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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 15:14 GMT
Jubilee plans 'on track'
The Queen's carriage
The 1977 Silver Jubilee drew huge crowds
The chairman of the Queen's Golden Jubilee committee has rejected accusations there is little public support for this summer's celebrations and official plans are in disarray.

Lord Sterling, who is in charge of organising the celebrations, said plans were well on track and there was immense interest from around the country.


In 1977 people didn't get going until Easter

Lord Sterling
He refused to comment on claims that his predecessor Lord Levene of Portsoken left the post last August after only six months because he was appalled by the "shambolic state of preparation".

It has also been claimed that people considering holding street party celebrations are being put off by too much expense and red tape.

Organisers must now obtain liability insurance and road closure licences - unlike in 1977 when millions took to the streets for the Silver Jubilee.

Lord Sterling, who has already raised 4m for the celebrations, was also in charge of the Silver Jubilee events.

Beacons

He told the BBC the way things were going at the moment was "particularly pleasurable", and reports that no one was working together were "total unadulterated nonsense".

"The pleasure of working together with absolute professionals of the Palace and Jubilee office ... has been excellent," he said.

Jubilee Celebrations
Extra Bank Holiday
Four towns given city status
Special garden parties for Accession Day babies
Golden Jubilee tour of England, Scotland, Wales and N Ireland
New 5 coin to mark the Golden Jubilee
Classical concert in Buckingham Palace gardens
Pop concert in Buckingham Palace grounds
Jubilee church services
Beacons lit across the UK
Carnival Pageant in The Mall
Lord Sterling said there had been immense public interest from across the country, and it was still only January.

BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond says there is no doubt Lord Levene had found "a somewhat shambolic state of affairs and did not what to get his hands dirty with it".

But she says figures released by the Jubilee organisers suggest plans are going well.

The Palace is getting 140 inquiries a day for the street party "toolkit", and 100 daily general inquiries are being made to the Jubilee office lines.

Our correspondent says a real sign of Jubilee enthusiasm is the number of commitments to take part in a celebratory "chain of light" - a series of beacons which will be lit around the country.

In 1997 there were 102 beacons. This year there are already 420 planned across the UK and Commonwealth, including one in Antarctica.

Former Royal press officer Dickie Arbiter said there was cautious optimism at the Palace about the success of Jubilee celebrations.

He said the Queen would be making walkabouts and interacting with the public across the UK.

Reluctance

"It is about celebrating 50 years of service to the country, about stability," he told BBC News 24.

"At the end of day most people like to have a party. When we get to the height of the celebrations in first four days of June we'll probably find a lot of people have organised things but we're not hearing about it now."


Failing to seize this chance could cost the British economy millions of pounds

Tim Yeo, shadow tourism minister
But shadow tourism minister Tim Yeo has attacked the government's reluctance to promote the Golden Jubilee year both at home and abroad when the tourism industry was crying out for support after foot-and-mouth and the 11 September attacks.

"In a year in which Britain is hosting the Commonwealth Games in Manchester and the Queen's Golden Jubilee is taking place, the government is in danger of missing a huge opportunity to promote the UK as a holiday destination," he said.

"Failing to seize this chance could cost the British economy millions of pounds."

Tory MP Nicholas Soames, who helped organise the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of VE and VJ Days, said the government should be "condemned" for failing to take the Jubilee seriously enough.

"They need to throw themselves into it, have proper people organising and running it and they need to get on with it," he told BBC Radio 4's PM programme.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jennie Bond
"140 party enquiries are being made every day"
Conservative MP Sir Nicholas Soames
"A shambolic organisation"
See also:

14 Jan 02 | England
Town chimes in for Jubilee
03 Jan 02 | England
The Queen steps out for Jubilee
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