Wednesday, 3 October 2012
Run it up the flagpole!
It’s good to know that the Secretary of State has got his eye firmly on the ball, and that he will leave no stone unturned in his unremitting efforts to restore Britain’s ailing economy.
The whole world will therefore stand back in wonder and amazement at the latest announcement from De-CLoG, confirming the relaxation of the Advertisement Control Regulations to allow more flags to be flown in future. These changes have, of course, been announced on at least two previous occasions. (Ministers love to make announcements; it makes it look as though they are actually doing something, and so it is not unusual for new initiatives, even of the most trivial nature, to be announced at least twice and sometimes on three or four separate occasions.)
I could not have invented Uncle Eric’s words even in my wildest flight of satirical fancy. He is reported as having said of this dynamic and decisive ministerial action: “Flags unite communities across colour, creed and class, so I am cutting municipal red tape to make it easier to fly Britain's varied and diverse flags without state interference. I've been celebrating this sense of patriotic pride by flying a range of flags outside my Department in recent months and look forward to seeing more flags flying around the country with the relaxation of these rules." [Memo to Westminster City Council – This was before the law changed, so Pickles was committing a criminal offence. Prosecute the man, I say!]
So even though the Olympic Games are now behind us, we can keep the warm afterglow going by putting out the flags, by courtesy of the greatest of our Secretaries of State.
As for the details, you can start flying the extra flags on 12 October. The new rules are set out in the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 (S.I. 2012 No.2372). There are, of course, various conditions and limitations – after all, the bureaucrats must have something left for them still to do. So don’t run away with the idea that you can now fly any old flag wherever you like.
Class H of Schedule 1 (adverts that are exempt from control altogether) has been slightly, but not dramatically, widened. The previous version of the Regulations allowed the flag of any saint to be flown. Now, following these changes, this is confined to the flags of St David and St Patrick. Obviously the flags of St George and St Andrew are also included, as national flags, but what about the flag of St Paul (frequently flown by churches within the Diocese of London), for example, or the flags of other saints denoting various Church of England dioceses. Would these count as ‘the flag of any parish’? I am not sure that they would, unless they happen also to be the flag of one of the other administrative areas listed in this class. Diocesan flags don’t seem to feature in this list as such. So, enforcement officers – be alert! And be prepared to prosecute any vicar who has the effrontery to fly the flag of an unauthorised saint, in breach of the law.
Class 7 in Schedule 3 (adverts which have deemed consent) is also enlarged, but again only slightly. The main change here is the ability to fly flags other than from a flagpole on the roof of a building. And, yes - as promised, you can fly it at any angle you like (even suspended upside down!), provided it is not in a conservation area, AONB, National Park or area of special advertisement control.
If you want more details, you will have to look it all up for yourselves. The main point is that the rules controlling flag-flying have been relaxed only slightly and that they are still hedged around with various ifs and buts.
After all this exhausting effort to change the rules on flying flags, the Secretary of State can now take a well-earned rest, secure in the knowledge that he has done his bit for Britain on behalf of our wonderful and much-loved coalition government.
© MARTIN H GOODALL