My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I would like to make a brief and important Statement about the Government's plans to mark Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
Two thousand and twelve will be a landmark year for Her Majesty, Britain and the Commonwealth. Queen Victoria is the only British monarch to have celebrated a Diamond Jubilee. However modestly our present Queen might approach this celebration, I know that people across the whole country will want the chance to recognise this remarkable achievement, paying tribute to the Queen and 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 around the world, over the past six decades. We want this to be a nationwide celebration. Working with colleagues in Buckingham Palace and the devolved Administrations, we are currently 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 these 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
In keeping with previous jubilees, we also plan to issue a Diamond Jubilee medal. Over the next few months we will be considering this in more detail, and 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 Lord Provostship. Further details of these and other government plans for the Diamond Jubilee are available in the Printed Paper Office as well as online, via the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's website (www.culture.gov.uk/diamondjubilee).
Finally, I can confirm that the Queen 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 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 organisations and local communities will benefit from this early indication of the relevant dates. This will be a truly historic occasion and a testament to the hard work and dedication of Her Majesty the Queen to this country and her people. We are committed to ensuring that celebrations take place of which we can all truly be proud.
My Lords, I thank the First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council for the Statement. We very much welcome his announcement that Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee is to be recognised by an extra bank holiday.
This announcement follows the introduction of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Bill in another place by my colleague Andrew Rosindell on
The success of the Golden Jubilee in 2002 showed just how strongly the public feel about such an exemplary monarch. The outpouring of patriotism, respect and pride that we saw then owes nothing to any manufactured sentiment. It was not the result of a government focus group or a political campaign but a spontaneous expression of the pride and respect that citizens of this country feel about our society, heritage, institutions and, above all, our monarch. Despite the knocks that we have suffered in the past few years, the current state of the economy and the disillusionment with some of our institutions, this public pride in our country still stands firm. There is no doubt in my mind that the Diamond Jubilee will be the most popular and celebrated event.
I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a little more detail about exactly what plans are being considered by the Government, especially given the speculation over several possible schemes which appeared in the newspapers at the end of last month. In particular, can the Minister confirm that he is considering a new youth volunteer scheme? I strongly believe that encouraging the participation of young people in volunteer schemes is a wonderful idea. My party has for years called for greater support of voluntary bodies.
Volunteering benefits both society and the individual and often provides the glue that holds communities together. With youth unemployment at today's record levels and the rising number of young people not in education, employment or training, I hope that these celebrations will include events that will confirm the critical role that young people play in our society and the enormous potential they have to enrich local communities and the public sphere.
Will there be any acknowledgement of the Olympics during these celebrations? We recall that government sources indicated that there was an intention to link the two events in a single celebration, but there is no mention of that in the Statement. Does that mean that at last the Government appreciate that Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee is of sufficient moment itself to justify a very special celebration? What other plans are being considered for welcoming the Olympics to London?
I add my congratulations to the London Borough of Greenwich on its new status, and I welcome such an important historical area being honoured in this way. I also welcome the striking of a special medal to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, and I hope that on this occasion the long public service given by key parliamentary staff will be recognised. We look forward to the Minister's response.
My Lords, I assure the Lord President that in the midst of a cold, bleak winter he has today provided a little ray of sunshine in this Statement, in which the whole country will take pride. First, to get the matter out of the way, many congratulations to Greenwich. It was represented in Parliament by Gladstone, although, as Roy Jenkins points out in his biography of Gladstone, he never actually visited his constituency.
Interestingly, although the Commonwealth is mentioned in the Statement, there is no mention of consultation with Commonwealth heads of government. Given that the Queen has so often throughout her reign emphasised her pride in and her commitment to the Commonwealth, can we be assured that Commonwealth Governments will be involved in these preparations and celebrations? Taking on the theme of youth, it would be an excellent opportunity to set up a jubilee education fund for the Commonwealth that is associated with the Queen.
The Lord President is far too young, but I remember the 1953 coronation and the street parties and the mugs. We must have both street parties and mugs. My 1953 coronation mug has been lost, so I certainly want a 2012 jubilee mug, and I will be on the look-out for that. The other thing that I welcome is the competition for city status, so that Britain's premier seaside resort, Blackpool, can join Britain's number two seaside resort as a city.
Noble Lords cannot hold me back indefinitely.
Out of all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, I shall respond to him first. I have never knowingly overlooked the Liberal Democrats, and I do not intend to start now, certainly not this year. He is right in saying that I do not remember the coronation in 1953, as that was the year in which I was born. I am, none the less, very happy to take ministerial responsibility for street parties. Perhaps I shall leave others to take responsibility for the mugs.
I should say to the noble Lord that this will be a celebration not just for all of us in Britain, but also for those across the Commonwealth. That is why I referred to the Commonwealth in my Statement and why we will be sure to involve Commonwealth representatives in the planning.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for his very generous comments about Her Majesty the Queen. I am absolutely sure that all noble Peers will want to join him and me in paying tribute to Her Majesty's extraordinary reign, in which she has been as near perfect during every single moment of that reign as any member of the human race could be.
I remember past jubilees. I remember the 1977 Silver Jubilee very well. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and I were leading the British Youth Council at around that time, and worked very closely with the noble Lord, Lord McNally-that eminent political adviser to the then Prime Minister. In particular, I remember how various events and activities across the country brought people together in a national celebration, regardless of any differences that they might have had. The Golden Jubilee celebrations were similarly memorable, as, I am sure, the Diamond Jubilee will be.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for once again suggesting the resurrection of some sort of youth volunteer scheme. I am sure that this will be among the ideas to be considered, but I can give no greater or further commitment than that. He asked about acknowledgment of the Olympics. I should stress that there will be no link between the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics, although there will certainly be a great summer in the UK. It will start with the Diamond Jubilee and end some months later with the Olympics. Unlike my ministerial responsibility for the Diamond Jubilee, I have no further ministerial responsibility for the Olympics, so I am unable to answer his other questions about how we will welcome them. Contrary to impressions, I do not actually run everything, thank you very much, but I am sure that those who are responsible will be able to take up the point he made.
My Lords, I apologise to the House for being premature earlier. I associate this Bench with all that has been said in appreciation of Her Majesty's service to this country and in anticipation of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. We in particular have reason to be grateful to her as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and to have valued her clear witness to her own Christian faith, while properly respecting and making space for those of all faiths and none within the citizenry of this country. As the Bishop of Leicester during the Golden Jubilee celebrations, I was able to witness at first hand how the communities-Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and all the world faiths-warmly responded in a united celebration by the whole city. I am sure that we all anticipate something at least as vivid and celebratory in the proposals that the Minister has brought to us.
I thank the right reverend Prelate for his remarks and his welcome for my Statement. It is very important indeed that the way in which people come together to celebrate this event knows no boundaries right across our society. Across community, class, race or whatever, I am sure that people will want to come together and celebrate this Diamond Jubilee in a very fitting way.
However, I shall speak for my friends here. Would it not be a great opportunity for St David's Day to be recognised as an official bank holiday in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee? Also, I noted that there was little mention of Parliament. How are we, as a Parliament, going to celebrate? Will it not be an opportunity to have some sort of link between Parliament and the monarchy-an historical pageant even? Perhaps the Minister will consider setting up a working group to see how we in Parliament can celebrate this occasion.
My Lords, I am sure that those who might want to take up the noble Lord's idea of making St David's Day a bank holiday will have heard his suggestion. As for the role of Parliament in these celebrations, I am sure that both Houses will want to consider the most appropriate part that they can play and the contribution that they can make to the nation's celebrations.
My Lords, it is clear that a very large number of suggestions and ideas will have to be considered for this singular celebration, but will the noble Lord give whatever encouragement he can for the earliest possible consideration of tree-planting ceremonies throughout the country? Trees have played a considerable, significant and important role in the Royal Family, who have frequently been associated with such ceremonies in various parts of the country. It would be an admirable gesture if all parts of the country were to mark the occasion with the planting of trees suitable for this environment.
My Lords, I personally have great sympathy for that suggestion because trees both beautify and purify the environment. I am sure that that will be among the suggestions that those responsible will want to pick up and consider.
My Lords, I have not read newspaper speculation on the possible ventures that might form the celebrations but, given that respect for the Queen extends not just throughout this country but beyond the Commonwealth throughout the whole world, and given the Queen's interest in the sport, I wonder whether we might suggest that a new classic horserace be introduced for the Diamond Jubilee. People right across the world would be interested in supporting that and, in turn, would support the British horseracing industry.
My Lords, I knew that the moment I got up to make this Statement very interesting suggestions would come fast and furious. I am sure that creating a sort of European stakes would be appropriate and, knowing of the Queen's love of horseracing, I have absolutely no doubt that that great sport will play its own special role in the celebrations.
My Lords, I am sure that we all want to offer our congratulations to the Borough of Greenwich for attaining royal borough status, but why has the London Borough of Richmond never been accorded such status? It has, after all, been the home of many monarchs. Queen Elizabeth I died there, George III went mad there, and most of it was my old constituency.
Yet again, I think that those responsible for considering these matters will have heard the noble Baroness's suggestion. Royal borough status is purely honorific. It is granted by the sovereign personally as an exceptional mark of royal favour. In case anyone is interested, I should say that it confers absolutely no additional funding or powers whatever on the borough concerned. None the less, it is a very important status and I am sure that due consideration will be given to Richmond, although I cannot lead the noble Baroness to expect an early announcement.
My Lords, when approaching something like this, one needs to consider whether one wants to consult widely and for a long period prior to the announcement or whether it is better to make the announcement so that the consultations can follow in a seemly and open way. We have chosen the latter course. Having made the announcement this afternoon, it will now be open, not only to the Government but also to the representatives of the Commonwealth, to have the kind of discussions which the noble Lord asks for.
My Lords, it is heart-warming to hear mention of the Commonwealth. I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the Queen still represents some Caribbean islands and that many people represent Her Majesty in those islands. I have a particular interest because my sister was the first native-born Grenadian to represent Her Majesty and she did so for six years. I hope that, this time, someone will remember to send such people a letter of invitation or at least recognise the part they have played in representing Her Majesty so ably.
My Lords, my noble friend makes a very good point which I am sure will attract great sympathy. Over six decades, across the Commonwealth as a whole, many people have contributed to the success and enjoyment of the Queen's reign. Therefore, many people will want to be remembered and want to participate in the celebrations. They will not, of course, all celebrate in London or in this country; they will celebrate in countries and local communities in all parts of the world. That reflects the nature and strength of the Commonwealth and the enormous love which people have for Her Majesty the Queen in so many parts of the world.
My Lords, the Secretary of State was absolutely right to focus our attention on the first weekend in June. I thank him for doing so. I offer him a slightly broader thought. If my memory serves me right, I recall, as a boy, being herded along with thousands of other young people in Belfast to greet the new monarch. Although there will be an element of stress to Her Majesty, I encourage those who make the decisions throughout the course of the year-it cannot be done in a weekend-to enable as many people in the nation as possible to see their monarch on the Diamond Jubilee without having to come to London.
My Lords, what is still so remarkable about Her Majesty the Queen is that so many of her subjects see her in the flesh in so many parts of the country and the Commonwealth. Age seems to be absolutely no bar to her travels and to her contact with people. I have no doubt that that will be the case in 2012 as it has been in every year of her reign so far.
My Lords, will the Minister consider a rather sadder side and bear in mind the fact that the British Empire, represented by the Queen and her father, sacrificed itself to preserve us from tyranny? When the Commonwealth fought Hitler, it collapsed, so the sacrifice of the British Empire should be borne in mind.
My Lords, the noble Lord makes an absolutely reasonable point. Of course, no one forgets the sacrifices that countries and individuals have made in fighting for or on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. That has been the case to date, and I believe that it always will be.
My Lords, if there is to be a Commonwealth dimension to the celebration, I suggest that in any military dimension we should invite contingents from Commonwealth countries. Many of the Asian and Afro-Caribbean citizens of this country have parents or grandparents who fought in the Second World War as elements of other Commonwealth or imperial armies, the largest of which was of course the Indian Army. Those armed forces now provide the dominant contribution to UN peacekeeping forces. We in this country are very bad at linking and symbolising the extent to which our military contribution is now undertaken with other European and Commonwealth countries. That might provide an opportunity to educate our people about how much our contribution in the Second World War and up to today has been in co-operation with the armed forces of other countries with close links to us.
The point about celebrations and commemorations of this kind is that they create an opportunity for us to do all sorts of things-rather as the noble Lord suggested, things that are perhaps out of the ordinary or that would not have occurred to us in normal times, but which we can use this greater and grander opportunity to address. The noble Lord has made a very fitting and suitable proposal.