MS-6 New Policy for Flying the British Flag

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Will Croft
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MS-6 New Policy for Flying the British Flag

Post by Will Croft »

MS- 6: Mandating the Flying of the British Flag Over Government Buildings and Schools

Issue: For too long, the United Kingdom's national identity has been undermined and and maligned by forces in and outside of the country. Our sense of national character, pride, and confidence has been undermined by successive generations of politicians and bureaucrats who have suggested that the British people are perhaps to boastful or too prideful in our heritage. This Government, of course, could not disagree more. The United Kingdom is the greatest country in the world, our impact for good across the globe is undeniable, and the values we represent inherently tied progress. Having pride in one's nation, in one's community, and in one's fellow citizen is an inherently British trait. The Government wants to amplify that trait, and to support projects that enhance and celebrate British heritage and history. One excellent example of that is our flag, a unifying symbol of The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Intervention and Implementation: The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has released new guidance mandating that the British flag, commonly known as the Union Jack, be flown every single day at all government buildings, at all levels of governing authority, across the whole of the United Kingdom. Buildings that have a singular flag poll will be obligated to use that poll for the express purpose of flying the British flag, other than on days in which the flag poll is being used for a flag involved in a commemorative day or national holiday. Governing authorities operating buildings with a singular flag poll will be able to petition the Government for funding to erect additional flag polls in the event that the authorities would like to fly multiple flags, but do not currently possess the capacity to do so. Additionally, the previous guidance allowing the flag of the European Union to be flown without first receiving planning permissions is hereby abolished.

All state-run schools in England and Wales will be required to fly the British flag, in addition to the English flag in England and the Welsh flag in Wales. Respecting the authority of the devolved governments of Scotland and Northern Ireland, the Government's guidance mandating the flying of the British flag on all schools will not be extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Government will, however, make provisions to provide every school in Scotland and Norther Ireland with both a British flag and their respective national flag in the event that they choose to fly them. The Government encourages all local authorities in Northern Ireland and Scotland to do so.

Funding: The Government will be allocating £750,000 to fund the procurement, manufacturing, and installation of these flags in all Government buildings and, where applicable, schools.
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Re: MS-6 New Policy for Flying the British Flag

Post by Will Croft »

Mr. Speaker,

This Ministerial Statement speaks for itself, so I will be very brief. The British flag is an age old, enduring symbol of the promise of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is a unifying symbol that ties our great nation together, reflects our storied past, and serves as a reminder of our exciting and prosperous future. It should be celebrated, revered, and recognized as a symbol of national pride for all people lucky enough to call themselves British. This Government is proud of our country and its people, and we are proud of this decision to fly the Union Jack outside every Government building and school across the United Kingdom.
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Re: MS-6 New Policy for Flying the British Flag

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Addendum: the policy applies to all schools that receive Government funding.
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Re: MS-6 New Policy for Flying the British Flag

Post by Emily Greenwood »

Mr Speaker,

I am grateful to the Prime Minister for the brevity of his remarks. I hope the House will indulge me if I take a while longer to reflect on our national flag and what it stands for. To me, the Union Jack is a symbol of what Britain is at its deepest: a union of nations, united by the island home we share, brought together from the bottom up. A strong spirit of community and celebration of our differences, a love of freedom - it ranks alongside a spirit of fair play, compassion and decency to make this nation great. I hope the House will permit me that, as a teacher, I reflect mainly on the importance of teaching our children what the flag means and what it stands for. Flying it on our government buildings and school may seem small, but it is a consequential teaching moment that I, in principle, welcome.

Allow me, for a moment, to reflect on what the Union Jack stands for. The House will no doubt be well-aware that it is not, in fact, an original design. Rather, like Britain, it is a composite that is more than the sum of its parts. In fact, it started its life as a composite of St. George’s Cross and St. Andrew’s Cross, and got its final form when St. Patrick’s Cross was added. It represents that Britishness is a union of the values and cultures of its constituent nations. That we are diverse in all the corners of our island home, and that our differences add up to more than the sum of our parts.

That is why, today, I want to break a lance for the constituent parts of the Union Jack, and of our United Kingdom - as well as for the Red Dragon of Wales, which somehow never made the flag. By its implicit insistence that it be flown on all government buildings, whether devolved or not, and all schools in England and Wales, the government seems to be implying that it is not sufficiently patriotic to fly the saltire, or St. George’s Cross, or the Red Dragon. They are, in effect, surrendering the national symbols that together constitute our Union Flag to those who would see them ripped off that banner. As a unionist, I feel this is a mistake. Already, we are seeing that those rallying to the national colours the strongest are the nationalists that seek independence, denying them to those that seek to fly them as a symbol that they are proud to be British precisely because they are English, Welsh, Scottish or Northern Irish.

I would strongly urge the Prime Minister to give the English, the Welsh, the Scots and the Northern Irish their flags back on their government buildings if they so choose, and resist turning them into relics to be flown only on their saints’ days. Our national identities are a proud part of what it means to be British - for me, my heritage in Cumbria and my Englishness feeds into my Britishness. It is not antithetical to patriotism - it is part and parcel of it. And so should the choice to fly the flags of the nations of this United Kingdom rather than the Union Jack if desired, not be made into an act of defiance of our common identity, but an expression of its deep roots in that diverse family of nations.

But beyond that deep level of identity, there is more in this order that is problematic, and I wish the Prime Minister had not been so brief, because there are parts that do not indeed speak for themselves. For one, where did the government get the power to dictate to schools in Wales how they should act? However praiseworthy its intentions, I find it puzzling that in their execution the government has chosen to flat-out ignore the Government of Wales Act, which clearly devolves Education and School in Wales to the Welsh Assembly. It has not got the power and the competence to do what it sets out to do. And it seems odd that in a statement intended to celebrate our national values, that quintessentially British value that is the rule of law is being ignored in this way by a Prime Minister who so likes to refer to it.

Even more worrying than the tendency to flat-out ignore devolution which is even now threatening to embolden those that seek to tear our union apart is the outright ignorance of the situation in Northern Ireland. I have said elsewhere that with one tweet, the Prime Minister has damaged two peace processes. One of these may be far away, but the other is uncomfortably close to home. The Union Jack has not flown over Stormont except on designated days since it housed the Northern Irish Parliament, Mr Speaker! Does the Prime Minister even realise why that is? Does he realise that there are those in Northern Ireland who will not welcome seeing it over their deliberative assembly, who might not even welcome it had it been St. Patrick’s Cross flying there? Who have taken up arms against their neighbours in the decades earlier because they do not feel British at all? What does he think it will do to see the Union Jack flying not just over Stormont, but over the city hall of Derry/Londonderry, a place so tied up with the history of sectarian violence that I’d incense republicans if I’d call it one name and unionists if I call it another?

Ordering the Union Jack to fly over all government buildings in Northern Ireland is not just misguided, but short-sighted and outright dangerous. The Prime Minister is playing with fire, and he should withdraw that part of the order. And I would appreciate it, Mr Speaker, if he were to enlighten the House as to what on earth he was thinking when he thought it would be a good idea for this order to extend to all of the United Kingdom.

That having been said, I welcome the increased attention the values for which the Union Jack stands are being given, and I can support flying the Union Jack as well as our national flags more. Not because of the mere fact of it being our national flag alone, but for how well it represents our nation: that we are a union of four proud nations, each with our own culture and heritage, brought together by our shared island home and the values it has bred in us: an appreciation of diversity, of freedom, of fair play and of decency. And in that spirit, for all my reservations about specifics of the order, and ultimately about the misplaced brevity of thought as well as explanation on the other side of the House, I commend it to the House.
the Rt Hon. Emily Greenwood MP
Leader of Her Majesty's Most Loyal Opposition and Leader of the Labour Party (2019-present)
MP for Workington (2010-present)
Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2017-2019)

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