I created my Prince's Trust to help disadvantaged young people regardless of colour, but ethnic minorities are one of its priorities.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to welcome you all.

First of all, I have to say I had little idea of what the name Windrush signified when the Foundation first made contact. But I was not - quite - born when the S.S. Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury 50 years ago this month.

So preparing for this afternoon has been an education. Many other Britons, black and white, have been through the same process over recent weeks. The Foundation, Mike and Trevor Phillips and - even - the BBC have done a wonderful job of raising awareness.

I knew of the beginnings of organised immigration from the West Indies in the late Forties, and have watched the subsequent growth of the black community into what we have today. I grew up with the controversies surrounding the gradual acceptance not only that such a community existed, but that it was here to stay. I have seen those controversies subside as subsequent generations - certainly that of my sons - have grown up knowing only a multicultural Britain.

By multicultural, I mean not a Britain where different cultures co-exist in sealed compartments, but one inhabited by individuals whose own culture has been enriched by contact with people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds. I am proud to be part of such a Britain.

It is an immense pleasure to meet the Windrush veterans here today. Thank you for coming and for your contributions to this country during the war, when many of you fought for it, and since. Stoicism, patience and dignity is called for during difficult times. However, it would be wrong to dwell on these: we are here to celebrate. Equally, it would be insulting to suggest that all the optimistic expectations you had when you stepped off the Windrush were met. There were many obstacles to overcome: ignorance and prejudice; the challenge of finding decent housing and work; the general culture shock and the sheer cold!

I attach huge importance to the distinctive contribution which you, your families and the wider black community make to British life. In both the Houses of Parliament; in business; in local government; in the arts and literature; entertainment and the media; and in sport. And in thousands of less glamorous but - if I may say so - quite as worthwhile ways; in what we rather glibly call "ordinary jobs" and bringing up "ordinary" families.

It is unfortunate that acceptance of this reality has not come as quickly as it should, and that prejudice and discrimination remain facts of life for many of you. I have tried to help to improve things.

I created my Prince's Trust to help disadvantaged young people regardless of colour, but ethnic minorities are one of its priorities. I owe a huge debt to David Akinsanya, Trevor Phillips and Herman Ouseley. Over the last five years my Trust has helped almost 1,000 young black people set up their own enterprises. People like Spencer Scott, who did so well in this year's Afro Hair and Beauty Show's Barber of the Year competition. Or like Deborah Nichols, an interior designer, who was recently invited to Downing Street to speak for small businesses.

Other programmes run by The Prince's Trust help young black people compete more successfully for jobs, and enable them to get more from school. I was able to visit Acton High School last month to see an inspiring mentoring project, which my Trust supports, for black children at particular risk of exclusion from school. School exclusions are an important issue for black parents and I am delighted that my Trust is working with the Commission for Racial Equality to address it. It is marvellous to see, at first hand, an approach which really does seem to work.

Business in the Community's Race for Opportunity encourages business to engage more consciously and determinedly with ethnic minorities, through employment, marketing and purchasing policies, as well as community involvement.

Let me assure you that real progress is being made. We should not, as a society, do ourselves down. All around the world I see ethnic tensions, both between groups who have lived side by side for centuries and generated by recent migrations. In Europe and North America and across the developing world. By Western standards - by any standards - we are doing well. The challenges we have still to meet should not lead us to dismiss how much we have achieved since 1948.

Lastly, I would like to thank the Ebony Young Steel Band and Arthur Torrington and the Windrush Foundation who, with modest resources, have organised not only this afternoon, but all kinds of other events around the country to mark this anniversary. Thank you.