§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter asked Her Majesty's Government:
§ In the light of the report in The Times of 6th February, how the plans for London set forth in Managing England's Heritage are progressing.
My Lords, English Heritage has now sent its revised proposals to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage. These proposals take into account the responses to its consultation paper and are now being considered.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, while thanking the noble Viscount for that Answer, is he aware that the advisory committee which met on 6th February, or shortly beforehand, turned down flat the proposals of Managing England's Heritage and that that rejection was agreed by the commission itself? Therefore, have the redundancy notices issued to the skilled staff of the London division been withdrawn? If not, how is English Heritage to carry out its responsibilities now that it is clear that the vast majority of the London boroughs are neither willing nor able to carry out the work which would have been imposed on them?
My Lords, the purpose of the public consultation is to enable proposals to be looked at further in the light of comments received. English Heritage has done that. Its proposals have always recognised that the needs and capacities of boroughs vary greatly. Its revised plan, endorsed by its London advisory committee and by the commission itself, makes clear the level of service agreement to be negotiated between English Heritage and each borough. The noble Lord also asked about staff redundancies. Fifty-nine early retirements and severances have been agreed for London and 179 elsewhere. They include 95 direct-labour staff.
§ Lord Finsberg
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is important that work proceeds very quickly in this field and that it is fortunate that we have a man of the ability, drive and determination of Mr. Jocelyn Stevens who is now running English Heritage?
My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that the matter is important. English Heritage has come up with some new proposals. We shall study them carefully with the Department of the Environment. I can assure your Lordships that we shall need to be satisfied that they make proper provision for safeguarding London's architectural heritage.
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris
My Lords, will extra funding be made available for the London boroughs if and when they take on responsibilities for local monuments? If so, how will that be reflected in the standard spending assessments?
My Lords, funding will be a matter between English Heritage and the London boroughs. English Heritage will continue to be involved in all 216 strategic policy issues. It will provide expert support and advice to the boroughs. It will continue to be involved in all casework for Grade I and Grade II star listed buildings, and in all cases involving total or substantial demolition of Grade II buildings.
§ Lord St. John of Fawsley
My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Royal Fine Art Commission is deeply grateful to the London division of English Heritage for its work in preserving historic buildings in the capital? Does he agree that we should deeply deplore any undermining of its position, authority and powers?
My Lords, London has over 15,000 listed building entries, which is 3.5 per cent. of the English total. It has twice the national average in Grade I and Grade II star listed buildings. It is essential to ensure that the boroughs are fully involved in conservation as an integral part of planning, together with district councils in the rest of the country. English Heritage's latest proposals are aimed at trying to find a sensible balance.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, is the noble Viscount aware that I share the disquiet expressed by the noble Lord, Lord St. John of Fawsley? Will the Minister discourage the London section of English Heritage from committing suicide which seems to be part of the plan at the moment? Is he not aware of the fact that this is another example of how much we miss the GLC?
My Lords, the noble Lord may miss the GLC, but I do not believe that many of the rest of your Lordships do. We recognise that London has special features. It is essential that the boroughs are fully involved in conservation. The English Heritage proposals seek a new balance in that area.
§ Lord Underhill
My Lords, can the Minister say what action has been taken as regards the decision reached by English Heritage to charge the organisers of the London Marathon an exorbitant sum for the use of parks? Is that not going to hit the charity appeal which the marathon makes?
My Lords, the point that the noble Lord makes has nothing to do with English Heritage.
§ Lord Bonham-Carter
My Lords, will the Minister say whether the so-called revised plan which has been submitted by English Heritage will be published so that we can see it? Can he also say whether any consultations had taken place with the bodies and the boroughs before the plan was revised in contrast with the absence of consultation which was a mark of the earlier document?
My Lords, there has been full consultation with everyone involved. The reason why English Heritage first published a strategy document was to enable it to have something to consult upon.
My Lords, we shall have to see when the final proposals are agreed with the Secretary of State.