Speakers in this debate:
- Lord Oates
- Lord Cope of Berkeley (Con)
- Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon (Lab)
- Baroness Seccombe (Con)
- Lord Addington (LD)
- Viscount Falkland (CB)
- Lord Finkelstein (Con)
- Lord Bilimoria (CB)
- The Lord Bishop of St Albans
- Lord Suri (Con)
- Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho (CB)
- Baroness Berridge (Con)
- Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab)
- Baroness Buscombe (Con)
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to open this debate. In doing so, I declare a non-pecuniary interest as a patron of the charity Memorial 2007. I thank in advance all noble Lords for taking part in this debate.
The history of our country is passed down to us through many different channels— in the content of the history books in our libraries, in the syllabuses taught to students in our schools and universities, in the events we choose to commemorate and in the events we choose to forget. Its physical embodiment is found in the statues and monuments that stand in every city, town and village across the country. In many cases the judgment that history makes on the people commemorated by these statues and monuments is less favourable than the view that their contemporaries took or that they themselves sought to propagate.
In other countries, as history has turned, there has been wholesale destruction of monuments that no longer found favour. It was true in France after the revolution, in Germany after the Second World War and in many parts of Europe after the collapse of Soviet communism. Lacking a violent domestic upheaval in our own recent history, there has been no great disruption of our monuments. Inevitably, therefore, a fair number of history’s villains, rendered in stone or bronze, are scattered across our towns and cities. There are those who argue that the most egregious of these villains should be removed. When I first tabled this Question, a debate was raging over whether the statue of Rhodes at Oriel College, Oxford, should be removed. The controversy that followed exemplified the emotional significance afforded to these physical manifestations of our history.
I am no fan of Cecil John Rhodes; I have spent enough time in southern Africa and read enough of its history to be in no doubt about the greed-fuelled violence he unleashed on that part of Africa, the legacy of which, tragically, remains to this day. But we cannot pretend he did not exist, or that his actions were not ultimately backed by British arms and sanctioned by British law. He is part of history; he cannot be wished away any more than any other cruel period in our history can be wished away. He is of course not alone. At the public entrance to this building stands a statue of Oliver Cromwell, whose violent suppression of the English Levellers, the royalists and the Catholic Irish is well documented. London and other cities are littered with statues to slave owners. They stand alongside buildings constructed with the riches accumulated through the slave trade and close to monuments to assorted imperialists and racial supremacists of the 19th and 20th centuries. The truth is that our history is so closely entwined in these things that to pretend we can disentangle it by removing a statue or two is to delude ourselves.
We should not try to deny our history in that way but we seem determined to deny it in another. Ten years ago, a national service of remembrance was held in Westminster Abbey to commemorate the bicentenary of the Act that abolished the transatlantic slave trade. The service culminated in the Queen laying flowers, first to honour all who worked for the abolition of the slave trade and afterwards to honour those who were enslaved. The flowers to honour the abolitionists were laid at the statue of William Wilberforce that stands in Westminster Abbey, but there was no statue or monument to honour the millions of enslaved Africans—to bear witness to the vast numbers who died in appalling conditions in the camps on the African coast, on the slave ships crossing the Atlantic or at the hands of brutal overseers in the plantations. There was no statue to the millions more who survived the horror of the slave ships to suffer the unspeakable physical and psychological violence of slavery, and no statue to the courage and fortitude of those who survived and resisted. Instead, the Queen had to step outside the abbey and place her flowers on a paving stone in the forecourt, which is inscribed with generic words in tribute to the innocent. I was struck by this at the time: why was it that 200 years since abolition, there was no national memorial in our capital city to honour the millions of African people enslaved or murdered in the transatlantic slave trade? Why was there no monument to remind us that the capacity for unspeakable brutality towards innocent people is not reserved to one nationality, or to one time in history? It is in all of us and it must be guarded against by all of us at all times. History teaches us that lesson, but we have to be willing to learn.
When I was appointed to this House, I tried to find out why this part of our history seemed to have been passed by, and in doing so I came across two formidable women who are here today. They are trustees of a charity called Memorial 2007, which was established to bring into being a monument to honour the countless millions of enslaved African people and their descendants, to give voice to their history and to gain recognition that it is also all of our history. Through their fortitude and determination and against many obstacles, they secured a site for a memorial garden and sculpture in Hyde Park. They held a design competition, commissioned a sculptor and—just recently—gained planning consent for the project from Westminster City Council. They are now raising funds to make the enslaved Africans memorial a reality. The project got its inspiration from a pupil of one of the trustees. On a visit to the Tower of London, the pupil asked, “Where is our history, Miss?”. Nowhere is that absence truer than in the history of the transatlantic slave trade, for while there are statues and monuments to slave owners and white abolitionists alike, there is no representation of the history of the enslaved African people. There is no representation that testifies to the determined advocacy of black abolitionists, such as Olaudah Equiano. In all the self-congratulation over abolition, we lost sight of the real story: the central part our country played in 300 years of the brutal enslavement of millions of our fellow human beings. In losing sight of that story, we failed to learn the lessons that history has to teach us.
The Question we are debating today is a wide one and I recognise that noble Lords will want to raise a range of issues relating to this subject, but I hope the Minister will be able to address some specific issues regarding the enslaved Africans memorial in her response to this debate. First, I hope she will be able to put on record her and the Government’s support for this long-overdue monument. Secondly, I would be grateful if she could indicate whether the Government are willing to provide the sort of technical assistance to Memorial 2007 that was afforded to recent projects, such as the Ghandi statue. Thirdly, the Minister may be aware that following the difficulties with the Diana memorial, the Royal Parks now require a maintenance endowment over an extended period. In the case of the proposed enslaved Africans memorial, this amounts to nearly £1 million. I would be grateful if the Minister could look at this and consider whether the Government might be able to review this requirement, or take on this part of the cost. Finally, I hope the Minister can give guidance to public authorities and grant-giving bodies that they should consider the diverse historical experiences of our country in their decisions.
I do not believe that we should attempt to deny our history by tearing down existing statues and monuments, but we should bear true witness to that history by ensuring that the monuments of our capital city and our country begin to reflect a rather wider and more inclusive history. In 1682, as the historian Madge Dresser notes, William Goodwyn proposed a public statue in London which would have prominently acknowledged the injustice suffered by enslaved Africans under British rule. Some 335 years later, that call has not been answered. It is now time—well past time—to put that right.
My Lords, my involvement with memorials is as a trustee of the War Memorials Trust. First, I want to wish a fair wind to the proposals that the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and his colleagues are working on. I hope they are successful.
There are a number of museums about the slave trade, particularly in various port cities in our country, which tell people about the appalling effects of the trade in considerable detail. They are in their way memorials to what took place and to those who suffered. A discussion about memorials versus museums echoes the discussions, particularly after World War I, when local people thought about whether they wanted a war memorial carved in stone in their area or whether an amenity of some kind was more appropriate. Different communities took different decisions. We all know of war memorial hospitals, playing fields, village halls and so on.
I come originally from Leicester, where we have not only a fine memorial arch, designed by Edwin Lutyens, but also the University of Leicester, which was founded as a college in 1921, specifically as a war memorial. It proudly proclaims in its motto, “Ut vitam habeant”—so that they may have life. Its website describes the university as,
“a living memorial for those who lost their lives in [the] First World War”.
The War Memorials Trust supports war memorials that are in need of restoration, both of the stone kind and of an amenity kind—although not the University of Leicester, simply because it is outside our scope. We are assisted in this now by the Government’s First World War Memorials Programme, which we run for them with Historic England and the equivalent bodies in other parts of the UK. If any noble Lords or others know of a war memorial of either kind that seems in need of a bit of TLC, please let us know and we will do what we can to help, with both advice and, sometimes, grants.
Unfortunately the memorial suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, would not qualify, both because it is a new memorial—we are specifically about the conservation of existing memorials—and because I do not think it could exactly count as a war memorial under the definition used for legal purposes. Nevertheless, I wish his project well. It deserves the support of all in this House.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for organising this important debate. Memorialisation is possibly the most eternal form of art. Whether it is of events or ways of life, it has for millennia been used to capture the essence of who we are. In part, it is historical record, but it is also the presentation of history—the source of our common understanding of where we come from. This understanding underpins the foundation of our society and, as such, has a dynamic and forward-looking impact. This is especially important in a country such as the United Kingdom, which through its connections to far-flung places has a particularly complex history that combines a wide variety of actors, communities and cultures, not all of which are acknowledged.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Oates, I should like to set out the importance of memorialisation in the context of the enslaved Africans memorial, which I wholeheartedly support. A few years ago, I was born in Jamaica; or—and not to age myself—the British colony of Jamaica, as it was known then. When one thinks about Jamaica, one thinks of its vibrancy, spirit and honour, and the strength of the people. All that is true, but what is also true is not often recognised in this country, which is that Jamaica is a country born out of suffering. In 1655, when British forces captured Jamaica from the Spanish, the population of the island was just 2,500. Between 1670 and 1680 the slave population never exceeded 10,000, but the British could see the potential of sugar cane to generate enormous wealth for the Government. However, labour was needed. By 1800, only 120 years later, more than 300,000 Africans had been enslaved and forced to work on the Jamaican plantations. Thousands of British families grew rich on their backs and hundreds of great homes were built using the wealth generated by slavery. Ports and cities were developed on the spoils of the slave trade. The work of the enslaved generated the prosperity that made the Industrial Revolution possible. We are also enjoying the benefits because modern Britain is built on the legacy of the slave trade.
The scale of the wealth created for Britain by the transatlantic slave trade is matched and exceeded only by the suffering it inflicted, yet while we rightly celebrate its abolition and those who campaigned for it, we do not recognise or honour the people who were ripped from their homes and enslaved. This is hugely important to our country. We may think of slavery as part of history, but the attitude that it embedded in the mindset of all people continues to follow us to this day, and its legacy is felt in the systematic racial discrimination that continues to feature in our society. Yes, we have made great progress, but until we face up to our past and discuss it openly and without blame, we will struggle to heal fully.
Memorialisation is particularly important for the descendants of the enslaved. Marcus Garvey once said—
I shall just finish. I recommend the proposed enslaved Africans memorial in Hyde Park because it would become a vital part of this country’s self-perception and history. It would honour those who have been missing from our history for too long and help us to recognise the complexities on which our society has been built. We would also return roots to a group of people who have not known their history. In doing this, together we will create a society that is more cohesive and just in the future.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Oates on bringing this matter to the attention of noble Lords. Creating new memorials to reflect our broader history would be a very good thing. As I walked through London on my way here today, I looked at the various memorials because I knew that I would be speaking in this debate. I saw a great many men who had had fairly undistinguished military careers gazing heroically down roads, either on horseback or on foot, and they seemed to reflect when the buildings behind them were put up. That tells us quite a lot about the people who built them but only a little about the people represented. I would hope that our new memorials will reflect people who do not have the money to support the building of memorials rather than more statues that are about paying off a relative and the wish to impress someone. We should be encouraging people who are not in that position, and in doing so we would be doing ourselves a service.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, mentioned war memorials. They are probably an incredibly good example of where we should be going because they represent groups. Individuals may be recorded on them, but they represent groups. If we concentrate on groups and stop trying to reflect the “great men” school of history, we can do no better than look to our war memorials. Then we will be approaching this in the right way. If the Industrial Revolution changes a place, it changes the way a group and a society are structured. If we say that the slave trade affected groups, memorials to them should how that group was affected.
Such statues are slightly more difficult to put up than those of one person standing on a horse and looking heroically down a shopping precinct, but we have to start thinking about this. We should really start thinking about it when we start building. That is the easy time to do it, when there is money around. I hope the Minister will be able to indicate that anybody building a new project might be encouraged to think about what they would like to record.
My Lords, I have been looking at statues in various countries and cities for many years. I apologise for using a French word, but I am what is known in France as a flâneur; in other words, I wander around with no particular aim looking at things, and statues are among my favourites. The theme of my speech in the brief time I have at my disposal will not exactly follow that of the noble Lord, Lord Oates, but I thank him for the opportunity to talk about statues. I will talk uniquely, because of the time, about London and the House of Lords.
As a flâneur, one realises that those who commission statues and monuments and those who create them put great thought into them. Generally, they have to be attractive; they have to be historically relevant, which they are normally are—they are mostly historical in London. I doubt whether any of your Lordships would be able to guess how many people in one normal day stop and look at a statue at all. Statues are quite inappropriate now to the way in which people conduct themselves in streets and public places. Most young people are now connected with some electronic device. They pass by; traffic moves very quickly—it was not intended when a lot of statues went up.
However, there are some marvellous statues. Before I move on to the House of Lords, I urge everybody to become a flâneur for a moment and cross the road to look at the statue of Churchill. It is a remarkable and exceptional statue, because not only does it remind us of that great man but it has energy and it is about art as well as anything else.
As you come into the House of Lords, you will pass the statue by Marochetti—it is a bravura statue—of Richard the Lionheart. Why it should be Richard the Lionheart I do not know. I think Marochetti rather preferred the Black Prince, but that never happened—although I think a model was made of the Black Prince and I think the Queen has one of the several copies that remain. As you come into the House of Lords, you will see numerous statues—just under 300. Some of them are outside; some of them are inside. Most demand attention and indeed they get it. You might say that in the House of Lords the statues that we have are working statues, because every day we have people going down the route allotted to them, so the statues are examined on a day-to-day basis, quite unlike anything outside.
I think I have probably reached the end of my three minutes and that is really all I have to say. I hope the noble Lord will again put down this subject for debate when we might have a little more time for it, allowing for something relatively flippant compared to the noble Lord’s speech and we can all indulge ourselves on our particular line. It has been refreshing to have an opportunity to speak on the subject.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for holding this debate and for his eloquent and persuasive speech, backed equally eloquently and persuasively by the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence. It was a compelling case that he made.
I start with a quiz question: what do General Smuts, Winston Churchill, Viscount Palmerston, David Lloyd George, Nelson Mandela, George Canning, Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi have in common? There are two possible answers, neither of which will win you the points. The first is that they are all commemorated by statues in Parliament Square. The second is that they are all men. Every statue in Parliament Square is of a man. The fact that this point is very simple and very obvious does not rob it of significance. In my view, it is simply wrong. I would go so far as to say that it is a national embarrassment.
I want to make a simple proposal. I am proud that we should commemorate outside our Parliament the end of apartheid, the fight for Indian independence and victory in the American civil war. We should pay tribute to the great struggles for freedom and it is an appropriate place to do so. But let us also pay tribute in an appropriate place to our own great struggles for democracy. Of these, surely one of the greatest is the struggle to win votes for women. Let us have a statue in Parliament Square for Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett. Let us have a statue for the woman who led the peaceful democratic campaign for change; the woman whose leadership of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies changed minds and won votes—its work was the heart of the movement, with 25 times the membership that Mrs Pankhurst boasted. Let us have a statue for the woman who was there from the first petition to the final victory for the cause; who took up campaigns to curb child abuse by raising the age of consent; who fought to criminalise incest, combat cruelty to children within the family, end the practice of excluding women from courtrooms when sexual offences were under consideration and to stamp out the “white slave trade”. How can this country have no proper monument to celebrate the life of one of its greatest pioneers and leaders? How can it be that so many people are unaware of one of our most successful and important political leaders, somebody who produced work of real consequence that has changed the nature of Parliament, and rightly so?
The feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez has launched a drive to see justice done in Parliament Square and justice for Millicent Fawcett. I proudly join my cause to hers. On Millicent Fawcett’s statue, let it say, “This is Dame Millicent Fawcett, champion of the weak, defender of children, tribune of the great women’s campaign”.
My Lords, I am proud to be vice-patron of the Memorial Gates on Constitution Hill, an initiative spearheaded by my noble friend Lady Flather, who pioneered and persisted in raising the funds, helped by others, to make this memorial possible. It was inaugurated by Her Majesty the Queen in 2002. Every March, we have a commemoration ceremony on Commonwealth Day. I chaired that ceremony for six years and continue to be a member of the Memorial Gates Council. To quote Her Majesty the Queen’s Commonwealth message to the 53 member states:
“We are guardians of a precious flame, and it is our duty not only to keep it burning brightly but to keep it replenished for the decades ahead”.
The Memorial Gates have flames burning above them. On one of the pillars of the gates is a quote from the poet Ben Okri:
“Our future is greater than our past”.
Inscribed on the roof of the pavilion next to the Memorial Gates are the names of the VC and GC recipients from the countries that are represented there. Five million people from what was then India, south Asia, Africa and the Caribbean served in the First and Second World Wars. We would not have our freedom today without their service and sacrifice. On that roof are the names of three recipients of the Victoria Cross from my father’s battalion, the 2nd 5th Gorkha Rifles Frontier Force. My father became commander-in-chief of the Central Indian Army. He was president of the Gorkha Brigade and he led his battalion, the 2nd 5th Gorkhas, in the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. I was proud to have been brought up with two of those Victoria Cross winners, Gaje Ghale and Agansing Rai. The third, Netrabahadur Thapa, was awarded posthumously.
Memorials are there to inspire the future and our youth. It gives me such pleasure to see schoolchildren attend our ceremony every year. What are the Government doing to encourage, promote and support education programmes in schools on all our memorials. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for initiating the debate and I wish him well in the creation of the monument to enslaved African people. There is a Sikh memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum, as there is a Gurkha one. But although there is a Gurkha memorial in London, there is no Sikh memorial in London. Does the Minister believe we should have a Sikh memorial here?
Before I conclude, one of my proudest achievements as a Member of your Lordships’ House for the past 10 years was being a member of the Joint Committee of both Houses that put up the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square. It is only the 11th statue. I never cease to find people in front of it when I walk through or drive around Parliament Square, because Mahatma Gandhi’s message is for the world. Once again, what are we doing to promote the message of Mahatma Gandhi and the individuals there to educate, because memorials are there to commemorate, to remember and to inspire? I conclude by reading those famous words on the Kohima war memorial:
“When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today”.
My Lords, I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for this debate, and in particular for the work he is doing on the memorial to those who have been enslaved. We look forward to hearing more about it as it develops. I am pleased that he has focused our minds not just on existing memorials, but on what we ought to be doing as we look to the future, especially for the urgent need to celebrate the wide diversity of people and events that have contributed to our national life, many of which are underrepresented in our public spaces.
As levels of social capital and civic engagement continue to decline across communities in western Europe, there is an urgent need to think about how we can retell, reboot and celebrate our common stories and our public spaces through memorialising and celebrating people and events. For example, St Albans, where I live, is where the first meeting of the bishops and barons took place in 1213, which was to lead two years later to the sealing of Magna Carta. Yet this seminal event is not celebrated in any public space in the city. I have been encouraging people to think about how we might do that. I hope we may be able to. This is a great lost opportunity to educate and talk about the roots of our human rights, which started in very early stages there.
A second example in the city is Samuel Ryder, the mayor of St Albans, businessman and lifelong Methodist who set up the Ryder Cup, which was invented in nearby Hertfordshire. In 2011 our local district council agreed planning permission for a statue to commemorate him, but five years on, as is so often with these projects, funding is difficult to secure. Our experience is that a lot of these project take a long time to get going. You have to build groups of people to get support, planning and so on. While I commend the existing memorials grant scheme, would the Minister encourage Her Majesty’s Government not only to extend it beyond 31 March 2020, when I think it will come to an end, but see whether we can extend its remit to help local community groups as we think about how we develop this area further?
My Lords, it is a pleasure to speak in this debate, which is extremely important, especially given the large number of upcoming services that will commemorate and respect those who laid down their lives for our freedoms in the two world wars.
When I walk around the ancient area of London, where we are fortunate to work, both inside and outside the Palace, I have numerous memorials and statues to pay my respects to. From the square outside to the memorials on Whitehall and through to Trafalgar Square, I can pay my respects to men who built up this country. However, I have noticed that what I feel is a glaring admission. Empire builders—men such as Churchill and Montgomery—are well represented, but there is very little recognition of those who fought for the UK from certain parts of the empire. I wish specifically to talk about the Sikh community, to which I am privileged to belong.
After the defeat of the Sikh Empire in 1849, Sikhs were recruited en masse into the British Army and formed its elite fighting forces, becoming heavily represented in the officer class. One early incidence of their extreme valour came when 21 Sikhs of the 36th Sikhs fought 10,000 Afghans at a border post for several hours, fighting till the last man and allowing other troops to regroup and retake the fortress. All troops received the equivalent of the Victoria Cross in India—the Indian Order of Merit—and established the reputation of Sikhs as a fearless martial race. This House and other places rose to pay homage to the fallen—as rare an occurrence then as it is now.
The bravery and sacrifice of Sikh communities continued through the world wars, when they had voluntary conscription rates higher than any other community across the empire. In World War I, Sikhs constituted some 20% of the Indian army, despite being just 1% of the Indian population at the time. Some 83,000 of these men became casualties during the fighting in France and north Africa, with a further 109,000 being seriously wounded. Earl Mountbatten of Burma, who commanded Sikh regiments, said, “In a fight, a Sikh will go on to his last breath, and die laughing at the thought of Paradise, with the battle-cry of ‘Khalsa ji ki jai’ as he falls”.
The first Viscount Slim, commander of the 14th army, also expressed reverence for the Sikhs he commanded, saying, “It is no exaggeration to record that the armies which possess the valiant Sikhs cannot face defeat in war”.
At the extremely bloody Battle of Neuve Chapelle some Sikh regiments lost 75% of their men during a single engagement, which was important in testing German defences and formulating a new tactical plan for trench warfare.
I shall say just one thing more. We must move on with the knowledge that the greatness of this country was achieved by a wide array of communities and resolve to create a proper memorial here in London, the former imperial capital. They deserve nothing less. It is a great shame that significant memorials exist in India and France but not here. As the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, said, if the Minister is committed to the establishment of new memorials that reflect the broader history of the UK, this is the right place to start.
I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for initiating this debate. As always when I do not know a noble Lord, I went to Wikipedia to see what I could find out—the collective wisdom of the internet always impresses me. The noble Lord is the fifth most influential Liberal Democrat, he may be interested to hear. I also learned about the people he went to university with. The depth of information never ceases to amaze me on that website. Noble Lords may not realise that Wikipedia, the internet’s main historical resource, is 90% created and curated by men. I am going to build on what the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, said, because we do not do much better IRL, as my godchildren would say—in real life.
My friend, the campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, already mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, did an incredible audit of the statues of this country and created a database. Of 925 statues, 71 were of women, 29 of which were of Queen Victoria. There were 498 statues of non-royal historical men and only 25 of non-royal historical women. There were 43 statues of men called John. How do you become a statue if you are a woman? It helps if you are naked and it helps if you are an allegorical figure, although the allegorical figure of History was ripped down because somebody decided that she should be a bluestocking, heaven forbid, and it was decided that that was not a good idea. Half of all female statues are allegorical figures, such as Justice, nine represent Art, while there are 45 male allegorical figures.
This, to my mind, is unacceptable. You cannot be what you cannot see. Quite apart from not reflecting our broad and wonderful complex cultural history, it is depressing to think that young women walking around our country cannot see the pinnacles of achievement that have been reached by people from all walks of society and all parts of life. Men dominate all the statues of scientists, businessmen and politicians. Why not start with my own heroine, Ada Lovelace, the computer engineer? I support the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, 100%, but I would go further. I urge noble Lords to sign Caroline’s petition to put Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square but I also urge the Minister to consider a profound redressing of the gender imbalance at a time when it feels so crucial that we give more examples of different ways of being to young women all over the country.
My Lords, remembering is an important but undervalued part of life. As technology causes us to live in moments of distraction and being elsewhere, memorials help us to value the past and be in the present, and to reflect. They are statements of who we are, what and who has shaped us and what we value.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for bringing to my attention the memorial for enslaved Africans that thankfully now has planning permission from Westminster City Council. It is so long overdue in London, as that grotesque trade is part of the history of this city. The British Museum and the National Gallery, which attract so many visitors, were begun with collections from families who had profited from plantations worked on by African slaves. For many that I have met, their family history—their own “Who Do You Think You Are?”—ends with a ship that had left Elmina Castle in Ghana. Records end, but soon they will have a place to go once this memorial is built.
I pay tribute to the role of the BBC and its recent history project and accompanying series “Black and British”, written and presented by historian David Olusoga and with an imaginative original score by the young up-and-coming black British composer Segun Akinola. The history of black people goes back to Roman times, with black soldiers guarding Hadrian’s Wall in the third century, and the project placed plaques in various locations recognising the black British people who had lived there.
Historic England maintains the National Heritage List for England, the apparently only official and up-to-date database of all nationally protected historic buildings and sites in England. Could the Minister, taking on a theme from this debate, outline whether an assessment has been made of this list to ensure that any other gaps, such as the enslaved Africans memorial, have been identified? Do we, and should we, have a proper memorial to the “Windrush”, which arrived in Tilbury 70 years ago next year? Whatever happened to Danny Boyle’s replica that was used in the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, to great effect?
We need to think about what new memorials we need but also which need taking down or delisting. Perhaps we need some temporary memorials on appropriate anniversaries, the equivalent for memorials of the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square—perhaps a plinth here in Parliament or Parliament Square.
Some of the most important memorials in the UK are war memorials, both local and national. The Commonwealth War Memorial Gates at Hyde Park Corner are majestic, as the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, outlined, but the contribution of the Commonwealth and today’s black and minority ethnic soldiers is in my view not prominent enough at the annual Cenotaph service, when the nation comes together publicly. I hope the Minister will consider that point and look at reviewing that as well.
My Lords, this has been a very good debate. I cannot reflect all the views in the very limited time I have, so I will leave it to the Minister to sum them up.
There are three points that I should like to make. First, what we are talking about is very often the old adage that history is written by the winners and that therefore somehow the memorialisation of that history is also what we are arguing against. Secondly, it is clear from those who have argued already today that there are gaps—the suffragettes and suffragists, for example; slaves, as pointed out by the noble Lord who introduced the debate; and women more generally. Maybe your Lordships’ House should take on the responsibility of carrying out a regular and critical review of those gaps and making recommendations that might be taken up by everyone, including the Government, and how we might do that. That is possibly a thought for the usual channels to take forward.
I support the noble Lord who moved the Motion in getting answers to the questions that he asked, with particular reference to the question of what the Royal Parks might do about the request for £1 million to ensure that a memorial, once built, is maintained. Under the new structure the Government will have a lesser role in this, and I would be interested to know what the Minister thinks about what will happen to that request because it is genuine.
Thirdly, the HLF is probably the agency that has most responsibility in this area. It would be interesting to know what proportion of the grants it currently gives goes to memorials. I am also personally interested in our taking up some of the ideas that the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, mentioned, about how intangible memorials might be supported. That might be a way of getting out of always focusing on statues, because they are not always the right way forward.
I understand from my quick research that the HLF has already funded the Gomersal Colliery Memorial Project in Yorkshire, which centres on miners’ sculptures, complemented by personalised paving slabs and opportunities for former miners to get together to recall memories, but I do not think—although I would have thought there was a case for it—it supports the memorial, run by Carousel, to the history of the Paralympic Games, which would be another way of trying to pick up an issue that has not been given sufficient regard. Also, the Tolson Memorial Garden in Huddersfield celebrates the work of service men and women who have lost their lives since the end of World War II. It is part of a museum but, again, it is intangible work. Then there is the work of the Woodland Trust, which is thinking imaginatively about ways to memorialise using the natural environment. That is something that might slip between the various agencies. Perhaps the Minister might respond on that.
At the end of the day, the need to fund these operations is only as strong as the ideas that come forward. There is a broader context here about who drives it. I have suggested that the House of Lords might have a role but we will need to think very widely when we do that and get across the issues that have been raised today in this good debate.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this interesting and far too short debate, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for introducing it. I have also learned a new name to describe myself: like the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, I am something of a flâneur. I have always loved looking at statues. The sad thing about life today is that we walk around with our heads down a lot of the time, not necessarily on the phone but we do not look up and there is so much to see in all our cities.
This nation’s many great statues and memorials form an increasingly studied and enjoyed aspect of the public realm. There are more than 1,300 mentions of statues on the National Heritage List for England, which gives a sense of their ubiquity. They are the embodiments of our great history and include some of the highest examples of the sculptor’s art. The recent dispute over the statue and plaque in Oxford to Cecil Rhodes, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Oates, shows that some statues are capable of generating a great deal of controversy. Historic England’s next exhibition, “Immortalised”, in 2018, will be on the subject of who is remembered in monuments and why. It is a topic attracting more and more attention generally.
The listing system ensures that proper care and protection are afforded to buildings and structures, including statues and memorials, of special architectural or historic interest. Policy on the listing of buildings is currently being revised and will shortly be published as the updated Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings. It will be complemented by Historic England’s range of listing selection guides. These set out its approach to the identification of buildings for consideration for listing and include its Commemorative Structures Listing Selection Guide.
Historic England’s first exhibition at Somerset House in 2016, “Out There”, was on the topic of post-war public art and was very well received, coming just days after the unprecedented grade 2 and grade 2* listing of 41 post-war public sculptures. Several of these pieces are by well-known sculptors and include: Henry Moore’s “Knife Edge Two Piece” near the Houses of Parliament, Barbara Hepworth’s “Winged Figure” on John Lewis in Oxford Street, and Elisabeth Frink’s “Horse and Rider” in Piccadilly.
Historic England built on this by the publication of new guidance on the care of public art. In considering whether to grant listed building consent or planning permission for development which affects a listed statue or memorial, local planning authorities are required to have special regard to the desirability of preserving the structure or its setting or any features of special architectural or historic interest that it possesses. In addition to receiving statutory protection through inclusion on the National Heritage List for England as listed buildings, statues and memorials can also be locally listed by local planning authorities.
As well as publishing guidance on the selection of statues and memorials for listing, Historic England has produced guidance on caring for cemetery monuments and war memorials. As part of the four-year First World War centenary commemorations, the Government have made funding of £4.5 million available to conserve and protect war memorials. Here I pay particular tribute to my noble friend Lord Cope, who does fantastic work as a trustee of the War Memorials Trust. Led by Historic England, in partnership with Imperial War Museums, the War Memorials Trust and Civic Voice, the project is working with the public to record, research, conserve and list war memorials across Britain to ensure that they are protected and the people they commemorate are remembered.
Historic England has pledged to nominate an additional 2,500 war memorials for inclusion on the National Heritage List for England. This campaign will potentially triple the number of listed memorials, which are thus ensured long-term protection. They include many with fine sculptures by noted artists such as Charles Sargeant Jagger and Eric Gill. Civic Voice is running workshops in local communities, teaching local people how to record the condition of a memorial, how to apply for grant funding and how to get the memorial protected, ensuring a legacy of trained volunteers. Communities and schools across the country are getting involved in this important project and I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria—we need to encourage schools and young people in general to get involved in this work and to understand the meaning and value of our memorials and statues. Since the 1990s, there has been a surge in the number of new memorials and statues erected. Recently, attention has been drawn to the imbalance in the number of statues of women. I am happy to say, particularly in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, and my noble friend Lord Finkelstein, that Historic England is engaged in discussions with the Greater London Authority about a proposed new statue of a suffragette in Parliament Square, so there is progress.
Recently, several statues in London with resonance for the black community were listed, including the statue of Nelson Mandela in Parliament Square. However, it must be said that some areas—particularly in London—are becoming anxious that the number of recent memorials is leading to an overcrowding in public spaces. The City of Westminster is one such area and has issued guidance about the process that applications for new memorials should go through. There is a desire to encourage the erection of any new statues outside the core zone of Westminster. Removal of the requirement to seek approval from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport before erecting a statue in London places local planning authorities firmly in control of this process.
It is right that many organisations, trusts, charities and commercial organisations are able to freely propose, fund, develop and deliver memorials and statues marking a great variety of historical moments. It would be quite wrong for government somehow to orchestrate and curate which memorials should be proposed. Government does not have sole responsibility for the many new memorials that are rightly created. Of course, government supports memorials to mark particular events. We are delivering a new national memorial in honour of British victims of overseas terrorism, as well as a memorial to the victims of the 2015 attacks in Sousse and at the Bardo museum in Tunisia. Memorials have also been created in honour of the victims of 9/11, the 7/7 bombings in London and the 2002 Bali bombings.
Government also supports a new suffragette memorial, and a memorial is being created by the independent Iraq/Afghanistan Memorial Project charity to honour those who served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. So, in some circumstances, government supports new memorials, but it is not for it to determine which memorials go ahead, and it is certainly—with limited public funds—not possible for central government to fund all new memorials. There is a tradition of funding new memorials through public subscription. Government supports this and experience has shown that there are often other funders—including the private sector—who are happy and willing to fund new memorials. That said, the Government offer support through the Memorials Grant Scheme, which allows charities and faith groups to claim a grant that is equivalent to the VAT paid on the eligible costs of erecting, maintaining or repairing public memorials. The scheme is administered by the DCMS for the whole of the UK.
On the proposed memorial to commemorate enslaved Africans, the idea of a permanent memorial in London to remember the enslaved and their descendants was first mooted in 2002. We have heard all about this from the noble Lord, Lord Oates, and the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence. As a result, the charity Memorial 2007 was formed. Its goal was to erect a memorial on a site in the rose gardens of London’s Hyde Park. Following the success of Memorial 2007 in securing planning permission for the proposed memorial from Westminster Council in November 2016, the Royal Parks has indicated that it is open to discussion about locating it in Hyde Park, should Memorial 2007 raise the necessary funds, including those necessary for the memorial’s maintenance.
Since the establishment of Memorial 2007, the Government have taken some important steps to mark the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade, including the opening in August 2007 of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool. The Government provide funding to the museum, which examines aspects of historical and contemporary slavery and is an international hub for resources on human rights issues. My noble friend Lord Cope talked about the different ways in which events that have taken place in our lives are remembered, such as by the creation of amenities and museums. That museum has a focus, as referenced by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, on human rights and the Magna Carta.
The Government also support the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which also includes a permanent exhibition, and we are delighted that the St James Heritage Quarter of Toxteth, Liverpool, is recognising its historical connection to the transatlantic slave trade. Both the Prime Minister and Home Secretary have endorsed their campaign to establish a living memorial to the victims of this dishonourable and abhorrent chapter of our history. The Government fully appreciate the tremendous efforts of Memorial 2007 over the past decade, and in particular those of its chair, Miss Oku Ekpenyon MBE, with whom they continue to work.
I also pay tribute to those in the Sikh community and what is perhaps still outstanding in that regard. I assure my noble friend Lord Suri and the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, that the Government fully recognise the outstanding military contribution of Sikhs. We very much welcomed the construction of a permanent memorial to Sikh soldiers at the National Memorial Arboretum, the year-round centre for the remembrance for the whole of the UK. I understand that government was approached for assistance in identifying a central London site for this new memorial. However, as a great many people and organisations are interested in establishing memorials, the general rule is that it is for those bodies to raise the funding and work with the local planning authority to identify a suitable site.
That said, there is of course the National Memorial Arboretum, which brings me to the point referenced by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, and something which I personally feel quite strongly about. Living amenities and living memorials—also referenced by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland—are in a sense for the future. The Woodland Trust has been working to create a new generation of living memorials, which not only commemorate and celebrate the past but contribute to the future. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, I too have done some digging with the Woodland Trust on this. There have been a number of debates in your Lordships’ House recently about the loss of ancient woodland and the loss of more trees as demand for housing grows. Perhaps the planting of trees is a brilliant way to respond to that, in memoriam of different things that have happened. For example, there is the Wilberforce Oak, under which it is said William Wilberforce met the Prime Minister, William Pitt, to take up the case for the abolition of slavery. Back in 2007, there was a rather special example. Two schools in Portsmouth planted trees to remember the blood that was shed to ensure that slaves remained free after the abolition of the slave trade.
An amazing number of things are going on across the United Kingdom by which we mark different events in different ways. However, I assure all noble Lords that the Government take very seriously their continuing commitment to the historic built environment, including its statues and memorials. Again, I thank all noble Lords, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for taking part in this important debate.