Tory minister: Embassies don’t need to fly Pride flags because ‘the Union flag represents all rights’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

A Tory minister has addressed the row over British embassies being prevented from flying the Pride flag – claiming that the Union flag “represents the human rights of all”.

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond came under fire earlier this year, over a memo to British embassies ahead of Pride month, reminding them of existing policy that blocks any flag other than the Union Flag being flown.

In 2008 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the decision to fly Pride flags could be “taken up by each embassy” – but a universal flag policy was later re-enforced.

Speaking in the House of Lords, the Minister of State for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Anelay of St Johns, spoke about the controversy.

She said: “The issue is not that we have anything against the rainbow flag; it is simply a matter that UK diplomatic missions around the world fly the union flag, national flag and the flags of the British Overseas Territories.

“We do not fly the Commonwealth flag either. We are a member of many organisations and associations such as NATO and we do not fly their flags. We don’t fly other people’s flags, other organisations’ flags. What we do is to reflect the whole nation.

“Having reflected on the way that we represent human rights, let me say that the union flag represents the human rights of all. I recognise that when our ambassadors and high commissioners join in the pride marches, what they do – and I have seen what they do – is to drape the rainbow flag over the floats, including over the UK float.

“But flying the flag is a national matter for a state, and I am afraid that that is where we are. I don’t want to dilute our commitment. That is the fact: quite a simple fact.”

Labour’s Lord Cashman interjected: “If that is the fact and the reason why the flag is no longer flown, why has it been flown for the past 12 years?”

The minister responded: “My Lords, it is one of those things where someone thought it was an excellent idea at the time without thinking through the consequences of what it does to the other flag being flown.

“When we fly the flag we look at the country and think, ‘What is that country doing?’. I am proud of what we are doing.

“If I want to wear a rainbow outfit on the right day, nothing will stop me doing that either, I can assure the noble Lord.”

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