Former minister backs campaign to save Bletchley

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Pressure is mounting on the Government to intervene in the campaign to save Bletchley Park, the historic site in Milton Keynes where Britain's code-breakers hastened the defeat of the Nazis during the Second World War.

Following yesterday's launch of a campaign by The Independent, the former Europe minister Denis MacShane announced: "I will ask the all-party Parliamentary Heritage Committee to organise a visit for MPs to Bletchley and I hope both the Commons and Lords will support The Independent's campaign."

He added: "At a time when the Russians were in alliance with Hitler and the Americans were not at war, it was there in a few acres that vital work was done that allowed Britain to maintain the Atlantic lifeline and take the fight to the Axis powers in the Mediterranean and North Africa."

As well as increased funding, the former minister called for a memorial for the code-breakers, whom he compared to other military heroes. "There are no statues to code-breakers in Trafalgar Square but Bletchley helped win the war. I hope the Government, business and those who remember Britain's lonely stand for freedom from 1939 until other great powers joined as allies is recalled by making Bletchley a memorial visitors' site for the 21st century."

However, the Government insisted that it would not extend its museums budget to save the park, which needs around £10m. A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: "[The Department] is aware of the campaign and while we recognise the excellent work carried out at Bletchley Park, as well as its historical significance, it has no plans to extend the department's sponsorship of museums and galleries beyond the present number."

Meanwhile, there was hope that funds might come from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which has met the Bletchley Park Trust to discuss its plans for restoring the park.

A spokesman said: "Competition for HLF grants is tough, but if an application is submitted it will be assessed under HLF's usual criteria, including the fund's requirements that projects must conserve and enhance the UK's diverse heritage."

Jonathan Dimbleby, the broadcaster, added his voice to the campaign yesterday. "It would be daft to allow Bletchley Park to disappear. Like saying the Cabinet War Rooms should be sealed up," he said.

The shadow Defence minister Julian Lewis, a former military historian, said: "The whole world knows the massive contribution Bletchley Park made, not only to winning the war but to substantially shortening its duration. It would be a national disgrace for this historic location not to be saved for posterity. I warmly welcome The Independent's initiative."

Martin Horwood, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham whose parents both worked at Bletchley, also backed the campaign: "My mother was a linguist and my father worked on the building of Colossus, which was the world's first programmable computer.

"The contribution that all the people there made in finishing the war is still underestimated. And the park itself is a priceless part of our heritage. The state in which it has been allowed to fall is a disgrace."

Jacqui Lait, the Conservative MP for Beckenham whose uncle, Robert Easton Button, served at Bletchley and died last week at the age of 93, said: "I congratulate The Independent for taking this up. I would support any action that saw the trust raise its profile in appealing on behalf of the Park."

Phil Shanahan, author of The Real Enigma Heroes, said: "It depresses me to see the huts where extraordinary work was carried out in such a terrible state of decay. Bletchley Park is a beacon for British achievement and its significance to this country cannot be underestimated."

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