser Luck, and supported by British Airways, Rolls-Royce and GSK. Side events were held at Singapore University of Technology & Design and the Science Centre.
“Both our countries face the challenge of maintaining competitiveness and growth, and boosting the education and skills of future generations is vital to meeting that challenge.
“The Forum shows how we can do this together, exploiting longstanding links between universities, working with companies, boosting student exchanges, creating ideas that will sustain our economies, all within a government to government partnership.
“Third, I want to highlight the High Commission’s deep links with the British Chamber of Commerce, which will be enhanced by an agreement we signed with them last week.
“We are fortunate to have such an engaged and active Chamber here. He can’t be with us this evening but I’d like to thank Steve Puckett who recently stepped down as President. We look forward to working with his successor Hugo Walkinshaw and the new board.
“The opportunities that these activities, and many others, will create are vital to both our countries.
“It’s an overused term but Singapore and the UK truly are hubs for each other.
“We sit at the crossroads of global trade; we share interests in a stable, secure world and can work together in the UN and the Commonwealth to that end as well as in our respective groupings such as ASEAN and APEC for Singapore and, for the UK, the EU and G8, whose leaders meet in Northern Ireland next week.
“I would like to conclude with a personal reflection. Last year a poll judged Singapore to be the world’s most emotionless society. Ms Rajah, you posted a spirited rebuttal to this on your Facebook page. You said then “you can’t stick a label on an entire nation without knowing anything about us”.
“I agree wholeheartedly; for me the essence of diplomacy is curiosity, and wanting to understand other people. Getting to know Singapore has been and remains a pleasure for me and my family; and it is a privilege to do so as High Commissioner.
“In a neat reflection of both our historical ties and the social media age, I am pretty sure I am the first High Commissioner to be followed by Stamford Raffles, even if it’s only on twitter…
“Ms Rajah, Members of Parliament, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I must end with some sincere thanks.
“Many companies have supported this event – it would not be possible without them. They are listed in your programme and their logos are also showing on the video ball in between images of the Royal Visit and London 2012.
“My thanks also go to the Salvation Army Band for helping to welcome our guests this evening…
“To the Gurkha Pipes and Drums, and the Singapore National Cadet Corps Command Band…
“To Regimental Signals Warrant Officer Carrington of the Household Cavalry, Lifeguards Regiment and Squadron Corporal Major Daley of the Household Cavalry, Blues and Royals Regiment for travelling to Singapore and ‘Standing Guard’ in their ceremonial, metal, very heavy, un-airconditioned uniforms…you’ll notice that their horses refused to travel…
“To Icon Gallery for lending us a range of pieces by British artists, including some celebrating both Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee last year and Her 87th birthday this year…
“To my colleagues at the High Commission, particularly those who run the huge number of events that we do at Eden Hall…
“To all of you for joining us this evening and everything you do to help us build and deepen the ties between the UK and Singapore.
“And last, but certainly not least, to Ms Joanna Paul who has performed the anthems for the last two years, and I am delighted that she has agreed to do so again this evening….
“On that note, it is now my pleasure to invite Joanna to perform Singapore’s national anthem.
“Ms Rajah, Members of Parliament, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to propose a toast to His Excellency the President of the Republic of Singapore.”