§ Lord Westbury
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they will make a statement on the future relationship between English Heritage and the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England.
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Caithness)
The relationship between the Royal Commission (RCHME) and English Heritage has been looked at in the context of a policy review of the activities and functions of the commission and the equivalent bodies for Scotland and Wales. This review is being conducted jointly with my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales. We shall be announcing conclusions in due course.
Meanwhile my right honourable friend has decided that certain issues of principle can be settled now, in advance of the completion of the policy review. These are the question whether RCHME should be merged with English Heritage, and the suggestion in a consultancy report by Peat Marwick McLintock that consideration should be given to the transfer of some functions from English Heritage to the RCHME.
Peats' conclusion from their study was that RCHME performed a distinctive role in maintaining the national archive of heritage information. We are persuaded by their analysis, and take the view that RCHME should continue as a separate body.494WA
The arguments for transfer of functions were for the most part finely balanced. We have decided that RCHME should in future be recognised as the lead national body for oversight of the system of local sites and monuments records. In exercising this responsibility we have asked RCHME to ensure proper liasion with English Heritage, and to take into account their interest in SMRs as an input to the Monument Protection Programme, to the decisions of local planning authorities, and to conservation generally.
We have concluded that the existing statutory arrangements under which English Heritage provide advice to the Department on the listing of buildings of special architectural or historic interest and scheduling of ancient monuments remain appropriate. The main purpose of listing and scheduling is to identify buildings and monuments which should be given special consideration in the planning and development control process. Listing and scheduling are therefore linked to considerations of conversation rather than of record, and for that reason we conclude that it is more appropriate for English Heritage to continue to provide advice to us on these issues. But in doing so, we have stressed that they must make effective use of RCHME's expertise in the architectural and historic qualities of buildings and monuments.
Finally on the funding of rescue archaeology, we feel that there are good policy and practical arguments for the same agency handling all aspects of archaeology casework—scheduled monument consent, negotiations with developers, and rescue archaeology if that proves to be necessary. Accordingly we believe that it is best for English Heritage to continue to deal with rescue archaeology. But again we have stressed the need for RCHME's expertise to be fed into the running of the rescue archaeology programme.
With these issues of principle resolved, we consider that there is now a very satisfactory basis for a supportive and constructive future relationship between the Royal Commission and English Heritage. We have written to their chairmen to inform them of our conclusions.