Revealed! MPs plot against the Union flag

Sound the bugle, the Union flag may be coming down. MPs will this week seek to blow away centuries of tradition with an assault on the "outdated" rules on the flying of national flags from official buildings.

Sound the bugle, the Union flag may be coming down. MPs will this week seek to blow away centuries of tradition with an assault on the "outdated" rules on the flying of national flags from official buildings.

Minor royal birthdays and obscure parliamentary occasions should no longer qualify for the honour; instead the standard should be hoisted only to mark events of genuine national celebration or remembrance, they say.

Currently there are 19 days each year on which national flags should be hoisted, according to protocol experts in the Lord Chamberlain's office.

Tom Watson, Labour MP for West Bromwich East, says the list no longer reflects modern life and should be overhauled. A glance at the dates suggests he has a point.

While few would begrudge an outward show of national pride on Remembrance Day, those sent to raise the standard on 20 January each year might wonder whether the Countess of Wessex's birthday is really a cause for national rejoicing.

The Queen, as one might expect, has the flag flying most often; not only are both her birthdays honoured, the anniversaries of her coronation, accession and wedding are designated dates.

It would be wrong to suggest that the Royal Family is the only much-loved institution that the rules favour. The European Union and the Commonwealth are also accorded the honour.

"The whole thing has become a bit of a nonsense," Mr Watson said last night. "Symbols are important to a nation and it is dangerous if they become irrelevant."

Mr Watson is to table a Commons motion this week that calls for responsibility for the list of designated dates, currently shared between the Royal Household and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, to be handed to an independent commission.

Handing responsibility for the list of designated flag days to an independent body would raise the possibility of standards being hoisted for red-letter days in the sporting calendar and other events of popular culture.

The FA Cup final might become a candidate, although it is difficult to see all the nations and provinces of the UK uniting in demands to fly the flag for the England football team.

Mr Watson's proposal has drawn fire from royalists. Lord St John of

Fawsley said: "I would regret any reduction in the number of days that flags are flown. They brighten up public buildings and lift people's spirits."

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