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

That is an interesting point. In no way do I wish to bat back what the hon. Lady says, but we are debating the future of English Heritage as an organisation, and I am obviously a great advocate for that future. She is inviting me, perfectly legitimately, to debate wider heritage powers that Government could introduce and which organisation would have those powers. I have to say, without wishing to bind the Government in any way, that I have a lot of sympathy for her point of view. I, for one, value views and landscapes as much as our built environment, and I think that it is important that we preserve them where we can.

English Heritage has been in place for 30 years, and our system of heritage protection began, broadly speaking, a century ago, with the passing of the Ancient Monuments Act 1913. By the way, an excellent book was published on that by Simon Thurley, the chief executive of English Heritage. It is available in all good bookshops. As that book and the creation of English Heritage show, the system of heritage protection constantly evolves. I take on board the point made by the hon. Member for Blackpool South that Michael Heseltine and the other people who were present at the launch of English Heritage—I am thinking in particular of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu—were perfectly capable of imagining the kind of future that English Heritage now sees. However, I think that they would also agree that as that bright future comes into being, we must look at the structures that support it.

It is a fact that the national heritage collection is an £84 million business. It attracts 5 million visitors a year and it needs investment and a long-term plan. That is why English Heritage has proposed an eight-year programme of reform to establish a new model for the management of the national heritage collection. It is a model that we support. It will be supported by the investment of £80 million, alongside the additional £20 million that we have found for cathedrals. It will allow essential conservation work to be carried out, and it will allow investment in new projects to build on commercial success and enhance the visitor experience. It will allow it to grow its income to become a more resilient organisation. We hope by the end of the eight years, the management of the national collection will be self-financing.