HC Deb 02 February 1970 vol 795 cc17-8
23. Mr. St. John-Stevas

the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he will take the initiative in promoting international measures to prevent Venice from sinking into her lagoon.

Mr. George Thomson

No, Sir. While recognising the importance of Venice as part of the cultural heritage of mankind, Her Majesty's Government regard the initiative as lying primarily with the Government of Italy, who have already set up, in co-operation with U.N.E.S.C.O., an international advisory committee and who are preparing a plan in the light of recommendations made by this committee.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

But, in view of the unique beauty of Venice as a city and its value to the world and to the importance of Anglo-Italian friendship, and not least having regard to the capacity of the right hon. Gentleman for salvaging lost causes, would it not be appropriate for the British Government to take the initiative in this respect and to call an international conference on the matter?

Mr. Thomson

I share the concern expressed by the hon. Gentleman about the situation of Venice. I am sure he will agree with me that the British interest in Venice, as in Florence, was fully illustrated in 1967 and 1968 when substantial sums were raised in this country to help both Venice and Florence in the aftermath of the floods at this time. I would add that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Overseas Development has been approached by the Director-General of U.N.E.S.C.O. about contributions, both private and public, and the matter is under consideration.

Mr. Wood

In any event, would not this initiative come inappropriately from a Government that are sinking much faster than Venice?