Government introduces new Holocaust Memorial Bill to parliament

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Government introduces new Holocaust Memorial Bill to parliament

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said Thursday's Bill was 'timely as the remaining survivors are becoming older and fewer in number, meaning it is vital that we push ahead with the Memorial'

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (right), holocaust survivor Sir Ben Helfgott and his grandson Reuben at Victoria Gardens in Westminster, London, celebrating the go-ahead being given to a Holocaust memorial.
Former Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick (right), holocaust survivor Sir Ben Helfgott and his grandson Reuben at Victoria Gardens in Westminster, London, celebrating the go-ahead being given to a Holocaust memorial.

The Government is to introduce new legislation to parliament on Thursday  to progress the construction of a national Holocaust memorial.

The Holocaust Memorial Bill, first announced by Rishi Sunak last month, updates legislation dating back to the Victorian times, and seeks to remove a statutory obstacle that has previously prevented the building of a new memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster.

Located next to the Houses of Parliament, the memorial will serve as a powerful reminder to the whole nation of the Holocaust, its victims and where prejudice can lead if unchallenged.

Levelling Up Secretary Rt Hon Michael Gove MP said:“As a nation, it is vital we learn from the past to build a future which is free from prejudice and hatred.

“This memorial will rightly sit at the heart of Westminster, alongside other great symbols of our democracy, and will act as an inspiration to the whole nation for generations to come.

“Today’s Bill is timely as the remaining survivors are becoming older and fewer in number, meaning it is vital that we push ahead with the Memorial – we owe it to  the six million Jewish people who were murdered.”

In a statement the Board of Deputies also welcomed the government’s announcement saying:” “We welcome the Government’s announcement of legislation intended to help construction of the Westminster Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre to proceed.

“This memorial will be a powerful and important tool in combatting the rising tide of Holocaust Denial and distortion.”

Karen Pollock CBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust added:“We are delighted that legislation is today being brought to the House of Commons to allow the Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre to be built next to Parliament.

“The Memorial will educate future generations and ensure the Holocaust remains in our nation’s collective memory. Time is of the essence and survivors of the Holocaust are becoming fewer and frailer, our hope is for the Memorial to be completed in time for them to see.”

Planning consent for the Holocaust Memorial to be built in Victoria Tower Gardens was granted in July 2021, but the decision was quashed by the High Court in April 2022 due to historical legislation passed in 1900 to extend the gardens.

This Bill seeks to remove this obstacle and ensure that the project can be completed as efficiently and cost effectively as possible.

Campaigners against locating the memorial at the Westminster location have vowed to continue their long-running campaign against the £100 million project.

Earlier this month the controversial columnist Melanie Phillips wrote that a Westminster located memorial “threatens to be a desecration of memory, an abuse of civic engagement and a shameful betrayal of the slaughtered Jewish millions.”

Successive prime ministers and opposition leaders have backed the project, first proposed in 2015 to preserve the testimony of British Holocaust survivors and concentration camp liberators and to honour Jewish and other victims of Nazi persecution.

Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis has also voiced his support.

The government says careful design means the memorial will enhance the gardens, ensuring they continue to provide an important public garden available to residents and visitors to Westminster.

Paths and seating will be more attractive and accessible, and landscaping improvements will enhance the local environment.

The government has said the memorial and learning centre will be free to visitors, with timed entry tickets.

Permanent Secretary Sarah Healey wrote on Thursday  to Gove, who in return issued a ministerial direction.

The letters related to continued spending on the UK Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre ahead of Royal Assent for the Holocaust Memorial Bill.

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