Policy Round-up: May 2019
The highlight of our May came towards the end of the month, when we were delighted to welcome a group of cross-party MPs and peers to a breakfast roundtable meeting in the House of Commons. Many months in the planning, our parliamentary roundtable was a key milestone in our campaign calling on Government to reduce the income tax burden on Heritage Maintenance Funds. Such a change would enable more of the money in these funds to be devoted to the conservation of nationally important, publicly accessible heritage.
We were particularly delighted that a former Heritage Minister, Tracey Crouch MP, sponsored our roundtable meeting; and that Michael Ellis MP, the Heritage Minister (at the time of our roundtable; Michael Ellis was reshuffled a few days later to the Department of Transport – see below!) gave the keynote speech. All attendees agreed on the significant economic, social and cultural public benefits of independently owned historic houses, and supported the development of our Heritage Maintenance Funds campaign.
Two of our house members from Muncaster Castle and Pitchford Hall were the stars of the show, engaging MPs in lively conversation about what it’s really like to live in and look after a historic house that’s open to the public. Over the last few months we’ve been on the road filming policy videos at Muncaster Castle, Pitchford Hall, Scampston Hall & Walled Gardens and Leighton Hall, to bring the issues to life for MPs; you can watch all of these videos on our Historic Houses youtube channel!
In other new this month, we’ve been out and about representing house members at various events – from a meeting of the Ministerial Heritage Council followed closely by a parliamentary reception celebrating Wales Tourism Week, to a DCMS Select Committee hearing on garden tourism, held during the Chelsea Flower Show. We may be called ‘Historic Houses’ but we know that many of our house members look after fantastic gardens, which are important heritage assets and tourism attractions in their own right. We were therefore very pleased to respond to the DCMS Select Committee’s Inquiry and attend the evidence session, to highlight both the opportunities and the challenges that our member gardens face.
Towards the end of the month a mini reshuffle took place in Westminster, in which the Heritage Minister for the last sixteen months, Michael Ellis MP, was moved to a new role at the Department for Transport. We were sad to see Michael go, having been such a strong champion of both heritage and tourism during his time at DCMS, and wrote to thank him for his support for Historic Houses. We were delighted to hear that Rebecca Pow MP had succeeded Michael Ellis as Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, and wrote immediately to welcome her to her new role. Having met Rebecca in Parliament last year we know she’s passionate about her new brief, and we are very much looking forward to working with her.
Finally, our slate of consultations included some particularly important ones this month – not least a telephone interview and detailed response to DCMS’s Tailored Review of Historic England. Next month will see us working on submissions to a consultation on the Non-Domestic Rates (Scotland) Bill, a call for evidence on the non-elephant ivory trade, and a consultation on access to listed buildings in Wales.
Until next month!
Emma and Polly, the policy team