§ Baroness Birk
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What steps are being taken to improve the protection afforded to the 13,000 Scheduled Ancient Monuments in England against vandalism and clandestine excavation in the light of the serious damage reported recently to one of the unexcavated Anglo-Saxon burial mounds at Sutton Hoo (Suffolk), which is a protected monument deemed to be of national importance under the provisions of Part I of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.
§ The Earl of Avon
No new steps are being taken by Government. Under the Ancient Monuments Act 1979 there are already penalties for damage to scheduled monuments when the perpetrator is caught. Prevention is a different matter, and as with other property, it must remain the responsibility of owners of monuments to do what they reasonably can to protect them from damage or vandalism. About 400 scheduled monuments are in Government care. Of the other 12,000 or so, some are in the ownership or guardianship of local authorities, but most (including Sutton Hoo) are in private hands. Many monuments are in open fields. Only in very few cases would round-the-clock patrols be practical or justified. The Sutton Hoo damage, though most regrettable, does not point to the need for new legislative or administrative action by central Government. The onus must remain upon owners and on the general public to be vigilant against prospective vandals.
House adjourned at ten minutes past nine o'clock.