HC Deb 23 April 1993 vol 223 cc226-7W
Sir John Wheeler

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what is his response to English Heritage's recent proposals for the transfer of certain conservation responsibilities in London to the boroughs; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Brooke

I gave my full support to the broad objectives of English Heritage's forward strategy at the time of its publication in October last year. The recent consultation exercise has, I believe, achieved a better general understanding of English Heritage's objectives for London, and a useful refinement of the proposed means of moving forward.

In the light of that, I am happy for English Heritage to proceed to the next stage, of direct negotiations with individual boroughs, with a view to defining the scope for flexible authorisation of certain categories of grade II casework from 1994–95. In this initial period, any transfer of responsibiities must be by agreement with the individual boroughs concerned. Similarly, any question of assistance to the boroughs to strengthen their conservation expertise must be a matter for bilateral agreement with English Heritage, which has made clear its willingness to provide support for the boroughs concerned during this stage, for instance through help with training, through funding of conservation posts, and through joint grant schemes and jointly funded conservation studies.

English Heritage has stated its intention to review progress in four years' time. Clearly agreements with individual boroughs which by that time are working satisfactorily will continue. The financial impact will vary from borough to borough. Only at the end of the four-year period will it be possible to quantify the long-term costs, as well as the benefits and savings, both to the individual boroughs and to English Heritage.

If at that stage English Heritage satisfies my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment and myself that we should take the further step of a general and permanent transfer of responsibilities, we shall need to consider, in consultation with the boroughs and their associations, the case for an appropriate transfer of resources to reflect the additional responsibilities which the boroughs would be asked to undertake.