Mr Speaker, as you and, indeed, my hon. Friend will be aware, the state opening of Parliament is a designated day for flying the Union flag on Government buildings, but not Parliament Square. The ceremonial arrangements for the state opening of Parliament are a matter for the Palace of Westminster and the Earl Marshal, and any changes cannot be made without their approval.
I thank the Minister for her reply, but will she assure the House that never again will we have the shameful spectacle of empty flagpoles in Parliament Square for the state opening of Parliament on the arrival of Her Majesty the Queen? Will she agree to meet me and representatives of the Flag Institute to ensure that we get the flying of flags in Whitehall and in Parliament Square right for the future?
I know that my hon. Friend is a great expert on these matters, and the Secretary of State and I have some sympathy with his views on the state opening of Parliament. I have therefore asked my officials to raise this issue with the Earl Marshal to look into the possibility of flying the Union flag on the square for future state openings and to establish what the associated costs would be. In the meantime, I would be very happy to meet him and the president of the Flag Institute to discuss it further.
Flags can undoubtedly be a powerful demonstration of pride in our culture and our economic vibrancy. Does the Minister agree that companies that fear an exit from the EU should be encouraged to fly the European flag to demonstrate their commitment to the single market, together with the Union flag, which they might replace on St George’s day with the English flag, on St Andrew’s day with the saltire, on St David’s day with the ddraig goch, and on St Patrick’s day with the tricolour?
I would like to say that I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for asking that question, but that would not be true. Designated days for flying the Union flag are decided by Her Majesty the Queen, and any changes to designated days are for Her Majesty to make. It would therefore be an issue for the Department to discuss with Her Majesty.