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3 pm

Asked By Baroness Walmsley

5 Jan 2010 : Column 9

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, following an open competition, Kathleen Tattersall was appointed in April 2008 to chair interim Ofqual. We made it clear that she would be the first chief regulator following the passage of the relevant legislation and have repeatedly said that since. In June 2008, the Government announced that appointments of newcandidatesto various posts, including that of chief regulator, should be subject to pre-appointment hearings and thatexisting appointments, such as that of Kathleen Tattersall, would fall outside those arrangements.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am quite aware that the Secretary of State was not obliged to consult the Select Committee, but that is not the point. Does the Minister not recall how many times during the passage of the apprenticeships Bill only a few weeks ago she tried to reassure me of the Government's commitment to a really independent Ofqual? In the light of that, would it not have been consistent and demonstrated that commitment, let alone been wise and uncharacteristically gracious, if the Secretary of State had consulted the Select Committee before finally appointing the chair of Ofqual?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am not quite sure where to start with that question, but I will do my best. I would say that my Secretary of State, the right honourable Ed Balls, is incredibly gracious and characteristically so.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I wanted to cover that point as a starter. I say seriously on the point that the noble Baroness makes that I have looked carefully at this and asked officials to go through it in some detail to make sure that this is the case. Through the passage of the ASCL Bill, we were absolutely clear about the process for the appointment of the chief regulator and the chief executive of Ofqual. I am slightly bemused over how there could be such a misunderstanding about how the appointment of the chief regulator should be made. We made it clear when the interim chair was advertised, through the advertisement and the candidates' packs, as well as in quotes in the media, that once appointed as the interim chair the successful candidate-Kathleen Tattersall-would go on to become the chief regulator subject to the passing of the Bill. Also, the right honourable Jim Knight wrote to the chairman of the education Select Committee setting out how the process would work. I am slightly bemused as to how the misunderstanding has arisen, because we have been very clear.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, does the Minister not consider that Ms Tattersall might have welcomed the opportunity to answer questions from the Select Committee following her useful period as interim regulator and before confirmation of the appointment? Why was it thought right to deny her that opportunity?

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Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am sure that the chief regulator would welcome that. In her role as interim chair of interim Ofqual, I am sure she would have welcomed any invitation from the chairman of the Select Committee. There is absolutely no doubt about that, but it is not what we are talking about. We are talking about a proper, correct process that was independently monitored and scrutinised in the appropriate way by the Commissioner for Public Appointments. When you introduce a new policy, as I think was the case on 2 June 2008 when the Government announced the appointments that would be subject to pre-appointment process, there has to be a line. This appointment fell before that line, and so it has always been the case that Kathleen Tattersall would be, subject to the legislation creating Ofqual, appointed as the chief regulator. The Select Committee has the opportunity, whenever it wishes, to see Ofqual's chief regulator. I am sure that that will happen in due course.

Lord Rosser: My Lords, given that there were no pre-appointment hearings or consultation, how will Ofqual be held to account by Parliament? Are we to infer from what my noble friend has just said that it will be done by the Select Committee, or will there be any other way in which it will be held to account?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, Ofqual will report to Parliament, and the Select Committees for the Department for Children, Schools and Families and for BIS will have the opportunity to scrutinise its work.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that she misunderstood the Question that was put to her by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley? The noble Baroness did not ask for a reiteration of the history of the events; she asked why the Government did not consult Parliament.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: To be fair to the noble Lord, I think I have answered that Question. I am happy to say again that the reason is very clear. As the noble Lord is well aware, when you introduce a policy, there must be a line. This appointment fell before that point. We have been absolutely clear and consistent from day one in articulating our approach to the appointment of the chief regulator.

Arrangement of Business


3.07 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there will be three Statements today. With the leave of the House, my noble friend Lord Mandelson will now make a Statement on the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. At a convenient point after 4.30 pm, which is likely to be during Second Reading of the Child Poverty Bill, my noble friend Lord Adonis will repeat the Statement on aviation and border security. My noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath will then repeat the Statement on the Copenhagen climate change conference.

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Queen's Diamond Jubilee


3.08 pm

The First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council (Lord Mandelson): My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I would like to make a brief and important Statement about the Government's plans to mark Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

Two thousand and twelve will be a landmark year for Her Majesty, Britain and the Commonwealth. Queen Victoria is the only British monarch to have celebrated a Diamond Jubilee. However modestly our present Queen might approach this celebration, I know that people across the whole country will want the chance to recognise this remarkable achievement, paying tribute to the Queen and celebrating with great pride and affection Her Majesty's 60 years on the throne. It will also be an opportunity for us as a country to reflect on the incredible changes that have taken place, both here and around the world, over the past six decades. We want this to be a nationwide celebration. Working with colleagues in Buckingham Palace and the devolved Administrations, we are currently planning a series of fitting events to enable communities all over the country to mark the Diamond Jubilee. Although we are still in the early stages of organisation, I can confirm to the House that these celebrations will take place around the first week of June 2012.

In honour of Her Majesty, we will create a special Diamond Jubilee weekend, moving the late May bank holiday to Monday 4 June, and adding an extra bank holiday on Tuesday 5 June. In Scotland, national holidays are a devolved matter and we will work closely with the Scottish Government to help ensure that people across the United Kingdom can celebrate the jubilee together.

In keeping with previous jubilees, we also plan to issue a Diamond Jubilee medal. Over the next few months we will be considering this in more detail, and who should be eligible to receive it. In addition, we will be holding national competitions to be launched later this year for city status, a Lord Mayoralty and Lord Provostship. Further details of these and other government plans for the Diamond Jubilee are available in the Printed Paper Office as well as online, via the Department for Culture, Media and Sport's website (

Finally, I can confirm that the Queen has agreed, as a mark of royal favour, to confer royal borough status on the London Borough of Greenwich. This rare honour is to be bestowed in recognition of the historically close links forged between Greenwich and our royal family, from the Middle Ages to the present day, and the borough's global significance as the home of the Prime Meridian, Greenwich Mean Time and a UNESCO world heritage site.

Further announcements will follow as our plans for the Diamond Jubilee are confirmed, but I know that voluntary organisations and local communities will benefit from this early indication of the relevant dates. This will be a truly historic occasion and a testament

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to the hard work and dedication of Her Majesty the Queen to this country and her people. We are committed to ensuring that celebrations take place of which we can all truly be proud.

3.11 pm

Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I thank the First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and Lord President of the Council for the Statement. We very much welcome his announcement that Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee is to be recognised by an extra bank holiday.

This announcement follows the introduction of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Bill in another place by my colleague Andrew Rosindell on 10 November last. As a member of Her Majesty's Opposition and one who has held the position of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household, I agree entirely with the Minister's tribute to Her Majesty's remarkable achievements. Her Majesty has led this country and the Commonwealth unerringly through the many years of her reign. The United Kingdom and the world have changed enormously since she ascended the throne. Throughout it all, Her Majesty has been an example to us all.

The success of the Golden Jubilee in 2002 showed just how strongly the public feel about such an exemplary monarch. The outpouring of patriotism, respect and pride that we saw then owes nothing to any manufactured sentiment. It was not the result of a government focus group or a political campaign but a spontaneous expression of the pride and respect that citizens of this country feel about our society, heritage, institutions and, above all, our monarch. Despite the knocks that we have suffered in the past few years, the current state of the economy and the disillusionment with some of our institutions, this public pride in our country still stands firm. There is no doubt in my mind that the Diamond Jubilee will be the most popular and celebrated event.

I hope that the Minister will be able to give us a little more detail about exactly what plans are being considered by the Government, especially given the speculation over several possible schemes which appeared in the newspapers at the end of last month. In particular, can the Minister confirm that he is considering a new youth volunteer scheme? I strongly believe that encouraging the participation of young people in volunteer schemes is a wonderful idea. My party has for years called for greater support of voluntary bodies.

Volunteering benefits both society and the individual and often provides the glue that holds communities together. With youth unemployment at today's record levels and the rising number of young people not in education, employment or training, I hope that these celebrations will include events that will confirm the critical role that young people play in our society and the enormous potential they have to enrich local communities and the public sphere.

Will there be any acknowledgement of the Olympics during these celebrations? We recall that government sources indicated that there was an intention to link the two events in a single celebration, but there is no mention of that in the Statement. Does that mean that

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at last the Government appreciate that Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee is of sufficient moment itself to justify a very special celebration? What other plans are being considered for welcoming the Olympics to London?

I add my congratulations to the London Borough of Greenwich on its new status, and I welcome such an important historical area being honoured in this way. I also welcome the striking of a special medal to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, and I hope that on this occasion the long public service given by key parliamentary staff will be recognised. We look forward to the Minister's response.

3.17 pm

Lord McNally: My Lords, I assure the Lord President that in the midst of a cold, bleak winter he has today provided a little ray of sunshine in this Statement, in which the whole country will take pride. First, to get the matter out of the way, many congratulations to Greenwich. It was represented in Parliament by Gladstone, although, as Roy Jenkins points out in his biography of Gladstone, he never actually visited his constituency.

Interestingly, although the Commonwealth is mentioned in the Statement, there is no mention of consultation with Commonwealth heads of government. Given that the Queen has so often throughout her reign emphasised her pride in and her commitment to the Commonwealth, can we be assured that Commonwealth Governments will be involved in these preparations and celebrations? Taking on the theme of youth, it would be an excellent opportunity to set up a jubilee education fund for the Commonwealth that is associated with the Queen.

The Lord President is far too young, but I remember the 1953 coronation and the street parties and the mugs. We must have both street parties and mugs. My 1953 coronation mug has been lost, so I certainly want a 2012 jubilee mug, and I will be on the look-out for that. The other thing that I welcome is the competition for city status, so that Britain's premier seaside resort, Blackpool, can join Britain's number two seaside resort as a city.

The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords-

3.19 pm

Lord Mandelson: Noble Lords cannot hold me back indefinitely.

Out of all due respect to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, I shall respond to him first. I have never knowingly overlooked the Liberal Democrats, and I do not intend to start now, certainly not this year. He is right in saying that I do not remember the coronation in 1953, as that was the year in which I was born. I am, none the less, very happy to take ministerial responsibility for street parties. Perhaps I shall leave others to take responsibility for the mugs.

I should say to the noble Lord that this will be a celebration not just for all of us in Britain, but also for those across the Commonwealth. That is why I referred to the Commonwealth in my Statement and why we will be sure to involve Commonwealth representatives in the planning.

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I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for his very generous comments about Her Majesty the Queen. I am absolutely sure that all noble Peers will want to join him and me in paying tribute to Her Majesty's extraordinary reign, in which she has been as near perfect during every single moment of that reign as any member of the human race could be.

I remember past jubilees. I remember the 1977 Silver Jubilee very well. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and I were leading the British Youth Council at around that time, and worked very closely with the noble Lord, Lord McNally-that eminent political adviser to the then Prime Minister. In particular, I remember how various events and activities across the country brought people together in a national celebration, regardless of any differences that they might have had. The Golden Jubilee celebrations were similarly memorable, as, I am sure, the Diamond Jubilee will be.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, for once again suggesting the resurrection of some sort of youth volunteer scheme. I am sure that this will be among the ideas to be considered, but I can give no greater or further commitment than that. He asked about acknowledgment of the Olympics. I should stress that there will be no link between the Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics, although there will certainly be a great summer in the UK. It will start with the Diamond Jubilee and end some months later with the Olympics. Unlike my ministerial responsibility for the Diamond Jubilee, I have no further ministerial responsibility for the Olympics, so I am unable to answer his other questions about how we will welcome them. Contrary to impressions, I do not actually run everything, thank you very much, but I am sure that those who are responsible will be able to take up the point he made.

3.23 pm

The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, I apologise to the House for being premature earlier. I associate this Bench with all that has been said in appreciation of Her Majesty's service to this country and in anticipation of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. We in particular have reason to be grateful to her as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and to have valued her clear witness to her own Christian faith, while properly respecting and making space for those of all faiths and none within the citizenry of this country. As the Bishop of Leicester during the Golden Jubilee celebrations, I was able to witness at first hand how the communities-Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and all the world faiths-warmly responded in a united celebration by the whole city. I am sure that we all anticipate something at least as vivid and celebratory in the proposals that the Minister has brought to us.

Lord Mandelson: I thank the right reverend Prelate for his remarks and his welcome for my Statement. It is very important indeed that the way in which people come together to celebrate this event knows no boundaries right across our society. Across community, class, race or whatever, I am sure that people will want to come together and celebrate this Diamond Jubilee in a very fitting way.

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Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, I cannot speak on behalf of all the people of Wales-

Noble Lords: Oh, shame!

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: However, I shall speak for my friends here. Would it not be a great opportunity for St David's Day to be recognised as an official bank holiday in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee? Also, I noted that there was little mention of Parliament. How are we, as a Parliament, going to celebrate? Will it not be an opportunity to have some sort of link between Parliament and the monarchy-an historical pageant even? Perhaps the Minister will consider setting up a working group to see how we in Parliament can celebrate this occasion.

Lord Mandelson: My Lords, I am sure that those who might want to take up the noble Lord's idea of making St David's Day a bank holiday will have heard his suggestion. As for the role of Parliament in these celebrations, I am sure that both Houses will want to consider the most appropriate part that they can play and the contribution that they can make to the nation's celebrations.

Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, it is clear that a very large number of suggestions and ideas will have to be considered for this singular celebration, but will the noble Lord give whatever encouragement he can for the earliest possible consideration of tree-planting ceremonies throughout the country? Trees have played a considerable, significant and important role in the Royal Family, who have frequently been associated with such ceremonies in various parts of the country. It would be an admirable gesture if all parts of the country were to mark the occasion with the planting of trees suitable for this environment.

Lord Mandelson: My Lords, I personally have great sympathy for that suggestion because trees both beautify and purify the environment. I am sure that that will be among the suggestions that those responsible will want to pick up and consider.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, I have not read newspaper speculation on the possible ventures that might form the celebrations but, given that respect for the Queen extends not just throughout this country but beyond the Commonwealth throughout the whole world, and given the Queen's interest in the sport, I wonder whether we might suggest that a new classic horserace be introduced for the Diamond Jubilee. People right across the world would be interested in supporting that and, in turn, would support the British horseracing industry.

Lord Mandelson: My Lords, I knew that the moment I got up to make this Statement very interesting suggestions would come fast and furious. I am sure that creating a sort of European stakes would be appropriate and, knowing of the Queen's love of horseracing, I have absolutely no doubt that that great sport will play its own special role in the celebrations.

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