Future of English Heritage

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:03 pm on 2nd April 2014.

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Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 4:03 pm, 2nd April 2014

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Osborne. I have to say that after listening to a number of speeches during this debate, I now understand why they are called wind-ups.

I congratulate Jenny Chapman on securing this important debate on the future of English Heritage. We have had a very interesting discussion, and I am grateful to all hon. Members who have taken part. Before I go on to my main remarks, I want to correct some of the points made by the Opposition spokesman, Helen Goodman. She said that we southerners paid for Stonehenge but will not pay for Hadrian’s wall. Actually, we did not pay for Stonehenge, so we will not pay for anything, if you like. The Stonehenge visitor centre was paid for entirely through a fundraising campaign by English Heritage; it did not use taxpayers’ money. I am very confident, having engaged closely with Northumberland county council, that the arrangements for Hadrian’s wall, the majority of which is ably managed by English Heritage, will continue after the demise of the Hadrian’s Wall Trust. In fact, it will ensure that we can spend money more effectively to support Hadrian’s wall.

I do not think that English Heritage now or in the future would necessarily be in a position to save Castle Howard were it, God forbid, to burn down. I cannot be entirely sure of my facts here, but I am pretty certain that no public money was used to restore Windsor castle when £36 million was spent on it after the horrific fire in 1992.

The point about the Farrell review was to celebrate the fact that the artificial divide between modern architecture and heritage has dissolved. Heritage and modern architects now work a great deal in partnership, as was shown by the fact that the Stirling prize, traditionally seen as the great modern architecture prize, went to the Landmark Trust last year for a heritage building that had been beautifully restored by a modern architect. As someone who took the “brave” decision, as my officials would have described it, to list Preston bus station, I bow to no one in my homage to modern architecture, but as someone who regards Durham cathedral as one of the most magnificent structures in this kingdom, I also bow to no one in my devotion to heritage. In fact, that is what has led us here today, because I want a fantastic future for English Heritage.

I hate to say it, but there was a lot of tilting at windmills during the debate, with a number of hon. Members saying, “Will the new charity be able to do this? Will it be able to do that?”, suggesting that there are certain things that English Heritage can do now that it will not be able to do in future. However, there is no doubt that the two new bodies that are effectively being created—Historic England, the regulator of heritage, and English Heritage, which will run and manage the properties on behalf of the nation—will still have exactly the same powers as they have now.