HC Deb 18 January 1999 vol 323 cc357-8W
Mr. Nigel Griffiths

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement about the forthcoming policy and financial management review of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. [66484]

Mr. Dewar

As part of the Government's programme of periodic reviews of non-Departmental Public Bodies, I announced to the House on 19 May 1998,official report, column 336, our proposal to move forward with a review of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

The first stage of the review has been completed. This addressed major issues of principle. The report has established that (a) there is an overwhelming need and demand for continuation of the Royal Commission's core functions, principally surveying and recording the man-made environment of Scotland and maintaining and curating the National Monuments Record of Scotland; (b) privatisation or contracting out of the entirety of the Royal Commission's activities is not feasible, although opportunities will continue to be taken to contract out discrete areas of work where this is cost-effective; (c) there are arguments for and against rationalisation or merger with other organisations dealing with built heritage or public record functions; in the absence however, or significant cost savings or a demonstrable increase in efficiency, the balance of advantage lies with the status quo; and (d) there is a continuing role for the Royal Commission and local authorities to play at the national and local levels respectively. I have arranged for a copy of the report to be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

With these issues of principle now resolved, the second stage of the review will examine a number of organisational, management and finance issues. This will encompass the public services dimension to the Royal Commission's activities and liaison with local government.

I am writing to the Royal Commission's Chairman informing him that we concur with the report's conclusions.

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