Monday, June 21, 2021
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Flag-raising ceremonies across UK mark start of Armed Forces Week

In this photo servicemen from the British Army raise the Armed Forces Day Flag. Credit: Sgt Jim Wise RAF. UK MOD Crown Copyright 2021.

The nation has come together to mark Armed Forces Week, with flag-raising ceremonies across the country kicking off a week of celebrations and community events.

From Edinburgh Castle to Cardiff, Carrickfergus and the National Memorial Arboretum, the Armed Forces Day flag is flying proudly as the public show their support for Service personnel, reservists, veterans, cadets and the families that support them.

The Dean of Westminster leads the Act of Commitment. Sgt Jim Wise RAF. UK MOD Crown Copyright 2021.

In London the Houses of Parliament are flying the Armed Forces Day flag in New Palace Yard at the Palace of Westminster this week.

This comes as the House of Commons signed the Armed Forces Covenant, joining 7,000 other employers and organisations who have made the landmark commitment to our Armed Forces and veterans over the Covenant’s ten year history.

The Covenant is a formal agreement between the Government and organisations to ensure that no service personnel or veterans are disadvantaged due to having served in the Armed Forces.

The flag-raising ceremony in Westminster – attended by the Speaker of the House of Commons and the Defence Secretary – has opened a week-long series of celebrations with more than 100 community events to be held in towns and cities throughout the United Kingdom.

Servicemen from the British Army raise the Armed Forces Day Flag. Sgt Jim Wise RAF. UK MOD Crown Copyright 2021.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said:

“As we kick off events to mark this year’s Armed Forces Day, I’m delighted that the House of Commons is showing their support for our Service personnel by raising the flag and signing the Armed Forces Covenant. 

“This week is an annual opportunity for all of us to recognise the work our Armed Forces do, at home and abroad, to keep us safe.”

Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace (centre-right) and General Sir Patrick Sanders (far-right), attend the raising of the Armed Forces Day flag at the Houses of Parliament. Sgt Jim Wise RAF. UK MOD Crown Copyright 2021.

Armed Forces Week is a chance for people to come together to thank our Armed Forces who defend our way of life, protect British citizens around the world, and strengthen our relationships with our allies and partners.

Credit: Sgt Jim Wise RAF

Raab announces further sanctions on companies linked to Myanmar’s military regime

The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Picture by Tim Hammond / No 10 Downing Street

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab announced new sanctions against the Myanmar Timber Enterprise, Myanmar Pearl Enterprise and the State Administration Council.

In the UK’s sixth tranche of Myanmar sanctions, measures announced today will target the Myanmar regime’s economic interest with new designations against the State Administration Council (SAC), the junta’s ruling body, who continue to undermine democracy and brutally suppress Myanmar’s civilians. These sanctions send a clear message to the junta the UK will not allow financial support that props up the military regime following the coup earlier this year.

Additional measures will now be imposed on the Myanmar Timber Enterprise and Myanmar Pearl Enterprise, 2 state owned entities in Myanmar’s extractive sector. These asset freezes will be enforced with immediate effect, and target the junta’s ability to profit from pearl and timber, 2 high-value natural commodities that generate millions in revenue for the military regime.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said:

Alongside our allies, we are placing sanctions on companies linked to Myanmar’s military junta, targeting the finances of this illegitimate regime.

The military has continued its subversion of democracy and brutal killing of civilians. We will continue to hold the Junta to account and sanction those responsible, until democracy is restored.

Today the Foreign Secretary has also announced the conclusion of the UK’s Myanmar Trade Review. In a Written Ministerial Statement in Parliament, he confirmed that the UK will maintain its suspension on trade promotion in Myanmar first imposed following the coup earlier this year.

He said the UK will also strengthen Britain’s Overseas Business Risk guidance to reiterate the message that UK businesses must undertake enhanced supply chain due diligence and should not enter into trading relationships that benefit the Myanmar military.

The Myanmar Trade Review emphasised that UK businesses continue to have an important role to play in Myanmar in job creation and poverty alleviation, but should operate responsibly in order to avoid inadvertently supporting the military regime.

Today’s new sanctions announcement, alongside the similar announcement from the European Union on Myanmar Timber Enterprise,  follows the recent G7 communiqué which called on partners and business to exercise due diligence in their trade and investment in Myanmar. Under the UK’s presidency the G7 continues to call for an end to the coup and the immediate adoption of the ASEAN 5-point consensus.

Read the full UK sanctions list.

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Boris kicks off major new science initiative during visit to National Institute for Biological Standards and Control

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson visit MHRA Labs in South Mimms during Covid-19. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has kicked off a major new science initiative at a visit of MHRA’s National Institute for Biological Standards and Control today. The Prime Minister was able to see first-hand the pivotal role NIBSC has played in getting safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to the UK public during the pandemic.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s (MHRA) world-leading National Institute for Biological Standards and Control (NIBSC) in Hertfordshire was the Prime Minister’s chosen launchpad for a new initiative to cement the UK’s position as a science superpower. The exciting plans are set to capitalise on the excellence of UK science throughout the pandemic and beyond, such as that carried out by the NIBSC in relation to COVID-19 vaccine quality control, COVID-19 testing and the essential reference materials to support safe availability of life-saving medicines around the world.

The Prime Minister’s visit today was hosted by the MHRA Chief Executive Dr June Raine and acting Director of the NIBSC Dr Marc Bailey. During his visit, the Prime Minister saw first-hand the pivotal role NIBSC has played in assuring the quality of every single COVID-19 vaccine in the UK during the pandemic and heard about the vital work being carried out at NIBSC, which has now tested 93 batches of COVID-19 vaccines and certificated over 90 million vaccine doses for use.

Boris Johnson also saw the essential laboratory work which supports NIBSC’s leading global role in helping to determine the final flu vaccine composition each year. The NIBSC is part of the MHRA and plays a leading role in assuring the quality of biological medicines worldwide, producing over 95% of the World Health Organization’s biological standards that are used globally.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

The brilliant scientists and staff at the MHRA have been instrumental in getting our vaccine programme off the ground, transforming lives through science, while ensuring the British people have confidence in the safety of our vaccines.

It was fantastic to see this work first-hand at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control and hear more about the impact they have far beyond the pandemic, including in helping protect us against the flu each year.

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson visit MHRA Labs in South Mimms during Covid-19. Picture by Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street.

Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive said:

We were delighted to welcome the Prime Minister today and are pleased to be recognised as a leader in UK science.

The National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, part of the MHRA, has played a pivotal role in getting safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines to the UK public during this pandemic.

But our remit goes far beyond the pandemic. We have the largest stem cell bank in the UK, and we play a leading role in helping to assure the quality of thousands of medicines and medical devices worldwide, and in deciding the composition of flu vaccines used each year. These are just a few examples of our ongoing work.

We look forward to continuing this world-leading work to help cement the UK as a science superpower for the public good.

Source: Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency

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Over one million jabs booked as NHS vaccine programme opens to all adults


More than one million jab appointments were booked since the NHS vaccination programme opened for every adult in England.

People rushed to book 1,008,472 appointments in just two days – an average of more than 21,000 every hour, or six every second – on Friday and Saturday.

The figure does not include appointments made through local GP-led vaccination services or people getting jabbed at walk-in centres.

NHS bosses are urging people to book their appointment without delay as the health service enters the final push to protecting the country against the virus.

From walk in services at sports grounds, including Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and Stamford Bridge as well as Ashton Gate and St Helen’s Rugby Ground, to pop up clinics at universities such as in York and Canterbury, NHS staff are pulling out the stops to offer convenient jab appointments.

The NHS in England has delivered 62 million vaccinations just six months after making history when Margaret Keenan received the first jab outside of a clinical trial in Coventry.

Four in five adults have now received their first dose of the jab, and with three in five already fully vaccinated after receiving two doses.

The NHS is contacting people aged 40 and over to bring forward their second dose in line with updated JCVI advice with the NHS booking service now showing earlier time slots available for those who are eligible to rebook.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS chief executive said:

“The NHS COVID vaccination programme continues in full swing as the finishing line comes into sight.

“It is fantastic to see so many young people coming forward to play their part, protecting themselves, their friends and their family – nearly nine million people in their twenties and thirties have now had their first dose.

“NHS staff are pulling out all the stops to get jabs in arms with pop-up sites in shopping centres and mass events at football stadiums all adding to the huge network of services that have now delivered more than 62 million lifesaving jabs.

“After vaccinating those at greatest risk, all adults are now eligible. So if you have not had your jab yet don’t delay, book it today, and if you are contacted to rebook your second dose, please book in – it is easier than ever to arrange and will give you maximum protection from the virus.”

All adults can book at one of the 1,600 vaccination centre, pharmacy or general practice sites across the country that are available through the national booking service. Vaccination centres are also available in convenient locations such as mosques, museums and football stadiums.

Boris sets out to restore Britain as a ‘scientific superpower’

"From discovery to delivery, our vaccination programme has proven what the UK can achieve at scale and at speed" - Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture by Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled plans today (Monday 21 June) to ensure the UK’s world-leading science and ideas turn into solutions for public good, as part of ambitions to become a global science superpower.

A new National Science and Technology Council will be established and chaired by the Prime Minister. It will provide strategic direction on the use of science and technology as the tools to tackle great societal challenges, level up across the country and boost prosperity around the world.

The Prime Minister has also asked Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance to head up a new Office for Science and Technology Strategy, based in the Cabinet Office, and take up the role of the new National Technology Adviser, in addition to his current role as the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser and head of the Government Office for Science.

The Office will support the ministerial council and the National Technology Adviser to drive forward the strategy of Whitehall’s science and technology priorities from the centre. It will strengthen the government’s insight into cutting-edge research and technologies and work across government to put science and technology at the centre of policy and public services. The Office will also identify what is needed to secure and protect the capability in science and technology required in the UK to deliver the government’s ambitions.

The UK’s successful vaccine and therapeutics programmes has proven how science can deliver real, meaningful benefit to the British people and transform lives around the world, helping to protect people from coronavirus and enable societies to reopen again.

The Prime Minister is tasking the whole of government, working with the new council and office, to take the success of the UK’s approach to vaccines and apply it to other priorities – setting bold visions, acting with speed, and taking risks, which can bring high rewards and benefits to the UK, including in developing technology to reach net zero, curing cancer and not only treating it, and keeping our citizens safe at home and abroad.

One of the first tasks of the Office for Science and Technology Strategy will be to review the technology bets the UK should back and prioritise for strategic advantage.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

From discovery to delivery, our vaccination programme has proven what the UK can achieve at scale and at speed.

With the right direction, pace and backing, we can breathe life into many more scientific and technological breakthroughs that transform the lives of people across the UK and the world.

That’s why I’m establishing a new ministerial council and office at the centre of government, so we can realise the limitless possibilities that research and technology has to offer and cement the UK’s place as a global science superpower.

Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said:

The new Office for Science and Technology Strategy will put science and technology right at the heart of policy-making and strengthen the way we work across government to reinforce the position of the UK as a science superpower. I look forward to working with the National Science and Technology Council to help identify cutting-edge research and technologies that will deliver strategic advantage for the UK.

The government is currently investing £14.9 billion in R&D in 2021-22, meaning government R&D spending is now at its highest level in real terms for four decades.

To read Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s article click here.

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Newt Gingrich: Russia’s Leadership Is Still Trying to Revive the Soviet Union


By former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich

After President Biden’s face-to-face meeting with Vladimir Putin in Geneva this week, I couldn’t help but think of my trip to Russia in 1993.

I was on a congressional delegation visiting Moscow when Boris Yeltsin was president and the West had great hopes for a more open, democratic Russia. I went to see the then-vice president, who was an Air Force general, in his office. One entire wall of the room was a map of the Soviet Union.

Being cheerfully ignorant, I said to him, “Gosh, that’s a map of the Soviet Union.”

He looked at me and he responded,” Yes, and that’s what it’ll look like again.”

Putin himself has expressed similar sentiments, calling the collapse of the Soviet empire the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe” of the 20th century.

One can’t underestimate how important Putin’s experience as a Soviet agent in the KGB was — and is — to his mindset today. Indeed, we should think of Putin as a rational man, but rational from the framework of a Cold War-trained KGB officer who regards a certain level of violence and brutality as just how business gets done.

The KGB considered the West an enemy and anything damaging that happened inside the Soviet Union a result of Western influence. This same thinking continues to dominate the minds of Putin and his associates today.

The bottom line is this: We won’t be seeing a Russian reset anytime soon — especially if American leaders don’t establish credible deterrence.

Russia’s leaders, like their Soviet predecessors, feel a need to project a brutal toughness abroad because otherwise, they believe, the West’s advantages would be overwhelming. One of the more blatant and horrifying examples of this kind of projection is Russia’s use of poison as a weapon to assassinate opponents in Europe and elsewhere.

I explore some of the most ruthless and nefarious Russian murder plots, along with what animates Putin, this week on my podcast, “Newt’s World.” My guest to discuss all this is Amy Knight, a deeply knowledgeable expert on Russia and author of Orders to Kill: The Putin Regime and Political Murder.

In recent years, we’ve seen Moscow use poisoning repeatedly. Last year, for example, Putin attempted to murder his chief opponent, Alexei Navalny, with poison before imprisoning him. And in 2018, Russia poisoned Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and double agent for British intelligence, and his daughter, Yulia Skripal.

What’s so interesting is how open and sloppy Russia is with its poisoning. The operations are hardly secretive. It seems like they want to send the world a signal. The Kremlin certainly doesn’t appear bothered if we know they’re behind any of these plots.

The notion that we can discuss current trends in Russian assassinations is quite telling about how strange and brutal Putin’s regime is. But as Knight explains, Russia never had a proper lustration after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russian authorities never rid themselves of former KGB and Communist Party officials. There was never a true reckoning with Russia’s Soviet past. Which explains, at least in large part, why Putin’s Russia is so cruel and anti-democratic.

It would be great if there was a way to get to one more Russian revolution leading to an open and genuinely democratic Russia. But sadly, we may not see that in our lifetime.

Newt Gingrich

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Britain’s Good News This Week: Top 10 positive news stories from across the UK


Once again there’s been some brilliant news coming in from across the #UK this week (14th – 20th June 2021).

Britain has secured a new trade deal with Australia meaning iconic British products like cars and ceramics will be cheaper to sell down under boosting UK segments of British industry that employ over 3.5 million people.

Trade Secretary Liz Truss also seems confident a trade agreement with New Zealand will soon be forthcoming after a very positive fifth round of talks. Plus if that isn’t enough in one week for one woman; the unstoppable Truss also struck an historic deal with the USA ensuring retaliatory tariffs remain suspended – a major win for British industries like Scotch whisky.

And the good news doesn’t stop there. The UK, as the world’s biggest offshore wind market is now successfully propelling UK renewable exports across the globe. We’re seeing huge investments land on British shores including £400 million from Nissan who are producing their new Qashqai model in Sunderland. There’s great news for the NHS where Artificial Intelligence is set to revolutionise healthcare and people who commit offences against animals will face fines of up to £5,000 under new legislation. Britain really is leading the way in animal welfare. Plus the brilliant GB News has now launched. Positivity is spreading across the nation.

Here are our best read news stories from the last seven days. Please share with your friends and keep spreading the positive news. Go global Britain! #TheGoodNewsThisWeek

10. UKEF boosts renewable exports as UK becomes world’s biggest offshore wind market

UK Export Finance (UKEF) has this week signed a memorandum of understanding with ORE Catapult that will help bring global trading opportunities to UK suppliers and propel UK renewables exports. The UK is the world’s biggest offshore wind market with 10.4GW of total installed capacity, and the UK government is helping UK companies export the country’s expertise to new, emerging markets… click here

9. £36 million boost for AI technologies to revolutionise NHS care

Thirty-eight new pioneering artificial intelligence (AI) projects announced to help revolutionise care and accelerate diagnosis. Thousands of patients and NHS staff will benefit from dozens of new pioneering projects awarded a share of £36 million to test state-of-the-art AI technology. The projects will help the NHS to transform the quality of care and the speed of diagnoses for conditions such as lung cancer… click here

8. Nissan’s new crossover vehicle enters production at UK plant following £400m investment

Following a £400m investment, the latest version of Nissan’s segment-defining crossover is now rolling off its Sunderland plant’s production Line One, as the plant celebrates 35 years of manufacturing in the UK. Qashqai represents one in five of all cars built in Britain since its launch 14 years ago, and to celebrate the new generation model, Nissan is offering every schoolchild in North East England the opportunity to take part in a Nissan Skills Foundation event… click here

7. UK secures markets access to Japan for exports of poultry meat

UK poultry can now be served on Japanese tables with industry estimates predicting this will boost the industry by up to £65 million over five years. The UK has secured market access to Japan for imports of UK poultry meat – opening up new opportunities for UK farmers, producers and exporters in the world’s third largest economy. The agreement is estimated to be worth up to £13 million per year by the industry… click here

6. Trade deal between UK and New Zealand moves closer to agreement

UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and New Zealand Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor concluded a day of detailed trade talks in London this week. Minister O’Connor’s visit concludes the fifth round of  talks, in which strong progress was made in agreeing key issues across the deal including reaching consensus on disputes, transparency and gender equality in trade. Both countries have agreed to accelerate negotiations to finalise the details of the deal… click here

5. £36 million contract for new MOD Police Patrol Boats

A £36 million contract has been awarded to Marine Specialised Technology to deliver 18 new police patrol crafts for the Ministry of Defence and Gibraltar Defence Police (GDP) Forces. To be used around Royal Naval bases in the UK and British Gibraltar Territorial Waters, the five-year contract will deliver 16 patrol craft to the MOD Police and two craft to the GDP, replacing those currently in use. Based in Liverpool and on the River Mersey, the contract will sustain 50 jobs and create a further 15 across the north west of England… click here

4. Fines of up to £5,000 for animal offences proposed under new Penalty Notices Bill

Individuals who commit offences against animals will face fines of up to £5,000 under new legislation introduced to Parliament this week. The fines will be introduced to ensure that offenders face tougher penalties for crimes in addition to the existing maximum five year prison sentence for the most serious offences. The Animals (Penalty Notices) Bill, will create a system of a financial penalties of up to £5,000 for animal health and welfare offences. The penalties, which could include on-the-spot fines, can be issued to individuals who have cruelly mistreated pets, zoo animals and livestock… click here

3. UK secures historic deal on US tariff dispute

The International Trade Secretary Liz Truss has today struck an historic deal with the US on the Airbus-Boeing dispute in a major win for industries like Scotch whisky. The deal will ensure retaliatory tariffs which affected UK exports to the US worth £550m remain suspended. After talks with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai at the Department for International Trade’s headquarters in central London, both sides have agreed to suspend retaliatory tariffs for five years and cooperate more closely on tackling unfair trade practices by non-market economies… click here

2. Royal Navy’s newest offshore patrol vessel HMS Spey ready for action

The Royal Navy’s newest Offshore Patrol Vessel HMS Spey was commissioned into the Fleet this week during a ceremony alongside the Ross-shire town of Invergordon. Built on the River Clyde by BAE Systems, the ship is the fifth and final of the second- generation of River-class vessels built for the Royal Navy. Leaving the Clyde shipyard in October last year, HMS Spey has been undergoing a rigorous programme of operational sea training to ready her for action… click here

1. UK and Australia announce new trade deal

A trade deal between the UK and Australia has been agreed between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The new Free Trade Agreement means iconic British products like cars, Scotch whisky, biscuits and ceramics will be cheaper to sell into Australia, boosting UK industries that employ 3.5 million people across the country. The UK-Australia trade relationship was worth £13.9 billion last year and is set to grow under the deal, creating opportunities for businesses and producers in every part of the UK… click here

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Secretary of State Oliver Dowden: Importance of a free and diverse media

Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden. Picture by Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street.

DCMS Secretary of State writes about the importance of a free and diverse media.

By Oliver Dowden

What makes a healthy democracy? The strongest and most progressive countries share lots of qualities, but they have two vital things in common: a free and diverse media and the right to dissent. This week, a vocal Twitter minority went after both.

GB News had barely begun broadcasting when pressure group “Stop Funding Hate” tried to stifle it, piling the pressure on advertisers to boycott Britain’s newest current affairs channel for spreading “hate and division”. It came in a week when we had already witnessed free journalism under assault with the despicable harassment of BBC journalist Nick Watt.

It seems GB News’ biggest crime – or rather “pre-crime”, as it’s called in the dystopian Minority Report when people are proactively punished for wrongs they haven’t committed yet – was to signal that it might not always agree with the media consensus. When he launched the channel, veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil vowed that GB News would not be “an echo chamber for the metropolitan mindset”, and that it would “empower those who feel their concerns have been unheard”.

Rightly so. A free media is one that has a diverse range of opinions and voices – and as I said earlier this week, GB News is a welcome addition to that diversity. We need outlets and commentators who cover the range of the political spectrum; who can speak truth to power; and who are willing to challenge dogma or orthodoxy.

I’ve no doubt plenty of people will disagree with some of the things GB News commentators have to say – just as plenty of people disagree with the things they see and hear on the BBC, Sky News or any other media outlet. But if you don’t like those ideas, switch over – don’t silence. We shouldn’t be blocking people from the conversation simply because we disagree with them.

That is exactly why, when we were developing legislation to boost online safety and tackle social media abuse, I was determined to make sure it couldn’t be used to stifle debate. Every country is grappling with this – but I believe the UK has struck the right balance and carved a path for the rest of the world to follow with our Online Safety bill, which we published in draft form last month.

That bill will protect children online and help stamp out the vile social media abuse, including racism and misogyny. Crucially, though, it also includes strong safeguards for free speech and the freedom of the media.

There will be a new requirement for social media companies to protect freedom of expression. The largest social media platforms will need to be clear to users about what they allow on their sites, and enforce it consistently. That means they won’t be able to arbitrarily remove content – and if a user feels they have, they’ll have a new right to appeal. Right now if content is removed there is no recourse to review or in many cases even get an explanation as to why material has been taken down. Our bill will enhance the protections in place.

We’ve also got special safeguards for journalistic and “democratically important” content. News publishers’ content won’t be in scope – whether it’s on their own sites or on other online services. Journalists will also benefit from increased protections when they post on social media. The largest platforms will also have to protect political opinions on their sites, even if certain activists or campaign groups don’t agree with them.

Those are the grounds of a functioning democracy. Sadly we can no longer take them for granted. Across the West, our values of tolerance and freedom of expression, for which previous generations have fought and died, increasingly risk being undermined by a small but vocal minority. For them, these are not absolute, but relative, concepts, ready to be bent to silence dissent from their world view. We will not stand by and allow that to happen.

Source: Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and The Rt Hon Oliver Dowden CBE MP

Outdoor civil wedding and partnership registrations to be legalised


Outdoor civil wedding and partnership ceremonies in England and Wales are set to be legalised for the first time – offering greater choice to couples in a boost to the wedding sector.

Under current laws for approved premises such as a hotel, the legal wedding or civil partnership ceremony must take place in an approved room or permanent structure. It will now be possible for a couple to have the whole ceremony outside at such a venue.

This change will give more options to couples and the sector in terms of how they celebrate and host the big day by allowing all aspects of weddings to take place outdoors – providing greater flexibility especially during the pandemic when there are important public health considerations to take into account.

On 30 June, a statutory instrument (SI) will be laid to amend the regulations with the change taking effect on 1 July. This follows a commitment made in 2019 to legalise outdoor ceremonies.

Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC MP said:

A couple’s wedding day is one of the most special times in their lives and this change will allow them to celebrate it the way that they want.

At the same time, this step will support the marriage sector by providing greater choice and helping venues to meet demand for larger ceremonies.

The change will benefit almost 75% of all weddings in England and Wales that are non-religious and which take place on approved premises, along with civil partnerships.

A Law Commission report later this year will present options for further reforms which will then be considered carefully by the Government. Options they are considering include offering couples greater flexibility to form their own ceremonies, allowing the ceremony to take place in a much broader range of locations, and powers to hold weddings remotely in a national emergency.

What we know so far:

  • These changes are being introduced via amendments to the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005 to allow legal outdoor civil weddings and civil partnership registrations to take place within the grounds of Approved Premises.
  • The Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 will come into force on 1st July 2021
  • The regulations apply only to Approved Premises – the changes cannot enable outdoor weddings to take place on religious premises.  However, those religious premises which are Approved Premises for civil partnership registrations will be allowed to hold civil partnership registrations outdoors, should they wish to do so.
  • The legal requirements for approved premises are set out in regulations.  For ceremonies in other types of building, there are complex legal requirements dating back more than a century which are fixed by primary legislation.  
  • In order to hold legal outdoor weddings and civil partnership registrations, a venue must be Approved Premises or must become Approved Premises under the Marriages and Civil Partnerships (Approved Premises) Regulations 2005, as amended. 
  • Currently, premises which seek approval must comprise a permanent built structure (or permanently moored vessel) with at least one room which is to be approved for civil weddings and civil partnership registration.  Under the amended regulations, such premises, if approved, can also use any outdoor areas in the same venue to hold civil weddings and civil partnership registrations.
  • Existing Approved Premises will be permitted to use any outdoor areas in the venue for civil wedding and civil partnership registrations without having to re-apply for approval, subject to certain conditions.
  • Ceremonies will now be able to take place fully outdoors or under a partially covered structure if this has at least a 50% open area (the same definition used for the smoking ban and Covid 19 regulations in England and Wales).  The location for the ceremony must be assessed to be seemly and dignified. Other requirements for public access and signage must also be met.
  • These are time-limited amendments to the regulations to come into force 1 July 2021 until April 2022. A consultation will be undertaken in the Autumn 2021 to consider the practical impacts of this policy in detail and to enable a later amending Statutory Instrument which is not time limited.
  • With the exception of Jewish and Quaker weddings, which for historical reasons can already take place outdoors, legal religious weddings will continue to take place in certified places of worship which are also registered for marriage, or churches and chapels of the Church of England or Church in Wales. The Government say they will legislate to allow religious marriages to take place outdoors when parliamentary time allows.

Wildflower meadow on White Cliffs of Dover named in honour of Dame Vera Lynn

Photo credit: Arnhel De Serra/National trust

A meadow on the famous White Cliffs of Dover has been renamed in memory of beloved singer Dame Vera Lynn to mark the anniversary of her death.

The picturesque stretch of land by the sea is alive with wildflowers and songbirds and will serve as a lasting tribute to the adored wartime figure.

A lighthouse standing atop the cliffs was lit on Thursday in honour of Dame Vera, shining out over the English Channel after being switched on by her daughter.

Dame Vera, who entertained troops with morale-boosting visits to the front line during the Second World War, died aged 103 on June 18 2020.

Her famous lyrics “There’ll be bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover” have seen her forever associated with the beautiful Kent coastline.

On Friday, Dame Vera’s family formally launched an appeal to raise funds for a memorial statue for the late singer, with a song released to help raise money.

Renamed Dame Vera Lynn Down, the meadow was unveiled at a special ceremony on Thursday, while a footpath leading to the clifftops was also renamed Dame Vera Lynn Way by Dover District Council.

The wheat field was part of a £1 million fundraising campaign by the National Trust to buy 178 acres of arable land on the clifftops in 2017, which Dame Vera supported.

It is now being returned to its original grassland state and is already filled with wildflowers, including ox-eye daisy, wild carrot and viper’s bugloss, and attracts corn buntings and skylarks, the nation’s songbird.

Virginia Lewis-Jones, Dame Vera’s daughter, said:

“My mother would be absolutely delighted to have the wildflower meadow named after her, especially as she proactively supported the National Trust’s campaign to protect the landscape back in 2017.

“She always loved having flowers around her and was a keen gardener for many decades.

“The renaming of the footpath to Dame Vera Lynn Way is a touching tribute as my mother always remarked the white cliffs were the last landmark seen as the boys went off to war and the first they saw when they returned home.”

Dame Vera was also known for hits including There’ll Always Be An England, I’ll Be Seeing You, Wishing and If Only I Had Wings.

Another of her songs, We’ll Meet Again, experienced a resurgence last year when the Queen referenced it in an address to the nation about the coronavirus lockdown.

Ginny Portman, general manager at the National Trust, said:

“Dame Vera Lynn will forever be remembered on the White Cliffs of Dover.

“It is fitting that the fields she helped save are now home to the skylark and its beautiful, melodic song.”

The trust and council further marked the anniversary with a special switching-on of the South Foreland Lighthouse, which has been lit only three times in 33 years.

The Victorian lighthouse was decommissioned in 1988 but was lit on Thursday evening with special permission from the Trinity House Lighthouse Authority and HM Coastguard, in honour of Dame Vera.

To donate or find out more about Dame Vera’s family raising funds to build a memorial statue near the White Cliffs of Dover please click here.