HC Deb 11 March 1969 vol 779 cc1139-40
1. Mr. Peter M. Jackson

asked the Minister of Public Building and Works what steps he proposes to take to improve the facilities available at his Ancient Monument Laboratory; and whether he will make a statement.

The Minister of Public Building and Works (Mr. Robert Mellish)

In view of the amount of work which has to be done within the Laboratory the complement has been increased from 11 to 17. Action is being taken to bring together the various parts of the Laboratory into a single unit.

Mr. Jackson

Whilst I welcome my right hon. Friend's reply and his decision to set up an O and M inquiry into the conduct of this department, may I nevertheless ask him whether he agrees that there has been a very considerable backlog of work? I am told that objects have waited 10 years before examination. There is thus an estimated 30 man-years' backlog of work with the Laboratory's previous complement of staff. May I take it that that backlog will be worked through? Can the House be given an assurance that staff will be appointed to keep up with the increasing volume of work which will come the way of the Laboratory?

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should put his questions briefly.

Mr. Mellish

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Michael Hamilton

Is the Minister aware that, thanks in some measure to the efforts of his Department, Stonehenge is the most visited ancient monument in Britain today? Will he make every endeavour to ensure that the efforts of his officers are not set at nought by those who wish to place a high voltage overhead line in the vicinity of the monument?

Mr. Mellish

I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says, and give an assurance that when the matter reaches me, as I expect it will very shortly, I shall take account of the fact that Stonehenge is one of our greatest monuments.