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Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Volume 683: debated on Thursday 12 November 2020

Her Majesty the Queen will, in just over a year from now, mark the 70th anniversary of her accession to the throne. As the House will hear from the Culture Secretary in a moment, the Queen’s platinum jubilee will be marked by national celebrations.

A platinum jubilee has never been achieved by a sovereign before in the history of this country. Hon. Members may feel that it would be appropriate for both Houses of Parliament to present a gift to Her Majesty to mark this historic occasion. In 1977, to mark Her Majesty’s silver jubilee, the fountain in New Palace Yard was built. In 2002, to mark the golden jubilee, the sundial in Old Palace Yard was installed. In 2012, to mark Her Majesty’s diamond jubilee, the stained glass window in Westminster Hall was created. The House will therefore be pleased to hear that arrangements are in hand for a gift to Her Majesty from Parliament to mark her platinum jubilee in 2022.

Preliminary arrangements are being made. A cross-party project board, with Members from both Houses, has been established to decide on this gift and oversee the delivery of the project. Following his work organising the diamond jubilee gift, I have asked the right hon. and learned Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis) to lead this project. As was the case in 2012, when hundreds of parliamentarians contributed towards the diamond jubilee gift, this gift will be funded by personal contributions from Members of both Houses entirely at their own discretion. It is proposed that no public funds will be spent on the gift. I will be outlining more details of the gift and the ways in which hon. Members may contribute, if they wish to do so, in the new year.

With your permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a brief and important statement about the Government’s plans to mark Her Majesty the Queen’s platinum jubilee in 2022. The 6th of February 1952 marked the dawn of a new Elizabethan age in our United Kingdom. For a nation emerging from the rubble of the second world war, the new monarch represented an opportunity for a fresh start and a brighter future. The seven decades since have seen a huge amount of change, progress and—at times—turmoil. Fashions, technologies and many Prime Ministers have come and gone, but throughout there has been one constant: Her Majesty has been the golden thread that binds us, uniting our kingdom.

As you said, Mr Speaker, 2022 will represent an extraordinary milestone for Her Majesty, for the country and for the Commonwealth. No British monarch has ever celebrated 70 years on the throne, and I know the entire country will want to come together to celebrate Her Majesty’s remarkable reign, reflect on her legacy and look forward.

To honour this extraordinary historic occasion, the Government are working with the royal household and devolved Administrations on an extensive programme that will unite every generation in all 54 countries of the Commonwealth, from the south Pacific islands to the Canadian Arctic, in celebration of Her Majesty. There will, of course, be the traditional nationwide fanfare of street parties and celebrations, building up to a special four-day platinum jubilee weekend that we will celebrate by moving the late May bank holiday to Thursday 2 June and adding an additional bank holiday on Friday 3 June.

We are working with the United Kingdom’s leading creative minds to make this a jubilee weekend to remember—one that mixes the best of British ceremonial splendour and pageantry with cutting-edge artistic and technological display, recognises the global contribution made under Her Majesty’s reign and offers thanks for her seven decades of unwavering public service. It will involve a mixture of spectacular moments in big cities, as well as local events in towns and villages across all our United Kingdom.

We will of course continue to honour some proud jubilee traditions. When Her Majesty’s great, great grandmother, Queen Victoria, reached her 50th year on the throne, she issued a special medal to mark her golden jubilee. Her Majesty has graciously approved plans to issue her own platinum jubilee medal, to be given to those who work in public service, including the armed forces, the emergency services and the prison services.

As you said, Mr Speaker, Parliament is preparing its own jubilee gift, organised by you, Sir, the Lord Speaker and, of course, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis), and we are working on a series of legacy projects that will serve as an enduring tribute to Her Majesty.

We will of course unveil further plans in the coming months as they develop, but 2022 will be a landmark year for the United Kingdom. The platinum jubilee will be the jewel in the crown of a series of events showcasing the very best of this country to its people and to the rest of the world, including the Birmingham Commonwealth games and Festival UK 2022. After a very difficult year where we have come together to fight the common enemy of coronavirus, I am sure that the House will want to join me in looking forward to happier times for our great nation, when we will be united in celebration instead.

Thank you, Mr Speaker; I very much welcome the statement and the announcement that you just made. I thank the Secretary of State for setting out the terms of his statement, published last night, and I join him in his desire to look forward with optimism to this celebration.

We warmly welcome the good news that Her Majesty’s platinum jubilee will be recognised by an extra bank holiday, as I am sure do many people up and down the country. The Secretary of State’s reference in his newspaper article today to the celebration in 2012 of the London Olympic games evokes for many of us a much happier time—one when we all came together to celebrate and mark our shared values. We all look forward to a time when we can have street parties, watch live performances, listen to live music and be together. Those are all things whose absence is so keenly felt at the moment.

Of course, 2022 is already shaping up to be a big year of celebration, with the centenary of the BBC and the hosting of the Commonwealth games in Birmingham. It is in very large part due to the Queen herself that we see the success of the Commonwealth as a group of nations working together, despite huge differences and the historical context from which it was formed. We look forward to hearing more about the plans to make these celebrations bring together our whole United Kingdom, as well as the Commonwealth, as we get nearer to 2022.

The numerous qualities displayed by Her Majesty throughout her long reign of dedicated service—in particular, her incredible work ethic, her kindness and her patience—represent the very best of our values as a country. As we live through one of the most difficult periods of her reign, it was a source of comfort to millions when the Queen addressed the nation earlier this year. Her promise that “We will meet again,” echoing the words made popular by Dame Vera Lynn, who sadly passed away this year, were especially poignant for millions of people for whom the Queen has been a constant in their lives.

The Opposition echo the Secretary of State’s hopes that the country will emerge from this dark period in time for these celebrations and that they may be a way to mark a new optimism for our future as we reflect on the great changes that have taken place over the past 70 years.

I thank the hon. Lady for her contribution, and I am very glad that we will be able to proceed with this on a cross-party basis. She was absolutely right to highlight also the centenary of the BBC, which will of course take place in 2022, and Her Majesty’s role in the Commonwealth and, indeed, the comfort that Her Majesty gave the entire nation in the darkest days of the coronavirus. This in turn, in 2022, will be our opportunity to thank her for all she has given the nation.

Let us head up to the west midlands to visit the Chair of the Select Committee, Julian Knight.

I welcome this announcement; it is right that our United Kingdom recognises Her Majesty’s lifetime of service in this special and unique way. Does the Secretary of State agree that this bank holiday could also provide an opportunity for a reset for UK tourism, and will he commit to carrying out the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s recommendations for the tourism sector: a national campaign to restore consumer confidence in tourism, a tourism data hub and the implementation of a full review with the Treasury on long-term support for the tourism sector?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the challenges faced by the tourism sector. Tourism is about bringing people together; doors have been slammed shut and planes grounded, and it has been a very difficult time. I very much hope that 2022 will be a moment when the sector can really take off and we can showcase the very best of our United Kingdom around the world. We will be taking advantage of this opportunity to boost tourism, and I am of course carefully examining all the proposals that my hon. Friend has outlined.

Seventy years in the one job is a remarkable achievement, and we on these Benches congratulate the Queen on the occasion of her platinum jubilee. My mother, who died this summer, was the same age as the Queen. A left-wing, pro-European Scottish nationalist, she always had a bit of a soft spot for her contemporary. Mum was not a natural monarchist, but she shared a sense, as so many of that generation do, that they had gone through a dark time together; the war, she felt, had given them a bond.

The UK has changed beyond all recognition in the seven decades since the Queen came to the throne. In 1953, we were still living with the brutal consequences of a war that had seen slaughter on an unprecedented scale all across Europe and the far east. We were a new nuclear power; rationing was in place; and we were to have a new national health service treating people on the basis of need, not money. Families like my own no longer needed to live in fear of facing a choice between food and medicine. It was an age of deference: our colonies were demanding and getting independence; and there were stirrings of demands for Scottish independence, with the first SNP Member of Parliament elected in Motherwell. Westminster MPs were arguing about Europe, however, so perhaps some things have not changed that much. We recognise the years and dedication Elizabeth I, Queen of Scots, has put into a job she might not have chosen.

Politicians often have a peculiar idea of what the Queen is going to enjoy when they arrange parties for her—who can forget her look of elation when standing in the dome with Peter Mandelson one damp London Hogmanay? So I make a plea to the Secretary of State: try to arrange a shindig she would really enjoy—maybe a ceilidh; at 96, I think she deserves it.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments, and perhaps I should put on record my thanks to the Scottish Government, and indeed the Welsh and Northern Ireland Governments, for their support in bringing this together. He is absolutely right to highlight both the constants and the changes throughout Her Majesty’s reign. He is also absolutely right that we want to make this a party and a celebration to remember. One of the things that was always put up on the wall during the Olympic games was, “Just make sure it’s not like the millennium dome celebrations.” I shall not comment on it this time around, but we are ensured that we have the very finest brains and minds to make sure that it is a great occasion.

Does my right hon. Friend recognise the sense of duty of not just the Queen but the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, who visited Harlow citizens advice bureau recently in recognition of its hard work? In paying tribute to the royal family, will he also pay tribute to Harlow CAB, which has done so much to help those who are struggling or facing difficulties in their lives?

I join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to Harlow citizens advice bureau and, indeed, citizens advice bureaux up and down the country, which, as I know from my constituency, have done so much to support people during this difficult coronavirus. He is absolutely right to highlight the role of other senior members of the royal family. All of them will join in marking this celebration and be involved in events up and down the nation during 2022.

The platinum jubilee is a wonderful prospect and we know that the Queen loves Scotland. May I say, as a Scottish MP, that that love is deeply reciprocated? I suggest to the Secretary of State that one way to mark the jubilee would be to give each and every school the length and breadth of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland a small seedling tree. Irish yews could be given to schools in Northern Ireland, Scots pines in Scotland, English oaks in England and Welsh oaks—the sessile oak—in Wales. The pupils could plant and nurture these trees as a long-term project and it would teach them about the environment, our native species and what climate change and global warming is all about. It would be their contribution to helping the environment of our country.

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good suggestion. I am trying to resist the temptation to reveal some of the plans that we are working on, but I can say that we are looking at the idea of a Queen’s green canopy, working with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We will plant trees up and down the country.

I got terribly excited yesterday when I heard that my right hon. Friend would be making this statement, and of course I welcome his announcement. Will he commit to coming forward with further statements when he can announce as part of the celebrations an unveiling of a new statue of Her Majesty the Queen and a statue of Dame Vera Lynn? And will he fix something that is an obvious omission? Previously, every time we have had a jubilee celebration, there has been a city status competition, and we need that so that Southend becomes a city.

I must say, Mr Deputy Speaker, that when I was looking at the call list, I had an inkling that this might come up. Of course, we are considering exactly that proposal and we will make further statements shortly.

I thank the Secretary of State for the encouragement that he gives us all across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in relation to the celebration. I, for one, am delighted to hear the wonderful plans for Her Majesty’s jubilee. It excites me to my core as a loyalist and as someone who supports the royal family. I am not alone in this. I represent Strangford and, as is the case across all Northern Ireland, we have a massive community of service personnel; their loyalty to the Queen and to duty saw many of us through tough times. Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify that as well as being a part of the national events that he has referred to, Northern Ireland will see additional funding to ensure that we are able to celebrate our Queen as we so wish to do? How will that funding be allocated in this great United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. We want to ensure that this jubilee is celebrated by all generations and people from all different backgrounds and all nations of our United Kingdom. In terms of funding, we are discussing the settlement with the Treasury as part of the spending review. The principal role of Government will be to ensure things such as the security of events, policing and so on. We will look for private contributions for individual celebrations, but we will work through the details of that and come back to the House shortly.

It is great to follow my friend, who also happens to be the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). On that theme, as a long-term friend of Northern Ireland and a member of Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, may I ask that when the Secretary of State looks at the programme, he ensures that a senior member of the royal family spends some time over those four days in Northern Ireland, where—as my right hon. Friend, I and all Members fully understand—Her Majesty is held in huge regard by the people who live there?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the affection for Her Majesty shown by the people of Northern Ireland, and I am quite sure that senior members of the royal family will be travelling to Northern Ireland as part of the celebrations of jubilee year.

I welcome the update from the Secretary of State, and given the year that we have all had, this is a welcome announcement indeed. He is in such a generous mood, so will he tell the House, as a commitment to the Union, whether he has had chance to address calls from across Wales to commemorate St David’s Day with its own dedicated bank holiday? I also hope that the platinum jubilee medal will be made at the Royal Mint in my constituency, and I would appreciate it if he confirmed exactly what conversations he has had with the Welsh Government about their involvement in commemorating the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. We are working very well with the Welsh Government and my officials are in close contact. I have written to my opposite number in Wales. On her point about St David’s Day, there are many calls for bank holidays, and I am sure those will be considered through the normal process, which is overseen by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. On where the medal will be minted, she has made a strong case and I will take that into consideration.

The celebration of Britain’s first ever platinum jubilee will mean that the eyes of the world are placed firmly upon us. As well as showing our deep appreciation for Her Majesty’s years of unwavering dedication to public service, does my right hon. Friend agree that the jubilee celebrations present an exciting opportunity to showcase the very best of Britain’s cultural and artistic talents, including from those in Bishop Auckland?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the great talent in her constituency. It is one of the great opportunities of this jubilee to harness the talents of the creative industries and the best of British tech as we look back in ceremonials and forward with new concepts. I am sure that people from her constituency will contribute to that process.

As we come out of the coronavirus pandemic and look to recover over the next few years, it is vital that we focus our money and attention on those most in need of our support. Does the Secretary of State not agree, then, that in this time of economic hardship we should not be spending excessively on ceremonies, pageantry and celebrations, but rather should focus on supporting those least well off and those hardest hit by this pandemic?

Of course, we are providing support for those hardest hit, although I shall not go through all the detail of that at the Dispatch Box now. I am of course mindful, and I know the royal household will be mindful, of ensuring that money is spent wisely through this process.

I dissociate myself from the rather ungracious remarks made by the hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Steven Bonnar). I warmly welcome the platinum jubilee bank holiday and congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on his statement. Does he agree that these celebrations ought to be truly national, and will he join tens of thousands of people from Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland in expressing deep appreciation of Her Majesty’s unblemished and extraordinary record of public service?

I am delighted to join the people of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland in expressing that. This is the point about the jubilee: I hope that everyone across the nation will have their own way to show their thanks to Her Majesty, whether that is in street parties, celebrations or carnivals. Many ideas will come up through this process.

I want to place on record my respect and admiration for the manner in which Her Majesty has served our country and beyond—her work ethic and sensibility in a life devoted to public service spanning an incredible seven decades, which puts the likes of me to shame. Given that our world-leading creative industries, including those in and around Slough, have been particularly hard hit by the covid pandemic, will the Secretary of State make every effort to ensure that they play a central role and that all their talents are utilised in celebrating the Queen’s platinum jubilee?

I am very happy to give that commitment. I have been very mindful of the opportunities for the creative industries. Of course, it is not just the platinum jubilee. We also have the festival of the United Kingdom in 2022, on which I am working closely with Martin Green; that will also create many opportunities for the creative industries.

During my seven decades, I have only ever known one Head of State. This leads me to make a political point. I hope that I will not be accused of will be accused of lèse-majesté; it is only a small-p political point. Street parties are great and all that sort of stuff, but could we also proclaim the virtue of the monarchical system during the celebrations? After all, if we were tempted to become a republic, we could have President Trump or President Macron as Head of State, or, even worse, a grey, colourless figure like the German President.

There is another political point that we could proclaim, which is that the only reason that we have a Union between Scotland and England is that we had a Union of the two Crowns and James VI of Scotland became James I of our country. That is another thing that we could proclaim: our United Kingdom.

Lastly, we could proclaim the fact that the Queen is the Head of State of several Commonwealth countries, particularly very important ones such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Can we take that opportunity to proclaim that union, which is particularly important for culture, trade and defence following Brexit? Perhaps a senior member of the royal family could take the opportunity to visit those countries.

My right hon. Friend is right to highlight all three points. I am an ardent monarchist, and the jubilee provides an opportunity to remind us of the benefits of monarchy. He is absolutely right to talk about the role of the Commonwealth. Although plans are still being developed, I am quite sure that members of the royal family will wish to visit other Commonwealth nations as part of this process.

I fully recognise and respect the service undertaken for almost 70 years by Queen Elizabeth I, Queen of Scots. My parents’ generation held her in great affection, and they took me to a street party to celebrate her coronation. However, my next street party attendance will definitely be on the occasion of Scotland gaining her independence. Another bank holiday will be welcome, bringing us nearer to the European average and providing folk with an opportunity to reflect on how this country has changed over the last 70 years.

I am quite sure that many millions of Scots will look forward to a party celebrating Her Majesty’s platinum jubilee more than to a celebration of such narrow nationalism.

I, too, welcome today’s announcement. Does the Secretary of State agree with the importance of ensuring that these celebrations truly are nationwide in every community? Could he help to arrange, perhaps via the national lottery, for some small grants to be made available to community groups so that they can organise events on those important days?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Of course we will be working with the national lottery, and we will be looking at ways in which we can seed and support such celebrations in every part of the country—the four nations and all parts of England.

I have a birthday at the start of June and I still have fond memories of the silver jubilee, when a bus conductor spotted my third birthday badge, stopped the bus outside a bakery and bought me a red, white and blue cupcake. But jubilees are not just about parties; they are a time to reflect on and celebrate change. The world of 2022 will be very different from that of 1952 or even 1977, so what will the Government be doing to ensure that young people—and adults, for that matter—can celebrate the many technological and scientific changes, and, importantly, the massive positive social changes, that we have seen over the seven decades of the Queen’s reign?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, which is that jubilees are a celebration of both continuity and change. One theme that we are looking at as part of the jubilee celebrations is the important role of young people, and we are engaging a lot with young people as we develop the plans. We are also looking at technological developments. As we celebrate the jubilee, I hope that we will also be able to showcase the very best of British technology.

I had the huge privilege of being Lord President of the Privy Council for two years, and I saw at first hand how incredibly seriously and devotedly the Queen carries out every single one of her constitutional duties. Does my right hon. Friend agree that she really has been a rock for the world in a time of such turbulent change and so many challenges?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right: the monarch does not just exercise a ceremonial role. Her Majesty genuinely takes a deep interest in matters of state, as many Ministers and former Prime Ministers will attest.

As part of the jubilee celebrations in 2012, the Queen visited Vernon Park in my constituency, and we had a brilliant party, celebrating the best of Nottingham and the best of Britain. We are ready to do it all again 10 years on, whether that is in Vernon Park or the many green flag parks in my constituency. I seek from the Secretary of State his commitment to hold events around the country and his personal support for an event in north Nottingham.

I am happy to give my personal support to an event in north Nottingham and, indeed, in every town and village up and down our nation. The one thing I might resist committing to, given our experience during the diamond jubilee in 2012, is doing anything on the River Thames again.

The celebration of the platinum jubilee is for not only the residents of South West Hertfordshire and this country but people throughout the Commonwealth. Does my right hon. Friend agree that this is a real opportunity to reaffirm the links of fellowship and affection throughout the nations of the Commonwealth, which help to truly make global Britain happen?

I am a fellow Hertfordshire MP, and of course, Her Majesty the Queen has close links to Hertfordshire, since that is where the Queen Mother grew up. My hon. Friend is right to highlight the role of the Commonwealth. The links we have to Commonwealth nations are one of the great strengths of our nation, and no one has done more to promote the Commonwealth than Her Majesty the Queen.

The Secretary of State mentioned the Queen’s astonishing unifying effect, which we saw most recently in her address to the nation during the first covid lockdown. As one of the many millions of Scots who the Secretary of State rightly said will be celebrating the Queen’s platinum jubilee, will he assure me that the Queen’s ability to unify the four nations of the United Kingdom will be reflected, and will he encourage the Scottish Government to reflect that in whatever jubilee celebrations take place, including in my city of Edinburgh?

I am quite sure that the city of Edinburgh, which is home to a royal residence, will play a central role in the celebrations in 2022. Of course, in celebrating the platinum jubilee, we will celebrate the remarkable Union of our four nations—possibly the most successful union of nations in modern history.

In the long history of our nation’s monarchs, Her Majesty is one of the greatest ever, and her platinum jubilee will be a significant and wonderful moment. Our nation, and certainly the people of Harrogate and Knaresborough, will want to recognise and thank her for her wisdom, dedication and service and then celebrate it. Will there be events to celebrate up and down the country and throughout the year in which my constituents can participate?

I am sure that all the people of Harrogate will play their role in the celebrations. There will be year-long celebrations, and then on the four days of the bank holiday weekend, there will be different moments. We will be reflecting, thanksgiving and celebrating. It is not just a party; it is really a moment to say thank you to Her Majesty.

I feel a bit sorry for the right hon. Member for Gainsborough (Sir Edward Leigh), only knowing one queen. I have known quite a few in my time; some of them have even been members of royal families. One of the great changes that has happened during this Queen’s reign is that gay men have managed to achieve phenomenal changes in social attitudes in this country. There are many people able to marry the people they love, and that was not possible when she came to the throne. I just hope that this will be a genuinely diverse celebration. I am sure it will, and I fully welcome it.

I hope that it will not just be big events in big cities, but that there will be big events organised from the centre in small towns, in places such as Treorchy, which would run a brilliant event. We have lots of male voice choirs, and we even have a few drag queens, so we could put on a really good show. I hope that the medal will be minted in the Mint—I cannot think of anywhere else where one would want to mint anything other than in the Mint, the Royal Mint, in fact, in Llantrisant.

One tiny word of caution. I remember that, in the 2002 celebrations, because it was a long weekend, there were lots of medical problems because the NHS had not really got itself together to think about how to deal with lots of people with long-standing medical problems. We need to think about that, but otherwise, let’s have a great old party.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s support. He raises an important point about the NHS, and I will pick that up with our colleagues in the Department for Health and Social Care. He is absolutely right to highlight the huge changes that we have seen in our nation, but, at the same time, we have had this constant of Her Majesty. That is the essence of the celebration. He is absolutely right about diversity, and it is so important that everyone in our nation feels they can come together and celebrate, and that the celebration reflects the diversity of modern Britain.

With the positive news this week that there is a vaccine on the horizon, we can look forward to a future in which we can start to get back to normal. Will my right hon. Friend work with me to assist those in North Devon who will be planning to celebrate our monarch, who has served us in both good times and bad?

Yes, of course. I am sure that North Devon will put on a fantastic show to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s platinum jubilee and, further to the question asked by the hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant), there are opportunities to have celebrations in each part of the UK, in every town and village, and to come together for larger national celebrations as well.

I thank the Secretary of State for the statement he has made today, and we will now suspend for three minutes for the safe departure and arrival of Members of Parliament.

Sitting suspended.

Virtual participation in proceedings concluded (Order, 4 June).