5 Nov 1996 : Column 593

House of Lords

Tuesday, 5th November 1996.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Exeter.

Lord Alderdice

John Thomas Alderdice, Esquire, having been created Baron Alderdice, of Knock in the City of Belfast, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Redesdale and the Lord Holme of Cheltenham.

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns

Dame Joyce Anne Anelay, DBE, having been created Baroness Anelay of St. Johns, of St. Johns in the County of Surrey, for life--Was, in her robes, introduced between the Baroness Seccombe and the Baroness Miller of Hendon.

Stonehenge Millennium Scheme

2.57 p.m.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to mark the millennium with the enhancement of Stonehenge and its environs, and what steps the Department of National Heritage has taken to co-ordinate and energise the participation of the Millennium Commission, the Highways Agency, English Heritage and the National Trust to this end.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, English Heritage is preparing a bid to the Millennium Commission for a grant towards the cost of its Stonehenge millennium scheme. This will include the removal of the existing visitor facilities and car park, the closure of the A.344 road, and a new visitor complex to the east of the world heritage site. The National Trust is actively involved in the project. The Millennium Commission is an independent body and it would not of course be proper for the Government to seek to influence its decisions on particular bids.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that mildly encouraging reply. Can she confirm that Stonehenge is a monument in the guardianship of the Secretary of State for National Heritage although looked after, of course, by English Heritage? Does she agree with me that the present state of Stonehenge and its environs is a national disgrace? May I express the hope that the Government will do all in their appropriate power to facilitate this scheme which perhaps does offer hope of a resolution to some of the problems of Stonehenge?

Baroness Trumpington: Quite a lot of questions, my Lords. I confirm that Stonehenge and the 13 acres

5 Nov 1996 : Column 594

around it are the property of the Secretary of State for National Heritage but will remain completely under the management of English Heritage. The closure of the A.344 is an essential part of English Heritage's proposal. However, if there are any objections leading to an inquiry on the closure of the road, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport will be required to make the final decision. I am sure that my noble friend will appreciate that it would not therefore be appropriate for me to comment on the merits of the proposal in advance as that could prejudice any subsequent decision. I agree entirely that the current visitor facilities and car park are a national disgrace. The new plan is to remove all those items and other 20th century clutter, including the A.344. The new visitor centre will be outside the world heritage site.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, my question is really to ask why the Question from the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, needs to be asked at all. Is the noble Baroness aware--I am sure she is--that her noble friend is among Britain's greatest archaeologists, in touch with everyone, knowledgeable about all aspects of the subject and that if he does not know what the DNH is doing about Stonehenge, there is something seriously wrong inside that department? Will the noble Baroness investigate why information is not getting out?

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I think that that is being perfectly beastly to my noble friend who is acknowledged as a great expert and who, in this case, has bowed to my knowledge.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the protection of Stonehenge, which is druidic, has nothing whatever to do with the 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ?

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I can only agree.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, is there any legal bar to the millennium heritage fund contributing to the cost of the long road tunnel which is the only sensible solution to this tangle?

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, the Millennium Commission is not allowed to pay for road schemes.

Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, in view of the suggestion that there should be a tunnel, may I ask my noble friend whether she has any idea of how much such tunnelling would cost?

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, yes, the inescapable fact is that it would cost £300 million.

The Earl of Clanwilliam: My Lords, speaking as someone who lives 10 miles to the west of Stonehenge on the A.303, may I ask my noble friend whether she agrees that the only solution to the problems of that road

5 Nov 1996 : Column 595

is to construct a tunnel and that everything must wait until such funds are available as are necessary to perform that task?

Baroness Trumpington: Yes, my Lords.

Lord Chorley: My Lords, in connection with the A.303, would the noble Baroness accept that any suggestion that the National Trust should allow any of its land to be used for widening the present A.303 as a so-called "temporary" so-called "measure" would be opposed by the trust with the utmost vigour? Does she further agree that if there ever was a case for the National Trust invoking its statutory power to take its objections to Parliament this must surely be the most important to have cropped up in the past 100 years?

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords--

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Trumpington: I do know the answer, so don't start laughing. Improvements to the A.303 remain in the Government's longer term road programme. In the meantime, we understand that English Heritage and the National Trust are continuing to look for alternative ways of funding the long tunnel solution.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, am I right in gathering from my noble friend's earlier answer that the Government recognise that although they may not be able to afford the right answer to the key problems of that road at the moment, the one thing they could afford even less would be to imperil their well deserved reputation for cherishing this country's environment over the past 17 years by allowing the wrong solution to go forward?

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, we have to face the fact that a £300 million tunnel is currently unaffordable, but that does not stop our pursuing other options for improving the site and its facilities. The scheme put forward by English Heritage for a visitor centre is very exciting. I wish English Heritage every success in finding a suitable partner under the private finance initiative and in making a bid to the Millennium Commission.

The Marquess of Bath: My Lords, to mark the millennium, would the noble Baroness be prepared to designate Stonehenge as the tourist hub of Wessex, with funds to promote the presentation of the West Country, so that we may increase our contribution to the tourist revenue of the United Kingdom as a whole and emerge on a par with London and Scotland?

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I do not see that that is necessary. Stonehenge is already a world heritage

5 Nov 1996 : Column 596

site. There are 14 such sites in the United Kingdom, including the Palace of Westminster, a fact I did not know until I had my briefing.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, as Stonehenge was built by Welshmen with Welsh stone, is the noble Baroness aware that we fully support English Heritage and the action it is taking?

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, I congratulate the Welshmen of the day who transported the stone.

The Earl of Gowrie: My Lords, given that the Millennium Commission is, as my noble friend reminded us, an entirely independent body and acknowledging that it does much excellent work, would it not be better if there were not two Cabinet Ministers on its board? That puzzles people.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, they are only two among nine.

MEPs: Expenses

3.6 p.m.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the expenses liable to be claimed by Members of the European Parliament.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, Members of the European Parliament may claim expenses that they incur in performance of their parliamentary duties as follows: general office costs; travel within their member state and to official meetings or conferences; subsistence costs while attending official meetings; and costs of employing secretaries or assistants.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer, but, in view of recent allegations made both on television and in the newspapers about the level of expenses paid to Members of the European Parliament, would the Government make the facts widely known in order to protect the reputations of representatives of the European Parliament and to clear up any misunderstanding?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page