On Monday, I welcomed Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Salisbury MP John Glen to Swindon. John was visiting the Science Museum in Wroughton and then went on to Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in Old Town.
We are extremely fortunate to have a national collection in Wroughton with a vast and varied array of artefacts, ranging from the giant Lockheed Constellation airliner to early computers, from bicycles to the massive wood printing press, and from MRI scanners to hovercraft. I would like to see greater access for schools and colleges to the site, which used to be the case in the not too distant past, so it was encouraging to hear that the Science Museum has plans to do just that.
Swindon owns one of the most important collections of modern British art in the country, with some of the work currently displayed in rotation at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in Old Town. The available space just isn’t big enough to show off our extensive and impressive collection, however, which is one of the reasons why I am extremely supportive of plans to build a new much larger museum and exhibition space. It isn't just about the art collection, because there will be more room to display exhibits from the Science Museum collection too, for example.
The Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust are now in the final stages of consultation and engagement before they complete their application for Heritage Lottery Funding towards the cost of a new, much larger facility, which will be built in Swindon town centre. Swindon Borough Council has already pledged £5 million towards the proposed landmark destination. This would that allow us to fully showcase our art collection and attract visitors and more investment into our town.
Last week, I spoke at Old Bailey about plans for a post-Brexit Britain. Last year, when the Prime Minister came to office, she acknowledged the achievements since 2010 that delivered economic credibility, reduced the deficit and saw more people into work than ever, and then memorably addressed the challenges facing many parts of our society, including young people and home ownership and the struggle of many to get help for mental health problems and her aim to tackle them.
She reiterated these commitments only a few weeks ago, defending “free and open markets, operating under the right rules and regulations”. She talked of how free markets have underpinned the rules-based international system that inspired 70 years of prosperity and rising living standards across the world. I can think of no better place to start the fight back than this.
Continuing the Tory tradition of house-building and home-owning which delivers prosperity to millions of people is not in dispute and we now need to establish how to do it. We need to intervene directly to address the issues of land ownership, the cost of land and the need to cover the costs of infrastructure that so often form barriers to development. Working with the private sector, we can then move to conventional house-building but also, vitally, new methods of construction that will deliver homes in months, rather than years.
With confidence in and support for our growing small businesses, a renewed dedication to strengthening the rule of law and with our eyes fixed on a post-Brexit horizon of new and meaningful engagement with the EU, then we too can deal with our own doubts and turn a corner.