Health and Safety is often used as an excuse to ban something because of politically correct reasons. This is true over the banning of the Union flag over a building in Britain's oldest town.

A council - which, not suprisingly, is run by the Liberal Democrats -has banned the British national flag from flying over the Rowan House office block in Colchester, Essex.

A health and safety assessment concluded that scaffolding would have to be erected to raise and lower it. But so angry did a Tory politician become that he offered to climb the building himself to raise the flag.

The council says that flying the flag will inolve scaffolding the building, which will cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds.

The Union flag was a Scottish idea. It dates from the reign of King James I (VI of Scotland) in the early 17th century who was the first monarch to rule over the Kingdom of England (which included Ireland and still includes Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland.

Union flag banned over health and safety

By David Barrett, Home Affairs Correspondent
27 Feb 2010
The Telegraph

The Union Flag dates from 1606. Its red diagonal lines were added in 1801 when Ireland joined the Union.

A council has banned the Union flag from its building because a health and safety assessment concluded that scaffolding would have to be erected to raise and lower it.

The flagpole atop Colchester borough council's Rowan House office block has remained bare since the building was purchased from Anglian Water two years ago.

A frustrated Conservative politician was so concerned that he presented a Union flag to the council's Liberal Democrat leadership and offered to climb the roof himself to make sure it was flown.

A council spokeswoman said the absence of a flag was a "logistical operational matter" and insisted the building, Rowan House, had an unusual roof which made it difficult to access the flagpole.

Will Quince, the Conservative prospective parliamentary candidate for Colchester, said: "I cannot believe that a flagpole was put on top of this building that is inaccessible. This seems to be absolute health and safety nonsense.

"I'm happy to go up there and put it up myself.

"I'm incredibly proud to be British and it pleases me greatly when I walk around the town to see many people who proudly display our Union flag. I think it's really sad we can't fly it for health and safety reasons."

Anne Turrell, the Liberal Democrat council leader who received Mr Quince's 6ft by 4ft flag, said: "Health and safety won't allow us to do it, unless we scaffold the building.

"That costs thousands of pounds and I'm sure the taxpayers of Colchester wouldn't want us to spend that to put a flag up."

A council spokeswoman said: "It is a very strange shaped building with triangular roofs, and there are no access points.

"It is a logistical operational matter and advice has been taken from the health and safety adviser. We regularly have flags on the town hall, which is a very prominent building just half a mile away from Rowan House."

The Protectorate Jack, the flag of the English Republic in the 1650s

She was unable to confirm whether the council had looked into using alternative methods to hoist the Union flag, such as deploying a cherry picker or steeplejack.

In 2004, councillors in Trowbridge were told that a Cross of Saint George could not be flown on the town hall because scaffolding would be too expensive and leaning out of a first-floor window was too dangerous.

In May last year officials at South Kesteven district council initially claimed that similar health and safety risks meant a Union flag could not fly on the town hall at Bourne, Lincolnshire, for Armed Forces Day. They relented when a spiked fence below the flagpole, which was the cause of the safety concerns, was boxed in to avoid any danger to life or limb.

In 1603, after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, King James VI of Scotland came to London and was crowned King James I of England. Since 1553, the Kingdom of England has also included Wales. So the monarch of England was also monarch of Wales. However, Scotland wasn't ruled by England and had a completely different monarchy and government for centuries. But the Crowns of England and Scotland merged in 1603 with the coming to the Throne of James.

On 12 April 1606, a new flag to represent this regal union between England and Scotland was specified in a royal decree, according to which the flag of the Kingdom of England , (a red cross with a white background, known as St George's Cross), and the flag of the Kingdom of Scotland (a white saltire with a blue background, known as the Saltire or Saint Andrew's Cross), would be "joined together according to the forme made by our heralds, and sent by Us to our Admerall to be published to our Subjects" forming the flag of Great Britain and first union flag. This royal flag was at first only for use at sea on civil and military ships of both Scotland and England. In 1634, King Charles I restricted its use to the monarch's ships.

St Patrick's saltire - a red diagonal cross on a white background - was used by some Irish organisations and when Ireland joined the Union in 1801 red diagonal lines were added to the white diagonal lines in the Union flag (most of the island of Ireland seceded from the Union in 1922 but the red diagonal lines remain in the Union flag).

Ireland adopted its tricolour in 1919 and Wales its Ddraig Goch (Red Dragon) flag in 1959.

The Union flag didn't become Britain's national flag until Britain itself was created in 1707 when the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England unified politically as one nation.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Feb 28th, 2010 at 02:34 PM..