HC Deb 21 July 1959 vol 609 cc1038-9
1. Mr. F. Noel-Baker

asked the Minister of Works what action he will take to implement the recommendation in the recent Annual Report of the Ancient Monuments Board that there should be excavation of the North Set ting in Avebury Stone Circle.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works (Mr. Harmar Nicholls)

I have every expectation that a firm arrangement will be reached with the skilled archaeologists concerned, so that the work on the North Setting will be carried out next year.

Mr. Noel-Baker

In welcoming that reply, may I ask whether the Parliamentary Secretary now feels in a position to tell us who will be the archaeologist in charge of this important project?

Mr. Nicholls

Yes, Sir. There was some doubt whether we could keep the promise made by my right hon. Friend because of the archaeologist's commitments, but I can now confirm that the work will start next year.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

I should like to express my regret and that of my right hon. and hon. Friends at the accident which the Minister of Works has sustained. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say what will be the cost of these proposals?

Mr. Nicholls

I should like notice of that supplementary question. I am pleased to acknowledge the kind comments made by the hon. Gentleman, which I will pass on to my right hon. Friend.

2. Mr. F. Noel-Baker

asked the Minister of Works when he will publish a com prehensive report on earlier work of excavation at Avebury, as recommended by the Ancient Monuments Board in its last Report.

Mr. H. Nicholls

The Ancient Monuments Board did not recommend that my Department should publish a report on earlier work at Avebury. The material found during the pre-war excavations belongs to the archaeologist's widow and I understand that it is being prepared for publication.

Mr. Noel-Baker

In expressing my astonishment that the Parliamentary Secretary and I evidently interpret the Report of the Ancient Monuments Board differently, may I ask whether the hon. Gentleman nevertheless appreciates the need for having a consolidated publication detailing all the work so far undertaken at Avebury, because this is indispensable to future excavations?

Mr. Nicholls

I have a lot of sympathy with the hon. Member. It is a matter of play on words. The Report did not recommend as the hon. Member states in his Question. The words were: For the future, we have suggested that when a comprehensive report on earlier work at Avebury is published, there may be advantage in continuing the work of re-erecting stones and in exposing further parts of the monument for presentation to the public. It is not a recommendation. I understand, however, that Mrs. Keiller has commissioned Dr. Isabel Smith to commence the work of preparing the material for publication.

Mr. Hastings

In the report, will the Minister include ancient monuments surrounding Avebury, which presumably have a good deal to do with the original structure?

Mr. Nicholls

Yes. The report will be based upon the finds made by Mr. Alexander Keiller in that area. Therefore, it may not include anything that was outside his ownership at the time.