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Holocaust memorial should be at IWM not Westminster, argues MP

A Conservative MP has used an adjournment debate in the House of Commons to argue that the national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust should be located in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park rather than Victoria Tower Gardens in Westminster.

In January 2016 the then prime minister David Cameron announced that a new UK national Holocaust memorial and education centre would be built at Victoria Tower Gardens, next to the Palace of Westminster.

The location was chosen from a shortlist which included Geraldine Mary Harmsworth Park (next to the Imperial War Museum) and Potters Fields Park, both in Southwark.

Sir Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, told the House of Commons this week: "It is impossible sufficiently to convey the horrors of this great crime, but we have a duty to not just commemorate but teach future generations about the holocaust.

"I will detail why Victoria Tower Gardens are insufficient for this task, while pointing out that we have a very good solution available close by, at the Imperial War Museum."

Sir Edward went on to explain that "Victoria Tower Gardens is already a well-trafficked area that suffers from severe congestion. The traffic and access pressure will overwhelm Millbank, where there is no parking, at a location not capable of accommodating such a volume of people and vehicles, especially coaches.

"We want people to be able to visit a Holocaust memorial museum uninhibited. We want crowds to experience this building, and so it is counter-intuitive to site it at a place that already suffers from congestion and does not have the capacity to deal with the number of people we hope will visit."

He added: Happily, there is a solution. The Imperial War Museum is spending 15 million on renovating and improving its permanent exhibition devoted to educating people about the Holocaust.

"The museum sits in a location that would not suffer from increased traffic and that is already conducive to tour and school coaches. It is less than a mile away from the Palace of Westminster, so it is still located in the centre of the nation's capital.

"The museum's directors have been very welcoming of the idea of having the national Holocaust memorial at hand there, and they have offered a site next to the museum.

"Far from glorifying war, the Imperial War Museum makes the opposite point – that war led to the hatred and destruction that made the Holocaust possible."

Replying to the debate, communities minister Andrew Percy told MPs that the option of placing the memorial at the Imperial War Museum had been " explicitly considered among the 50 other sites by both the Holocaust Commission and the cross-party UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation".

Mr Percy said: "The promise that all parties made to our Holocaust survivors was that we would create a striking and iconic memorial, and there is nowhere more striking and iconic than next to our Parliament in Westminster."

In a letter published in The Observer on Sunday, Sir Peter Bazalgette, chair of the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, argued that "the national memorial should stand in Victoria Tower Gardens, next to Parliament, as a statement of our values and a constant reminder of the British connection to this history, much of which we can be proud, but also a reminder of where we fell short, with tragic consequences".

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