In April 2009, HAD was invited to respond to a consultation run by English Heritage, the Church of England and the Ministry of Justice on the formation of a new Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Burials in England (APABE). The new proposed body would replace APACBE (Advisory Panel on the Archaeology of Christian Burials in England) and so extend its remit to cover pre- and non-Christian burials.
HAD’s response agreed that a single body providing guidance could ensure a useful consistency for burials irrespective of their age, provenance and cultural or religious context. However, HAD recommended that it focus exclusively on decision-making about burial sites and the archaeological process of excavation, and avoid attempting to extend into museum issues. This recommendation was echoed by the response to the consultation by the Museums Association (http://www.museumsassociation.org/publications/18343).
HAD further recommended that the only way such a body could be acceptable, having any validity and moral authority, would be to have representation from all those with a significant interest in burials and burial sites within the United Kingdom, including religious representation from Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh and Pagan communities, since the Church of England cannot be seen to be representative of all faiths. Again, this is echoed by the Museums Association response, which states that “It is essential that APABE adopt a transparent collaborative approach to their working practice. Diverse views must be sought to adequately represent all relevant stakeholders and promote robust consultation and decision-making”.
The new APABE had its first meeting in February 2010. However, no information was sent to HAD, as one of the original invited consultees, about this decision, and so we have no indication of the remit of this new body or its membership. However, since HAD has not been invited, we can assume from this that its call for wider membership to include religious bodies, including HAD, has been ignored. There is no information available in the public realm.
HAD is working to find out the details of the new APABE. Nevertheless, for public bodies such as English Heritage, the Church of England and the Ministry of Justice to run a public consultation, then make a decision and launch the new body without informing those consulted, seems both incompetent and disrespectful and smacks of elitism and a culture of secrecy. We will keep you informed through the HAD website.
Update : February 2010
Following a letter to APABE asking for an update on progress, the following was received from Simon Mays of the National Trust :
Last week APACBE was wound up and APABE was officially formed. We are still finalising some details regarding the panel but when that has been done, respondants to the consultation will be informed of the nature, remit etc of the new panel. The panel website will also be set up shortly.
When APACBE gave formal advice, details of the cases and the advice given by the panel were placed upon the panel's website. This will also be the case with the new panel, and we will also give details of panel's composition, terms of reference etc. We will also make the consultation responses available via the EH website and the new APABE website. The new panel will follow the same policy of openness in our dealings as did APACBE.
HAD has asked what the timeframe will be for the changes.
Update July 2010
APABE's new website can now be found at : http://www.britarch.ac.uk/apabe
HAD has informed its own Council, advisors and various other networks of this new website and awaits feedback. If you would like to comment, we would be pleased to know your thoughts.
Update August 2010
HAD has raised concerns over APABE's constitution in a letter to Simon Mays and Joseph Elders.