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Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee

Volume 622: debated on Tuesday 7 March 2017

Motion for leave to bring in a Bill (Standing Order No. 23)

I beg to move,

That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for a national public holiday marking the Queen’s Sapphire Jubilee in 2017 and to establish a framework to ensure that the United Kingdom, its overseas territories and Crown dependencies appropriately commemorate this occasion; and for connected purposes.

The 65th anniversary of Her Majesty the Queen’s accession to the throne was marked on 6 February this year. This is a truly remarkable milestone for the longest-serving monarch in the history of our proud nation and peoples. Her Majesty the Queen’s sapphire jubilee must surely be a cause for great celebration across the British Isles, in all corners of the kingdom and, indeed, throughout Her Majesty’s overseas territories and Crown dependencies, her other realms and across the Commonwealth of nations.

During Her Majesty’s reign, there have been three royal jubilees: the silver jubilee of 1977, the golden jubilee of 2002 and the diamond jubilee of 2012. In each case, the British people paid tribute to Her Majesty for her service to the nation with spectacular events in counties, cities, towns and villages throughout these islands. There were parades, street parties, church services, fêtes, cultural events and school assemblies, and beacons were lit up and down the land.

National celebrations took place, usually in June, with services of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, combined with military parades through the streets of London and, for the diamond jubilee, a flotilla along the River Thames. Her Majesty, the Duke of Edinburgh and other members of the royal family have appeared on the balcony of Buckingham Palace while the spectacle of a fly-past by the Royal Air Force and the Red Arrows took place. Indeed, in the case of the golden jubilee, Concorde flew overhead. Millions of people filled the streets of London, gathering on the Mall to cheer the Queen, celebrating with flags, singing and dancing. On each occasion, the nation’s spirits were lifted. Come rain or shine, the people rose to the occasion the length and breadth of the nation.

The silver, golden and diamond jubilees brought the entire country together in nationwide displays of affection for the Queen, and the sapphire jubilee must surely do so again this year, reminding us of our rich heritage and cultural identity as part of a Great British family, sharing a union of the Crowns unbroken since 1603. Whether we consider ourselves to be English, Scottish, Ulstermen, Irish, Welsh, Manx, Jerseymen, Guernseymen, Gibraltarian, Falkland Islanders, Bermudian, Montserratian, Caymanian or, indeed, whichever identity within the British family we happen to call our own, the celebration of the Queen’s sapphire jubilee must be a cause that brings each and every one of us together in honour of Queen and country.

We only need to look around the world today to see politicians as Presidents, Prime Ministers and leaders of nations who come and go, but how fortunate we are here in the United Kingdom to have such a dedicated, neutral head of state as a constitutional monarch who defends our laws, upholds our democracy and is the guardian of our constitution, providing the foundations for stable and accountable government.

Just as previous jubilees have been celebrated far and wide, it must surely be right that the sapphire jubilee is, too. In fact, Her Majesty’s sapphire jubilee should be the greatest of all, as no other monarch has reached 65 years on the throne, and it is inconceivable that any other future king or queen will accomplish such an achievement for centuries to come. We must not allow this year to pass by without a celebration befitting the occasion, saluting Her Majesty for all she has done for our nation and the wider Commonwealth, but also to prove to ourselves once again that what unites our country and people is much greater than what divides us.

Her Majesty the Queen is undoubtedly the most unifying figure of our nation; indeed, she is the fundamental component of our common British identity. As a people, we share common beliefs, principles and obligations, so let us cherish our common heritage, and in so doing ensure our common destiny.

It is my fervent belief that the Queen exemplifies all that is great and good about our nation and represents the continuity that our forebears did so much to hand to us, most especially the freedom of our island home that we cherish so much today. As our queen and sovereign, Her Majesty brings steadfastness and stability to our constitution, our parliamentary democracy and throughout our society. The importance of this steadfastness cannot be understated. Her Majesty is the single greatest flagbearer of stability and continuity.

The Queen’s sapphire jubilee must be a time for everyone to celebrate this great milestone in the history of our island people, whether they be from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales, the Crown dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey, Alderney, Sark or the Isle of Man, the sixteen overseas territories or in the communities of people of British ancestry scattered across the globe.

The United Kingdom, in taking the lead, will also encourage Her Majesty’s other realms to celebrate the sapphire jubilee—after all the Queen is also Queen of Antigua and Barbuda; Australia; the Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Canada; Grenada; Jamaica; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; the Solomon Islands; and Tuvalu. Our friends in these nations must also have the chance to celebrate, as the sapphire jubilee is as much their celebration as it is one for the British Isles.

My Bill will ensure that all the people of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, the British overseas territories and Crown dependencies will be able to mark the occasion of the Queen’s sapphire jubilee with a celebration that such a significant landmark deserves. It will give councils the authority to make plans now for local celebrations, providing for street parties, carnivals and special events to take place without the tiresome bureaucracy that can so often get in the way.

One weekend in June could be designated “sapphire jubilee weekend” with an additional bank holiday immediately afterwards, which could be a national day for a thanksgiving service. The “weekend of trooping the colour” might also be an option for the official sapphire jubilee celebrations. As this is first ever sapphire jubilee of a reigning British monarch, we cannot allow this great occasion to go uncelebrated. On the contrary, Her Majesty’s 65th anniversary as our sovereign and Head of State must be an opportunity to unite all British people, together with those of other nationalities who have made Britain their home and who might also wish to celebrate with pride and patriotism.

In presenting the Bill today, my hope is that it will draw attention to this highly significant event. Time may be short to arrange celebrations for June, but I believe the spirit of our nation will inspire the people to make Her Majesty the Queen’s sapphire jubilee a spectacular occasion that will be remembered for generations to come, as we demonstrate our heartfelt thanks to Her Majesty for what she has done for our country and for what continues to be a truly glorious reign. I commend the Bill to the House.

Although I have no objection whatever to the people of the United Kingdom, and those more widely, celebrating the Queen’s sapphire jubilee, I feel that, as with most proposals, the devil is in the detail. That is why I am forced to speak against this Bill.

I would like to press for greater detail so that we may learn from the problems created for UK workers from the most recent extra public holidays, which were held on 29 April 2011 to celebrate the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and on 5 June 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee. On both those occasions, I was working for the NHS and I was also an elected workplace trade union rep for Unite the union. As I am sure all Members will appreciate, not everyone in the NHS was able to enjoy those public holidays. Essential public services still have to be provided and many staff were required to remain in work on those days, to provide emergency and urgent care.

Problems arose with how these staff were to be remunerated, because NHS terms and conditions under “Agenda for Change” specify that staff are entitled to eight bank holidays per year, and those extra holidays counted as the ninth bank holiday. My NHS trust refused to pay staff who were working on those days at the bank holiday rate and instead paid them at the normal daily rate. I was trying to negotiate a better rate of pay for these staff, my union members, but I came up against a blanket refusal from management to recognise those days as bank or public holidays that would therefore qualify for the higher rate of pay. Before the diamond jubilee holiday, I even wrote to the then Prime Minister, David Cameron. His reply, unfortunately, was unhelpful, merely re-stating the NHS management view. We were left with a situation in which hard-working, dedicated NHS staff who gave up their days off to provide a vital service were not adequately remunerated—and I do not want to see that happen again under this Bill.

Unite revealed that 113 NHS employers in the UK treated the diamond jubilee as a normal working day, denying staff the normal bank holiday pay and time-off- in-lieu arrangements. Unite had even written to the Queen on behalf of its 100,000 members in the health service on this issue—alas, to no avail.

Additionally, in April 2011, prior to the royal wedding, the Daily Mail reported that, according to a poll by the Chartered Institute of Payroll Professionals, more than a tenth of employers said that they would not be giving their workers a paid day off. Employment law experts said that workers were the victims of a lottery that depended entirely on the wording in their contract. For example, if a contract states that the employee is entitled to 28 days’ holiday, including all bank and public holidays, the worker would be entitled to paid time off. However, if the contract stated that the worker was entitled to 28 days’ holiday including eight bank and public holidays, that would not confer the right to be off, because the royal wedding constituted a ninth bank holiday.

On that day in 2011, all 163 Debenhams stores were open, but the staff did not receive extra pay. Conversely, and showing better practice, Tesco stores said that staff who worked the public holiday would be paid at up to three times their normal rate. Following the royal wedding holiday where some employers failed to give their staff the day off, the TUC wrote to the Government to add a provision to holiday entitlement to take account of any special bank or public holidays, but sadly no such provision was made.

With that in mind, one way to avoid the situation arising every time an extra public holiday is announced would be to increase the number of bank holidays from eight to nine per year, with the extra bank holiday to be used to celebrate a significant occasion that year—the occasion to be determined by Parliament.

As I stated when I rose to speak, it is right that we should celebrate the Queen’s record of an amazing 65 years’ long service, but I ask for more clarity to enable employers and employees to reach a better understanding of the practicalities of arranging an extra public holiday, most importantly the rates of remuneration for the emergency workers who give up their time, so that others may enjoy the day off and the celebrations.

I will conclude by asking three questions. Will the Bill specify how the holiday should be characterised and the rates of pay for those who have to work on the day? How will the Bill ensure that all employers participate and give staff the day off without resorting to the use of loopholes? Will the Government now take heed of the TUC recommendation that provision should be made for workers’ holiday entitlement to take account of additional public holidays?

Question put (Standing Order No. 23) and agreed to.


That Andrew Rosindell, Sir Julian Brazier, Mr Douglas Carswell, Tom Elliott, Michael Gove, Kate Hoey, Daniel Kawczynski, Norman Lamb, Mr Angus Brendan MacNeil, Albert Owen, Gavin Robinson and Michael Tomlinson present the Bill.

Andrew Rosindell accordingly presented the Bill.

Bill read the First time; to be read a Second time on Friday 24 March 2017, and to be printed (Bill 151).