THE campaign to bring the Lindisfarne Gospels back to the North-East will take a step forward when an Early Day Motion is tabled in the Commons in the New Year.

City of Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods is continuing a Parliamentary campaign started by former Tyne and Wear MP, Joyce Quin, to have the treasures returned to their "rightful home" at Durham Cathedral. Her backers include north Durham MP Kevan Jones, Blaydon MP Dave Anderson and Easington MP John Cummings.

The gospels, which date from the late 7th Century, historically had their home in Durham Cathedral, before being removed to London in the 16th Century.

Ms Blackman-Woods, who has drafted an Early Day Motion in Parliament, calling for the return of the Gospels, said last night: "The Lindisfarne Gospels are a source of great pride for the people of the North-East and should be seen and appreciated in their rightful historic context.

"The Lindisfarne Gospels are of huge historic importance to our city.

"They were prepared for the shrine of St Cuthbert, whose tomb is in the cathedral, and they represent the first great religious and cultural achievement which combines the Roman, Celtic and Saxon traditions.

"I am calling for arrangements to be made to have the Gospels brought back to have their permanent home in Durham Cathedral."

The remains of St Cuthbert, who died on March 20, 687AD, and the Lindisfarne Gospels, subsequently written in his honour, were kept at St Mary's and St Cuthbert's Church, in Chester-le-Street, for 113 years, until 995AD, after monks fled Viking invaders on Holy Island.

But on leaving Chester-le-Street, the monks eventually made Durham the permanent intended resting place of both the gospels and Cuthbert's remains.

The gospels were later removed from the cathedral during the Reformation, under Henry VIII, and are now in the permanent collection at the British Library, in London.

John Dandy, of the Northumbria Association, said: "We wholeheartedly support the Early Day Motion.

"The Gospels are of iconic status and are something that belong in the North-East.

"We have St Cuthbert's body, St Cuthbert's Cross and coffin at Durham Cathedral, the only thing we are lacking are the Lindisfarne Gospels. There is no reason why they should be in London and why we should be fobbed off with facsimiles."

The British Library presented facsimile copies to Durham Cathedral and the Lindisfarne Heritage Centre, while a third set toured the region during the last year.

A British Library spokesman said last night: "The British Library Board cannot envisage the permanent alienation of this great central treasure from the national collection of which it is the steward. The library's research function gains its significance from the universality and depth of its collections and from its collection items being drawn together and studied side-by-side.

"The Lindisfarne Gospels is an item of world heritage status, and is part of a whole collection, the product of a breadth of influences, and it should be seen in that broader and religious context."

She added: "To allow the Lindisfarne Gospels, or any of the other great treasures of which the board is custodian, to leave the collection on a permanent basis would, we believe, set an impossible precedent in train for other, similar requests on the library's collection and indeed on all other world-class collections."