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judged it advisable (like many of my countrymen) to proceed southward, where industry might find more employment, and be better rewarded.
He was lucky to obtain work at Somerset House, an enormous construction project at the time. He served as Shropshires first surveyor of public works in 1787, and so began a career that included the building of roads, bridges, churches, harbours and canals, many of which are still in use today.
Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Con): I am glad to hear my hon. Friend say that London was an expensive city even in those days. Does not Telfords contribution to London, particularly through St. Katherines dock, show the many advantages of the Union? Perhaps this occasion can also be a celebration of the way in which people from across the United Kingdom have contributed to the success of Great Britain over the years.
David Mundell: I certainly agree with my hon. Friend. As I said, Telford was truly a great Briton; his works extended to Wales, to London and Portsmouth in England, and to the highlands of Scotland. Indeed, one of his great works was to ensure a mail route from London to Ireland. He was referred to as pontifex maximus for his considerable proficiency in building bridges, and in 1820 he was appointed the first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He held the post until his death in 1834. He built his reputation on craftsmanship, as is demonstrated by the variety of projects that he undertook. Those projects include the Menai Strait and Conway bridges, the renovation of Shrewsbury castle, the Caledonian canal, St. Katherines dock, which has been mentioned, and the stunning Pontcysyllte aqueduct over the River Dee.
The suspension bridge over the Menai Strait to Anglesey is a world-famous structure that still carries heavy traffic today, and it was a remarkable achievement at the time. The Caledonian canal is 60 miles long and stretches from Inverness to Fort William, and it is recognised as one of the great waterways of the world. The canal was instrumental in the development of the highland economy, and it facilitated trade between east and west, as well as with Germany, Holland and the Scandinavian countries. Telfords work can be seen outside the United Kingdom in the Gota canal in Swedena project that he surveyed in 1808 and instructed a team of engineers to carry out, via correspondence. It was completed in 1832. Telford was consulted by Governments, including those of Russia and Austria, for help in planning new roads and bridges. He also held sway in the House, not least because of his reputation for delivering road and bridge-building schemes on time and to budgeta lesson that many politicians could learn. It is clear from the minutes of Select Committees at the time that Thomas Telfords professional opinion was given significant weight when it came to the allocation of public funding.
As a largely self-taught man, Telford was passionate about education and supporting training, and he was a strong advocate of apprenticeships. That is reflected in the extensive education programme promoted today by the Institution of Civil Engineers. The institution is looking to highlight Telfords contribution to engineering over the past 250 years, but it also seeks to inspire a new generation of engineers for the next 250 years. Special activities for students this year include a series of new engineering teaching resources, and debating scenarios for citizenship lessons, involving political and ethical civil engineering issues. Apparently, the scenarios include the case for and against road pricing. In Scotland, both in Eskdale and as part of the highland promise project, a touring scale model suspension bridge with a span of 30 ft is assembled by groups of pupils, who get a real sense of construction and of the engineering principles behind the bridge.
It is appropriate to recognise the other work that the institution is doing to mark the 250th anniversary. There is an informative website, an exhibition at the Guildhall art gallery between 19 July and 2 September, and a wreath-laying ceremony at Westminster abbey. Yesterday, a Telford conference took place in Edinburgh, addressed by His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh.
Shropshire has already paid its greatest tribute to its first county surveyor from the 1780s by naming a town and several schools after him. Local communities there are holding many events over the summer to mark the anniversary, and I applaud particularly the work of the Telford and Wrekin council and was pleased to sign the early-day motion lodged by the hon. Member for Telford (David Wright).
Back in Eskdale, in the muckle toon of Langholm and the parish of Westerkirk, the Langholm and Westerkirk Thomas Telford anniversary group, under the able stewardship of Margaret Sanderson and supported by the Langholm Initiative, are to be commended for having raised funding of more than £30,000 to organise a number of events, including holding a church service, creating a Langholm and Westerkirk Thomas Telford trail, which includes a cairn and plaque to be unveiled on 9 August at Glendinning, Westerkirk, a brochure, new interpretation boards, an audio guide created by Langholm Academy pupils, and a new web page.
A Telford family history day will be held and a piece of music to mark the anniversary has been commissioned and is being composed by Jamie Telfordno relationwhich will be performed for the first time at a concert to be held on 8 September in the Buccleuch centre in Langholm by the Langholm pipe, flute and brass bands. I am sure the Minister will join me in applauding the considerable volunteer effort being put into the project to commemorate the anniversary at Telfords birthplace.
To conclude, in his will Telford left moneys for the establishment of libraries in both Westerkirk and Langholm, and both are still there today. It will be an honour for me to hand over a copy of Hansard from this debate to be kept in the Telford room of Langholm town hall as a record of this debate, as just one of the many events marking the 250th anniversary of a truly remarkable man.
David Wright (Telford) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (David Mundell) on an outstanding speech celebrating Thomas Telford. He has done the House, and me, a service by securing the Adjournment debate this evening. It would be remiss of me, being the Member of Parliament whose constituency is named after Thomas Telford, if I did not make a few remarks tonight.
I have always said that I have lived in the town of Telford all my life. That is not quite true. I was born 40 years ago, and Telford new town was not designated until 29 September 1968, but I can say that I have lived in parts of what is now Telford for all my life. We as a community in the town celebrate this year the birth of Thomas Telford, the man who gave his name to our town. Before that, the area was called Dawley new town and it was expanded significantly in the late 1960s when there was a need for additional housing for people moving out of the west midlands conurbation. The town was built on the east Shropshire coalfield. It is a combination of older communities like Dawley, Madeley, Wellington and Oakengates, which had an engineering and mining history. Telford would have been proud that an area with that mining and industrial heritage and history was named after him.
There is sometimes confusion in Telford because people think that Thomas Telford designed the Iron
Bridge, which of course is not true. The number of people who have said to me that Thomas Telford designed the Iron Bridge is incredible. The Iron Bridge was designed by Abraham Darby III, but it would have been difficult to call the town Darby when there already was a town called Derby, so it was a wise decision to call the town Telford when it was expanded in 1968. We are proud to share the connection with the hon. Gentlemans constituency. As I am holidaying in Scotland over the summer, I hope that I may be able to pay a visit to his constituency and his community to visit the site where Thomas Telford was born. I am looking forward to that very much.
I want to pay tribute also to Telford and Wrekin council for the programme of events that it has put together, as the hon. Gentleman mentioned, over this year. There are some superb events involving schools and focusing on education. We can be proud of the connection that we are making with education. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the Institution of Civil Engineers, which seems to be doing a great job. Its website contains a whole section on Thomas Telford, showing a timeline and focusing on his achievements. They are significant, and we would not have the nation that we have today without Telford. He was a great Briton. The point made earlier by the hon. Gentleman about the importance of the union is very much solidified by the work that Telford did during his lifetime, and the way in which that has lasted and provided a service to the public through the generations in terms of his engineering skills.
Telford and Wrekin council had a garden celebrating Telford at the Chelsea flower show, which was fantastic. I am not a great gardener, but my wife is, and we paid a visit to the garden, which I am pleased to report won a silver medal. The council hopes to do a further garden at Chelsea next year, because that will be the 40th anniversary of the designation of Telford new town in September 1968. Therefore, I should like the Government to think about whether they can roll the celebration of Telfords 250th anniversary through to a celebration of 40 years of what perhaps records him most in this country, and that is the town of Telford.
The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): As this is my first occasion at the Dispatch Box since my appointment as Minister with responsibility for culture, I should like to take this opportunity to say how delighted I am to take on such a stimulating and varied brief, covering a huge range of activities in which this country is a world leader.
I pay tribute to two of my predecessors whose portfolios mine now covers. One is my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), with whom I look forward to working in his new capacity, and the other is my right hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward), whom I am sure the House will want
to congratulate on his new appointment as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and wish him well.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale (David Mundell) on a comprehensive, clear and fulsome tribute to Thomas Telford. Scotland has an unparalleled record in producing civil engineers of the finest calibre, and Thomas Telford was clearly one of the most eminent of them all, which is signified, as the hon. Gentleman said, by his burial in Westminster abbey.
It is right that the hon. Gentleman and his constituents, and those communities in Scotland and in England whose heritage has been enhanced by the work of Thomas Telford, should seek to commemorate the 250th anniversary of his birth in an appropriate manner. I also acknowledge and have seen the events and activities being co-ordinated across the country by the Institution of Civil Engineers. In my previous ministerial role as Minister with responsibility for industry, I had much interaction with that institution. It is an excellent organisation that does an enormous amount of work in promoting engineering, and particularly in training, as the hon. Gentleman said.
I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Telford (David Wright) on his contribution to tonights Adjournment debate. I have had the privilege of visiting Telford on a number of occasions and seeing the excellent work that has been carried out in a range of ministerial portfolios, and how well the new town has settled down to become established. It excels in many areas, so I am happy to take away and consider my hon. Friends proposition, although he will recognise that I have very little direct authority. We work through non-departmental public bodies in most of the work that we do.
The 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Telford is a crucial event and all the events surrounding it are managed by those for whom the life of Thomas Telford had particular resonance. It is a little difficult for the Government to intervene directly, much as the hon. Gentleman would like me to, in activities surrounding the celebration of the life of one individual. The proper role for the Government is to support and invest in our heritage for the benefit of the public and for future generations. Our industrial heritage reflects the story of Britain and the world over the past 200 years. It is a source of education, inspiration and enjoyment to families and communities across the country, and to tourists from across the world.
This year alone, the Government will invest more than £500 million in the museums and heritage sector. It is right that expert bodies such as English Heritage and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council make the most effective use of taxpayers money. As the number of deserving causes will always exceed the funds available, they are best placed to determine the priority projects for support. I am delighted that among the museums funded by the MLAs Renaissance in the Regions programme, Ironbridge Gorge museum is hosting an exhibition exploring the achievements of Thomas Telford.
Exchequer funding is, of course, complemented by money from the national lottery, and I commend the work of the Heritage Lottery Fund in awarding almost £4 billion to projects that have helped to open up our heritage for everyone to enjoy. That work is further enhanced by the tremendous contribution of a broad
range of private, charitable and corporate donors, whose support deserves public recognition.
Last week, we saw just how vital public and private partnerships are to preservation of the nations heritage. I was delighted that a unique coalition of partners came together to secure Dumfries house and its contents for the nation, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale is fully aware of that. Together, they have been able to raise £45 million to ensure that the house and its contents will be open to the public for the first time. All those involved deserve recognition, and I was delighted that in addition to the substantial donations from His Royal Highness the Prince of Waless Charitable Foundation, the Monument Trust and the Art Fund, £12 million of public money was invested through the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Scottish Executive. Although Dumfries house lies just outside
the hon. Gentlemans constituency, I am sure that he will join me in thanking all those involved in this remarkable demonstration of the value that we place on our heritage in Britain.
We are exceptionally fortunate in this country in having had eminent citizens in all walks of life and all fields of human endeavour. If we sought to mark every anniversary, we would undoubtedly be accused of being overly prescriptive. For example, 1757 also saw the birth of William Blake, who is also commemorated in Westminster abbey. So while we have no specific plans to mark the anniversary of Telfords birth, nor indeed that of William Blake, I wish all those marking the occasion every success in their activities, and I join the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend in paying tribute to the life and works of Thomas Telford.