North Wiltshire MP, James Gray, stood up to HM Government yesterday in the debate over the future of Burlington House, home of the Society of Antiquaries, Geological Society, Linnean Society and the Royal Astronomical Society.
Burlington House was built for the Societies, providing the foundation for success as a world-leading bodies. The central and easily accessible area, close to business and government, has been essential for the facilitation of expert debate and joint-working through the past 150 years. Together the Societies represent a unique, distinctive ‘cultural quarter’ where the common focus on public benefit means that together the Courtyard Societies are more than the sum of their parts.
In 2019, PwC completed an analysis on the contribution the Societies made to the “economic, scientific, social and cultural well-being of the UK through [their] range of activities and programmes”. The analysis concluded the total gross value of the four societies was £47,368,500 per annum.
Mr Gray spoke out in the Westminster Hall debate yesterday afternoon, stating that:
“…the Government have concluded that the building is a valuable asset that they own, and which they can therefore sell or otherwise maximise income from it. That is the wrong presumption. That building was not set up as a Government asset, which could be subsequently sold. It was set up to be the home of the learned societies.
“I would like to think that the Government will consider not bleeding the assets, which is what they are effectively trying to do, whether through rent or another way. We should not be bleeding the assets; they are cultural and historic assets and they should belong to and be preserved by the nation.
“We need a Government who will say, “This is an asset to our nation. This is an asset that we want to preserve. This is an asset that does more for our nation”.”