Member(s) of the Royal Family

I wanted to say a few words about a subject which I suspect is not often discussed on occasions like this - the importance of the sacred in the modern world.

So the kind of work we are celebrating today is essential if we are to succeed in constructing a society of such diverse origins as our own, which can understand and be at ease with itself, and to be able to promote self-respect among minority groups and also break down the sense of isolation.

I am delighted at the way in which the Trust is becoming increasingly professional in all sorts of ways, both in terms of how we present ourselves to the outside world, and how we organise our own affairs.

A high proportion of these buildings are not just of architectural value, but also are eminently suited to a range of other uses. Yet many will be lost if a concerted attempt to rescue them is not put in place.

The importance of this opportunity becomes clear once we appreciate what the Millennium means. Surprisingly, there has been little obvious attempt to look beneath the surface of this event as it applies to us in the waning years of the 20th century, or to try to understand the significance of the Millennium and the power of its symbolism. To achieve this we need, I believe, to delve a little deeper than normal into the sacred basis of our existence.

I am sure the word biodiversity will sound odd to those children, and I can't help thinking that we really have made life awfully difficult for ourselves with terms like 'sustainability', 'biodiversity' and 'Local Agenda 21'. They don't exactly provide many clues to the uninitiated about their meaning!

The ancient idea that mankind has a responsibility for the stewardship of the natural world, and hence of the countryside, may not be particularly fashionable, but I believe that it lies at the heart of the concept of sustainability, which has currently received so much attention.

Like many others of my generation, I had experienced none of the corresponding wretchedness, the bestiality, and the sheer, mind-numbing waste of war. This, of course, reflects the paradoxical nature of our Earthly existence - that everything consists of opposites. There is good and there is evil. There is death and there is also life.

We have far more to offer the world, far more to take real pride in, than putty, brass and paint.

Ladies and gentlemen, there can be no doubt that real progress towards the more sustainable future we all now seem to seek requires Local Authorities to integrate sustainable development criteria into all their policies and initiatives.