Westminster Debate: Lease Update

On 8 June 2021, our Fellow Tim Loughton MP secured Westminster Hall Debate on “The Future of the Learned Societies at Burlington House”.

For Fellows who missed the debate live, a recording can be found here (skip forward to the 16.50 timestamp). A transcript of the debate can be found here.

The following MPs spoke is support of the Learned Societies’ Campaign to remain at Burlington House: Tim Loughton FSA, Chris Bryant (currently nominated for Fellowship of the Society), James Gray, Sir Bob Neill, Liz Saville Roberts, Alun Cairns, Chris Skidmore FSA, Siobhan Baillie, Martin Vickers, Simon Baynes and Jeff Smith, Shadow Minister for Local Government. The Minister responsible for Burlington House, Eddie Hughes, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Housing and Rough Sleeping replied on behalf of the Government.

In sum, it was an extremely strong debate in favour of the Learned Societies. The key points were put effectively and with great vigour, and the Minister even remarked how well the Society of Antiquaries was represented.  The unanimity of the House was apparent and quite striking, with Conservative, Labour and Plaid Cymru MPs taking part from constituencies all around the UK. It was particularly gratifying to hear the Societies’ Regional and International Groups mentioned, showing the extent of our reach. The speeches engendered in me a tremendous sense of pride in the Courtyard, and the achievements of our Society in particular.

In response the Minister, predictably, stuck to his line. He deferred to ‘ongoing negotiations’ and repeated many of the erroneous defences erected by MHCLG about lack of public accessibility, and need to modernise etc. It was enjoyable to hear James Gray and Chris Bryant intervene on this to point out the ever-escalating rents make this impossible.

In short this was an excellent platform from which the Societies can press, for the first time, for our landlord to engage in substantive discussions about finding a real solution to the grave problems facing our future at Burlington House. I am sure Fellows would want me to thank Tim Loughton MP and the other MPs who spoke, and the many others inside both Houses who continue to support our cause.

Thank you to everyone who contacted their MPs in advance of this debate. Your continued support is appreciated.

John S.C. Lewis FSA
General Secretary