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12 Nov 2008 : Column 295WH—continued

Linking adult and children’s services and ensuring that information flows between them is a problem more generally. That is why, in a report published by the Cabinet Office earlier this year, we identified that the next big step in the progressive improvement of local services, particularly for children, was to ensure the integration of children’s services in social care, education, health and so on. The next important step is to ensure that professionals providing services locally think about families as a whole. Families do not split themselves up, saying, “Adults are here, children are there.” They live
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as families including adults and children. The need for a step change in the flow of information and joint work between adult and children’s services is therefore really important.

As a result of that report, my Department is funding 15 family pathfinders to develop and test the best way of implementing a “Think Family” approach to vulnerable families. They will identify some of the barriers to securing better information right across family services, and they will help with the early identification and intervention that is so important. Children of offenders, and specifically of prisoners, have been identified as a priority group for those pathfinders. They will consider what problems there are with information from the criminal justice system or adult services being passed to children’s services, so that the children thus affected can be identified. Effective multi-agency teams working with a family will be based around a key worker, who can co-ordinate and communicate with the various services involved, whether for adults or for children.

The “Think Family” system change is required at all levels of local services, not just in identification and intervention, but in planning and commissioning. That perspective must suffuse service provision. A lot has been done through the children’s trusts to achieve joining up, but moving to a system with really close integration between adult and children’s services is also very important. That is why, building on the “Think Family” pathfinders, the youth crime action plan included a commitment to fund every local authority by 2011 to set up a crime prevention family intervention project alongside the “Think Family” reforms.

My hon. Friend rightly identified some of the excellent work in Sure Start children’s centres, where under-fives whose parents are in prison can be identified. The work going on there is important. It is often practical, for instance in helping families to make arrangements in preparation for a parent serving a sentence and to book visits and keep contact going. Of course, because of the work of the children’s centres, it also involves identifying the vulnerabilities of the infants and under-fives in families affected. I think that she mentioned the work done by the Fortune Park children’s centre, through its link with Holloway, in running classes there and so on.

I listened carefully to what my hon. Friend said about the initiatives that she would like in the criminal justice system: a much more routine and automatic flow of information into children’s services when a parent is imprisoned or held in custody, and an assessment at an appropriate time of the implications for the children. I will take it upon myself to ensure that I work with my colleagues in the Ministry of Justice to take that forward. I shall do so immediately today, by writing to them.

My hon. Friend has raised an extremely important issue, and I will take it forward. I look forward to talking further to her about it. I am aware that she has been selected to ask a question on the Floor of the House at 11.30 am, and she has asked me to finish a little early. Otherwise I would have said more, but I hope that you will allow me to conclude now, Mrs. Dean.

11.25 am

Sitting suspended.

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British Day

Mrs. Janet Dean (in the Chair): I am informed that there may be a Division shortly, so we may have to suspend the sitting.

2.30 pm

Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): I am pleased to lead this afternoon’s debate on proposals for a British day. If I may say so, the debate is not before time. Almost every nation, country, territory and, indeed, people throughout the world is proud to celebrate its identity by establishing a special day of celebration, so why not the people who inhabit these great British islands? The idea of a day set aside for a celebration of Britain merits serious consideration and now is the right time to have this discussion.

If we were to establish such an occasion, 2012 would be the right time to do so, being the year of the diamond jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen. What a perfect year that would be to launch a British day. Let us have the debate; let us consider all the options, so that all British people can celebrate their identity with pride.

Much as I am a strong advocate of a British day celebration, I do not claim that the idea is mine alone. The Minister for the Cabinet Office stated:

and that it should be a

In addition, the Prime Minister himself stated, while he was serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer in January 2006, that we need

He argued in favour of having a national day, asking:

In 2007, the then Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, the right hon. Member for Bolton, West (Ruth Kelly), argued in favour of a British day, stating:

Furthermore, it was a key recommendation of the citizenship review commissioned earlier this year by the Prime Minister, under the former Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith. As recently as this year, the Prime Minister further encouraged these ideas, saying a national day would be

2.33 pm

Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.

2.50 pm

On resuming

Andrew Rosindell: Those words caught the imagination of much of the population and even television programmes dedicated hours to the concept. GMTV launched a week-long debate about a national day, the results of which were overwhelmingly positive. However, I am sad
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to say that the sentiment appears already to have been forgotten and carelessly cast aside by the Government. When I asked a question about the possibility of a national day for Britain, the answer I received was far from satisfactory. The Minister stated, disappointingly,

That was hurriedly corrected by the Government, who stated that that was not what they meant and that plans had merely not yet come to fruition. We shall have to see.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Mr. Michael Wills): Just to correct this point for the record, my written answer to the hon. Gentleman said exactly what has subsequently been said. There was no correction. If the hon. Gentleman reads what he has just said in the Hansard report of these proceedings, he will see that the two comments that he has mentioned are completely compatible; there is no contradiction between the two. There was no subsequent correction of that answer. That remains the exactly the position.

Andrew Rosindell: That is probably even more disappointing. There is no attempt to come back to the original idea that has so much support in our country. We will see what the Government’s intentions finally are.

Daniel Kawczynski (Shrewsbury and Atcham) (Con): I represent the border constituency of Shrewsbury; my seat ends on the Welsh-English border. Since devolution, the Welsh Assembly is increasingly starting to introduce very different laws and legislation. My hon. Friend’s proposals for a British day would help us, on both sides of the border, to remember that, no matter what administrative differences we may have, we are all still one people and will be so for ever.

Andrew Rosindell: Indeed. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that important point. Under devolution, we have different administrative authorities, which makes it even more important that we celebrate our Britishness and do not allow the devolved Parliaments and Assemblies to downgrade the importance of being British. Representing a border constituency between Wales and England, my hon. Friend will know that it is even more important that we rekindle and focus on things that unite us and keep the British idea alive.

Sadly, it looks as though proposals for a national day have gone the same way as many other policies proposed by the Government; it has been quietly dropped into the quagmire. It seems that this proposal has fallen victim to Government procrastination and indecision. It would be fruitless to waste any more of the valuable time of hon. Members dissecting the Government’s lacklustre attitude towards this issue. I hope that we shall be reassured by the Minister at the end of the debate. Let us focus instead on what could be done if the political will allowed it.

What lies at the heart of the discussion is what it means to be British. We must examine what opportunities there are for all of us to celebrate a national day, as so many other countries do. We should begin by examining what happens in countries that share a similar culture and history. The obvious examples are New Zealand,
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which celebrates Waitangi day on 6 February, Australia, which celebrates Australia day on 26 January, and Canada, which proudly celebrates Canada day on 1 July every year.

Any celebration that we choose to adopt would naturally focus on everything that makes our country and the British people special and unique, recognising all that binds our people together by cherishing our history and traditions, our culture and way of life, our monarchy, royal family and constitution, our democracy and love of freedom and our natural tolerance and generosity.

A national day should be much broader than a celebration of only the United Kingdom. Instead, it must be an all-encompassing occasion for every person of British origin or ancestry, not only here in these islands but elsewhere in the world.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): According to the British social attitudes survey only 3 per cent. of Scots now say that they are British and some 80 per cent. define themselves exclusively, or almost totally, as Scottish. If it became clear and apparent that Scotland wanted nothing to do with this British day, would the hon. Gentleman and his party just foist it on the people of Scotland?

Andrew Rosindell: I will come to that issue a little later on. I do not accept for a moment that the vast majority of people in Scotland want nothing to do with being British. People in Scotland are proud of being Scottish, and rightly so, as I am proud to be English. We have a dual identity. It is right that people in Scotland should celebrate being Scottish and celebrate St. Andrew’s day, as we do St. George’s day, but we are all British. We carry a British passport. Scots, English, Welsh and Northern Ireland citizens serve in Her Majesty’s armed forces. We have the same flag. We speak the same language, and our culture and our history are tied together. Anything that undermines that would be catastrophic for all British peoples.

We must include the whole of the United Kingdom, and we must consider our overseas territories and Crown dependencies, because they too are British. We must consider people in communities across the world that have been built by people from England, Scotland, Ireland—both north and south—and Wales who sailed the oceans to build new countries and whose descendents are, today, still immensely proud to call Britain the mother country. Such an occasion would also give expatriate communities and our armed services stationed abroad a focal point for celebrating their British identity in whatever corner of the globe they may be. We are a nation that loves to celebrate. The British people have so much to be proud of, especially our rich heritage and historical achievements.

Patriotism is a good thing. I am sure that we all remember that, in 2002, huge crowds turned out to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen’s golden jubilee and took part in the street parties and special events across the length and breadth of our nation and overseas. What a great occasion that was and how it lifted our spirits! I also remember that we were told in the run-up to the golden jubilee that it would be a flop and that people would not join in the celebration. However, as
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the Minister will recall, when the great day arrived, the crowds were there and the genuine jubilation was palpable for all to see and enjoy, including in Scotland.

The same can be said of the recent celebrations over the Ashes victory and the Olympic parades of this summer. Such sporting spectacles are a prime opportunity to observe the pride and patriotism that the British public possess in abundance. If further evidence were required, one need look no further than the annual fortnight of tennis mania that descends on our nation during the Wimbledon tennis championships every summer. Clearly, our people have a lot of passion for their country, and sporting events are often a vehicle for demonstrating that passion.

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North) (DUP): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. I am glad that he included the whole United Kingdom. He will be aware that the term “British” includes English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish subjects, but he mentioned a Britain day, and Britain includes only England, Scotland and Wales. It is important to ensure at all times that Northern Ireland is included in any proposal, and I am sure that that is his intention.

Andrew Rosindell: I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman made that point. He is 100 per cent. correct, and that is the point of what I am saying. I am not talking about a United Kingdom day, because I want it to be a day that celebrates all things British. He is correct in saying that Britain is England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland is not part of Britain, but it is part of the United Kingdom.

I have referred to the overseas territories and Crown dependencies, which are also British, but not constitutionally part of the United Kingdom. We should have a broader celebration for British people, whoever they are, wherever they are and whatever their ancestry, provided that they have links with Britain. It should be an all-encompassing celebration, and I would certainly ensure that it included the wonderful people of Northern Ireland who have been so loyal to Britain and the Crown over many centuries. They should certainly be included in any British celebration.

I referred to sporting events, and who could not feel proud of our country’s achievements when our victorious Great Britain Olympic team paraded through the streets of our capital, draped in the Union Jack and decked out in red, white and blue? Sport is only one area in which people’s respect for their country can be observed. An example of a more sombre and reflective occasion is Remembrance day, which is rightly held in great regard by all British people. One need only look at the success of the Royal British Legion’s poppy appeal to understand exactly how much people respect our history and those who put their lives on the line to defend our way of life. Only yesterday, when I and many hon. Members were standing close by the Cenotaph in Whitehall at 11 o’clock, I could not help being moved by the sight of the large crowds who had come to pay their respects to those who laid down their lives for Queen or King and country.

Clearly, we are a people who are justifiably happy to celebrate our nationhood, and I doubt whether it will surprise hon. Members that we are not alone in that.
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The sentiments of pride and patriotism that people in this country have are echoed around the globe. Almost every country in the world has a day set aside to allow its people to celebrate its own unique culture, history and traditions. This week alone marks the national days of countries as diverse as Angola, Cambodia, Burma and northern Cyprus. Last week, there were celebrations in Dominica, Micronesia and Panama, and there are national days next week in Latvia, Monaco and Oman. Everyone has a special day set aside to celebrate their national identity, except the people of Britain. The people of all nations have a desire to celebrate their identity, and we, too, deserve to be given the opportunity to display our pride in who we are and what British values truly represent.

I want to ensure that the purpose of my argument is not misunderstood. I am not proposing a new public holiday, a day off work or anything in that vein. That is a secondary discussion, which may take place, but not today. I am raising the principle of a British day of celebration, and I hope to spark a debate on the subject, eventually leading to a decision by the Government. The concept, whatever form it takes, should be a fluid and organic process. It should evolve from the grass roots, where individuals, families, organisations, schools, Churches and faith groups, clubs and communities come together to celebrate those things that they consider most important to them and central to their Britishness. After all, one of the best things about being British is our richly diverse people. Britishness should not be redesigned or relaunched by Whitehall or the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, or any other Department, but should be something that lives in all our hearts.

For people from the Shetland islands to the Isles of Scilly, Anglesey to Ayrshire, Dundee to Devon, Swansea to Southampton, Londonderry to Lincolnshire, Yorkshire to Yeovil, in each and every one of our historic counties and cities, and in all our territories across the seas from the Isle of Man to the Channel Islands, and from the Falkland Islands to Gibraltar, Montserrat to St. Helena, Pitcairn to Bermuda, as well as in lands far away where people can proudly trace their British ancestry, such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the islands of the Caribbean, parts of Africa, India and Hong Kong, and very far away places such as Norfolk Island, where people have a deep-rooted link to Britain and still sing “God Save the Queen”, even today, and not forgetting communities of Brits who live, work and serve in lands far and wide, this will be an opportunity to join in celebrating all that is British. It should be not simply a United Kingdom day, but a day for all those who identify themselves as British and want to acknowledge and celebrate their treasured identity.

What could be the focal point of this celebration of our Britishness? The concept should stay with us throughout the year, but a good time to celebrate would be around the weekend of Her Majesty’s the Queen’s official birthday in the middle of June. The Sunday following the trooping the colour ceremony could be named Britannia day, with a national service of thanksgiving held in a different city every year and with churches holding similar special services throughout the country and elsewhere around the world where British communities and those of British descent live and work.

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