James Joseph is UK Senior Correspondent for JURIST.
The Government introduced a new Holocaust Memorial Bill to Parliament last week on February 23rd. The bill, called the Holocaust Memorial Act 2023, was launched under section 19(1)(a) of the Human Rights Act 1998. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said the Bill would update historic legislation and progress the building of a new memorial and learning centre in Victoria Tower Gardens, Westminster and will be a permanent reminder of the atrocities of the Holocaust, especially as we see such atrocities again and again.
The official statement of the Bill on the order paper states that the Bill will “make provision for expenditure by the Secretary of State and the removal of restrictions in respect of certain land for or in connection with the construction of a Holocaust Memorial and Learning Centre.”
The idea of having a national Holocaust Memorial and learning centre in Victoria Gardens, next to the Houses of Parliament, was first proposed by a commission set up by Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015, but it has seen various setbacks since then. After a consultation exercise in 2019, the initial design was revised following criticism from local residents and a number of organisations about the location and the design, but even so, Westminster City Council’s planning committee unanimously voted to reject the plans in February 2020.
An appeal against that decision was rejected in July 2022, and last month, just ahead of Holocaust Memorial Day, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced that his government would put forward legislation to override the 123-year-old law and build the memorial.
In a letter Michael Gove Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said;
“The commitment to establish a new Holocaust Memorial is a solemn undertaking. We owe it to future generations to build a Memorial, which will act as a permanent witness to the unique evil of the Holocaust. I am clear that delays to the project must be avoided wherever possible.”
The Bill has been supported by the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt MP, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Home Secretary Suella Braverman KC, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Kemi Badenoch, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Lucy Frazer KC.
The Bill will now proceed through the Commons to the 2nd reading before continuing to the Committee stage, Report stage and 3rd reading and then onto the House of Lords where it will be read an additional 3 times before amendments and Royal Assent.