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MP calls on government for Bletchley funding

Lib Dem MP Phil Willis has put forward an early day motion pushing for the government to grant funding to Bletchley Park, the centre of UK WWII code-breaking efforts
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

A Liberal Democrat MP has asked the government for funding for Bletchley Park, the home of UK code-breaking during World War II.

In an early day motion filed on Monday, MP Phil Willis called on the government "to provide operational funding whilst the museum is developed for long-term sustainability, securing the site for future generations to visit, appreciate and understand".

Simon Greenish, director of the Bletchley Park Trust, said the push for operational support was "very positive".

"It's nice to see [Willis] focused on operational costs, as there's often a confusion about capital costs and operating costs," Greenish told ZDNet UK on Friday. "There are costs to put right the ravages of time, and [those capital expenditure funds] will come in, but in the meantime we're running with a restricted and under-resourced team."

Bletchley Park is "only just managing to operate" at current staffing levels, according to Sue Black, head of the University of Westminster computing department, who campaigns for Bletchley Park.

The museum needs operational expenditure funding for five years, at a cost of £250,000 per year, Greenish said.

"When you put it into context, it's really quite a small sum, but it would make life considerably better," he said. "We're bumping along the bottom at the moment."

Capital expenditure over the next five years has been covered by funds of £1m donated by a combination of English Heritage, Milton Keynes Council, and the not-for-profit arm of environmental organisation Wren.

The Bletchley Park Trust has also put in an application for lottery funding to renovate the huts the code-breakers worked in, Greenish said.

In addition to funding, the early day motion calls for recognition by the government of the work performed by Bletchley Park personnel, and for acknowledgement "that the use of the intelligence gained at Bletchley Park and subsequent related actions of the Allies is said to have shortened the Second World War by two years, saving countless lives".

Willis, who is chair of the House of Commons Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee, also asked that Bletchley Park be recognised as "the birthplace of the modern computer". The wartime unit conducted pioneering code-breaking computing work performed on machines such as Colossus.

The motion currently has 24 signatories. However, the MPs local to Bletchley Park — Mark Lancaster, Conservative MP for North East Milton Keynes, and Phyllis Starkey, Labour MP for Milton Keynes South West — had not signed the early day motion at the time of writing.

Earlier this month, the government launched a scheme whereby Bletchley veterans could receive a badge for their work from 1939 to 1945. The award will not be given posthumously.

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