I shall give the Committee a few administrative arrangements. If there is a Division in the Chamber, we must break as soon as possible after that and resume after 10 minutes. I also remind noble Lords that they should speak standing.
rose to move, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the ninth report of the Science and Technology Committee on Science and Heritage (HL Paper 256).
The noble Baroness said: Our debate today concerns an inquiry which a sub-committee of the Science and Technology Committee undertook last year under my chairmanship whose purpose was to examine the application of science and technology to the care and conservation of our cultural heritage. Some people were somewhat surprised that we took up this issue because it is, as the government response rightly points out,
“an area that does not always receive the highest level of public attention”.
Our reasons were twofold. First, it had been suggested to us that this might be an interesting, if hidden, area of science and technology to explore, as indeed it proved to be. Secondly, it fitted well with the theme of sustainability that had been running through a series of our investigations into subjects such as energy and water. This debate gives us a chance both to reflect back on what we said in that report, to consider the Government’s response and to take a look at developments in the past nine months since we reported. In this respect, the committee can feel reasonably well pleased, for this seems to be one of those rare occasions when a Select Committee report has proved to be something of a catalyst for action. Although by no means all our recommendations are being acted upon, it is very gratifying, first, that our recommendations were so well received by those involved in this field of activity and secondly, and most importantly, that so many of them are now being implemented.
Before going any further, I start by giving thanks to all those who helped us with our enquiry; to those who wrote in with evidence and those who came to give evidence in person before the committee and/or participated in our seminars; to the museums and galleries which gave us a chance to see behind the scenes and visit their conservation departments; to the National Trust, which welcomed us to Blickling Hall to see the work that it is carrying out there; and to the Italian Government and the British Embassy staff in Italy who enabled us, on a very brief visit, to gain some splendid insights into how these issues are dealt with in that country. But above all I would like to thank and pay tribute to our specialist adviser, Professor Cassar, and to our Clerk, Christopher Johnson, without whom this report would not have been written or proved so pertinent. As chairman of the committee I, in particular, owe a great debt of gratitude to them both.
There was one central and dominant conclusion to our report. It was that this is an area of science and technology, albeit a highly specialist one, in which Britain has in the past led the world but which has in the last two decades been in decline and which will decline further and much more seriously unless urgent action is taken. Conservation science or—as we preferred to call it, because it actually goes wider than just conservation—heritage science, provides the basic underpinning for preservation of our cultural heritage. As science and technology moves forward, so it is essential that there are those who are not only familiar with the old processes and techniques but can also access and make use of the new. Yet the generation of scientists who moved into the profession in the 1960s and 1970s and led it to pre-eminence are now about to retire, and unless moves are taken quickly to bring on a new generation to take over from them, this vital interface will be lost.
Does that matter? Our answer was an unequivocal yes, because it behoves us as a society to make sure that future generations can benefit from and enjoy our cultural heritage as much as we do. That is what conservation is all about. Yet it was very clear that conservation, let alone the development of new techniques of conservation, ranked very low in government priorities. Indeed, we accuse the Department for Culture, Media and Sport of breaching the Government’s own sustainability code, which asks all departments to,
“ensure that the natural resources needed for life are unimpaired and remain so for future generations”.
Conservation gets no mention in the department’s strategic objectives or in the public service agreements that it negotiates with its non-departmental public bodies—organisations such as English Heritage, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and the major museums and galleries, to which it devolves responsibility in these matters. Yet with the country’s earnings from tourism, much of it cultural tourism, now running at over £38 billion, the potential loss is economic as well as cultural.
Put that conclusion side by side with our other main conclusion—the fragmentation of the sector—and the recommendations follow rather naturally. Few would deny that the sector is fragmented. There is a central split between the moveable—museums and galleries—and the immoveable—buildings, structures and landscapes—heritage sectors. There is a split between the university and the non-university practitioners, between the public and the private sectors and between the large and the small players. As a result, there is no central strategic leadership in the sector. The DCMS, rather than filling that void, takes pride in the degree to which it devolves responsibility to the NDPBs. Those, the Government note in their response,
“are provided with annual grants to fulfil certain statutory (and, in some cases, charitable) aims relating to the ongoing conservation of cultural heritage”.
As a result, as John Fidler notes in his letter commenting on the DCMS response:
“There is no upward synthesis of needs and concerns...One could argue that DCMS’s strategy is to ‘divide and conquer’—ie manage England’s heritage in small parcels so that cumulative impacts are lessened or lost in the detail”.
Our prime recommendation was that the sector needs to overcome these divides and get its act together. It needs more resources especially now that the pot of money from the EU framework programmes that temporarily eased things has dried up or, more specifically, been diverted elsewhere, and it needs to use those resources to recruit and train a new generation of scientists to take over from those who led the field for the past 25 years. However, although resources are an important part of this regeneration process, they are not everything. As Professor Randal Richards said in his evidence, which appears at paragraph 4.13 of our report:
“One way to get research in this area going is if somebody has identified national priorities and you can then put together a consortium of scientists, arts and humanities experts and archaeologists”.
The big question remains who that somebody to identify national priorities should be.
Our recommendation here was that the sector should not rely on DCMS to provide that leadership. It has shown no inclination or willingness to do so. Moreover, it has been dragging its feet over the appointment of a chief scientific adviser in spite of a clear recommendation from the OST that it should do so back in 2004. It had only got as far as appointing Dr Michael Dixon on a temporary basis to advise it on how it might go about finding someone suitable when we started asking questions about what was happening. Instead we suggested that the sector take up English Heritage’s offer of a temporary secretariat and get together under its own auspices to develop a national strategy identifying key gaps and priorities for research. We felt strongly that given the fragmentation of the sector, this strategy needs to be developed bottom up, rather than being imposed top down, so that the different players can buy into the process. We suggested that, once appointed, the obvious person to chair the group would be the new chief scientist at the DCMS.
Side by side with this exercise, we suggested that the community take up the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s offer—which in its evidence had said that it saw itself, within the research councils, as “the champion” for heritage science—and look to it to co-ordinate the setting up of a cross-research council initiative to galvanise new research activity. In research council jargon, we suggested that it set up a time-limited, directed programme of research aimed at both bringing in other research council money and raising resources from other sources, including the EU. We badly need a champion here. It is notable, for example, that the DCMS did not attend the meeting in Brussels in January this year when the Commission launched its plans for a European research area network on cultural heritage. Yet we know from long experience that unless there is someone at such meetings to speak up for and champion our national interests, we end up drawing the short straw.
What has happened since our report? I have already mentioned the DCMS response, and I confess that we were all rather disappointed at its somewhat lukewarm wording, which essentially endorsed our proposals where others were the prime actors but refused to acknowledge our core conclusion that heritage science was in danger of serious decline and in need of clear, consistent leadership. Its line is clear:
“The governance and financial structures in place ensure that there are specific organisations with responsibilities for conservation of cultural heritage, that substantial resources are made available by Government ... and that decisions are made by trained professionals operating according to clear organisational objectives”.
In other words, it sees no problem. And that despite the fact that it had been warned in the OST review in 2004 to make itself,
“aware of where NDPBs’ science is unique or hard to replace and of importance to wider Government/UK, so that it can ensure that expertise is not lost (e.g. by decisions on funding) without proper consultation and recognition of the consequences”.
There is, incidentally, quite a contrast between this approach to heritage science and the one which the department takes towards sports science where its NDPBs are supported by strategic leadership and funding, including the funding of the National Sports Medicine Institute.
Leaving the DCMS aside, however, I think we can be very happy with the response to our report. The AHRC has been true to its word. In conjunction with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council it has already appointed a director for that programme. Indeed, the director is to be our specialist adviser, Professor Cassar, so we have great confidence that it will be carried forward with verve and determination. The programme is to run for five years and Professor Cassar’s key priorities will be to network hard, to lead on the development of the programme and, not least, to establish a baseline level of funding and a comprehensive map of current research—reflecting our finding that no one seemed to know how much money was going into research at the moment.
The AHRC has written saying that support for heritage science now forms a major part of AHRC’s strategy for the next five years, 2007-12. We are strongly committed to this area of work, and the development of the programme already features as a priority for the forthcoming spending review, contingent on the provision of additional funding. It has also—and this too is very reassuring—joined the EU consortium bidding to establish the “heritage.net”, which, if successful, will be the first significant initiative to co-ordinate research and training in the cultural heritage field across the EU.
We have also had a note from English Heritage detailing actions that it is taking following our report. It cleared with the DCMS that it had the statutory authority to provide the secretariat to such a group, but I agree with John Fidler that the department has thrown a red herring in this respect. English Heritage has now convened an ad hoc steering group of the main players and is putting to it a proposal to appoint an experienced individual on a one-year contract to begin work on the formulation of a strategy. That individual will be asked to prepare three separate reports identifying priorities for action in terms of needs, research and training and to have all three prepared by next spring so that the group may work on drafting a strategy document next summer. I stress, however, that these are still proposals from English Heritage and they have to be endorsed by others. A meeting is planned for 17 July to be hosted by the British Library, which will bring the various stakeholders together to discuss these plans.
I end by noting that other good things are happening outside these initiatives—for which we can perhaps claim some credit for pushing people in these directions. I shall mention just three that have come to my attention: the new British Library Centre for Conservation, which opened very recently; the Textile Conservation Centre at Winchester; and the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s new conservation suite, funded through Renaissance in the Regions. All, in their different ways, promote knowledge and techniques of conservation.
It is good to know that those things are happening, but—and I come back to where I began—they are for the moment but a drop in the ocean of a world that remains, as the current position of the Textile Conservation Centre illustrates well, uncertain. In making our recommendations, our hope was to suggest an infrastructure of greater coherence and greater certainty for these developments. We are much encouraged by the degree to which our report seems to have proved a catalyst for action within the cultural heritage community, and we shall go on urging the Government to be a bit more positive and less grudging in their support. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the ninth report of the Science and Technology Committee on Science and Heritage (HL Paper 256).—(Baroness Sharp of Guildford.)
I willingly congratulate the noble Baroness and her sub-committee. They asked a good question, formulated an important issue, made a vigorous case for action and have provoked some responses—some more satisfactory than others, but that is not bad going.
I underline how important this issue is. We have an extraordinary heritage, and we ought to care for it as best we can. Our heritage, in important measure, defines who we are personally and our common identity. It is important for the economy. Heritage has been under pressure: the wear and tear of mass tourism, which tends to destroy what it comes to enjoy, and pollution and under-funding. We ought systematically to mobilise and develop scientific resources to care for the heritage.
The traditional approach has been that central and local government distribute money to more-or-less independent institutions at arm’s length. They have conservation at the heart of their responsibilities, English Heritage evidently so. Collections-based institutions such as museums, libraries and archives are there, importantly, to conserve our heritage. The view has been that trustees and professionals should be allowed to get on with their jobs, as ought academics; professional and expert interchange will occur spontaneously, and the problem will take care of itself. The trouble is that this has not worked well enough. A shortage of money has meant that conservation has all too often been deferred, and the priorities of institutions have varied. We read that the Natural History Museum spends a significantly larger proportion of its resources on conservation, for example, than does the Science Museum. The Government’s priorities have emphatically been for access and education. Stewardship features in the funding agreements that DCMS makes with the institutions it funds, but not in the public presentation of the DCMS. We need a coherent, purposeful drive for conservation, using the best science available.
That is not inconsistent with also urging some degree of caution. We need a systematic use of science, but not a gung-ho one. In their time, Reynolds, Goya, Goethe, Delacroix, Ruskin and Morris all pleaded for restraint on the part of those exulting in the application of new technology to restoration. Every age imposes its own vision on heritage. In the eighteenth century, restorers used to lighten up pictures; in the nineteenth century, they darkened them down. In the twentieth century, they made them look like photographs. Every restoration risks a trauma and irreversible damage. The notion of a return to the authentic may indeed be illusory. As with medicine, so with conservation; we need self-aware, self-disciplined, self-critical science. There have been disasters: the restoration of Titian’s “Bacchus and Ariadne” by the National Gallery and the treatment by the Wallace Collection of some of its Watteaus.
In 1962, the ICA staged some debates on conservation. The National Gallery technicians were led by Helmut Ruhemann. The case against radical cleaning was led by Professor Gombrich. Gombrich accused Ruhemann of ruining the Titian; Ruhemann accused Gombrich of liking dirty pictures. This story is well told in a plangent polemic by Sarah Walden, The Ravished Image.
Many lessons have been learnt about impetuosity and excess, but bad reasons for intervention abound: if money is available, we had better use it; activism attracts money and official approval; if a sale or an exhibition is coming up, we had better smarten up the picture and make it more appealing to today’s taste; the public want novelty, so if we have not got any money for acquisitions, we had better dress up one of the pictures we already have. There is always the temptation to use your virtuosity and to show off.
We must use science, but use it wisely and well. The Select Committee is right that we need leadership, organisation and a strategic drive in our application of science to the heritage. The question has arisen as to who should do what, and the committee has proposed various remedies and a distribution of responsibilities. But it has found some reluctant debutantes.
The DCMS says that a national strategy for heritage science is entirely appropriate and agrees that it should have a chief scientific adviser, although it points out that, given the ragbag of its responsibilities, he would have to be the kind of polymath that we do not these days produce. If sport, which so preoccupies the DCMS, were to be taken away from it, perhaps that would help the chief scientific adviser and the Secretary of State. We are all tempted to play these parlour games about reconstructing Whitehall. We shall see what happens in two or three weeks’ time. Meanwhile, the DCMS is coy. It says that it distributes money to bodies at arm’s length, and trustees are independent. But the department is quite happy to lean on the institutions which it funds when it suits it to do so. Perhaps fairly, it doubts whether its own expertise and direction would be a good substitute for those of the institutions that it funds, but that is not quite the point. Heritage—both the moveable and the immoveable—and the heritage of science need a champion and a strategic co-ordinator. That role needs articulation, which is lacking in the key documents from the DCMS and lacking in its diffident response to the Select Committee. The DCMS has been enthusiastic to take the lead on creative industries or sport and science. Why is it so reluctant where heritage and heritage science are concerned?
The MLAC is even more of a blushing violet. It is chaperoned by the DCMS, which says that it should not join this particular dance—that is for Icon. But we look to the MLAC to be a facilitator, a sign-poster, an encourager and a standard setter. This cannot be left to Icon, the Museum Documentation Association or the National Preservation Office. The National Museums Directors’ Conference and the Museums Association cannot take the role that the Government and their agencies need to fill.
The predecessors of the MLA did take responsibility. The MGC had its conservation unit. In 1980, the Standing Committee on Museums and Galleries, as the body was then known, published a document, Conservation—Museum and Galleries. It concluded that:
“Neglect may cause less damage than injudicious intervention”.
It is well worth reading its study of the ethics of conservation.
English Heritage has paddled usefully under water, but also abjures leadership, taking the view that no single body has both remit and capacity for a directive leadership and that the appropriate model is collaborative partnership and shared ownership. That view is also reflected in the response of the British Library, which, while it says that it is “absolutely fundamental” that we should have a comprehensive national strategy for heritage science, continues to endorse the distributed, federated, collaborative system. English Heritage at least is helpfully willing to provide co-ordination and a secretariat and, as it puts it,
“its share of intellectual leadership”,
in the form of one post for a one-year exercise. But what lies beyond?
In striking contrast is the response of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which has been splendidly positive, eager to grasp this torch and to make heritage and science a major part of its forthcoming strategy, if only it can get past the CSR. The CSR is a sort of Cape Mogador of Whitehall. Medieval cartographers used to write on maps where they imagined there were oceans south of Cape Mogador, “Here be monsters”. If the AHRC can get past the CSR and float into well-funded waters, it is more than happy to use a significant share of its resources for heritage and science. Moreover, in the mean time, it has been mobilising the other research councils and the Office of Science and Innovation. Research Councils UK’s response to the Select Committee in the addendum attached to the Government’s response is really magnificent.
The AHRC should be congratulated—as the noble Baroness did—on making the running to secure funding for cultural heritage from the European Union seventh framework programme. It has, with the EPSRC, created the new post of director for heritage research and made the wise appointment of Professor Cassar. I understand that there are further staff for research and co-ordination and an immediate allocation of additional resources of £1 million for work in this field. It is working on establishing the baseline, mapping, consulting, networking and co-ordinating. If it could bring the NERC back onto the turf, that would be particularly important for archaeological science. The AHRC is strongly committed to promoting the transfer of knowledge to public and charitable organisations as well as to private enterprise. The AHRC, with its unabashed interest in science, may be able to help to generate the scientifically literate humanities scholars and the arts literate scientists that the British Library expressed a desire to see on the scene.
The AHRC cannot do it all, any more than Icon can. The issues remain how we get leadership, how we energise the system and how we are to be effective. Those questions need answering by the Government. There is a need to create a permanent forum through which the situation can be assessed, strengths, weaknesses and gaps can be identified, priorities set, strategies developed, tasks distributed, money secured, all the necessary centres of excellence promoted, knowledge disseminated and people recruited and trained. Ideas on those and on many other matters should come up from the bottom, but, pace the committee, the leadership must come from the DCMS or its successor. Only at that level will we get a national overview and drive, co-ordination within Whitehall, between Whitehall and the devolved Administrations, between this country and others and co-ordination of the sector. The DCMS says that its writ does not run in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Luxembourg’s writ does not run in Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania; but you have a common secretariat and you rotate the presidency. It is too easy to find reasons why X or Y should not lead. We cannot muddle along with swathes of our heritage decaying. Where there is a will there is a way.
I declare an interest as the chairman of the National Museum of Science and Industry, which presented two memoranda to your Lordships’ inquiry and gave oral evidence through Hazel Newey. I will speak, if I may, with the perspective of a chairman of one of the great national museums and galleries, but of course I do not represent my colleagues.
NMSI is a family of museums, each with its own well known brand: the Science Museum in South Kensington; the National Railway Museum in York with its outstation at Locomotion in Shildon, County Durham; and the National Media Museum in Bradford. Each of those has a crucial role in its own field. The Science Museum, which is nearly 100 years old in its present form, had from its foundation a central role in the advancement of the popular understanding of science and technology. Unlike the Natural History Museum, which has for many years been a research organisation in receipt of research council funds with which it does basic science, the Science Museum has not been funded as a research organisation as such but as the national centre for science outreach and engagement. That is absolutely vital work—increasingly vital—but it is not, or not normally, the kind of basic research that the Research Councils fund. It is a separate mission: seeking to keep the public from turning against science and to keep able young people coming into science and engineering.
Our curators have produced a steady series of excellent books of value both to the general reader and to the scholar, such as the recent Frank Whittle by Andrew Nahum, and Penicillin: Triumph and Tragedy by Robert Bud, both of which I strongly recommend to your Lordships, but which are not the result of research council funding. There may be some confusion about that. For us to have academic analogue status, for which we have applied, would be an interesting development and an addition to our historic mission; I would welcome it. But it would not necessarily mean of itself that we would do more of what your Lordships have succinctly called “heritage science”, any more than the NHM’s work on gene sequencing, the taxonomy of ants, or whatever, is heritage science as your Lordships have defined it. We might be applying for work in the history of medicine, or the technology of outreach to children on science. It is as well to keep the two subjects—academic analogue status, and the need for better focused heritage science as your Lordships have defined it—separate and clear. It is the second which your Lordships’ report did such valuable work in raising: the need for more and better organised heritage science in the United Kingdom.
What I want to say today is simple. Your Lordships’ report was absolutely right to say that it is vital that the DCMS should be clear that we in the national museums and galleries cannot allow the objective of extending access to our collections for this generation to put those collections at threat for future generations. Our statutes do not allow us to do so; all of us are statutorily charged with the care of our collections. Section 2(1)(a) of the National Heritage Act 1983 says of the Science Museum—and an exactly similar rubric covers every other national museum and gallery—that our first duty is to,
“care for, preserve, and add to the objects in their collections”.
Of course we all want more through the door and on the website—our grand total last year, of which we are very proud, was 15 million—but if there is not enough money to preserve and show, we must preserve first.
I must tell the Committee that we are on a knife edge. This Government have done quite well in our current funding up to now, and they deserve credit for that; but in capital there is a huge backlog, and in conservation there is also a huge backlog. On the latter point, as your Lordships’ report sadly but entirely correctly observed at paragraph 3.37:
“There seems little prospect that the United Kingdom will follow the example of the Dutch Delta Plan, however admirable, not least because the process of conducting a national audit of conservation needs would certainly demonstrate the need for major public investment”.
So it would. We are like a householder who does not want to go into the attic because he knows he might find dry rot there. We do not, as a nation, want to know the truth. But the truth is that there is a huge, unquantified backlog of needed conservation work in the national museums, as there is of capital work. Some of this does not necessarily need new science; it needs the application of well known techniques. We at NMSI in South Kensington have massive and unique holdings of engineering drawings, for example, which need paper conservation work, which is well understood. We have recently acquired the Royal Photographic Society archive—a collection of photographs of worldwide artistic and historic significance—for Bradford. All the work that goes with that is well understood, but there is a big backlog. We have thousands of items in store at Wroughton near Swindon in Second World War hangars, which themselves are in danger of leaking and deteriorating. We have a magnificent project there, rightly called Inspire, which will go before the public jury on TV this autumn to argue for Big Lottery funding, aimed explicitly at conserving this huge reserve collection and putting it on show.
The raising of the status and the effectiveness of the national effort in conservation, and the science and technology which underpins that, is urgent and vital. The DCMS must recognise that the laudable pressure for ever-increased access cannot be at the expense of the conservation of the collections, and that we need a much greater effort to harness modern science and technology to show us how to do that effectively.
Why do I think that the organisational recommendations of your Lordships’ report are so important? What difference would a chief scientist at DCMS make? On this I am with the noble Lord, Lord Howarth. Having a champion and an organisational focus does matter. Perhaps I may blow my own trumpet for a moment—as no one else does it, I sometimes find it necessary to undertake the task. I was the founder of the current structure for science and technology in government, since I established the OST—now the OSI—restructured the research councils, and appointed the first director-general of Research Councils. I have already paid tribute to the Government’s funding of basic science itself. I think, however, that by establishing focused advocacy for science and technology in government, our structure helped good Ministers such as the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, subsequently to use it—and improve it—to get more money and to win battles in Whitehall. The same will be true now on this lesser and subsidiary subject. If we have a strong chief scientist appointed at DCMS to be an intelligent customer for, among other things, heritage science, and to help steer the admirable initiatives taken by English Heritage and the AHRC in response to your Lordships’ report, then, over time, there will be hope of getting both more money and better targeting of money. Without that champion, any strategy will be likely to fall by the wayside.
I should make one other point. Your Lordships’ report was on science and heritage and coined the phrase “heritage science”. I emphasise the very wide range not only of scientific disciplines but also of technology and craft skills that need to be involved. That is why we also need the overview from somewhere, and best from the chief scientist. We certainly need to apply very high scientific techniques, but we also need the engineering skills to rebuild the Flying Scotsman, which we are doing in York, and the craft skills to manage stone work, metal work and the rest. It goes wider than the remit of any research council. We need a synoptic view that will encourage, among other things, co-operation among different institutions with scarce skills. We need to go from the capacity to investigate the authenticity of a Raphael to the capacity to find substitutes for asbestos in the gasket of that most beautiful of all racing sports cars, the D-type Jaguar.
I therefore welcome the opportunity that this debate offers to reinforce the need for a fuller and more vigorous response to the report. Incidentally, I congratulate Icon on the effective way in which it has helped to keep the issues before us. But I warn your Lordships that, if there are serious cuts in national museum and gallery funding in the next spending review, then Mr Neil MacGregor, that greatest of museum directors, was absolutely right when he said in evidence to the committee that research budgets—and one might add capital spending and all the rest of the less visible spending—will once again be the first budgets to suffer, to the great loss of future generations. In that case, we will be allowing to deteriorate what we are all charged, and statutorily charged, to preserve—our national heritage.
I join others in complimenting the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, on the detailed and careful way in which she conducted the science and heritage inquiry. She succinctly outlined the conclusions and recommendations of the committee today, and I shall take the opportunity to reinforce some of those in my remarks. Her leadership, together with the wise advice and counsel from Professor May Cassar and the skilled drafting of our Clerk, Christopher Johnson, have produced a report of lasting value to those responsible for the survival of the physical artefacts that embody much of our cultural heritage—our buildings, landscapes, works of art, books and all that we possess that tells us of our own and the world’s cultural history.
The report has not only been welcomed and endorsed by the conservation community in the UK but has gained international recognition. This country is as rich as any in the world in its buildings and in the collections of its libraries, galleries and museums. Yet the number of people involved in using our renowned scientific and technological expertise to preserve, analyse and provide access to those treasures is small. We have leading experts in our institutions, but they work with meagre resources and without the support and understanding that they should receive from the Government. That is starkly illustrated by the fact, already mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport makes no mention in its strategic objectives of the need for the application of science and technology in the conservation of our cultural heritage. Its concern seems limited to providing access to our possessions today without adequate consideration of the need to ensure that that access will be sustained for future generations.
The community has been particularly disappointed with the tone of the Government’s response to the report, which many have pointed out failed explicitly to acknowledge that there was a problem. Broadly speaking, their position is that all can be contained in the department’s overall objective of integrating social, economic and environmental factors into all its policy development. The lack of a specific recognition of the need for science and technology in conservation and access can in part be attributed to the absence of a full-time chief scientist with skills in the natural and physical sciences. We have advocated that such an appointment should be made and that the CSA should be the champion at departmental level for heritage science. I know from the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, that that suggestion was strongly supported by the OST, and I am pleased that it is being supported today by the noble Lords, Lord Howarth and Lord Waldegrave.
There has been prolonged procrastination and confusion in making that appointment, which is highly regrettable, and it seems to be continuing. We welcome the intermediate appointment of Dr Michael Dixon as an interim CSA and hope that his recommendations are given rapid attention, but that does not seem to be happening. I believe that he has submitted his report—although there is some obscurity about that matter—yet here we are in June and there has been no response. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us news of progress in this matter.
The lack of serious support from the DCMS is illustrated by its lack of a full backing for our recommendation that there should be a strategy for heritage science and that English Heritage should provide a secretariat to support the development of that strategy. The recommendation emphasised that the approach to developing objectives should be a bottom-up process, with all involved playing an equal part so that there would be general acceptance of the objective. The recommendation received strong support at the post-publication seminar that we held last November. For example, the British Library said that it,
“considers the need for a comprehensive national strategy for heritage science, embracing both movable and immovable heritage, to be absolutely fundamental and very strongly supports this recommendation”.
Yet the government response was cool, questioning whether English Heritage had the necessary statutory authority to undertake such a role for both movable and immovable heritage.
That is in contrast, as has been pointed out, to what the DCMS can do if it wishes to take part more proactively in supporting science in areas in which it carries responsibility. Let us take the example of its support for sports science. It has been pointed out to us by Icon that there is a focus for sports science in the National Sports Medicine Institute, funded by DCMS, and science gains a specific mention in the justification for the considerable funding that the funding is providing to elite athletes, specifically in the support of young athletes aiming at the Olympics. That approach is to be contrasted with the approach to heritage science, in which the department is satisfied to leave everything to NDPBs with no direct engagement from the department.
In summary, I find it extraordinary that there is so little support for the application of science and technology to the preservation and display of our heritage treasures and that there is so little recognition of the importance that that has to the nation. It is all very well to transfer money from culture to sport, for example in supporting the Olympics; but we should realise that many of the people who will come to London in 2012 will do so as much because they know that London is a treasure trove of historically fascinating artefacts rivalling those found anywhere in the world as to watch the Olympic events. I encourage the DCMS to reconsider its priorities and to follow the enthusiastic and positive responses of others such as the Research Councils.
It was a great privilege to serve on the committee under the able chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. It was a particular pleasure as this was a topic that combined my interests in the opposing cultures of the arts and sciences. I hope that I will be forgiven if I am autobiographical for a moment, but it will explain where I am coming from in emphasising the need for craft skills as well as heritage science.
My degrees are in psychology, which is perhaps a quasi-science in the eyes of some people present, but I have always been fascinated by botany and by hard sciences such as astronomy. I therefore understand the importance of scientific rigour. On the other hand, many of my past and present relatives are artists and architects. One of my great uncles, Charles Harrison Townsend, was a distinguished member of William Morris’s arts and crafts movement and was the architect of the Whitechapel art gallery, the Horniman museum and the Bishopsgate library. The whole object of those institutions was to offer art and culture to everyone. I went to a school whose ethos was inspired by the arts and crafts movement and which believed that craft skills were as valuable as academic ability.
It was therefore fascinating to be allowed behind the scenes at the National Gallery and the Uffizi in Florence during this inquiry and to observe practical conservation in action. It was astonishing, as has already been mentioned by previous speakers, to find the extent to which conservation work in our museums and galleries is underfunded and fragmented, and where it does exist it is dependent on informal networks and the ingenuity of individuals. There seems to be no strategic framework or database of methods, materials and expertise.
The fact that the National Gallery’s equipment for analysing paint samples is redundant hospital machinery is a tribute to individual enterprise but an indicator of how little attention is paid to preserving our national heritage. If that is so at a major gallery, it is all the more true of local museums and galleries throughout the country. The focus of the Government has been all about increasing public access, but unless thought is given to the future of our collections of artefacts they will continue to rust and decay, and future generations will be impoverished and will not wish to visit our collections.
The Government have increased spending on the arts and have recognised the importance of the creative arts as a contributor to 7 per cent of the country’s GDP. That spending has been almost entirely directed at the innovative arts, such as music and computer games. Little has been directed to preserving our cultural heritage, which contributes greatly to our GDP, mainly through the tourism industry. Much has been made in the past few weeks of the need to establish an English or British identity. It is surely through our historical and cultural artefacts, stately homes, buildings and so on, that some of our identity is established.
We are a society that is divided not only on the grounds of ethnicity and religion but on the basis of class and education. We still elevate academic qualifications above practical knowledge and skills. We therefore have to do much more to value and motivate the 50 per cent of our young people who will not go to university and to offer them satisfying alternative careers. The Heritage Lottery Fund provided English Heritage with £7 million to fund two-year bursaries in traditional heritage craft skills such a hedge laying and stone wall building. It would surely be possible for the DCMS to establish similar bursaries or apprenticeships for conservation work in museums and galleries. I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave, also mentioned the need for craft skills.
I was particularly interested by our visit to the conservation departments at the Uffizi in Florence. The Italians preserve a very rigid distinction between scientific analysis and the practical skills of the conserver. Meticulous scientific analysis of the state of artefacts such as Michelangelo’s “David” and the Baptistery doors established the strategy for restoration, but in some instances the actual work of restoration is carried out by artisans in the various workshops. In the Pietra Dura workshop, school leavers at the age of 18 start a four-year apprenticeship learning the art of stone cutting, which culminates in the making of magnificent inlaid marble table tops. Other Uffizi workshops also have three or four apprenticeships.
Compared to Italy we have a flourishing economy, and a very small outlay of government funds could ensure that we maintain a basis of conservation skills, provide interesting career opportunities for our young people and help to maintain our cultural heritage. The arts and crafts movement was of course hopelessly idealistic, but it set out to enhance respect for craftsmanship, whether in furniture making, textiles or stained glass. It valued human beings for a range of skills and not just for their ability to make money. It would be attractive if some of that vision were to infuse the present Government, and in particular the responsible department, DCMS.
We argued strongly in our report for a strategic approach to conservation, and it is splendid that the sector and Research Councils UK have done much in the past year to improve the situation. However, much more could be done by a committed government department to inspire further change and more targeted development.
We worked hard under the skilled chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, on science and heritage, an unusual subject for the committee. During our inquiry, as always, we learnt a lot. I am disappointed that the Government, in their response, do not seem to have learnt some of the lessons that we have learnt, as many speakers have said today. Those who know about the subject have enthusiastically supported our recommendations. The Arts and Humanities Research Council, English Heritage, the British Library and Icon called it an “outstanding” report.
The key to the problem, as we say in our introduction, is that the Government’s emphasis is placed on widening public access without placing equal emphasis on our duty to preserve our cultural heritage into future generations. Increased access, which we all welcome, inevitably increases wear and tear, for which funding allowance must be made. Non-departmental public bodies, charities and local museums do a good job in looking after their precious possessions. Being of historic importance, however, they are bound to be more fragile.
This is not just a sentimental matter. Apart from the Olympic Games in 2012, tourists come to Britain to see our historic houses, museums and landscapes, bringing economic prosperity to our country. The Government must show leadership in this, and contribute their share of funding to this important responsibility. It particularly interested me to see how seriously the National Trust takes this matter with its report on dust. It is an example to the Government, although dependent on voluntary support. We naturally studied this matter from a scientific point of view, and that science needs more emphasis. We recommended a national strategic policy for heritage conservation, the appointment of a steering group under Arts and Humanities Research Council leadership and the urgent appointment of a chief scientific adviser qualified in hard science. I am glad that the Government have now agreed that English Heritage can provide the secretariat.
The aim of this steering group is to bring together the bodies interested in heritage science so that they collaborate as much as possible on a bottom-up basis, based on actual local experience. It is a matter of local Essex pride for me that two local transferred museums have won top marks in the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council accreditation scheme for the care of their collections. The steering group will need a strong chair and the advice of the chief scientific adviser—who will presumably be appointed by then—to attract money and get this strategy on the road, nationally. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport must put that strategy into action—and that right early!
I was struck by the Government’s response to the report and re-read it. I rather like the first line:
“The Government welcomes the publication of the report”.
That is a lie. I do not think the Government welcome it at all. The rest of the response does everything in its power to repudiate that premise. I am obviously quite prepared to put the boot into the DCMS, and this speech is my way of setting that out. This report has laid bare the fundamental failings of the department in one of its responsibilities. I know it is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport—although there was a question on Radio 4 this morning about whether it should be called the Department for the Olympics—but heritage seems to have slipped by the wayside. I have a personal interest in this. When the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeological Group did a report on the state of archaeology in the 21st century, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport sent its chief architect, not its chief archaeologist. I am not sure if that was a mistake, or whether it was just that they both started with A. This is one of the problems.
The response sets out in an interesting way the suggestion that the committee is completely wrong in saying that there is a problem because the department has looked into the matter, is putting it into the hands of its bodies and now it is up to them. However, the committee considered these points; it took evidence from a large number of people and found a fragmented area facing a democratic time bomb in relation to the practitioners undertaking the work. There is a real problem with career progression and many of the posts that are funded are not statutorily protected—they are in local museums—and are disappearing. It is quite possible that in a few years’ time the DCMS will be able to say that nobody complains about a problem in the profession because there will be so little of it left that there will be nobody to complain.
The response hides behind the fact that the department would do something, but has to await the outcome of the CSR. I have heard that let-out clause in every heritage debate. The Minister is laughing because he has used that argument against me on at least three occasions that I can think of. The problem is that the situation is serious and we cannot wait. The DCMS said that its other bodies should take on the responsibility, but I believe that the DCMS is abdicating its responsibilities. It is quite clear that it has to take the lead role in this. In its priorities and objectives, it can hide behind the fact that it has set out that one of the objectives is conservation, but if the profession cannot undertake that work and cannot meet the need, there is a problem that the DCMS has to deal with. There is an example that showed that its objectives affect every museum in the country. It is the worthy objective of access. Access is laudable, and it is ridiculous to have collections that are not on open view, but many museums have spent so much money on access that conservation, which has not been given the same push by the lead department, has been left by the wayside.
I was struck by the response, because I have never read a response with such a petulant attitude. Page 2 implies that we are swimming in money for conservation:
“English Heritage currently receives £132 million in grant in aid per year, and has been able to allocate £9 million of this towards all kinds of research including conservation research. These are not inconsiderable sums”.
The committee obviously overlooked the fact that £9 million is a lot of money. However, we are talking about the need that is set out. It would be one thing if £9 million was being given to the national galleries to preserve their picture collections or to the British Library to deal with the conservation of paper or problems with acid and ink or for dealing with fine fabrics or silk, building materials or the fabric of buildings, but over the whole range of those areas, £9 million is a pitiful amount of money. There are obviously budgetary restraints, and I am not advocating that we should spend incredible amounts of money, but we should at least say that £9 million is a drop in the ocean with the backlog in all the collections.
I, too, welcome the fact that AHRC, with the help of the committee, has taken on the leadership role and I am very pleased to see that English Heritage has taken on the role of secretariat. But, with a budget of £132 million this year—and, of course, we are looking at cuts next year—how will they fund this position? I have been in many debates where English Heritage has been given more and more responsibilities on a falling budget. Therefore, is it a sustainable post, or are we just putting on a sticking plaster for the moment because a committee has reported and obtained a good deal of publicity? If the DCMS is to take on the role and responsibility, I very much hope that it will indicate that that needs funding in the CSR. I have just a simple question: if we are waiting for the outcome of the CSR, has any indication of the need to fund the position of the secretariat by English Heritage been written into its spending commitments? If it has not, and we are awaiting the outcome of the CSR—although we do not have to wait for the outcome of the CSR—it will not have the money. Therefore, this will be a temporary position.
This is one of the committees on which I have most enjoyed sitting because it has brought to light an important area that has not been looked at in the past and has brought into consideration an area which is facing severe crisis. We should not underestimate the difficulties. The Government response has papered over that as if the crisis is of someone else’s making and does not exist. I very much hope that the Government will look again at some of these recommendations and will come forward with some more positive aspects. On the basis of their response to the committee’s report, I believe that the situation will get worse and not better.
Before launching into the report, I remind the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, that picture restoration which, as he rightly said, is a very controversial subject, is amenable to scientific analysis, and much more so than it used to be. The noble Lord will also know that it is called “flat art” in the profession. Just because it is the most popular with the public does not mean that there are not a great many other things that need looking after.
Bearing in mind the committee’s welcome conclusion to a very interesting and helpful report, that the maintenance and the service base for conservation is severely under threat, I thought that I would go back to first base. Along with my noble friend Lord Waldegrave I went back to the Acts of Parliament, and I hope that your Lordships will allow me to include Kew, which of course is not a DCMS body. It is interesting because it represents a contrast to DCMS bodies but is not in the original Act. Two of Kew’s functions out of six are:
“care for their collections of plants, preserved plant material, other objects relating to plants, books and records”,
“keep the collections as national reference collections, secure that they are available to persons for the purposes of study, and add to and adapt them as scientific needs and the Board’s resources allow”,
which are stringent statutory tests. Those statutory tests are included in, for example, the British Library, which is a DCMS body in which I have an interest, because a small part of the British Library is for the study of American matters, which was founded by my father and my stepmother. I was a member of the main committee, and my noble friend Lord Selborne was the chairman of Kew.
When I was chairman of Kew, I well remember being told that Kew was accessioning to the herbarium between 40,000 and 50,000 new specimens a year. There were at that time between 4 million and 5 million specimens, so I did a rapid calculation of how long it would be before another herbarium building would be needed—and indeed it is under construction right now.
The statutory obligations of these bodies and the priorities of the DCMS are strikingly different. There have been two reports—the 2001 and the 2006 report, Understanding the Future. There are 13 bullet points in the report published in November 2006, and they are almost exclusively on education and social engineering—learning resources, diverse communities, dynamism, highly skilled and representative workforces and working more closely with each other and partners outside the sector. There is no mention of either science or conservation.
These issues are familiar: two years ago we had a debate on museums and, apart from talking about collections available to the public for enjoyment and education, I suggested that handing on collections in no worse and, if possible, a better condition, was one responsibility of governing bodies. At the time, that was not extensively debated. I added the “if possible” because it was clear at that time that the resources to look after collections were in very short supply—and they always will be. There is a question of priorities. There is never going to be sufficient money, trained people and scientists to do everything that needs doing. In reply to that debate, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, said:
“There is an element of contradiction between the concern that the department ought not to be too controlling in its approach to the museum sector—I fully share and understand that point; it is deeply appreciated—and the demand and constant pressure from all sides for increased resources”.—[Official Report, 9/6/05; col. 1030.]
I think that we may find that we come back to something similar this afternoon.
The Minister also emphasised keeping at arm’s length and that there was no need to be heavy-handed. The question that fascinates me about the committee’s report, in the demand for science and the application of that science—and it is primarily material science that we are concerned with—does not start in the museum sector. It starts with building aircraft, turbine blades and all sorts of much bigger and more widely-based endeavours and is a spin-off into the museums and other heritage sectors. This is an extremely important addition to what noble Lords wrote in the report. The heritage is growing exponentially; somebody dies today—and that was a previous generation; that person has left something. There is no calculation for that. The MLAC should be asked to consider, among the other things that noble Lords have asked it to consider, at what rate heritage is expanding.
That takes me back to Kew and the preservation for taxonomic reasons of between 4 million and 5 million pressed flowers, as you might call them, in folders. They were being used when—what happened? Someone won a Nobel Prize for research into DNA. The whole purpose of the herbarium immediately changed, because you can take a 250 year-old plant specimen and extract the DNA, which upsets the Linnaean structure of plant life and adds a huge amount of knowledge. In the course of what followed, the Jodrell laboratory became three times the size that it was in 1983, when the heritage Act was passed and I first went there.
Even the Bowes museum in County Durham, of which I am chairman of the trustees, is adding to its collections. A very nice gentleman from York sent us a 19th century French Limoges dinner service, which was very pretty, with masses of pieces. He said, “It came down to me through the family. I am getting old, and unfortunately I have a tendency to chip things. There is nobody else in my family who is sufficiently responsible to look after this dinner service, and it would be much safer with you”. What are we to do? Accept it, or say that we have no resources for accepting another dinner service? An old lady gave us some 18th and 19th century drinking glasses. We thanked her, and she wrote back saying, “I remember these in my grandmother’s cabinet, and I expect she got them in the equivalent of an Oxfam shop”.
The DCMS’s priorities say:
“Government and the sector will find new ways to encourage museums to collect actively and strategically, especially the record of contemporary society”.
I am not sure whether accepting 18th and 19th century glasses is either strategic or particularly active; it certainly has nothing to do with contemporary society. One is left in a dilemma about what attitude to take.
We must also take on board the rapid expansion of scientific knowledge. My noble friend Lord Waldegrave mentioned engineering. One of the British Library’s big problems is that it does not know the materials from which some of its collections have been made. It has to put them to a detailed scientific examination as to the material, the fibre length and what it is supposed to do with it now. We cannot think of this as a static problem. Generally speaking, the sector knows what it needs to do but it does not necessarily know how to do it or where to go to get it done. The problems are understood in a conceptual sense; it is the solution that is very difficult.
I looked at what the DCMS said in answer to the committee, which might relate to how institutions would think about spending money on conservation. It said that,
“it is not for Government Ministers to determine how the specific funds allocated to their sponsored bodies are to be spent”.
The response continued that,
“as well as being public bodies, these museums are independent charities, whose trustees are obliged to act in pursuit of their charitable purposes, as set out in statute”—
and then appended a rather contradictory statement—
“rather than solely in pursuit of Government policy”.
I thought that statute was parliamentary and that Ministers did not depart into some other realm of policy that could not be traced back to the statute.
I want to bring the theme of the funding agreements to the Committee’s attention. I am sorry if your Lordships think that I am going on too long. The funding agreement between the DCMS and the British Library sets out the outputs and levels of performance that the library is expected to deliver to achieve ministerial objectives. I suggest that the DCMS looks at Kew, which is a Defra body. Instead of having the stewardship, scholarship, research, access and business excellence blocks in its targets and performance indicators, of which there are a great many, the DCMS should look at Kew, which has long-term performance targets, which have been discussed with Defra. They are Kew’s targets—it owns them—and they are not micro-managed as so many of the performance indicators set up by the DCMS are. Their heading is, “Science, Conservation and Sustainable Use”. That is the first set of six targets for Kew. I feel strongly that the Government already have in their hands a much better regime than that applied by the DCMS.
Finally, on financing agreements, one of them ends with:
“measurable improvements in service delivery, the achievement of the Funding Agreement targets and its contribution to the delivery of Government policies will be factors in the Secretary of State’s decisions over future allocations”.
If we want these institutions to spend the money as their boards decide is right in a distributive sense—this for conservation, that for access and that for business excellence—we cannot continue with such a detailed regime in circumstances where no more money will be promised. If we do not free up these institutions to make their own decisions, we shall be making a great mistake. If we do, an awful lot of the issues which the committee addressed will solve themselves.
I thank the main committee for co-opting me to the sub-committee. I hope that my background as a former chairman of the National Trust and, separately, as a former member of the NERC, was useful. I warmly welcome the outstandingly astute chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I also warmly acknowledge the skills and advice of our clerk, Dr Christopher Johnson, and our technical advisor, Dr May Cassar, in guiding us through quite complicated territory. I mention two innovations—or at least they were to me: our informal meeting with the main practitioners at Hampton Court before we started, and again after we had published our report. Both were, in their different ways, invaluable.
I start with the context of our report. It was, for example, preceded by a recent House of Commons Select Committee report on the built heritage and its funding. That was pretty critical and the departmental response was pretty inadequate; that is nothing new. Quite recently, we had a major debate on the departmental raiding of the Heritage Lottery Fund of £650 million for the Olympics. There were notable and critical contributions by the noble Lords, Lord Baker of Dorking and Lord Smith of Finsbury. One also recalls a debate last December, I think led by the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, on funding of church repairs. Again, the noble Lord has outstanding knowledge and was deeply critical. His contribution this afternoon was also outstandingly thoughtful and knowledgeable.
In November, the chairman of the Historic Houses Association spoke of the deteriorating funding of historic house repair grants. In that connection, the point was made that, according to the National Trust, the cost of heritage repairs is going up far faster than the Government’s indices of general inflation. There is an increasing price/funding gap, a common theme of all these reports from highly knowledgeable and responsible people or bodies. Another example: the DCMS recently underwent a capability review which made 31 references to the Olympics and not a single one to the heritage. That accurately reflects the heritage’s status in the department.
Our own report, in the much narrower and specialised field of conservation science, is equally critical. Much of our criticism is on the levels of funding. There is a wider sense of a lack of departmental interest and hence ignorance in the heritage sector, and it has come out very clearly this afternoon in some of the speeches. For example, I found the evidence session with DCMS officials deeply depressing. It is difficult to put one’s finger on what exactly was wrong; there was certainly little rapport; but it was almost as if the words “culture” and “heritage” were just not part of their vocabulary.
I shall restrict myself to one further example—the oral evidence of the Minister, who incidentally was in other respects rather more enthusiastic. We asked him whether there was a risk that the promotion of public access might put conservation at risk—a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Platt. His reply was rather dismissive. We said that he,
“did not appear to acknowledge that the right to access goes beyond the present generation”.
Those were the actual words that we used. We said:
“It is therefore a matter of grave concern to us that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's strategic objectives, while including reference to increased access, make no mention of the accompanying need for conservation of our cultural heritage”.
This is not the right occasion to philosophise on why the department is so unsatisfactory, other than the fact that it is not a great, traditional department of state and consists of rather ill-assorted components. The fact that it does not work well we must leave to discuss on another occasion. It is true that in the field of heritage and conservation its constituents are of widely different backgrounds and disciplines; a list of those who gave evidence to us reflects that. Moreover, the variety of sciences and technologies involved is unexpected, impressive and—to me—fascinating. Nothing fits neatly, but that is an added attraction and challenge, though perhaps not for officials.
All this gives background to our first and principal conclusion, at paragraph 9.2; namely that our cultural heritage, both for funding and cultural reasons, is severely under threat. We end by asserting that the DCMS,
“has hitherto failed to grasp the scale of this threat—indeed, probably does not know it exists”—
a point made by many speakers this afternoon.
For the rest of my contribution this afternoon, I shall concentrate on three points that are for me the backbone to our report, leaving aside the problem of the department itself and the funding issue. The points are: the role and status of the chief scientist; the relationship of the sector to the research councils; and the need for an overall management strategy.
On the matter of the chief scientist, to which many noble Lords have referred this afternoon, we were clear that the department does not have the expertise to act as an intelligent customer of science, and what is needed is someone to act as a champion. I recall vividly the wise words of Neil MacGregor on this, when he gave evidence to us. We regard this as an essential prerequisite if the downgrading of conservation is to be reversed. What was the Government’s response? They said that such an appointment was by no means straightforward—et cetera, et cetera—and made an interim appointment. Can the Minister tell us when the full appointment will be made? The noble Lord, Lord Broers, asked whether Dr Dixon’s report has been presented. I hope that the Minister will be able to shed some light on all that.
On the relationship with the research councils, our observations fortunately received a warm welcome from Research Councils UK. There appears to be a genuine commitment from AHRC in taking this forward. Thank goodness that the remit of the DCMS does not run to the research councils. As for our suggestion that English Heritage should provide the secretariat to carry forward the development of a national strategy for heritage science, the Government’s reply is a masterpiece of Whitehall obfuscation: “On the one hand, this, and on the other hand, that”—a textbook reply from Whitehall. English Heritage, in contrast, made a warm response.
We also said that it was important for the strategy to be developed bottom-up with considerable input from the users and doers, which produced a warm response from the National Trust. The NT has, of course, unrivalled experience but, in the nature of things, cannot have its own research capability and therefore looks to collaborative arrangements. It cited the work at Blickling Hall, which the committee visited, as a successful example of how things are and could be done.
I have commented on the Government’s response to these three main points. But how, taken in the round, would someone summarise the totality of the response? I cannot match the knockabout stuff of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, with which I totally agreed. It has been described as a bit of a curate’s egg, the warm welcome for research councils contrasting with the regular departmental response which, at almost every point, was grudging and lacking in substance. The contrast with the comments we received from the client sector is marked: they were almost unanimously enthusiastic. I shall confine myself to a single comment from Icon:
“The most worrying aspect of the DCMS response is that it fails to explicitly acknowledge that there is a problem”.
I started off in a critical vein, and seem to be ending in the same way. I am not alone in that this afternoon. Nevertheless, against all the odds, and contrary to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, perhaps the Minister will be able to get the Comprehensive Spending Review to come riding to our rescue because, my goodness, we need it.
I congratulate all those concerned in producing this splendid and timely report, particularly as I understand that the committee’s inquiry was the first ever major parliamentary investigation into the science underpinning the conservation of our heritage. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for giving us the opportunity for this debate, as well as for her wide-ranging introduction. This country has greatly benefited from the quality and quantity of its 1,800 museums and galleries, and their managers are worried about funding, both now and in the future. Even the unique British Library says that it may have to charge its readers.
I shall refer to two examples from my personal knowledge, which come within the ambit of scientific heritage where there is concern over funding. First, the Churchill Museum, part of the Imperial War Museum, which won the European Museum of the Year award last year and uses new technology to fantastic effect in promoting its important message. Receiving no government funding, its entry fee is £14 per person. I have no doubt that there are special arrangements for schoolchildren and others in special categories, but it seems extraordinary that a museum with such a valuable message should have to make such a high charge for people wishing to visit it.
The second example is the conservation centre which is part of the National Museums Liverpool where, for example, laser technology has been developed for conservation purposes. I am glad that the committee was able to visit Liverpool last year to see the range of work being carried out. I recognise that government funding was eventually made available for the conservation centre and its work—and very welcome it was, too. There is always ongoing and continuing anxiety for the future, however.
Perhaps in addition to those two examples, I might refer to training in heritage skills, to embrace new technology—which is again vital for the future and survival of so much of our heritage. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, referred to this in her contribution, I shall not dwell on the matter, but it is an important area. I want to push the Minister hard on the issue of funding in view of the DCMS’s response to the report, which states that
“there remain uncertainties about the outcome of the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review for DCMS and other government departments with responsibilities for cultural heritage”.
What exactly does that mean? If there are to be cuts where will the money go instead? I say this not in a spirit of criticism of the department and the people presently in it, but to give them the opportunity to pass on pressure to the Treasury. In my experience of various departments, pressure from your Lordships’ House has been quite useful.
I am not a member of the committee, and although I have attempted to go through its weighty report, I have not read every word. I am not therefore sure about all the international comparisons and input that went into it, apart from the references and the visit to Italy. I say this because I think that this issue of scientific heritage is a subject on which the Council of Europe committee on which I serve, which deals with education, science and sport, might well be interested in pursuing. Input from the 46 member countries of the Council of Europe would produce a fascinating next stage of the subject.
In this International Polar Year, it is appropriate to refer to activities in the Arctic and Antarctica. Some might say that that is more in the field of the environment than heritage, but a prime example of where heritage and science merge in Antarctica is the need to preserve the 100 year-old Scott and Shackleton huts. The Government needed some urging on this, but finally in February this year, I am happy to say they pledged £250,000 towards the preservation of the Scott hut. I hope that the Shackleton hut will soon receive similar funding. It may be that the funding covers both huts. I hope that the Government will be equally generous in supporting the current search for Shackleton’s “Endurance” by Blue Water Recoveries, which has set out its objectives as follows:
“This venture will be the first expedition ever to attempt to locate one of the world’s most famous shipwrecks below the ice cover of the Weddell Sea. Due to the depth of the wreck (below 3,000 metres) and the extreme polar temperatures of the Weddell Sea, we have a unique opportunity to find Endurance in almost pristine conditions—a time capsule of Shackleton’s harrowing voyage. The expedition will also support a programme of scientific research in this unique deep-sea environment, which shall increase our knowledge and understanding of this un-explored area enormously”.
To go from the particular to the general, I very much welcome the report’s strong, underlying theme of the need for a co-ordinated and strategic approach in general. I welcome the response of the Arts and Heritage Research Council and the English Heritage proposals. I hope that English Heritage will receive the support that has been referred to by others in the debate.
In particular, I approve the idea of the appointment of a director of research, chief scientist, champion for heritage or research, or whatever we choose to call it. Like my noble friend Lord Waldegrave, I do not expect everyone to remember who was responsible for what in the past, but one inevitably recollects rather well those things in which one played a part. I draw a comparison with the passage of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 when, as the Lords Minister concerned, I had the pleasure of announcing the first appointment of a director for National Health Service research. That was a direct result of the insistence of many distinguished medical experts, then Members of your Lordships’ House. I hope that the Minister will have the same opportunity to carry out a similar pleasant duty by announcing the appointment of a champion for heritage research.
This significant and weighty report has been cogently introduced. I dare say that the Minister has read it from cover to cover. In today’s debate, the DCMS leadership has had a pasting. Perhaps the Minister will state his perception of the leadership exercised by the department in this context, which might weigh on the other side.
I draw the Minister’s attention to the memorandum by National Museums Liverpool, which is printed on page 269. Its recommendations are:
“Specific allocation of funding for conservation science, to which museums and other heritage organisations can apply alongside universities.
Definition of priorities for conservation research on a national level.
Regional centres to provide advice and scientific support to museums, local heritage organisations and private conservators”.
It is reasonable for Liverpool to suggest that in this debate. I visited the conservation centre in Liverpool and was briefed by its able officers. That was several years ago, but the centre is open and free to enter and visitors are welcome.
Next year, Liverpool will be the European Capital of Culture, and that great city is gathering its strength and gaining confidence and 2008 will be a big year in its history. I believe that its galleries and museums are some of the finest in the western world. Britain should be very proud of what is available. I recommend visiting the Walker Art Gallery, which has a Poussin, and the Lady Lever Art Gallery, which has a fine garden with sculptures and a unique bequest by the first Viscount Leverhulme. Tate Liverpool has an unrivalled location.
Time is of the essence for a speaker in the gap, but I shall say that Liverpool has some very fine ideas in this context and we should all wish it all the very best in 2008.
My Lords, first, I congratulate my noble friend Lady Sharp and her committee on what I think everyone in this debate has described as a superb report. The case that she, her fellow committee members and all Members of this Committee have made is unassailable. I shall make just a few brief remarks to counterpoint some of those made by other noble Lords.
The notable thing about the report—and my noble friend was in some senses quite upbeat about it—is that the results have already come through. There are some congratulations to be given here, particularly to the British Library, the British Museum, the NMSI, the National Trust and other parties in the heritage and museum community. Interestingly, the British Library is putting on an exhibition at its centre for conservation. I think that, after this debate, all of us will be looking forward to seeing a display of some of these conservation skills. The exhibition is extremely well timed. The British Library also made a great contribution in its evidence to the Select Committee.
Congratulations are also in order to English Heritage for pressing ahead despite the rather discouraging noises made and the obstacles put in its way by the DCMS, and for the fact that it picked up the idea of the establishment of a secretary. Congratulations are also in order to the Arts and Humanities Research Council. We heard today about the effective leadership that it has shown on points made in the report. It has established a dedicated research programme for heritage science, with a programme director already appointed.
In particular, I congratulate the conservation community on the recent merger of Icon and the Institute of Conservation Science, which brings together, as we know, the scientific and practitioner communities and will help to tackle the sometimes weak communications between them, to which the report drew attention. Action has already been taken and Icon has used heritage lottery money to create a one-year internship in conservation science which will start in September 2007. The HLF money was given to Icon to support training in areas of serious skills shortages which were putting conservation in danger.
The committee can already take considerable credit for some of the actions which have been taken as a result of its report. However, one set of people who do not emerge with credit from this debate are those at the DCMS. I will not be quite as trenchant as my noble friend on that—I could not possibly be—but I intend to take the committee through some criticisms that emerge clearly from the report and are not addressed in the response.
It is clear from the committee’s report that Britain has been a world leader in conservation science. But because of a lack of leadership, strategy and resources, and as a result of a lack of priority given to this area by DCMS, Britain has lost that leadership and risks declining further in its position. No one reading the report can be in any doubt about the value of conservation—or what Members of the Committee prefer to call heritage science. Conservation is the science of how we preserve artefacts and cultural documents for future generations and restore them to public access. But it is also—as a number of Members of the Committee, including my noble friend, pointed out—the sheer economic value of these items in terms of their attraction for tourism and the public.
I particularly like the phrase which the noble Lord, Lord Broers, used when he talked about “treasures”. That is exactly what they are. My passion happens to be books, archival records and buildings, but it could be the red Jaguar described by the noble Lord—
It was a green Jaguar. I prefer red. We want to preserve these artefacts so that they can be accessed. There is always the debate about what is authentic. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Howarth, took us down a very interesting road in that respect. As the noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave, and the noble Baroness, Lady Platt, made absolutely clear, conservation must take place before access can be given. Access cannot be at the expense of the preservation of artefacts and there must be a balance, as both noble Lords pointed out.
It seems that, despite the committee’s report, there appears to have been very little evidence of any change of perception within the DCMS on the importance of developing the science base for conservation. In its response to the committee, the DCMS said that it regarded these matters as falling within the remit of its NDPBs and noted that,
“the Government does not believe that the governance and funding structure that is implied in such an arrangement necessarily imperils the maintenance of the science base for conservation or indeed the long-term preservation of cultural heritage”.
How mealy-mouthed can you get? Its own NDPBs and the national museums, however, all gave evidence to the contrary.
The DCMS’s response also cites the wording of one of its five strategic priorities as an example of its commitment to sustainable cultural heritage. It is an isolated example, unsupported by the PSA targets linked to the department’s strategic objectives, since these are all about increasing visitor numbers and wider participation and not about stewardship for the future. The report recommends that the DCMS appoint a chief scientific adviser who can provide the required leadership for developing heritage science. Seven months on from the publication of the report, the DCMS has not yet made any announcement on the appointment of a chief scientific adviser for the department.
As we heard, Mike Dixon, the interim chief scientific adviser, has submitted a report to the DCMS on the appointment of a future permanent CSA. If the recommendations of this report are followed through, that person could have a major impact on the advancement of heritage science. Will the Mike Dixon report be published? Can the Minister tell us when the DCMS plans to make an appointment or even advertise an appointment? What practical measures has the DCMS taken since the report was published to support the implementation of its recommendations? The DCMS recently underwent a capability review, which makes 31 references to the Olympics and no reference at all to heritage in the context of forward plans. Is the DCMS really a safe pair of hands for the future of heritage science?
As we also heard, the report recommended that the DCMS make a fairly small financial commitment to the future of heritage science in the United Kingdom by providing English Heritage with sufficient funding to run its small secretariat, which, as we heard, it has set up for the proposed national heritage science strategy. Why did the DCMS decide to make no additional funding available? Can the Minister tell us whether it will review this decision? How will the national heritage science strategy be sustained beyond the lifetime of the designated English Heritage post? Who will take responsibility and who will provide funding?
The DCMS recently held a consultation on the future of museums in the 21st century and part of the focus was on the future of the workforce. Will the DCMS ensure that the importance of the sustainability of the conservation science workforce forms part of the picture that emerges when it publishes its final report? We have heard of the skills shortages and the worries for the future throughout this debate. The Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council have announced a new science and heritage research programme. The amount of funding which this programme will have at its disposal has not yet been announced. When will the funding level be announced?
Why is there such a contrast with sports science, mentioned by my noble friend Lady Sharp and a number of other Members of the Committee, where the DCMS takes leadership? This committee has come back with a superb blueprint, but it is clear that the DCMS needs to grasp the nettle. As my noble friend Lord Redesdale made so clear, its response is totally unsatisfactory and needs revising. I hope that the Minister will deliver a clear vision today, not simply a set of excuses.
My Lords, as noble Lords have already said, the committee is to be congratulated on producing a comprehensive report with some extremely fine analysis. It sets out the background so well with the excellent statement on the value of heritage to the nation. Good though the report is, and with respect to my noble friend Lady Hooper, I am unsure about the necessity for a chief scientific adviser. Among the many good points raised, the report highlights the inherent conflict between conservation and access. With no access, conservation is much simpler, but generally speaking there is little point in conserving something for it not to be seen. Thus the science of conservation becomes more and more important as more and more people take an interest in and want to see, and be in touch with, this nation’s heritage.
Before going further I declare two interests. I am the owner of a medieval castle that lacks its main roof—something that has given me all too good an insight into one aspect of conservation. I am also chairman of the trustees of a 17th century almshouse.
The advance of technology, as well as bringing new benefits, brings new problems. For example, a great benefit is the ability to provide instant virtual reality through the use of portable DVD players and computers, which has meant that the disabled can get more enjoyment when access is difficult or impossible. A problem arose at York Minster when no one could understand why, after centuries, a particular flagstone was being worn away. Eventually it was discovered that the electronic wand on which you pressed the number displayed at various points to get the relevant commentary gave the instruction, “Take a step back, turn round and look up”. All were doing as instructed at exactly the same spot, with the consequent erosion of the flagstone. There was not a lot of science to resolve this—an example of the variety of problems that need solving.
Many or most of these problems will need scientific input to find a solution. Multiply that huge number of problems by the diversity of different artefacts, living and dead, to which those problems apply, and you have an almost limitless number of problems with an unimaginable range. Think of the different requirements of Kew Gardens, referred to by my noble friend Lord Eccles, the British Library or, as my noble friend Lord Waldegrave mentioned, the “Flying Scotsman”. Given that range and diversity, it is questionable whether a chief scientific adviser, as suggested by the report, would be able to make a meaningful contribution. Perhaps it would be better to pursue the DCMS’s line of argument that it would be more efficient for decisions to be delegated to the experts in the bodies that it sponsors. Unlike some other noble Lords, I believe that it is disappointing that the DCMS has been so quick to accept the idea of a chief scientific adviser. What would the point be of, say, English Heritage having to refer to or consult a scientific conservation adviser? As Sir Neil Cussons said:
“English Heritage is, of course, a conservation body and so conservation is at the heart of what we do”.
Concern about dissemination seems obsolete in these days of the internet. Those working in preservation want to preserve—it is what they do—and, in pursuit of this, they will take advantage of the new sources of information that are growing so rapidly. The process is accelerating all the time, to the extent that the availability of information and the ease with which it can be achieved changes on an almost daily basis.
Generally speaking, creating another layer of bureaucracy is not a success. The example of which we are all aware is the National Health Service, in which managers now outnumber hospital beds and doctors. The appointment of a chief scientific adviser to the DCMS, with appropriate staff—and what a multitude of sins “appropriate staff” might cover, when one considers the numbers that would be needed to advise competently on the massive range and diversity to which I have referred—would absorb funds that would be much better spent on the actual science or conservation by those carrying out conservation rather than by those overseeing or reviewing it.
As the report says, the DCMS does not have the expertise to act as an “intelligent customer” of science. I am sure that that is correct, but why does it need to be an intelligent customer of science? The report makes clear that there is already an army of highly intelligent and knowledgeable customers who need no help to appreciate the value of heritage science. Where would the staff come from for the DCMS? As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, mentioned, the report comments on the shortage of skilled people, so if the DCMS is to be an intelligent customer, it will presumably have to recruit from the very organisations that it is seeking to help. I very much hope that when Dr Michael Dixon’s report appears, it will dismiss the idea of what would, in due course, become an expensive layer of bureaucracy.
Reading the report, it is clear there are many organisations with great expertise in conservation. Is that very decentralisation and diversification, where each organisation has a strong focus on its particular specialist needs, in fact responsible for this country being a world leader in conservation? Each organisation has unrivalled knowledge in its sphere, which has been responsible for the success achieved. If money is to be spent to improve conservation science, it should be given directly to the relevant organisations to continue and enhance their work. They know what they are doing. They have the relevant expertise and, with added funds, could afford to carry out training programmes and disseminate their knowledge as the report recommends.
There is strong evidence of a willingness to go along this path, as the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, pointed out, for example, in English Heritage, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Institute of Conservation. That is all happening and is, no doubt, influenced by the report. The committee is to be congratulated on having initiated this action through its report. There is no need for further overhead creation. Money must go directly to the various bodies that know how to spend it. If there is a need for an overarching strategy—and I query that, with the huge diversity I have referred to—it should be entrusted to English Heritage, or a similar body where a lot of the relevant expertise already exists, rather than creating a new department at the DCMS that will have to acquire the same knowledge from scratch.
I am afraid that we now come back to the old chestnut that we have debated so much recently: the appropriation of lottery funds for the Olympics. If just a modest proportion of those funds was made available to heritage, as was the original intent, the science of conservation could be developed and enhanced—not perhaps to everyone’s heart’s content, but certainly in a way that would satisfy noble Lords who have spoken today, and with no need for any new layers of bureaucracy.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising, for introducing an element of balance into the debate which will enable me to plot a path midway between two perspectives. I did not see that path very clearly until he spoke. The report is cogently argued and makes some very important points, and I am all too well aware of the expertise of those who contributed to this debate. The Members of the Committee were supplemented by two noble Lords who had ministerial experience in the area that we are discussing today. Consequently, a formidable array of challenging speeches was made on this important issue. I am conscious that, as ever with reports of this kind, there was a certain pre-emption of the Government’s likely response, so one or two contributions foretold dismal pessimism on my part. If I partially fulfil that in some way, I will have met the forebodings of some Members of the Committee while not advancing the Government’s cause a great deal. I shall not be pessimistic, but I am realistic about what we can achieve.
I shall deal first of all with something of a canard about the way in which the department is wildly enthusiastic about sport, while having limited commitment to museums and heritage. It is not so. The difference is clear. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, expressed this point, and others did too. Noble Lords should recognise the difference between the relationship of the department to sporting bodies, such as Sport England, and the museums and heritage sector. We can both direct resources to Sport England and establish priorities. We can expect to get things done.
It will be recognised in this Room that many noble Lords have a significant role in museums and will not accept that the DCMS is in a position of direction. I went to the British Museum this morning. We were talking about the issues of the sculptures from the Parthenon and part of the illustration was a brilliant display of how the latest scientific techniques can enhance one’s appreciation of them. The museum illustrated the way the sculptures might have been painted in the past and produced images of how they could have looked in the great days 2,000 years ago. It was done through computer graphics in an extremely interesting way, and it is a real challenge to think about the Parthenon in those terms. The other message that was fairly clear was that we will carry on talking about the future of the Parthenon marbles and about our relationship to the understandable and well-documented position of the Greeks on these issues, but we do not expect government policy to intrude in that area. We all understand why. After all, we know that the British Museum is established by statute. Its trustees have direct responsibility for its work and have had a responsibility to the British nation over several hundred years. The DCMS, even if it dreamed of it, has no capacity to interfere directly in such circumstances and exercise such powers.
I accept, of course, challenges on how far the Government have made progress in areas in which the committee is greatly concerned, and I shall try to answer the detailed points that were raised. However, I will not accept unfair criticisms suggesting that somehow the DCMS ought to equip itself with a chief scientific adviser—who once or twice began to sound more like a gauleiter than an adviser—who would aid the department by giving instructions to all and sundry on how we could make a better job of protecting our heritage. That is not how the DCMS can be expected to work. Even if we started down such a track, the criticism would be even more ferocious than that of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, about our failure to act with sufficient speed.
I pay tribute to the committee for its work and to the chairmanship of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. We are taking a great deal of the report seriously on board. I was asked about time scales. There are two determinants on that issue. When the issue of resources emerges, it will be recognised that we have to await the Comprehensive Spending Review. The department is governed by that in the same way as all other government departments. It is unfortunate that I am responding to this debate at this particular time. I have no doubt that I shall be responding to a similar one after the CSR has been decided and after the department has identified its priorities and where its expenditure is going in greater detail. I have not the slightest doubt that the debate will be exceedingly lively on that occasion. I apologise for being unable to be more definitive today. If it is for one moment suggested that the Government have a limited commitment to the museums, let us look back over the past decade. Many of us hoped to see the rapid removal of museum fees and to make access to our great museums free as soon as we came into office. It took us four years to realise that objective because it was an issue of resources. These things do not come without cost; there was a significant loss of revenue once charges were taken away. Of course, the Government had to guarantee that the institutions did not suffer from such loss of revenue. It will not do for us to gloss over the revenue issues, but I emphasise that expenditure on our heritage has been significant.
We stand proudly on our record, which is evidence of our commitment for the future. I do not gainsay the fact that resources over the next four to five years will not be as extensive as they have been over the past five or six—the Chancellor has made that fairly clear, after all. Public expenditure will be restrained to a certain degree, but I emphasise that that does not alter the Government’s real commitment to this important sector.
The committee has done its most successful work in highlighting that we perhaps do not sufficiently appreciate the relationship between the application of science and our heritage in these terms. It is suggested that the department ought to be able to answer all these questions on resources. The committee says that we have inadequate resources for heritage protection, and that that is a threat to heritage science; it is expressed in fairly cataclysmic terms. The problem is that the committee is like the department: producing a roll call of the resources involved in this work is exceedingly difficult. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, indicated that there were contradictions between different contributors to this area in her opening speech. One colossal and significant resource, the amount of this work done in universities, is nothing to do with the department as such. We do not control the resources for universities, nor are we in a position greatly to influence them. However, no one doubts that that is an area of significant resources.
My point is that the committee has helped to identify areas where the department needs to make progress and develop an understanding of which resources can be employed. I ask the committee to recognise that identification is different from direction, however. Although I can see the case for the chief scientific adviser—and am therefore somewhat at odds with the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising, who says that he does not—the advice we are currently getting will be considered over the course of the summer, so that we have a position on the issue. The committee has therefore helped to stimulate this work. It is not as timely as many members of the committee would wish. However, I can guarantee that this part of the work of the committee and this recommendation have been taken seriously and will be brought to fruition very soon.
In response to this debate, I therefore want to emphasise the gains which have obtained from the work which the committee has carried out. It has thrown light on an area which has been relatively under-considered in the past. I cannot identify a debate which has concentrated on this important area before. It also brings together the work of scientists, technologists and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, indicated, craftsmen. It has brought all those features into an area where too often perhaps they have been underestimated in terms of their role, although I recognise the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Waldegrave. We also are proud of our great institutions with regard to science and the Science Museum, where we have taken care to enhance understanding of those achievements. However, it cannot be anything but good for us to appreciate rather more the relationship between the development of scientific techniques to enhance, protect and develop our heritage, which is a great element of the burden of what the committee has to say.
In response to the committee, I have to say that I cannot be precise about spending at the present time. I certainly cannot be precise about the time at which a chief scientific adviser might be appointed, but I am giving an indication of the timeframe in which the decision will be taken. I cannot give the assurances that the committee wants with regard to funding for the future. However, the report has been what I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said that she hopes it will be—a catalyst for action. That is how the department is responding. These are not easy areas at this point in time. We all recognise the constraints on expenditure and there is never a recommendation from a committee which does not have implications for priorities within government.
The committee is to be congratulated on identifying an important area of work which perhaps had not been identified in quite the graphic way in which it has been by the committee. I pay due tribute to all the work that has been done and I thank all Members of the Committee who have contributed to the debate. I have no doubt that the committee has greatly appreciated the support that it has had from others who have contributed, however difficult that may have made my job in responding to the committee’s report.
My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have participated in this debate and I thank the Minister for his response. I am very grateful for the support that we have had from all sides for the report. I am a bit surprised by the Minister’s response, partly because I think that he has misunderstood aspects of our report. The noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising, also seems to have misunderstood two issues.
It is not this report that is suggesting the appointment of a chief scientist but an earlier report—a review by the Office of Science and Technology of the scientific capabilities of different departments that made, in no uncertain terms back in 2004, the recommendation that the DCMS should have a chief scientific adviser. All that we did was to ask what was happening two years later and why nothing had been done to appoint a chief scientific adviser. In the time since we started asking questions, the department has begun to move and the temporary appointment of Dr Michael Dixon as an adviser on how to set up the post has been pursued.
In contrast to the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Rising, we endorse the idea that the post should be there because we think that it would help the department in taking decisions, not just in heritage science. We recognise the very wide range of responsibilities of the department. In areas such as the switchover to digital technology or sports science, somebody with a hard science background has something to contribute. We think that it would not be an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy but would help in the better procurement of the needs of the department. That is why we backed this idea and asked further questions.
The Minister spent most of his time telling us that there would be no more resources. Like everybody else we are “Waiting for Godot” in terms of the CSR. Of all the recommendations that we have made to the department, not one asks for more resources. The body from which we asked for more resources was the Arts and Humanities Research Council—and we got them.
As I said, the Minister misunderstood the report somewhat, but once again I want to thank all those who participated in the debate. We have had a good debate, which has been extremely helpful.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
The Committee adjourned at 5.46 pm.