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Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I use this facetious comment because on the flysheet it sets out quite clearly that it is a consultation document. It goes into detail about the number of experts involved. I have talked to a number of those experts and they believe that many of their recommendations and the recommendations put forward by the working group have not been included in the final document. There seems to be a degree of anger that the document was twice rewritten by senior members of English Heritage. I include in my starting statement the fact that on the first page--a letter sent out by Sir Neil Cossons--it states in the second paragraph:
This is to some extent confirmed by the fact that there was an emphasis on secrecy and that the document should not be leaked in correspondence by English Heritage. I find that surprising. Most of the
The most serious failure of the report is that it does not address the resource implications of some of the longer-term recommendations. Could that be because the authors do not wish to spell out what they are? We might all welcome, for example, the suggestion regarding the introduction of a statutory duty of care on owners of listed buildings, scheduled monuments and registered parks and gardens. But the proviso about the need for it to be supported by fiscal incentives and the wider availability of grants is not discussed in any detail; and there is no consideration of the financial implications.
Sustainable tourism is discussed in the report; but sustainability is dependent on sound finances. Without a change in lottery financing--not merely to finance capital but to tackle the problem of long-term running costs--there will soon be crises at many lottery-funded sites. A recommendation for the lottery to supply endowments to sites to meet running costs should have been set out so that it could be included the next time the running of the lottery is discussed.
Another weakness of the report is that there seems to be no clear justification for a number of the recommendations. I have mentioned Recommendation 6 on the duty of care. But there is a vagueness about Recommendation 12, which hardly explains why there is an advantage in integrating planning and heritage controls. The same lack of justification is present--or absent--in the areas of so-called area-based characterisation.
The report contains some sound recommendations, such as the need to reduce VAT on listed building repairs--a subject raised by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. This has been shown time and again to be relatively income neutral and is an issue that has been raised in this House on more than one occasion. The report's mention of marine archaeology, which will be covered in the forthcoming recreation and heritage Bill, is welcome.
The report points out a variety of ways in which responsibility should be in the hands of local communities and local authorities--which is good. It suggests that one way in which the Government could promote possession by local people is by reducing the role of English Heritage and increasing the role of local authorities instead. Some of the most important archaeological initiatives in recent years have come from community-based archaeologists working with local communities, and not from nationally headquartered organisations such as English Heritage. However, I can see no reference in the report to that kind of initiative.
It is good that the paper highlights the failure of joined-up government; yet it skirts around the problem that although MAFF pays to protect the natural environment, it has failed over the past few years to build in measures to protect the archaeology of the rural environment by prioritising payments for
Few references appear in the document to the archaeology of England--a subject close to the heart of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. I wondered whether that was because the report was written without consulting the archaeologists in English Heritage. Archaeology is close to my heart; I studied it at Newcastle. The report fails to address a whole series of issues relating to archaeology. For example, the application of PPG 16 to most archaeological work in this country means that no requirement is placed on the developer--who now pays for most archaeological excavations here--to provide access to information recovered by the approved contractor. Surely the opportunity should have been taken, especially bearing in mind the apparent emphasis on access and inclusion in the report, to ensure that this was made a duty. There is an urgent need to overhaul PPG 16, yet no reference is made to this.
Greater prominence should have been given to the recommendation of a statutory responsibility to maintain sites and monuments records. Even the previous government recognised, in their 1996 Green Paper, Protecting Our Heritage, that that task should be taken on by local authorities. That is urgently required. The idea receives only lukewarm support in the report; reference is made to "historic environment centres". The report states, at page 39:
If information and openness are at the heart of the report, as is claimed, why is there no reference to the excellent portable antiquities recording scheme? The scheme has been supported by the DCMS and, in terms of pound for pound spent, is much better than most English Heritage initiatives at involving the public.
It is a matter of concern that some of the clearer and better explained points in the report are not included in the Culture and Recreation Bill. One good thing is that we shall probably not have to wait until March for the Government's response; in the case of sites and monuments records we may be able to add amendments to the forthcoming Bill.
Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: My Lords, we owe a debt of gratitude to my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu not only for introducing the debate, but also for his distinguished tenure as the first chairman of English Heritage.
I was one of the commissioners who served under the noble Lord's chairmanship, and I confess that initially I felt a concern that with his record of outstanding success with his own stately home, and indeed the National Motor Museum, he might be more concerned with the historic buildings part of the work of English Heritage; I feared that the ancient monuments side, dealing with the field monuments, archaeology and the rural landscape--emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy--might be neglected. Within the work of English Heritage and its predecessors, going right back to the Ministry of Works, there has traditionally been a difficult balance to establish between the built environment--the historic urban centres--on the one hand and the rural environment and earlier history and prehistory on the other. But, happily, that was not the case during my noble friend's tenure, and I and others admired the balance which he established.
With the appointment of his successor, Sir Jocelyn Stevens, there was the same initial concern. Indeed, in the early days of his tenure it was heightened when, during an interview with the press, he spoke a shade dismissively of some of England's field monuments--those barrows and earthworks which are among the most conspicuous products of British pre-history--as "bumps in fields". But Sir Jocelyn soon became a doughty champion of the heritage and we are all in his debt for his pertinacity in pressing on with the Stonehenge project, to take one major example.
It is a pleasure to welcome the new chairman of English Heritage, Sir Neil Cossons, who has had a distinguished career as director of the National Maritime Museum and then of the Science Museum, and as a noted industrial archaeologist. It is to be hoped that he, too, will establish the necessary balance between the rural and the urban and the ancient and the more recent historic environment in the work of English Heritage.
But in welcoming the report, I have to say that the balance that was earlier maintained by my noble friend and by Sir Jocelyn Stevens has apparently been lost. I very much agree with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, in his exceedingly well-informed critique of the report.
The report has many merits. It accurately documents the real interest which the majority of Britons have in Britain's past and Britain's heritage. It rightly emphasises that monuments and buildings have to be looked at in context. It is right to ask, "Whose past?", and to ensure that we consider the heritage or heritages of different groups, including ethnic minorities. The report expresses those aspirations well. All of its recommendations have merit and I commend them.
However, the report has defects--such that many of those concerned with England's historic and prehistoric heritage will view it with deep disappointment. Rural England is substantially neglected. Among all the townscapes illustrated there is not one rural landscape depicting those memorable and significant "bumps in fields". Further, its vision
The "historic environment" is a valid concept if it takes in the entire sweep of history and prehistory. But the view of Britain's past in this report falls into the trap that my noble friend and Sir Jocelyn successfully avoided. When we speak of England's heritage, it forgets that there has to be a balance between, on the one hand, the ancient monuments and, on the other, historic buildings. It rightly proclaims that the concept of the "historic environment" can embrace both, but then it loses the plot.
I have been trying to discover who actually wrote this document. I have spoken with the chair of one of the working parties involved who assures me that she and her group made strongly the very points that I am making. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, made that observation. I have spoken to the one archaeologist who was a member of the steering group, which contained not one single university historian, who said much the same thing. I have also spoken with the chair of English Heritage's own Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee which shares some of these concerns. So who is responsible for this imbalance?
Within English Heritage there are first-class experts who know all of this. They know that the ancient monuments protection programme, with the uphill task of listing the most important of England's ancient monuments, has fallen far behind through underfunding. They know, as the report states, that England has been losing one archaeological site a day for the past 45 years. They know that the losses due to plough damage have not been adequately assessed or mitigated through underfunding. The Royal Commission on Historic Monuments for England, now absorbed within English Heritage, has experts in aerial photography who know of the thousands of sites discovered in Britain's countryside by this technique--which the report fails even to mention. The archaeologists within English Heritage know of the uphill battle to recover knowledge of our past though rescue archaeology. Where is their voice here? The report sells them short.
On Monday I went for the fourth time to the Millennium Dome and, again, I enjoyed my visit. But one of its shortcomings is that it is, in effect, a "past-free zone". There is no mention of Shakespeare or of Newton, of William the Conqueror or Cromwell, of Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee or Beveridge, nor even of Crick and Watson. By definition almost, we find no mention of Romans or Saxons, no glimpse of Stonehenge or Avebury. Curiously, and less appropriately, there is something of that spirit about this report. It fails to appreciate that the true heritage, the true historic environment, is knowledge based: it is what you know about the past, not just what you see when you look around outside Winchester Cathedral or Battersea power station.
That is how the report can overlook one of the most important initiatives in the heritage field of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; namely, the Voluntary Finds Reporting Scheme, by which metal-"detectorists" and others are encouraged to report their discoveries to finds officers, as indicated by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale. That is how it can fail altogether to mention the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property of 1970, about which a DCMS working panel reported just two days ago.
There is much to admire in this report and I would support all its recommendations. But it has done only half the work. In substantially ignoring rural England, in overlooking the past beneath our feet, and all those early millennia in the making of England, it misses a thousand opportunities. It has done justice to Britain's historic buildings, but it has failed to do justice to Britain's historic and prehistoric past. I endorse the point made about the requirement of a statutory provision for sites and monuments records, which creeps into the report and then disappears. It does not even make it as one of the substantial recommendations, which I believe to be lamentable.
In my view, English Heritage needs a serious rethink if it is to maintain the standards established during the time of my noble friend Lord Montagu, or indeed those established under the redoubtable Sir Jocelyn Stevens.
Lord Gibson: My Lords, as a former chairman of the National Trust in the 1970s and 1980s, I thought that I would consult those in the trust regarding what they thought was the most important recommendation in this report to which they were important contributors. Their most emphatic reply was that the recommendation to reduce the rate of VAT on repairs to listed buildings was the most urgent and important recommendation of all. On VAT reform, the report says:
We debated this matter in your Lordships' House in March last year when everyone agreed that the problem needed to be solved. A note of hope came at the end of the Minister's speech. After chiding some of us, including myself, for our failure to understand--as he saw it--that it was the net effect on public expenditure that mattered, he cautiously said:
It seems to have been possible to find some sort of a fix in the case of repairs to historic churches, for which the Government intend to seek a reduction in VAT. No one is more delighted by this wonderful news than I am. I was treasurer of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust for many years. But as there are
I have just one further point to make on the report. In general, I give it a hearty welcome, despite the deficiencies referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew. I heartily support its main proposition that understanding and cherishing our environment will create a better country. I hope that my years with the National Trust, and other conservation bodies, will establish my credentials as a fervent conservationist when I add, as I must, that I have one important reservation. There seems to me no real acknowledgement in the report of the need for balance when measuring the claims of conservation against the need for acceptance of change. For another valid claim is that of the freedom of the individual from the power of the state which prevents a citizen living in a listed house from adapting his or her home to present-day requirements of comfort or, indeed, of economy.
Of course, there should not be freedom for owners of important historic buildings graded one, or even graded 2 starred, to alter them as they wish. But if there are, as we are told, getting on for 400,000 buildings listed as grade 2, these are part of the general housing stock. If we make it too difficult for owners to make alterations, whether for comfort or economy--or even, in some cases, as a matter of taste--these buildings will ultimately become unpopular to own or to live in. How then will the objective of conservation be achieved?
Therefore, I hope that the Government will implement many of the report's recommendations. But I hope also that they will be cautious about legal enforcement of too inflexible a system of control, to which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, referred. When one asks for flexibility, one is asking for good judgment. To expect that from every single bureaucrat is to expect the unattainable. Much can be done through training and education, which the report recommends. But education alone does not always produce common sense.
One would like to see guidelines that encourage planners and their English Heritage advisers not to enforce too hard and fast rules in the less important cases. Many historic buildings have evolved through the years and must go on doing so if they are to continue to be used. This means that, sometimes, additions must be made but also that they must sometimes be removed.
We all have anecdotes of inflexibility. The architect, Robert Adam, writing in The Times last Saturday instanced a case where the conversion and restoration of a medieval house was obstructed for the sake of a
The first point that should be made is that a keen sense and knowledge of the lessons of the past is indispensable if we are to learn to live in the present, let alone cope with the future. Those who mock, deride or denigrate the past do an injustice not only to themselves but also to the great stock of buildings that this nation possesses which bear comparison with any in the world and which are the envy of many in the world, beginning with the greatest cultural glory this country possesses; namely, the 42 Anglican cathedrals; the churches, large and small, many of which are sublime; the castles; the manor and country houses; the bridges and many other examples of industrial architecture and design.
It is so important to pay attention to such matters. No less than 73 per cent of tourists who visit these shores do so for the specific purpose of seeing for themselves the great buildings and monuments that have been created over the centuries.
I never cease to be inspired by the restoration and in some cases resurrection of projects, large and small, undertaken by English Heritage which puts them back into first-class order and, where appropriate, finds alternative use for them. I applaud the Government's campaign to increase accessibility, thus giving us an enhanced awareness of our own identity. If I have a concern, it is that some of the workplaces of our greatest artists are overlooked, fall into decay and, ultimately, oblivion. Only a year or so ago this fate was about to befall Down House in Kent, for 40 years the home of Charles Darwin, one of the greatest Englishmen who ever drew breath. It was only as a result of the concerted efforts of the Natural History Museum and English Heritage that it was saved for the
Some 10 years ago in my Arts Council days I put forward a proposition to successive Secretaries of State at what is now the DCMS, to the former chairman of English Heritage, Sir Jocelyn Stevens, and in various newspaper articles. However, I am sorry to say that that proposition fell on deaf ears. I put it forward again today for your Lordships' consideration for better or worse. The notion is a simple one: the grant-in-aid to English Heritage should be top-sliced by a nominal sum, say, #10 million per annum. That sum should be placed in a European pool of money. Member states of the EU would each contribute the same amount. The initiative, which would be led by English Heritage, would then identify specific projects in order of priority, throughout Europe, to which the funds could be applied.
Since talk of a European army and a rapid reaction force is topical, I propose such a force, not of soldiers but of craftsmen trained in this country under the guidance and supervision of our master craftsmen in all aspects of restoration: guilders, enamellers, wood carvers, stone masons, joiners, plasterers and so on, which would become a peripatetic workforce moving throughout Europe and working on European projects, as was done in the Middle Ages. I know that there may be problems with terms of reference and with current legislation, both of which would have to be adjusted, but your Lordships may feel that the benefits of job creation and the undeniable effects of a British-led initiative stemming from this House in particular, which is perhaps the ultimate masterpiece of Victorian artistry and craftsmanship, outweigh technicalities and underlines the proper way forward for our credentials of European collaboration. It might, too, just receive unanimous support--a rare event in European politics.
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