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Her Majesty the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Volume 807: debated on Monday 16 November 2020


The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Thursday 12 November.

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 honourable 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.”

My Lords, I very much welcome the Statement and the announcement that has been made. I thank the Secretary of State for setting out the plans for the celebration, and I am sure I join other noble Lords in looking forward with optimism to this happy event. We warmly welcome the good news that Her Majesty’s platinum jubilee will be recognised by an extra bank holiday, as I am sure will many people up and down the country.

The Secretary of State, in a recent newspaper article on the celebration of the 2012 Olympic Games, referred to a time that evoked much happiness for us, and one where we all came together to celebrate and mark our shared values. We all look forward to a time when we can enjoy collective events such as street parties, festivals and carnivals, enjoy live performances, listen to live music and be together to celebrate the very things whose absence is so keenly felt at the moment, particularly as we approach Christmas, usually another time of coming together.

Of course, 2022 is already shaping up to be a big year for 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 their huge differences and the cultural and historical context from which the Commonwealth was formed. We look forward to hearing more about the plans for these celebrations, bringing 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—particularly her incredible work ethic, kindness and patience—represent the very best of our values as a country. As we live through one of the most difficult periods of her reign, I am sure it was a source of comfort to many 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, were especially poignant for millions of people for whom the Queen has been a constant presence during their lives.

The Opposition echo the Government’s hopes that the country will emerge from this dark period in time for these celebrations. Our hope is that they become in comity a wonderful way to mark a new optimism for our future as we seek to build back better and reflect more deeply on the great changes that have taken place over the past 70 years.

I am so sorry, I did not put my headphones on. We welcome this Statement and the fact that the celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s extraordinary reign and Platinum Jubilee will embrace and showcase our nation’s creativity. The Secretary of State harked back to the Cultural Olympiad, which was a triumph—a celebration that made us proud to be British and, more importantly, a unified nation. Since then, things have not gone so well on that front, so how very important it is to try to regain that moment.

Who can forget Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony—a beautiful, brilliant spectacular, with our monarch jumping out of a helicopter? What is she going to do to top that, I wonder? The ceremony was shot through with recognition of our creative accomplishments and was a huge one in itself—and of course, so presciently for today, it celebrated our wonderful National Health Service.

The Cultural Olympiad as a whole was a uniting experience. It pledged to encompass thousands of local and regional events as part of the nationwide celebration, and it did. The Olympiad was an inclusive experience; there was street art and high art, hip hop and ballet. Everywhere, it attracted new audiences. We must ensure that the innovative partnerships that creators forged happen again. So will the Minister confirm that the Platinum Jubilee will also pledge to encompass and reflect the whole nation—local, regional and diverse in every sense? Can the noble Lord update us on his department’s plans to convene key partners—cultural arm’s-length bodies, lottery distributors and others such as Channel 4 and the BBC—to help co-ordinate efforts?

The year 2022 is the centenary, as the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said, of the BBC. It has been a staple of Her Majesty’s life and reign and, during the pandemic, it has been a lifeline. I am sure it will play an equally unique and crucial role in the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in bringing the nation together.

In announcing this central role for the UK’s leading creatives in these celebrations, the Government demonstrate that they understand their importance. However, for this to succeed, we need a healthy, functioning creative sector. As we know, the present Covid crisis is taking a terrible toll there. While we welcome the support the Government have given the sector, does the noble Lord agree that the quicker we get live events up and running the better? They will, of course, be central to these forthcoming celebrations. Does he also accept that securing affordable insurance is key to this?

We need to ensure that talent and skills do not leave these industries. Help is needed for the many creative freelancers and self-employed who cannot access support due to gaps in the system. We need them to be able to plan, produce and contribute to the festivities of 2022. Will the noble Lord commit to this Government helping the excluded?

Does the Minister agree there is talent everywhere in this area but that this cannot be said for opportunity, particularly for those from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds and those with disabilities? Does he not agree that the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee can provide the opportunity for celebration across all our communities? Will the Government commit to working with cultural institutions and community groups to achieve this? I am a trustee of the Lowry in Salford, and I have seen how its outreach programme works across social and economic divides to support creativity. I am sure that my noble friend Lady Benjamin can bring a lot of experience and knowledge from the work she does with the Windrush Commemoration Committee.

Finally, there is Brexit—and, worst of all, a no-deal Brexit. The creative industries have massively benefited from our membership of the EU. As we reach the endgame, can the Minister assure the House that the creative industries are at the top table so far as negotiations are concerned?

We on these Benches join in congratulating the Government on raising our spirits with the tantalising prospect that we might be celebrating communally in the not-too-distant future. Let us make sure that there is proper support for those who will be so essential to those celebrations—our creative artists. Culture and creativity are jewels in the UK’s crown.

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord and the noble Baroness for their warm and enthusiastic welcome for the Statement and the announcement in it, and for the cross-party support they have given to the Government’s plans. It is not surprising but it is very welcome, and a fitting tribute to the unifying figure who is Her Majesty the Queen, as we come together to prepare to celebrate this milestone jubilee.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, said, the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee in 2012 was indeed a very happy time. I remember it fondly although damply, having watched the Thames river pageant from a very rainy Southwark Bridge. We all hope for better weather this time around, although there was something distinctly British about it. They are right to point to its combination in that year with the London Olympics, which led to a truly special year for the United Kingdom. We want 2022 to be a landmark year as well. As the noble Lord said, we will also be seeing the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham that summer and we have Festival UK, which we will be celebrating throughout that year. We want 2022 to be a truly historic year to remember, celebrating all the things that make our nation so great. The noble Lord and the noble Baroness mentioned institutions such as our National Health Service and the BBC, which celebrates its centenary in 2022, and of course we want those institutions to form an important part of the celebrations. We will be liaising with them, along with the Royal Household, as the plans are firmed up.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, in particular, talked about the creative accomplishments of the country. I am pleased to say that, in relation to Festival UK*2022, this very morning the 30 selected consortia for the £3 million-funded R&D phase were announced. The 30 consortia that have been picked include an exciting mix from a number of different sectors, including organisations and individuals, freelancers and emerging talent from, as the noble Baroness said, the diverse communities that make up our nation—that is absolutely right—and from all four corners of the United Kingdom. They include universities, TV and film organisations, museums and galleries, tech companies and environmental organisations. The final commissions will be announced next year, but we can see already that plans are afoot for that to be a very special undertaking.

The noble Baroness is right: we want the opportunity for all of Her Majesty’s subjects to get involved in the celebrations, to pay tribute to the qualities that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, mentioned in his question. The Queen is indeed a shining example to us all, and that is the reason why I am sure all of us, in a grateful nation, will want to come together to pay tribute to her as she reaches this Platinum Jubilee, and indeed to say thank you.

We now come to the 20 minutes allocated to Back-Bench questions. I ask that questions and answers be brief so that I can call the maximum number of speakers.

My Lords, it is welcome news indeed that the Queen has approved plans for a Platinum Jubilee medal. The Diamond Jubilee medal was given to some 465,000 people from the Armed Forces, to the fire, police, ambulance and lifeboat services, to coastguards and those working for mountain rescue. Would my noble friend consider increasing the number of medals, perhaps to 550,000, and widening the criteria to mark the extraordinary work of so many people during the pandemic, including NHS front-line personnel and, possibly, postal and other workers?

My noble friend is right to point to the nearly half a million of Her Majesty’s subjects who received a medal on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee, following the example set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, when she celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1887. As with previous jubilee medals, the Platinum Jubilee medal will be given to those who work in public service. That includes: the Armed Forces, the emergency services and those working in Her Majesty’s Prison Service. The qualifying criteria will be announced in due course, and further details will be set out by each of the government departments that have responsibility for each of those important parts of the public sector.

My Lords, it is serendipitous that the 2022 Commonwealth Games, originally meant to be held in Durban, are taking place not just in the UK but in Birmingham. I am proud to be the chancellor of the University of Birmingham, which will be playing a major role in hosting the Games. Can the Minister inform us how the Commonwealth Games will play a very prominent role in the Platinum Jubilee celebrations for Her Majesty the Queen?

The Commonwealth Games will take place in July and August 2022 in Birmingham. It will be the biggest sporting event ever held in the city, featuring thousands of world-class athletes from across the Commonwealth and over 1 million spectators. It will be an opportunity for competitors and spectators from all over the Commonwealth to come to the United Kingdom and celebrate what should be a very happy and historic year.

My Lords, I speak for all the Lords spiritual in welcoming this Statement about the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. It is a great privilege for me to be here in person this week and to pray each day with 30 or so Members before the business of this House commences in a way that is currently not allowed in any of the churches or cathedrals in this country. Has ever a prayer been so fully answered as that for the Queen?

Grant her in health and wealth long to live … Long to reign over us. God save the Queen.

Before becoming the Bishop of Salisbury, I used to be the vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, which is known as the royal parish church. Like every parish church, the whole community belongs there—the homeless and royalty. In praying for the Queen, we pray for the whole community. I particularly pay tribute to Her Majesty’s recent visit to Porton Down in recognition of the remarkable role played there in addressing the issues faced by the people of Salisbury following the Novichok poisonings.

At her Coronation, the Queen was consecrated like a priest. She rules under God and the Government rule under the Queen, not in the self-referential way in which a nation is its own arbiter. In welcoming the proposals to celebrate a long and remarkable reign, I am sure that we will all pray and sing

May she defend our laws,

And ever give us cause,

To sing with heart and voice,

God save the Queen.

In the light of all that, how does the Minister see the religious nature of this Platinum Jubilee celebration of Her Majesty’s central role as a religious figure?

I agree wholeheartedly with everything that the right reverend Prelate has said, and indeed, he did so earlier in Prayers before the Sitting of your Lordships’ House. He is absolutely right that the role of Her Majesty the Queen as Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England are central to her role as monarch, and she has taken that extremely seriously since her coronation. The Royal Household and Her Majesty’s Government are in discussions with the Church of England to ensure that that too is properly recognised in the Platinum Jubilee.

My Lords, in a moment of darkness and gloom, the proposed Platinum Jubilee for Her Majesty is a ray of light. Does the Minister agree that there is no better way to celebrate and thank Her Majesty for seven decades of dedicated and wise service than with a Commonwealth walkway in all four parts of her United Kingdom? Her Majesty has celebrated all her jubilees with walkways—1977, 2002 and 2012—and she opened all of them. With the Commonwealth canopy, you look up, but with a Commonwealth walkway, you look down, guided by permanent bronze markers.

It is a perfect legacy and gift for everyone to help them to get back on their feet post Covid. Let us not just fly a flag or plant a tree, but go for a walk with families, friends, politicians, athletes and film stars, and thank God with every step for the 70 years of steadfast leadership by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, our Queen and Head of the Commonwealth.

I hope that many of your Lordships will support this idea. I ask the Minister to take this suggestion seriously and talk about walkways in his Ministry.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend. She is right to say that walkways have been an important part of the Queen’s previous jubilee celebrations. Indeed, having walked around London rather more this year than I do in most, I have seen many of the plaques over recent months. I will certainly take that idea back to the department.

My Lords, Her Majesty epitomises continuity and stability. With her wisdom and steadfast commitment, she has held the Commonwealth together and earned the deep affection of all its nations. More than anyone else, Her Majesty understands the significance of the Commonwealth and all that we hold in common. More than ever, we must nurture our common bonds. Can the Minister please ensure that Her Majesty’s outstanding role as head of the Commonwealth, and what she cherishes about its people, will be marked enthusiastically and meaningfully?

The noble Baroness is right, and of course the 54 nations of the Commonwealth will want to make their own plans to celebrate the jubilee in their own ways. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office is liaising with them as they prepare to do so.

My Lords, the Queen is patron of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and of the English-Speaking Union, of which I am the immediate past chair. As such, she has championed effective communication and friendship between peoples and parliaments. So long has been her reign that, both as a child and as a Minister, I have witnessed her addressing the Parliament of Ghana. Will the Minister assure us that his department will consult with Commonwealth associations based in the UK, including the CPA and the English-Speaking Union, to ensure that this aspect of Her Majesty’s long and glorious reign is reflected in this jubilee year?

That is a very important aspect of Her Majesty’s reign. The Commonwealth Games give us an opportunity to reflect that, but as the noble Lord points out, the Commonwealth is so much more than those sporting endeavours that we will be celebrating through that event. We will ensure that, through the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, we are speaking to all the Commonwealth nations in the run-up to the platinum jubilee.

My Lords, six of your Lordships have mentioned the Commonwealth in the last few minutes. Given the increasing importance of the Commonwealth network in this country’s future, and in global peace and stability generally, will my noble friend the Minister reassure us that as this excellent initiative unfolds, the 15 other countries or realms of which Her Majesty the Queen is also the sovereign, as well as the wider Commonwealth network of nations of which she is the head, will all have a very full opportunity to share in planning the event and in the event itself when it comes about, and in dovetailing their own plans in whatever way they choose?

I am very happy to reassure my noble friend on that point. As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State said in the Statement, the Government are working with the Royal Household, the devolved Administrations and the Commonwealth on a programme of events 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. That is the depth of our undertaking.

My Lords, as a composer and broadcaster, naturally I very much support the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury. I suggest to the Minister that if the Arts Council, the DCMS and the BBC joined hands, they could commission a huge raft of artists in this country who have been stymied from producing creative work. Choreographers, composers and designers could join hands to make something substantial. In order to make something substantial, we must move quite soon, because these people are very busy, and creating great work takes time.

The noble Lord is absolutely right. The Statement is being made now to give people advance notice, so that they can get planning to make the most of a truly important occasion and to make these celebrations to remember. We are working with the UK’s leading creative minds on exactly the sorts of things that the noble Lord mentioned, to make the Platinum Jubilee a weekend to remember.

My Lords, it goes without saying that we need to ensure an even distribution of events throughout the nations and regions of the UK. In particular, will HMG engage much more deeply than they have in the past with local authorities, which know their localities best?

I completely agree with the noble Lord. My family tell happy tales of celebrating Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee on the north side of the Tyne opposite the constituency which the noble Lord represented for many years. He is absolutely right: we want the celebrations to take place up and down the length of the United Kingdom and more broadly. We will be liaising with local authorities and elected representatives at every level.

My Lords, a huge part of this fantastic jubilee celebration will be underpinned by the talent, knowledge and expertise of the music, entertainment and creative industry sector. In his opening remarks, the Minister mentioned a consortium, with commissions to be made this year. Can he expand on that? Is it envisaged that spending on the preparations will be brought forward, so that support can be given as soon as possible to those in the music and creative industries, who need it now to survive?

The point I made earlier was about today’s announcement in relation to Festival UK*2022 and the consortia that have been selected for its R&D phase. Further announcements about the festival will be made over the coming months. The noble Baroness is right; as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, we have made the announcement now so that we can begin to engage with people at every level to have the sort of creative outpouring that we want to see in the run-up to, and at the celebration of, this important milestone.

My Lords, I believe that, as Lord Chancellor, I may have held the nominal title of Keeper of the Queen’s Conscience. Will thanks for the highly conscientious way in which Her Majesty has performed her duties form an important part of this very welcome platinum celebration?

Her Majesty’s conscience will have been in very safe keeping in my noble and learned friend’s hands in the decade that he served as one of her Lord Chancellors. He is absolutely right. This is a moment for a grateful nation to pay tribute to Her Majesty and to thank her not only for her years of service but for the great leadership that she shows as an individual in the qualities that she has brought and the shining example that she sets to everybody in public life.

My Lords, it is fantastic news that the Government are spearheading plans for celebrations to mark Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022. Does the Minister agree that on such a momentous occasion it would be a huge honour for Members of both Houses to be able to celebrate Her Majesty’s 70-year reign by hosting a reception in Westminster Hall, paid for with contributions from the attending Members?

As the noble Earl, Lord Kinnoull, said on behalf of the Lord Speaker, as at the Diamond Jubilee, your Lordships’ House and the other place are joining together to think how best we as parliamentarians can celebrate Her Majesty’s jubilee, and, under the leadership of the right honourable Member for Northampton North, Michael Ellis MP, to think of a gift that we might be able to contribute towards. I would encourage the noble Lord to speak to the Lord Speaker about that and the other ways that Parliament can play its part in thanking Her Majesty at this important time.

My Lords, during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee celebrations I was privileged to be at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast for the historic handshake between Her Majesty the Queen and the late Martin McGuinness. Does my noble friend agree that such events demonstrate two of the defining characteristics of Her Majesty’s glorious reign: devotion to duty and an ability to bring people together from across our United Kingdom? Will my noble friend guarantee that Northern Ireland will play its full part in the Platinum Jubilee celebrations?

I wholeheartedly agree with my noble friend. I remember that occasion and indeed the state visit of 2012 to Ireland, in which I know he played a part working in government. He is absolutely right. All four nations of the United Kingdom will play an important part in celebrating the Platinum Jubilee.

My Lords, I very much welcome the Statement and the prospect of celebrating Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee. Does the Minister agree that the best jubilee legacy will be not monuments or memorials but, as he said, the opportunity for the whole country to put Covid behind us and to celebrate the identity and the diversity that we see in the heritage of every place and every community every day? Heritage has suffered badly over the past year, as have the heritage organisations, and yet they will—as I hope he will agree—have a great place in the celebrations themselves. Can he tell us what opportunities there will be for heritage organisations to make their mark on the jubilee? They are, after all, the foundations of our future as well as our past.

The noble Baroness is absolutely right. We want heritage organisations to play an important role in the jubilee celebrations, commemorating our past, celebrating the present and, indeed, safeguarding everything that is great about this country for the future. She is right too that Her Majesty the Queen’s address during the darker days this spring when the pandemic was new was such an important thing for so many of us across the country. As we grapple with the pandemic, it is nice that we have something to look forward to in 2022. We all hope for celebrations that are befitting of such an important occasion.

House adjourned at 5.32 pm.