Regional Flags: Driving Licences and Number Plates

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:05 pm on 19th April 2017.

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Photo of Scott Mann Scott Mann Conservative, North Cornwall 5:05 pm, 19th April 2017

It is almost as if my right hon. Friend has read my mind. Later in my speech I will go on to talk a little about Yorkshire, and he has made a passionate case for his area. The Minister may have concerns about the financial and administrative burden for the DVLA from licences, but when it comes to number plates, many motorists will be willing to pay for new plates displaying the flag of their region or of their choice. That could be a way forward, where motorists are allowed to display a greater variety of flags on number plates at their own cost. That could then be extended to licences at a later date, if that was deemed suitable.

The Minister may be concerned that the proposal may create confusion for authorities overseas when vehicles are taken abroad. To address that, I propose that, should a motorist want to have a flag for their country or county—or, in Cornwall’s case, duchy—the flag could be accompanied by a Union Jack to make it clear that the vehicle was from the United Kingdom.

There are many fascinating flags in this great country of ours that represent the whole of the UK. Ultimately, I think our Union Jack is the best. It represents the union of our four great nations and is looked upon by millions of people around the world as a flag of democracy, the rule of law and freedom of speech. Thankfully, the Union Jack has been reinstated on UK driving licences and is permitted on number plates. People are proud of where they come from, and that should be allowed to be expressed in the form of licences and number plates.

As the former Secretary of State for Local Government, my right hon. Friend Sir Eric Pickles, said on St George’s day in 2013:

“The tapestry of the United Kingdom’s regions and counties binds our nation together...we are championing traditional local identities which continue to run considering the use of regional or county flags, we formally acknowledge the continuing role of our traditional counties in our united country’s public and cultural life. This government is championing local communities, continuing to cherish and celebrate traditional ties and community spirit.”

That brings me on to my favourite flag, the black and white flag of St Piran, which represents a symbol of many people’s Cornish identity.

Although not a country, Cornwall is the duchy. Its Cornish population has been granted national minority status under the European Council’s framework. I have been conducting constituency surveys through communities in North Cornwall. When asked about having the option of the St Piran’s flag on their driving licence or number plate, a big majority say that they would like that to be considered. This debate goes far beyond the St Piran’s flag. The point of having the debate today is to give Members the opportunity to voice any support they have for flags within their areas of the UK. In England, for example, that could include the flag of Yorkshire, with its white rose, the flag of the Isle of Wight, with its diamond shape hovering above the ocean waves, or the Invicta flag of Kent, with its white horse against a red background. In Scotland, it could include the flag of Caithness, with its blue and gold cross representing its beaches and seas. In Wales, it could include the flag of Anglesey, with its three yellow dragons. At this point, this is purely a debate. The Minister cannot go into too much detail on the prospect or any ideas that he has, because of the Brexit process, but I would welcome his thoughts and those of fellow Members.

In conclusion, the United Kingdom is a collection of many different areas that have proud histories, identities and cultures. As we extricate ourselves from the European Union and embrace the brighter future of our sovereignty, it is worth having a debate about the idea of flags on driving licences and number plates. I will now be glad to sit and listen to what other MPs and the Government have to say on the record. [Interruption.]