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Frequently Asked Questions


Q. What times should I fly the Flag?

The Union Flag should be flown on UK Government Buildings from 8am until sunset.

Q. Which is the superior position?

The Union Flag must always be flown in a superior position ie:

i) Where there are two or more flagpoles parallel to the building line, the Union Flag should be the first flag on the left of an observer facing the main entrance of the building. The remaining flags then appear in order of precedence from left to right.

ii) Where there are two or more flagpoles on the forecourt of a building but at an angle to the main entrance, the Union Flag should be flown on the outermost pole when the flagpoles are situated to the left of the main entrance and on the innermost pole when the flagpoles are to the right of the main entrance.

iii) If only one flag is to be flown and there are two flagpoles, the Union Flag should be flown on the flagpole to the observer’s left. If there are more than two flagpoles, the Union Flag should be flown as near as possible to the centre. This only applies when the other flagpoles remain empty.

iv) If one flagpole is higher than the rest, then the Union Flag can fly from that flagpole but no other national flags can be flown on the other flagpoles. These can still be used for more junior flags such as county and house flags. Alternatively the higher flagpole can be left empty and the remaining flagpoles used as if it did not exist. (In general when siting flagpoles it is a good idea to keep them all at the same level to avoid these protocol problems.)

Q. What is half-mast?

Half-mast means the flag is flown two-thirds of the way up the flagpole with at least the height of the flag between the top of the flag and the top of the flag pole.

If more than one flag is flown they should all be raised at half-mast or not flown at all.

Flags of foreign nations should not be flown unless their country is also observing mourning.

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Q. In what condition should the Union Flag be flown?

Departments should ensure that the Union Flag and national flags should be in good repair and unsoiled. To fly a flag which is in poor repair or dirty is to show disrespect for the nations that it represents.

Q. Can I fly the Red Ensign on Merchant Navy Day?

Merchant Navy Day, on 3rd September, is not one of the appointed days for flying the Union Flag from UK Government Buildings which has been agreed by the Royal Household. It is a specific event that has its own flag so UK Government Departments with an interest in Merchant Navy Day may fly the Red Ensign from their buildings on 3rd September.

Q. Which way round should I fly the Union flag?

The Union Flag must be flown the correct way up. This is with the wider diagonal white stripe above the red diagonal strip in the half nearest to the flag pole.

The Union Flag


Q. When can I fly the Union flag?

UK Government departments have the freedom to fly the Union Flag on their buildings when they choose. This decision was made, following the publication of the White Paper, The Governance of Britain: Constitutional Renewal (CM 7342-1), and the Consultation Analysis Document (CM 7342-3) on 25 March 2008, guidance.

As a minimum, there are designated fixed days each year on which the Union Flag should be flown on UK Government buildings possessing a flag pole.

Individuals, local authorities and other organisations may fly the Union Flag whenever they wish, subject to compliance with any local planning requirements.

Q. Do I need planning permission?

Under Schedule 1 Class H of the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007, national flags, the flags of the Commonwealth, European Union, the United Nations, English counties and certain saints can be flown without the express consent of local authorities as long as they satisfy the standard conditions for the display of advertisements generally and the conditions and limitations set out within Class H itself.

For saints' flags, the conditions are that they can only be flown in the county with which the saint is associated. This means that the St Piran's flag may be flown freely in Cornwall, but express consent would be required for it to be flown elsewhere in England.

If any of these flags are to be flown no further planning permission is needed for the flag pole, however it may be required if other flags are to be flown.


Updated: 13 February 2009

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