Archaeology at the hustings

On 14 March 2001, at the Society of Antiquaries of London, senior politicians from the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat political parties spoke to an invited group of archaeologists and gave their views on a wide range of issues relating to archaeology and the historic environment.

The meeting was organised by the Historic Environment Forum, an informal group of heritage bodies comprising The Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO), the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA), the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), the National Trust, Rescue: the British Archaeological Trust, the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Standing Conference of Archaeological Unit Managers (SCAUM).

The meeting was chaired by Professor Geoffrey Wainwright on behalf of the Society of Antiquaries of London, and a full transcript of the meeting follows below (prepared in good faith from video and audio tapes), interspersed with photographs from the occasion. Following initial presentations from each speaker, there was an opportunity for invited questions from the audience.


Professor Geoffrey Wainwright

Vice-President, Society of Antiquaries of London

Meeting Chairman

Prof Wainwright: I'd like to welcome the panel who are going to speak to us on the historic environment, and indeed to welcome you, the audience, to welcome you all to this, to me, very familiar room in the Society of Antiquaries. I think that the size of the audience, its composition, and the fact that the occasion is packed with such eminent speakers who have given so much of their time is an indication of the importance of the historic environment. Ten years ago one would not have envisaged such a meeting taking place. It signifies the importance of the historic environment to the economy, to the social fabric of this country, to education and indeed to recreation. Without more ado I will ask Peter Hinton, the Director of the IFA, to introduce us to the morning and to what we are going to hear.

Peter Hinton

Director, Institute of Field Archaeologists

Peter Hinton: Thank you very much. Vice President, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, Colleagues not included in the above. I have four tasks this morning: first of all to welcome to you to this meeting on behalf of the Historic Environment Forum which has organised the event, secondly to explain a little bit about what the Historic Environment Forum is and what it seeks to achieve, thirdly to launch a document that I believe you were handed as you came in, and fourthly to explain the purpose of the rest of this morning's meeting.

As Geoff says today's meeting recognises that archaeology and the historic environment has a major contribution to make to economy and society It is relevant to industry, to education, to recreation, to the environment and to culture. In that regard we are very pleased to launch today an important document emphasising the crucial contribution of archaeology to culture. This document has been produced by the Council for British Archaeology, the Institute of Field Archaeologists, the Standing Conference of Archaeological Unit Managers, Rescue, and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, all of whom are key bodies on this Forum, though the text of this document actually pre-dates the Forum's existence and indeed it also pre-dates Celebrating Scotland and Power of Place, the Scottish Executive's, the DETR's and the DCMS's reviews of cultural and historic environment strategy. But we hope that it complements those documents and indeed we hope that it perhaps addresses some of the under-representation of archaeology in both of those documents. I think our publication makes it clear that archaeologists and other practitioners in the historic environment have an important role to play in promoting economic regeneration, tackling social exclusion, creating pride of place, building sustainable communities and ensuring access to learning about and enjoying the past. We are all committed to furthering these aims, but I think we have to confess that probably because of our enthusiasm and our commitment to our subject, we have not always spoken with one voice and we haven't always given a clear indication to Government and others of what we can contribute and what we need to be most effective. So, bumptious as ever, the IFA convened a Forum to provide an opportunity for institutions to discuss matters of common concern and to establish shared positions, so that we could promote clear and consistent messages from practitioners and other stakeholders in the historic environment.

So what we have is an informal grouping of independent bodies concerned with the day to day investigation, management and interpretation of the historic environment and it doesn't include all such bodies. The archaeological community in particular concerned both with buried remains and standing structures is strongly representative. So our title, The Historic Environment Forum, should be treated I think as provisional, it is our intention to be a Forum of like-minded bodies that already exist, it is not intended to be yet another entity in the bewildering landscape of heritage acronyms, but I will just give you a few acronyms and names, so that you know who is represented on the Forum. We have the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO), the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA), the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), the National Trust, Rescue: the British Archaeological Trust, the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Standing Unit of Archaeological Unit Managers.

The Forum is intended to be a UK body and to date it has or has had on its agenda a number of issues affecting the United Kingdom, including the Cultural Strategy for Scotland, the Review of Historic Environment Policies in England which I think has taken up easily the vast majority of our time to date, and also the Valletta Convention, the European Convention of the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage. This was ratified, as you will know, by the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man last September, and it comes into effect next Tuesday and we hope that today will allow us to discuss some of the important steps that we need to make in order to comply fully with the provisions of that Convention. We've got six days to do it in so it shouldn't prove a major problem, that's at least twice the normal allocation for a Time Team project, and I think with the talent here we can sort that one out!

We've also spoken about the Culture and Recreation Bill and some very important amendments that have been tabled but have not yet been debated, and we've discussed the possibility of performance indicators by which we can measure the implementation and the resourcing of the broad brush recommendations in Power of Place and Celebrating Scotland.

As I mentioned earlier we have learned the lesson now that divided we are unheard and we know that as practitioners in the historic environment, whether professional or amateur we can achieve much more and we can influence much more in partnership than we can as individual bodies and I think today's event is an example of that. Today is intended to provide an opportunity for all those with an interest in the historic environment to hear the policies of political parties, to direct questions to the parties about their policies and their plans for resourcing those policies, to offer our views and advice to the policy makers and, I hope, to persuade them to heed those shared consistent views and advice and help us to ensure that the public benefit as it should from our work with their heritage. So on behalf of the Forum I hope you have an enjoyable, interesting and constructive day. Thank you very much.

Prof Wainwright: Thank you Peter. The format for the morning today is pretty straight forward. Firstly we will hear a series of presentations, first by Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, second by Lord Redesdale of the Liberal Democrats and third by the Minister for the Arts, Alan Howarth, who will be joining us at about 11.45, so there will be time to provide questions in between each presentation and a question and answer session at the end of the morning after the Minister's presentation. Could I turn to Lord Renfrew to get us going?

Professor Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

Disney Professor of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

Conservative Party

Lord Renfrew: Well first of all Chairman, let me say what a pleasure it is to be here under your Chairmanship since you are the person who, over the years at English Heritage, did so very much to make English Heritage a success in the archaeological sense and let me also say what a good thing it is that the Institute of Field Archaeologists has called this useful meeting which I hope will raise the political profile. Now I have to apologise that Peter Ainsworth isn't here to speak with real authority on the Conservative position, and I am here with two hats, I am here with his permission and support to indicate certain elements of Conservative policy, but I think you will find they are not as comprehensive as some might wish, I have to make that clear at the outset, and so I will at times also wear my own hat as an archaeologist - I hope you will permit me to do that, but I think that this is a very timely moment, I think for various reasons archaeology is again coming to the fore in the political world. I think that is partly because of the interest in the international antiquities scene, which actually is a little bit in the wake of the holocaust business and I think the Select Committee, which was chaired by Gerald Kauffman recently, about a year ago, started off really concerned with holocaust art and the restitution of holocaust art and then a lot more issues were put on it's agenda, including the traffic in antiquities internationally, so that then became more of a talking point than it had been hitherto and, as you know, there was then a Ministerial Working Party, chaired by Professor Norman Palmer and there were one or two recommendations on the international scene which emerged there, including one recommendation that Britain should accede to the UNESCO Convention and I think when the Minister comes it is up to him to announce what the Government has decided, but I have prior indications that we will find his announcement a positive one in that respect, so I would just like before he arrives, in fact I will try and have the opportunity to do so after he has spoken, to his face, to say that I think the Government has taken that on board seriously and it is indeed partly thanks to Alan Howarth, I think, that bits of red tape have been cut through and progress is being made, but it is for him to make that announcement and not for me to steal his thunder on this occasion, but of course UNESCO doesn't really have very many teeth and another recommendation of the Working Party was that there should be a new criminal offence on trafficking in antiquities, so that is something that remains to be seen.

[Peter Ainsworth arrives]

Hello. Now I've just begun my spiel, but I don't know if it would be better if you would like to say a few words and then I'll then pick up again from there. I think you can speak with more authority than I can.

Mr Ainsworth: I think that is very unlikely.

Lord Renfrew: I prefer to give you the podium and then I'll take it back later if I can.

Peter Ainsworth MP

Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Conservative Party

Peter Ainsworth: Thank you very much and forgive me Chairman for being late, I would like to say how very much I welcome the opportunity to attend this gathering and I wish it well, I think it comes at a very timely moment. There is a problem that most politicians have from time to time - in fact quite often - when they find themselves being invited to address groups of people who know far more about a subject than they do themselves, this is very true today and I'm acutely aware that I have on my right hand, and have just interrupted, the Disney Professor of Archaeology at Cambridge University who clearly is the Conservative Party's secret weapon when it comes to archaeological affairs. I was warned when I told a colleague that I was coming here today, he said be very careful, there a very argumentative lot the archaeologists! But I am sure that the parade of politicians that you will find before you this morning will unite you like nothing else and I know that you are in any case united by a passion for archaeology, and I think it is a passion that may be contagious. I was talking to a very senior executive at BBC World Wide recently, the commercial arm of the BBC, who informed me in no uncertain terms that history is sexy - well, I think he may well have a point, of course they have launched their recent History magazine, I think it is going very well, whether Tony Robinson is sexy or not is a matter I will leave to you to decide, but there's no question that interest in the historic environment and in archaeological matters and in history is growing very strongly indeed. I suspect this may have something to do with the times we are living in. In an age of unparalleled change, very rapid developments in technology, a world of uncertain choices, people may be returning and looking back to the things that have gone on before, searching for context from the past. I have always felt that people who have no sense of the past can have very little bearing on the future and I think this may be happening now, and therefore a Government that displays a modish contempt for anything that is not new or pursues only a contemporary vision of society is, I think, not only making a very serious and fundamental mistake but is also deeply out of kilter with the times. When the Lord Chancellor, for example, decides in his infinite and great wisdom to build a new courthouse on the remains of the Roman amphitheatre at Chester he excites enormous passion amongst the people of Chester who clearly value their historic environment very greatly. Not only because of its intrinsic merit, but also as a means of bringing jobs and economic prosperity to their community. There is further evidence obviously of the rise in interest amongst the public in these matters from the Power of Place document published before Christmas. The astonishing figure of 98% of people who took the historic environment very seriously and felt that it contributed something of value to their lives. I very much welcome the Power of Place recommendations, despite the odd lapse into new Labour mantra from time to time. It's hard to see for example how English Heritage will use any new powers it get over underwater archaeology to promote social inclusion even supposing it gets the funds to do it. There can be no greater social exclusion than a people who are excluded from their past, who have no knowledge of their own history. It is I think a cruelty to young people if they are excluded in formal education from their culture and their heritage, to use an unfashionable word. I very much welcome the emphasis that Power of Place places therefore on education and I also welcome what it has to say about design and quality in the environment that we are creating today. As the power to alter the environment grows evermore, so the need for extra care grows over how we change it as well. I was prompted to consider at this point the Dome and to wonder what future archaeologists would find there, but I suspect that they would be very unwise to dig too deep on that particular site. I think that one of the key issues coming out of the Power of Place paper, however, is the need for joined-up Government. It's a vexing question as to why archaeology has historically been so much the poor relation in Government and Whitehall circles, why for example was the CBA and English Heritage not properly consulted when the Government were drawing up a White Paper on Rural Affairs? It is a small example, but I think a fairly typical one of the way that these crucial matters do not get proper consideration when decisions are being forged. Politicians always have a tendency to lag behind public appetite and public taste, Governments have this tendency in even greater measure, they are even slower, and as for the Culture and Recreation Bill it seems to me that it has taken the art of slow motion into a wholly new dimension. I regret very much that when we finally get a Culture Bill it is so patchy and so weak. I regret even more that it now appears to have been leap-frogged by other Government legislation which no doubt has its merits, but there now appears, depending on the timing of the General Election and there is uncertainty about that obviously at the moment, to be fairly little chance that this Bill will ever actually hit the Statute Book. I regret also that the Bill doesn't reflect the Power of Place document or its recommendations, nor the report of the Advisory Panel on Illegal Exports which I think Colin Renfrew was mentioning when I arrived. Nor does it reflect even the 1996 Green Paper Protecting our Heritage. I very much pay tribute to Colin Renfrew for the work that he has done, with others in the House of Lords, on the question of Sites and Monuments Records. These are absolutely vital to the planning process, but they are also essential to research, to education and to a true understanding of the historic environment. There will always be pressure on local authority budgets, whenever was there not pressure on local authority budgets, but the extent of the public interest in the historic environment and the public good that can come out of fostering it and maintaining records, means that it is simply not right that archaeological services should continuously be in the front line of the queue for cuts when they come. 

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I welcome too the report of the Illicit Trade Advisory Panel and I have received a letter from Alan Howarth today which you are probably aware of, I know that he is coming later, informing me that the Government intends to accede to the UNESCO Convention of 1970, this is something that we can certainly support. We all know that London is an absolutely vital centre for the international art market, it is therefore all the more important that the highest standards of probity apply in all its dealings and with the continued problems of site spoilation around the world, it is timely that the Government has agreed to sign up to a Convention which I think will be helpful in this regard. We all know that the art market itself is big business, but I don't think it is sufficiently recognised that archaeology can make a very substantial contribution to the economy, and particularly to regeneration, and of course in the field of tourism. I think particularly of the work at Sowerby Bridge, near Halifax, where industrial archaeologists have made a major contribution to regeneration, bringing to life the canal and activities there, creating economic activity, helping to create jobs. I also think of the work that has been going on at Plymouth and Portsmouth, again industrial archaeology, making a substantial contribution to economic regeneration, creating something that people want to go and see. I'd rather have a hundred Portsmouth Heritage Centres to a single National Centre for Popular Music. It is interesting to note that the Local Government Association is very much alive these days to the importance of archaeology and the role that it can play in regeneration and I welcome the report of their Task Force published recently on Tourism and Regeneration which touches on these matters and appears to comprehend them very well. So there are signs that politicians are waking up to the importance of archaeology, to its economic and to its social value. There is an urgent need for this to happen because I am aware of reports which will be familiar to you that sensitive archaeological sites on the scale of two football pitches a week are currently being threatened. So we must bind together in Government thinking the environment, history and culture. These things are not separate, they are not handed down to our generation from the past in separate packages and we must ensure that in our generation that we do not pass them on to the future in a fragmented way. It is sometimes thought that all archaeology is about is the past, old things, that it is backward looking. I don't believe that to be the case. I have mentioned the enormous vital contribution that archaeology can and is playing in economic regeneration and creating vitality in communities up and down the country. Without change in the past there would be no history to investigate or learn from today, so I'm aware that you are alive to the fact that we live in a dynamic society and that the past is a dynamic place. We must ensure that the past we hand on to future generations is worthy of our own. I was very struck by some words that George Lambrick wrote a few months back. He said of archaeology that it is "something indispensable to any society which would call itself civilised". You are the custodians and champions today of the continuum we call civilisation. It dates back to the very earliest of times and it stretches ahead into worlds we cannot possibly begin to understand. I applaud your work, I support your work. I am not an archaeologist by training, although we have them on our Front Bench, I am an English graduate, and I would like to conclude with the words that will be very familiar to you, which I find moving and true from Little Gidding: "A people without history is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern of timeless moments, so while the light fails on a winter's afternoon in a secluded chapel, history is now and England". Thank you very much.

Lord Renfrew: Well, that was very valuable and thank you very much for those words. I think there might be about five minutes according to the timetable left and I'd like perhaps to address one or two specific points and I know that you will be asking questions and I am very happy that it is a proper spokesman who will be answering them and not me, and I think its going to be a useful occasion where, as archaeologists, we can get some of these matters addressed. But I would like now to make one or two rather political points if I may. First of all I think it is remarkable that the Culture and Recreation Bill which is currently before Parliament and was introduced into the House of Lords, is the first Bill relating to the heritage in the term of the present Parliament. Secondly I think it extremely unfortunate that the Government has not given it time in the House of Lords to be debated and unless the election is very much delayed I think it is a certainty that it won't get anywhere in the House of Lords. It was given a second reading, speeches of goodwill were made on all sides, but it hasn't been introduced to Committee stage, and unless the Government gives it time at Committee stage and then Report stage and then Third Reading, it simply will not happen and it will have to go through the Commons in any case. Meanwhile, for instance, another political point, the Government has had a lengthy debate on the Hunting Bill at Second Reading and is going to give time for the Hunting Bill at Committee Stage, but it is quiet certain that unless the election is very much delayed the Hunting Bill will not be completed in the House of Lords, therefore this is all posturing, because the Hunting Bill will certainly fall because it will not be able to make its way through Parliament until the election takes place. So, although I was saying nice things about Alan Howarth a moment ago, I think there are other things to be said, and turning now to the Culture and Recreation Bill, as you know I put down an amendment which was seconded by Lord Redesdale to make it a statutory requirement that Local Authorities maintain Sites and Monuments Records and there are some clauses to recognise that these are differently organised in different areas and that could be maintained, and secondly the suggestion that the Secretary of State should ultimately state the standards which should be maintained. I am very much aware that Power of Place, which has many merits, has a broader vision of historic documentation centres which will be maintained by Local Authorities which contain much more than just the archaeological data, and I think that's a very good thing, and as I understand it the Conservative Party fully support this, they have given full support to the Amendment and it is now Conservative Policy. I have the feeling that it won't take the Government very much more to be pushed into agreeing with this. If the matter had come to debate at Committee Stage it is very likely that the combination between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats for whom Lord Redesdale will speak and various cross benchers would have approved this and would have led to this amendment being approved and I have the strong sense that the Government would then have said OK well we'll adopt that. I very much hope that you will have the opportunity of asking the Minister when he arrives the Government's current position on that point. Secondly, the Official Spokesman in the Lords, the official Conservative Spokesman in the Lords, Lady Anelay, put down quite a few amendments to the Culture and Recreation Bill which mainly bring about the vision, if I can put it that way, certainly the recommendations which were produced late in the term of the last Conservative Government in this Consultative Paper Protecting Our Heritage, with which many of you will be aware, which was produced, I forget exactly which year, but it was signed by Virginia Bottomley who was then Secretary of State for Heritage. And in that consultative document there were a number of proposals modest enough in themselves, but at least constructive proposals, most of which make no appearance in the Government's Culture and Recreation Bill, but which have been set down as amendments by Lady Anelay. She was inspired in her amendments by this document which is why initially she put down an amendment to abolish the Archaeological Areas which was indeed one of the recommendations here, but the archaeological world in general felt that this was not a good idea and she was in receipt of many letters from organisations represented here and she subsequently withdrew that amendment so that it is no longer an amendment proposed on the Bill thanks to the response which archaeological organisations gave, but there were a whole series of minor enough amendments, but they really ought to have been introduced in the Bill, they would have been introduced no doubt in the next Conservative Heritage Bill had there been the opportunity for there to be one. Removal of finds from scheduled sites needed tidying up, ground disturbance needed tidying up, works in the interest of health and safety, as you know the Government has vast powers to do anything on a Scheduled Monument, and this was to control those to some extent. Various headings 'How to Define an Ancient Monument', and the Bill has amendments seeking a broader and more satisfactory definition of Ancient Monuments and so on, penalties for criminal offences to be increased, and so forth. So these are some of the items that might have been introduced in the Culture and Recreational Bill and perhaps will be through amendment when the Bill ever sees a Committee stage, which I think is not likely to be before the election. Well, those were the little political points I wanted to make and have on record in the presence of the Official Spokesman, but I would like to conclude if I may by saying what I was saying earlier that I think this is an important occasion. I think it is terrific that the Conservative Spokesman is here and the Liberal Democrat Spokesman and that the Minister himself will be here, and I think that the questions which I've seen, I've seen some of the questions that have been prepared in advance, I think they are very good questions, I wouldn't be able to answer many of them as a Conservative Spokesperson because I wouldn't have the authority, but fortunately the man himself is present and I will certainly offer him the benefit of my comment if he ever requests it. I think there really is a lot of ground to be done and as we've heard I think recognition that occasions like this which do attract the attention of politicians and make the public interest in archaeology clear, are very valuable. I should say in conclusion that I was disappointed in some aspects of Power of Place, and I've said so in the House of Lords. I think it didn't make very explicit archaeological issues, and a number of us have said, that but I think equally it can be said in its favour that all those sins were sins of omission rather than commission. I think that very few of us would disagree with anything that Power of Place actually says, and it does say a number of important new things and of course it does, as we've just heard, it does indeed, after the poll which was conducted recognise the really very widespread interest of the public in those fields and I think this is something for us to capitalise on, but I do think it's our job also to remind well meaning authors, its very difficult to identify exactly who the authors of Power of Place were, but no doubt they were well meaning so let us remind them that archaeology does have to figure explicitly. I think there's a feeling, probably correctly, that there could be some procedures for historic buildings that could be modelled on some of the very systematic procedures which English Heritage was able to introduce for archaeology over the past few years. So let us recognise that, but the advances that have been made for archaeology have to be maintained, and some of you will be aware that the Ancient Monuments Advisory Committee has advised English Heritage that the funding being spent on archaeology, which has been restricted, along with the rest of English Heritage's budget, is no longer sufficient to allow English Heritage to discharge its statutory duties and that has been reported to the Commission. Now that is a Governmental problem, I don't doubt that where it presently or where it no doubt soon will be a Conservative Government I don't doubt there will be problems in funding as much then as there are now, but I sometimes think that English Heritage hasn't been loud enough in pointing out the things it can't do because its under-funded, and I think it is our job also to remind English Heritage that, and to remind Government Spokesmen and indeed Opposition Spokesmen of those things. Well I've spoken for long enough, and I know you want to pose your questions to those most able to answer them, so I'll leave you free to do so.

Prof Wainwright: Thank you very much.

There is an opportunity for a general question and answer session later in the morning, but we have five minutes now before I call on Lord Redesdale to give his presentation. Are there any questions that you would like to ask our two speakers?

Question: Peter Ainsworth made the remark in passing that he favours archaeology not always being in the front line for cuts, and there is a sort of hidden agenda there which is the implication that there are going to be cuts. The unspoken message is that cuts are inevitable. Now there are many of us who would not accept that that is in fact the case, that there should be cuts in any public services, and I would like him to tell us which cuts he would like to see happening, instead of cuts in archaeology.

Peter Ainsworth: There was no such implication, and I am sorry if I have been misunderstood in what I said, or intended to say, that there would be cuts in Local Government spending, let me make that absolutely clear. The point I was trying to make, that unless Sites and Monuments are the subject of a statutory obligation for Local Authorities, they will always be extremely vulnerable when spending is tight in Local Government and, you know, I know of no year since I have been looking at political affairs when spending has not been tight in Local Government. The important thing is to ensure that the Sites and Monuments Records which are so important to the planning process and to a proper study and understanding of our historic built environment are properly protected. Libraries, for example, have statutory status, but these important functions do not - so I was trying to make that point, not suggesting that there are going inevitably to be cuts, though, you know, I know of no Local Authority that has not felt the pinch in recent years so one has to be aware that that is likely to be a continuing situation.

Prof Wainwright: Thank you very much.

Lord Renfrew: May I just add one comment? There is one area which is currently vulnerable which is the Portable Antiquities Recording Scheme and the point of the amendment which I put down, again supported by Lord Redesdale, was that the Portable Antiquities Recording Scheme should likewise be one of the obligations upon Local Authorities and so that would be the way by which the Scheme might conveniently have a future, and I am happy to say that the amendment also, as I understand it, is supported by the Conservative Front Bench. So that is not because of cuts, quite the contrary, the future is vulnerable because there has not yet been provision for that Scheme, the Heritage Lottery Fund has not yet come through with the money for the next few years. So that is one mater that is a matter for concern and it may be something that we can return to later.

Peter Ainsworth: I would just like to add on this particular point whilst talking about funding that of course Local Authorities are not the only sources of funds for this type of work, and the Heritage Lottery Fund clearly has been an important new development in this field. It is, however, worth observing that because of changes made by the present Government to the way that the Lottery operates, and the introduction of a new distributing body, the amount of money available to the Heritage Lottery Fund has declined by 97 million pounds since 1997, so regrettably there is less money around than there was. There is a cut.

Prof Wainwright: One more question...

Tim Schadla-Hall: Could I ask a question, because I was very grateful for what has been said today, but if you look at the way that archaeology has been treated in terms of Parliamentary time and Parliamentary legislation over several Governments now, what we've found is a chapter of last minute legislation of which the Culture and Recreation Bill is no exception at all, a piece of hurried legislation towards the end of Parliament. The 1979 Archaeological Areas Act was another example, we've got several like this, where what we've seen are successive Governments of all political persuasions actually leaving important legislation about archaeology to the very last minute within the life of a Parliament. And in view of what you've both said today, I would like to know what your Party's Policy is in terms of pressing for early legislation on archaeology, rather than leaving it until the last minute and throwing it into Portfolio or last minute agreed Bills because that is what most of the people in this country have seen for the last fifteen to twenty years, low down on the importance of the legislative programme, low down in terms of everything else, and it would be nice to know what you intend to do.

Peter Ainsworth: Very good, well I have tried to suggest that the public's priorities in this area are changing, that these issues are becoming more the public's concern, I know that Governments are slow on the uptake usually, but I would like to think that a future Government will recognise that the public care deeply about these matters and want to see the necessary action taken to preserve the historic environment and to foster archaeological services and all the rest of the things that I was talking about. You may find, and I hope that this is true, and obviously I can't give a commitment, because for a start I don't know what the outcome of the General Election is going to be, but you may find that on this occasion because there is a Bill which is essentially fully drafted, but does need as Colin and others will no doubt say, to be amended and perhaps added to, there is a Bill there. Now, you could find, with the right pressure in the right places, that in fact you get first shot in a new Parliamentary legislative programme. I hope that that is so.

Prof Wainwright: Thank you very much.

Lord Redesdale

Liberal Democrat Party

There will be an opportunity to ask some more questions later in the morning. Can I ask Lord Redesdale to give us his thoughts?

Lord Redesdale: Well, thank you very much, I apologise for not writing a speech, but having seen the agenda I knew that I would be following Lord Renfrew and I realised that I might cover some of the very same ground and be extremely boring. My background is that I studied archaeology at Newcastle University. I was a star undergraduate, managing a commendable 2.2 so I couldn't actually claim academic genius on the subject, however, since then I have built a archaeological reconstruction centre in Northumberland called Brigantium which will probably put many backs up as reconstruction centres are not seen as the highest pinnacle of the archaeological community, however I think we've done rather well. I would like to start because archaeology has actually hit the papers today and this is a very rare event, although I had a hand in it yesterday so I knew it was turning up today, I think it is worth quoting this short extract - it is in The Guardian on page 11 where it talks about the good days and bad days in politics and yesterday it said: "A good day - archaeologists. A group of them marched on Parliament in an event so unusual that historians could not remember a precedent. Led by Dai Morgan-Evans, Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, he urged the Government to ensure that Sites and Monuments Records, the bedrock of national archaeological data and a crucial tool in judging the sensitivity of development sites, are kept up to date by Local Authorities". I have to admit it gives the impression that Dai Morgan Evans was leading waving his umbrella with great gusto, and that was the case, in fact security was quite concerned on the day. I will not follow the Anne Robinson's view of the Welsh at this time!

When I was asked to actually speak at this, I have to give my position within the Party, it filtered through because Bob Maclennan couldn't speak on this occasion, and so they said my God who knows about archaeology, so it came down to me because of the work I had been doing on the Culture and Recreation Bill with Lord Renfrew. However, it suddenly occurred to me that even though I had been working hard on the archaeological implications of the Bill I hadn't, and this is a confession, I hadn't actually looked at our Party policy on archaeology, so I phoned Cowley Street and asked for the Policy Unit and said "Look I really think I should know what our policy towards archaeology is". "Ah", they said, "We'll get back to you on that one!" I phoned them back and they sheepishly said "Ah yes, we hadn't got back to you because we don't have a set policy on archaeology, however, we have looked at our database and neither have the Conservatives and neither have Labour" - so that's all right then.

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I think that that is not so surprising - I didn't actually suspect that we had a policy on archaeology because so few legislative opportunities arise. You have to look back quite a long way to see when the last Heritage Bill came in front of Parliament, and indeed the Culture and Recreation Bill was not an archaeological Bill. It is now being seen as an archaeological Bill by the Government because of the amendments being put down, however there was very little archaeology in it. There was a section on marine archaeology, however although it gave English Heritage some power over wrecks, there seemed to be a slight confusion that the money available doesn't actually exist to undertake this important work, and that is a problem. But there didn't seem to be a great deal else about archaeology. So I went and talked to the Clerks who can gave you vast details of exactly what you can stick in a Bill, and their considered and learned opinion was that the long title of the Bill was so wide you could drive a coach and horses through it. You could stick absolutely anything, almost anything you wanted in. So we did. We put a large number of amendments down, the most important of which had to be the Sites and Monuments Records in the name of the noble Lord Renfrew, which I would support. I'd like to come back to that, but I think what is interesting about the Bill, especially in the context of speaking today, is who actually owns or is responsible for, or neigh, is the champion of archaeology in the Government system today, and it is a rather interesting question, because it doesn't, I mean, first I suppose you could go back to the academic argument of what archaeology is, is it an art or a science? Or is it something in academia or the property of Tony Robinson and Time Team. The answer in Government is slightly more diverse, the lead authority obviously could be the DETR through their control of the planning process. This is interesting because what happens when, if, though I suspect probably when, DETR is split up, which way would archaeology go in a divided DETR. The second Ministry involved would be the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, however DCMS has to consult DETR over most of the decisions it takes, which is a problem, and there is serious question marks being raised in, perhaps not the corridors or power, but certainly the bars of power, over whether DCMS will survive long into the future. Of course then there are Local Authorities, but Local Authorities are cash strapped, with all the best will in the world, their view of any archaeology is get in line and if you are not right at the tail end of the queue you might get some money. Then there is English Heritage, and I would like to come back to English Heritage, because I very much follow the point made by Lord Renfrew that English Heritage is under-funded at the moment. This particularly goes back to the case of marine archaeology. English Heritage was meant to fund marine archaeology, but I would be very surprised if they could find a massive tranche of money somewhere, hidden under the bed somewhere, may be an old bed, but I don't imagine that there is a large number of millions that they could pump in, even tens of thousands, whether they could find that. And then of course, if it is outside Government, then we are talking about the popular media, and of course that is whether it is in the recreation industry, because that seems to be one of the areas archaeology is going in, it seems to have moved out of the universities and a lot of the decisions that are being taken now are in the area of reconstruction archaeology - I just thought I'd add that because that's a particular point of mine. However, I would raise the issue because when most people come across archaeology if it is not in the media and it is not on the telly, they'll come across it through how the sites are presented and there is a real issue here, because if you look at sites such as Arbeia, Arbeia Roman Fort, South Shields, which is stuck out in the end of nowhere, in fact one of the more interesting archaeological loonies I've talked to said that he believed that the Ark of the Covenant was buried underneath the Bath House at Arbeia. I said why would you stick it there, South Shields is the end of the Universe, and he said "Ah hah, precisely".

Arbeia is an interesting site because of the Roman Gatehouse. The Roman Gatehouse is stuck on top of the actual Roman foundations. Now this is an interesting issue, I personally think it's the best place to stick a Roman Gatehouse, on top of the actual foundations, because my own view is, having been bored as a child, being taken along saying "Look, foundations", no-one's ever taken to a building site and said "Ah hah, foundations!". But we expect children to go round and understand our archaeology like that, but that's the issue. I've just brought this up because there are questions marks over actually who has the impetus and who is the lead in popular archaeology. This I think has also been reflected in Power of Place, because Power of Place is meant to be the view of how the historic environment should be looked at, and I think one of the interesting things of it is that Edward Montague walked up before the debate and said "Oh well, of course, we won't get mentioned because there was a countryside rally on the day, and there was other things", I said "I'll get us into the papers". He said "Well, how are you going to do that?" and anybody who has read Hansard or saw afterwards, I stood up and said "My Lords, Power of Place is a load of pants" and it got into the papers, that's why I used the expression. However, I don't actually go back from calling it a pile of pants, I think that there is a large number of us that actually read Power of Place who saw it as a total missed opportunity. It mentions archaeology freestanding, I think, four times, something like that. It mentions portable antiquities, but otherwise archaeology could actually drop off the face of this, and I am actually angry about this. 

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I mean Lord Renfrew is extremely careful and measured in his tones, but I think Power of Place has been a wasted opportunity, it is actually a source for anger that a document that was taken part back and rewritten should be so toothless in its presentation. It is quite feeble, it doesn't do a great deal and we're stuck with this for a long time. We had the opportunity, or English Heritage perhaps, and maybe that's libellous, had the opportunity of producing a document that could have actually questioned how we look at the historic environment and we failed to do so. An issue that was raised particularly is HERCs, for those who missed the small mention of HERCs, HERCs are the Historic Environmental Resource Centres, which are meant to replace SMRs. Now the mention was feeble, the political willpower behind providing HERCs might be quite strong but wouldn't have been if the Culture and Recreation Bill hadn't come across. Perhaps I should go back to the Sites and Monuments Records on this because this is an indication of where archaeology is in the pecking order at the moment. SMRs could be seen as the backbone of archaeology, however, you have to look at what is funding them at the moment. They are a hotchpotch brought around by the planning process, however, who has to fund them? Local Authorities. Now Local Authorities are doing their best, however, you do have a rather interesting chicken and egg situation here. They are not statutory, so Local Authorities who have to meet their statutory obligations will give the money to those that have statutory obligation first, and everybody else will get whatever's left. This has led to some of the breakdowns in and the crises shown by SMRs. With the best will in the world no Councillor is going to vote for something for resources that's not statutory and they don't have to and it gets round to the rather interesting thing because we said we want an amendment that makes SMR's statutory. "Ah", said the Government, "You can't do that because if we make them statutory Local Authorities have to find the money and they haven't got the money that is actually allocated in the public spending review". So what we need to do is up the money involved in the public spending review. "Aha, can't do that because they are not statutory". So it's a bit of a round circular argument that would be quite difficult to break, and of course you do have the added thing that some SMRs are actually fine and the ones that are in difficulty are caused by the breakup of the Unitary Authorities, so if you said it is statutory and you were going to give lots of money, that would be money going to some SMRs which are fine, and that doesn't make sense, and others which are in real trouble getting a smaller overall proportion of the cake. So we looked at the SMRs, and one of the issues - I know I am going over my time here - one of the issues that I think is important with SMRs is that there seems to be a degree of apathy about how Government legislation is looked at. We had the Culture and Recreation Bill. We ran out of time. Damn, we've lost it! I think the Government should actually be held to account. the Culture and Recreation Bill dies because it wasn't given enough time, because it wasn't seen as a priority. I've been in and out of the Government's Whips' Office asking when it was coming up. This could have gone through. The Government pulled back because they, I believe, it was because the SMR amendment was down. They thought right, we'll stick this through if it's not controversial, but then they had the problem of Culture Online which the Tories decided they didn't like, so you had a controversial Bill. So they thought, "Well, we don't want a controversial Bill, we'll just kill it". Now the Government I believe now has, because they have killed it by not providing enough time, not has an obligation to bring it back. 

[Alan Howarth arrives] 

And not only do they have an obligation to bring it back, but because of the amount of time we have actually spent talking to the Minister I believe, and perhaps I should say this again when he has had time to sit down and actually listen to this, I would call on the Minister to say, "Yes, the Bill will be brought back". Obviously no Minister can say that before a Queen's Speech, but I think it would be unfortunate if the Bill didn't come back with a Government sponsored amendment, or indeed as the Bill would probably have to be redrafted, a drafted section on SMRs, looking at SMRs having a statutory basis, or indeed looking at how that issue could be resolved. I believe it is within the remit of the Government and it would be a responsible and very popular issue to resolve.

I was going to discuss UNESCO, but I feel that would be jumping the gun a bit, however, there are a couple of other issues that I would like to bring up. The first is, the Culture and Recreation Bill was  broad, but its shoulders weren't broad enough to bring up the issue of a criminal offence for removing artefacts from Scheduled monuments. We did talk to the Government and I think they have taken that on board, that at the next Criminal Justice Bill there will be some way of looking at introducing this as a measure, because at the moment of course the only thing the police can do is charge somebody with disturbing the topsoil. I feel that is we sign up to the UNESCO convention we should perhaps be a little stronger in how we defend our own sites and monuments, rather than expecting other people to take the lead. It is the old environmental, we cut down our forests so that is absolutely fine, you shouldn't cut down yours.

The other issue, of course, is a much broader one, which we did try to introduce into the Bill, mainly as a talking point, is to what extent can archaeology be seen, and the preservation of our heritage be seen, as a human right, and that is a whole new can of worms, and I've totally run out of time for looking at that.

I think the only message that I'd leave is that heritage Bills, as Tim Schadla-Hall in his question earlier brought up, are given a very low priority and the next session of Parliament, if we go for the May 3rd election, is going to be extremely long and there should be ample time for the Government to bring back the Culture and Recreation Bill with an amendment, I very hope that the Minister will say that an amendment will be tabled, or we could table an amendment in the present session that would give the indication that it will be part of the next Bill, on SMRs, that could be brought back, because I think that would be the right impetus to say that archaeology has a central place in the governance of the country.

Prof Wainwright: Now we have five minutes for any specific questions.

Andrew Lawson: I was astonished and disappointed to learn from our last speaker that apparently no political party has a statement on archaeology. Bearing in mind that Mr Ainsworth has raised the point that the last MORI poll demonstrated that 98% of the public had a deep interest and a concern over heritage matters, and that poll goes further to suggest, for example, that more people visit museums than go to football matches, and also the fact that programmes like Time Team now have regular viewing numbers in excess of three million, are we to expect the parties to continue in their silence on archaeology? Can I ask that question to any party?

Mr Ainsworth: I am happy to answer that. I have to say, Mr Chairman, that I am being frantically paged messages about the tourism industry and foot and mouth so if you will excuse me I will nip out to make a phone call in a minute. Well, I hope that, you see one of the great things about being in opposition, there are both advantages and disadvantages, you have no civil service so you make it up as you go along, and one of the useful things about this meeting is that it has helped to focus the mind on questions about archaeology and I hope I set out some broad principles earlier which you can take as being the Conservative Party policy towards archaeology. Obviously it is not comprehensive, speaking at a meeting like this it can't be, but I hope I gave you to understand that the growth in public appetite for archaeology, to which you referred, will mean that political parties that don't take it seriously will be missing out, and I think that political party that doesn't take account of these issues is making a very serious mistake. So I hope very much that you will see all parties give more emphasis to these matters in the future in reflection of public taste.

Prof Wainwright: I think I'll leave the Minister for the Arts to take this matter up in his presentation, if he wishes to do so, but I think we will assume that this depressing omission will be rectified.

Lord Redesdale: Can I just answer that though? I would actually take issue with the way that was presented, because I would like to throw it straight back at this audience, which is much more important. I know that archaeologists have always spoken with one voice [audience laughter!], never once dissenting from each other, and that might be the problem, but archaeology has to come out and start making much more of a unified voice. It has got to be seen as much more a single issue pressure group, and it is actually up the people in this room, I mean we are looking at everybody in this room who could have something to say, an important thing to say to the politicians, turn around to them and actually put this question. It might be very important to think about it and when you go back, as organisations write to the political parties and actually question them. Then you'll get a response.

Prof Wainwright: Thank you very much. One more question. Yes?

Brian Ayers: Lord Redesdale, you made an interesting point, you asked an interesting question which is where is the champion for archaeology within government. In part I think in answer to what you have just said, challenging us, I accept that archaeology is very often at the end of the queue, I don't think we can really expect anything else if all we are asking for is consideration about archaeology. But if we consider what can archaeology for for society as a whole, and we then ask where do we fit within Government, a document has been launched today which Peter Hinton mentioned at the beginning, part of the thinking behind this document was to reflect on what is archaeology, what does it do, what is its value for society, where does it sit? And part of that thinking thought that well archaeology is in fact a broad-based discipline. It is something that can contribute to a joined-up way of looking at society, and headlining it archaeology and culture therefore aims it in that direction. If we had headlined it archaeology and planning we would be only looking at a process, the way we happen to deliver archaeology in this country in the main, and so I would ask you, as you asked the question, where is the champion for archaeology in Government? You didn't actually answer that, where would you put that champion?

Lord Redesdale: I didn't answer the question because I don't believe there is a champion for archaeology in Government, that is what actually I found interesting having looked in the Bill I expected everybody, suddenly there would be a great movement, and we got letters of support on the SMR amendment, but if we were in another field we'd have vast numbers of lobbying letters, we'd have had people phoning us. It didn't happen and I think actually, and I had to think about this one, as you locate and ring people, it is because of the way that archaeology is funded at the moment. You have the one way which is going through the academic side which sees itself as completely non-political, apolitical even, and wouldn't raise the question on a political stage, but on the other side everybody is looking at where their funding is coming from, and they wouldn't like to raise their heads above the parapet saying why isn't this being looked at more, and that's why I raised the question about Power of Place. I think there are some significant questions to answer on that, such as who actually wrote Power of Place? And who is responsible for Power of Place? Because I don't think it reflects the views of the people on the ground and I think that has to be looked at. There are the opportunities now, for everyone here, from their own areas, to become the champion of archaeology in the way that other NGOs and groups work and that probably is one of the things that could be taken away from this meeting.

Prof Wainwright: Thank you very much.

Rt Hon Alan Howarth MP CBE

Minister for the Arts

Labour Party

Prof Wainwright: Now we move on. There will be an opportunity to ask more questions after the presentation from the Minister for the Arts.

Mr Howarth: Thank you very much indeed Geoff and ladies and gentlemen for your invitation. I am really delighted to join you, this is an enormously distinguished gathering of archaeologists and Rupert has been making the point that it might be desirable that you speak with one voice or with many, I am not quite sure, but anyway there are plenty of you here and I shall be at the receiving end of your questions in a few minutes time and shall be delighted to engage in a conversation with you on these issues. Its also a particular delight to meet here. This is a wonderful place which is expressive of centuries of learning, scholarly endeavour and of the establishment of the study of antiquities as a major discipline and a major feature of cultural life in this country. So its always a pleasure to be in Burlington House and very particularly to be here.

Chairman, in time honoured tradition, at the outset of this speech, I think I should declare an interest. I should reveal that, as the Minister with responsibility for the historic environment, and I hope, in a personally modest way, a champion within Government for archaeology, I do enjoy certain perks. Not, I hasten to add, of a pecuniary kind. Rather, the rewards are in terms of intellectual stimulation and interest and indeed one of my greatest perks is that, under the pretext of working, I get to visit lots of wonderful buildings and places and sites. 

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I find the historic environment a fascinating subject. And paradoxically, its one that never sits still. Scarcely a day goes by without some reference in the media to a new archaeological discovery, or a threat to a historic building or an archaeological site, and that invariably unleashes a rush of public interest and correspondence. The widespread public interest in archaeology is reflected in the coverage the subject is now given by peak-time television. Programmes such as Time Team and Meet the Ancestors do attract large audiences, that is important, it is in itself a cultural phenomenon of some significance and it is encouraging. 

The environment in which we grow up and live is, of course, crucially important in establishing a sense both of who we are, as individuals and as a society. I think it was Virginia Wolff who said that "the past, like some immense, collective ghost, is here beyond all possible exorcism." Historic buildings and the historic environment are corporeal, tangible manifestations of that past. They stand as a record of daily life, of technical and artistic achievement through the ages. They not only provide a source of continuing pleasure, as I said, but they represent a finite resource and an irreplaceable record, a fragile and vulnerable record, which contributes through archaeological and architectural research, through formal education and, perhaps most importantly, through our daily experience, to our understanding of the past and therefore our understanding of the present. 

The widespread international horror of the shocking destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan and other relics in Afghanistan brings home just how precious the physical manifestations of the past are to us all. While acts of vandalism on such a scale are mercifully rare, they serve to remind us of the fragility of the historic environment, and how vulnerable it is to unsympathetic treatment.

The Government fully accepts its responsibilities towards the historic environment and we continue to build on a proud tradition of protection and preservation which began to secure legal sanction in the late 19th century. In 1882 Parliament gave protection to 50 sites, including Stonehenge and Hadrian's Wall. Now, 119 years and five Acts of Parliament later, statutory protection is given to over 33,000 archaeological sites and some 500,000 buildings and the legislation is complemented by Planning Policy Guidance Notes 15 and 16, which provide, I hope you agree, sound guidance on the heritage aspects of planning decisions. 

Moreover, the preservation and enhancement of our historic environment can promote confidence in the future of an area and act as a focus for regeneration. An attractive historic environment of definite character can draw in investment and tourism, and can encourage sustainable development. It can also help maintain not only a sense of community, but a community in touch with its roots.

We recognise the contribution the historic environment can make to the Government's wider objectives, such as the modernisation of the economy, the enhancement of educational opportunity, urban regeneration, sustainable development and social inclusion. In short, we see the historic environment as an opportunity not a constraint. 

I am glad to say that our views have been reinforced by the overwhelmingly positive response to the Government's decision, which I announced in November 1999, to review our policies for the historic environment. Such is the demand for Power of Place, English Heritage's report on the review, that a further 8,000 copies have had to be printed. I should like to take a few moments if I may to bring you up to date on some aspects of this.

The policy review is perhaps the most fundamental one on this subject ever undertaken, and represented a process of discussion and participation that I suspect is without parallel in the context of such exercises. Those of you who have contributed to the debate will know that it takes into account issues such as social inclusion, education, tourism and the role of the voluntary sector, which are all important in determining how we develop our policy. 

English Heritage rose to the challenge of leading Stage One of the review. The consultation elicited a large number of well informed contributions, both from within the heritage sector and from elsewhere, as well as some very interesting results from a MORI survey, carried out in parallel. These revealed, among other things, that 87% of those questioned agreed that it is right to deploy public funds on the preservation of the historic environment, and 88% agreed on the importance of the historic environment in the creation of jobs and stimulating the economy. I hope you will agree that these were illuminating and encouraging results. 

But Power of Place is not the end of the review. Rather it marks the end of the first stage. The Government now intends, as promised, to produce a major statement on our vision for the historic environment and the policies we propose to adopt to realise that vision. Whilst we will obviously bear in mind what is said in Power of Place, our statement will be free-standing, and will not necessarily offer a line by line response to each individual recommendation in Power of Place

We are working hard to produce our statement as soon as possible. However, our overriding concern is to ensure that the review's conclusions are fully developed and credible, and agreed within Government. If there is a Spring Election, and this meeting seems to be in some sense predicated upon, if not an assumption, a recognition of that possibility, and I must admit that I know no more about that than Peter does or Rupert does, I would anticipate publication of the statement being a high priority for the incoming Administration after the Election. I don't know of course whether I speak for my colleagues and if any other Party is to form the new Government, I simply hope very much that they will pick up this baton and that the impetus will not be lost. Certainly if it should be a Labour Government re-elected, it will be a high priority for us.

If there has been one particular criticism of Power of Place, it has been that it did not devote enough attention to archaeology. I have some sympathy with this view. Let me assure you that the Government and English Heritage attach great importance to archaeological work. Indeed, from my own visit to the Spitalfields excavation in East London, for example, the site of the discovery of that remarkable Roman sarcophagus, and incidentally also a marvelous example of developer/archaeologist cooperation and from discussions that I have had with archaeologists at major conferences, I know without being myself in any sense expert, that it is a potent and fascinating science and I know how passionately many people feel about it, not just you as scholars, practising archaeologists, but many, many members of the public as I have been saying.

I can assure you that our statement will acknowledge the importance and relevance of archaeology, the understanding and preservation of the country's historic fabric. There are of course challenges facing the archaeological community. Finite resources mean that we cannot achieve all that we would wish, but this should not undermine the great achievements that continue to be made in this area, not only in this country but overseas as well. I think we can be very proud of the contribution that British archaeologists make internationally. Archaeologists from University College London, for example, are currently assisting the Moroccan authorities with research and restoration work at the marvellous World Heritage Site of Volubilis. We would like to see the United Kingdom's international role increased further, and that is why our Culture and Recreation Bill aims to change the rules that currently prevent experts from English Heritage from contributing their expertise abroad. 

Many of you, I need hardly say, will be aware - you will have been strongly reminded this morning - that amendments to the Bill have been tabled in relation to archaeology, indeed one or two of those present today have been personally instrumental in doing just that. Perhaps the most significant is the proposal to place a duty on Local Authorities to maintain Sites and Monuments Records. We are giving serious consideration to that, as to all the amendments. Our present view is that, rather than make piecemeal and modest changes to the legislation, it would be more useful to take a comprehensive look at how we can improve the current arrangements, and produce some proposals in our formal statement. We have noted the recommendation in Power of Place that legislation should at an appropriate time be introduced to require the establishment and maintenance of Historic Environment Record Centres, and this is certainly something we are examining constructively.

Power of Place also referred to the need for agricultural practices to take archaeology into account, after all English Heritage's acclaimed Monuments at Risk Survey showed how ploughing and other agricultural activities can be a major cause of damage. As we said in the Rural White Paper, the Government is committed to pursuing further reform of the Common Agricultural Policy with the aim both of reducing subsidies linked to production and strengthening measures to promote appropriate rural development, of which agri-environment schemes form a part. MAFF has a number of archaeology aware schemes and our statement will say more on these. 

We should not forget that in Britain we also have a wealth of archaeological sites and materials not only in and under the ground but also under the sea around our coast. Like millions of other visitors I have marvelled at the remains of the hull of the Mary Rose and the associated museum display selected from over 190,000 objects recovered from the site. Maritime archaeologists have also drawn my attention to many other sites on the seabed where vessels and their contents lie in a remarkable state of preservation and whose study would provide a rich harvest of archaeological knowledge. We are anxious to be as supportive as possible. One measure to assist this lies in the Culture and Recreation Bill, which will enable English Heritage to extend its remit to cover maritime as well as land based archaeology. Furthermore, wrecks and the remains of British ships for all periods of our history are to be found beneath the sea across the globe. We are therefore actively participating in the negotiations to produce a UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage which will extend legal protection and best archaeological practice to maritime archaeological sites worldwide. I recently held discussions on this complex subject with the Secretary General of UNESCO, Koichuro Matsuura.

Mention of UNESCO brings me to something important that I have to say to you today, although I rather think that news may just have reached you ahead of my formal announcement to you but I think it is worth saying in my own words - I hope you agree. I am very pleased indeed to be able to tell you formally that the Government has taken the decision to accede to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ancient Cultural Property. Britain has the second largest art market in the world and within it the market for antiquities is important. The market generally operates in an honourable way. However, last spring, in response to calls from archaeologists and concerned members of the public, I set up an advisory panel under the chairmanship of Professor Norman Palmer to advise the Government on, firstly, the extent of the illicit international trade in art and antiquities, and then the extent to which the UK is involved in this and then how most effectively the UK can play its part in preventing and prohibiting the illicit trade. The Panel had a distinguished membership, as you know, drawn from the worlds of archaeology, museums and the trade. Their Report was published in December and marks I believe a very significant landmark in developing public policy in this area, not least because it represents for the first time a consensus between all those groups interested in the trade in cultural objects on practical measures to improve the current situation.

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The Panel's report showed the disturbing level of trafficking occurring in this country, with 132 cases dealt with by London's Interpol Unit in 1999, and approximately 30 seizures of cultural goods every year by Customs & Excise. The Culture Select Committee, in their important report on cultural property last year, also expressed serious anxiety about this situation. I have given, on behalf of the Government, Prof Palmer's report a broad welcome and my officials are now working with the Panel and colleagues in other Government departments intensively in taking its 14 recommendations forward. I am also glad to say that Prof Palmer and his colleagues have agreed that his panel should continue in existence so that he will continue to invigilate us and to advise us on how to implement his recommendations. Amongst other things we will be taking steps to monitor the export licensing system more closely, as the Panel recommended, and we have agreed that a sub-committee of the Reviewing Committee for the Export of Works of Art should be established to supervise the export licensing system. We are also working with the Home Office which has set up a working party to examine the feasibility of establishing a database of stolen and illegally removed cultural property. I should add that the Government welcomes the recommendation of the Palmer Report that a new criminal offence should be created, and we are now considering exactly how far the Palmer Report's proposal is not covered by existing law.

Acceding to the UNESCO Convention was one of the recommendations of the Panel, and the Government agrees that it is the right course. I am delighted that we will now implement this recommendation once the normal Parliamentary and other formalities have been completed. This news will send out a powerful signal, both to those who do so much damage to the world's cultural heritage, and to those in the international community who share our anxieties, that the UK is determined to play its full part in the international effort to stamp out the illicit trade.

I should also like to mention the excellent progress we have made under the Treasure Act and the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The Treasure Act has achieved its primary aim of ensuring that more finds of important archaeological objects are offered to museums for the public benefit, resulting in a ninefold increase in cases of treasure. The latest Treasure Annual Report contains details of no fewer than 373 cases, of which over half have been acquired by museums. The number of reported finds continues to grow. Indeed, you will have seen a report in last Saturday's Times of a find by two metal detectorists in the Milton Keynes area, of five items of solid gold jewellery dating from the Bronze Age. At a weight of five pounds, it is the heaviest hoard of Bronze Age gold that has ever been found in Britain. I was rather pleased to see that one of the two men involved was called Gordon Heritage. A review is currently looking at a definition of Treasure and at the system of administration and final recommendations will be made to Ministers in the summer.

Although the Treasure Act has led to a substantial increase in the numbers of reported finds, these still represent only a small proportion of all archaeologically significant objects that are being found by members of the public, especially metal detector users. In recognition of this, for the last three years the Government has been funding, with the invaluable support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, a series of 11 pilot schemes to promote the voluntary reporting of all archaeological finds. The Scheme has enjoyed considerable success in starting to prevent the hemorrhage of information on finds lost every year, by actively recording archaeological finds made by members of the public and I was delighted at the recognition the Scheme received when it won the top prize as the best archaeological initiative at the British Archaeological Awards last November. All the Scheme's activities are focused on raising public awareness of the importance of our archaeological heritage, helping to develop new audiences for heritage in the process. The information about finds is being made available on the Scheme's website and is also being passed on to Sites & Monuments Records. There is now a need to expand the network of finds liaison officers across the whole of England and Wales. A consortium of the Department's bodies, led by Re:source, The British Museum and English Heritage is looking at ways of achieving this.

I am constantly impressed by the passion, enthusiasm and dedication that so many people, both professionals and amateurs, bring to this subject. I very firmly believe that the historic environment, both in terms of protecting the best of the past and creating a heritage for the future, is of profound value to us as individuals, to our local communities and to society as a whole. I can promise you that the Government will do everything we can to ensure that the policies we pursue, now and in the future, will benefit the historic environment and support the aims I know we all share.

Now Mr Chairman I would be very happy to be advised by those present as well as to attempt to respond to any questions that they may wish to put to me.

Prof Wainwright: Thank you very much.

The panel of speakers answering questions from the audience

Prof Wainwright: I am most grateful to all our speakers here. We are currently precisely on time according to the timetable. There is a general level of agreement between all the speakers about the degree of public interest in the historic environment and the importance that it has in our common social fabric. I wonder if we could start the discussion at a strategic level, perhaps dealing with Power of Place and its successor document. George Lambrick, would you care to kick us off?

George Lambrick: Thank you very much. Well as you say all the speakers have referred to the public interest and the fantastic figures that the MORI poll revealed, that over 95% of people, in England at any rate, think that the historic environment is important for educating children and adults about the past. Archaeology is a great way not only for educating people about the past, but also for them to discover their own skills. The wide level of public interest being already referred to in terms of the TV programme viewing figures, what I would like to ask each of the spokesmen is do you have any proposals for the next Parliament to increase coverage of archaeology in formal education through the curriculum, and we need to bear in mind that most of the post fourteen year old curriculum is concerned with the last three hundred years, and also for informal education and outreach and in particular for encouraging wider public participation in the investigation and care of the historic environment.

Lord Redesdale: As an opposition party, we can only deal with legislation that comes up in certain areas as the Government sees fit. In the area of education, I think that the one area I would like to try and include in the national curriculum is the fact that the national curriculum starts with the Romans. I think the Romans are absolutely fantastic - I am a Romanist myself - but it does leave out the vast majority of the history of  occupation in this country, so one of the areas I think we would look at is the inclusion of pre-history.

Peter Ainsworth: Thank you. Two questions there I think really. First, on education, we have set out our policies for education which are based on the notion of free schools. This involves a dramatic slimming down of the national curriculum which has become very over crowded. It means for example that important areas as part of any civilised education like an understanding and participation in the arts and participation in sport have really been frozen out of the school day. So we want to clear the clutter from the national curriculum and devolve decisions to schools. On that basis it is impossible for me to be as prescriptive as some people perhaps would like, but if you bear in mind the MORI poll evidence, the overwhelming support amongst people in this country for a better and closer understanding of these issues, I would expect that not only the arts in general but also issues to do with the historic environment to be reflected in the decisions that are taken by head teachers, by governors and by parents when devising the right kind of education for children in the twenty-first century. On the question of doing more to support participation in archaeological activities, I think this is an area which does need to be looked at and I am aware that English Heritage do quite a lot of work to encourage people not only to visit sites but to take an active interest in how the sites work and in practical issues to do with restoration and so on. I think that is something I would certainly look to them to encourage. There is also the question of the Heritage Lottery Fund who may wish to consider sensible bids from people who are seeking to promote this type of activity.

Alan Howarth: I think this is a huge opportunity. The great thing is to, as far as you can without losing standards, to go with the grain and we have seen in the MORI evidence as well as the size of television audiences reminds us, if we need to be reminded, that archaeology is something that intrigues and fascinates very large numbers of people. Why this should be the case we can only surmise. I suspect it has something to do with our consciousness of living in a world of relentless change - a world in which everything seems to be dug up and turned upside down every five minutes. People need a connection with their roots - they need a sense of place and a sense that they do have roots and I suspect, as it were psychologically, that is part of what underpins this. At all events is an opportunity educationally and an opportunity that we are very enthusiastic to take and we have in the near term a major policy proposal which is highly germane which we should establish Culture Online which the Culture and Recreation Bill provides and if we could secure the passage of that Bill in Parliament it would be of enormous assistance, I suggest, to yourselves as archaeologists keen in particular to promote education in archaeology. What Culture Online would do would be to provide on a systematic and widespread basis a bridge between the work of cultural organisations, including museums including archaeological units if you wish to participate, and other educational organisations right across the country and the extraordinary vividness with which images can now be conveyed digitally does provide the potential to create an educational resource that will be available to children in schools right throughout the length and breadth of the country, as well as to students who are learners all their lives again because again we are taking steps to ensure that more and more people do have access to the Internet and are educated in the skills needed to avail themselves of this opportunity. So if we could secure all party consent to legislate to provide for Culture Online it would be of great relevance and practical advantage to us all. In the meantime we have also asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to do further work which is again relevant to the interests you have just expressed. In what is somewhat loosely termed the field of creativity, but it seems to me to provide more opportunity for young people in school to learn the skills that archaeology requires or applies again is a splendid thing to do and if they have the opportunity to understand something about archaeology, to practice archaeology in suitable ways, then they will as a very valuable by product of that learn skills that will be of benefit to them in other aspects of their lives. So how this will feed through into the national curriculum remains to be seen because we have not as yet received the recommendations of the QCA on that. I would differ from Peter to some considerable degree in my view of the extent to which the national curriculum should explicitly embrace these opportunities. I fully understand the desire not to be unduly prescriptive, but there is a danger that with all the pressures that there are on teachers, on the curriculum, if we neglect to ensure as best we can opportunity for education in the arts, in the heritage, in cultural fields including archaeology then I fear that they will become marginalised and although there would be lots of teachers who would dearly love to do these things, unless the formal national curriculum is sufficiently articulated that they really feel that they have got sanction to include this in their educational programme, there is a danger that it will go by the board. It is a matter of judgement. Nobody wants to bear down unduly, oppressively and prescriptively on teachers but there is a danger that the baby gets thrown out with the bath water if we do not make sure that this is attended to. English Heritage's education work in schools is I think already of very great value. I hope that they will see opportunity to develop the archaeological dimension of that work. I could go on but I think that I had probably better sit down as there will be other questions.

Prof Wainwright: Sue Davies, you have done a good deal to ensure the success of this morning, do you have a question?

Sue Davies (IFA): I have a broad question really to set a context. We have heard an awful lot about Power of Place this morning. Power of Place is an English document produced by English Heritage. There are other agencies in the UK also in Europe. Peter mentioned earlier on Valletta. I am very pleased to note the signing of Valletta and that it comes into play next week. So whilst there are important local and national differences, there is this shared heritage and there is a shared responsibility for the protection of that heritage, as articulated through Valletta. So what I would be interested in is the Panel's views on whether and probably will you be promoting an overarching strategy not only for the UK, but also looking beyond the English Channel, but also how you might do this. What sort of measures you might be looking to introduce to perhaps bring England, Wales and Scotland in line with Valletta.

Peter Ainsworth: I saw this question coming and didn't know quite how to duck. One of the difficulties which I know Alan and Chris Smith have had and which certainly I feel as well, is that our writ stops at Hadrian's Wall and Offa's Dyke. So it is extremely difficult with the devolved responsibilities which now happen in Scotland and Wales to achieve the kind of overarching approach from Government to cultural matters which you are asking for. Now I have to tell you that I simply don't have any answers to that problem today but I am aware that it is a problem which is going to grow. There are obviously UK wide measures which can be taken. I assume, and Alan will be able to tell us, that the accession to UNESCO is a UK wide obligation so there are things that can be done on a kind of multinational level but the thing that concerns me most is how we get a properly coordinated approach to these matters within the UK itself, and as I say I have no answer to that.

Alan Howarth: Devolution can be untidy and frustrating. I do occasionally creep across Offa's Dyke because my constituency happens to be in Wales, and it is good to see some Welsh colleagues here today, but as Minister for the Arts in England I do experience some frustration in this regard because of course I would like to see a more coherent response developed across the UK. What we are doing is holding conversations with our counterparts in the other home countries and I hope very much that we will see a common approach developing but these are sensitive areas and if in Cockspur Street we were to attempt even to advise too explicitly or too overtly I can't quite predict what the political reactions would be. I think that is an area where you yourselves might help if you see opportunity to encourage the administrations in these different component parts of the United Kingdom to get their act together I think that would be good. The Heritage Lottery Fund does of course have a remit that extends across our internal boundaries and that is in itself beneficial, but we need in any case to achieve greater coherence in policy making between the leading heritage bodies better than we have at the moment. So I think there is a lot more diplomacy to undertake. As to international coordination, we have rejoined UNESCO which itself is more than just declaratory or symbolic importance and does provide useful practical opportunities and the accession to the UNESCO Convention is just one instance of that and I was very pleased to attend and to speak at the inaugural meeting of a distinguished international archaeological body under Council of Europe auspices. Support for the Council of Europe is critical because the work that has developed under the auspices of the Council of Europe in the field of archaeology is among the very best work that the Council of Europe has done I think over many years. The position is a little fragile. The funding of the Council of Europe is not what it would ideally be, but I think that is another available international structure which we must take full advantage of.

Lord Redesdale: Well, I am an advocate of devolution and I don't see it so much as a problem, but as an opportunity because although there might be the problem at the moment while the institutions are being set up there are differences between how things are done. It is actually archaeology, although we have a shared heritage, archaeology is about the local historic environment and the local people are actually the ones most responsible for that, so I would say that yes Scotland and Wales might do things differently and it might take them a bit of time, there have been a couple of problems, but I think that is actually a positive rather than a negative. On the other aspect Europe, I find it surprising that anybody who is taking part in a large archaeological scheme recently would look at Europe as anything but a boom, considering that when you actually look at your funding sometimes the larger slice of that funding will come from Europe and the smaller slice will come from something like English Heritage.

Lord Renfrew: I think this is a very timely question because we have had really continuing divergence and it seems to me the answer could very well be with us, that is to say, with this body because I think Government is in a bit of a twist with devolution, because it is very difficult for DCMS to pronounce what will happen in Scotland in this field or in Wales in this field, as we have heard, but I think we could make the groundwork, I think it would be very timely to have a group which would bring together the different parts of the British Isles deliberately. In a way we have to some extent already, no doubt the IFA does that, the Standing Conference on Portable Antiquities does that to some extent, but it isn't focussing primarily on these matters, so although sometimes Scottish representatives and Irish representatives, sometimes they're not there, it's a long way and so on, but I think if we actually made a deliberate attempt as an organisation, to have a smaller group, a sub-committee or something whose concern was to keep in step within the various parts of the British Isles and acknowledge things like the Valletta Convention, UNESCO Convention, possible European connections, there is after all a European Association of Archaeologists, I think we could probably make the lead in that, and I think sometimes we could quietly be informing Scottish Office and the DCMS and the Welsh Office and so on, we could be pointing out things that might well be taken seriously if they were carefully considered, and I suggest that we should perhaps take up that point and set up a small group that would really do something about it because otherwise we will have awkward disparities arising and I think that would be something we should really follow up as a result of this meeting today.

Jan Wills (ALGAO) asking a question relating to statutory status for Sites & Monuments Records

Prof Wainwright: Let's move on shall we? The Sites and Monuments Record has been mentioned on a number of occasions, I wonder if Jan Wills of the Association of Local Government Archaeological officers would like to present her question on this matter?

Jan Wills (ALGAO): Thank you Chair, as you have said, SMRs have probably received more air time this morning than they have in many other national meetings in this room. I speak as the Chair of the Association of Local Government Archaeologists on behalf of the 101 local authorities who have archaeological services amongst those functions, including of course SMRs. We strongly support the proposal that SMRs should become statutory functions of Local Authorities and we are supported in this now by the Local Government Association since we feel that without that status SMRs will never be able to develop their full potential, or to acquire the funding that they need to do this. Therefore against that background, I would specifically like to ask the Minister whether the Government now accept in principle that SMRs should be a statutory function of local authorities and if so how this will be pursued, whether through an Amendment to an existing Bill, or through the wider review of historic environment policy. If I may I would also like to ask a supplementary part to that same question, I can see the Chair wincing!, I would also like to say to the Minister, to ask rather, how through the same historic environment policy review the Government intends to support the development of high quality local historic environment services. Thank you.

Alan Howarth: ... [tape unclear] ... there are a limited number of those amendments that we do actually seriously welcome, and the amendments that Colin and Rupert have tabled on this subject are a very valuable focus for debate, I think they have already precipitated the new urgency of consideration. We were already of course looking very actively at this whole issue and I think indeed there is common ground between the Parties, because the recommendation that SMRs should have a statutory basis goes back to the 1996 publication of the Government of which Peter was a member, so there is plenty of common ground to work on and till. Our view is however that it may not be the best way to go forward to legislate as I said earlier, in a somewhat piecemeal fashion and there is a risk of fossilizing a pattern that may not quite be the right one, I mean it all depends on what you mean by an SMR. One of the difficulties is that we don't have adequate definitions or standards for SMRs, but are SMRs as conventionally conceived quite what we are going to need for the future? I do think that the recommendation in Power of Place, that we should go beyond SMRs, to what they have termed Historic Environment Record Centres, actually is the most useful recommendation that we have received, because it would mean that you bring into consideration, you bring into this system, historic buildings, and it seems to me that it is a useful thing if local authorities are asked to take a wider view of their responsibilities in this area. So I would just say the two things, that we need, I think, to broaden the range beyond what SMRs have hitherto been about, and we need to consult to get it right, we need to define exactly what you would mean, what you would cover, what the scope would be, as I say, what the standards would be, what the common conventions and, if you like, rules of the game would be. It is extremely pleasing that the Local Government Association supports this approach, there are, however, questions that we do need to explore in further detail of the kind that I have just been mentioning, plus, of course, the question of funding, which perhaps brings me a little bit on to your second question. There is no easy or simple solution to that. If we were to be able to provide funds that were ring-fenced, ear-marked, for this purpose, there would be resistance on the part of local government, I suspect, because they are fed up with central government taking detailed control of all their spending decisions, so there is that political and if you like constitutional factor. So we have just got to work our way through, but what I can say is that the Government is committed to working our way through, and to establishing a policy that is in the spirit of what is recommended in Power of Place, and that I think is therefore also in the spirit of the amendments, although the amendments, the amendments already tabled to the Bill, but just takes the process further in a way that I hope you would agree will be valuable.

Video clip (3.6Mb file)

Lord Redesdale: I think everyone agrees that HERCs would be a good idea and we would support them, but the idea that there is any legislative time tabling set aside for this worries us, because it is quite possible that the Culture and Recreation Bill won't come back, well, may not come back in the new session, and if that doesn't come back then how long are we looking towards the setting up of HERCs? The problem we would look at, yes, we could fossilise SMRs, but it would be better to have a fossil than nothing at all.

Mr Ainsworth: I would like to congratulate Alan on his fine rendering of a passage from Yes Minister over that. The fact is that there is, or should be with the Bill, an opportunity to do something about this problem right now, and what Alan has said just then, and also what he said in his earlier speech was that they would like to include recommendations on SMRs in a future statement. I think what most people want, Minister, is for provision to be made in a current Bill.

Prof Wainwright: Thank you. The Minister has introduced the subject of funding. David Thackray, would you like to follow that up?

David Thackray (National Trust): Lord Renfrew and Lord Redesdale both referred to the fact that in England English Heritage's archaeology budgets have declined sharply and local authority archaeology and museum services are being cut just when public interest in the subject could hardly be greater. I wonder if the panel could relate to the following questions which relate to those comments. Would you provide for real increases in central and local government resources for archaeology and recognising the degree of research that has been carried out to measure the impact of often heavily subsidised arable agriculture on buried archaeological deposits, would you remove the class consent for continued ploughing of scheduled monuments as part of wider measures to promote sustainable agriculture to which the Minister also referred?

Lord Redesdale: I would again throw it back at the audience and say that politicians will react with more money if there is a perceived public interest, so it is perhaps an issue that should be raised at all the party conferences, it should be raised with MPs and it would be raised with Ministers, so I would look at that. I would also add that the present system under developer funding is incredibly precarious. I had friends who lost their jobs when the Museum of London, during the property crash, had to lay off most of their archaeologists, I believe it was around 400, because suddenly the money to pay them which was coming from developers ceased when the building boom in London ceased, so we need to move more to a stable funding environment and that has to be through Local Authorities. And I would say that concentrating more money into Local Authorities has to be a priority there.

Peter Ainsworth: There seems to be widespread consent that PPG16 has been generally helpful, but there is a problem over the contribution being made to research, and that is very important, so the may be scope for having a look at the planning guidance to see whether that can be something that could be addressed. I agree with what Rupert has said about funding. It would be cheap and easy for an opposition politician to stand here today and say, "Yes", you know, "Vote for us and we'll guarantee X amount more money", but what I can say is that money does follow public opinion and that public opinion is making itself increasingly clear. I think incidentally that it is never wise in the long run to encourage lobbying, but there is a role which your organisation could do to coordinate the effort being made to raise the profile. I know that a lot of work is being done already, but I think there is a coordinating role that could be played there to drive the message home to politicians when funding decisions are being taken and on the question of agricultural activity and ploughing, again I think this is an area that does need to be looked at. I am acutely aware of the difficulties there have been at Verulamium for example where there is a very uneasy relationship between the landowner, and English Heritage, and the Local Authority, and there are claims that very substantial damage is being done. I am not happy at the way the relationship between these competing interests works at the moment, but this is something which I do think needs to be looked at.

Alan Howarth: I am wondering whether Peter's pager wasn't giving him a message Yes you can promise them more money. Apparently it didn't, and we're all very grown up here and I think it's probably a good thing we are not getting into a Dutch auction about exactly how much more each Party would spend, but yes, lets acknowledge that PPG16 has, I think, facilitated a fairly substantial additional injection of money into archaeological activity via the developer contribution but at the same time that it is insufficient because as you say that there are all sorts of activities that the developers aren't paying for. The question is in part what Local Authorities can do, in part what English Heritage for example and other centrally funded public agencies can do. In the case of Local Authorities I think it is fair to note that the EPCS block fund out of which Authorities will tend to fund these things, certainly museums, is now to increase by 1.8% above inflation over three years in succession, but it remains the prerogative of Local Authorities to determine the specific allocations and distribution of their spending, so the point that Rupert and Peter have both made that you need to be making your case on behalf of the requirements of archaeology not just to us but right across the country is a very real one. Of course if we can do better on SMRs and HERCs that will all be helpful because that will help to articulate a recognition and a set of practical policies at local level, one of the things the Government of which I am a member, has asked Local Authorities to do, and every one of them has to produce a Local Authority Cultural Strategy by next year, and that very importantly embraces the strategy for archaeology in their areas. So I hope that we can get an improved recognition and acceptance in principle of the responsibilities that lie at Local Authority level and if that is the case then we stand at least an improved chance of archaeology being more favourably prioritized as budgets are set within individual Local Authorities. On the question of English Heritage again we of course wish to improve the funding position of English Heritage and I am very very aware that within English Heritage's own disposition of its resources archaeology hasn't been very well favoured and that is something that were I to continue in office, I would be extremely anxious to improve upon.

Lord Renfrew: On the funding point Minister made the essential point, indeed a matter of public awareness and it is for us as archaeologists to promote that, as I am sure we are doing. I think on the Class Consent case I very much agree with what Peter Ainsworth said, it is a very difficult issue and Verulamium is a very good example. It really is unsatisfactory in this day and age that we have that portfolio, as it were, of scheduled monuments to which the Minister also referred, and then we allow them to be destroyed systematically by permitting continued ploughing simply because we are locked into an earlier permission which it might be expensive to move away from. Now there was talk earlier, Andrew Lawson's question about archaeology policies, and I think perhaps something arising from this meeting is that we as archaeologists should try and persuade the political parties that yes, they should have archaeological policies and this is clearly one of the first issues to address, because it really is scandalous that our only method really of conserving the past in this country is through the scheduling system and the scheduling system frankly doesn't work. For example on this matter of ploughing out scheduled monuments and I think this is something where we do need a change of the law, it may mean some payment of compensation, but maybe it doesn't follow as times move on that we are totally locked into the situation as it was when Class Consents were first given. So I would have thought when parties are formulating their policies this is one of the issues which we as archaeologists should be inviting them to address.

Alan Howarth: I must apologise for failing to respond to the point on Class Consents and ploughing. Two components of my response, one is that we are very actively discussing with DETR all the planning aspects of the Power of Place recommendations and as I stressed, and stressed all the way through the review process we were always willing to consider representations that might come flanking Power of Place, you weren't confined to channelling everything that you wanted to say through the eye of that particular needle. So this discussion is continuing with DETR and the other part of my response is that again Local Authority Cultural Strategies, and we have seen this, I think, very encouragingly in some of the pilot Authorities mean that a whole variety of departments within a Local Authority that haven't hitherto recognised that they had a responsibility or anything to gain from addressing themselves to Culture become engaged, so that the Director of Planning and the Director of Economic Development and all sorts of other figures within the Local Authority do become involved in the formulation of the Cultural Strategy, so the judgements about whether in a specific case you've got to address a particular planning permission again are ones that come into focus in this context. I hope that the whole system, as it were, will become better educated and better prepared to address these questions

Prof Wainwright: Now one of the issues which was raised earlier and which we haven't really touched and perhaps we should is the question of structures. I wonder if John Walker would like to ask a question on this point?

John Walker (SCAUM): I would really like to raise the issue of contradictions. It seems to have grown immensely over the last twenty years and I am deeply conscious now that everything I see is dealt and done with in terms of strategy, in terms of management by objective, in terms of performance targets. What also strikes me, however, is how most of these things tend to contradict. In the broad church of archaeology, in which archaeologists find many homes, you find that HLF applications, RAE exercises in universities, all sorts of things are working to different standards and sometimes contradictory objectives. The question is if we can get our act together to whom do we present our act in Government - or should there be somebody that we should present our act to in Government that is capable of articulating all these different departmental initiatives, different departmental standards etc. I think the contradiction needs to be reduced. Is there any comments on that? Who should we ask - who is our internal Governmental champion? 

Peter Ainsworth: As I said earlier, I think there is an urgent need for joined up thinking in these areas. The whole question, as has also been pointed out I think by Colin, are the role the future role of the Department of Culture at all seems to be a live question at the moment. I personally don't think it would be an attractive idea to devolve back to various other Departments the responsibilities which have been vested in the department which was National Heritage and is now Culture. It is inevitably that there will be different government departments involved in an issue like this. The vital thing is that they coordinate and liaise and work closely with each other. That is generally true, but it is particularly true when it comes to the sort of specific issues that you have been talking about like standards and so on. That is my view on that. Can I say Chairman I have now been summoned back to the House of Commons, because we have been granted a Statement on tourism this afternoon and I need to get back to prepare for it. Will you excuse me very much? I do apologise for that and I hope you understand.

Prof Wainwright: Thank you so much for coming.

Peter Ainsworth: I leave you in the capable hands of my noble friend.

[Peter Ainsworth leaves]

Prof Wainwright: Alan, can you take this on?

Alan Howarth: Yes. To whom do you present your case, if you do indeed get the collective archaeological representational act together? To me please. I hope you don't find that entirely discouraging. We have the lead responsibility in Whitehall. Every interest that touches on our lives in complex ways is the concern of a whole variety of Departments, whether you're children or whether you're archaeologists or whether you're pensioners, there is a whole variety of Departments that have got an important responsibility in relation to your interests, but in each of these cases there is an identifiable point in Whitehall which has lead responsibility and you have to address yourselves there, and we will take up the cudgels for you and do our very best for you and stand a much better chance if we are well advised, coherently advised, by the archaeological confraternity. Will there be a DCMS? This was a fantasy, a Friday fantasy, by a journalist quite well known to ourselves who decided to run the story in The Daily Mirror, that then got picked up by The Independent, and we have it on very reassuring and very senior authority from No 10 that we are not about to be dismembered. This Government has taken it as a central and serious responsibility to do what it can to support the cultural life of the nation and we are not going to turn our backs on that.

Lord Redesdale: Well, the idea of archaeologists discussing all the issues that they have and having one person to go at it is not going to happen within Government, because although the Minister would be the lead person to go to, if it was say an agricultural issue concerning CAP, or something like that, you would be sent all over the shop so its more making sure that you actually have one body going round talking to everybody rather than the other way around unfortunately, but of course there is another arm of Government which, if you get no joy you can come to, I shouldn't say Government, it is Parliament and that's the opposition, so if you have no joy with the Government you can always come to us! And we will try and slot in your concerns in any legislation going.

Prof Wainwright: Thank you very much. Can we turn to the built heritage. I wonder if John Preston would care to ask a question?

John Preston (IHBC): John Preston, here representing the IHBC, the Institute of Historic Building Conservation. My question relates to helping the owners of heritage property. It is very revealing that the MORI poll which was much welcomed by all of us in terms of the positive view of the heritage it gave, was a consumer's view, it was not the view, and views were not sought, of those into whose care the heritage has been entrusted as owners of historic buildings who basically have to undergo controls in the wider public interest. It is our Conservation Officer members who are usually at the sharp end in dealing with those owners and hearing about their concerns, and I have two specific points to make. One is that these owners are discouraged by the VAT regime from carrying out appropriate repairs. The VAT regime favours alterations. Secondly, a much wider point is that their freedom of action is restricted by controls imposed in public interests and often completely conflicting requirements of a wide range of different regulators and a vivid recent example is the new move under the building regulations, partly done in terms of energy efficiency, encouraging application of new build energy efficiency standards to all buildings with major implications for the historic environment that were not fully thought through. So my basic question of principle is that how will you enable regulators and give them guidance on managing the interactions between different control regimes and helping heritage property owners to resolve conflicting requirements and the very specific one is would you take further steps to address the VAT anomaly and ensure that owners repairing their properties properly aren't penalised?

Alan Howarth: These are extremely important issues and I am very glad that you have raised them. One of the things that I am pleased that we have been able to do over the last two or three years in my Department is develop a close and I think increasingly fruitful working relationship with the Historic Houses Association and I pay tribute today, as I did yesterday, to the remarkable stewardship of those owners who really cherish the great houses which happen to be in their care and stewardship and it is an extremely difficult task for very many of them. Of course The National Trust, English Heritage and other owners are also playing an immensely valuable part. There are recommendations in Power of Place in this general area, including a recommendation that there should be a duty of care laid upon owners of historic properties. That recommendation, very properly accompanied by an indispensable correlative to that, that there should also be sufficient financial support for them to enable them to exercise their duty of care to the sort of standards that the IHBC itself would want. This is difficult territory which we have got to work our way through. In this, as in other areas, it is enormously helpful if those who make recommendations in the Government will attach a price tag to them, because there is some quite tricky work to do to make a realistic estimate of what it costs to do these different things. You yourself recommend a bold stroke which is that the rate of VAT on repairs should be reduced to 5% consistent with the recommendation in Power of Place. Well, you will have seen that the Chancellor has made a start in that direction in the policy that we have now put forward to enable an effective 5% VAT rate to be applied to repairs to listed places of worship and I hope, speaking personally, that that is simply the first installment. The review of the VAT regime in general that will be undertaken by the European Union in 2003 provides the real opportunity to arrive at this goal. It will be an immeasurably valuable prize and it is something that in my Department we are extremely keen to do and we are discussing very actively again with the DETR and with the Treasury. Your point about what you describe as frequently conflicting requirements of various regulators takes me back to the proposition that I put just now that you should please address yourself to the Department that has lead responsibility for the Heritage, that is ourselves. Of course, by all means, lobby DETR or the Treasury directly if you wish but it's really our job as it were to gather up the threads, to weave this into a coherent case and to negotiate with our colleagues across Government and that is what we do again and again. Of course you may be impatient and frustrated by the time it takes to achieve discernable results, but that, I would put it to you, is the best prospect for gaining ground. On the particular point about energy efficiency, again, I would like to know, my officials will look at that very carefully, I am not aware that we have so far been lobbied on it, but probably they are on the case, I don't know. How to guide the regulators as well as how to help the property owners is an excellent point to put to us. I quite agree that as both of you have been saying, if the left hand doesn't know what the right hand's doing in Whitehall it really makes it extremely hard for everybody. If you state the problem to us then we can act on it.

Lord Redesdale: The issue of churches and VAT has been one that's been fought at the highest level in the House of Lords and in fact the Bishops, I've never seen them quite so active as on that one. I think one of the issues though that is being raised is on the planning, and owning listed buildings myself, agricultural listed buildings, which have absolutely no purpose nowadays and being told by a Planning Officer, "You have to do this because it looks lovely and you live in a National Park and therefore it has to follow these guidelines" is a problem, and I think one of the issues that we get a lot of, well, on Local Authorities and as a Party is raised, is that there is a conflict going on over how we view heritage and I think it's one that actually the archaeological community has to face and it's over how we present the past. Is the past something which should be set in the sort of English Heritage year zero type of approach is that if it falls off you just make sure that it actually looks like 1986 or whenever you carried out the repair, or does actually a building have a living history that carries on after that date.

Lord Renfrew: I think this is one of the occasions, a rather happy occasion, when a Conservative spokesman has to congratulate the Government on what it achieved with VAT to cathedrals and churches which I think is terrific. Also a particular interest of my own is free entry to museums which hasn't cropped up today, but I think that's a terrific achievement so I think more of the same, and I got the hint from the Minister that at any rate his Department is thinking of more of the same, because one would like to see the same recognition accorded to historic houses and other listed buildings as it is to cathedrals and churches, places of worship. So I think one has to express satisfaction at the first step and press all the harder for the steps that should follow.

Lord Redesdale: Just adding on that, I think there has been a slight omission as well on the national museums, their being exempt from VAT and one thing I would ask the Minister to raise is that it appears that university museums have been omitted under this.

Prof Wainwright: Now then, time is getting on, good day for portable antiquities Tim Schadla-Hall?

Tim Schadla-Hall: Thank you very much Chairman. Just briefly, could I say on behalf I am sure of most of the people in this room, certainly in my case it's been 26 years of campaigning to see the UNESCO Convention finally signed is a tremendous achievement and I think we should make that point specifically that at last it's been done, even if it's a little late, I'm very grateful to the Government - sorry, but I do think that's a significant thing that we shouldn't miss. Portable Antiquities are one of the things that we should be most concerned about and I know how dear this subject has been to the Minister, but can I just join this to two other things, because we are into joinedupness - first of all it's a shame that the Government hasn't also acceded to UNIDROIT and as its on the same list it would be nice to know what the Parties think about acceding to UNIDROIT as soon as possible, because it's all about Portable Antiquities Mr Chairman, can I get away with that? Secondly, I would like to know what the Parties are going to do about what is undeniably one of the most successful and cheapest schemes, the Portable Antiquities Recording Scheme, to come into being without any help from anybody, apart from I believe the Minister and DCMS itself, which is probably the cheapest and most cost effective piece of culture online we have ever seen and which has a price tag that only costs a further £2million to probably put as a matter of Local Authority spending nationally if the will was there and knowing that it was mentioned in the Culture and Recreation Bill I would like to know what the views of all the panellists are in getting this moving because it's very cheap and it would be very good for public education as well.

Lord Renfrew: On UNIDROIT, I personally do believe in it, but Professor Palmer's working panel reached unanimous recommendations and my concern is to see those implemented so I am going to leave UNIDROIT for another day, but on the Portable Antiquities I have to say I am puzzled by the DCMS and by the Minister because there they have implemented an altogether successful enterprise which has been recognized on every side as being highly effective and yet somehow the funding to continue it is lacking, and all I can say is having been so enormously successful there will be an enormous amount of egg on the face of the Minister if the scheme collapses, so enormous that I cannot imagine the scheme possibly could collapse and so I am intrigued to see how the Minister is going to neatly conduct the necessary footwork to come out from under this one, but since he, also I know the Secretary of State who introduced this year's report on the working of the Treasure Act, which again has been enormously successful and tied up with the Portable Antiquities scheme, so I took the opportunity of congratulating him at the Press Conference for that and asked the same question and got an equally vague reply as I suspect the Minister may be about to give, but I think we have to be confident that it is very much to the credit of his Department, of himself, how well this has worked and I cannot imagine that he will not wish to continue to reap the approval which we heap upon him in this respect.

Lord Redesdale: There are two issues that I think the Portable Antiquities Scheme raises. First I would like to say that I echo the view on UNESCO, I'm going to avoid UNIDROIT at the moment, I think one Convention at a time. But the two issues that are raised are that at the moment Portable Antiquities is funded by a grant from the lottery, I believe, and that's on a reducing scale. Now where is the money coming from to replace lottery funding, because lottery funding is one of these interesting double edged swords, I was on the lottery legislation in the first place and the words we used a lot which was fairly odious which was additionality, which of course means that a lottery shouldn't take the place of Government funding. So if the lottery funding has been used to set up the scheme the Government is then going to have to come in with this mere £2million. £2million sounds like quite a lot of money, I mean it's small fry obviously but Local Authorities are going to have to come up with that money and that's the problem. That's the first issue so I think that's going to be a Government commitment and I very much hope an announcement will be made that they come up with not even 2 but £10million just to make sure it's well funded. But the second issue is over how the scheme is set up at the moment, its probably being seen as a victim of its own success, because where the scheme is operating it is operation brilliantly and I think that we would all say that it is a shining example. The one area I have slight concerns over is that some of the country is not covered by this scheme and what is going on there?

Alan Howarth: First of all, thank you for the very kind things said about UNESCO. Twenty six years, but still a sinner that repents finally got there. It could have been done ages and ages ago and when we took a hard look at it and started to ask some questions about what this wording really need imply, and found that the difficulties that Whitehall had been so exercised about for so long weren't really there at all. There was eventually a very ready agreement across Government and I am very happy indeed that we have been able to do that and thank you for what you said. Portable Antiquities again, yes it is working well and again Colin is such an eloquent and charming debater you cannot but be seduced by what he recommends - which doesn't man to say that you should vote Conservative, there are limits none the less. Sorry to be so vulgar. Yes the real issue is about the long term sustainability of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Of course we need to generalise it right across the country, but the question that has not yet been answered is how it is to be funded in perpetuity. It has been immensely useful to have Heritage Lottery Fund support. We asked the Heritage Lottery Fund if they would support a further trial phase extending right across the country, and I was very hopeful that they would, but then they said they needed a better evaluation of what had so far occurred and I honestly think that they wanted the evaluation produced in a form that was convenient to them, but I think there is a good deal of testimony available to comfort them that this is a scheme that is providing good value, so I hope that they will be willing to take another look at our proposal, but they too will quite rightly ask the question, how is this to be carried on after, say, three years worth, another three years worth of Heritage Lottery funding were to expire, and that brings us slap bang again to the question of what Local Authorities can commit themselves to do because I think this has got to be funded at Local Authority level, which is not to say that central Government is entirely disengaged from responsibility because we set the framework within which Local Authorities make those choices. But that is another aspect to the whole conundrum which we have been thinking about together earlier on and about how we can get Local Authorities to have the means and the will to do all that they need to do in archaeology.

Prof Wainwright: Now one last question I think on perhaps a subject that hasn't been touched upon, our maritime heritage, Bob Yorke

Bob Yorke (JNAPC): Thanks very much. There is a general belief that the Culture and Recreation Bill is going to be lost as the result of a potential May election or April election. Could I ask that if the Government is re-elected what would it plan to do to effect the transfer of underwater archaeology from DCMS to English Heritage - that's my first question. Second question is all about price tags, I've been asked to talk about price tags so I'm afraid here we go. Whilst we welcome the transfer very much from DCMS to English Heritage, so far the amount of money that's been offered is regrettably inadequate, about £305,000 has been offered so far, which, with great respect, probably wouldn't even cover the existing commitments that DCMS will transfer to English Heritage in the future, and so my question really to the Minister is, is he prepared to review this amount and provide English Heritage with a proper funding for a very important activity which has a huge coastline, a lot of voluntary people involved with it as well and provides the approximate one and a quarter million pounds that I think that everybody believes is needed. Sorry about the price tags!

Alan Howarth: Excuse me if I bolt off quickly after this, I've got to make another speech some distance from here at 1.30pm. Well, no, it is a good idea to put the price tag on provided you have really worked it out in detail, I'll come back to that in a moment. First of all on the Bill, I'm baffled, absolutely baffled, why - Colin may be able to help me on this - why the Conservative Party and the House of Lords is not willing to give the Bill passage. They are saying they've tabled a very large number of amendments and they are saying that they require no less than three full days in Committee to scrutinise this Bill in time honoured purist way, comma by comma, line by line. Yet we have a Bill that is in almost every respect entirely uncontentious and which contains important provisions that it will be immensely frustrating to a whole series of legitimate interests if they are not placed on the statute book. If however they will not relent and allow this Bill to have say one day in Committee and I believe that we could do ample justice by way of Parliamentary scrutiny in one day, there are all sorts of flexibilities as Peter knows (it is a shame he is no longer here), Peter knows I am perfectly prepared to negotiate with him so that we can get something which everybody is happy about. If that doesn't happen, well yes it will be as I said in my speech a high priority for an incoming Labour Administration to bring this Bill back, maybe we will improve it in one or two respects, not least in light of advice which I have heard today but we are very very keen to make progress with it, and I should say because it is quite absurd because of some technical oversight way back in 1983 it isn't possible for English Heritage to take responsibility for maritime archaeology and we think we think this is a sensible way to organise things. So yes, we are committed to achieve the transfer that we have promised in our document. On price tags we are transferring all existing funding, that is the proposal, all the existing funding from maritime archaeology would go across to the English Heritage budget to continue to be used for maritime archaeology via that route plus an increase of 60% from what has already been spent. Now if you want more, and of course you want more, please don't pluck a figure out of the air. I don't speak with any disrespect, you said a million and a half, it may well be that that is a really well based figure, you've done some detailed costing, you know exactly that it needs a million and a half to do x, y and z, but if you're going to lobby for money, for that or for anything else, then produce the detailed costings, to the extent that you can, ultimately you will probably need the resources of the Civil Service to finally complete that exercise. But we start to get a focused and realistic debate when we stop plucking figures out of the air and actually talk about specifics that have been quite well thought through. The next opportunity to review the amount that DCMS can make available would probably arise in a further comprehensive spending review which would come into operation, the decisions of which would start to be implemented, the money would start to be spent, in the year 2003/4. That means to say that negotiations between my Department and the Treasury would be occurring very actively in the spring and summer of 2002. Which further means to say that any representations that any of you wish to make for increased expenditure in your field, what you cherish, needs to be with us by the Autumn or before Christmas this year because it takes that amount of time for us then to weigh up all the different bids that have been put to us, for us to distil our case and to prepare it so that it is ready for the best negotiation that we can conduct with the Treasury as I say in the Spring or Summer of next year, so that is the sort of time scale.

Would it be a discourtesy to colleagues if I left before listening to you?

Lord Renfrew: Let me just express appreciation, rather than getting tangled up in the timing of the Bill, on which I could make many remarks and I already did make some before you arrived, let me just say what a useful discussion this has been at a more detailed level than sometimes we were able to undergo and I am sure its an experience to repeat, I congratulate the IFA for doing so and I would certainly like to thank the Minister very much for being with us and bringing his excellent announcement for UNESCO with him. Thank you.

[Alan Howarth laves]

Prof Wainwright: Now, do you have anything you wish to add before I close things up? In that case thank you all very much. I think we owe our Panel of speakers a deep debt of gratitude, its been a very pleasant and informative morning and we are most grateful to them for coming along in their busy schedules to speak to us and to answer the range of questions which have been put to them. Quite obviously there were other questions which could have been asked and I'm afraid time just didn't allow for that to happen. I won't attempt to summarise, I am sure that there will be a summary account brought out by IFA in its journal. One common aspect from all our speakers, and shared with the audience as well, is the huge amount of public interest there is in the subject at the moment. What also came across very clearly is the need for a strategic document which can foster and encourage that interest. I am sure a number of people here were very pleased to hear that DCMS were going to bring out a free standing strategic document presumably sometime later this year. The other issues of funding, SMRs, education, portable antiquities, Cultural Heritage Bill, all these, Maritime Archaeology, all these got an excellent airing and I repeat my personal thanks and I am sure I am expressing your thanks to our Panel, however residual, nevertheless much appreciated and to thank them very much again.

All photographs © Council for British Archaeology

Photographer: Julian Civiero


Archaeology and culture: a past for the future - a leaflet published by the Historic Environment Forum


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