THE GOVERNMENT RESPONSE
14. It is with pleasure, therefore, that we can
report that considerable work has already been put into implementing
our recommendations. It will be clear, however, from the outline
above, that this work has been done by the heritage sector and
the research community. The Government have been notable chiefly
by their absence.
15. Indeed, the progress that has been made could
be said to have happened despite the best efforts of the Government
to prevent it. The Government response grudgingly described our
recommendation for a strategy for heritage science as "appropriate".
However, in practice DCMS appear to have devoted more effort to
raising detailed or trivial objections to the development of this
strategy than to attempting to support it.
16. For instance, the response comments on our
recommendation that EH provide a secretariat to support the development
of the strategy as follows:
"While we note and applaud English Heritage's
willingness to provide such a secretariat, we shall consider the
proposal further taking into account the resource implications
and whether it has the necessary statutory authority to undertake
such a role for both moveable and immoveable heritage of all kinds."
This legal argument was described as a "red
herring" by John Fidler. Even Sir Neil Cossons expressed
disappointment at the "somewhat negative approach of the
Government's response in relation to remit", noting that
"collaborative partnership and shared ownership" were
called for, not the "directive leadership" which the
Government's reference to statutory authority appeared to presuppose.
In the event, not only has English Heritage found the resources
internally to fund a full-time post for 12 months for a secretariat
to co-ordinate work on a heritage science strategy, but the legal
objection has been withdrawn.
17. One more general issue raised in the Government
response also requires comment. This is the relationship between
the DCMS departmental objectives and the Government's broader
policy on sustainability. We argued in the Report that "Heritage
key to the long-term sustainability of our cultural
heritage: it is about managing change and risk and maximising
social, cultural and economic benefit not just today, but in such
a way that we can pass on to future generations that which we
have inherited". In recognition of this, we recommended that
DCMS "add to its objectives an explicit reference to the
need to conserve our cultural heritage for the benefit of future
as well as existing communities" (paragraphs 2.21-2.23).
18. The response states that "DCMS's existing
departmental objectives already reflect the importance of sustainability",
and cites, as an example, the objective to "increase and
broaden the impact of culture and sport, to enrich individuals'
lives, strengthen communities and improve the places where people
live, now and for future generations".
19. This response sidesteps our recommendation.
In Mr Fidler's words, "The DCMS response focuses on
'Sustainability' without addressing the specific point of their
Lordships' recommendation: the need to incorporate an explicit
reference to the need to conserve our Cultural Heritage. This
still remains a void in DCMS policy". Icon commented that
the reference to sustainability was "an isolated example,
and it is unsupported by the PSA targets which are associated
with the Department's strategic objectives, since these are all
about increasing visitor numbers and wider participation and not
about stewardship for the future."
20. Our recommendation was not that DCMS direct
the sector in developing a strategy for heritage science, nor
that it invest heavily in sponsoring such science. Rather, we
urged the Department to offer moral support to the sector by making
explicit in its own departmental objectives the importance of
conserving our cultural heritage. Moral support countsas
Icon pointed out, strategic objectives feed into PSA targets,
and these in turn shape how Non Departmental Public Bodies spend
the resources allocated to them.
21. Icon also provided a damning but accurate
summary of the moral failure at the heart of the Government response:
"The single most important response the Government should
have given was to endorse the broad conclusion of the report.
It has failed to do so in this response. Does the government believe
that heritage science is under threat? Or does it not? From its
response it is not possible to tell" (p 8).
22. It is not good enough for DCMS to wash its
hands of responsibility by falling back on the obvious fact that
"it is not for Government Ministers to determine how the
specific funds allocated to their sponsored bodies are to be spent."
Ministers do not sign the chequesbut they can, and should,
provide moral leadership, and show to those responsible for conserving
our cultural heritage that their work is properly valued at the
highest level. For this reason alone, DCMS should no longer delay
the appointment of a Chief Scientific Adviser with an interest
in heritage science.
23. We warmly applaud the progress that has
been made across the heritage and science communities in implementing
our recommendations. Our inquiry and Report have clearly made
a difference. We shall keep progress in the sector under review,
and, in whatever ways possible, we shall continue to offer support
24. We regret the failure of DCMS to grasp
the significance of our recommendations. We urge Ministers now
in charge of the Department to look again at our Report, and to
offer the sector the moral leadership it deserves.
1 Brief notes of this meeting are given in Appendix
Government Response to the House of Lords Science and Technology
Select Committee Report on Science and Heritage, January 2007
(Cm 7031). See http://www.culture.gov.uk/NR/rdonlyres/56B4B774-3172-4881-AFC1-F5D172C26305/0/Cm7031.pdf.
See HL Deb., 12 June 2007, cols. GC47-80. Back
See http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/news/news_pr/2007/AHRC_EPSRC_appoint_director_UK_Science_Heritage_Research_Programme.asp Back