Previous Section Index Home Page

24 Mar 2010 : Column 131WH—continued

24 Mar 2010 : Column 132WH

Mr. Pelling: I feel especially honoured that the hon. Gentleman has spared the time to attend this debate, particularly bearing in mind his prominent role in emphasising the importance of our nation's continuing to celebrate its links with the overseas territories. It was very notable how the original festival of Britain emphasised our link with overseas nations, the Commonwealth and the remaining empire. It strikes me that it would be entirely within that tradition to do so again. It is a great loss that we should no longer celebrate either those links or our sense of responsibility to those nations. We all pay credit to the hon. Member for Romford for the way in which he has so successfully flown those 16 flags over the duration of this Parliament.

In any exhibition, it should be possible to promote the advances in aerospace, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and green technology. Perhaps there could be a Science museum exhibition to highlight recent British inventions and discoveries. We could extend the London Open House and Open Garden Squares weekend programmes to the rest of the country, as well as promote paintings by British artists at metropolitan and provincial galleries. Moreover, we could have festivals of film and theatre, featuring British writers, actors, producers and directors. After all, one of the best ways in which to promote the success and diversity of the British economy is through the media.

How wonderful it would be if such an enterprise culminated in Andy Murray's winning Wimbledon, England's winning the European football championship and the British team's winning an unprecedented number of medals at the Olympics, which would be opened by the Queen in her diamond jubilee year.

4.45 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (Ian Lucas): It is a pleasure to appear before you, Mrs. Dean, and to hear the hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Pelling) talk about his vision of sunlit uplands in 2012, which I, too, very much wish to see. Let us hope though that 2012 will be the third time that Andy Murray wins Wimbledon.

I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman has raised this very important subject for debate, and I am also delighted to welcome the hon. Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), who has a long and proud record of support in this area. We have heard a number of interesting ideas and contributions. I look forward to seeing the facsimile record waved by the hon. Member for Croydon, Central during the debate. For more detail, I shall have to read about the festival of Britain during the summer, when I have a bit more time.

I am aware that the subject is a matter of interest not just to the hon. Gentlemen but to many people across the United Kingdom and Commonwealth. My noble Friend the First Secretary of State and I have received many letters on the matter. The way in which the Commonwealth and the dependent territories are referred to in the debate is extremely important, and I certainly wish to see them fully involved in the celebrations that happen in 2012.

Let me bring the hon. Gentleman up to date. On 5 January, I made a statement to the House announcing a special diamond jubilee weekend. The late May bank holiday will be moved to Monday 4 June and an extra
24 Mar 2010 : Column 133WH
bank holiday will be added on Tuesday 5 June. A diamond jubilee medal will be issued and there will be a competition for city status. Although it is still early days, I am now pleased to be able to report that the First Minister of Scotland has confirmed that there will also be a four-day weekend in Scotland, which means that people from across the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth will be able to celebrate the jubilee together.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the possibility of staging a year-long festival of Britain. He knows already of my great interest in that event and the context in which it took place in 1951. It is a very attractive idea, especially given the success of the 1951 festival, which so lifted the spirits of the nation after such a difficult time of rationing. Although the crisis then was of a slightly different nature and scale to the one we are encountering now, it is still important that we have a positive picture of Britain-not just for the outside world but for Britain itself.

Although it is still early days, as I said, we are already planning certain events. Given that the jubilee is only two years away, it may be too late to develop a completely new year-long festival. Moreover, 2012 may already be rather full of major events. We have the diamond jubilee and the Olympic and Paralympic games, which open in London less than two months after the diamond jubilee celebrations. However, the hon. Gentleman will be delighted to know that we already have plans for the cultural Olympiad to reach an exciting climax in 2012. Festival 2012 will mark the finale of the cultural Olympiad and it will run from 21 June to 9 September 2012. It will be preceded by a series of "festival trailblazers" at the start of 2012. At the heart of the festival will be a programme of new commissions by the best artists and creative talent in the world. The festival will be a wide-ranging series of events covering pop, film, fashion, theatre, opera and digital innovation. By the end of 2010, the main elements of the 2012 programme should be in place. In addition, I can also report that Buckingham palace itself is currently developing some exciting plans for the jubilee weekend.

The Victoria and Albert Museum is planning a wonderful Cecil Beaton photography exhibition that will celebrate the Queen's reign. That exhibition is likely to open in Scotland before coming to London early in 2012. It is anticipated that the exhibition will then travel to other museums and venues throughout the United Kingdom and other countries.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned a number of cultural events in connection with the festival of Britain idea that he has proposed. We perhaps need to think more carefully about how to co-ordinate events during the celebrations in 2012. Although we need to recognise that all these events will be happening and that the diamond jubilee will occur very near to the Olympics, it is important that we celebrate the diamond jubilee separately from the Olympics, because a diamond jubilee is such a momentous occasion.

It will be only the second time in our history that a monarch has celebrated a diamond jubilee. The respect in which Her Majesty is held within our nation and across the world is so profound that the jubilee will be an opportunity to ensure that that respect is conveyed, so I would hate to think that the diamond jubilee would be overshadowed in any respect, even by an event as
24 Mar 2010 : Column 134WH
massive as the Olympic games. We have therefore to think quite carefully about how we approach the various events occurring in what will be an extremely exciting year.

The Big Lottery Fund is considering how it might support community-led activities to mark the Queen's diamond jubilee. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the street parties in 1977, which I am sure we all remember, and I am certain that such parties will happen in 2012. It does not matter what I say or what anyone else says; I think that people will organise such parties off their own bat. As the hon. Members for Croydon, Central and for Romford may be aware, the Awards for All programme, which was funded by the lottery, made a significant contribution to the success of the golden jubilee celebrations in 2002.

We are receiving lots of ideas and suggestions all the time; there is no shortage of ideas coming through, not least from the hon. Member for Croydon, Central. There is a proposal for a diamond jubilee horse race, which is very appropriate given the Queen's long-standing interest in horse racing, and that idea is currently being developed by the horse racing industry. The Government also hope that communities will come together and find their own ways to look back and remember the past 60 years, as well as to celebrate the Queen's many interests and achievements.

I was very taken by the hon. Gentleman's reference to monuments across the country. He is absolutely right to say that many of the monuments to Queen Victoria in our communities emanated from her diamond jubilee in 1897. It would be good for communities to think now about organising themselves in that regard, because it is sometimes quite difficult to realise that the next two years will pass very quickly.

Many of these ideas to celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee will be completely independent of Government and, of course, that is how it should be. The diamond jubilee is not in any way a political event. We want to create the right environment for the jubilee celebrations to take place, and I am sure that we will proceed on a cross-party basis.

As the hon. Members know, there will be a diamond jubilee medal and a competition for a new city. I am not yet in a position to give more details about the criteria and eligibility for the medal or about the competition for city status. However, I can reassure the hon. Members that work is under way on both projects, drawing on the precedent set by the golden jubilee in 2002 and the lessons that we learned then. I am well aware of the strength of feeling about eligibility for the medals, and we will bear that in mind when we reach our decisions.

The diamond jubilee will be an ideal opportunity to celebrate science and innovation in the United Kingdom and I am sure that will be reflected in the events that take place in 2012. Recently, I attended an excellent exhibition in Manchester called "The Big Bang", which aimed to encourage an interest in engineering and science among schoolchildren and young people. I was privileged to meet schoolchildren and young people, of ages ranging up to 18, who had completed fantastic science and innovation projects.

I do not think that such projects come to the attention of the general public enough. The type of interest that the diamond jubilee celebrations in 2012 will foster will
24 Mar 2010 : Column 135WH
provide a platform for us to celebrate all that is great about the United Kingdom, our culture, our science and our innovation. The diamond jubilee should certainly be an opportunity both to reflect on the past 60 years and to think about the future. I am sure that Her Majesty would wish to see it celebrated in that way. It will be a huge opportunity for us to present the United Kingdom in a way that will be to the long-term benefit of the country.

Andrew Rosindell: I am delighted that the Minister has said that the Olympics should not drown out the diamond jubilee. It is very important that we ensure that the two events are separate. I think that the historic significance of Her Majesty's 60th jubilee means that it should be the most prominent event of the year, although we will also celebrate the Olympics.

May I also commend the Minister for what he has just said about schools? Can he assure the House that schools will have a vital role to play in celebrating the diamond jubilee and in teaching young people about the importance of the monarchy and the role that the Queen has played in creating stability and unity within our nation?

Ian Lucas: The hon. Gentleman is very aware that we share an interest in constitutional history and in the genius of the British constitution. Of course, the monarch plays a massive part in the success of the British constitution. It is very important that we communicate, especially to young people, what a special governmental set-up we have within the United Kingdom.

One of the reasons for Her Majesty's success is the way that she has been able to maintain respect for the
24 Mar 2010 : Column 136WH
monarchy in a time of massive change. The hon. Member for Croydon, Central referred to a description of Heathrow airport from 1951, which showed that the changes in the past 60 years have been enormous. There are ideas around now that could not have been contemplated when Her Majesty came to the throne, yet the respect that she is held in now has been maintained throughout that period of change. It is crucial that we stress her importance in that regard.

Mr. Pelling: The Minister is quite right to conclude this debate by returning to Her Majesty herself. The past 60 years have been a time of great change, including in social attitudes. The Queen has been the focus of attention in times of national celebration, but she has also been a source of counsel in times of crisis for the nation.

Ian Lucas: Indeed. The Queen fulfils an extraordinary and demanding role, but the respect that she is held in shows how well she has performed that singular role in the past 60 years. The diamond jubilee will be a tremendous opportunity to say thank you to her for the service that she has given.

I know that the hon. Members who have spoken in this debate will continue to contribute their ideas as we approach 2012. I greatly welcome their continuing interest. We will take on board what they have to say, discuss it further with them and see how the matter is resolved as we come to 2012.

Question put and agreed to.

5 pm

Sitting adjourned.

    Index Home Page