HC Deb 15 July 1997 vol 298 c113W
Mr. Gordon Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps he is taking to prevent the theft of carved stone masonry and other architectural features from historic ruins with particular reference to monasteries. [7475]

Mr. Banks

It is a criminal offence to execute, or cause to be executed, works to a listed building without first obtaining listed building consent. This includes the theft of architectural features. The current penalty for conviction in a Magistrates' court is a fine of up to £20,000 or imprisonment for up to six months (or both), whilst on conviction in the Crown Court an unlimited fine or a prison sentence of up to two years (or both) may be imposed. In determining the amount of any fine, a magistrates' court or the Crown Court must have regard to any financial benefit which has accrued or may accrue from the offence.

Planning Policy Guidance Note 15: Planning and the Historic Environment recommends that owners of listed buildings take precautions to safeguard architectural and other valuable features, especially when historic buildings are vacant or being refurbished. This may include removal for safe and secure storage, and the keeping of adequate records and photographs to help police in the recovery of stolen items.

In the case of scheduled monuments, the prior written consent of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is required in respect of any works involving the removal of a scheduled monument or any part of it. Failure to obtain consent, or to comply with any conditions imposed when granting consent, can result in a statutory maximum fine in the Magistrates' court of £5,000.