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Maria Eagle: There are two drugs courts pilots at present. The Government like evidence-based policy making, so we should ensure that the pilots work and that they make a difference. The court in north Liverpool is a community court—it does not deal only with drug-related matters, although drug rehabilitation is often part of what the district judge orders for persistent offenders who appear before him repeatedly. He seeks to supervise such people in the community and to avoid sending them into custody, if he can.

There are 13 community court pilots. Early evaluations show that they have the potential to reduce reoffending over time. It is too soon for us to be clear on that, because the pilots have not been going long enough for us to be sure of the long-term impact on reoffending behaviour among persistent offenders. However, we are extending the approach—there are now 13 community courts—and we intend to ensure that magistrates courts in other areas adopt some of the lessons, so that we can show in due course that they have a persistent impact on the types of offence that I have mentioned.

We intend to ensure that we have the money to extend the process to other courts areas, but before we become too enthusiastic and roll the pilots out further, we must be clear that the pilots work properly and that, when we evaluate the evidence, we see that they work. We need to be able to show that the problem-solving approach works, whether in community, domestic violence or drug courts.

My hon. Friend has referred to the problem-solving approach. We may argue how well offender management works, whether it is well resourced and what the problems are, but the idea behind it is to wrap interventions around the needs of the individual, particularly persistent and young offenders, to solve their problems so that they do not commit further crime. I believe that that is the way forward.

My hon. Friend has referred to interventions below court level and to intensive supervision. I agreed with what he said about the importance of the first three years after birth and parenting. The Government, with the Youth Justice Board, are developing some intensive supervision and surveillance programmes to deal with those who fall into bad behaviour partly because of their upbringing and bad experiences as young people. That approach involves family and parenting support over a six-month period, with the intention of ensuring that, at the end of the period, young people can go back to their families secure in the knowledge that their families are more able to cope with them, and that the young people concerned have changed their behaviour. That has a great deal of potential.

My hon. Friend may know that we are piloting intensive fostering in his area, which is another way in which to take hold of people who have gone wrong, perhaps because of poor experiences and parenting in their early years, and to ensure that they can be returned to society when they are less likely to offend in future.

A lot of work is being done in our criminal justice system to tackle the issues raised by my hon. Friend and others who spoke in the debate. We need to continue to put effort, money and time into the approaches that I have discussed. I congratulate my hon. Friend on the way in which he put his ideas forward, and he raised one or two issues that I shall have to go away and think about.

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Stone Conservation (Cathedrals and Churches)

12.30 pm

Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): It is a pleasure, Mr. Taylor, to be under your chairmanship, and to debate this subject with the Minister.

It is hard to imagine a greater privilege than being on Salisbury cathedral’s spire with a stonemason, 300 ft above ground, considering how best to conserve an individual stone in that enormous edifice. That was where my passion for stone conservation started some 20 years ago. Since then, we have seen the progress of an astonishing number of cathedral and parish church projects throughout the country. Much of the credit for that must go to English Heritage, but even more must go to the skill of the stonemasons and conservators. They are responsible for ensuring that our generation passes to future generations the inheritance of those wonderful mediaeval buildings that are such an important part of the life of our country.

This is a huge subject, and I cannot begin to do more than scratch the surface. For those who are particularly interested, I commend the winner of the 2007 Royal Institute of British Architects book award for construction—“Stone Conservation: Principles and Practice”. The book was edited by Alison Henry, a distinguished conservator. In it, she said:

She continued:

How right she is.

Of course, I do not want to speak only about Salisbury, although we are blessed not least because we have the benefit of the original stone quarries at Chilmark and Purbeck from which the cathedral was built. Indeed, this year, we celebrate the 750th anniversary of the laying of the cathedral’s foundation stone. However, Canterbury has had a more difficult story.

The distinguished archaeologist Tim Tatton-Brown, writing in the Ecclesiastical Architect and Surveyors journal of spring 2007, said of Canterbury:

It is a huge problem that affects every parish church with a few bits of stone that need attention.

How do the conservators approach such a problem? Their first duty is to preserve as much of the historic fabric as possible, and to record fully the archaeological
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and historical information of each area treated. They seek to maintain the fabric in a sound condition through cleaning—removing damaging or potentially damaging material—by repairing smaller areas of decayed or damaged stone with lime mortar repairs, or by replacing or piecing-in larger areas of decayed or damaged stone with new stone.

Conservators, architects and stonemasons are always reluctant to replace historic stonework; they do so only after careful inspection and consideration of the degree of decay—in size, form and depth—from location to location. The decision to replace is taken only after the implications of intervention have been discussed jointly by the cathedral architect and the consultant conservator while on the scaffolding. Since 1994, such decisions at Salisbury have been fully discussed with English Heritage. Its inspecting architect has visited the cathedral regularly, and has developed a good relationship—until recently.

There has been a change of policy at English Heritage. The cathedral has had to face up to a significant change to work that is being carried out, but to do so it would need the approval of the cathedral fabric advisory committee and the Cathedral Fabric Commission for England. The problem arose this year. It might seem curmudgeonly to say it, but the press release in which English Heritage announced the award of £2.1 million to 28 cathedrals only a couple of weeks ago was not greeted with universal enthusiasm by cathedral deans throughout the country, and not only in Salisbury. Why?

The real problem is that the lack of money has led to a change of policy. It is not about sour grapes for Salisbury. English Heritage has been very generous to Salisbury cathedral—more generous to Salisbury and Lincoln than to any other cathedral. However, English Heritage provides a minority of the funding. We have been fundraising in Salisbury since 1986, when we launched our spire appeal. That raised £8 million for the spire, the tower and the west front. However, total expenditure since 1986 to the end of this financial year is more than £18 million, of which English Heritage has generously provided £6.25 million.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): I declare an interest as chairman of the Cathedral Fabric Commission for England. I am pleased about the way in which the theme is being developed. We all accept that English Heritage does not have enough money to carry out its functions properly. When comparing the budget being voted on later today for Northern Rock with the good done by the English cathedrals, there seems to be a mismatch. Although we accept that English Heritage funds will always be inadequate, is not the main point that it should give funds in such a way that it does not make it more difficult for those cathedrals that are unsuccessful or that do not have their grants renewed to continue to raise funds? The commission is certainly concerned about that issue.

Robert Key: Of course, the right hon. Gentleman is entirely right. He points out the very small amount of money that English Heritage has to distribute. That, of course, can be blamed only on the Treasury. However, the Treasury has its priorities; and Northern Rock is apparently a much greater priority than the southern rock of Salisbury cathedral. The right hon. Gentleman is right. We have a strange sense of what it is right to
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subsidise. For example, Salisbury’s excellent theatre will receive not far short of £1 million in annual subsidy, but the cathedral will not.

As the cathedral will not now be receiving the money that it had hoped for from the excellent Wolfson Foundation—it provides the money for cathedrals, which is administered by English Heritage; it previously came from the Treasury—the problem is starker. It makes things much more difficult. As the right hon. Gentleman said, we do not want to make fund-raising more difficult for those churches.

It is also terribly important to remember that 25 per cent. of all listed buildings in the country are funded by the Church of England, as are 40 per cent. of all grade 1 listed buildings. It is a pretty stark challenge for the Christian community to have to pay for the iconic buildings of our country. We are very grateful to the Wolfson Foundation for providing £1 million a year for three years for our cathedrals.

The problem that we faced with the decision of English Heritage was not that it did not have enough money and had to spread it more thinly but that it changed the criteria. There is no doubt about that; the chief executive told me himself that English Heritage had changed the criteria in order better to distribute its finances. However, the way that English Heritage changed the criteria caused considerable upset. That was surprising in some ways. Sir Hayden Phillips, who is the chairman of the Salisbury cathedral fabric advisory committee and a former distinguished permanent secretary of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and then the Lord Chancellor’s Department, said:

We are therefore faced with a challenge for the future. We have had a change of policy. I suspect that the problem stems from the changes at English Heritage themselves and I hope very much that the excellent commissioners for English Heritage will take note of that. We used to have an excellent cathedral team in the headquarters of English Heritage, led by Richard Halsey who then retired. Since his retirement, there has been regional devolution and it seems that there has been no overall control of cathedral policy. English Heritage no longer has a chief architect, which is also a pity.

We really must have consistency in policy by English Heritage, which is meant to be the guardian of this type of conservation of our great buildings. Regionalisation by English Heritage has led to a lack of national consistency. So, my first request of the Minister is that she should facilitate for English Heritage a serious national conference to decide the best approach for conserving stonework, not just in cathedrals and parish churches but in any of our great stone buildings.

Mr. Field: English Heritage and the CFCE are going to stage such a conference. However, is the hon. Gentleman not making the point—I just wish to
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underline it—that the cathedrals themselves now have groups of experts and the commission itself has groups of experts, which are now probably greater in number than those that English Heritage has? Our expertise is being pitted against English Heritage and English Heritage then makes public statements about the worth of the decisions made by individual cathedrals and by the commission.

Robert Key: I am sure that that is absolutely right. Certainly, Michael Drury, the cathedral architect at Salisbury, is a well-known and greatly respected expert on stone conservation, as is Nicholas Durnan, who is the consultant conservator to Salisbury cathedral; he is not only a distinguished sculptor but has worked on many English cathedrals over the years. The accumulated wisdom of experts in cathedrals up and down the country is indeed very great.

The conference that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned will take place in London from 11 to 13 March, with the sponsorship of RIBA, English Heritage, The Architects’ Journal, the Stone Federation and others. The Natural Stone Show 2008 is unmissable for the Minister and for anyone else who has a bent in that direction.

I have asked that the Minister facilitate a serious conference, which the cathedrals had asked for and hoped for, but the consultation processes had not been completed by English Heritage on the grant allocations, which is the burden of the complaint by Sir Hayden Phillips. I also ask the Minister, for the sake of future generations, to look at the problem that arises from having a lot of courses for stone masons in the UK while stone conservation training is very limited indeed. Most conservation training is now done on the job. There is a lack of recognised qualifications in stone conservation. The accreditation scheme for conservation in the UK, promoted by the Institute of Conservation, is a step in the right direction. Also, the institute’s stone and wall paintings group is doing very great work. Nevertheless, there is a lot more to be done in this very important area.

I end where I started by saying that anyone who just looks at a great building, whether it is the Palace of Westminster, Westminster abbey, Salisbury cathedral, or the cathedrals of Durham, Canterbury, Lichfield or wherever, should understand that it is more than just a whole image; in the case of Salisbury cathedral, it is about 750 years of continuity. Minimum replacement of stone is always the objective. However, if we do not have a consistent policy in this area and if we insist on replacing only the most damaged stonework without consideration of that stone that is going to need replacing in the next 10 or 20 years, we will see our buildings deteriorating and remaining covered in scaffolding for generation after generation.

In Salisbury, we very much hope that by 2015—an important date in our history because 1215 is the date of the signing of Magna Carta of which Salisbury cathedral has the best surviving copy—the scaffolding that has been there since the late 1980s, being continually moved around the cathedral, will have been removed. For goodness’ sake, today we have heard that after hundreds of years the Forth bridge will no longer be painted, but the scaffolding will not be taken down from English cathedrals and churches for many years to come if we do not have a sensible, consistent and agreed policy on stone conservation in this country.

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12.46 pm

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): First, I congratulate the hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key) on securing this debate. I should also like to express a little envy that he has Salisbury cathedral within his constituency. I was privileged enough to visit the cathedral when I visited Stonehenge last summer and it is indeed one of the most magnificent buildings that we have in our cultural and heritage infrastructure, which is much valued and enjoyed by all who go there.

I should just like to say a little about churches and cathedrals in general, because they have a hugely important role to play in their communities, not only because they fulfil their primary purpose as places of worship but because they are storehouses for historic treasures. As the hon. Gentleman said, Salisbury cathedral is 750 years old this year. Many of our cathedrals also commission new works of art. Cathedrals host a range of cultural events, including exhibitions and concerts. They uphold all our fine choral traditions and they also help many vulnerable people in our communities. So cathedrals and churches contribute in a huge range of ways to the life of our nation, and they provide space for many community and cultural activities.

We should always bear in mind that cathedrals and churches are very important in terms of our children’s education. They are often the scene of educational visits; many of them employ educational officers, and every year thousands of schoolchildren explore the wonders of art history, architecture and religion within the confines of these buildings. Finally, as the hon. Gentleman will know, we have plans to offer children more cultural opportunities, and I hope that the cathedrals and churches will play their part in that scheme.

I also recognise, particularly in Salisbury but also in many of our other cathedrals, how important cathedrals and churches are in benefiting local economies and local businesses, in the way that they attract visitors and tourists. We calculate that about £91 million a year of local expenditure is associated with visits to cathedrals.

Most importantly, of course, cathedrals cater for the spiritual needs of many people, whether it is in a formal service—I understand that the congregations for those services are increasing—or just by being places for people to sit quietly and contemplate.

I would like to say just a little about Government support generally for cathedrals and churches, because the hon. Gentleman was right to draw our attention to the fact that so many of our cathedrals are listed under grade I or grade II status. If one looks at the totality of the Government funding that is provided, either through the Government directly, through our non-departmental public bodies or through lottery programmes, it is more than £50 million a year, which goes to helping us to conserve and preserve these places of worship.

The current spending review settlement was very tight, as the hon. Gentleman will know, and I am pleased that we have managed to increase the grant to the Churches Conservation Trust. Even English Heritage, which has had a flat-rate settlement for many years, will also see an increase in its settlement from the Department over the period of the current spending review.

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