This is the text of a speech Sir George made in the House:
Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire) (Con): I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement, which was delivered earlier by the Business Secretary in another place.
This afternoon the House has heard two serious and sobering statements on terrorism and climate change, so we warmly welcome the good news in today's announcement that Her Majesty's diamond jubilee will be recognised by an extra bank holiday. Conservative Members give our full support to this proposal, as indeed we did to my hon. Friend the Member for Romford (Andrew Rosindell), who put forward the idea in a ten-minute Bill that had all-party support and was given its First Reading last November.
I join the Minister in paying tribute to the very remarkable achievements of Her Majesty during her extraordinary reign: extraordinary not just because of its length-she will be the second longest reigning monarch in British history-but because of the integrity and commitment she has brought to that role and the popular esteem in which she is held across the UK and beyond. No country could wish for a better Head of State.
The House will remember the mood that was expressed powerfully during the celebrations for the golden jubilee in 2002. Despite being told that it was to be a low-key affair, more than 1 million people flooded to the Mall to celebrate-a clear indication of the strength of the relationship between the monarch and her people. I also remember, as will many colleagues, the celebrations in 1977 for the silver jubilee and the way in which the nation united and rejoiced at that time.
The Minister made passing reference to the Commonwealth. Can he inform the House about exactly what arrangements have been made to ensure that the Commonwealth nations are properly represented during the celebrations? This is particularly relevant given the special importance that Her Majesty has placed on the Commonwealth and the great success that she has had in helping to build strong relations with Commonwealth Heads of State during her reign.
May we ask for more detail on some of the Government's other plans? In particular, can the Minister confirm that his Department is considering a new youth volunteer scheme, as has been suggested in some press reports? Can he confirm that any organised celebrations will include an important role for young people?
Will the Minister clarify whether arrangements have been made for acknowledging the Olympics during this event? The Government initially indicated that they wanted to link those two events in a single celebration. Can he now confirm, as we hope, that that idea has been permanently shelved?
May I add my congratulations to the London borough of Greenwich on its new auspicious status? It holds a special place in our nation's history, and it is right for it to be honoured in this way. We also welcome the creation of a new medal of service.
Finally, can we ensure that the House of Commons is part of the celebrations? I am sure that all Members across the House will wish to mark this important occasion, and I think that all colleagues would agree that it is right that the House should show its respect for Her Majesty and, indeed, for Prince Philip, and the tireless public service that they have offered this country for 60 years.