Archaeology — Question

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:52 pm on 9th March 2009.

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Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 2:52 pm, 9th March 2009

My Lords, the noble Baroness has only to wait for the third amendment this afternoon to see that we shall be discussing these issues with some intensity. I therefore hope that I am able to give her that reassurance.

I apologise to noble Lords for my slight slip in saying "architecture". I was on a visit for the Lord Speaker on Friday and a student raised with me the intense difficulties that he was facing despite having potentially very high A-level scores. He wanted to study architecture, so I had architecture as well as archaeology in my mind, hence the slight slip.

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David Sorapure
Posted on 10 Mar 2009 3:20 pm (Report this annotation)

Speaking as a professional buildings archaeologist (which would probably confuse the Hon. Lord Davies of Oldham even further) - I feel I should draw attention to the low morale amongst professional archaeologists at present. Salaries have always been extremely low and job security is never certain. The prospect of being made redundant is always there, even when times are good. The lack of awareness as to what we do and how and why we do it is incredible and it is apparent that archaeology and heritage professionals have been busy over the past 10 years or so, because Britain's (in particular London's built) heritage is being rapidly destroyed by the unstoppable march of "development". It is not particularly encouraging that a Member of Parliament can confuse architects with archaeologists.

Competitive tendering within the archaeology industry ensures that our services are cheap for developers. Therefore our wages are low (archaeology is the lowest paid graduate profession there is). It also means that what we do is not valued highly - by developers, by councils, by anyone. Planning guidance states that archaeology has to be taken into account, as does the historic nature of buildings or the area they are in. But none of this actually protects heritage sites, monuments and buildings. Even listed buildings can be gutted and their original interiors destroyed, because nothing stands in the way of "development" - simply because there are profits to be made.

The future for archaeologists and therefore the protection of national heritage does not look good in the light of the present recession. Many will leave the field never to return, resulting in a loss of skills. The building and construction industries will recover eventually but when they do I doubt there will be the resolve by those in power, nor the skilled workforce available, to put Britain's heritage before profits.