The Department for Culture, Media
Heritage policy role within Government
38. Formal responsibility for safeguarding the historic
environment may rest with DCMS, but the subject is inextricably
linked to policies across departmental boundaries. Chief among
these are responsibilities at the Department for Communities and
Local Government for planning and regeneration, where it falls
to DCMS to liaise in order to represent heritage protection. Other
examples of crossover include Treasury policy on VAT, specifically
the rating for repairs; policy on roads and public realm at the
Department for Transport (Stonehenge being the most obvious example);
policy on the natural environment, where private owners may find
themselves looking to bodies sponsored separately by DCMS and
DEFRA for policy guidance or grant support; and the use of heritage
as an educative tool, where DfES has a major interest.
39. The heritage sector sees DCMS as not only having
policy responsibility for the historic environment but also as
being the champion within Government, a role which DCMS acknowledged
in its 2001 policy paper The Historic Environment: A Force
for our Future.
Many, however, registered disappointment that DCMS appeared to
have achieved little for the sector in negotiations within Government.
The National Trust argued that DCMS had failed to influence the
Department for Transport in limiting damage to the historic environment
caused by expansion of Stansted Airport, had failed to influence
the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in the shaping of the
Sustainable Communities programme, and had made little effort
to persuade regional development agencies of the importance of
the historic environment at a regional level.
The Director of Policy, in oral evidence, told the Committee that,
of all the Government departments with which the Trust dealt,
DCMS was "the least visible and the least effective in promoting
its interests in this area [i.e. the historic environment] in
terms of mainstreaming it with other priorities elsewhere across
40. The policy area in which DCMS attracted most
criticism in evidence for having failed to persuade another government
department of a case is VAT rating on repairs, where the Treasury
has shown no sign of yielding to pressure from across the sector.
In fact David Lammy MP, the Minister for Culture, was careful
not to disclose whether or not DCMS had even pressed actively
for change, saying only that DCMS had been "in constant dialogue"
with the Treasury and other Government departments on the issue.
We consider VAT rating for repairs in detail at paragraph 169.
41. Underlying all the representations on DCMS's
lack of advocacy within Government is the suspicion that DCMS
is simply not powerful enough as a Department to have a real voice
within Government when key decisions are being taken.
One witness described DCMS as being "at the bottom of the
pile for the Treasury"
and a perception remains that DCMS is a small Department concerned
with non-essentials or distracted by national events.
The Architectural Heritage Fund expanded on this, and told us
that there were "some advantages as at present in the DCMS,
in bringing it together with other 'cultural interests' such as
the arts and museums and galleries", but that the corollary
of this was that heritage was "seen purely as a 'soft' asset
(i.e. one reliant on visitors and as part of discretionary spending),
rather than a driver of regeneration".
The Church Heritage Forum noted with regret that DCMS needed "more
clout" to enable heritage to play more of a part in the country's
future, observing that its objectives seemed to be optional extras
when set alongside education, policing or health.
Similar points were made by the Association for Industrial Archaeology.
We note in particular that the recent letter from the Prime Minister
to the Secretary of State, setting out the challenges facing her
Department, specified as priorities the Olympics, the BBC Charter,
digital switchover, participation in sport, the creative economy
and stewardship of culture in relation to museums, galleries,
theatres and the arts; but it made no mention of the historic
omission of a reference to the importance of the historic environment
from the Prime Minister's recent 'priorities letter' to DCMS is
a surprising and worrying omission, given the emphasis the Government
places on regeneration and the important role of the historic
environment in leading urban regeneration. We encourage DCMS to
restate the priority it attaches to the role of the historic environment,
and the Government should remedy this omission in its response
to this report.
42. At the root of the issue is the question of how
deeply DCMS is committed to the historic environment and what
priority it is given within the departmental realm. The National
Trust was sceptical, telling us that "when asked about the
historic environment DCMS can come out with the right words in
the right order" but that it was "not part of the narrative
of the Department as a whole".
43. A Force for our Future acknowledged the
need for a cross-Government approach to promote awareness of the
historic environment and to maximise its contribution to the Government's
programme as a whole. To this end, it stated that the historic
environment would be included as part of the remit of Green Ministers
and that "drawing specific attention to the relevance of
the historic environment will help ensure that it is taken into
account in wider decision-making and thereby constitute an element
of the Government's support for sustainable development".
In practice, however, it seems that very little has been achieved.
There was no mention in the DCMS memorandum of any contribution
by Green Ministers to the Department's record in representing
heritage interests inside Government, nor does the historic environment
figure in occasional reports of Green Ministers' activity given
in response to Parliamentary Questions.
44. Another means of building heritage concerns into
policy development across Government would be to require proposals
to undergo heritage proofing, akin to rural proofing. This approach
was favoured by many in written evidence.
Rural proofing is a part of the policy process and requires each
Government Department to assess (with the aid of a checklist)
the particular impact of the policy in rural areas. Departments
and Government Offices for the Regions are required to report
annually on how their policies have been rural proofed; and the
Countryside Agency publishes its own annual assessment of Departments'
rural proofing efforts.
45. Ideally, DCMS would have a high-level heritage
champion who could demonstrate effectiveness in influencing policy
across Government when heritage matters were at stake. The impression
that most stakeholders seem to gain, however, is that despite
warm words on advocacy for heritage other priorities generally
win out. Whether or not this is true, we
believe that a mechanism is needed to achieve more in representing
heritage across Government. Although there is merit in the concept
of rural proofing, we suspect that heritage proofing could too
easily become bureaucratic and develop into a tick-box, formulaic
approach. Inter-departmental understanding is what is needed and
we recommend that the heritage role envisaged for Green Ministers
in A Force for our Future in 2001 should be revived
Sharing of policy responsibility with DCLG
46. Until the creation of the Department of National
Heritage in 1992, planning and conservation functions were integrated
in a single department (then the Department of the Environment).
DCMS now shares policy responsibility for the historic environment
with the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
The DCMS memorandum did not identify where the boundary lay between
the two departments in terms of policy responsibility, and the
2006 DCMS Annual Report offers no definition of DCMS responsibility;
but, broadly speaking, DCMS could be defined as the cultural custodian,
with DCLG being responsible for the planning framework and controls
which underlie that custody.
DCMS also "works closely" with the Department for Environment,
Food and Rural Affairs in taking an integrated approach to the
natural and historic environment.
The three Departments are co-signatories to the funding agreement
for English Heritage although grant-in aid is channelled exclusively
47. With the shared responsibility for the historic
environment comes a danger that DCMS, although it has responsibility
for designating what should have a degree of protection, has no
direct responsibility for the planning controls which actually
provide the protection. The Architectural Heritage Fund described
the division between the two departments as "particularly
unhelpful when decisions regarding planning and planning policy
are being considered,"
and the Association of English Cathedrals believed that there
was already "a lack of joined-up thinking about conservation
and planning issues".
The Planning Officers' Society saw the former ODPM as the dominant
partner in the relationship.
48. The solution proposed by the Institute of Historic
Building Conservation is to locate policy on protection of the
historic environment in the department with responsibility for
planning policy, currently the Department for Communities and
Although there is a clear logic to this, not all those who contributed
to our inquiry had great faith in the commitment and understanding
of its predecessor - ODPM.
When asked directly whether there was a minister in ODPM who clearly
had heritage at the top of their agenda, the Chairman of Heritage
Link said simply "no".
49. The former ODPM's Housing Market Renewal policy,
designed to address apparent market failure in urban areas, has
not taken sufficient account of the value local residents attach
to heritage within their communities. It was put to us that the
policy had demonstrated a clear presumption in favour of large-scale
clearance and new build in preference to exploration of options
for refurbishment; and we were told that there had been "evident
shortcomings in the processes of consultation and community engagement".
Save Britain's Heritage was highly critical of the demolition
of what it described as "accessible and ownable heritage".
There have been excellent examples of imaginative conversions,
in particular of Victorian terraces, which have combined a retention
of heritage with modern housing needs. DCMS
and DCLG should take more account of these examples of best practice
in refurbishment which have already been demonstrated and which
are more likely to command the support of local communities.
50. Others saw little advantage being gained in changing
departmental responsibilities for built heritage. The National
Trust noted that there would "always be boundary issues",
and it did not have "an emphatic view" on what machinery
would best serve the historic environment. The Historic Houses
Association took a similar view.
Although reuniting historic
environment policy with planning policy seems a logical step,
we are on balance more confident that heritage stands a better
chance, given proper ministerial interest and leadership, of being
given more prominence if it remains within DCMS. We recommend
no change to existing responsibilities for heritage matters within
Government but would like to see more effective action from DCMS
to promote the value-added aspects heritage can bring to planning
and developing cohesive communities.
51. The integration of heritage with arts and culture,
with David Lammy as minister with responsibility for all three
areas, has given some observers hope that heritage will carry
greater weight within the Department's priorities and that more
energy will be invested in securing support from other departments.
Anthea Case, Chairman of Heritage Link, for instance, noted that
he was "beginning to say some of the things that we would
expect somebody to say who was going to champion the historic
We welcome the avowed commitment
of the present Minister with responsibility for heritage, but
he will need to demonstrate his commitment through action not
just within his own Department but across Government.
DCMS as policy developer
52. Heritage has played a comparatively small part
in the legislative effort of DCMS and its forebears. In the last
ten years, licensing, the Lottery, regulation of gambling, and
communications have taken up the giant's share of DCMS Ministers'
time in Parliament; and some recent examples of legislation affecting
the heritage sector - for instance the Treasure Act 1996 and the
Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003 - were guided
through Parliament as private Members' bills, albeit Government-supported
ones. The most recent example of substantial primary legislation
concerning the historic environment is the Planning (Listed Buildings
and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, which was largely a clarifying
measure, filtering heritage provisions from planning ones and
creating a distinction between functions when, arguably, integration
was more important. The low level of major legislation concerning
the historic environment does not necessarily imply neglect on
the part of DCMS or other departments with which responsibility
is shared, rather that the need for reform in other areas of policy
has been greater.
53. The picture is now changing, as DCMS has definite
plans for reform of the heritage protection system, which will
involve primary legislation. These reforms, known in the sector
as "HPR" - Heritage Protection Reform - have had a protracted
birth. The DCMS policy paper The Historic Environment: A Force
for our Future, published in December 2001, announced an intention
to review the case for integrating controls protecting heritage
assets into a single regime,
but the substantial reform now proposed was signalled by the Secretary
of State only in November 2002. A consultation paper with detailed
proposals aiming to achieve "a more simple, open, flexible
but rigorous system" for heritage protection was published
in July 2003. A further
paper was published in June 2004 drawing conclusions from the
responses to the consultation and sketching a future course of
action. The foreword
by the then Minister for Media and Heritage (Lord McIntosh of
Haringey) envisaged a White Paper in 2005 with a view to seeking
Parliamentary time "at the first opportunity - probably in
2006-07". The present Minister for Culture confirmed to us
that he expected publication of the White Paper to be in autumn
2006: in part the
delay was to acknowledge and take into account this Committee's
report. Although not stated to us explicitly by either English
Heritage or by DCMS in oral or written evidence, the expected
date for implementation of the reforms seems to be 2010. The Royal
Institute of British Architects referred in evidence to the former
ODPM Select Committee to the "stately progress" of the
Heritage Protection Review. It is with some justification that
it described progress to us as having "slowed to a geriatric
54. Our terms of reference specifically invited submissions
on what DCMS should identify as priorities in the White Paper,
and most responses took up that invitation. From the start, the
White Paper has been associated with reform of elements of the
statutory heritage protection regime and little else. Some of
those who submitted evidence were clearly frustrated at the slow
progress of the reforms themselves and regretted what they saw
as the lack of urgency shown by DCMS,
although these views were balanced to some extent by an appreciation
of the efforts made by DCMS to consult openly and inclusively.
55. Some witnesses clearly see it as essential that
the White Paper should consist of a more wide-ranging set of reforms,
for instance involving planning guidance and strengthening protection
in conservation areas.
Section 3 of this report looks in detail at the proposals which
are expected to form the backbone of the White Paper, and we make
observations at that point on the fitness of the Government's
proposals and on other specific reforms that might appear in the
White Paper. For now we note that DCMS's
approach to reform of the heritage protection system has been
less than energetic. The process of consultation on the reforms
has been commendably thorough, but the slow progress is placing
stakeholders in limbo and delaying decisions by local authorities
on medium-term allocation of resources.
56. Other witnesses called for the White Paper to
articulate once again the value of heritage set out in A Force
for our Future in 2001 and to recognise heritage as a cultural
asset. The National
Trust, for instance, argued that the White Paper should, "as
well as setting a vision for the historic environment as a whole
the case for the better protection and management of the historic
environment - outlining its role in improving our quality of life,
fostering community identity and engagement and underpinning both
urban and rural regeneration".
Much of this has however already been said by the Government.
While we see no harm in restating
principles, the groundwork has already been laid: the priority
for the Heritage White Paper is to state exactly what action the
Government proposes to take and when, and how it expects to resource
its plans in the medium term.
DCMS as funder
57. The heritage sector looks to DCMS to secure the
funding needed for the adequate protection of heritage assets.
Much of this funding will be channelled through English Heritage
in the form of repair grants and funding for national statutory
amenity societies and others; but DCMS also determines the proportion
of distributable Lottery funds to be awarded to the heritage good
cause, and it is the body best placed to secure favourable fiscal
treatment from the Treasury for voluntary bodies, private owners
and others with direct responsibility for repair and maintenance
of historic assets.
58. A comparison between resource budgets in 2000-01
and in 2006-07 demonstrates that heritage has done relatively
poorly in terms of the share of the DCMS spending pot:
Table 4: DCMS resource budgets 2000-01 and 2006-07, selected divisions