HC Deb 03 June 1986 vol 98 cc509-10W
Mr. Murphy

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will indicate the main achievements of Her Majesty's Government with respect to the heritage in the last seven years.

Mr. Tracey

Looking first at the natural heritage, the passage of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 greatly strengthened the statutory framework for species and habitat protection while respecting the legitimate interests of landowners and users. By the end of January 1986, 2,595 sites of special scientific interest had been given the full protection of the Act, 256 management agreements covering 9,775 hectares had been completed, and over 600 more were in negotiation. 19 nature conservation orders have been made to protect sites of national importance that were under threat. There has also been a substantial increase in the resources made available to the Nature Conservancy Council and the Countryside Commission. The national parks, following an efficiency review, have also had their resources increased, and a national awareness campaign has been mounted by the Countryside Commission with the help of the Council for National Parks.

The Government have ratified the Bern convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife, the Bonn convention on Migratory Species and the convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage. We continue to work for the implementation of the RAMSAR convention and the EEC birds directive. We have taken further steps to control trade in whales, seals and other endangered species. We have taken measures to improve British zoos through the provision of the Zoo Licensing Act 1981 and to support the Zoological Society of London. And we shall introduce legislation to establish a statutory Broads Authority.

Turning now to the architectural and cultural aspects of our heritage, the Government established the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission to manage and better present 400 monuments to the public, and the Royal Armouries to present the national museum of arms and armour at the Tower of London. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission has already made excellent progress in attracting both membership and commercial sponsorship, and in improving its presentation of its monuments. In 1984 we set up an independent trust to promote and manage Chatham historic dockyard. We accelerated the national survey of listed buildings in 1981 and have so far added a further 100,000 buildings to the statutory list. Calke Abbey was accepted in lieu of taxes and a special grant of £25 million was given to the National Heritage Memorial Fund to safeguard the future of Kedleston Hall, Weston Park and Nostell Priory, and to continue its varied tasks of assisting in preserving the heritage.

Government measures to improve the marketing and presentation of royal palaces open to the public produced consistent growth in visitor numbers, gate receipts and sales. The Court Dress Collection in Kensington palace was opened by HRH Princess Margaret in May 1984 and attracted over 60,000 visitors in its first nine months.

The Property Services Agency, which forms part of the Department of the Environment, continued to maintain historic buildings in the Government estate with care and sensitivity. At the Palace of Westminster stone repairs have now been completed on the west front of the House of Lords, the Terrace and the Clock Tower, while the first phase of refurbishments to the Foreign Office will be achieved on schedule later this year.

The above are necessarily selective rather than comprehensive and confined to areas of responsibility of my Department. Further progress has been made by the Scottish Office, the Welsh Office and the Office of Arts and Libraries. Taken together, these achievements demonstrate the very high regard this Government have for the national heritage.

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