All 1 Debates between Baroness Flather and Lord Watson of Invergowrie

Education: British Values

Debate between Baroness Flather and Lord Watson of Invergowrie
Thursday 26th June 2014

(9 years, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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My Lords, I fear that the attempts to define and perhaps codify British values will be as difficult, and ultimately as successful, as trying to nail jelly to a wall. If we are looking for a definition of values, it is important that it is inclusive and cohesive. I regret that the noble Lord, Lord Storey, did not seem to quite get the point that I was making earlier about the very title of this debate, which suggests that due consideration has not been given to the various constituent parts of what is currently the United Kingdom, and which I fervently hope will remain the United Kingdom on 19 September this year. I refer to the casual approach, which almost says that England is Britain and Britain is England, that antagonises a lot of people in other parts of the UK.

I will give an example that will perhaps seem rather trite to noble Lords: the World Cup. I am a Scot domiciled in England, married to an Englishwoman, with a son who is therefore half-English. I bear the English football team absolutely no ill will and indeed I hoped that they would do well in the World Cup. But then I sit down and watch the game. Just before the game, the players line up and what happens? I hear “God Save the Queen”. I am sorry, but “God Save the Queen” is not the national anthem of England. It is the national anthem of the UK—play it at a ceremony at the Olympic Games. But at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next month, English athletes, who will probably win more medals than anybody else, will have their medals put round their necks after “Land of Hope and Glory” has been played, not “God Save the Queen”. There is an English national anthem. Whatever the English people want as a national anthem is up to them but I am sorry, it is not “God Save the Queen”, and that shows that greater thought has to be given, in this example and indeed others, to the inclusivity of the United Kingdom if we are really going to put together British values.

Baroness Flather Portrait Baroness Flather
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I am very interested in the national anthem. I am not sure that it relates exactly to the values in schools. If Scotland wants its own national anthem to be played on Scottish occasions, it is for Scotland to work for that, but it is not about values. Values in schools concern all of us, not just this country or that country.

Lord Watson of Invergowrie Portrait Lord Watson of Invergowrie
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I always listen to the noble Baroness very carefully and I enjoyed her recent contribution but I am not talking particularly about schools. We are talking about British values; it does not relate just to what is or is not said in schools. The point I am making is that, if we are going to have British values, it has to be much wider than that.

In closing, I will comment about Magna Carta apparently being mentioned as the centrepiece of any attempt to put together British values. I think that is strange, not least because, to come back to my original point, Magna Carta was a very English—not British—document. I will simply quote from the commentator Owen Jones, who wrote very recently about Magna Carta, highlighting the fact that the values of many people in Britain are diverse, quite apart from whichever part of the country they originate from. Mr Jones said:

“Here was a charter imposed by powerful barons—hardly nascent democrats—on the weak King John to prevent him trampling on their rights: it didn't satisfy them, and they rose in revolt anyway. It meant diddly squat to average English subjects, most of whom were serfs”.

Yet this is on what we are proposing to base a discussion around fundamental British values. I end where I began: I think it will prove to be a fool’s errand.