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Jeremy Hunt: We will set museums and galleries free from interference

Thank you for coming - and welcome to the Globe Theatre. The Globe is the best possible place to talk about our heritage. It reflects our literary and theatrical heritage, dating back to the original Globe in 1599 .

But it also showcases the vibrancy of our cultural present, both as the venue for modern recreations of Shakespeare and for more contemporary productions.

So I am grateful to Roger Parry, Liz Fosbury and Mark Sullivan for making it possible for us to be here this morning.

<h2>Difference between Conservative and Labour</h2>

Today I want to talk about the key role heritage plays in modern Conservative thinking. And I want to explain why that means a radically different agenda to what we have had from Labour in the last 12 years.

Labour's has been an "either or" agenda. Either you value the past. Or you value the future. Conservatives, on the other hand, have always valued the thread that leads from the past to the future.

Keynes once said "I do not know which makes a man more conservative - to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past." Modern Conservatives do not want to fall into either trap. We don't want to harp back to an idealised golden age - but nor do we believe we will walk wisely into the future without due respect for how we got to where we are.

Labour's Cool Britannia agenda was an attempt to promote Britain as a young, modern country. There was an insight there: we do need to embrace change if we are to prosper.

But there was also a terrible flaw: our extraordinary history and deep-rooted heritage are intrinsic to British culture, core to our very character as a nation. They are not something to be jettisoned as part of a national rebranding exercise. Any attempt to do so will surely be as doomed as Stalin and Mao's attempts to re-write Russian and Chinese history.

<h2>British culture and multiculturalism</h2>

Let me start by addressing squarely one of the central reasons why Labour has never been comfortable talking about our cultural heritage, namely its mistaken fear that doing so will offend multicultural sensitivities.

Any national culture is inevitably amorphous and difficult to articulate. It is something we feel and share, but often cannot explain.

In Britain's case, our starting point has to be a recognition that we are one of the most open and cosmopolitan societies on the planet - and indeed have been for centuries. That openness has been at the heart of our success as a trading nation and made us - at least until recently - one of the most prosperous countries on earth.

Immigration has been part of our island history. But nothing could be more patronising to first or second generation immigrant families than the assumption that they have no interest in our culture or history. 

<h2>Labour's record of neglect</h2>

Under Labour heritage has been ignored, derided and deconstructed.

Heritage organisations all make the same complaints about the Government's approach: 'Not interested'; 'Nothing changes'; 'Letting us down'; 'Neglectful'

That of course has been reflected in funding, which has declined both in real terms and as a proportion of the DCMS budget. More significantly lottery funding has been decimated and is now less than half its 1997 levels - a reduction of £255 million annually.

This isn't just about money though. Because even worse than the lack of money has been the lack of ministerial interest in what heritage can contribute.

We have had 14 ministers responsible for heritage in 12 years. It has been impossible to get any consistency in policy making.

The pressing need for legislation has been repeatedly ignored, with the ill-fated Heritage Protection Bill originally promised by Chris Smith back in 2000 before it was shelved by Andy Burnham just last year. And this despite a public offer from us to help the government get it through parliament quickly.

<h2>Economic opportunity</h2>

Even if the government cannot stomach the social and cultural contribution that the heritage sector can make, it should at least recognise its economic importance at times like the present.
Our tourism industry supports 2 million jobs, with 80% of international visitors saying that the main purpose of their trip is to visit cultural or heritage attractions. No doubt the Staffordshire hoard will transform the tourism and heritage offer in the West Midlands - a treasure that until July this year lay undiscovered. So heritage opportunities do not stand still.

Incidentally the discovery and its cataloguing was a great testament to the success of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, set up by the last Conservative Government, and which Ed Vaizey campaigned with great determination to save this year.

Heritage is also a vital lever in regeneration projects, as I saw when I met the Churches Conservation Trust last week. They told the remarkable story of All Souls Church in Bolton, whose regeneration has transformed the mainly Muslim community amongst which it sits.

<h2>Conservative plans for heritage</h2>

So how can a new Conservative government help the heritage sector? Rebuilding our economy on a sound financial footing will be as vital to the heritage and cultural sectors as to everywhere else. But there are a number of things specific to the heritage sector that we must do.

<h3>Lottery reforms</h3>

First of all the lottery. Fifteen years after The Conservative Party introduced The National Lottery, heritage can count itself £4 billion richer as a result. The money distributed by the Heritage Lottery Fund has transformed the landscape of the sector.
But in recent years that amount has been decimated. So by restoring the Lottery to its four original pillars, we will ensure long term security for heritage funding. We also believe that administration costs incurred by lottery distributors are still too high: 9% at Big and HLF and 8% at the Arts Council and Sport England. This is better than it was, but we believe that lottery distributors should have distribution costs no more than 5%.

Taken together with other reforms, these changes could generate an extra £30 to £40 million of lottery funds for the heritage sector from 2012 on.

<h3>Streamlining bureaucracy</h3>

But it isn't just about putting right the lottery. We need to make sure that every penny spent by taxpayers on heritage is generating the best possible value for the heritage sector. That means asking difficult questions about whether we should streamline the different bodies who work within the sector.

In particular we need to ask whether English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund should exist as separate grant-giving entities. The Arts and Sports world manage with one, and by HLF's own figures combining their functions with EH would save £7 million. Of course any change in remit for English Heritage would have enshrine the principle of additionality and make sure there was no conflict between its grant-making powers and grant-receiving historic assets.

I want to say at this point that this is no reflection on the great work done by Carole Souter and the excellent members of her team. Indeed we would be happy to consider alternative ideas that increase the proportion of lottery funds actually distributed as grants.

But in a time of tight public spending it must be right to ensure that the value of grants to heritage and cultural organisations is protected as much as possible and that administrative and bureaucratic costs are the first place we look for savings. We look forward to a productive discussion as to the best way to achieve this.

<h3>Boosting philanthropy</h3>

In the current climate, funding is the biggest concern for most heritage organisations, particularly as the opportunity to finance restoration projects through property development opportunities has declined.

So one thing we need to ask is why, despite many tax advantages, we do not have a US-style culture of philanthropy in this country.

Simplifying gift aid and the complex rules around recognising donations will help this. As well as helping our big national institutions, this will help the two thirds of heritage organisations that are in private or charitable hands.

But we also need to ask what can be done to create a culture of asking as well as a culture of giving. In particular we need to examine what can be done to encourage organisations to build up substantial endowments. In the US the museums sector has endowments worth $14 billion, a critical buffer against changes in the economic weather. Yet our rules are so complex that the National Gallery has to keep its endowment in the US to stop the Treasury getting its hands on it.

We therefore need to re-examine the administrative status of our foremost museums and galleries. They are technically "quangoes" - but in fact they are nothing of the sort. They are cultural organisations for which stewardship of the nation's assets combines with a specific fund-raising remit. As such rules like year-end requirements to use or lose budgets are totally inappropriate. Likewise the requirement to hand back to the Treasury any funds raised, for which they then need to resecure permission to spend.

So I can today announce that we intend to introduce a Museums and Heritage Bill if we win the next election. This will contain the key elements of heritage protection reform contained in the Heritage Protection Bill. This includes reducing the bureaucracy of the current system by establishing a single system for designating heritage buildings, monuments and landscapes; introducing a fairer and more transparent online decision making; and greater local decision-making.

But the new Bill should also establish a new administrative status for non-departmental public bodies within the cultural and heritage sectors. This will recognise their role as public organisations with responsibility to steward the nation's assets. But it will also allow them the independence to be truly effective and entrepreneurial fundraising bodies. They must have both the ability and responsibility to raise money both for capital projects and also for endowments to give them funding security over the long term.

Any new plans to build up endowments or other sources of private giving must be an additional pillar of funding and not a replacement for public funding. So for larger organisations we will also explore the possibility of long-term funding agreements, possibly stretching beyond 3 years, in return for a solid commitment to build up endowments and alternative income sources.

Despite the current economic gloom, this represents an opportunity for the cultural and heritage sectors unrivalled since the founding of the National Lottery in 1994.

To lay the foundations for new funding sources in a manner appropriate for a modern 21st century economy.

To ensure that the multiple streams of wealth the nation creates find their way back - as they properly should - to supporting, nourishing and nurturing our heritage.

To bequeath our heritage in good shape for the future whilst harnessing the power it has to transform the present.

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