HC Deb 22 November 1995 vol 267 cc655-6
13. Mr. Gordon Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what measures he will take to ensure the structure and fabric of historic buildings in Scotland is properly preserved. [784]

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

Owners of historic buildings are responsible for the maintenance of their own property. We provide advice, encouragement and financial support.

Mr. Prentice

That is simply not good enough. I do not think that the Minister has read the latest report of the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland, which says that shoddy, synthetic and often imported materials are being used to restore Scotland's built heritage. That is not good enough. Will the Minister take steps to reopen some of the traditional slate and stone quarries so that those materials can be used to restore Scotland's historic buildings? Scotland's heritage is being compromised by the Government's policies.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that Historic Scotland is building up the necessary expertise in Scotland. We must learn some ideas from overseas, but I assure him that we are concentrating on employing people in Scotland. The hon. Gentleman's old school, George Heriot's in Edinburgh, has benefited considerably from building repair grants totalling £185,000. If he wishes to assist his old school, he should remind his colleagues on the Opposition Front Bench that 244 of its pupils benefit from the assisted places scheme and would like to see it continue.

Mr. Jessel

As Scotland's heritage of historic buildings is world famous and a prime tourist attraction, will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming substantial new funds from the national lottery to protect Scotland's heritage? The lottery is a brilliant achievement of the Conservative Government.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

The lottery has achieved results out of all proportion to what was anticipated initially. We believe that it will be of enormous benefit not only to our built heritage, but to many charities and small organisations throughout Scotland.

Mr. Wilson

Will the Minister approach Historic Scotland about the regrettable absence of any physical memorial in Scotland to the poll tax, given that it was possibly one of the most costly exercises in Scotland since the Darien scheme? I suggest that a derelict public toilet in Stirling could be adapted for the purpose. Perhaps a plaque on the wall might refer to the fact that the last time that the local Member of Parliament engaged in a bit of phrase-making and dubbed a Labour proposal the "roof tax", the Tory party adopted the proposal within three months.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I recall that the hon. Gentleman strongly opposed plans for a Scottish Assembly a few years ago. Rather than erect such a memorial, I think that our built heritage should receive greater priority.