Member of the UK Parliament Andrew Bridgen and Priti Patel, Secretary of State for the Home Department

POLITICS ACROSS THE POND— Member of the UK Parliament, Andrew Bridgen writes about how his recent trip to Breedon-on-the-Hill church led him to make an additional provision to the forthcoming Desecration of War Memorials Bill.

Last Friday, I took Blake-Perun, my 21-month old son, for a trip in the car, something he truly loves, sitting up in his child-seat, looking out of the window. When you are nearly two years old the world is certainly full of wonder.

I had decided that we would drive the five miles or so, from home to Breedon-on-the-Hill church, a local landmark in the middle of my constituency of North West Leicestershire. The church sits, as the name suggests, atop a high vantage point with great views and has lots of history. The priory church of St Mary and St Hardulph was founded as a monastery around the year 676AD on the site of the iron age Bulwarks hill fort. The lands that supported the monastery were given by King Aethelred. After 1066AD the manor of Breedon was given by William the Conqueror to the de Ferrers family, some of whose tombs are inside the church.

The church is approached by a winding single-track road and part of the attraction is that the ancient building sits alone on the hill, dominating the skyline far above the village below, almost like a time capsule unchanging and unaffected by all trials and tribulations of modern life. A timeless oasis of calm.
Due to the Covid19 lockdown, the church had been closed for several months, but the Government had just announced that from the following day, places of worship could open for solitary prayer.

Bridgen: little did I know that my visit to Breedon-on-the-Hill church was going to leave me feeling anything but spiritually uplifted.

Over the years I have attended several services including funerals of friends who decided to make the churchyard their final resting place. I have always thought that the good church service is defined by the fact that whatever the occasion, happy or sad, you leave feeling spiritually uplifted.
Little did I know that my visit to Breedon-on-the-Hill church was going to leave me feeling anything but spiritually uplifted. We arrived, parked up, and spent some time enjoying the fresh air and taking in the beautiful vista of the rolling Leicestershire countryside from the viewing point. It was then I noticed a local artisan with his tools surrounding him, busy at the church’s entrance. My curiosity aroused, we approached him, while maintaining socially distancing. He was replacing the ancient oak door which had sealed the Norman arch for hundreds of years.

Bridgen: On Wednesday I wrote and mailed the letter below to Priti Patel the Home Secretary and Robert Buckland the Attorney General.

He reminded me that “the church had been damaged in an attempted break-in many months ago and it’s taken the village this time to collect the money to pay for the repairs” and” then Covid19 had come along” and the repairs and been delayed further. The original door was judged beyond repair and a gleaming new door was angled out of the back of his pick-up truck waiting to be fitted. The carpenter told me that “ they tried to break in but the door held and so they tried the back door as well, damaging it badly, it is just the way it is nowadays, at least they didn’t take anything”. I remember shaking my head and thinking find this all deeply offensive and I can’t help to feel as if I have had something taken away from me.

As we returned to the car I spoke with other constituents who though saddened also seemed resigned to the fact that their local church was a perennial target for vandals one quipped “at least they didn’t take the lead of the roof this time”. With my mood darkened but thinking we slowly drove home. I felt that the mindless damage to the church I had seen was deeply unsettling and that the impact of criminal damage to historic and or religious buildings was far more than something which could be valued in monetary terms.
On Wednesday I wrote and mailed the letter below to Priti Patel the Home Secretary and Robert Buckland the Attorney General.

Bridgen: The Government had decided to accept my proposals and that places of worship and cemeteries would be included within the scope of the forthcoming Desecration of War Memorials Bill.

Within five hours of receiving my letter, I was informed that, after brief discussions with ministers and interested parties, the Government had decided to accept my proposals and that places of worship and cemeteries would be included within the scope of the forthcoming Desecration of War Memorials Bill. I hope this will be welcomed by the many churches in my constituency which are been subject to theft and criminal damage in the past.

When the Bill passes through Parliament and becomes an Act, hopefully later this year, the new maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment will hopefully provide a disincentive for the mindless behavior which causes an “Affront to Public Decency”. When passed into law this protection will apply to ALL places of worship, of ALL faiths and religions including Churches, Cathedrals, Mosques, Synagogues. Temples and Meeting Halls.
They say “all politics is local” but it can be national too.
Happy Fathers Day!

Read more: Politics Across The Pond, a weekly exclusive column by Andrew Bridgen, Member of the UK Parliament. 

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Andrew Bridgen

Andrew Bridgen is a Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire.

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