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Protection of monuments of Captain James Cook

Volume 695: debated on Tuesday 11 May 2021

The petition of residents of the constituency of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland,

Declares that the achievements of Captain James Cook in the fields of science, exploration and cartography are of immense historic significance and are rightly commemorated by a number of much-loved statues and monuments across Middlesbrough, the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire.

The petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to ensure that those monuments and sites which commemorate Captain James Cook are protected against harm or removal.

And the petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mr Simon Clarke, Official Report, 10 March 2021; Vol. 690, c. 970 .]


Observations from The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Oliver Dowden):

Captain James Cook is rightly considered one of the greatest navigators and explorers of all time: amongst his major achievements were the three voyages between 1768 and 1779 in the Pacific Ocean and to Australia in particular. Britain has a rich maritime heritage, and statues and monuments such as the ones dedicated to Captain James Cook across Middlesbrough, the Tees Valley, North Yorkshire and elsewhere are there to help educate us and future generations about all aspects of Britain’s past.

The petition from the constituents of Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland highlights the significance of the Cook statue within their communities and the sense of pride they have in his legacy and achievements.

The Government do not support the removal of statues or similar objects, artwork and historical objects by any organisation. Historic England, as the Government’s adviser on the historic environment, supports this position.

Government have been clear that rather than removing or erasing objects, we should contextualise and interpret them in a way that enables the public to learn about all aspects of Britain’s past.

We are therefore committed to ensuring that this country’s heritage is appropriately protected. The removal of statues and other commemorative objects which are designated as a part of a listed building requires listed building consent. In addition, we have recently introduced new rules to ensure that proposals to remove unlisted statues, memorials and monuments which are important to local communities are given proper consideration through the planning permission system. In determining such applications, local planning authorities are required to have regard to the Government’s “retain and explain” policy. Local people can make their views known through the application process, and the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government has the power to call in applications for his own determination where he considers such action is appropriate.