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Volume 688: debated on Thursday 18 January 2007

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What legislation covers the definition of the form, shape and design, and any rules about the permitted use, of (a) the union flag; (b) the English flag (cross of St George); (c) the Scottish flag (St Andrew's saltire) (d) the Scottish royal lion flag (e) the Welsh flag (dragon); (f) the flag of Northern Ireland. [HL1099]

(a & b) There is no legislation that governs the form, shape or size of the union flag or the English flag (St George's cross). There are no rules about the permitted use of the union flag or English flag (cross of St George) on non-government buildings, provided the flag is flown on a single vertical flagstaff and neither the flag nor the flagstaff display any advertisement additional to the design of the flag as explained under the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992. Government departments are restricted to flying flags on 18 fixed days a year in compliance with rules issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Consideration should also be given to flag protocol, which considers it improper to fly the union flag upside down and requires that the flag should not be defaced by text or symbols and should be treated with respect.

(c & d) There is also no legislation that governs the form, shape or size of the Royal Arms of Scotland (here referred to as the Scottish royal lion flag) or the St Andrew's cross, but the design is firmly specified in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland. The Royal Arms of Scotland can only be used by the Sovereign or her Great Lieutenants when acting in their official capacity. The Scottish flag (St Andrew's cross) may be flown by Scots and to represent Scotland on all occasions; however, under The Act of Lyon King of Arms Act 1672, cap. 47 individuals may not deface the flag by placing a symbol on top of the flag or use it in such a way that suggests it is his/her personal property.

(e) There is no specific legislation about the Welsh flag design or rules about permitted use.

(f) The union flag is the only official flag that represents Northern Ireland. The Flags (NI) Order 2000 empowered the Secretary of State to make the Flags Regulations (NI) 2000, which governs when and where the union flag can be flown from government buildings in Northern Ireland on specified days. The legislation does not define the form, shape or design of the union flag. Flag flying from non-governmental buildings is unregulated.

For all flags, consideration should also be given to flag protocol, which requires flags to be treated with respect, not to be defaced by text or symbols or flown upside down.