Future of English Heritage

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:48 pm on 2nd April 2014.

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry The Second Church Estates Commissioner 2:48 pm, 2nd April 2014

Every colleague with a cathedral in their constituency. My constituency is a few miles from Christ Church cathedral, which benefits from Henry VIII’s munificence, so it does not count in that context. I have praised the funding at Church Commissioners questions, and I kneel before the Chancellor whenever he passes to thank him for the £20 million for cathedrals. We now need to start working on other bids. Of course we are grateful for the money we have received, but that has to be seen in the context of the estimated £87 million-worth of urgent and essential repairs that our cathedrals need. I suspect that we will get some match funding for that £20 million, but these are complex issues.

Research into historical buildings and their treatment is important work undertaken by English Heritage using its own properties. That work must not be lost by the new charity, which might not be able to prioritise that work due to limited resources. If the new charity does not take on the conservation research team, Historic England should be allowed to access the national heritage collection for research. The outcome must be that either the new charity or Historic England is required to research historical building preservation.

The advice provided by the present English Heritage to the Church of England through its response to faculty consultations, to staff membership of diocesan advisory committees and to the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England is extremely valuable. That input helps to keep the ecclesiastical exemption strong and robust, and the advisory work should continue with Historic England and be free at the point of delivery. The nation’s built heritage is an extremely valuable part of our national life.

We are sympathetic to what the Minister and his ministerial colleagues seek to achieve. Indeed, I personally and the Church of England as a whole are extremely grateful for the support that we receive from Ministers in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The Minister’s fantastic and outstanding advocacy within Government for financial support for cathedrals was evidenced in the recent Budget, but it is important that we get right some of the important structural and organisational issues in the Government’s proposals, so I hope the Minister will consider carefully the Church of England’s responses.