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Gareth Thomas, Labour MP for Harrow West is a prolific question-asker in the Commons (610 written questions in the past year!) but he hasn’t previously seemed particularly interested in archaeology. He did ask last week about funding for (a.) the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission and (b.) English Heritage and was gently informed by Ed Vaisey that the two were the same body, but that’s about it.

Yet he has just posed an intriguing question to Culture Minister John Penrose:

How many Roman archaeological sites there are in (a) each region and (b) each nation?”

Mr Penrose has dutifully answered (there are 36,263 such sites in England alone) but the far more fascinating question is WHY Mr Thomas, who hasn’t previously displayed much interest or knowledge regarding archaeology, should ask such a thing (that is readily available on English Heritage’s National database anyway)? What use would it be to him or any of his constituents or the taxpayer? And why Roman sites in particular? They aren’t (so far) financed or protected in a different way to other archaeological sites and there are presumably no Romans in Harrow West pressing him to speak for them. You’d have to hope, wouldn’t you, that he didn’t want to show that Roman sites were two a penny and that development was OK on one of the ones at Harrow (of which there are several ) So if anyone has any ideas about this parliamentary mystery we’d be glad to hear.

In the meantime, we have a message for Mr Thomas: there are huge numbers of pre-Roman sites that are worthy of just as much attention but get less. How about giving those a bit of publicity in the House?!

[Thanks to the BAJR forum for first noticing this]

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