§ 3.17 p.m.
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the first Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.
§ The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government when the working party concerning Stonehenge is likely to report.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE, DEPARTMENT of the ENVIRONMENT (Baroness Birk)
My Lords, the working party, which is considering problems likely to arise at the monument in the longer term, is expected to report in the autumn.
My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether any meeting has been held since last January? If not, may I ask her whether the working party will be able to report in time? The local inhabitants are getting very worried about this monument. It was granted to the nation under a deed of gift, on condition that it should be open to the general public. I am wondering whether this matter will be able to be reported upon when the noble Baroness brings the report to the House, and whether we shall have an opportunity to debate it.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I think that the noble Baroness is getting confused 1693 between the terms of reference of the working party and the immediate events at Stonehenge now. I set up the working party over a year ago to look at the long-term effects of visitors on the monument. The intention is to look 15 or 20 years ahead and to consider the facilities to be provided in the long term for visitors and traffic and parking arrangements. One of the reasons it has been so difficult to arrange meetings is because a great number of people from the county council, the local council, the tourist board and the National Trust are involved, and it is extremely difficult to get them together. However, a draft report is now being prepared. A meeting should take place in September, when the report should be put to the working party. The other matters to which the noble Baroness has referred are day-to-day administrative matters which are not the concern of this working party.
§ Viscount ECCLES
My Lords, I live even nearer to Stonehenge than the noble Baroness who asked the Question. I wonder whether the Minister would agree that when 10,000 people visit a beauty spot it is no longer a beauty spot. What can the local people do about it?
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, this is the problem. That is why we have had to make different arrangements, to prevent people from going right in among the stones. However, there is also an experimental arrangement, which I believe is working very well, whereby people can walk around the monument and at two points come very close to the stones. That is what is happening now. I believe that there is some confusion between the present arrangements and the work of the working party, which is concerned purely with long term arrangements.
§ Viscount MOUNTGARRET
My Lords, may I ask the noble Baroness whether she is aware that the main working party at Stonehenge completed their job fairly satisfactorily about 2,500 years ago?