Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - David Lammy, culture minister

How do you see heritage conservation?

I think conservation embraces everything, from looking after the most beautiful painting in the world to a battered First World War postcard, including such items as the Bamiyan Buddhas that were destroyed in Afghanistan, and even the way people feel about Stonehenge.

Our heritage says everything about our identity in the past, but also about changing identity. I think it's particularly true as we examine the question of what it means to be British.

Who looks after it?

What's also clear is that there are many people who care for our cultural heritage, and they cover a whole range of professional backgrounds. Many are volunteers working in museums and for organisations such as the National Trust. There are technical people, craftsman, educators and scientists.

Does conservation have a unified voice?

It's a really big and important area, and it's one the public cares about.

But because of all of that, it has also historically been a world that's been fragmented into many different specialist bodies, guilds and associations, and it has not always been able to speak with a coherent voice. The reason I was so pleased with the launch of the Institute of Conservation was that it was the first major attempt to bring the bodies together so they can speak with a united voice. For example, it can make joint applications for funding.

Why is a united voice so important?

I look forward to any attempt to deal with fragmentation because it means that people who care about conservation can meet each other and, when they come and meet government ministers, they have a much more coherent idea of what it is they want to see in a particular area.

What areas of heritage conservation are you working on now?

We are preparing our heritage protection review. I'm very much looking forward to working up to a White Paper for that next year.

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