Skip to main content

Platinum Jubilee Celebrations

Volume 707: debated on Wednesday 26 January 2022

May I briefly associate myself with the comments of the Secretary of State on the dreadful events in the city of the hon. Member for Foyle (Colum Eastwood) in 1972, the year of my birth in Belfast?

Officials in the Northern Ireland Office are working closely with officials in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the lead Government Department on the jubilee. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my noble Friend Lord Caine are working on a series of events in Northern Ireland to mark Her Majesty’s jubilee, her immense contribution to life in Northern Ireland and to peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland.

Will the Minister describe how he will encourage all parts of the NHS across Northern Ireland to celebrate the platinum jubilee as one great, unifying feature of the Union towards another?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Everyone in every part of our United Kingdom is deeply proud of the national health service. People across Northern Ireland, whatever their allegiance, recognise the immense contribution of frontline NHS staff, whom I hope will be recognised in this jubilee year.

Her Majesty’s platinum jubilee is a fantastic opportunity to celebrate our Union far and wide, with people around the Commonwealth and the world joining us in marking the occasion. Will the Secretary of State set out the Government’s plans on using the jubilee to showcase the best of Northern Ireland?

Whatever tradition or belief they come from in Northern Ireland, everyone recognises the immense contribution Her Majesty the Queen has made to this United Kingdom. As I alluded to, Her Majesty’s contribution to reconciliation and mutual understanding on the island of Ireland has been beyond compare. This will be a fantastic opportunity to celebrate her amazing life and achievements.

This summer, Her Majesty will award jubilee medals to members of the armed forces and emergency services and to prison officers. As things stand, frontline paramedics working for ambulance services will rightly be recognised, but those working in hospital A&E departments and private ambulances might not be. Will my right hon. Friend work with ministerial colleagues to ensure that all frontline paramedics get the recognition their work so richly deserves?

My hon. Friend makes his point powerfully, as ever. I am sure it will be heard. If it is not, I will make sure that it is by making it on his behalf to relevant Ministers.

As we begin the 70th year of Her Majesty’s reign, the Northern Ireland protocol still seems to threaten the free movement of goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Will the Minister take urgent action to stand up to the bureaucratic posturing of the European Union and ensure that oak tree saplings can be traded freely between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom for the platinum jubilee?

I am immensely grateful to my hon. Friend. He makes that point incredibly powerfully. Members from across the House will look forward to planting oak saplings in their constituencies to mark this amazing achievement of Her Majesty’s platinum jubilee. The Foreign Secretary is on the Front Bench. I know her well; I served with her in International Trade. She is on the case. There is absolutely no reason why oak tree saplings should not be planted in Northern Ireland as they are in every other part of the United Kingdom.

The Queen’s Green Canopy is a wonderful way to both celebrate the jubilee and promote the environment. Tomorrow, in Dervock, Bushmills, Ballymoney and Ballymena, a number of primary schools will plant trees to mark Her Majesty’s jubilee. I encourage the Secretary of State, the Minister and, indeed, the Foreign Secretary, who will be in Northern Ireland tomorrow, to take the opportunity to visit one of those schools and encourage young people as they promote the environment, honour Her Majesty the Queen and encourage our country to look positively to its future.

I entirely agree that all Members across the House will look forward to planting trees on the amazing anniversary of Her Majesty’s reign. I was in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency just before Christmas, at my grandfather’s former primary school in Armoy. The event is cross-community and cross-tradition, and we are all looking forward to celebrating it. I will happily accept an invitation, as I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State would, to join the hon. Gentleman in his constituency and plant a tree.

As hon. Members on the Benches behind me know, my wife hails from County Armagh. There is a tremendous link between Scotland and Northern Ireland through music; recently, the Kiltearn Fiddlers from my constituency have played in Northern Ireland as the guests of Ulster University. Would it not be splendid if we could celebrate Her Majesty’s jubilee by having musical events the length and breadth of our United Kingdom?

I totally agree, and what a wonderful, harmonious note on which to end Northern Ireland questions.

People in Newport West and across Northern Ireland know that Her Majesty has always led by example and demonstrated the highest standards in public life, so can the Minister confirm that this Government will be following her example as they mark her platinum jubilee?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that Her Majesty is an example to us all. The House should unite in thanking her for her decades of dedicated service to our country and the Commonwealth.