Skip to main content

Museum of Science and Industry

Volume 565: debated on Wednesday 26 June 2013

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Karen Bradley.)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady.

Let me set the context for this morning’s debate. The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester—MOSI, as it is affectionately known—is part of the Science Museum Group, which consists of five museums: MOSI; the Science Museum in London; the National Media Museum in Bradford; the National Railway Museum in York; and the National Railway Museum in Shildon, County Durham. The SMG has an international reputation. Collectively, its museums attract more than 5 million visitors every year—mainly school groups, but also individuals and families. I certainly remember taking my daughters to MOSI when they were little. I also remember my mum taking me to the Science Museum in London; that really brought science to life for me, and it was one reason why I ended up taking biochemistry and physiology as my first degree.

MOSI became part of the SMG in 2012. It is feared that today’s comprehensive spending review will announce a further 10% funding cut for the group, on top of the 25% real-terms cuts it has suffered over the last spending period. My hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), who cannot be here today, because she is on maternity leave, has campaigned doggedly on this issue; she even visited MOSI last weekend with her family—they start young in the Powell household. She has determined that, in 2011-12, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport grant to MOSI fell to £3.9 million from £4.88 million the previous year.

The SMG felt that if that was to be the level of the funding cut for 2015-16, the only option would be to close one of its museums outside London and to scale back provision in London. The ratio of taxpayer to commercial funding in the SMG’s existing funding model is approximately 60:40, and reversing—in fact, more than reversing—that relationship in such a relatively short period threatens the SMG’s viability. I appreciate that, in the light of the high-profile campaign to save MOSI, which has support from, among others, fellow Oldhamer Professor Brian Cox, the Minister seemed to have a change of heart last week, and the threat to our regional museums has been lifted, but I would be grateful if he could confirm that in his closing remarks.

As past and current leaders of the museums said in a letter to a national newspaper last week, the SMG museums not only hold collections of international significance, but are vital to their host cities, providing cultural, educational and economic benefits across their regions. The economic importance of Manchester’s science and innovation base cannot be overestimated, and it is confined not just to the city centre. Greater Manchester is one of the fastest growing city regions in Europe, generating £47 billion of gross value added each year, and accounting for 40% of GVA for north-west England.

That recent growth has been driven by knowledge-intensive and high-growth firms. Manchester has been at the forefront of scientific development since the industrial revolution of the 19th century. Inventions such as Samuel Crompton’s spinning wheel, which was exploited by Richard Arkwright, helped to establish Manchester as the centre of the global textile industry. More recently, a small-scale experimental machine—nicknamed “Baby”—created by Alan Turing was the first stored-program computer to run a program, and it was the forerunner of the modern computer.

There are many other famous Manchester scientists I could talk about, but I will mention just a few. They include John Dalton, who did work around atomic theory; Ernest Rutherford, the physicist; and Tom Kilburn and Freddie Williams, who commercialised Alan Turing’s work. Of course, the first commercial railway in the world also ran from Manchester to Liverpool, and MOSI is located on the site of the old Liverpool Road station.

Today is no different. With our excellent universities and the development, for example, of a regional science centre for 16 to 18-year-olds, in my constituency, Manchester is once again being seen as a world-class centre for research—a status reinforced by the Nobel prize-winning discovery of graphene. The translation from research to the commercialisation of such discoveries is aided by Manchester’s science parks. As we have seen with the development of industrial hubs, such as the digital sector in silicon valley, in California, the closer research and development are to industry, and the closer the links between them, the greater the opportunities for the growth of new, innovative knowledge-based industries.

Manchester has a world-class biotech cluster, and the digital, creative and information and communications technology sectors are growing faster than those anywhere else in the UK, outside London. The country’s second-largest media hub is based at MediaCityUK.

Those are our new industries. From those developments, our 21st-century manufacturing base will grow. MOSI is part of that. It showcases the city region’s economic and scientific strengths, as well as their development potential, promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics and inspiring the next generation of scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

I strongly support the case my hon. Friend is making. Of course, I have an interest in this issue because the National Railway Museum is based in my constituency. She has, several times, made the important link between the museums and exciting the public—especially young people—about science. She has also mentioned the museums’ contribution to a science-based economy. The National Railway Museum has established a rail academy, which is basically a training school in craft skills for the railways. Will she join me in asking the Department to provide enough money not only to keep the museums’ doors open, but to ensure that the collections are properly conserved, added to and explained to the public?

I am grateful for that intervention, and I wholeheartedly support what my hon. Friend says. We must see our museums not as archaic, but as part of inspiring the next generation, and we must see the potential that has for our economic growth and the regeneration of our regions.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate, which is important to all of us, including you, Mr Brady. Does she agree that museums also need to be resourced to carry out outreach into communities that might be less willing and able to come through the museums’ doors? We would be very sorry if we lost the good work museums in Greater Manchester have done to reach out to disadvantaged communities.

Order. Before the hon. Lady replies, I should clarify one point for the record, since my status as a Greater Manchester Member of Parliament has been mentioned. While I may have my own strong views outside the Chamber, my only view for these 90 minutes is that we should have orderly debate.

Thank you, Mr Brady. I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention, and I wholeheartedly agree with her. Outreach work is one of the things MOSI is doing. The potential threat to the work done in our schools is a real issue.

The museum hosts a range of high-profile events promoting science and innovation. They include the Manchester science festival, which, in 2012, included MOSI’s first citizen science project—Turing’s Sunflowers. The project drew participants from 13 countries and generated the largest ever data set investigating Alan Turing’s hypothesis about the mathematical patterns in sunflowers—we will all know about that, and we will be discussing it over tea later. There is also the FutureEverything art exhibition and conference—a ground-breaking mix of cutting-edge digital technology, art and music. Those are the types of programmes MOSI puts on, and they are so accessible for such a wide range of groups.

MOSI also runs tailored programmes for schools and colleges, reaching 75,000 young people a year. Through MOSI’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics network contract, high-quality, innovative projects are delivered to volunteers and schools. Over the past year, the STEM ambassador programme has placed ambassadors in 140 schools in Greater Manchester, working with 450 teachers and providing at least 100,000 instances of engagement with pupils in face-to-face activity.

Of course, we must not forget the under-six programme, which allows the children of my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central and others to explore and find out first hand about the magic of science.

I am looking forward to visiting the exhibition on the brain that is coming to MOSI next month.

My hon. Friend is making excellent points, and I congratulate her on securing the debate. In our debate last week, we focused on the point that the funding threat to a much loved museum is a matter of huge concern to people in the region who work in science and engineering, such as the astrophysicist Tim O’Brien. He has said that he has no doubt that places such as the museum make our future scientists. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is vital to our future productivity, as well as providing excellent learning outside the classroom?

I totally agree with my hon. Friend. The activities and exhibitions can inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers, as I have mentioned.

We must not forget that MOSI also directly makes a key contribution to the region’s economic prosperity. A recent study of its economic impact shows both direct and indirect impacts. It is one of the top two visitor attractions in Greater Manchester and generates a direct gross value added benefit of more than £7 million as an employer and through procurement, but there is also nearly £28 million in off-site expenditure, generating a GVA of £8 million. MOSI’s development plans have the potential to increase those impacts.

As I have mentioned, after the 25% real funding cut in the last spending round, there is the prospect of a further 10% cut in the comprehensive spending review this afternoon, and the SMG has made it clear that if that happens a tipping point will have been reached and activity will have to be cut dramatically. That will include the closure of one of its regional museums. SMG has proposed a different approach. It has suggested, for example, moving the group from the responsibility of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and protecting the current funding level for both revenue and capital. That would provide a foundation on which the group would seek further major revenue and capital investment from the private sector. I should be grateful if the Minister commented on those proposals, as well as confirming that the CSR does not threaten MOSI or the free access to museums introduced by the Labour Government. To introduce such a threat would, as my hon. Friends have said, be myopic, to say the least, and bring into question the Government’s commitment to fairness, growth and the regions.

I am immensely proud of Manchester’s contribution to the world’s science knowledge base. Through our entrepreneurs and industrialists, the applications of that knowledge have changed how we live. MOSI not only inspires future generations to become the new Geim, Novoselov, Turing or Dalton, but, as curator of those achievements, protects our cultural heritage and contributes to our cultural identity. That is something that we should honour and celebrate, not destroy.

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Brady. I accept your strictures imposed earlier—you are certainly independent—but you are also a Greater Manchester MP, and it is always pleasing to see one of those reach the heights of chairing Westminster Hall debates.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) on securing this important debate. I first visited the then Greater Manchester Museum of Science and Industry in 1983, shortly after it moved to the historic Liverpool Road station site, in Castlefield. The museum visit was with 3rd Denton (Wilton street) cubs, and I remember being mesmerised as a 9-year-old boy by the big engines, the turbines, the wheels, the pistons, the smell of the smoke and the steam. It was really alluring and gave me a lasting interest in science, technology and innovation.

Over the years, the museum has grown, first encompassing the neighbouring Manchester Air and Space Museum and then gradually filling the whole of the Liverpool Road station site. For those who do not know, the Liverpool Road station is the terminus of the Liverpool and Manchester railway, which opened in 1830, and the museum buildings are therefore those of the world’s first passenger railway station, here in Manchester—or rather there in Manchester, since we are in London, England’s second city.

Other Manchester firsts housed in the museum include, as my hon. Friend said, Baby, the first programmable computer, which is so large it would probably fill this Chamber, but is about as powerful as a pocket calculator. Nevertheless, it is a Manchester first. There are also Rolls-Royce cars. Of course, it was in Manchester that Mr Rolls met Mr Royce and founded the company that continues to produce those cars. The huge emphasis on science is fitting, in the city where the atom was first split. The museum commemorates king cotton: Manchester is of course Cottonopolis, because cotton was the industry that the city’s wealth was built on. However, it also recognises the downside to rapid, uncontrollable growth—particularly the cholera epidemics of the 19th century, with the campaign for clean water and proper sanitation. There is even an opportunity—I do not know whether you have done this, Mr Brady—to walk through a reconstruction of a Victorian sewer, with the smells included.

The Museum of Science and Industry, better known as MOSI to its regulars over the years, is a much loved local museum, and I have fond childhood memories of it. One of the best Christmas presents that I ever had was when I was 12. My grandad’s friend was a friend of the museum, and he bought me membership, so I, too, became a friend of the museum. Back then, people had to pay to get into museums, but a perk with the friend membership badge was to get in free, so I spent many a good time there. More recently, I have enjoyed taking my children there. I think that such experiences are the reason that Mancunians would consider it a tragedy for the museum to close; that is why we breathed a collective sigh of relief when Ministers assured us, last week, that that would not happen.

Not only is MOSI hugely popular with visitors in the north-west and across the north of England; it is also an iconic national museum. We should not be tempted to call it a regional museum, because it is not. It is a national museum based in the regions, and we should emphasise that. It has uniquely interesting sections about the history of the industrial revolution and has helped to garner the inventiveness of our science base in the north-west. That scientific base is not just a thing of the past. As my hon. Friend mentioned, graphene is a modern Manchester invention and an example of the important role that science has always had, and will continue to have, in the economy of Greater Manchester and the north-west of England.

It is therefore a matter of some concern that in the past few months sources inside the museum’s parent company, the Science Museum Group, have claimed that the future of MOSI is under threat because of funding problems. As a result of the previous Labour Government’s move to give free access to important national collections, visitor numbers at MOSI have shot up. Last year, the museum welcomed more than 800,000 visitors, and it is rightly regarded as a major national centre for industrial heritage and innovation.

It is beyond argument that MOSI is a vital part of Manchester and that it provides cultural, educational and economic benefit throughout the region. It is an invaluable part of the local and regional economy, attracting tourists and prestige, and, as we heard from my hon. Friend, it supports many jobs. Surely, there is a wider principle that the benefits of tax revenue gathered nationally should be spread, so that everyone across the country can benefit from them.

Everyone pays taxes, so surely there is a case for the benefits of tax revenue to be spread as far as possible around the country. That has been demonstrated by the BBC, with the excellent move of a large part of its operation from London to Salford, spreading more of its economic impact outside the M25. Surely, our national museums should operate on the same principle. Everyone should have access to our national collections—a point firmly made by my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley).

My apologies, Mr Brady; I would not for one moment impugn your independence, but it is a great pleasure for us all to see you in the Chair this morning.

Will my hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the Imperial War Museum, which of course has located the Imperial War Museum North in my constituency? It is a national museum in the regions, and it is very well visited and much loved.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Imperial War Museum North is another national museum based in the regions that is bringing into Trafford wharfside, and into an iconic building at that, visitors who probably would never have seen those collections in the Imperial War Museum in London. We enjoyed a visit a couple of years ago to see the “Horrible Histories” exhibition, which my kids found absolutely fascinating. We should continue to trumpet the benefits of having national museums and collections in the regions, so that we all may benefit from learning from our past and looking towards our future.

The speculation about MOSI’s future was met by uproar from residents across Greater Manchester and the north of England. As we can see from the number of colleagues here today, the speculation has been met by real concern from most Greater Manchester politicians. The suggestion that MOSI would be affected by the Science Museum Group’s problems led me to write to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. In my letter, I outlined that the acclaimed opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics included a stunning segment on Britain’s development into the global industrial power that it is today. Danny Boyle is rightly lauded for portraying the history of Britain not just as a succession of monarchs, but as a land built by proud working men and women.

Life during the industrial revolution may not have been pleasant for some—indeed, it almost certainly was not—but surely it is just plain wrong to allow access to that history to be lost. I pay tribute to all those involved in MOSI’s development from the early days in 1969, when the then North Western Museum of Science and Industry opened in a temporary venue on Grosvenor street. It was later linked to the university of Manchester institute of science and technology, and then through the superb vision and drive of the former Greater Manchester council, which was instrumental in moving the museum and developing it on its current site, the museum turned into what it is today. The museum, along with the transformation of the county’s once polluted river valleys, is probably the former Greater Manchester council’s best lasting legacy. I thank the many volunteers and friends of the museum who have worked hard to keep things ticking over in the good years and the bad.

People in Manchester and across the north-west, and indeed across the country, are incredibly proud of our free museums, so it is of some small comfort to hear the DCMS announcement on the funding settlement for 2015-16, as no museums should close. Clearly, like MOSI, we await confirmation of the actual details of the funding package, and until those details are received, we cannot be certain of the structural deficit that MOSI will face or of which options will have to be considered. Opposition Members certainly hope that the Government’s culture funding cuts will not result in the closure or downgrading of this outstanding Manchester institution or of parts of it.

There are a number of concerns about the Science Museum Group and MOSI that I would like the Minister to address. Whatever financial problems are facing the Science Museum Group, particularly the London Science Museum, most of my colleagues here today would agree that they should not affect MOSI.

Of course there remains the question of what to do with the structural deficit. The Science Museum Group is currently £2 million in the red, which is projected to go up to £4 million, and potentially even to £6 million, depending on the CSR announcement today. Recent figures show that between 2010-11 and 2014-15 Government funding for the Science Museum Group, including MOSI, has been cut by 25% in real terms. So far, the Science Museum Group has undertaken a number of cost-cutting initiatives, including redundancies across the entire organisation, to try to make the necessary savings. Although it now seems that there will be only a 5% cut to the Science Museum Group’s budget, not the 10% cut that was envisaged, it will still have a significant impact on the budgets and savings that will have to be found.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) on securing this debate.

The Minister’s announcement that the cut will be only 5%, rather than 10%, is very welcome, but it will clearly have an impact on the long-term financing of the Science Museum Group and, in our case, MOSI. Surely, we ought to be considering constructive ways to bridge that gap. Some 5 million people visited the museums last year, and the budget deficit is likely to be in the region of £4 million, which is the equivalent of 80p per visitor over 12 months. I am not suggesting for one second that we ought to be charging entry, but surely we ought to be able to generate more money from those 5 million people who are going through the doors, as well as generating more money, particularly in Manchester, from sponsorship by large businesses such as the airport. From Manchester’s perspective, that would be seen as businesses supporting our local museum.

I absolutely would not support anything that might lead to the introduction of charges at MOSI, because I think that would be a very retrograde step. Where I agree with the hon. Gentleman is on the need for a longer-term vision for the museum, whether that is through charitable giving or through greater sponsorship. I am cautious about the airport, which is not a cash cow for every funding cut in Greater Manchester. Indeed, the Manchester Airports Group already contributes greatly towards the arts in Greater Manchester, most notably through its sponsorship of the Hallé orchestra. I am not sure that the Manchester Airports Group can for ever write blank cheques to fill every funding cut that comes Manchester’s way.

My hon. Friend is making a great case, and I support what he says about charging. I note that a parent from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) started the Facebook group “Save The Museum of Science And Industry Manchester.” In her appeal, she made this specific point:

“It is one of the few places left…suitable for everyone from babies to older people.”

She makes the important point that, because the museum is free

“this means that it is accessible to everyone, not just those who can afford to go on expensive days out.”

Does my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) agree with her? In these days of cuts and austerity, when families are suffering and wages are going backwards, we must think of having such days out. Young people can learn a lot from a free day out, particularly one with their family.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Not only is the museum free, it is fun. That is why people want to keep going back. MOSI is a hands-on museum. There are not lots of exhibits in glass cases; there are lots of things that people can touch, feel, do and play with, which can spark imagination. MOSI is a great fun day out for children and adults of all ages. We must develop a clear vision of what the museum wants to do in the future.

On charges, the National Railway Museum has been part of the Science Museum Group since its inception and it is instructive to consider what happened there. When charges were introduced, the number of visitors fell to 300,000; when charges were removed in a number of stages by the previous Labour Government, attendances rose again and are now at the 1 million mark. When a museum does not impose entry charges, people pay much more in the cafeteria and the shop. There are marketing opportunities for museums, which are stronger and better if they remain free and open to the public.

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Total visits to MOSI in 1997 numbered 235,000. In 2011-12, they peaked at 818,000. That shows the benefit of free access to collections at our national museums in the region.

On visitor satisfaction, 99% would recommend MOSI. Not only is it accessible to all, it is obviously enjoyed by all but the miserly 1% who clearly do not think it is a good day out. Who would dream of 99% visitor recommendations? In 2012-13, 63% of visitors to MOSI were families and 10% educational groups. Only 27% were general admissions of independent adults. I am sure that it is exactly the same in York. Our national museums benefit families who are struggling to make ends meet in the cost-of-living squeeze by giving them a free, fun day out on their doorstep in central Manchester, York or Bradford.

I press the Minister to give firmer reassurances about the future of MOSI. Surely, we must make the case for national museums across Britain, not simply focus on the ones based in the capital city. As we have heard, MOSI is a world-class museum. Surely, we should fight to protect a cultural asset not just for the north of England or for Greater Manchester, but for Britain as a whole.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) on securing this debate. As ever, she reminds us that all those cold, chilly evenings canvassing in the Saddleworth snow for a by-election were worth every minute, because of the role that she plays in championing our area. It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Brady. I must ask your indulgence and that of Front-Bench Members; I may not be able to stay for the whole debate, due to my Wednesday responsibilities for Prime Minister’s questions, to which we are all looking forward today.

Along with many of the Members here today, I spoke about MOSI in last week’s Opposition day debate. The passion in the Chamber that day demonstrated the strength of feeling about the preservation of one of our most treasured cultural institutions. I will not repeat that speech—it is a particularly good one, if anyone has not had the chance to read it—but I will summarise it by saying that for me, MOSI is the soul of our city.

I received a huge response to that speech. Many people e-mailed me to tell me that reading it made them want to go visit MOSI. It made me want to visit MOSI as well, but the duties of a Member of Parliament during summer and spring weekends meant that I could not get there this weekend. However, my wife and daughter visited MOSI this Monday. I rang them on Monday evening and spoke to my two-year-old daughter, who is usually obsessed with iPads and other modern technology. She had been captivated by a typewriter and a rotary-dial telephone.

My hon. Friend highlights how important it is for girls as well as boys to be able to enjoy the experience of visiting MOSI. We have a huge wish for more girls and young women to enter science and technology careers. MOSI can be a good early introduction for them.

I absolutely agree. I mentioned in my speech last week that I take Bess to MOSI and tell her about invention and how she can be an engineer because of the opportunities available. One can see a flicker of inspiration in children’s eyes. It is fantastic for boys and girls, and it is a particularly good way to illustrate to people the kinds of career and opportunity that everyone should be able to follow.

MOSI also illustrates how far contemporary technology has come and gives people a sense not only of where we were in the past but of where we are now. I welcome what the Minister said last week to guarantee its survival. To be honest, though, I think that most people are bewildered that there should ever have been any doubt about the future of such an important asset. MOSI is particularly important to my constituents and me, and the questions about its future highlight the struggle for survival and the worry of many museums throughout the country. It is great to see my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) here making those points too.

Government figures released earlier this year show that local authority funding for museums fell by 11% in 2011-12. As local government grants make up half of all public funding to the arts, that is particularly alarming. If the cuts to local government announced today are the 10% reported, given that things are already at breaking point, there must be doubt about the long-term survival of some of our most treasured national museums. It illustrates how big and painful the cost is of this Government’s failure to get the economy going over the past three years.

My hon. Friend is supporting and extending the case that we are making for MOSI. He is right to highlight the role played by local government. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackley and Broughton (Graham Stringer), who was instrumental in establishing the museum. Manchester city council bought part of the site for £1. When I was a Trafford councillor, Trafford also established the Imperial War Museum. Salford council has taken the risk of buying the docks to establish the Lowry. If not for that, our cultural heritage in Manchester would not exist as it currently does. Does my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) agree about the importance of local government? Those who cut local government are pulling the rug from underneath our city council leaders and other leaders in Greater Manchester, who may not be able to do such things in future.

I could not agree more. As an MP and a former councillor, I always say that local government should be just that—not local administration, but local government. The legacy that we can point to in Greater Manchester, and some of the exciting work that we are doing for the future, is a strong sign of that, but I worry that soon councils will be able to do nothing but try to deliver their statutory responsibilities, because there will not be enough funding to go around.

To follow on from that point, it is not just about our national museums in the regions. It is also about places such as Bolton Museum and other museums in our various towns that have been supported largely by local authorities over the years. They are crucial to young people’s understanding, and particularly their involvement in science and technology, as well as to expanding their views of the world and their heritage.

I agree. They are so important to us that given the financial situation, I think that we will have to consider different ways of funding them in the long term to guarantee their existence. However, I echo the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne): I am completely opposed to bringing back charging to enter museums. Free museum access has been an outstanding success, and there should be consensus that it must always continue.

I have done a little bit of research in advance of this debate. As the Minister knows, the Opposition are always here to help with constructive suggestions about this Government’s problems. It appears to me that increasingly, a lot of institutions are turning to the internet to supplement their funding. A range of organisations from start-up businesses to non-profit organisations, and even councils, are turning to what is known as crowd funding as a cheap, easy and accessible way to raise funds. Clearly, crowd funding is no silver bullet, but I am glad that our shadow Culture, Media and Sport team has said that it will examine what opportunities it might present.

Two of the world’s most famous museums have used crowd funding successfully to raise money to buy specific pieces or fund exhibits. The Smithsonian in Washington, for example, is looking for $125,000 to put on the world’s first exhibition of yogic art. To be honest, I have no idea what that is, but it sounds extremely exciting. Similarly, the Louvre runs an annual crowd-funding campaign known as “Everyone’s a Patron” to ask members of the public to help purchase particular pieces of art. Since the campaign started in 2010, it has funded the purchase of “The Three Graces” and a collection known as “The Treasures of Cairo”, and this year it raised €800,000 to complete a set of 13th-century ivory figures, which now form the only complete set anywhere in the world. Given the huge amount of public support generated by the campaign to save MOSI, maybe we could harness some of it to bring our people even closer and get them more involved in MOSI’s future to secure its long-term success.

Clearly, that funding model would not solve every problem, but I wonder whether there is a role for the Government to support such campaigns. It could be a way for the Government to support not just museums but a whole range of the arts, start-up businesses or practically any other project that we could imagine.

I again thank my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth for securing the debate. I also thank my constituents for the way in which they have got behind the campaign, the Manchester Evening News for its leading role in the campaign to save MOSI and the Minister in anticipation of what I am sure will be his reassurance. In my speech last week, I said that it would be unconscionable if we ever lost MOSI, and I stand by that entirely; I am grateful for the platform given to us as Members of Parliament for Greater Manchester to assist in some way in the campaign.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Brady.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) on securing the debate on the future funding of the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. She has clearly articulated the relevance and importance of MOSI in Manchester, and I am sure that people throughout the country share her passion for this award-winning museum. It has real historical, scientific and educational value.

We have had a good debate, with several useful contributions. We should mention my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester Central (Lucy Powell), although she is not present today. She has been an articulate and determined campaigner for MOSI, so it is right to place recognition of her work on the record.

My hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne) mentioned his first visit to the museum while still in the Cub Scouts in 1983. He spoke with passion about the scientific and industrial heritage of Greater Manchester. He rightly pointed out that MOSI is a national museum that is based in the regions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) again stated his strong support for MOSI. He said that it was part of the soul of Manchester, and he rightly pointed out the important role of local government in supporting our cultural heritage, a theme to which I shall return.

We had some useful interventions from my hon. Friends the Members for York Central (Hugh Bayley), for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley), for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) and for Bolton West (Julie Hilling), and from the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr Leech).

Today’s contributions and those made in recent weeks as part of the wider debate are testimony to the importance of culture and heritage throughout the country. Last week’s Opposition debate, with contributions from Members of all parties, illustrated clearly the economic, social and educational worth of culture, in addition to its intrinsic value. Significantly, we received assurances that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will remain in its existing form, as well as assurances from the Minister, which we accept in good faith, that the Science Museum in London should not have to close, and nor should the National Railway Museums in York and Shildon, the National Media Museum in Bradford or MOSI in Manchester.

Last week, I also asked the Minister to confirm whether the same assurances applied to the National Coal Mining Museum in Wakefield, which is also funded through the Science Museum. I would be grateful if he clarified today whether he is able to extend his recent assurances to include the National Coal Mining Museum. Such assurances would be most welcome and greatly appreciated.

In spite of the Minister’s recent and welcome assurances, I am sure that all Members agree that the devil will be in the detail. As I am sure the Minister acknowledges, our museums face challenging times, which is why we must continue to emphasise just how important culture and heritage are to our society. More needs to be done to secure the long-term financial stability of our museums. If we do not do something, the accumulated loss of income could seriously damage our culture and heritage sector.

My hon. Friend the Member for York Central last week described our museums as

“like fantastic flowers in a garden”—[Official Report, 19 June 2013; Vol. 564, c. 960.]

and said that we must “keep feeding their roots”. I agree with him. Museums inspire and educate while they entertain; beyond that, they are of course of important economic value. More than 4 million people visited one of the Science Museum Group institutions last year, attracting tourists from inside and outside the UK to places that they might not normally visit, and benefiting local economies, even where museum entry is free.

MOSI is a prime example of the importance of universal access to museums, and it is an integral part of Manchester’s cultural offer. During the industrial revolution, Manchester was at the centre of the textile industry in this country, and MOSI celebrates that history and the city’s technological development. MOSI provides an estimated £8 million in gross value added to the local economy and attracts more than 800,000 visitors each year, including more than 100,000 school visitors.

Is it not important to recognise as well that MOSI is an integral part of the Castlefield urban heritage park in Manchester city centre? The park is also the home of Manchester’s Roman fort, Mamucium, the birthplace of the city, and the site of the Bridgewater and Rochdale canals, which brought coal into the city to fuel the industrial revolution.

My hon. Friend is right to point out that MOSI is part of a wider collection of cultural and heritage offers in Greater Manchester. In the near future, I hope to have the opportunity to go and see some of the incredibly important cultural and heritage institutions in that part of our country.

It is also important to highlight MOSI’s work in education, which is instrumental in inspiring young people to consider careers in science and industry, fields that are crucial to our country’s future scientific innovation. As already mentioned, since 2009, MOSI has hosted science, technology, engineering and mathematics ambassadors in schools. The museum provides valuable scientific inspiration to the young people of Greater Manchester and much further afield.

A great supporter of museums as a platform to motivate and educate, Professor Brian Cox, has stated recently:

“Knowledge and inspiration are classless.”

I agree, and, even more so, that access to the institutions that provide such knowledge and inspiration should be classless, too.

It is right that society should invest in museums. They are of real social benefit, but we must help them to develop practical, dynamic and innovative ways to ensure the future success of such organisations. That must include funding. The hon. Member for Manchester, Withington discussed that in his intervention today and in his speech last week, and my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde mentioned crowd funding and other potential sources of revenue. Museums and government, national and local, need to look at innovative ways of securing funding for museums such as MOSI.

Private and public funding are not mutually exclusive, and much can be gained from the diversity of multiple funding streams, as our cultural sector already shows. In difficult economic times, however, DCMS, local government, the Arts Council and the museums themselves must focus on creating an innovative offer, one that will sustain our museums not only for now, but for the next generation. Museums have done great work in recent years to reinvent themselves, integrating new technology, new experiences and attracting new audiences.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the need to look for alternative sources of funding, but does he agree that it would be a retrograde step to revert to some form of charging at museums such as MOSI, even at a level of 80p, as suggested by the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr Leech)?

I assure my hon. Friend that I completely agree that it is not in our interest—the interests of museums and of the people we represent—to go back to what were, frankly, the bad old days, when only those people who could afford it went to our museums. That is why it is vital for us to campaign to safeguard the right of all people, and of young people in particular, to be able to visit those incredibly important cultural and heritage sites. I believe that the Minister agrees, though I would be grateful for his assurances. I completely agree with my hon. Friend that the introduction of free entry to museums was a significant achievement that we should never row back from.

It is important that museums look innovatively at what they can offer the public. They have done great work on that in recent years and have integrated new technology and new experiences to reach out to new audiences. They must work in a wider and stronger network of partnerships with other cultural and educational bodies, such as libraries, schools, colleges, universities, and arts and community centres. They also need to work with the people who visit them and those who do not yet do so—the 50% of the country that did not go to a museum or gallery last year.

Museums help create a sense of history, a sense of community and a sense of place by preserving our culture and as a visible sign of our civic pride and social values. That is why maintaining and developing our regional museums should be a priority for any Government. In that context, I would like to take the opportunity to ask the Minister an important question that I have asked him before, and which I asked the Secretary of State during parliamentary questions last Thursday. In these challenging economic times, what work is the Department for Communities and Local Government doing with the Arts Council and local authorities in the regions to support the arts, culture and heritage? I would be grateful for a response when he winds up the debate.

Artistic and scientific brilliance can flourish anywhere, but talents need to be honed and people need to be inspired. That can happen only if people are given the opportunity to experience and explore their own history and culture. This week, a new Lowry exhibition opens at Tate Britain and displays some of the distinctive northern industrial landscapes that the Stretford-born artist painted over his lifetime.

Lowry may have been Stretford born but, as my hon. Friend may know, for a substantial portion of his life, he lived in Mottram in my constituency. We are extremely proud of him.

My hon. Friend is right to be extremely proud and I am grateful for his important clarification. He will agree that we need to ensure that the next generation of children has every opportunity to succeed. It will never be acceptable to tell a child that they were born in the wrong decade, and that is why a new museum will open tomorrow in my constituency. Experience Barnsley will enable visitors to discover the history of our town through local perspectives. Such initiatives can help ensure that each person’s potential is fulfilled, and that no future L.S. Lowry, Barbara Hepworth, Marie Curie or Stephen Hawking is missed because they did not have cultural and educational opportunities near where they grew up.

Protecting free entry to our museums and securing the future of our regional museums should be a priority. Equal access to museums should be a right for all, not a privilege for the few. That is why the Labour Government ensured that entry to museums and galleries would be free for all. In the 10 years following the introduction of that policy, visitor numbers have more than doubled to 18 million a year. We must continue to encourage people to visit these wonderful institutions.

Our museums are essential to people all over the UK—socially, educationally and economically. To continue to thrive, they must continue to reinvent themselves, drawing new crowds through their doors. They must work with national and local government and others to develop innovative methods of funding. Our museums can continue to go from strength to strength and our society with them. We must help make that happen.

I am pleased, Mr Brady, to speak under your chairmanship in this important debate. As many hon. Members have said, it is a huge honour to be presided over by a Greater Manchester MP and chairman of the 1922 committee. You are the shop steward of our Back Benchers, which adds to the lustre of your chairmanship this morning.

Many hon. Members have talked about the impact of the Museum of Science and Industry on their lives and those of their constituents. Before I go into the detail of some of the excellent contributions, it may be worth pointing out that my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley), who was here this morning as the Whip, told me before the debate started that there is a photograph of her aunt, Connie Varty in the museum, taken when she was a young woman working as an engineer for Beyer Peacock & Co. Almost everyone has had some impact from the wonderful museum.

I shall begin in the traditional but no less heartfelt way of thanking the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth (Debbie Abrahams) on securing this debate on the future funding of the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. I welcome her contribution and those of the hon. Members for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne), for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds) and for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis), all of whom are concerned about the museum’s future.

There has been a strong reaction in the last three weeks to reports that the museum may be in danger, and it is clear how much it is valued. I will use my contribution to scotch the rumours that have swirled around. First, the Museum of Science and Industry is in no danger of closing, nor are the museums in York or Bradford. At lunchtime, I will meet the chairman and directors of the Science Museum Group to discuss the future. I have made the point in many debates that we cannot be complacent. The challenge—I will come to this in a moment—is not simply to keep the museums open but, as was echoed in many of the contributions to the debate, to ensure that they are enhanced and improved to sustain their future for many years to come.

I come to the “scotching the rumour” section of my speech. A few weeks ago, someone—I do not know who—tweeted that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport would be abolished as part of the comprehensive spending review. I want to scotch that rumour. The Department is a metaphor and an adornment to the Government. We have moved to better offices, and they cost £2 million a year less than previously. One gets more for less with DCMS. We are also delivering the main growth programme for the Government by rolling out superfast broadband.

Rumour No. 2 concerns the introduction of charging for our national museums. I was berated in no less an august journal than The Spectator for a mildly flippant remark saying that when tourists visited our museums for free, we would fleece them in the cafes afterwards. The hon. Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley) said that more elegantly, and the point was well made that visitor numbers have doubled at the Museum of Science and Industry, and many visitors who enter free spend money within the museum. The commercial case is that charging would enable museums to raise revenue, but they would lose a significant amount of income from cafes, shops and other areas where visitors spend money. It is not a zero-sum game, and charging would not simply increase revenue by the amount charged. That is the commercial reason for introducing charging, but I accept the moral case that museums are national collections that should be open to the public free for all.

I am grateful for the Minister’s clarification and greatly reassured. Do I take it that he completely rules out the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr Leech) that people should perhaps pay 80p to visit MOSI in future?

I do not want to enter a row between the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish and my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Mr Leech). I have made the Government’s policy as clear as possible.

I turn to rumour No. 3. There is no intention of transferring the Science Museum Group to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, but I certainly welcome that Department’s interest and think there is an opportunity for a deeper and more profound partnership between the two Departments in supporting the Science Museum Group. There is no mystery to the fact that the Minister for Universities and Science is a huge admirer of the Science Museum Group, and he recognises that it is without doubt the most formidable attraction for young people in drawing them into the world of science. It is therefore important, for a Government who take science seriously and want to increase the number of young people who choose careers in science, to clearly support the Science Museum Group’s education work. I will be holding discussions with BIS to see what support it wishes to bring to the organisation.

On rumour No. 4, I scotch any suggestion that we would allow the National Coal Mining Museum to close. That is certainly not our position, and it, too, will remain open. The point of bringing the Museum of Science and Industry and the National Coal Mining Museum within the Science Museum Group was to enhance their offer.

An important point of principle to get across—I thought of this when I was hearing the excellent contributions by the hon. Members for Oldham East and Saddleworth, for Denton and Reddish, for Stalybridge and Hyde and for Barnsley Central—is that we have to get out of the mindset that somehow the regional museums are second class, or that the national museums in the regions are somehow second class to the national museums in London. In principle, if a museum had to close, there is no reason why the London branch of the national museum should not be on the same page. It is really important to say that the museums in York, Bradford and Manchester have as much status and right to survive and thrive as the museums in London.

As has been pointed out time and again, the visitor numbers and attractions at MOSI are second to none. The museum is home to many important buildings from our industrial heritage, and it is uniquely placed to explore the meeting of science and industry and the beginnings of the modern world—the industrial revolution, of course, started in Manchester—in a way that has meaning locally, nationally and internationally. It promotes the best of new technology and curates the Manchester science festival and the FutureEverything conference and exhibition, which I visited last year and experienced a groundbreaking mix of cutting-edge digital technology, art and music. MOSI is at the forefront of science education. It delivers innovative projects and a high-quality service for schools and volunteers through the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network—STEMNET.

Since MOSI joined the Science Museum Group, investment has been made in the public programme and events, in improving the retail and catering offer and in attracting visitor donations. SMG’s long-standing relationship with the Wellcome Collection has also established a new relationship with MOSI that will culminate in the opening of a special exhibition next month.

I hope that I have left hon. Members in no doubt as to my personal support for the museum in Manchester, but I have to thank the director of the Science Museum Group. Since he made his concerns known on my birthday, on 5 June, I have had a meeting with MPs from Bradford and an Adjournment debate, and many contributions were made during the arts debate in the main Chamber. We now have the Westminster Hall debate, and I am still looking forward to my special appearance in front of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, so he has certainly helped me fill my time and build up valuable experience in parliamentary debating.

To summarise what has happened, on 17 June, I met the hon. Members representing the Bradford areas, and my hon. Friends the Members for Keighley (Kris Hopkins) and for Shipley (Philip Davies), as well as the director of the Science Museum Group, in advance of the Adjournment debate held by the hon. Member for Bradford West (George Galloway). We had a productive discussion and agreed that a working group representing the Science Museum Group, local MPs and Bradford council should come together to look at securing a sustainable future for the National Media Museum. That has now become known as the five-year plan. During the Opposition day debate on the arts and creative industries on 19 June, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport also made it clear that the reduction in resource funding for national museums in 2015-16 would be held at 5%.

There is also an important additional development that will affect the Science Museum Group positively. Recognising the unique business model of the national museums and their innovative approach to generating income, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has offered new measures that will make it easier for the museums to manage their budgets independently and reduce administrative burdens. That will include an exceptional power for the sector to borrow up to £40 million a year from the Government; authorisation to invest in non-grant income; access to reserve funds, so that museums have the flexibility to spend donations that they receive; the freedom to set pay, to attract the best expertise; and exemption from Government procurement policy, so that museums can make their own choices about key contracts.

As I think most hon. Members would agree, that is a significant step forward and something that the national museums have long campaigned for. Combined with the favourable funding settlement, it is clear that there is no reason why the Science Museum Group should close any museum based on a lack of funding. The new administrative and financial freedoms will also boost income generation and create a more dynamic operating model.

As hon. Members will appreciate, the outcome of the spending review will shortly determine the Government’s capital support for the national museums, so I cannot speculate on that at this point. However, I can mention the support for capital improvements provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the DCMS Wolfson Fund and the Catalyst match-funding schemes, which we have established with the Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

During the Adjournment debate last week, I paid tribute to the constructive way in which hon. Members representing Bradford, Manchester and York have worked with me and the Science Museum Group to forge a sustainable future for the regional museums. I would like to thank them again for their continued commitment to that endeavour. Looking ahead, we will continue to work with the Science Museum Group, as it examines a range of options across its operation to increase the income that it generates from exhibitions, events and corporate sponsorship. We will also look at potential partnerships at regional level, both public and private, working with local government, education and business.

I do not think the Minister appreciates just how lucky he is. He has visited the Museum of Science and Industry at Liverpool Road station, and he might not be aware that an earlier Member of Parliament was not so fortunate. The Liverpool Member of Parliament, William Huskisson, was killed at the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester railway, when he was run over by Stephenson’s Rocket, which is a fate that, thankfully, the Minister avoided.

I went on a replica of Stephenson’s Rocket when I made the visit. It is well known that the first railway fatality involved a Member of Parliament, which may still resonate through the ages.

I pay tribute to the way in which hon. Members have approached the issue. The hon. Member for Barnsley Central has also contributed significantly to the debate. He and I sparred with each other at last week’s debate, and I probably got slightly carried away—I am not used to debating in a full Chamber, so it was a novel experience for me. It was an interesting debate, and the Labour party is making a powerful case for the importance of supporting arts and culture in the regions.

There was a slight paradox—I felt, obviously, being biased—in that Member after Member got up and talked about how well culture was doing in their constituency, so we are not having an arts emergency, but the issue is worth looking at. That is why I am pleased, for example, that the Arts Council has, under this Government, looked seriously at how it supports arts and culture in the regions using lottery money, which we increased.

As hon. Members know, we significantly raised the proportion of lottery funding going to the arts. An additional £100 million is going to the arts every year under this Government. Some of that money has been used to significantly increase the amount of funding available for touring, so national arts organisations have the opportunity to tour their work around the country. The Arts Council has also set up what it calls the creative people and places fund—off the top of my head, it is worth about £30 million—which is designed to support arts and culture in areas that are, to use the jargon, under-represented in terms of arts and culture, where perhaps the quality of offers that one might find in other parts of the country is not available.

The issue is serious and important, and I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Oldham East and Saddleworth for raising it, but I hope that she will also acknowledge that a lot of work is being done to ensure that all parts of the country benefit from our arts and culture. We will listen to any further suggestions that she or other hon. Members may have.

Sitting suspended.