HL Deb 05 February 1979 vol 398 cc453-93

3 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. My Lords, the first legislation in this country which began the process of safeguarding the physical survivals of our past was enacted in 1882, and the principal Ancient Monuments Act dates from 1913. There have been amendments and additions in 1931, 1953 and 1972. The legislation is now fragmented and, if I may use the term in this context, is now in need of modernisation. This Bill consolidates, modifies and extends the present provisions, taking account particularly of the increased pace and scale of modern development and the destructive capacity of modern agricultural methods, which together have resulted in the loss of a large proportion of our archaeological inheritance. It also takes account of the great increase in recent years of public interest in monuments, which, welcome as it is, also brings with it new problems of management.

Perhaps I should explain that an ancient monument may be any man-made structure or other work, whether buried or upstanding, of archaeological, historical or architectural importance. In practice, the structures with which this legislation is concerned are usually ruinous, or at any rate no longer of much use for current social or economic purposes. That is the broad distinction between ancient monuments and buildings of special architectural or historic interest which are protected under the Town and Country Planning Acts. Ancient monuments range from pre-historic settlements and burial mounds, through the survivals of Roman military occupation to Norman castles and medieval abbeys. It may not be so well known that ancient monuments in State care also include a number of unoccupied and mostly ruinous country houses of the 16th and 19th centuries, as well as several industrial monuments and fortifications of the 18th to 19th centuries. This illustrates our policy of attempting to preserve a representative sample of our heritage.

In preparing this Bill we have taken account of changes in circumstances since its main predecessors of 1913 and 1931. Since opportunities for major legislation in this field occur very rarely, we have provided for needs which are already on the horizon and have not dealt only with matters that are already pressing. One example is the power to terminate guardianship in certain circumstances with the consent of the owner. So far as the preservation of monuments is concerned, with which Part I of the Bill deals, we are retaining the fundamental principles of the present legislation. Part II, which is about rescue archaeology, breaks new ground.

Noble Lords may be interested to know that a copy of the notes on the clauses to the Bill will be deposited in the Printed Paper Office as soon as these are completed. I must here disclaim any personal credit for the Bill, since it awaited me when I took up my present post. My noble friend Lady Birk was in charge during its preparation and was responsible for the Consultative Document of March 1977 which set out the Government's proposals. The Bill reflects those proposals very closely. Some changes have been made in the light of representations and further examination of the subject, but these are mostly procedural.

My Lords, let us consider the main provisions of Part I. The first step towards preservation is to select and identify the monuments it is desired to protect. The process is generally known as "scheduling", because the first statutory list of ancient monuments—still in force—was the Schedule to the Ancient Monuments Act 1882. Each proposal to schedule is considered by the appropriate Ancient Monuments Board, and I should like to record our debt to the distinguished chairmen and members of these boards for the advice they give so devotedly from their unrivalled knowledge about archaeology and architectural history. There are now over 12,000 scheduled monuments in England, over 4,000 in Scotland and just under 3,000 in Wales. The Bill remodels the provisions dealing with scheduling, but the machinery is essentially the same.

The main effect of scheduling at present is that anyone proposing to do works affecting a scheduled monument must give notice to the Secretary of State. This gives an opportunity for advice and persuasion, and in a great many cases harm to the monument is avoided by this means. But if agreement cannot be reached, the Secretary of State has to invoke compulsory preservation powers. This procedure is cumbersome and, even worse, may create a situation of confrontation. The Bill provides, instead, for a consent procedure. This change is similar to the one Parliament made in 1968 in respect of buildings of special architectural or historical interest, which has been generally recognised as beneficial. We believe that the consent procedure is no less desirable for ancient monuments and that it will be more effective and more flexible.

Where an application for consent appears unacceptable, the Department will explain the reasons to the applicant and will seek, if possible, to help him achieve his objective in ways which do not harm the monument. Where agreement cannot be reached and the Department feels obliged to maintain opposition to the proposed works, the applicant will have the chance to put his case to an independent person appointed for that purpose. There is provision for compensation for refusal of consent in certain circumstances, particularly in respect of restrictions upon cultivation.

However, legal protection is not enough; there must be positive means of securing preservation. These already exist, firstly in the giving of grants towards the cost of repairing and maintaining monuments and, secondly, in the assumption of responsibility for certain monuments of great importance by the State or a local authority by guardianship or outright acquisition. Guardianship enables the State to maintain and manage a monument while leaving its ownership undisturbed. The appeal of this device to our predecessors in 1913 is understandable. It sometimes complicates life for the guardian, but the device remains useful, so we are retaining it, along with the other provisions I have mentioned. There are now 398 monuments in State care under this legislation in England, 320 in Scotland and 121 in Wales.

Occasionally, the owner of a monument of great importance which is falling into decay will neither accept help in maintaining it nor offer it in guardianship. The only present means of preserving the monument in such cases is to take guardianship compulsorily. This seems to be a somewhat strange application of an arrangement which presupposes goodwill on both sides, and compulsory guardianship has not in fact proved satisfactory in some of the few cases where it has been found necessary. We propose to replace it by a power of compulsory acquisition where that is necessary to secure the preservation of the monument. I hope noble Lords will note that limitation, because the power will not be available for any other purpose.

We have also thought it right to reinforce the present power to acquire land by agreement for the management of a monument—for example, for the provision of facilities for visitors—by a power of compulsory purchase for the same purpose. The background to this is that visiting on the scale experienced at many monuments has often raised serious problems. There is a need at such monuments for facilities for visitors in the interests of the locality no less than of the visitors, and these have to be most carefully sited. It may be found that only one site will be satisfactory. There is no problem at all if the owner is a willing seller, but if he is not, or if he is out to exploit his monopoly position, then the Secretary of State cannot at present discharge those responsibilities properly. We are accordingly seeking a compulsory power for the Secretary of State, who would, of course, exercise it only in relation to monuments in public ownership or guardianship. We have done this without eagerness and with no immediate intention of using the power, but we are satisfied that it should be there as a last resort. My Lords, those are the main changes in Part I.

Part II breaks new ground in the interests of rescue archaeology. Many of our cities and towns are situated where settlements have existed since Anglo-Saxon, Roman or even earlier periods. This continuity of settlement produces the superimposition of building remains and occupation material which in certain circumstances can be over 10 feet deep. Consequent rebuilding destroys as well as adds to the archaeological strata and the construction of deep basements from Victorian times onwards has been especially damaging to the archaeological evidence. Redevelopment, particularly comprehensive redevelopment, quickened the pace of destruction. Archaeologists have, in these circumstances, seen the need to concentrate their resources on the investigation and recording of a necessarily small proportion of sites of high archaeological potential before the information they contain is lost for ever. Archaeo- logical evidence, like that from historical documents, enables us to understand how our present towns and countryside have evolved. With the rapid destruction of archaeological sites we have a wasting asset and there will increasingly be fewer sites from which our history can be reconstructed. This is not, as I have hinted, solely an urban crisis; there is a need for rescue excavation in the countryside; for example, where minerals are to be extracted or a new road built or where a site is being destroyed by cultivation.

During the last two decades, archaeologists and my Department have responded to this situation by moving from a piecemeal and unco-ordinated response to the establishment of full-time professional archaeological teams drawing upon local and amateur help. These teams or units have been ready to negotiate with local authorities and developers for opportunities to investigate sites before development or redevelopment takes place. They may be based on a university department or a museum or a local authority or an archaeological society or may take the form of an independent trust. The main source of funds of these archaeological teams or investigating bodies is the Exchequer, although substantial help is given in many areas by local authorities and some money is raised from private sources. My Department is able, through the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments with the advice of the Ancient Monuments Boards, to direct much of this activity so that resources are concentrated on the sites which are likely to be most informative and contribute to a carefully considered research programme.

The need for statutory provisions arises from the fact that there is at present no certain way of ensuring that archaeologists get access to important sites for an adequate period, or indeed at all. Some developers will not give archaeologists access to their sites even for observation; others may be persuaded to do so but only for, say, a few weeks, when a worthwhile excavation would require at least two or three months. I am not attacking developers; many have been very cooperative and have even contributed to the costs of the archaeological excavation. Nor do I wish the archaeological bodies, often assisted by the local planning authority, to desist from seeking oppor- tunities by negotiation. A voluntary agreement will often work better for both parties than a statutory right because of the inevitable rigidities of the latter.

The Government have, however, been persuaded that it is necessary to reinforce voluntary arrangements by providing a statutory right for the rescue archaeologist to have access for a limited period to selected areas of special importance. The first reason for this is that there is at present the risk that the developer will deny access to a site of great importance, with the inevitable consequent loss of rapidly diminishing evidence of the past. The second is that where the developer has been persuaded to allow access, the period is sometimes so limited that the work of the archaeologist is so restricted as to be hardly worth attempting or, if it is, does not give as good value as it should for the skills and money expended.

The new powers we are seeking would enable the Secretary of State to designate an area of archaeological importance. He would also be enabled to nominate an investigating authority for the area. This would normally be one of the archaeological bodies I have described. Once the designation of the area has been made after publication of the proposal and after a waiting period of six months before it comes into operation, anyone proposing to carry out operations which would disturb the ground within the area must give at least six weeks' notice to the local authority. The purpose of this notice is to enable the investigating authority to inspect the site and to consider what investigations, if any, it wishes to carry out before the operations take place and to discuss its requirements with the person who gave the notice, whom I will call "the developer".

If the investigating authority wishes to excavate, it may serve a notice on the developer and the local authority requiring access for the purpose for a period not exceeding 43/4 months starting from the end of the six-week period of the operations notice, or from the date when the site is cleared of any buildings which the developer intends to demolish. In short, the maximum delay for archaeological purposes is to be six months of which not less than 4½ months will be available for excavating.

In practice, I hope that archaeologists and developers will come to agreements to their mutual advantage. For example, it might be possible for the archaeologists to tackle, first, a part of the site which the developer needs as soon as possible and complete their investigation there in a month or two, while the developer might be willing to allow a longer period than is required by statute on another part. I do not expect the archaeologists to ask for the maximum period in every case; many digs need only two or three months and rescue archaeologists have a deserved reputation for achieving their purpose while impeding development as little as possible. Cases may, nevertheless, arise where the requirements of the investigating authority appear unduly to hold up urgently needed development. It will always be open to the developer and the local authority to make representations to the Secretary of State. He will have power to give directions to the investigating authority or to take away the authority's rights in respect of the whole or part of the site. There are supplementary provisions about access by the investigating authority to the site and to any buildings on it for the purposes of observation and recording before and during the development operations, but these contain no provision to hold up the work.

I must say a word about compensation. We take the view that where a site of high potential is to be developed in a manner which will destroy its archaeological value, it is right that the developer should allow an opportunity for rescue investigations and that he should not be paid anything in respect of the delay. In some countries he is required to meet the cost of the excavation, but we do not propose that. We have devised the arrangements in the Bill so as to give prospective developers full opportunity to take account of the archaeological requirement in drawing up their work programmes and thus to minimise extra costs. The archaeological excavation of a site sometimes makes the subsequent development works themselves more expensive. I believe this to be unusual but, where the site is damaged in that way, compensation will be obtainable from the Secretary of State.

There are certain forms of development which cannot readily be fitted into the pattern I have described. These include large-scale mineral extraction which is programmed over years rather than months. We have undertaken to exempt such operations by order in return for adherence by the industry to an agreed code of practice which is now being prepared. There are also problems for authorities with powers of compulsory purchase in that for good reasons—for example, to minimise loss of agricultural production—they delay taking possession of land until work is about to begin and they have no right to give earlier access to the archaeologist in order that he may decide what investigation, if any, will be required. In such cases, where acquisition is in prospect under compulsory powers, we are providing that the investigating authority may have access at any reasonable time before the acquiring authority takes possession of the land, for purposes of inspection for a period of one month in order to assess what further investigation may be required before or during the carrying out of the works. Perhaps I should mention here that while the Crown will not be statutorily bound to give notice of Crown development in a designated area, the Crown will comply with the spirit of the legislation, subject to any overriding national needs.

I believe that many developers may be glad to have a statutory indication of what is expected of them to enable the archaeological heritage to be recorded before they destroy it, and that by enacting these provisions Parliament may in practice help to secure that even more is achieved by voluntary means. However, I hardly expect all developers to welcome what I must admit is a further complication and a possible cause of delay. Equally I shall be surprised if some archaeologists do not demand a good deal more than we are proposing here. We have tried to hold a balance. There is no perfect answer to a problem of this sort, and I shall be pleased to consider suggestions for improving our proposals.

I shall not detain the House long over Part III which well deserves its title "Miscellaneous and Supplemental", but some of its provisions are novel and require explanation. Clause 42 forbids the use of a metal detector without consent at protected monuments and archaeological sites. The need for this restriction arises from the recent hobby of "treasure hunting" with the aid of electronic detectors. This can be an innocent pastime, but it can lead to irreparable damage and loss of knowledge. It is not, of course, the detector itself that is harmful but where the metal object it locates is below ground, the action of digging up that object is very likely to be harmful to an archaeological site. This is because the removal of the object from its context, that is the stratum of soil in which it was contained, destroys a relationship that would be significant to a scientific understanding of the site.

It has, since 1913, been an offence to damage a scheduled monument, and treasure hunting of this kind constitutes damage; but this sort of damage can be hard to prove. Licences are in fact required for another purpose by the Home Office but this has no bearing on the prevention of archaeological damage. Prosecution is anyway a poor substitute for prevention since the damage cannot be made good. It is for these reasons that we seek to control the use of metal detectors at the sites protected by this Bill.

Clause 54 enables an archaeologist who has made a find in the course of a statutory investigation or inspection to retain it for conservation and recording. This is necessary in order to extract the evidence the find may be capable of providing. The rights of the owner will not be permanently affected. Traditionally, owners of land who have agreed to an excavation further agree to donate any finds to a museum or similar institution where they may be held together with the records of the excavation for the benefit of scholars. This is an admirable tradition and I trust that your Lordships will join me in commending it. Our modest proposal is not to be seen as undermining the tradition but as a minimum precaution, necessary in particular in relation to the new powers involving what I may call the obligatory excavation in designated archaeological areas.

The Bill has also provided the opportunity to introduce some urgently needed historic building legislation. In 1975, as a result of the success of European Architectural Heritage Year, the Government promised to help finance our Architectural Heritage Fund which would provide loans to local historic building preservation trusts and other bodies to enable them to renovate buildings of worth. This Fund has now been in operation for some time. Clause 49 regularises our contribution to it. We are also taking the opportunity to introduce in Clause 48 provisions which will enable grants made to historic buildings and conservation areas to be recovered in certain circumstances. Experience has shown that property is sometimes sold at a profit shortly after the grant has been made. It is desirable that the Secretary of State should have power to recover in such cases, although he would of course consider each one on its merits. My Lords, I commend this Bill as a most desirable strengthening of the means of protecting and preserving parts of our heritage, and ask the House to give it a Second Reading. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Baroness Stedman.)

3.26 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Baroness has introduced this Bill to us in her usual admirable way and I am sure we are all most grateful to her. The preservation of our heritage for future generations is a duty that we all are agreed upon. Thus from our distant past we have the Iron Age fort at Figsbury, Wiltshire, the famous Broch of Mousa in Shetland; Wideford Hill—that famous cairn—in Orkney, and the Roman theatre at Verulam, and hundreds of other ancient monuments. But there have been some bad examples of ruthless operators damaging and even destroying ancient monuments which have got in their way. This Bill will strengthen the Secretary of State's hand in this sphere, and having all the legislation on ancient monuments, both old and new, all together in one Bill is to be welcomed. On the whole, Part I is unanimously acclaimed.

There are one or two points which I could mention, but as I see that my noble friend Lord Middleton is to speak, I shall leave the agricultural aspects for him to deal with. Clause 15, dealing with the compulsory acquisition of land round an ancient monument could cause concern. I was going to ask the noble Baroness to reassure me that the power will be used sparingly, but she ha" already answered that question most admirably. I am very grateful to her for having done so.

I welcome the concept of the areas of archaeological importance set out in Part II of the Bill. When we consider ancient cities like Canterbury or Winchester, it would clearly be absurd to regard them as chance assemblages of individual archaeological sites and ancient monuments. They must be taken as a whole; they must be preserved as a whole. I wish to associate myself with the view of Professor Barry Cunliffe—whose great work at Fishbourne will be well known to all noble Lords—when he says that this Bill provides a proper framework for the study and management of our archaeological heritage for the benefit of generations to come.

There are only two general observations that I want to make. First, the increased popularity of archaeology in recent years is a very heartening development. At the end of the last war, fewer than 50 organisations were affiliated to the Council of British Archaeology. Today there are over 400. Archaeology is the fastest growing extramural course in our universities. Every year thousands of our young people assist as volunteers in archaeological digs and I think that we could all agree that this provides both healthy exercise in the open air and a unique insight into the rediscovery of the past.

However, this growth in interest in archaeology is not without its dangers. There can be no possible harm in archaeological work under proper control and supervision, but the activities of the ill-informed, who believe that archaeology consists merely of treasure hunting, can pose great dangers. In particular, the use of metal detectors can, as the noble Baroness said, threaten the very existence of crucial archaeological sites.

The Bill contains provisions to restrict the use of metal detectors in designated areas. I think it is probably impossible to go further than this in restricting their use, but I wonder whether or not the noble Baroness, perhaps in co-operation with the Council for British Archaeology, could suggest methods of discouraging the use of metal detectors outside these areas by pointing out to their users the damage they might do. Obviously, some users of metal detectors are motivated purely by greed. They are concerned solely with finding something they can sell and have no interest whatsoever in the archaeological significance of any finds. For them archaeology is merely the handmaiden of cupidity.

Perhaps the Bill of my noble friend Lord Abinger will assist in this matter, but I am sure that the vast majority of those who use metal detectors would be quite horrified if they knew that their activities could pose a threat to our heritage. I am sure that they would be very happy to lend their energies to proper archaeological work, and it may very well be that organisations such as RESCUE could make good use of their services. I believe that there are in fact organisations of those who use metal detectors and I would hope that they could be persuaded to co-operate. I am sure they would have everything to gain from channelling the energies and enthusiasms of their members in helpful and responsible directions.

As I have said, Part II of this Bill gives the Department of the Environment a whole range of new statutory powers to control building and mining activity in archaeological areas. I have heard it argued by very reasonable and sensible people that in a large number of cases these powers are unnecessary, and that in most instances there is in fact a great deal of co-operation between county archaeological committees, officials from the noble Baroness's Department and any contractors involved. It has indeed been suggested to me that this cooperation might be impaired rather than enhanced by the introduction of these statutory powers. While I understand the anxieties of those who are sceptical of the value of new statutory powers, I think I would take the view that the Part II powers proposed in this Bill are justified and, indeed, that no responsible contractors or mineral extractors would have anything to fear from their operation. It has been put to me that the performance of the responsible operators was admirable and very good, and that they challenge anybody in the noble Baroness's Department to say "Nay." What a fine example.

However, it was put to me that the exemption from the application of this Bill to the Crown ought perhaps to be looked at because, in the opinion of some people who have spoken to me, this partly nullifies some of the good which would come about, because in the past certain semi-Crown bodies, such as the Post Office, have been bad co-operators with archaeologists. I should be grateful if we could have confirmation that the Minister's Department would be able to bring that home to the Post Office.

Also I should like to query the effects of designating areas on which works have already begun. Will arrangements be made for compensation for the delays which will ensue? I know the noble Baroness said that delays would not normally come into it, but I am referring to works which have already begun, which is a slightly different point. However, I think it is important, and I am sure the noble Baroness will agree with me on this, that where co-operation already exists the emphasis should always be on maintaining and strengthening it rather than resorting to the heavy hand of Statute. I am sure that in practice the departmental officials, who have hitherto conducted their activities on the basis of goodwill, will continue to do so, and I am sure that the noble Baroness can give us full assurance of this: indeed, she has already done so. Incidentally, I had a letter this morning from Professor Cunliffe, particularly commending Part II—and I quote: as being a most imaginative and helpful innovation". Properly used, this Bill should do everything to encourage co-operation between all parties concerned and a responsible attitude towards the conservation of our heritage. I am sure that the noble Baroness will agree with me when I say that in most cases this responsible attitude exists already. Firms such as Lloyds Bank, Debenham, the Laing Group and the Amey Roadstone Corporation have been of great assistance to professional archaeologists and have in many cases been willing to go to some considerable inconvenience and expense to be so. Their attitude is an example to us all, and I am sure that the noble Baroness will join with me in commending it.

My Lords, in any modern society there is no doubt that economic growth and archaeological heritage do not naturally co-exist. Methods have to be found to reconcile competing claims. Without new commercial and industrial development we face impoverishment, but if we neglect our heritage from the past we face a spiritual and cultural improverishment which is perhaps even more disabling. A morning's work with a bulldozer can destroy centuries of history. This Bill will help to control the bulldozers and lessen these risks. I commend the Bill to your Lordships and look forward to its Committee stage, after which we shall have a measure of which I hope we shall all be proud.

3.36 p.m.


My Lords, we on these Benches also welcome a Bill which will help to preserve our ancient monuments and also ensure in this day and age, when progress demands that we have to designate more areas for dwellings and factories, that before this is carried out we are not destroying forever an historical monument or the remains of a past civilisation. I support the provisions in the Bill giving scope for archaeologists to investigate before any decision is made for work to be undertaken in places of archaeological interest. It is important to realise that urban and countryside areas are given the same consideration, and I am glad that this was emphasised by the noble Baroness in her speech. It has been asked of the Department of the Environment that protection of ancient trackways and green lanes of historical interest should also be incorporated into the Bill. While I believe in the safeguarding and welfare of hedges and ancient bridlepaths, I also believe that, because of the scope of operations involving maintenance and accessibility, they should be dealt with under a separate Bill.

There is great worry concerning the destruction and vandalising of ancient monuments. One has seen what has happened to Stonehenge and the measures that have had to be taken, with expense and inconvenience to the general public who have a genuine interest. An article in the Evening News of 1st February, pointed out the problems of increasing numbers of tourists causing these monuments to be eroded. The article men- tioned Canterbury Cathedral, where 5-inch floors have apparently been worn down to an inch. Buildings such as the Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Canterbury Cathedral are a vital link with our national heritage and are also important to our economy. I believe they must be protected at any cost. I welcome the measures taken to ensure that private owners of protected monuments are responsible for and have an obligation to maintain and preserve any area that has an archaeological interest. The section in the Bill relating to grants should be an encouragement and an incentive.

I am also pleased that action will be taken regarding the misuse of metal detectors, although their use will be permitted. Too many times in the past, through ignorance and inexperience, amateurs have unwittingly destroyed valuable articles and traces of history. We on these Benches in the main support this Bill and look forward to its reaching the Statute Book.

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, as the noble Baroness has said, this Bill consolidates existing law on ancient monuments and makes new provisions. Under the present rules I myself, through having an interest in the surface land, am responsible for the preservation of a number of ancient monuments and sites. I am periodically reminded by the Ancient Monuments Department of the DOE of my statutory duties in respect of a complex of prehistoric remains in the form of earthworks and burial places, and I am consulted when it is desired that a new find should be scheduled.

I am periodically reminded by the DOE of my obligation to preserve a Norman castle; but as it was built of wood and burned down in the early part of the 12th century, this particular burden imposed by the State is not too heavy. I am also a party, with the Secretary of State, to a deed of guardianship in respect of an ancient medieval village site; and, finally, I have a duty to keep in repair a ruined 13th century church. This liability is rather more expensive than the maintenance of the parish church which replaced it and which is in current use. I have therefore some experience of the existing rules. I find the Departments concerned fair and reasonable and always helpful, and I believe that this is an experience shared by owners generally.

In regard to the Bill's new provisions, I shall be very brief in asking the noble Baroness whether she will in due course elucidate two matters. The first is the provision in Clause 10 which gives to the Secretary of State compulsory powers to acquire ancient monuments in order to preserve them. At present, as the noble Baroness has just said, the normal procedure is to enter into a guardianship agreement with the owner of the land. I referred just now to the agreement to which I myself am a party, and it works very well.

The Bill retains these arrangements by virtue of Clause 12 and, at present, as the noble Baroness has just reminded us, failing agreement with the owner, the Secretary of State can make a compulsory guardianship order when a preservation notice or order is in force and the monument is liable to fall into decay. The noble Baroness has told us that this is not working very well, but one is always reluctant to see the extension of compulsory purchase powers, as is provided in Clause 10, and, furthermore, it is difficult to reconcile this provision with the statement in the Financial Memorandum of the Bill that, Any increased expenditure with respect to ancient monuments is likely to be insignificant". From what has been said by the noble Baroness, it seems that there have been cases where existing powers have been insufficient and the Government therefore feel that they must introduce compulsory acquisition. We may have to refer to this subject again at a later stage.

The second point that I have in mind relates to consent to carry out works under a general order made under Clause 3 and Clause 60. The Bill introduces a new procedure which is something like the planning procedure. Anyone who wants to do work affecting a scheduled monument would have to get the Secretary of State's consent if the proposed works could damage, destroy or demolish the monument, or if they are works of removal, repair, alteration or additional works of flooding or tipping. I think the noble Baroness reminded us that at present an owner has to give three months' notice if he proposes to do any work that would affect a monument, in order to give the Secretary of State a chance to serve a preservation notice.

It appears that this procedure is ineffective; indeed, the noble Baroness has referred to damage by agricultural machinery. But there is a large number of scheduled monuments which lie underneath farm and forest land and which are in no way harmed by normal cultivations or by woodland management. It is important that the new procedure, if it is to be effective, should not be too restrictive. No farmer would wish to damage an ancient monument, but neither would he wish to have to get consent for every act of cultivation. Perhaps the noble Baroness can tell us what kinds of operation will be deemed to have consent under a general order made under Clause 3 and Clause 60.

Clause 35 deals with areas designated under the Bill as of archaeological importance. Clause 37 deals with exemption from offence under Clause 35. Perhaps the noble Baroness can also tell us what kinds of agricultural and forestry operations will be included in a general exemption order under Clause 37.

There is one other point that occurs to me, but I would not ask the noble Baroness to comment on it at this stage, because it is not in the Bill as we now see it. When a highway authority puts into motion the procedure under the National Parks Acts and the Countryside Acts, after a claim that certain footpaths should become public rights of way, then that claim can be opposed and a public inquiry called. If the paths cross a scheduled ancient monument and are likely to damage the sites and render control over the sites by the Ancient Monuments Department either difficult or impossible, then the owner and the department can say so at the inquiry. But the inspector, under present rules which are not altered by this Bill, is not allowed to take such matters into account. In deciding the case, he is restricted solely to consideration of whether the paths were, or were not, used by the general public over a specified period. If a site has recently been scheduled and enclosed and protected, he has to disregard that fact altogether. It is not a satisfactory state of affairs.

Subject to further information on the points that I have raised and to which we may refer again at a later stage, I am sure that a Bill which seeks to ensure, as this one does, the preservation of our ancient monuments and our archaeological remains must be as welcome to your Lordships as it is to me.

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, this is the last in a long series of Bills, a series which was promoted in the closing decades of the last century by the grandfather of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and I am delighted to see that the noble Lord is to speak in the debate this afternoon. For 20 years, Mr. Lubbock, as a Member of the House of Commons and then as Lord Avebury in the House of Lords, sought to promote legislation something like this, and failed, so deeply entrenched were feelings, especially in this House, about the sacred laws of property. When, at last, an Act of Parliament was passed in, I think, 1900 or 1901, it merely permitted the State and the owner of an ancient monument to enter into an agreement for the preservation of the ancient monument. It was one of those beneficial Acts of Parliament which permit people to behave well. It is always a good plan to permit people to behave well before you start punishing them for behaving badly.

However, in due course the attitude of the State toughened, and it was in 1913 that the first element of compulsion was introduced into the law for the protection of ancient monuments. It was done by means of the establishment of a class of persons called inspectors of ancient monuments, who had certain closely defined statutory duties and statutory powers which were quite pronounced and advanced. They were allowed to go and look at anything and were also allowed to recommend to the Ancient Monuments Boards that the remain, ruin or whatever it was should be scheduled, from which time State protection bit. These persons figured in the 1913 Act, as large as life. That Act said that the Minister, whoever it was in those days, shall appoint inspectors of ancient monuments.

The Bill before us today, besides providing for many good new things, contains repeal provisions, and one of the things which it repeals is the corps of inspectors of ancient monuments. They are silently abolished in the Bill as drafted. Maybe that is a good thing; maybe it is not a good thing—I do not know. I was rather surprised when I saw that that was what was happening: that after 65 years of honourable and useful history there is no longer to be such a thing as an inspector of ancient monuments.

He had his statutory position. He operated directly under statute law himself. Nobody could stop him from doing what he thought was right. He reported to the Ancient Monuments Board and they then scheduled the ruin. The present Bill will have the effect of transferring those functions to the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is, of course, a rather busy man. How will he carry them out, and through what body of persons? He will no longer be bound by law even to employ qualified persons, I think, for this purpose. Will it not just all be lost in general Civil Service action? There could, of course, be a case for abolishing these specialised statutory creatures, but I think that that case ought to be examined by the House alongside the status of other specialised statutory inspectors.

Who are we thinking of? What is the statutory position of the Health and Safety Executive since the amalgamation of all the old health and safety inspectorates? And what is the statutory position of certain local officers? What classes of persons survive who are named in statute law as having certain powers and duties? And so long as any survive, why should we consider removing the inspectors of ancient monuments from that class of persons? Why should we abolish them? I do not say that it is wrong, but I think that we should go into it, and I hope that my noble friend will today give to the House that information so that we can consider it at the Committee stage.

Assuming that the inspectors are abolished and assuming that the House thinks that this is done with good reason, we have to turn to the question of scheduling itself. The power to schedule a ruin, or whatever it may be, rests, and has rested historically, with the Ancient Monuments Boards of England, Scotland and Wales. The Bill transfers away that power from the Ancient Monuments Boards and puts it on to the already generously piled plate of the Secretary of State. What, then, will the Ancient Monuments Boards do in the future? Are they abolished, too, by this Bill? I am not quite clear whether or not the legislation setting them up is repealed. Perhaps my noble friend could explain that to us also. If the Boards are not abolished, what remaining functions will they have?

After speaking about the existence of the inspectors, perhaps it is only a point of detail to mention the power of access which they have at present. They can go on to the ground of any ancient monument anywhere and see how it is being maintained. What happens to that power of access if the statutory inspector is abolished? At present, the inspector has the power to inspect ancient monuments which are in State ownership and to see that the State itself is looking after the ancient monuments which it owns. Will that power continue and, if so, who will continue to exercise it, given that under the Bill there will be no more inspectors? All this needs to be clarified. There is a passage in the Bill which suggests that this power is being explicitly abolished. It is the passage which states that nobody shall have the power to go into a State owned ancient monument and see whether it is getting on all right.

So much for the inspectorate. There is another thing which makes my hair stand faintly on end, but perhaps my noble friend will tell us something which will cause it to sit down again; namely, the introduction of the power to terminate guardianship. My noble friend mentioned this point in her opening speech. Guardianship is not ownership. It is when the State takes over the maintenance of an ancient monument and becomes responsible for its upkeep but does not become the owner of the bricks and mortar. Nevertheless, it is virtually the same as ownership. It is all done with public money and it is all done by public employees.

Why should the State wish now, 65 years later, to take the power to terminate the guardianship of this monument or that? What kind of monuments does the Department have it in mind to dispose of? Why should the State be able to dispose of an ancient monument when the National Trust is not able to dispose of its houses without coming to Parliament for a special Act in each case? What about the law as it governs national collections in museums? Why is it that ancient monuments are to be singled out for easy disposal when compared with National Trust property and museum property? Prima facie, it would seem that they should have at least the same degree of entrenched protection as do National Trust houses. When she comes to wind up the debate this afternoon, perhaps my noble friend could tell us why that has been put in.

My last point is one of curiosity regarding Section 49. My noble friend introduced Section 49 as being connected with historic buildings legislation, not ancient monuments legislation. The House will remember the difference between ancient monuments, which are almost all ruins, which are not very numerous and which are of immense and obvious value, and historic buildings, which are not ruins at all, which are very numerous and which vary in value from the immensely valuable right down to the merely interesting. Section 49 empowers the Secretary of State to make grants to something called the Architectural Heritage Fund which was established as a charity in 1960. Would I be displaying amazing ignorance if I said that I had not heard of it and that I did really not know what it was, and that when I was administering this branch of the law from the chair where my noble friend now sits in the late 1960s we never used it? We were never aware of the possibility of such a fund coming into play. I am all for empowering the State to make grants to everybody, but perhaps my noble friend could tell the House what this fund is, what are its terms of reference and who administers it. Then I feel sure that the House will welcome the proposals about it.

As to the rest of the Bill, I am as much in favour as earlier speakers have been of the powers it takes regarding archaeological sites. They are clearly overdue. It seems to me as though those powers have been quite rightly devised. Therefore, I wish the Bill an easy passage through the House, subject only to satisfying explanations on the one large and the one small point which I have raised.

3.57 p.m.


My Lords, I rise primarily with the object of briefly supporting this Bill, but first I must declare an interest. My wife is one of the new field monument wardens visiting scheduled monuments and reporting back to the Department of the Environment. Her parish covers most of Hampshire, the Isle of Wight and some of Berkshire. I immensely enjoy accompanying her, seeing the country and taking a non-active part, except for map reading and holding a levelling staff on what are sometimes the most exposed parts of the country.

Seriously, however, ancient monuments are a part of our national heritage which is being eroded in so many directions. Moreover, archaeology and the history which it records is very far from complete. There have been, and will be, very great improvements in the technology of excavation, and the information which can be obtained from modern excavation is vastly greater than it was even, say, 10 years ago. One might think that because, for example, several barrows in an area have already been dug there is no particular reason for preserving the others. But this is not the case because, if left to posterity, they may be able to learn a great deal more from them than we can, even with our modern techniques. We are only custodians of our heritage and we should not squander it. There may be just a few people who think that the study of the past is unimportant, but to those few I would simply say that, having considered the basic necessities of human life, this applies to almost all ! other human activities.

Returning to the Bill, as has already been said, it is a partial consolidation of all legislation since 1913, but there are differences and some points which I think might receive further consideration. It would seem that the status of the qualified Department of the Environment Inspectorate may have been downgraded in the Bill—I think that this has already been mentioned—in so far as there is now no provision for their opinions to be heard. Guardianship—which again has already been mentioned—is a scheme whereby an owner of, say, a castle can hand it over for the purposes of repair and surveillance in perpetuity. It now seems much more of a transitory nature than it originally was and apparently it could even be voided solely on the fiat of the local authority. It seems to me whether one wants to reduce guardianship, or to make it possible for it not to continue, it certainly ought to be at the very highest level and definitely not with the local authority. It would also appear that any Government Department getting possession of a scheduled or listed site could similarly on its own fiat do what it likes. I think the Minister said this and I am quite sure that it really is a mistake, and it would seem that if we are taking these powers to deal with other owners of the land it really is rather bad to say: "Well, we don't trust them but of course no Government Department can ever do any wrong". For that reason alone I think it would be right not to exclude the Government Departments. I simply ask the Government seriously to consider these matters, particularly because the number of experts—and I am certainly not one—who may be available for the Committee stages of this Bill, here and elsewhere, is probably limited.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, first, I must declare a double interest, in that I am an amateur archaeologist, a past president of the Kent Archaelogical Society and a small owner-occupier farmer, so in a matter like this my loyalties are slightly divided. We, the British, are in the state that our ancestors were in about 1,500 years ago and perhaps I may remind the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, that the downfall of Rome came not by force of arms from outside; it arose from the minting of coins and over-taxation. That was the sole cause of the destruction of Rome; let us pray that our destruction is not achieved in the same way.

It is good that a Lord Avebury should be speaking later in this debate, because his grandfather—I suppose it was—used to come down to my part of the world in Kent to see the result of excavations, and yet one sees the damage that was done by puritanical people and by farmers in the areas where he did his main research and, indeed, round Stonehenge itself and many other megalithic tombs which were themselves originally holy sites and shrines but which were pulled out for religious reasons. The Roman Church, being more wise, usually consecrated the existing megalithic pagan sites to Church use, and many of the early village churches in this country have megaliths built into them so that the spot remains sacred or at least undamaged.

Another general point which I should like to make is that excavation itself is for the most part total destruction, and one must be very careful not to push for excavation every time. Equally, the new methods of farming and of deep subsoiling are causing havoc with sites yet undiscovered. This is a problem which I believe comes under this Bill and I believe the Bill to be good.

I am not sure about the idea of altering the system of treasure trove. I have worked archaeologically in other countries where they have a similar system with the State owning everything found in the ground, but not everything found underground gets to the State; it is hidden away and often exported. Look at the case of the Elgin Marbles in London. Another suggestion made by the noble Baroness was that any finds should be given to museums. I would suggest that the word "offered" would be better; there is too much material in most museums. Not far from here, Samian ware pots which were put together from shards have been rebroken in order to be stored because there was not room for them when they were whole. It might be a good thing to put them on view near where they have been found. If churches were safe nowadays (which they are not) that might be a place to exhibit some of the best finds. National Trust houses and places such as Leeds Castle, which is now a separate foundation, could hold finds, but I suggest that for the most part the museums are cluttered up with prehistoric and Roman material.

However, finds by themselves are useless unless they are recorded. Equally, we must make it easy for the man who finds something to report it. As a farmer, I can see that, if I suddenly saw the footing of a Roman wall in my best field which grows the best crop every year, I might not report it. In fact, I should report it because I am very keen on such things, but my neighbour might not. I think it must be made easier for him so to do, even though the place then becomes a site. If he then wants to keep the thing that has been found and recorded and printed, well and good. On our own farm last year we discovered an early second century Roman burial—or, rather, cremation—and the vessels that go with it. I then got the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit with Mr. Brian Philp to come down and do a rescue excavation. He found two more glass vessels, a painted pot and a small poppyhead beaker and guessed rightly which field the occupation site would be in. I then dug a series of trenches with a miniature bulldozer (which was Japanese, I fear) because with that I could see and delineate the area to be excavated. That area is a minimum of two acres. We found over 1,500 shards of first and second century pottery on two acres, in a series of 20 trenches. That will be excavated by the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit in April. It will take a year to complete—not four months and two weeks, which I think the Bill suggests.

On certain sites, an even longer time will be required. I hope this point can perhaps be looked at. I know it is against my farming interests but it is certainly in the interests of archaeology. The Roman level on our site is at about 3 ft. 6 inches, and it means that we have to move 10,000 tons of soil, mostly by hand, although the modern bulldozer used archaeologically under control is quite good at moving some of the topsoil. The Dover site on which the Rescue Unit have been working, where the famous painted house was found, is at a depth of 20 feet of soil which has to be removed over four acres. They have completed half within five years. Four months and two weeks would not have met that case very easily.

On the other hand, in Schedule I, Part I, paragraph 4, page 60, it says that the owner who wishes to get consent for a change goes to the inspector and he will give notice in due course. No period of time is specified and that is hard, particularly on a developer, as opposed to a farmer. A man is just about to develop a site in Dover and there is another site in the chalk pits at Darenth in Kent where work has been held up for a long time. There is no limit to the time the poor owner has to wait before the decision is given. The man with the Dover site has waited 11 months and the developer has already lost half a million pounds. In the case of the Darenth chalk pit site, the inquiry was held last April and that is a £2 million project. I should have thought that about 90 days would be sufficient if the inspectors were expert; if not, I should get new inspectors.

My Lords, I am keen on this Bill. I wish it well and I hope that some small amendments may make it better later on.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I am not a professional archaeologist, but for some reason I have never been able to understand I was for three years President of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society and I was appointed a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, so I know a little bit about it. I should like to give this Bill my fullest support. I think it is a much needed and an excellent Bill, though possibly some of the modifications which have been suggested by other noble Lords should be made to it.

Your Lordships will be glad to hear that the noble Baroness, the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, and the noble Earl, Lord Grey, have in fact said everything I was going to say about Clause 42, which deals with metal detectors. I should like only to stress what the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, said. I regret that the provisions regarding getting permission for the use of metal detectors are confined to scheduled sites. I agree with him that it would be difficult to do otherwise. I live in the second largest and one of the most sparsely populated counties in the country, and there are a lot of people getting metal detectors and going round on unscheduled sites digging holes in fields. They appear to think that, if they get permission from the farmer who owns the field or from the tenant, they can do as they like. I believe also that very often they do not fill in the holes and that causes agricultural difficulties. There is no need for me to repeat what has already been said, and I wish the Bill well.

4.12 p.m.


My Lords, unlike the noble Lord who has just spoken, this is not a subject on which I have had occasion to inform myself in the past, nor would I normally have ventured to express an opinion to your Lordships but for the fact that, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, remarked, my grandfather was very persistent in seeking legislation for the protection of ancient monuments. He started in 1873 with the introduction of a Private Member's Bill which called for the appointment of a National Monuments Commission which would have prepared a schedule of monuments over which it would have been possible to exercise powers of restraint. An owner who wanted to injure a monument would have had to serve a requisition on the Commission and it would then have had to either purchase the monument or consent to the injury. There was a right of appeal against that power to the courts. The Commission was also to be empowered to spend money on preserving scheduled monuments with the consent of the Treasury. I mention these historical details to show that sacred rights of property, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, called them, were not so universally respected in the 19th century as some people imagine, and that the Liberal Party, to which my grandfather also belonged, were not in the 19th century the arch exponents of laissez faire and preservation of individual rights, as they are sometimes painted; they did have regard to far wider interests, as this example shows.

My grandfather introduced his Bill no less than nine times before, finally, in 1882 it was taken over by the Government and was successful, but in a rather truncated form. In speaking about the Bill which he had introduced earlier, my grandfather mentioned as a particular example the threatened destruction of the great stone circle at Avebury. Among other acts of vandalism which spurred him on to continue his effort to secure legislation, he mentioned that in 1875 a large number of the stones were in fact broken up for the sake of a few shillings' profit. He wrote in the journal The Nineteenth Century of April 1877 of how a contractor had set bonfires around the stones and when they were sufficiently heated he threw cold water on them so that they were cracked; he then broke them up and used them as rubble for the construction of roads. Then a large part of the site was purchased by a building contractor who proposed to erect a housing estate on it. Fortunately, a rescue operation was mounted in time to prevent that particular act of desecration. My grandfather went on in this article to enumerate many other works of outstanding national importance which had been obliterated by speculators for what he called paltry and trifling reasons.

My Lords, today, through such successive legislation, we have had a steady enhancement of the power to stop what I would call criminal acts of that kind, but at the same time the pressures of development have also increased. I do not think, from the speeches we have had so far, that anyone is likely to disagree with the general sense of the legislation which is now before the House. The replacement of existing provisions for giving notice of work on scheduled monuments, interim preservation notices, preservation orders, guardianship orders and agreements under the Field and Monuments Act 1972, which the noble Baroness rightly called cumbersome, by the scheduled monuments consents under Clauses 2 and 3, I have no doubt will be effective and will bring this procedure more into line with the listed buildings applications, except of course that an appeal against refusal is to a person appointed by the Secretary of State since he cannot determine appeals against himself.

On that subject, I may say that I do not like the principle which we find in so much legislation being brought forward now, where Secretaries of State appoint a person to act in a quasi-judicial manner in a cause where the Secretary of State is personally interested. We find that not only in the present Bill but in the immigration law, where the adjudicators are appointed by the Secretary of State for Home Affairs. I would suggest to the noble Baroness—although she may say this is a minor Committee point—that the persons who are to be appointed to hear appeals against decisions of the Secretary of State might perhaps be appointed by the Lord Chancellor instead of by the Secretary of State himself.

I should now like to turn for a few moments to the matters raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, which I think are of great importance, and I hope that the noble Baroness will respond to the invitation which he gave her to explain some of these matters in somewhat greater detail before we proceed to discuss them at Committee stage. I do not think the noble Baroness mentioned the inspectors at all in her speech, but it is a more remarkable innovation than even the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, made out, because inspectors have been part of the legislation ever since the first Act of 1882. If I am permitted to quote from the record of another place, this is from Hansard of 11th August 1882, column 1600, where my grandfather himself said: As regards the present Bill, while it is no doubt a step in the right direction, especially in providing for the appointment of an inspector …". He obviously thought that was a very important provision, that the inspector, a corps of inspectors, was an absolutely essential provision, and successive Governments have continued to hold that view right up to the present day. There is no explanation in the Memorandum as to why they have disappeared, why Section 16 of the 1913 Act has been repealed, which mentioned inspectors specifically and gave them certain powers, which presumably they continue to exercise as employees of the Secretary of State, although we do not find any reference to that anywhere in the Bill.

There is the parallel matter which the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, also mentioned, that the act of scheduling has hitherto been the responsibility of the Board and this is now to be transferred to the Secretary of State. Those who have raised this matter with me have pointed out that it undermines, indeed eradicates, the principle of impartial professional judgment which has been enshrined in all the previous legislation. Moreover, it opens the way to the making of decisions by administrators on their own initiative and without any reference to the professions.

I am as anxious as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, about the provisions as regards the Crown. The exemption of the Crown from entry or from any of the other provisions of the Bill is a rather serious matter because the Crown, of course, is one of the largest developers. The Property Services Agency also, so far as I can make out, has no obligations under the Bill. Although the noble Baroness said that the Crown would abide by the spirit of the provisions of the Bill and I suppose that her remarks extend to the Property Services Agency—I am glad to see her nodding her head—I am not sure that your Lordships would think it satisfactory to rely entirely on an assurance from the Minister, because we all know that Governments can change and what a Minister says in either House has no statutory force and could not be tested in the courts. With the greatest respect, at some point during the Committee stage of the Bill, I suggest that we consider restoring an obligation to the Crown.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, criticised the provision for the withdrawal of guardianship of a monument and asked in respect of what classes of monuments the Government had it in mind to exercise these powers. I should like to know whether there have been any cases in the past where it has been desired to withdraw guardianship and, because of the lack of any such powers, the Government have been forced to continue acting in that capacity. For if we cannot point to any practical examples, I suggest that the Government have not had reason to come forward with this provision.

Before leaving the question of the inspectors I should like to make a tentative proposal to the Government for their consideration before the Committee stage. This is not a matter which I have discussed with any of the inspectors and therefore I am unable to say that it has their support. However, it occurred to me that, in order to preserve the independence of the profession, one solution which might be adopted would be for them to be employed not by the Secretary of State but by an independent body which could be either the Board or the Royal Commission. It struck me as an anomaly that we have these two parallel organisations: First, there is the Royal Commission—which, incidentally, is mentioned only once in the Bill, in, I think, Clause 40—-which has the function to record and measure monuments which may be liable to destruction through redevelopment, and to compile a national inventory of those monuments of national importance; and secondly, there is the Board, which has the function under the Bill—and this answers one of the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—to advise the Secretary of State in the exercise of any of his functions under the Bill.

Surely the body which collects all the information is in the best position to give the Secretary of State advice. There- fore, my proposal is that, either we abolish the Board and transfer its functions to the Commission or, conversely, we abolish the Commission and transfer its functions to the Board, and that we then envisage transferring the inspectors, who are to continue, as I understand it, to be the employees of the Secretary of State, to either the Board or the Royal Commission, whichever continues to exist. In that way we would preserve the professional integrity of the corps of inspectors who have served this nation so well in the past.

Subject to those minor anxieties I join with the rest of those who have spoken in giving a general welcome to the Bill, and express the hope that it will enhance still further the powers that we have for preserving our national heritage.

4.25 p.m.


My Lords, my intervention in this debate will be short, because there are only two matters to which I wish to refer. However, before doing so I should like to say that I also very much welcome the Bill and know, from conversations with them, that many professional archaeologists do so as well. It is clear that the first part of the Bill in effect consolidates and modernises existing ancient monument legislation. I do not think that that legislation was ever very controversial. It was accepted by most people as being sensible, if not necessary, and therefore it can hardly be called controversial now to consolidate legislation which already receives general acceptance. I certainly have no quarrel with Part I of the Bill and I welcome the effort to update the legislation concerned.

Part II of the Bill introduces the entirely new concept in Britain of the designated archaeological area. I welcome that idea too, but I wonder how that concept will work in practice. It is attractive to suggest that it will be possible to designate these areas in much the same way as areas of outstanding natural beauty can be designated under the Town and Country Planning Acts, but I am not sure that the comparison is valid. The trouble might first be how to identify areas of archaeological importance. Areas of outstanding natural beauty can be identified easily and if they are designated the pastoral scene presented by them continues; the farming of the land continues without prejudice to the beauty of the area concerned; and industry can be kept away from the area. However, it seems to me that it will be often impossible to identify areas of archaeological importance in advance.

To begin with, in my view the majority of them lie beneath the surfaces of our ancient towns and cities—places like Colchester, York, Chester and even London. In the case of the smaller towns, I suppose that the intention, under the provisions offered by the Bill, might be to designate the whole of the town area; but how will that problem be approached in a large city like Edinburgh, Bristol or London itself? How are we to know what lies beneath the stones of our ancient towns or under which stones archaeological remains lie? The sites tend to be unearthed suddenly and unwittingly in the course of development in the towns. I am sure that archaeologists will welcome the provisions that give them a breathing space of four and a half months to examine the site if it has been designated, although very often I imagine that when these things happen the site will not have been designated at all.

I am not clear from reading the Bill how much notice of designation has to be given. If a site is unexpectedly turned up, is it too late to designate it, or can one, at the very last moment, through local agencies—perhaps local authorities—designate an area in a hurry? I could not make out from reading the Bill what was possible in that respect. It was mentioned earlier in the debate that any delay while the archaeological site is examined can be enormously expensive to the developer and also to a local authority, if a local authority is concerned with the matter at all. Delay could be very unfair to each. In the circumstances, perhaps the requirements of archaeology must take precedence. I do not know, but I think that great practical difficulties will arise from the implementation of that clause. What seems certain is that archaeological sites in towns can seldom expect permanent protection. In four and a half short months at the most they are likely to be buried again, possibly for centuries, possibly for ever.

Finally, what need not be lost for ever are the small archaeological artefacts which are found on the sites. In that context I am not altogether happy about Clause 54 of the Bill; nor do I think that the professional archaeologist would be. Among other things, the clause empowers authorised experts to enter sites and designated areas and to take into temporary custody archaeological objects found in them. Of course, that will be of some benefit to archaeological science, but is it enough? Except in the rare instances where the law of treasure trove would apply, these objects must be returned to their owner, who is either the owner of the land or the owner of the property in which they have been found. It is that lack of real protection for the smaller objects and artefacts which worries archaeologists so much.

I should prefer Clause 54 to enable the local authority in whose area the site lies to acquire such objects at a fair price by compulsory purchase. I do not think that property owners would oppose such a provision. The noble Lord, Lord Middleton, who I think speaks for property owners, may disagree with me, but I do not believe that they would get very excited about a provision to acquire archaeological artefacts by compulsory purchase. Frequently these objects are of very small intrinsic worth, but they often have a high scientific value and importance. I agree that it would be absolutely fair that their present owners should receive some compensation if such objects are compulsorily acquired, as indeed I believe almost invariably the finders of treasure trove are now compensated. Those are the few points that I wish to make. In all other respects I welcome the Bill.

4.34 p.m.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I am very grateful for the interest which noble Lords have taken in this Bill by attending and by making such very well-informed contributions to the debate. I am especially indebted to the constructive approach that all noble Lords have taken in making their speeches on the Bill. It is a complex subject and involves conflicts of interest. The traditional policy of the Departments has been to try to resolve such conflicts by negotiation, and we shall try to continue this policy in the administration of the revised and extended powers under the Bill, if Parliament enacts it. I can confidently assure the House that that will be so because it is well appreciated by the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments and by its administrative colleagues that one gets more done by negotiation and co-operation than by compulsion. Nevertheless, those who are responsible for conserving our already very much diminished archaelogical heritage must have some reserve, reliable powers in order to carry out their job, if it is necessary.

The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, asked whether there would be any compensation for delay where works had begun before designation. The answer is: No. We shall have to publish the proposals, so there will be a period of warning and there will then be a further six months before the designation finally takes effect. In our view, this gives developers all the freedom from those provisions that is necessary at this time. Nothing can be retrospective. If works have started, then we must go through this process of designating the area, the further six months and so on, which ought to enable developers to co-operate with us.

The noble Lords, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, and Lord Wilson of High Wray, and, indeed, other noble Lords are concerned about metal detectors and their use, as we are. I can only refer all noble Lords to the first article of Treasure Hunting's code for thoughtful treasure-hunters, which has been published in its journal and which says: Do not interfere with archaeological sites or ancient monuments, but join your local archaeological society if you are interested in ancient history". The Department is certainly willing to help as much as it can in the education of treasure-hunters, by giving advice or in any other way which is possible. However, we think it is very much better if an independent body, like the British Archaeological Council, would take the lead in this through its various organisations and branches.

This gives me an opportunity to stress a point which arises on the question of metal detectors. What I did not know until I started talking about the contents of the Bill is that the vendors of metal detectors have been asked by the Home Office to give purchasers a leaflet which refers to the licensing requirements. The Home Office suspects that many vendors do not comply, and that many of the purchasers who receive the leaflets do not even apply for the licences. However, there are about 80,000 licences already in existence and we understand that about 8,000 applications are in hand at the Home Office at present—I suspect as a result of many Christmas presents in the past couple of months. However, the licensing does not do anything to ensure that detectors are not improperly used on archaeological sites. But it is a point to stress, that if one does have a metal detector, one is still supposed to have a licence before one operates it.

The noble Earl, Lord Grey, raised the question of trackways and green lanes, and I think quite suitably said that this was not something for this particular Bill, although I am sure that, in the light of his interest and that of the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in the Ridgeway and other places, we have not heard the last of trackways and green lanes and may soon hear something about them. The noble Lord, Lord Middleton, spoke with real authority; he is one of those who suffers or enjoys, as the case may be, being surrounded by so many of our ancient monuments. I am very glad that his experience of co-operation from our Department has been a happy one.

We regard Clause 10, concerning compulsory acquisition powers for the Secretary of State, as only a reserve power. It is something which we believe we must have, but we would use it only where it was necessary for the preservation of the monument, and for no other purpose whatever. On the question of agricultural land and the difficulties which arise when scheduled monuments are on agricultural land, the archaeological objectives there are to prevent the cultivation of monuments, including buried sites, which have never been cultivated, or perhaps not in recent years.

As other noble Lords have said, the intensification of modern agriculture has destroyed many sites and remains a threat to others. We want to keep under observation monuments where cultivation has been tolerated; we want to control and perhaps be able to stop cultivation where there is reason to believe that archaeological damage is being done. Cultivation of many scheduled monuments has traditionally been tolerated, but it is now known that in some cases, but not all, continued cultivation, even to the same depth, may be becoming increasingly harmful. For example, where the quantity of topsoil is decreasing by erosion or even from movement on a sloping site.

We are aware of these problems. The class consent will apply to all the monuments which are at present cultivated and have been cultivated in recent years. It will permit cultivation to a specified depth, and is intended to cover normal ploughing but not the exceptionally deep cultivation or drainage works. We are in touch with MAFF and with the NFU), and are having quite long consultations with them. We are reasonably confident that we are going to work out terms of consent in consultation with them that will be acceptable to the farming industry.

The noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, was delighted to find one of our field management wardens. I understand they are an innovation. We think they are going to be of tremendous help to us. Thirty of them have just been appointed, and they have been given a certain number of monuments within an area to look after and keep an eye on; and I am delighted that the noble Viscount has been raked in by his wife to help in this. I shall certainly consider all the points he has raised and will write to him.

The noble Viscount, Lord Monckton of Brenchley, is a known enthusiast of many years' standing and we know of his deep and abiding interest in archaeology. I note his comments about finds being given or offered, and also that a longer time may be required in some cases to carry out the digs on the larger sites. We shall certainly have a look at that point to see whether we can suggest any strengthening of it, or any other means of negotiating for an extension of time where that is necessary. I will undertake to check on the other specific cases he raised, and will write to the noble Viscount before the next stage of the Bill.

The noble Lords, Lord Kennet and Lord Avebury, raised the question of the inspectorate. May I hastily assure your Lordships that the inspectorate is not to be abolished. The current approach is that the Ministers employ whoever is needed to carry out their functions. In the ancient monument field architects are no less needed than inspectors. Section 16 of the 1913 Act gave the inspectors the duty to report on the condition of monuments and the best modes of preserving them. This is an advisory function. It is not comparable to the statutory officials who carry out the executive, or quasi-judicial, duties in their own name. We are maintaining the inspectorate.

The Ancient Monuments Boards are also to be kept. Their specific function is in scheduling certain ancient monuments. That is repealed, but they have the specific function to advise the Secretary of State on this and other key functions under the Bill. This is spelled out in Clause 22, and more generally the Secretary of State will continue to look to them as his principal independent advisers on all matters relating to ancient monuments and archaeology. They have served us very well over the years, and we anticipate that they are going to serve us just as well in the future.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, also asked whether we had possible examples of where we might want to introduce the termination of guardianship. One possible example is where one generation of a family owning an estate where there is an ancient monument was perhaps indifferent to the ancestral ruins and the State stepped in and looked after them, but the next generation might very well be as enthusiastic as the noble Viscount, Lord Monckton, and want to look after their own monuments as the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, does, and might want to run them. In that case it might be much better for the Secretary of State, and for the public, to be able to have the powers of termination of guardianship and let them look after them.

There is also the problem which we see arising in the future where the State may be pressed to preserve less enduring monuments than the traditional ones. It may not be possible to predict with any confidence for how long that is going to be practicable, and if the commitment is irrevocable then the State would have to refuse it because we should have to have various safeguards. But the safeguards at the moment are that the owner must agree to the termination. If the owner does not agree to the termination of guardianship that is the end of it, and the Ancient Monuments Board must be consulted before we start any of the procedure for termination of guardianship.

I am delighted, as other noble Lords are, that Lord Avebury was able to be with us this afternoon to take part in this Second Reading debate, because his family must claim a great deal of credit for the ancient monuments work that has gone on throughout this century and before. I shall look at the point he raised about the appointment of persons to hear appeals. I know his feelings on this point from other aspects of government that we consulted, and I shall take advice as to whether this is perhaps a field in which those appointees might be appointed by the Lord Chancellor rather than by the Secretary of State. I shall write to him and other noble Lords about that.

The Crown will comply with the spirit of the Act. The present ancient monuments legislation does not bind Government Departments but they, including the PSA, always have good voluntary arrangements with my Department, not only to abide by the spirit of the legislation but, where possible, to do even more than may be statutorily required, as I understand they did on the excavations on the line of the M.3. I am sure this will continue, and it will be the earnest endeavour of my Department that it will do so.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, asked whether we had had any cases in the past where we would have wished to terminate guardianship. No, we have not had any cases up to this point of time; but the distinction with the National Trust is that the Trust can be, and is, ruthless in refusing offers in the first instance. The State comes under a different sort of pressure, and it may be right to accept a monument to save it for one or two generations even if permanent preservation may, in the end, prove to be too difficult or disproportionately costly for the maintenance of the monument. That is one of the respects in regard to which we would want to have these powers in reserve.


My Lords, if the noble Baroness is leaving the question of the Crown, could she make a brief reference to the provisions of Clause 50, where it is provided that no power under the Act to enter on any land shall be exercisable in relation to Crown land? In particular, one thinks of the powers of recording and measurement which are provided in cases of development. While the noble Baroness says that the Crown is very ready to comply not only with the spirit but to go beyond the spirit of the Act, the existence of a clause such as this implies that there might be cases where the Crown is developing its land where it would exclude persons who had a legitimate wish to come in and record, or measure, ancient monuments that were in the process of demolition.

Baroness STEDMAN

My Lords, I think, and I hope, that the noble Lord is unduly fearful about this. There are instances in regard to Crown land, particularly where land is being used for defence, where perhaps we would not be able to allow this. We are expecting that the same degree of co-operation will continue. I shall have another look at this point before we come to the next stage of the Bill, but we are reasonably confident that we have the full co-operation of those people who have the right to build on Crown lands with the exception, in certain cases, of national safety or national security, where defence and such matters are concerned. I will have a look at that and see whether we can strengthen it at all before the next stage.

The noble Lord, Lord Abinger, asked about the designation of areas of archaeological importance. Where the actual remains are discovered during development in an area which is not yet designated, an unco-operative developer could, if necessary, be stopped by scheduling with immediate effect. Compensation would then be payable for any loss or damage. The designation procedure takes approximately nine months to become effective, and therefore this is not something that happens overnight.

On the question of the scheduling of the archaeological areas, we all know, or suspect, that our country is very rich in things under the soil from past ages, but in practice we are not going to be able to designate overnight every area where we think there are archaeological treasures. The historians and the archaeologists at the moment do know and are able to advise us on the sort of areas in the town and countryside where they would expect to find something, and we know in advance where some major development is expected. We would be able then to designate in advance these areas so that we could safeguard what was still buried under the ground. But there will only be just a few areas a year, and it is not a question of wholesale designation of designated areas of archaelogical importance.

I note the noble Lord's comments on Clause 54 about the temporary custody of archaeological finds. I will have a look at that and consider it and write to him. When his Bill dealing with treasure trove and other things comes to us, I am sure that we are going to have many more complementary things to go with this Bill and with the others.

I hope I have covered most of the points raised. I will check with Hansard tomorrow. On those replies I have not given, or have not expounded in sufficient depth, I shall certainly take the opportunity of writing to noble Lords again, and will send copies to other noble Lords who have taken part, so that everybody knows where we have got to before we reach the Committee stage. My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.