The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1994Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Speech at English Heritage Conference – 16 September 1994

Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech at the English Heritage Conference, held at the QEII Conference Centre in London on Friday 16th September 1994. The speech was on the subject of the National Lottery.



I’ve always believed it to be a virtue to think long-term – and perhaps nowhere more so than in the preservation and enhancement of our Heritage.

There’s no mystery about why there should be: a healthy society needs a positive attitude to its own past, and its own future. We have been fortunate to have had our horizons widened by the creative legacy of the past and now we must leave our legacy for the future.

It is especially appropriate to make this point to a conference celebrating the work of English Heritage. Their mission, of preserving the best of our historic environment and enabling us to understand and enjoy it, is vitally important. Today many traditional values which held society together are being questioned. We face ever-more rapid changes to our daily lives. At times like this the history about us is reassuring: it provides a link with the past and reinforces a sense of identity.

This is not just nostalgia. The built environment plays a big part in creating community and pride. And the growth in the membership of English Heritage, up from 80,000 members in 1986 to over 300,000 now, demonstrates that rather clearly.

This morning, I want to pay tribute not just to English Heritage, but also to all those individuals who devote their time, their money, and their energy to conservation. Over years, the vast majority of historic buildings and monuments have been preserved by private owners. Most of them remain in private hands. The pleasure of owning historic buildings comes with an in-built duty to care for them. Around the country thousands of families take pride in fulfilling this duty.

English Heritage and others don’t just produce social benefits. They produce significant economic benefits too. 37 per cent of overseas visitors cited historic buildings and monuments as important factors in their decision to visit Britain. Since 1982, when we published the White Paper that led to the formation of English Heritage, visits to historic properties have increased by 24 per cent. Historic buildings provide 20,000 paid jobs in the England. When you consider that the tourist industry is worth £33 billion a year, 5 per cent of our GDP, you begin to comprehend the immense value of our built heritage.


But preserving it isn’t cheap. Happily, today we are on the verge of one of the most important steps forward ever in providing resources for improving our Heritage. I refer to the National Lottery which will inject substantial extra funds into the Heritage, the Arts and Sport. It will provide also a valuable new form of support for charities. And it will unleash a wave of creativity for projects to mark the Millennium. These extra funds are now perhaps only ten months away. Anyone who has ever burned with the desire to change the face of their town, their village or the whole country will have a chance do so. And I hope and believe many people will take advantage of this opportunity with enthusiasm and originality.

Getting this far hasn’t been easy. The history of public lotteries in this country is – to be as polite as possible – colourful. The Director-General of OFLOT would have a fit if he had to investigate the standards of probity and security that obtained in Georgian and Victorian lotteries. Thankfully, times have changed – and I believe we have set up a system that is safe, fair, honest and popular.

The resources created by the Lottery will unlock the door to a higher quality of life for millions of people, irrespective of income and without extra taxation. This is not a peripheral matter, it is central to the continued health of our society: to the successful transmission of civilised values down the generations. I am keen to ensure – as far as possible – that far more of our citizens have access to those intangible good things of life.

The general guidelines the Government have issued make clear that the Lottery will fund mainly capital projects carrying an element of partnership funding. We have found in other fields, notably urban regeneration, that asking bidders to find private sector partners willing to put up money injects a degree of realism into ideas which make them ultimately much more successful. I hope that the attraction of partnership funding from a wide range of sources will bring the same disciplines to Lottery projects.

The guidelines also make the important points that projects must benefit primarily the public good rather than private gain, and must be financially viable. On the Government’s side – Treasury, please note – we will make no case-by-case reductions on conventional public spending programmes to take account of awards from the Lottery. The money raised by the Lottery will not replace existing Government spending. It will enable the funding of projects which will make a lasting contribution to various aspects of our national heritage.

So let me set out how the Lottery will help. I am sure that our hosts today, English Heritage, are not short of ideas. Let’s take the built Heritage as an example of the transformation that will take place. I have always been acutely aware that the built heritage is one of the defining characteristics of this country; as much as our fields, rivers, and landscape, our cathedrals, castles, great houses, and even commercial and domestic buildings reveal the essence of what we are.

I believe also that my enthusiasm for the Lottery will be shared by the British people. Millions of people will participate every week. Thousands of jobs are being created. The combination of millionaire winners and huge benefits to good causes is immensely attractive. And the projected money that will be made available to the good causes is genuinely spectacular.

The best estimate is that between this year and 2001, around £9 billion will go to the good causes: that is, over the next 6 years, roughly an extra £1.8 billion for each of five good causes;

– the existing heritage

– sport and arts – the living heritage

– charities

-and the Millennium Fund which will be both built and living heritages. These are huge sums that dwarf existing resources. I don’t believe the scale of what is likely is yet appreciated but it soon will be. And this extra funding should revolutionise provision in areas of immense importance to our quality of life.


Each of the five areas could receive £320 million a year when the Lottery is fully up and running. Let me emphasise: that money will not be under Government control. The distributing bodies will decide where the funds are spent. Departments will not have a role in assessing the individual applications for Lottery funding. On the Millennium Commission Ministers are, quite deliberately, in a minority. This independence is vital for the success of the Lottery. Each and every one of us can take pride in the visible improvements the Lottery will bring about.

We can be genuinely excited at the sheer size of the sums that will be made available. Many in this audience will have been affected at various times by the hard pounding of the annual public spending round. I have myself at various times worn the Chief Secretary’s black hat, the spending minister’s white hat, and more recently the umpire’s white coat – and we all know that the umpire’s decision is correct – and final.

What I have learned in every one of these positions is that the prospect of extra hundreds of millions of pounds for heritage or the arts and sport would be sheer fantasy from mainstream public spending. Whether the public finances are in surplus or in deficit there will always be pressure from the bigger programmes: from health, social security, law and order, and defence. These pressures are immense – and they invariably swamp the demands of those areas which will benefit from the Lottery, however essential many of us regard the needs of the heritage, and culture.

I strongly believe man cannot live by GDP alone. A rounded life involves much more than economic security. A country can only be strong, healthy, and contented if it burnishes its heritage, encourages its citizens to pursue excellence in sport, and cultivates widespread appreciation of the arts. I would like to see everyone in this country share in the opportunities that were once available only to the privileged few.

That means not just jobs, decent healthcare, and a good education, but other less tangible advantages. The chance to appreciate great art or great music, even if it is not part of the normal background to your early life. The ability to absorb the living history of our great buildings, and the poetry of the many British landscapes. The opportunity to test your physical abilities to the limit through sport. And the chance to contribute to the wider community through voluntary and charitable work. I am determined that the Lottery will make it possible for millions more to enjoy a fuller life.

It was in that spirit that I set up the Department of National Heritage. Its creation was a sign that Government should take such activities seriously. For millions of people, they are not optional extras, they are worth valuing in their own right. DNH is, I believe, more than a Ministry of Culture, more than a Ministry of Fun. It is a permanent statement that Government regards the activities which people choose to do as highly as those which they have to do. In as much as Government can help, and that itself is a source of fruitful debate, Government will help.


The arrival of the Lottery is a sign that I wish to ensure that Britain’s artists and sports men and sportswomen don’t suffer second class facilities. There will always be a place for brilliant work done on a shoe-string. But the Lottery will mean that it is less likely that this will be the only option, or even the most likely option.

English Heritage, and many other bodies, already do a magnificent job in preserving the best of the past for future generations, and ensuring that contemporary building will also leave a positive mark. The extra funds that will flow from the Lottery will enable such bodies to extend dramatically the range and effectiveness of their work. For instance, the Brighton West Pier is entirely beyond the existing EH budget, but could be the type of project which attracts Lottery Funds. Completing the restoration of the Crescent in Buxton could be an ideal example of public/private co-operation. All these choices are not for me – how and whether to apply for funding is for English Heritage. It will be a great challenge for Jocelyn Stevens and his colleagues. But I know it is a challenge which they are delighted to meet.


The heritage will undoubtedly have an important contribution to make to the Millennium celebrations. And so far, in discussions of the Lottery, many people have focused on the work of the Millennium Commission. Those of us who regard it as part of our job to receive helpful, if unsolicited, advice from all sides are developing a degree of sympathy with the Commissioners. Never have so many advised so few about so much. And it will get worse. But since the Commission is a fiercely independent body, and will remain so, I do not regard myself as in any way disqualified from adding to their burden.

Marking the Millennium in an appropriate way is a difficult enough task, not least because none of us has had much practice. The ecclesiastical historians tell us that at the end of the first Millennium people all over Europe abandoned their homes in terror and ran into the fields, thinking it was the end of the world. At least the Millennium Commission has not provoked that sort of response – yet. Although, these days I suppose, anything is possible.

What it has provoked is an enormous outpouring of ideas from all areas. Opera houses, art galleries, sports facilities, exhibition centres, computer networks; all have their advocates, and all, no doubt, have an excellent case. What I would like to do today is to appeal for a national outbreak of lateral thinking. As well as conventional ideas I hope that we can come up with some unusual and original projects which are worthy of Millennium Funding. Potential applicants should range widely in their thinking. Perhaps we should be considering engineering and construction projects, or ways to help the environment and wildlife.

Applicants can also draw inspiration from similar projects in the past. Many have marvelled at the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera House, and the pavilion created for the Seville Expo.

In our own country, we can draw inspiration from the great cathedrals, and public buildings such as the Houses of Parliament and the Inns of Court. We created the Crystal Palace in a previous outburst of celebration. Our best architects have always found commissions across the board. The great Victorian pavilion at Lords was designed by the same architect who designed the Criterion Theatre. This summer, the new opera house at

Glyndebourne was unveiled – designed by the same architects who gave us the Mound Stand at Lords. I can’t think why these cricketing comparisons come so easily to me.

These combinations of the best of our built heritage with some of the best of our living heritage illustrate that heritage isn’t a backward-looking concept. We are constantly creating tomorrow’s heritage, and we must always be aware of the permanent effects of our daily decisions. Clearing a pond, creating a bird sanctuary, improving and opening up a garden: all of these will provide enjoyment for future generations.

So for the Millennium Fund we might also consider projects with a humanitarian aim – or what about the provision of new technology in local communities? Every village hall with its own computers. There could be educational projects. Now is the time to let all our imaginations run free.


One area where many individuals will have imaginative proposals is for bursaries. I am delighted that the Millennium Commission is considering the scope of a Millennium Bursaries Scheme. This could involve the spending of some tens of millions of pounds. I can’t emphasise too strongly how important this idea will be in spreading the benefits of the Lottery, and engaging individuals in the whole Millennium project. The bursaries will be a means of fulfilling personal aspirations for the future and broadening the body of knowledge we carry forward to the 21st century. They can be educational in the broadest sense, perhaps including research projects to act as exemplars in the scientific or environmental fields. New ideas could be developed which could act as a model for others to take forward. Chairs could be endowed at universities in subject areas which will contribute to the quality of life for everyone in the third Millennium. The bursaries could encourage voluntary activity, or could release individual talent and expertise to the benefit of the wider community.

Perhaps some bursaries could allow training in unusual skills and crafts which could be passed on to others. They should not be restricted to any age group; I am sure the elderly will have as much to gain, and as much to contribute, as the young. I know the Commission will be considering how to reflect the millennial factor in the awards they make, and are looking to make a lasting contribution to learning, participation or enlightenment. This is one of their many vital tasks, and I wish them well in it.


The Commission is also thinking of spending more than £500 million, on current projections, to support projects which will be of specific local benefit. These projects will give the opportunity to develop partnership contributions in kind, with whole communities contributing time, energy and resources in support of millennium proposals.

Some of these may be one-off capital schemes, or Millennium initiatives with a universal theme, such as the “greening of Britain”. They include aspects of urban renewal, such as proposals to transform city centres into public spaces where people can easily meet, shop, eat and drink, and participate in cultural and sporting activities. Attention could also be paid to the rural environment through projects to protect or improve different types of landscape in which wildlife can flourish.

Again, the only limits are those imposed by our own imaginations. A new village hall or playing field can be as vital a signal of national revival as world class cultural centres in big metropolitan areas. With the Lottery, we can aspire to both.


I am determined, as I am sure all of you are, to eradicate the lingering feeling that we are continually falling behind. It has become part of conventional wisdom that after great and heroic efforts in the Second World War Britain was exhausted and unable to keep up. This has always been a simplistic and in some areas simply wrong-headed view. Our cultural activities in many areas are world class. London serves theatre and concert goers better than any other city in the world. No other country can aspire to the glories of our buildings. The honourable tradition of private sponsorship, made famous by Soane and Tate, has continued through the names of Clore and Sainsbury. Who else has festivals as good as the Proms, or Edinburgh? Who else has a broadcaster with the range and worldwide respect of the BBC?

My message today is that we can make things even better. The Lottery gives us the biggest chance anyone has ever had of making a significant, permanent difference. I am sure that this is a vision which will stir the hearts of many, whatever their background, age, or interests. Every man and woman in this country can be a direct beneficiary. Not just the great and the good. There will be local transformations, as well as international prestige projects. Your own particular field of the Heritage will be just one of the good causes which will find its funding completely transformed. We are at the beginning of a period which can be uniquely exciting for all those of us who care deeply about the long-term quality of life in this country. I hope the whole British people will share in the excitement, and the ultimate benefits, which the Lottery will bring. I know that you in English Heritage will play a full part in making sure this happens.