Queen's Diamond Jubilee

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 5:32 pm on 5th January 2010.

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform) 5:32 pm, 5th January 2010

With permission, I shall repeat a brief but important statement that my right hon. and noble Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills made about the Government's plans to mark Her Majesty the Queen's diamond jubilee in 2012. It will be a landmark year for Her Majesty, Britain and the Commonwealth. Queen Victoria is the only British monarch previously to have celebrated a diamond jubilee. However modestly our present Queen might approach the celebration, I know that people throughout the country will want the chance to recognise this remarkable achievement by paying tribute to Her Majesty and by celebrating with great pride and affection Her Majesty's 60 years on the throne.

It will also be an opportunity for us as a country to reflect on the incredible changes that have taken place both here and throughout the world over the past six decades. We want there to be a nationwide celebration, and working with colleagues in Buckingham palace and the devolved Administrations we are planning a series of fitting events to enable communities all over the country to mark the diamond jubilee.

Although we are still in the early stages of organisation, I can confirm to the House that the celebrations will take place around the first week of June 2012. In honour of Her Majesty, we will create a special diamond jubilee weekend, moving the late May bank holiday to Monday 4 June and adding an extra bank holiday on Tuesday 5 June. In Scotland, national holidays are a devolved matter. We will work closely with the Scottish Government to help to ensure that people across the United Kingdom can celebrate the jubilee together.

In keeping with previous jubilees, we plan to issue a diamond jubilee medal. Over the next few months, we will be considering that in more detail, including who should be eligible to receive it. In addition, we will be holding national competitions, to be launched later this year, for city status, a lord mayoralty and a lord provostship. Further details of those and other Government plans for the diamond jubilee are available from the Printed Paper Office-and the Vote Office-and online via the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website.

Finally, I can confirm that Her Majesty has agreed, as a mark of royal favour, to confer royal borough status on the London borough of Greenwich. This rare honour is to be bestowed in recognition of the historically close links forged between Greenwich and our royal family from the middle ages to the present day, and of the borough's global significance as the home of the prime meridian, Greenwich mean time and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Further announcements will follow as our plans for the diamond jubilee are confirmed, but I know that voluntary and local organisations will benefit from early notice of these dates.

This will be a truly historic occasion-a testament to the hard work and dedication of Her Majesty the Queen to this country and to her people. We are committed to ensuring that celebrations take place of which we can all be proud.

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Photo of George Young George Young Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement, which was delivered earlier by the Business Secretary in another place.

This afternoon the House has heard two serious and sobering statements on terrorism and climate change, so we warmly welcome the good news in today's announcement that Her Majesty's diamond jubilee will be recognised by an extra bank holiday. Conservative Members give our full support to this proposal, as indeed we did to my hon. Friend Andrew Rosindell, who put forward the idea in a ten-minute Bill that had all-party support and was given its First Reading last November.

I join the Minister in paying tribute to the very remarkable achievements of Her Majesty during her extraordinary reign: extraordinary not just because of its length-she will be the second longest reigning monarch in British history-but because of the integrity and commitment she has brought to that role and the popular esteem in which she is held across the UK and beyond. No country could wish for a better Head of State.

The House will remember the mood that was expressed powerfully during the celebrations for the golden jubilee in 2002. Despite being told that it was to be a low-key affair, more than 1 million people flooded to the Mall to celebrate-a clear indication of the strength of the relationship between the monarch and her people. I also remember, as will many colleagues, the celebrations in 1977 for the silver jubilee and the way in which the nation united and rejoiced at that time.

The Minister made passing reference to the Commonwealth. Can he inform the House about exactly what arrangements have been made to ensure that the Commonwealth nations are properly represented during the celebrations? This is particularly relevant given the special importance that Her Majesty has placed on the Commonwealth and the great success that she has had in helping to build strong relations with Commonwealth Heads of State during her reign.

May we ask for more detail on some of the Government's other plans? In particular, can the Minister confirm that his Department is considering a new youth volunteer scheme, as has been suggested in some press reports? Can he confirm that any organised celebrations will include an important role for young people?

Will the Minister clarify whether arrangements have been made for acknowledging the Olympics during this event? The Government initially indicated that they wanted to link those two events in a single celebration. Can he now confirm, as we hope, that that idea has been permanently shelved?

May I add my congratulations to the London borough of Greenwich on its new auspicious status? It holds a special place in our nation's history, and it is right for it to be honoured in this way. We also welcome the creation of a new medal of service.

Finally, can we ensure that the House of Commons is part of the celebrations? I am sure that all Members across the House will wish to mark this important occasion, and I think that all colleagues would agree that it is right that the House should show its respect for Her Majesty and, indeed, for Prince Philip, and the tireless public service that they have offered this country for 60 years.

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform)

I am very grateful for the right hon. Gentleman's characteristically kind and good-humoured response, and of course for the full support that he has offered for the announcement today. I am sure that we will carry forward that support in preparing for the celebrations ahead.

The right hon. Gentleman referred to the Commonwealth, as I did in my statement. Of course, Her Majesty has been very successful in developing the strong bonds between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth throughout her reign. It is important that we take into account the full views of the Commonwealth, and as we prepare we will have the opportunity to involve the Commonwealth in the year as a whole and in the celebrations on the bank holiday.

Another important group that should definitely be involved is young people, as the right hon. Gentleman said. I cannot confirm the press reports relating to the new youth volunteer scheme. We are in the process of discussions at the present time, and of course we will keep the House fully informed.

It is very important that the diamond jubilee celebration is seen as a distinct, almost unique celebration in British history and the history of the Commonwealth, because there has been only one diamond jubilee celebration before. I therefore agree with the right hon. Gentleman that it should be seen as distinct from the Olympics, which of course happen to be in the same year but are not linked to it. The diamond jubilee is to celebrate the commitment and work that Her Majesty has given the nation over 60 years.

It is of course important that the House of Commons be involved, and I am sure that all Members will ensure that that happens when the time comes.

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Photo of Nick Raynsford Nick Raynsford Labour, Greenwich and Woolwich

I thank my hon. Friend for his statement and wholeheartedly endorse his remarks and those of Sir George Young about the appropriateness of celebrations to commemorate Her Majesty's remarkable 60 years' service to this country, of which we are all deeply proud.

I particularly welcome my hon. Friend's announcement about the significant honour bestowed on the borough of Greenwich, which will be very warmly welcomed throughout my constituency. In his statement, he acknowledged the significant achievements in the area. In view of his business promotion responsibilities, does he agree that 2012, which will be not just the jubilee but the year of the Olympics, in which Greenwich will host many of the most significant events, provides a golden opportunity to promote the area's already successful but further developing industries in the field of leisure, cultural activities, tourism and hospitality?

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform)

I had a feeling that my right hon. Friend would be here today. He is in the fortunate position of representing the royal borough of Greenwich, as we have said it will be in future. It is an extraordinary constituency and an extraordinary place, and it has strong historic links with the royal family, which is one reason for the announcement today. The year 2012 will be very special, and I urge anyone from across the UK who has not visited Greenwich so to do. It is one of my favourite parts of the UK, and the announcement is richly deserved.

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Photo of Lorely Burt Lorely Burt Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills), Chair of the Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Party

I thank the Minister for previous sight of the statement.

In 2012, our Queen will have served her people for a whole 60 years, which is a long working life in anybody's book and deserves to be commemorated. That will be done in a lot of imaginative ways, and we look forward to hearing more suggestions for celebrations. We hope that they will be truly inclusive, and I am sure that they will.

It is welcome that all the Queen's subjects can join in the celebrations on her official birthday, but a bank holiday attracts a cost to industry. The CBI estimates that every bank holiday costs £6 billion, and the Federation of Small Businesses applauds the sentiment but notes the cost, especially to small businesses. However, we welcome this day of celebration for the only monarch who has reigned for so long, with the exception of Queen Victoria, and for someone who has served her subjects so well. We welcome the bank holiday and the celebration, because you're worth it, Ma'am.

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Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

I commend the Minister and the Government for the splendid announcement-it will be welcomed by people the length and breadth of the United Kingdom. We look forward to a magnificent celebration of the Queen's diamond jubilee in 2012.

Will the Minister please bear in mind the importance of involving Her Majesty's subjects in the other 15 realms, particularly Australia, New Zealand and Canada and, of course, in the 21 Crown dependencies and overseas territories? They are all Her Majesty's subjects and it is important that they, too, are included in the celebrations. I remember the silver jubilee of 1977, when the Royal Canadian mounted police were here for the parade in London. Will he consider issuing invitations throughout the Commonwealth to make it a truly magnificent celebration for Her Majesty?

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform)

I will of course consider all the hon. Gentleman's suggestions. I was present to listen to his introducing his ten-minute Bill, and we have responded to that as part of the consultation and discussions that have already taken place. As I have said, it is important that the Commonwealth, the Crown dependencies and all subjects are involved in the celebrations. We want to try to ensure that.

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Photo of Andrew Murrison Andrew Murrison Shadow Minister (Defence)

In 2002, a golden jubilee medal was struck for the armed forces and other uniformed services. The qualification period for it was five years before 2002. If similar criteria were used for the diamond jubilee medal, those serving between 2002 and 2007 would be disfranchised. Paradoxically, that is a period in which our armed forces have been engaged in two major theatres of war. In setting his criteria-a difficult task-will the Minister bear those people in mind to ensure that their contribution and service to Her Majesty the Queen are properly recognised?

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The criteria for the diamond jubilee medal have not yet been established. We are still in the process of taking into account issues such as those that he raises. We will of course consider them closely.

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Photo of Gregory Barker Gregory Barker Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

I was in the Mall with my son for the golden jubilee celebrations, which were terrific. For the diamond jubilee, will the Minister consider an even more enhanced role for our armed services? There is a particular bond between the Queen and the armed services, and we are now dependent on them and in their debt more than at any other point during her reign. If all the regiments could be recognised-and perhaps an invitation issued to all those who marched in her coronation parade or their successor organisations-it would be great. A particular focus on the armed forces for the diamond jubilee would be very welcome.

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform)

We are, of course, all very much aware of our debt to the armed services, particularly at this time. The hon. Gentleman's positive suggestions will be taken into account.

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Photo of Bob Russell Bob Russell Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Defence)

The announcement will be welcomed by the Scout and Guide movements in particular, as well as by calendar manufacturers-such as Rose printers of Colchester-which have to work two years in advance, so I appreciate notice of the bank holiday.

Will the Minister elaborate on his reference to national competitions for city status? I recall that, for the golden jubilee, England was disproportionately discriminated against. I therefore urge the Government to ensure that towns in England are treated more favourably than they were for the golden jubilee.

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform)

There will be a further announcement on the city status competition, which will set out the criteria in detail. I am aware of the strength of feeling in English towns. There is also strong feeling in my town of Wrexham-we believe that our town should have city status, too. Like the hon. Gentleman, I may be able to issue a press release after the statement.

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Conservative, Banbury

The present Banbury cross was built following public subscription to celebrate the wedding of Princess Victoria, Queen Victoria's eldest daughter. I am sure that the people of a borough such as Banbury will want to mark the Queen's diamond jubilee by some similar but modern, 21st-century memorial and tribute. Will the Minister discuss with his colleague the Lord President of the Council whether he could approach the appropriate officials at the palace to ensure that we have a suitable fundraising logo that could be used locally by the authorities in the respective counties and by the respective lord lieutenants? In that way, there will be some focus in each county that the lord lieutenant could oversee, and it would ensure that fundraising can be organised in a structured way for local tributes for the Queen's diamond jubilee.

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform)

It would be helpful if the hon. Gentleman wrote to me with the details of his suggestion, and I will undertake to try to take it forward on his behalf.

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Photo of Philip Hollobone Philip Hollobone Conservative, Kettering

Up and down the country, there are jubilee halls, bridges, parks, gardens and other local memorials. What steps will the Department for Culture, Media and Sport take to encourage such local celebration of the diamond jubilee in 2012?

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform)

It is for the DCMS to set out the steps that it will take, but I will be happy to liaise with it on any proposals that need to be taken forward regarding the issues the hon. Gentleman raises.

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Photo of Lembit Öpik Lembit Öpik Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire

As a citizen who has always preferred the idea of a monarchy to a republic, I welcome the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful forthcoming jubilee. Will the Government consider a fund from the public purse to ensure that local authorities and local communities can truly celebrate the monarchy that we love, and to which all of us are loyal-I hope-on that very important day?

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform)

With the Chancellor of the Exchequer sitting to my left, I am very reluctant to make any financial commitments at this juncture, but I am sure that there will be engagement right across the United Kingdom on the jubilee, that people will be determined to carry forward celebrations, and that they will be committed to fundraising in order so to do.

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Photo of Andrew Pelling Andrew Pelling Independent, Croydon Central

Queen Victoria's glorious diamond jubilee was also held in June. It is an historic part of her reign that is very much remembered. The Minister talked about the importance of this jubilee being an historic occasion, but how can the Government assist in ensuring that it is?

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform)

The hon. Gentleman is quite correct-this has happened only once before in British history, so it is a genuinely historic and virtually unique occasion. We need to think carefully about it, and to hear from hon. Members and the general public, because we want to make the jubilee something that is remembered for generations to come.

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Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink Independent, Castle Point

Does the Minister agree that the Queen should try to visit each of the Olympic sites? May I invite her to Hadleigh which, with Hadleigh castle, has very strong historical royal connections? She would receive an extremely warm welcome there.

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Photo of Ian Lucas Ian Lucas Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Business and Regulatory Reform)

I am sure that Her Majesty has heard that kind invitation and that the palace will consider it carefully.

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