John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport
During the plenary debate on the Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee's Report on the Inquiry into the Welsh Government’s historic environment policy 8 May 2013, I advised that I would be considering a business case on the future of the services provided by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales in due course.
I was fortunate to be able to visit the Royal Commission recently to see for myself the work it undertakes and I am aware of its reputation and that it is highly valued by stakeholders.
The business case was commissioned in early 2013 following a Working Group report in 2012. The Working Group had concluded that there was a case for change and it had subjected three options in particular to preliminary scrutiny. These ranged in scale from the reconstitution of the Commission as a modernised arms length body; merging the Royal Commission’s functions with those of Cadw within the Welsh Government; and merging the Commission’s functions with those of Cadw into a new body operating at arms length from Government. The business case has built on the Working Group report and subjected the first two of those options to further scrutiny.
In considering the business case, I have been mindful of the concerns expressed by stakeholders regarding the future of the Royal Commission including the report from Communities, Equality and Local Government Committee's Inquiry into the Welsh Government’s historic environment policy. I have also considered representations from the Commissioners of the Royal Commission and its staff.
I believe that merger offers the opportunity to deliver a more effective and coherent national historic environment service, one which can provide collaborative leadership for the historic environment sector, delivering progress on knowledge, conservation and public engagement.
I am therefore minded to merge the Royal Commission with Cadw, but I have asked for further work to be carried out in relation to the relative benefits and disadvantages of merger within and outside the Welsh Government.
I will shortly consult on the relative benefits and disadvantages of merger within or outside Government as part of the wider consultation on the first ever heritage legislation to be considered by the National Assembly.
I am pleased that the Chair of the Royal Commission supports my decision to ask for further work to be undertaken. I welcome his full commitment to supporting my officials to develop further advice for my consideration.
I am very aware that the possibility of major organisational change will be unsettling for the staff of both the Royal Commission and Cadw. I will ensure that staff continue to have opportunities to contribute and engage with this process, while also continuing to engage with the relevant trade unions.
I will make a final decision on how to proceed once I have considered the further work I have commissioned, together with the responses to the consultation process.