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I do not think that anyone would have put much money on the likelihood of the Rose theatre being the subject of an Adjournment debate and two statements in the House within a couple of months, nor was it predictable that our cultural heritage would be the lead item on the national news for several days. Thankfully, however, that has happened--at the same time, interestingly, as the struggle not hundreds of miles away to find a way of preserving the Mappa Mundi for the people of Hereford. I have an interest in that issue too, because my family comes from the area and I occasionally slip back to involve myself in that struggle as a change from concentrating exclusively on matters on the south side of the Thames.
The bit of north Southwark which has been in the news recently is, of course, an enormously important part of our national cultural heritage. Not only is it the origin of the pilgrims' journey in "The Canterbury Tales" and the place where Shakespearean England had its most glorious flowering, but it later became the centre of Dickens' world and has been home to many other important authors and artists. It is interesting to reflect that the current issue of whether the Rose theatre should be scheduled, and how it should be preserved, began with the archaeologists. Academics and authors had predicted that the Rose theatre might be found--as well as the Hope, Swan and Globe--but it took the archaeologists to produce the goods. Archaeology in Britain is considerably under-funded, including rescue archaeology, which should be a preliminary to all development. Of course all that is found cannot always be preserved in this capital city or anywhere else, but we need the mechanism to discover what is there and then to evaluate its importance, which requires well-funded archaeological services. My plea is for better funding in the future.
We have come a long way. Without the Greater London archaeology service we probably would not have found the remains of the Rose. Thirty years ago, in the 1950s, when a previous office block was built in Park street, archaeological investigation did not happen and the Rose was not discovered. The progress that has been made
Column 1162should encourage us, and it should also encourage the Government. The warm response elicited by the excavation and by many others recently should lead the Government to believe that funding such activities more generously from the public purse would be a good investment.
In paragraph 139 of its report on historic buildings and ancient monuments, which is one of the documents informing our debate, the Environment Select Committee recommended that
"the Secretary of State should initiate consultations with local authorities with a view to establishing further AAIs"--
that is, areas of archaeological importance. The report is dated January 1987, and the Government response was published in January 1988. The Government were not convinced then--a year and a half ago--that further designations would be justified. They said that they were undertaking a survey of the five areas already so designated. Significantly, those areas- -Canterbury, York, Chester, Exeter and Hereford--are five of our most splendid cities and are of enormous archaeological interest.
I have corresponded with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State and her predecessor about this and I plead with the Government not to give up the mechanism provided in the Act, so that areas of archaeological importance can continue to be designated. We have areas of listed buildings and conservation areas ; areas above ground are marked out as being of particular significance, and logic dictates that the same should apply to areas that are to be unearthed. I hope that the Department's laborious researches finish soon, and that we shall receive confirmation that other areas can be designated. I include north Southwark in that hope, as I would be expected to.
I wish to deal with one or two issues relating specifically to the Rose. The Rose was, is and will continue to be a classic example of the conflict between the rights of the property owner--in this case Postel, the Post Office pensions board--along with those of the developers, Imry, and the wider interest. It was known that the Rose might be there. A 1971 report had warned that there might be a national and international outcry if, when it was discovered, it was not protected. The developers did not embark on the work in ignorance. We cannot say, "Poor developer--fancy turning up something like that unexpectedly in a car park or basement with no foreknowledge."
As evidenced by the history of the discovery of the Rose, it seems that we are still suffering from a lack of intelligent, strategic planning. Surely the logic of events should be this--first excavate, then decide what can be put on top. As the Under-Secretary of State knows, we are now in a crazy, illogical position. Imry submits its first plans and is given planning permission ; the Rose theatre is subsequently discovered, and eventually Imry is persuaded not to go ahead. Ministers and English Heritage are very influential. Imry eventually submits its revised and second plans. Even after that--a week or so ago--Imry knows that some of the areas that it intends to pile are too near the theatre, and it still does not take account of the parts that we have not yet had a chance to see.
Only this week a statement was made by the chief archaeologist of English Heritage, saying that if the archaeological work to be done in the next few weeks finds more of the theatre we shall have to go back to Southwark borough council, which must then go back to the
Column 1163developers to ask them to alter their plans again. It is ludicrous to dig and, if something is found, change the plans, and then dig a bit more and perhaps need to change them again.
The reason why there is such a demand for scheduling is that it would give complete protection at law to the site as now excavated, and would give it the status that it clearly deserves. I hope that the Government will change their mind, because I believe that their fear that the cost would be millions or tens of millions of pounds is not justified. There may be some further delay, and that will certainly involve some cost, but I think that a way can be found to meet the cost, and that it will not be enormous. Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State will be able to tell us the rate of any compensation that might be payable.
Nothing in either the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 or the National Heritage Act 1983 suggests that cost--or, indeed, competing commercial pressures--should be a consideration in the decision whether a site should be scheduled as a national monument. Since the ancestor of a previous colleague of mine, Lord Avebury, campaigned in the 19th century for a list of national monuments, the logic has been the same. Monuments of national importance should be scheduled so that the protection that they deserve will follow as a consequence of their appearing in that list.
The other conflict to which I referred at the outset between culture and commerce is that which has been manifesting itself in Hereford between the cathedral authorities wanting money to look after their cathedral and the commercial pressures militating in favour of selling articles of great value so as to acquire those funds.
I listened with interest to the remarks of the Chairman of the Environment Select Committee, the hon. Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi), about the evidence he had received from Ely cathedral. As the Minister will appreciate, many people still regard it as inappropriate for cathedrals to be among those places which one must pay to visit. I share that view, but I hope we shall not hold up the Mappa Mundi story so far as an example of how it is impossible to raise money in the private sector or from voluntary subscription for the protection of our heritage, ecclesiastical or otherwise. I think that the Hereford cathedral authorities or their advisers--I say this respectfully, as I have said it to them personally--made a mess of it. Had they asked the public to contribute £100, rather than £1,000, they would have got far more in than they did. Had they taken up the offers of substantial gifts that had been made, they would have been well on their way to raising the money that they wanted. There is of course a national responsibility also to look after our ecclesiastical heritage through taxpayers' money, but there is also an opportunity for private sector contribution, which does not override but is consistent with those other aesthetic, religious and cultural requirements.
I hope that the end of this year's struggles between culture and commerce will be that we shall find ways of protecting the arts in a more logical and far-sighted way.
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Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham) : I refuse to be obsessed by the Rose theatre. My hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. Bowden) has made strong and effective representations about it, as no doubt has the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). A satisfactory scheme was announced this afternoon--[ Hon. Members :-- "No."]--by which what is left of that important relic will be preserved for future generations. It will be shielded by the umbrella of a building, which will protect it from rain, snow, frost and sunshine. Some of those who have been jumping up and down about it have been going over the top, and I believe that Shakespeare would have cared more about the live theatre, to which I shall refer later.
In his excellent speech, the Minister referred to the high standards of art in Britain. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the splendid programme of summer concerts at the Royal Military School of Music, Kneller Hall, where standards remain as high as ever. British Army bands remain one of our finest traditions. They lift the spirits of the nation. Who does not feel uplifted by the sound and sight of a British Army band? They enhance morale, promote recruitment and, from an artistic point of view, provide a first-class training in the playing of musical instruments and, from an economic point of view, military bands help to attract to our shores visitors whose spending generates employment and income. That point applies to all of the arts and heritage ; hence its relevance. Visitors to Britain spend not only on the arts and heritage. They also spend on shopping, hotels, restaurants and internal transport. They thereby create jobs and increase incomes. All that provides a tax yield to the Government.
It is for the arts and heritage that the visitors come. They come to our theatres, operas, ballet, concerts, museums, art galleries, art auctions, historic houses, cathedrals, abbeys, churches and to visit our countryside. They come for our history and traditions and in particular they come because of our royal family. They come to see our processions and parades and our Army bands.
They certainly do not come to Britain for the weather and, if the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) were still in his place, I would have said that they certainly do not come to see our footballers. They come for our arts and heritage and they bring substantial economic benefit to our country, a point which my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) should address if he is fortunate enough to be called to take part in the debate, for he has not previously done so.
Not that economic benefit is the only reason to support the arts, because of course there are many reasons. The arts are a tremendous asset to the nation. We should build on our strengths, and that is what the Minister has done. He is doing a superb job, and the arts in Britain are flourishing as never before. Consider, for example, the London theatre. It is well patronised. It is going like a bomb. For the best plays, it is often difficult to get seats. In Britain as a whole, more people go to the theatre every week than go to football matches. The number going to the theatre is increasing steadily. But I want to raise some specific matters. One is ticket touts. Ticket touting is an unpleasant and greedy trade. It gives a bad impression to foreign visitors and I urge the Government to consider action to deal with it.
Column 1165The Dominion theatre is an important theatre with 2,000 seats. It could be threatened by a planning application for development on the site. Its loss would be serious, both from an entertainment and planning point of view. I shall be writing to the Under- Secretary who will be responding to this debate, since she deals with planning matters. I realise that she will be unable to give any undertaking at this stage, but I trust that she will consider my points carefully when I have put them in writing to her.
Mr. Bowis : I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of the Dominion theatre in the London scene. At present, the theatre is the home of the London Festival Ballet, the English national ballet, and it and the English National Opera have another crucial problem to face--that of funding, with the change of local government finance affecting Westminster council.
My hon. Friend will be aware of the sensible arrangement that existed between the Department of the Environment and Westminster council on the abolition of the GLC, so that funding could be arranged by and continued through that council. That is no longer possible. I hope that my hon. Friend will ask the Under-Secretary to give an assurance that she will make sure that appropriate funding is carried on so that those two excellent companies can plan ahead with some confidence.
Mr. Jessel : My hon. Friend is right, and I hope that the Under- Secretary will confirm, when she replies to the debate, that she has taken note of that important point, that she will consult the Minister for the Arts and the Minister for Local Government and will try to obtain a solution to a problem which has arisen through no fault of the English National Opera and of the Dominion theatre, both of which are great assets to London and the nation. As for the National theatre, as other hon. Members want to speak, may I express the hope that the Government will continue to look sympathetically at the points raised in his Adjournment last month by my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Goodlad).
We enjoy a vast range of concerts in London. Attendances at them are increasing steadily. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) said that more subsidy was available in Paris. That may be so, but there are fewer concerts in Paris. What on earth is the point of having more subsidy and fewer concerts? I hope that the Government will give a fair wind to the excellent proposals of the South Bank board to develop the facilities available there. With the Secretary of State, the Under- Secretary is responsible for royal parks, such as Bushy park, which is next to Hampton Court in my constituency, where there is a magnificent avenue of chestnut trees. Those trees are greatly cherished by my constituents in Teddington, Hampton, Hampton Wick and Hampton Hill. They are greatly loved and admired. Most of them are sound, although a few were damaged in the 1987 hurricane, and a few others are diseased.
There has been a rumour that there might be a clean sweep, with a large replanting and a new start made. The Under-Secretary was kind enought to see me last month, when I put to her the strong views of my constituents that, except for stunted and badly diseased or badly damaged trees, the whole of the avenue should be retained. I ask her
Column 1166again to note the strong feeling that exists about the matter and I urge her to spare this beautiful avenue of magnificent chestnut trees.
Mr. Frank Haynes (Ashfield) : I shall be brief. I am the last Opposition speaker except for my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) who is on the Opposition Front Bench, and I shall give Conservative Members an opportunity to take part in the debate. If they keep their speeches brief, they will all get in because the winding-up speeches are to start at 20 minutes to 7.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central on his contribution. I know of his genuine interest in the arts and in our heritage. I also appreciate the interest of the Minister for the Arts, and he knows that I am interested because I am always here when I can be for arts and heritage debates and regularly ask questions. However, I am never satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's answers about the arts. I also compliment the right hon. Gentleman's parliamentary private secretary, the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley), who also has a particular interest. We have one massive interest between us in the arts, and that is in the cinema industry. There is much marvellous acting in the cinema and I and the hon. Gentleman frequently talk about it. Of course, I recognise his family connections in the industry and when I meet him I always ask him how his beautiful mother is getting on.
Although the Minister wants to do much, he is pinned down by public expenditure restrictions. The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) is always criticising local authorities about their expenditure. He does not realise that local authorities have to spend the money because of Government cuts. My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central made that clear in the debate.
We in the beautiful county of Nottinghamshire have a real interest in the arts and in our heritage. It has some beautiful buildings and many people are interested in their preservation and in the activities that go on in the county. Nottinghamshire county council does a first-class finance job and Nottingham city council also contributes. When the beautiful theatre was built in Nottingham the Tories on the city council criticised it. Now they all make good use of it. The Tories in Nottingham always criticise Labour policies, but they make good use of the facilities that are provided.
Everything in the birthplace of D. H. Lawrence in my constituency has been preserved. It is beautiful and people come from all over the world to see it. The local authority is responsible for the upkeep because the Government do not want to know about such expenditure. However, they encourage people to come from abroad because that puts money into the Treasury. But when we ask for help to provide and preserve the proper facilities, the Government do not want to know. I know that the Minister would like to do much more than he is doing. I appeal to him to keep banging on the Treasury door, to keep getting stuck in. Let us have the money to do the things that need to be done. If the Government continue to cut the money to local authorities, we shall really suffer.
I shall finish by speaking about the Byron society in Nottinghamshire. Newstead abbey is a beautiful building.
Column 1167I am a member of the Byron society, as is my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). I had a letter this week from the society's marvellous secretary, Maureen Crisp, appealing to me to buy a society tie. I reminded my right hon. Friend to send his £6.50 for his tie. I have sent for one, and I appeal to hon. Members to send for them as well. That will enable them to contribute to our heritage, and wearing it in this place will show their support for a worthy cause. At the same time they will realise that they are contributing to the preservation of our heritage, as Nottingham city council and Broxtowe borough council are doing.
Mr. Terry Dicks (Hayes and Harlington) : I am the only authentic opposition voice in the Chamber, bearing in mind the middle-class Opposition Members who are present. I have not been to any wonderful artistic place abroad, although I got my feet wet in the Pacific about a fortnight ago.
The subsidy to the arts is approaching £500 million per annum, and the Arts Council grant increased by 10 per cent. last year to £150 million. It will approach £200 million by the end of next year. The subsidy for two people going to the theatre is almost £60, more than we pay to an unemployed man and his wife to keep themselves. They receive £56 but the middle-class couples and the arty types who want to go to the ballet and the opera receive £60 from public sources. That is a disgrace. The inflation rate last year was about 5 per cent., but we increased the arts grant by 10 per cent. We tell pensioners that pensions can only increase in line with inflation, but for so-called arts lovers the subsidy is increased by more than that so that they can indulge in personal pleasure. That is also a disgrace.
Who benefits from the subsidy? It is certainly not the poor. Those who benefit are the effective arts lobby, the professionals who milk the system, Sir Peter Hall, who got not only a knighthood but a small fortune from public sector funds, and the arts lovers who want to enjoy their pleasures--provided the rest of us subsidise them. Why should there be subsidies? As I said before, it is said that we are subsidising our heritage. Is a fat Italian singing in his own language supposed to be part of my background? Is the ballet dancer in his female tights and cricket box supposed to be part of my heritage, the heritage of my constituents or of the average person in Britain?
People say that such performances should take place. If they are important enough to be preserved, why do people not want to pay the full price? We are told that the arts are special, but nobody has told me why that is so, or why the commercial theatre is thought to be so ordinary. Commercial entertainment is thought by arts lovers to be ordinary, yet theatres are full. Andrew Lloyd Webber's musicals are packed to the doors. The difference between them and the 96 per cent. of subsidised theatres that the Opposition mentioned is that people are prepared to pay the full commercial price to see Webber's shows, while people who go to the ballet and the opera are subsidised.
Why does football have to meet the cost of crowd control while we provide survival grants for the arts? I keep asking what is the difference between the ordinary
Column 1168man in the street who wants to watch professional football, which to him is an art form, and the man who watches opera and ballet? What is so unusual or special about opera and the ballet? The opera recently survived at Earls Court and it has leading singers for about three of the different positions or whatever they are called. It survived because people going to it were asked to pay a price that was economically related to the cost of production. If that can be done and can enable opera to survive at Earls Court, why can it not be done at the Royal Opera House?
The arts subsidy is unnecessary because professionals earn their living and do not need to be subsidised. Subsidy harms the arts, because the Government want control and the performing bodies become institutionalised. Who needs a national theatre building? Are there not enough empty theatres around? It is bound to fail, because public accountability cannot be satisfied. Subsidy is a distortion because it perpetuates the status quo, while encouraging that which is unappealing and abstruse, and it stifles true creativity. It is politically inept and seen to be financially burdensome. Of course Gresham's law applies, which says that spending on the unnecessary drives out spending on the essential.
It is alienating most of the population and it is unpopular per se. It is expensive. Demand is by definition infinite and there are no agreed measures of value for money. It is misapplied because the target, if any, should be amateurs at local level, and training. I have some sympathy with the need to develop locally but none at all with subsidising at the national level. And of course it is completely incompatible with the generality of Government and Conservative philosophy. Avant garde usually means " aven't a bean".
Heritage is something that I have not touched on before. When we talk about this issue we get pomposity, to say the least. I am sure that the great and good sitting around me at the moment will say that museums and art galleries are vital to the nation. Of course they are, provided that those who do not enjoy them subsidise those who do. What a good way to talk about essential needs to say that museums, art galleries, historic houses, churches and old theatre sites must be preserved for future generations. Yet, when Hereford cathedral tried to raise money to keep the Mappa Mundi-- or Tuesday, or Wednesday, whatever it was--it could not be raised. The Church of England has pounds running out of its ears ; why does it not itself fund the repair of churches and cathedrals? That is the question that we should be asking, but none of the great and good here bother to do so.
The Rose theatre is a thorn in the side of the Government--a sweet-smelling pile of bricks and rubble. Heritage addicts claim that the rubble must be preserved--provided the rest of us pay for its preservation. They have all been there on site--this well-known actor, that world-acclaimed actress, Sir Richard this, Sir Michael that, the has-beens, the "never-was's". Even the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) was there, a man whose contribution to the arts is about the same as Bluebeard's contribution to the institution of marriage. As I understand it, the only VIP not there was Dr. Who with the Tardis.
I understand--although I am open to correction--that when all the people I have mentioned were at the site, a whip-round was suggested towards keeping the Rose theatre in being. All the millionaires who have made a
Column 1169fortune from the public sector got together and whipped up the miserly sum of £200--a major contribution to the effort to preserve the Rose theatre. Obviously, they did not want to devote too much of their millions to this, but they are quick to turn to the public purse when they think something should be done.
Last year the Government saved £450 million on housing benefit to reduce public expenditure. Then they gave £450 million to the art lovers to increase public expenditure. What nonsense! What a stupid way to spend Government money! The people in this country need many things ; what they do not need is the subsidising of the arts. I wrote to the Financial Secretary to the Treasury asking why it was that the arts were the only area of public activity that had a three-year settlement. I asked why the same did not apply to education, the Health Service or local authorities, for example. I was told that the amount of money was only small and that security must be given to their arts friends over a three-year period. If there is one group in our society that does not need security of income and should not have any financial support at all, it is the arts group. We should be telling them that they must survive on their own income like everybody else and will certainly not get a Government subsidy.
The arts must be self-financing. There is nothing special about them. We must ensure that the Peter Halls of this world can never again make a fortune or get a gong because they have milked the public sector. Museums and art galleries must become cost-effective, and if people do not want to pay the full economic price, they will have to do something else about it. The heritage addicts must fund the full cost of restoration and preservation of such things as the Rose theatre. We cannot continue to fund the pleasures of a few art-loving trendies and other pompous twits who operate in the twilight world of Government subsidy while treating the old and the infirm so dreadfully.
The needs of my constituents reflect such things as housing benefit and increased old-age pensions. If I told them that they must contain their spending in line with inflation but if they want to go to the theatre they will get £60, they would give me a very peculiar look. They want money in their pockets. They are not concerned about the Rose theatre, the arts and ballet. They are concerned with living in a reasonable way, here and now.
On behalf of those of my hon. Friends who, like me, have travelled many hundreds of miles to be here today because of the elections, I think it is most unfortunate that this is such a short debate. There is no reason at all why it should not have been open-ended. We could then have gone on until 8 o'clock or 8.30 and every hon. Member could have had a chance to contribute. Those who arrange these things ought to feel rebuked because they have kept out of the debate a number of hon. Members who have extremely valuable contributions to make.
Mr. Cormack : I am very sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I thought that the usual channels were responsible and obviously I withdraw any criticism of you. But it would have been possible to resume this debate after a certain time.
We are, I think, debating the arts and heritage jointly for the first time. It underlines a point that many of us have made for a very long time, that these two subjects should be taken together. We have two admirable Ministers at the moment, my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Under- Secretary, both of whom show that they have their hearts very much in the right place. But I hope that at some stage the Prime Minister or one of her successors will do as the Select Committee recommended in 1981 and create one Ministry which deals with the arts and heritage. With such a Ministry and with two Ministers such as we have today we would be even better served because the voice of the arts and heritage would be heard much more loudly and in higher places. That is no criticism of or reflection on the two Ministers.
We have spoken before about the Victoria and Albert museum. I was able to make a rather longer speech on another occasion on that. I am deeply disturbed that there is still a real crisis of morale in that great national institution. I am still in regular touch with members of the staff and I have seen Lord Armstrong. I impugn no one's integrity or good faith but it really is important that that crisis of confidence to which the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) referred--I might say at inordinate length--this afternoon is resolved. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts is keeping his eye on that.
I talked about the Mappa Mundi and cathedrals before Christmas and my hon. Friend will have a chance to refer to this matter when she replies. It is high time that the Government recognised that there is a responsibility for making a contribution towards the preservation of the fabric of these, our greatest national buildings. The cathedrals of this country constitute our most important single group of great buildings and it is most regrettable that they alone have no direct access to public funds. I am not advocating the French solution, where the fabric becomes the responsibility of the state. I am not suggesting that cathedrals should not make a proper contribution through appeals and other means. If they wish to charge I have no objection as a churchgoer and I believe that the Ely experiment works very well. Nevertheless, there is a real residual responsibility for the maintenance of these great and glorious buildings and it is time the Government faced up to that. I would like my hon. Friend the Under- Secretary, when she replies, to refer to the very real prolem that has been created because of the judgment of the Court of Referees concerning the Kings Cross Railways Bill. To say that English Heritage, which has been quoted with such approbation by the Secretary of State in the House today, has no standing, no locus, when it comes to appealing in the Kings Cross Railway Bill raises serious questions and it is important that the situation be corrected. I hope that
Column 1171the pledges given by my hon. Friend the Minister for Roads and Traffic in a debate not long ago will be quickly fulfilled. We have already dealt with the Rose theatre, but another matter that is causing concern is the decision made last week by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment that Mr. Palumbo's scheme should go ahead on the basis that the inspector said that it might be a masterpiece. Whether or not it is a masterpiece, it is clear that a number of important listed buildings and a medieval street pattern will be destroyed for ever. I hope, even at this late stage, there will be some further reflection on that. Time and time again, when people talk about money for the arts and heritage, they say some extreme things. My hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) was particularly scathing. Let us remember what the arts and heritage bring to this country. I read an article this morning which said that it has been calculated that the "Gold of the Pharaohs" exhibition in Edinburgh brought in £3.3 million to the city of Edinburgh because of the people who came specifically to see that exhibition. Indirectly, this seven-week exhibition brought in £6.5 million. The arts and heritage bring people in and raise money. They are not a drain on the public purse. Because there happens to be some public responsibility, it does not mean that the Government are being asked to pour money into unproductive effort. Even if one's view is purely economic and even if one is hard-headed to the point of being philistine, one has to recognise that there is a return on investment.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary will reply briefly to the points that I have made and I hope that she and my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts will continue, as I know that they have done, indefatigably to hammer on the Treasury door, as the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) put it so eloquently.
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : I have considerable sympathy with the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) and those hon. Members who were not able to make a speech. We should stop meeting like this, every five years on a European election day, to discuss arts and heritage. It is the intention of the impending Labour Government to include both arts and heritage in a single Ministry.
I am sorry that the unreconstructed hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) has left the Chamber. He has probably gone to vandalise a few paintings somewhere. He is to the arts what Vlad the Impaler was to origami. He gives us a laugh, and all he needs is a pig's bladder on a stick to complete his costume.
I shall devote most of my speech to the heritage because this year archaeologists in London have unearthed two priceless gems, the Roman baths complex at Huggin Hill and the Rose theatre. They have also laid bare the appalling lack of protection under existing laws for sites of archaeological influence. The campaigns surrounding Huggin Hill and the Rose have had a partial success in that neither will be totally destroyed, which was the original intention of their respective developers. However, in the case of the Roman baths, access has been lost, as tonnes of
Column 1172sand have now reburied what one senior archaeologist has described as one of the best preserved and most extensive Roman baths complexes in northern Europe.
I have a few questions to ask the Minister about the Rose theatre, which was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot) and the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes). Any Government truly wedded to the positive promotion of arts and the heritage would have scheduled the Rose theatre site under the relevant Act. How can the Government allow a speculative office block, an excrescence, to be built over the Rose theatre site? The adapted plans put forward to date are wholly unacceptable and I have two questions for the Minister. First, why were the museum of London archaeologists moved off site by English Heritage? Is it because English Heritage felt that the museum of London staff would stand too much by their principles and that English Heritage was in a better position to do a cosy deal with Imry Merchant, the developers? Secondly, why are the excavations of the pile sites going ahead before planning permission has been given by Southwark council or before a possible judicial review has been held?
The facts surrounding the Roman site at Huggin Hill present an unbelievable combination of ineptitude, confusion and vacillation. The facts show clearly that within the span of a few months a Roman site nearly 2,000 years old, described in September 1988 as of "national importance" by English Heritage, was, by February 1989, facing total destruction. It is difficult to exonerate English Heritage from a charge of gross incompetence. One can only assume that, since it is a quango headed up by Thatcherist nominees, advice is given on the basis of what it is believed that political masters want, rather than on what archaeology needs.
No other country in Europe would have allowed its archaeological heritage to be treated in such a shameful and purblind fashion as the Government have treated these two important sites. If property developers were interested in anything other than short-term profits, they might realise that heritage can serve mammon and the muse. The political and media campaigns might have secured a partial victory at Huggin Hill and the Rose, but no one can seriously believe that this piecemeal approach to the preservation of archaeological sites is either efficient or acceptable. The next significant site might be uncovered outside of easy walking distance of London and the press offices. What chance then of salvation?
We can and must learn a number of lessons from recent events. English Heritage as it is organised is incapable of properly serving the interests of archaeological preservation. It is too obviously in the pockets of Ministers and there is no serious money in those pockets for archaeology. We need a wholly independent commission, equipped with legislative teeth and a budget, substantially larger than the miserable £7.2 million, allocated for archaeological investigation and recording. Secondly, the 1986 voluntary code of practice between the British Property Federation and the Standing Conference of Archaeological Managers is highly unsatisfactory. The code is an agreement struck between unequals. It places archaeologists in the position of supplicants, relying almost entirely on the good will of property developers--a group not noted for altruism and selflessness.
The Minister for the Arts said that big business gives millions of pounds a year for archaeological restoration
Column 1173and rescue work. Such sums are pocket change in comparison with the profits made by city developers, and small compensation for the destruction being inflicted on archaeological remains in London and elsewhere. A voluntary code is no substitute for statutory regulations backed up by fines and gaol sentences for those who demolish first and try to avoid awkward questions afterwards. I support the call made by the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey and others that any developer wanting to develop in an area of archaeological significance as determined by part II of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 should be required to carry out at his own expense a full survey before preliminary planning consent is given.
We want to make sure that part II of that Act is immediately extended to the City of London as it has been to the town centres of York, Chester, Hereford, Exeter and Canterbury. It is ironic that the 1979 Act, which was carried through by the Labour Government, started off as a private Member's Bill introduced by the chairman of the Tory party, who is also the Member of Parliament for the constituency in which Huggin Hill Roman baths are located. As far as I am aware, the right hon. Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) has not yet found the time to visit the site, nor has he publicly commented on it. One can only assume that the failure to bring the City within part II of the 1979 Act owes much to the cosy relations between Guildhall and the property developers allied to the pusillanimous attitude of English Heritage.
We have to do more for our archaeological heritage. The sign erected over the Rose theatre site reads, "Revealing today's heritage, building tomorrow's". When will it be realised that ugly and short-lived speculative office blocks are no more an acceptable replacement for the past than they are a worthy legacy for the future? The arts and heritage are not safe in the hands of the Government, driven as they are by the do-it-on-the-cheap approach to the arts required by probably the most philistine Prime Minister since the days of Lord Liverpool. It is hardly the mark of a truly civilised society to provide funds galore for defence and then to make the arts rely more and more on the begging bowl and on the good will of big business and the whims of rich men.
We can have no finer role in the world than to become a nation where the artistic skills and creativity of our people are given the maximum encouragement, a nation of craftsmen and craftswomen, painters, writers, poets and sculptors--a Mount Olympus of artistic creativity and excellence. What a prospect. What a vision we can offer the British people. Instead, we are all too often regarded these days as a nation of lager louts with the values of market spivs. I look forward to the vision of a new society, but I know that it will not become a reality until we have a Socialist Government. We shall have a separate Arts Department that will be under the guidance and control of my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher).
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley) : Hon. Members on both sides of the House have raised a range of important and interesting issues during the debate that has reflected the importance that we all attach to our heritage and the
Column 1174strength of passion that it can generate. I only feel sad, with others, that so many of my hon. Friends who have been in their places throughout the debate, and who had knowledgeable and detailed contributions to make, have not been able to participate in the debate. To have a debate during which the Chairmen of two Select Committees are able to present their views to the House is, in itself, a mark of distinction.
No arts or heritage debate would be the same without the particularly distinctive contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks). He is good at helping us to keep the subject in perspective.
I shall say little about the contribution of the hon. Member for Stoke-on- Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher). I thought that he was mean-spirited not to recognise the remarkable contribution that has been made by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts, who is universally respected and admired. He has done so much to develop and promote business sponsorship of the arts. His efforts have led to a 39 per cent. increase in real terms in arts funding since 1979. My tributes are as nothing compared with those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison), who in a particularly lucid contribution made only too clear the standing, quality and diversity of British art and the arts generally.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Sir H. Rossi) and I normally debate more toxic subjects than the topic of our debate today. My hon. Friend raised a number of detailed matters that I should like to take the opportunity of writing to him about. English Heritage, our adviser, whose work we greatly trust and value, has made significant strides forward since my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State replied to the report of the Select Committee on the Environment, which is chaired by my hon. Friend. There are further matters, however, that I would appreciate discussing with my hon. Friend.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green referred interestingly to the link between tourism and heritage. I do not take the view that tourism is a form of pollution. My hon. Friend had some important comments to make about the way tourism can be channelled and handled. We have direct responsibility for the royal parks and palaces and we are making strides forward in trying to ensure that the interpretation, handling and management of such magnificent palaces are to the highest standard, especially as we move forward to the establishment of an agency. English Heritage, with its properties in care, is working hard to ensure that the best practices are used and deployed. Its chairman, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, has made a special contribution in that area of work.
Various hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green, the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) and my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), have referred to the funding of cathedrals. The debate on the future of the Mappa Mundi has generated great interest and has caused the issue to be reconsidered. There is no statutory provision preventing English Heritage or the national heritage memorial fund giving grants to cathedrals. It is entirely for them to determine their priorities in the allocation of their funds. If, in future, English Heritage and the Church of England decide that some measure of assistance should be made available to cathedrals and that additional funds from Government are
Column 1175necessary for the purpose, we would give full consideration to that view. It has always been the view that grant-in- aid should be left for parish churches because they are less well placed to raise money on their own behalf.
My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) made a special reference to the British Army band. If some of us did not realise that it is a vital part of our national heritage, I am sure that coexistence with my hon. Friend in this place has taught us all to mend our ways. My hon. Friend has a special and close interest in Hampton Court and in Bushy park. He and I have had discussions about the magnificent chestnut avenue. I am able to give him an absolute assurance that the trees are being fully examined and that no tree in the avenue will be removed unless it is a clear danger to the public.
My hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Mr. Bowis) talked about the English National Ballet and international ballet. I give him the assurance that his concern is shared and that discussions are taking place with the London boroughs to determine how best to meet the concern.
I have not strayed into the remarks of the right hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Mr. Foot). I think that they were contentious and provocative, save that he spoke at some length about the Victoria and Albert museum. The developments there are making good progress and there is a clear commitment to improving the quality of the museum. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts will be replying in more detail to the points raised by the right hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South.
Many hon. Members have talked about the developments at the Rose theatre. We have already had a statement about the theatre. The hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) has spoken about Huggin Hill on many occasions. We believe that a constructive solution has been achieved for the Rose. I wish to pay tribute to all those who have worked so hard to secure its preservation. The developer of the site in which it was discovered, Imry Merchant, has co-operated in the pursuit of a practical and sensible scheme for preserving the remains of the theatre underneath the new building. It will be possible to prepare the site for public display when the construction works are complete. It is outrageous for Opposition Members to seek to denigrate what by any definition is a significant achievement. The developer has committed itself to providing £10 million in resources towards preserving a wonderful site. It is essential when seeking to secure archaeological remains that effective and realistic proposals are brought forward. The hon. Member for Stoke-on- Trent, Central, who seeks frequently to interrupt when this issue is discussed, makes it only too clear that he thinks that the answer to every problem is to write cheques so long as someone else signs them.
The fragile remains of the Rose theatre are not now under threat. The developers propose to preserve them without piling through them. The redesigned scheme allows public access. That is what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment sought when he called for a month's delay on 15 May, and that is what the developers now propose. There were previously about 11
Column 1176piles that potentially might damage the site, and all of these are to be removed to the outer perimeter of the theatre.
Much has been achieved. There has been great interest in scheduling, but, as my right hon. Friend informed the House earlier, we do not propose to take that course at this stage. The detailed reason is set out in the letter to the solicitors for the Rose theatre campaign, a copy of which is in the Library.
There is no suggestion that there is any substance in the allegations made by Opposition Members. This is a good and achievable solution. It means that sites will be preserved and fragile ruins protected. The remains of the Rose theatre are already in a vulnerable state as they have been subjected to the elements. That is why English Heritage has worked so hard to secure their preservation and protection. It is essential now that people work together to look to the way forward. They should not seek constantly for means of conflict and confrontation. Instead, they should look for means of co-operation to find ways to ensure that the site-- together with the many other sites which commemorate Shakespeare in the area of the constituency of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey-- is given proper protection.
I hope that the actors who have done so much will not let the curtain fall now. I hope that in years to come they will continue to come back and participate and give us the benefit of their performances as that site in the constituency of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey becomes what all of us hope it will be, an area in which many of us can commemorate the magnificent Shakespearean legacy which has always been so important to our British heritage.
It being Seven o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put, pursuant to the order [19 June].