§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
An hon. Member opposite referred to an earlier Clause as a long and ugly Clause. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee will regard this as a very short but very ugly Clause and will ask the Chancellor to withdraw it and look at it again.
I think it would be fair to say that I could speak on behalf of many hon. Members on both sides of the Committee in making that appeal to the Chancellor. I certainly feel that I could speak on behalf of very many voluntary organisations in the country on behalf of their members. I am sure that the Chancellor must be aware of the feeling that exists, as I understand that he has had a good deal of correspondence in relation to this Clause. I regret that the replies he has sent have so far been not very encouraging to those of us who wish to see the National Land Fund retained for the purposes for which it appears to us it was originally created.
is certain is that there are very many members of voluntary organisations 770 who regard this Clause as being—one might almost say, in effect, that it means the abolition to all intents and purposes of this Fund—as a blow to all their hopes and expectations, and as a very cruel recompense for all the voluntary work which they have, in fact, been doing and for which they have been complimented by successive Ministers of all political persuasions. Perhaps I may say in parenthesis that it has not been possible for a Liberal Minister to congratulate them, but I am sure that had there been a Liberal Minister he would have congratulated them in equally fervent terms.
Bodies like the Ramblers' Association, of which I have the honour at the moment to be President, and the Youth Hostels' Association corresponded with the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor, and there are very many other amenity bodies in the country who had pinned their hopes in effect to the possible future use of the National Land Fund for the development of national parks, and, indeed, for other amenity projects as well. Therefore, it was a disaster to them and it came as a very great shock when the Chancellor appeared to slip into his Budget speech very casually, without any preparation at all, the proposal for the abolition of the Fund. We now have this in Statutory form in this Clause. Why hon. Members on both sides of the Committee—
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
The hon. Gentleman said that it was being abolished. It is being reduced to £10 million.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
The hon. Member anticipated me. I was saying that to all intents and purposes it was abolished for the purposes for which hon. Members here, and certainly members of the voluntary bodies, expected this Fund to be used. That is the point to which I am proceeding.
Hon. Members may well ask why voluntary bodies feel so deeply about this matter. Surely if one wants to explain that one needs to look at the origin of the Fund. It was very noticeable that the Chancellor, in making his proposal for its abolition in the Budget, made no reference at all to the wider purposes for which the Fund was envisaged when it was established by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton).
771 It must be remembered that when my right hon. Friend made his proposal in his Budget speech, in 1946 I think it was, he made it clear that he was willing that this Fund should be made available in the future for the development of national parks, which, of course, at that time were not in existence, and for other purposes. He referred to the possibility of public acquisition of certain land which has an especial amenity value, and other proposals of that kind. Indeed, when the Finance Bill of 1946 was introduced, it specifically referred to "such purposes as Parliament may hereafter determine," in addition to the precise proposals which at that time it was possible for my right hon. Friend to make. Therefore, it clearly was always understood at that time that there were other uses to which the Fund might well be put.
It is perfectly true that when the 1949 National Parks Bill was introduced and discussed and finally became an Act the opportunity was not taken, as it might well have been, to make use of the Fund. Again it may be said that that was the opportunity. It is a perfectly fair point to make. It is equally fair to point out that by that time there was very strong opposition by local authorities, which had only recently become major planning authorities under the 1947 Act, to any proposal to erect a new planning body that had separate financial authority. Whether it was right or not that pressure should have been needed in that way is another matter. There were certainly differences of opinion expressed at that time about it. What is certain is that, whereas at that time local authorities were very suspicious—shall I put it that way—of the possibilities of a separate planning authority with financial powers that they might receive from the National Land Fund, that is not the position today.
The striking thing is that the County Councils' Association, which is the local authority body most concerned in this matter, has expressed itself clearly in a letter it sent to the Minister of Housing and Local Government on 22nd February of this year. In that letter it specifically states its view that—a part of the monies accumulated in the National Land Fund could be drawn upon or earmarked for the purposes of the Parks and 772 that the use of the Fund for the implementation of national parks policy would be consistent with the purposes for which it was originally established.That makes it clear that the County Councils' Association no longer takes the view it took in 1949. Therefore, it should now be possible, without opposition from that association, to make reasonable provision for the use of this National Land Fund for what, I believe, most hon. Members would agree is the highly desirable purpose of encouraging the development of national parks and their proper use.
My second point is that the Public Accounts Committee made a recommendation on this matter, as it was entitled to do. That Committee does not pretend to discuss matters of policy with which the Committees of the House of Commons are concerned. It was considering the proper use of the Fund for the purposes which the House of Commons had approved. It made the no doubt very proper comment, although some of us objected to it at the time, that if the Fund was not to be used—or part of it—it had better be returned to the Exchequer.
We should note the fact that the Committee was not taking a view whether or not other uses should be made of the Fund; indeed, it would be improper for it to do so. That is entirely a matter for the House of Commons to decide. To rely upon the Public Accounts Committee's recommendation without referring to the earlier proposals of my right hon. Friend seems therefore to be rather extraordinary.
Local authorities have found it very difficult to make financial contributions of any realistic character towards the development of national parks. The Exchequer makes a grant of about 75 per cent. to approved national park expenditure; local authorities are expected to find the remaining 25 per cent. This does not cover all national park expenditure but only certain approved expenditure. Local authorities, perhaps naturally, are not particularly eager to find even the 25 per cent. contribution for projects which they regard as mainly of a national character and only to a limited extent of local interest. They think the matter should be dealt with mainly if not entirely from national funds.
773 One can understand that point of view. Therefore it is difficult to get projects put forward which most of us would agree are needed and are not a matter of party-political controversy. These include measures to clear up some of the most beautiful areas and make them more enjoyable and to encourage the development of a warden service, which I understand is urgently needed in many areas even to protect the use of the areas for agricultural purposes as well as to ensure that wider public use does not interfere and detract from their beauty. Even if the warden service were recruited largely on a voluntary basis, as it probably would be, it would need funds. At the moment most park authorities are not willing to make much contribution towards it.
7.15 p. m.
Administrative expenses are not among those for which the Exchequer makes a contribution, but have to be found by local authorities concerned with the park areas. That situation has in many cases led to the refusal of the local authorities to have separate or special officers for the work of planning and developing national parks. The Peak Area is among those for which officers have been appointed and all credit is due to the local authorities for having done so. There is common agreement that the existing administrative situation has led to a very great reduction in the value of the work done in park areas like the Lake District and elsewhere. There is very real need for more finance for these park areas, in view of the very large sums which are necessarily asked for for national parks. The areas concerned are usually in counties which, by their very nature, are poor and have not much rateable value, like Merioneth and Westmorland. These are not areas with very large funds.
Mr. W. M. F. Vane (Westmorland)
But they do know the difference between the words "abolition" and "reduction."
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
Those authorities are constituent bodies of the association which said that the National Land Fund ought to be made available for the wider purposes of national parks. They would undoubtedly agree that if the Chancellor's proposal to reduce the Fund to £10 million were accepted it would be impossible to make any step forward in using 774 the Fund for national parks and would inevitably mean restriction merely to the existing use of the Fund to compensating the Exchequer for certain properties taken in exchange for and in settlement of Estate Duty. There may even be doubt whether the Fund would be sufficient for that purpose, in view of the fact that certain properties are coming along in which the Exchequer might be interested.
If the proposal now in the Finance Bill were accepted, there would be no hope of money becoming available for national parks or for any additional purpose that we might otherwise desire. I have explained that local authorities naturally see difficulty at the moment in making contributions and that the sums they are contributing are pitiably small. Contributions from the Exchequer are also pitiably small and amount to about £11,000 a year in grants to local authorities for national park purposes. As hon. Members will appreciate, that is a very small sum. It is no use either the Chancellor or the Financial Secretary, when replying to the debate, saying that proposals are not put forward, because I have explained that the set-up at the moment, while it does not prohibit local authorities from putting forward schemes, at any rate deters them.
Unhappily, the proposals which we understand that the Government will put forward for the future financing of local authorities will deter them still more. That is a further reason why the question needs to be looked at again now and why the situation has changed from the past. We understand from statements made by the Minister of Housing and Local Government that in future the specific grants to local authorities are to be swept away and are to be replaced by a general grant. If this work is to be merged in the general provisions for local authorities, then it is almost inevitable that National Parks will get an even smaller contribution from that general fund than they have received in the past. That is a very serious prospect and it is why we are particularly concerned about the Chancellor's proposals at the moment. We think that, coming at a moment when these changes are proposed in local government finance, they can result only in the disappearance of all contributions for this purpose.
775 I have mentioned one or two of the needs, and I think there is no controversy about them in the Committee. In the past, they have been raised from both sides of the Committee, and I am sure that they will be raised on both sides again. One of the needs is for electric transmission lines to run underground in areas of special beauty. That is the sort of work which we believe is properly a national charge and which ought to be carried out. [Laughter.] I do not know why the Chancellor regards it as especially funny. He may like to see the new cohorts of transmission lines and pylons passing over the countryside, but many people do not.
While we are reasonable about this and do not suggest that in every case the line should be put underground, because we understand that extra cost is involved, we say that in areas of exceptional beauty, such as in the national parks, the lines should be put underground. I thought there was agreement about this. We also say that the cost should not be borne by the local consumers of electricity, who have every right to electricity at a reasonable charge, but should be borne nationally. After all, we all enjoy the beauty of these areas. I thought this was a matter of some concern to all of us.
I have mentioned the need for warden services; there has been plenty of comment about this need. If the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends regard all this merely as a matter of general humour, I am surprised at them, because I thought that it was a matter about which everyone could express their concern and in which they could express their interest without it being dismissed as in any way flippant or unimportant. I thought it was agreed that this was a matter of some concern.
We surely all agree on the need for extra accommodation in some of these areas, and that, again, may involve some cost. There is also a need to clear unsightly buildings, relics of the past, which badly need to be cleared away. That, again, involves expenditure and in some cases compensation. There is certainly a need for the provision of more education about what the parks can provide in the way of opportunities for enjoyment by young people and about how those opportunities should be properly used. There 776 is a need for a great deal of education in our schools and there is a great need for printed material of all kinds. It all costs money, and, as a consequence, the National Parks Commission finds it impossible or very difficult at the moment to carry out this work. In every one of its Reports, from its inception, the Commission has made clear the difficulties which it has had to face and which it needs to overcome.
I do not suggest for a moment that the National Parks Commission is the only body which should benefit from this Fund. That has never been suggested. Other perfectly proper and valuable suggestions could be made, and some have been made in the House from time to time. There have been suggestions in line with the use of a similar fund in Northern Ireland, where it is used for acquiring for public purposes land which has a high amenity value. There have also been suggestions in relation to some of the Nature Reserve areas. Indeed, many different and very proper proposals have been made of ways in which this money should be used.
I thought that the Chairman of the Youth Hostels Association made a sensible suggestion in his letter to the Chancellor when he said that the Chancellor might well appoint a Committee to advise him on how the Fund should be used for the future of our countryside and the young people of the future. He started that sentence by saying that in his view it would redound greatly to the Chancellor's credit and the credit of the Government if they were to cut some of the Gordian knots which have tied up this money in the past.
That is a very reasonable plea to the Chancellor, phrased, I think, tactfully and politely. I very much hope that the Chancellor will not insist upon pressing his proposal as it stands but will be prepared to listen to views which I hope will be expressed from both sides of the Committee on this subject. I hope, too, that he will understand the very sincere feelings which are held by very many people whom I thought he wished to help.
The whole movement for national parks, the desire to preserve the beauty of the countryside and the campaign for access to some of our wilder and most beautiful country, has been conducted very largely upon a voluntary basis, and members of all these voluntary bodies have been 777 delighted to have the opportunity to give their voluntary services. Such bodies as the Ramblers' Association and others have done a great deal of voluntary work for the objects which I thought were common to us all. They have done their best to help in dealing with retaining footpaths and in the preservation of the countryside, and they have done much work in preparing the plans for developing our long-distance footpaths. Already they have done a great deal of voluntary warden service. All that they are asking for is some encouragement in that work.
They feel, I think rightly, that if the Chancellor is to proceed with this proposal and to do away with any hope of financial support for them in the work which they have been doing so nobly, it will be a serious blow to them. I can fairly say on their behalf that if the Chancellor finds it possible to make some of this Fund available for this undoubtedly vital work of preserving the countryside, they on their part will certainly be willing to increase the amount and to campaign to increase the amount of their own voluntary contribution.
I therefore hope that after the right hon. Gentleman has heard what I am sure will be said by many of my hon. and right hon. Friends, and I hope by many hon. Members opposite, he will indicate that he will think over this matter again and will be prepared to consider further proposals later. We do not wish to regard this in any way as a party political matter and a matter of party controversy. We hope that it is one which will be agreed by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.
§ 7.30 p. m.
§ Mr. Powell
It is useful that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) should have initiated a debate upon this Clause, because it affords an opportunity for removing a number of misapprehensions—and mistaken apprehensions—which have surrounded my right hon. Friend's proposal.
To have an understanding of what the Clause does, it is necessary to realise what happened in 1946, when the National Land Fund was set up, and, more particularly, what did not happen. What happened when the National Land 778 Fund was set up was that the Exchequer lent itself £50 million. That was the reality of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) described as his "prudent budgeting years ago." In 1946, a year in which the National Debt was increased by about £600 million, the Exchequer created a paper Fund by lending itself £50 million. The Fund in itself, until it comes to be used for any particular purpose is non-existent. It is not merely inert; it is absolutely non-existent.
§ Mr. Dalton
I am sure that the Financial Secretary has been long enough at the Treasury to know that this money is actually invested in forms of short-term debt on which, once a year, no doubt with his signature below, the House is fully informed. How then, with that regard for precision of language which one of his great academic distinction must always attain, can the hon. Gentleman describe it as "non-existent"?
§ Mr. Powell
What I said is quite right. The Government have lent it to themselves; they have created a paper debt. The only practical effect of this paper debt is that, year by year, as long as it has existed, the Exchequer has paid itself interest upon it and has credited that interest to the Fund, so that the nominal value of the Fund has risen from £50 million to about £60 million.
That has had a slight effect, because it has meant that a sum of about £1 million has annually been raised in taxation as required for the service of the National Debt and been devoted to the extinction of that amount of debt, while a corresponding addition has been made to the paper amount of the Fund. Thus, the only practical effect, so far, of the Fund existing has been that about £1 million annually has been raised above, and applied below, the line which otherwise would not have been.
However, when the Fund is brought into use, either to reimburse the Inland Revenue for Estate Duty forgone in respect of land or chattels, or else to reimbuse the Minister of Works for expenditure incurred by him in the purchase of historic houses, and the like, then, of course, real money is required. That is obtained by borrowing, by the sale of securities, that is, by borrowing from the public.
779 The reality of this arrangement is, therefore, that these forms of expenditure on the purchase of these assets for the nation—that is what it comes to, in effect—are financed not out of the revenue of the year, but by borrowing. That is the only reality behind the National Land Fund. It is a means of meeting this type of expenditure by borrowing in the year in which it is incurred instead of by taxation in the year in which it is incurred.
There is a very good case for doing it in that way. These are not forms of expenditure which, year by year, can readily be brought into Estimate form. After all, it is very difficult to be sure, in a particular year, whether an important estate or a very desirable historic mansion will fall in to be acquired. Consequently, the fluctuations in this type of expenditure from one year to another may be so large as to render the ordinary Estimate procedure not conveniently applicable. It probably is a good thing that we should meet this type of expenditure by borrowing rather than out of revenue.
Parliament, very naturally, desires to keep control not only of expenditure which is met out of revenue, but of expenditure met by borrowing. If a Fund, a device of this sort for meeting expenditure by borrowing, is linked to too large a figure, then the effect is that Parliament loses control of the expenditure. It means that it has no opportunity, not only from one year to another but from one generation to another, of debating the expenditure, the wisdom of it, whether it ought to be made, or its amount.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)
The Financial Secretary has just said that the financing of the Fund was produced from current revenue year by year. The payments of interest on the investments is charged in each succeeding annual Budget. It is, therefore, clear that it is subject to discussion every year.
§ Mr. Powell
Far from it. It is expenditure met by borrowing—in the terms 780 that we use, "out of the Fund"—which is the reality of the expenditure which is covered. It is for that reason that the Public Accounts Committee, in its Report for the year 1953–54, recommended that the limit to which this type of expenditure might be met by borrowing without further recourse to Parliament should be reduced. That is the essence of the Committee's recommendation, and that is the essence of what my right hon. Friend is doing here.
I should have thought that it is no part of an Opposition's duty to argue for an extension of the limits on what the Government ought to be able to do without Parliamentary control and without recourse to the House of Commons. I should have thought that an Opposition ought to insist that there ought to be a fairly low limit upon the amount of expenditure which could be met by borrowing without further recourse to the House. At any rate, if hon. Gentlemen opposite were not ready to perform that function, my right hon. Friend has done it for them by inserting this Clause into the Finance Bill.
§ Mr. Hale
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting again; I am trying to follow his argument, and I am anxious to have it clear.
I understood that his earlier complaint was that the Fund was not met by borrowing; it was met by a process which we used to call earmarking. In other words, the Treasury allocates a figure and makes it available in its accounts without going to the trouble of borrowing the money in the City of London. Every other fund has been subject to borrowing. Now, having complained that it was not borrowed, he is complaining that it is, and saying that we ought not to go on borrowing it because we cannot discuss the amount we borrow.
§ Mr. Powell
What happens is that the money required for the purposes for which the Fund may be used is borrowed as and when it is required, and the limit up to which such sums can be borrowed and applied is at present £60 million, and is being reduced to £10 million so that further Parliamentary authority will be required when that lower limit is reached. That is the effect of what is being done.
This change, which is merely a restoration of Parliamentary control which ought 781 never to have been lost, will not in any way prejudice or affect policy in regard either to the matters upon which expenditure provided for under the Fund can at present be applied, or in regard to matters to which Parliament may decide to apply it in the future. There is no prejudice in what is being done here to any proposals which the Opposition care to make for changing their mind about the financing of the national parks by arguing that they ought to be financed by borrowing rather than out of revenue.
There is nothing here which inhibits that. There is nothing here which in any way limits or affects policy as to the acquisition of historic houses or the acceptance of land or chattels in lieu of Estate Duty. All that is being done here is to impose a much closer limit upon what the Government can do by way of borrowing without resort to the proper source, the authority of the House of Commons. That being the sole effect of the Clause, I should have thought that it would have commended itself to hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Obviously, the theory is that if the Government have to budget specially for the money and it is not part of this allotted sum, it will be more difficult in future to get money for these projects. The Financial Secretary has said that the policy will not be changed, but the point has been raised that the whole principle of the block grant to local authorities is to be changed. Will it be more difficult in future, or just as easy or as difficult as it is now, for these objects to be financed if the Fund disappears or is reduced to £10 million?
§ Mr. George Benson (Chesterfield)
I listened to the long and eloquent speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle - upon - Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop), but I found it extraordinarily difficult to relate anything he said to the Clause. One thing for which the National Land Fund cannot be used is the establishment and development of national parks. My hon. Friend talked about nothing else.
We are discussing a very narrow point and the Financial Secretary put the whole 782 matter extremely clearly. For some curious reason, the Land Fund put £50 million, which has now grown to £59 million, out of the control of the House of Commons. I see no reason why any Fund of this size should be outside the control of the House and in the control of the Chancellor of the Exchequer with which to do what he will within the ambit of the law. It was thoroughly bad finance.
It was because it was a thoroughly bad financial principle that in 1953–54 the Public Accounts Committee recommended that the National Land Fund should be reduced. It did not say to what extent, but it said that it should be reduced. These were that Committee's words:Your Committee think it undesirable in principle that substantial amounts of public money for which there is no foreseeable need should be kept in special funds or accounts outside the direct control of Parliament.At the meeting at which the Public Accounts Committee decided upon that recommendation, my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East was present; but he did not oppose it.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
My hon. Friend is aware that it was on this matter, on which I expressed my views to the Public Accounts Committee, that I resigned from that Committee.
§ Mr. Benson
My hon. Friend did not resign at that meeting and he did not exercise his right, which was exercised by a number of other members at that meeting, of voting against the Chairman's draft report. If I remember rightly, he had put down an Amendment, which was entirely out of order, because it was contrary to the law, and I ruled it out of order; but the hon. Member did not stay to oppose the Committee's proposal.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) is so much opposed to the idea of giving £50 million to the Fund, may I ask whether he opposed it when it was introduced by my right hon. Friend in 1946?
§ Mr. Benson
No, I did not oppose it. I merely say that it was bad finance. If I were to oppose bad finance every time it appears in Finance Bills, I should make one long continuous speech lasting years.
§ 7.45 p. m.
§ Mr. Benson
I do not have the fluency of my hon. Friend. I wish I had.
Again, one of the criticisms of this Fund could not emerge until some years after it had been in existence. The Fund amounts to £50 million and has accumulated interest of nearly £10 million and during the twelve years of its existence only about £750,000 has been spent from it. Had the Fund been necessary, had it served an obvious public need, possibly the granting of £50 million to the Government for a period of twelve months—at least, for the term of the financial year—might have been justified, but to leave this growing sum of more than £50 million year after year under the control of the Government is thoroughly bad finance. It is not as though it affects the Government's ability to buy land.
The Financial Secretary referred to the desirability of having a fund. Up to a certain amount, I agree. It is seldom that the Government will be faced with the problem of buying land worth more than £10 million. That amount is entirely adequate for any purpose such as was mentioned by the Financial Secretary. There is always the Civil Contingencies Fund to reinforce the Government and there is always the possibility of a Supplementary Estimate.
There is no evidence whatever that the curtailment of the Fund to £10 million will in any way prejudice the possibility of national parks. It is irrelevant to national parks, because the Government cannot spend it upon them. If they want national parks, they can find the money for them in the ordinary way, by introducing an Estimate or a Supplementary Estimate. As a member of the Public Accounts Committee and Chairman of the Committee which made that recommendation, I maintain that the Government are right in making this cut in the Fund.
§ Sir James Henderson-Stewart (Fife, East)
I do not want to butt into this interesting dispute between the Front and back benches of the Opposition, but I think that the Financial Secretary has done the Committee a service in explaining the finance of this matter and I do not quarrel with him about it. Most of us will agree that the House of Commons must maintain control over 784 large expenditure. What troubles me, however, is that there has not been large expenditure. Speaking for Scottish interests, we think there ought to have been somewhat larger expenditure.
I am not asking for the moon, but when one is approached by the National Trust for Scotland, by Lord Wemyss in a recent letter, I feel that I ought to represent his view to the Committee and invite my right hon. Friend to consider it. We know from what has happened that facilities are made available to enable people to hand over property in lieu of Estate Duty. That is a good thing. What troubles the National Trust in Scotland, and troubles me, is that when we have those properties they are not being properly endowed, or there may not be adequate provision for the endowment of future properties. Apart from those particular properties, others throughout the country which may be of priceless value to the nation ought to be managed by a body of this sort and ought, therefore, to be endowed.
My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his Budget speech, said that the policy is not being altered and my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary repeated that today. I should be satisfied if my right hon. Friend, when he replies, will give me the assurance that he will consider to what extent the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act, 1953, can be more fully used for the purpose of giving endowments, which under existing law are supported by the National Land Fund. In other words, that public-spirited bodies like the National Trust, while not asking for anything absurd, should not be so discouraged in their work that they are inclined to throw in their hand.
This is a very important job Parliament has to do, the preserving of the heritage of our countryside, and I simply ask for the assurance of my right hon. Friend that this financial change which is taking place, far from discouraging will encourage the preservation of these splendid places.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I should like to reinforce what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart) has said. I happen to be a member of the National Trust for Scotland, and its members are a little concerned about this reduction of the Fund. 785 Their fear may, perhaps, be unjustifiable, but they certainly have the feeling that if there is not this Fund to preclude the necessity for separate budgeting it will be more difficult to do some of the things which are vitally necessary.
We have not in Scotland any national parks under legislation. Preservation of the countryside in Scotland is a matter which is dealt with by the Nature Conservancy, by the Forestry Commission, which has forest parks, and by the local authorities. The local authorities agreed, when I was Secretary of State for Scotland, that they would so act as to preserve the beauties of Scotland and save from spoliation some of the finest scenery of this country.
For instance, Loch Lomond becomes very largely the responsibility of Dunbarton County Council. If under the legislation coming along there is to be a block grant affecting everything a local authority is doing, that will mean that the whole expenditure affecting such a beauty spot as Loch Lomond and its preservation will fall on one county council, although, quite clearly, Loch Lomond is a national beauty spot which ought not to be the responsibility solely of Dunbartonshire. Glasgow and other parts of the country should help.
One of the last problems with which I was concerned as Secretary of State was that of Glen Affric. The owner had decided that he must cut down the trees in Glen Affric, strip Glen Affric for economic reasons. Is there any Member of the Committee who does not recollect the row there was about the proposals to involve Glen Affric in the hydroelectricity schemes? The Government of the day had to withdraw a Bill because of the protests from hon. Members from all parts of the country against the spoliation of Glen Affric. What would have been the outcry if Glen Affric had been stripped of all of its trees merely because the owner for economic reasons had to cut them down? Fortunately, the Secretary of State for Scotland has a number of powers within his grasp, and I was able to bring in the Forestry Commission to help.
§ Mr. Godfrey Nicholson (Farnham)
On a point of order. This Clause has nothing to do with a change of policy. It concerns a piece of financial machinery. 786 How is all this discussion of national parks and of Glen Affric in order? I should be grateful if you would explain, Mr. Hynd.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)
As I understand it, the argument raised from both sides of the Committee is that this proposed reduction may affect the expenditure on certain matters in which hon. Members are interested.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am sorry if I did not make myself clear to the hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Nicholson). I pointed out that the National Trust and other bodies are afraid that if this Fund is changed from £50 million to £10 million it may be necessary for the Government to come to Parliament every time there is a proposal to take over property, and that it may be a handicap to doing what is necessary and may sometimes prevent from being done what ought to be done.
I am sure that everyone in the Committee recognises Glen Affric as one of the most beautiful places in Europe, and I was mentioning it as an example of a beauty spot which ought to be preserved, but for whose preservation there was no fund which could be used because it was not an historical building but a beauty spot. However, as I was saying, I was able to employ the Forestry Commission to see it was preserved.
There are other places in Scotland of like character. There are the Beech Hedges, for instance. The National Trust was offered a property where a wealthy owner in the past had laid out one of the most beautiful gardens, which people came from every part of the world to see, and there are other places of like great value to the nation. The National Trust, as has already been pointed out, was unable to accept the property because, while it could have got the property, it could not have maintained it. That property was in Dumfries-shire, I think. There is another beautiful one in Ross-shire, which everybody would desire to preserve.
I think that the Financial Secretary suggested in a reply to me that there was going to be a difficulty in getting money in the future for these things. I hope he did not mean that.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I asked the hon. Gentleman for an assurance that this would not make it more difficult, and he said that this Clause had nothing to do with that. That sounded to me as though he was avoiding the point, and when a Minister avoids a point one is apt to be suspicious. I am glad to hear him say I was not justified in thinking that.
It is right and proper that this matter should come before the Committee, and the Committee ought to consider whether the whole purpose of the Fund should not be extended to cover the maintenance of beauty spots and to securing land as well as buildings for the nation, and a great many other things, which could justifiably come within the Treasury's policy of accepting property in lieu of Estate Duty. If that could be done by providing an endowment, as the hon. Member the Member for Fife, East suggested, as a legitimate purpose of this Fund, that would be a means of maintaining these places.
One of the problems facing the country is the disappearance of the people who used to maintain some of these beautiful houses in the country. I have always taken the view that if some of these magnificent buildings, Chatsworth, and so on, were destroyed simply because there was nothing and no one to keep them in existence, the nation would lose things of great value. We may be doing away with our noble families in one way or another, but there is no reason why we should do away with some of the wonderful structures their ancestors created, even in places where there is nothing else on which to feast the eye.
I found it a great embarrassment to be an inheritor of the Duke of Richmond and Gordon and to get Gordon Castle handed to me. I tried hard to find something to do with it. One person volunteered to make it a family holiday home. I do not claim it was of great historic importance or architectural beauty, but I regretted that it should have to be pulled down, and sought to save it. Finally, a great part of it had to be pulled down.
One of the problems before the nation is how to preserve such buildings and beauty spots when their former owners cannot. There ought to be a national policy for the purposes, for if there is not, or if the National Trust cannot maintain them, the nation may lose them.
788 I ask the Financial Secretary not to consider this matter merely as one of bookkeeping, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) tried to do. A big problem lies here. It is not and ought not to be a question of our acting as a sort of chartered accountant and correcting the Government's books. If it is only a fiction there is no reason why the fiction should not remain. If it is not doing any harm, why change it?
§ Mr. Benson
If this is a good policy for landed families, why not vote thousands of millions for the Army?
§ Mr. Woodburn
Nobody ever objects to money for the Army. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] We spend hundreds of millions on armaments without Questions being asked in the House.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Woodburn
My hon. Friend may catalogue those occasions, but I still say that hundreds of millions of pounds for arms have come out of the Treasury without discussion, and yet if my hon. Friend wanted a sum of £5 million for the national parks he would find it very difficult to wring it out of the Treasury by special supplementary estimate.
This is a policy on which the House of Commons has agreed, and the handing over of these properties is a problem. I can give three examples which will eat up the whole of this proposed £10 million. Chatsworth will take a very big part of it. Charlotte Square in Edinburgh is considered to be one of the greatest examples of Adams architecture. The Marquess of Bute bought it to preserve it for the nation, and it will probably be handed over to the Treasury in lieu of death duties. Will that square be lost? Will it be turned into offices. Will all the amenities which were preserved by a wise man who happened to have the means be lost to the nation if the National Trust or other bodies concerned are not able to maintain the square?
789 Two noble Lords died recently and very tragically left little or no money. One left £450. Now his widow has died and a great amount of death duties must be paid on the widow's estate. Part of that estate probably will now be handed over to the National Trust. If the Trust is asked to accept it, will the Treasury make available money from this Fund to maintain the property? When Chatsworth and the two estates I have mentioned come to be dealt with they will make a big hole in the £10 million. If expenditure goes beyond £10 million, can we have the assurance of the Chancellor and the Financial Secretary that their policy will not be more stingy when the sum has gone beyond that figure than it will be up to that figure?
I hope that the Financial Secretary will not treat this matter as a chartered accountant's argument about balances and keeping accounts. This is a great human problem of the nation's heritage. An old system of society is decaying and it is handing over to us a heritage. What shall we do with it? We have no policy yet. Do not let us destroy the great wealth and beauty accumulated by people who tried to create and develop beautiful things for the nation. Do not let us lose all that, not as a result of a change of policy but as a result of a change in the means by which that policy is to be carried out.
§ Mr. Nicholson
I listened with the deepest sympathy, and indeed with some emotion, to the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn). I am sure that he voiced the opinion of every hon. Member. His was indeed a noble protest against a materialist moment in society. It is easy enough to get money for armaments or for agriculture or for anything material, but it is almost impossible to get money for the preservation of old houses and ancient monuments, and it is very difficult to get money for the purchase of works of art, which are rapidly being exported to America. I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's protest. I wish that every hon. Member shared the views which he expressed so forcibly, but we are up against something different in the Clause. The plain fact is that this Fund has not been used for this purpose.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
This Fund has been used very modestly for the purpose of accepting properties. That has been one 790 of its uses, but anxiety is expressed on this side of the Committee whether the reduced sum now proposed in the Bill will be adequate to meet even that limited purpose, never mind any wider purpose.
§ Mr. Nicholson
But it has not been used in its entirety for this purpose, or even in the greater part. We are living in a world of illusion and delusion if we think that this Fund in its present form in any way safeguards our national heritage. It does not. It has been a complete fiasco. Whether due to the miserliness of the Treasury or the narrow mindedness of Governments, in the main it has failed in safeguarding our national heritage.
The question is whether this matter should be put on a more realistic footing. The right hon. Member for East Stirling-shire may sneer at mere principles of accountancy, but it is the duty of the Committee to try to reintroduce some measure of reality into the Fund. We should be on a much safer basis in urging the Government to spend money on Chatsworth or some wonderful picture or a National Park if a supplementary estimate had to be produced ad hoc. There is danger in the present form of the Fund. It leads us to think that everything is all right and that the National Trust has large sums of money at its disposal.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Is it not the fact that in all the years during which the Fund has been in existence there has been no danger? Consequently, can the hon. Member on his conscience say that it will be as easy for the Treasury or the Government to carry out the purposes for which the Fund was created if the Fund does not exist in its present form and the Government have to come before the House of Commons every time an estimate is required?
§ Mr. Nicholson
Yes, I think so. I say that the Fund is dangerous because it gives the general impression that there are large funds available if the necessity arises. Consequently, necessity has arisen and nothing has been done. There has been a continuing uglification of the country and a continuing loss of our national heritage. There has been a tendency to say, "My dear chap, it is all right. We have these large sums at our 791 disposal and if the cause is deserving they will be spent on it." The money is not spent and the Fund is no safeguard.
When a great house is liable to be dispersed or a great national heritage destroyed we shall be on far safer ground if we have to make an ad hoc approach to the Government of the day. I do not like this untidy way of having these tens of millions of pounds loose, completely unattached and outside the control of Parliament or Government. Sooner or later we must bring ourselves to the jump, and we must force the Government of the day to spend money on preserving these great treasures. The sooner we get rid of this illusory line of defence the better.
Let us face the fact that as a Parliament we have neglected our duty. We are not caring one-quarter enough about things which should be preserved. In almost arithmetical progression the pace gets faster in the loss of our national treasures and heritage. The existing provision is a make-beileve defence. Let us get down to brass tacks and ensure that each time something has to be preserved or defended we force the Government of the day to do it.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
I was amazed at the very arid and mathematical approach of the Financial Secretary to this problem. I was also astounded by the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson). He has left the Chamber, so I will reserve any comments I have to make on his speech in case he should return.
As to Parliamentary accountability, it is absolute nonsense to say that this Fund has gone out of the control of the House of Commons. Every year an account is published of the National Land Fund in complete detail which it is open to us to question and raise in debate if we feel so inclined. So it is rubbish to suggest that by having £60 million instead of £10 million we have lost Parliamentary control, whereas if the Fund was reduced to £10 million we might recover Parliamentary control in some miraculous way.
I would never believe that the Chancellor is responsible for this Clause. He is far too robust a person for such a niggling thing. I believe it is the work of an arid Treasury official in a dark garret of the 792 Treasury who has never seen the light of day.
§ Mr. Chetwynd
I was coming to that. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield was speaking, I thought that he must be responsible.
What we are arguing about is whether this Fund shall be reduced from £60 million to £10 million and how we are to get rid of the £50 million. The Treasury wants to wipe the slate clean, to make a nice bookkeeping account, to have a tidy audit and to start again with £10 million. I want to see the £50 million spent, because that was the original purpose for which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) created the Fund in 1946. It was not to have the scheme hanging about in a dusty file. It was to spend this money on worthwhile purposes, to help to create a more beautiful Britain for the people to enjoy. If we could not own the land, at least we ought to be able to enjoy it. That was the major purpose of the scheme.
If, then, we go back to the original intention of the 1946 Act, it was, in my right hon. Friend's words, to be a nest egg for the future development of national parks when legislation should bring them about. We have now reached the stage in their development when there are about ten major national parks in operation, with areas of special beauty designated. At this stage, it is clear that we ought to be using the money for that purpose.
The second point was to reimburse the Treasury for death duties, in lieu of which it had received land or property. Again, it is clear that we are reaching the stage when larger properties will become available that we desire to take over for the nation, to endow them, to allow the public to enjoy them. Here again, it is obvious that large sums of money will have to be spent.
The third purpose which was mentioned comes under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act, 1953. Here, too, we need a greater development, a greater speeding up in the purchase of historic buildings, their contents, and the land. In different parts of the country there are beautiful mansions, castles, and 793 so on, becoming more or less derelict for lack of proper attention. Here is something on which we ought to spend this money.
For instance, if the Duke of Norfolk runs into great difficulties over Arundel Castle, I would have thought this was an admirable building which could be dealt with through the National Land Fund. It is not a place of architectural beauty, but I understand that its contents are worth while preserving.
Then we come back to the 1949 National Parks Act, which at that time did not make provision for making use of the National Land Fund as my right hon. Friend had intended. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) has explained why that was so. At that time, it was necessary that we did not alienate the good will of the county councils, who were a little afraid that their independence would be taken away if the national parks were really what they were meant to be and not just local parks.
But that is no longer the case. The County Councils Association, in conjunction with the National Parks Commission, through the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and through him, I hope, the Treasury, must try to get this altered. They must try to get the National Land Fund extended to cover the development of national parks.
I believe that the main reason why the Public Accounts Committee acted as it did was because it saw no foreseeable need for this Fund. I would cause a revolution in the Treasury if I had my way. Instead of saying to it, "See what money you cannot spend, see what you can save on, see how you can economise," I would give an instruction about the Fund in these words, "Go out and see what you can spend money on," and it would not take them long to find sufficient worthwhile projects to use the whole of the Fund.
We would need an Amendment of the Bill to bring national parks into the ambit of this Clause, but that would not present any great difficulty. We could give a great fillip to the work of providing national parks by spending more money, and we would fulfil the purpose of the Act and make the people of this 794 country national park conscious in a very short time.
I will give two examples of where the work of the National Parks Commission is hamstrung by lack of finance. The Report of the National Parks Commission, since its inception reveals, shows, in page after page, how it is being frustrated by lack of finance. Dealing with the question of litter, on Dartmoor it states that the Committee… had hoped to appoint a part-time ranger, but this has proved impracticable owing to the need for a cut in the estimates. They have, however, been able to secure the services of a voluntary warden. They have organised other voluntary assistance, and have spent what money was available to them for this purpose by engaging a contractor who, over a period of ten weeks this summer, collected from particular black spots between 50 and 60 tons of litter which had been left behind by the public.The National Parks Commission wants to engage in an anti-litter campaign. I can say from my experience that we must be the most untidy nation in the world. The Commission is hamstrung by lack of finance.
Regarding the North Yorkshire Moors, an area of great national beauty, the Report states that the Park Planning Committee wish to embark upon the provision of car parks and lay-byes, and they propose to build seven additional ones. However, the Report continues:As in the case of other Parks, the restriction of capital expenditure will curtail the Committee's activities.There are innumerable ways in which the attractiveness of the national parks could be improved if only the necessary money was available. I am thinking of sites for hostels, new camping and caravan sites, screens of trees to hide ugly places, the development of a ranger service, the building up of information centres, and so on, extra publicity, the development of long-distance roads. All these ought to be a national charge and not a local charge, and this fund is the ideal instrument for that purpose.
It seems that the Chairman of the National Parks Commission was right in pressing the Government on this point, in order, as he said, that the Government should be able to demonstrate its real interest in the National Parks scheme. Yet what we have seen on the part of the Government is a complete lack of interest 795 in its development, and that is to be deplored. The second reason he gave was that the use of this fund would stimulate public interest, on which the national parks must depend. The third, and perhaps the most important, was that it would encourage park planning committees to plan ahead, so that they could be sure over a period of years that they would have adequate resources for engaging in longterm planning, which is so essential for the beautification of our national parks.
Therefore, I believe that the Chancellor is taking a retrograde step in cutting the Fund to £10 million. The effect of the block grant will further cripple this work, and I believe that it betrays a total lack of imagination in the Treasury on this question. We are having the arid approach of the accountant to it instead of that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland.
Listening to the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) and the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop), the Committee might be led to believe that my constituents, most of whom live in a national park, will have their whole future life changed as a result of this simple Clause. It will not affect their future by as much as twopence. Such policy as may be for development of national parks is not affected in this way to the smallest extent.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has received a copy of the letter from the County Councils Association putting forward its views on the matter and its anxiety that the Fund should be used for the purpose of national parks. Will he not agree that it would not be at all difficult to make a suitable legislative amendment to enable the Fund to be used in the way originally intended?
I have received several, not a great many, letters on the subject recently, and my recollection is that they were all exaggerated.
The hon. Gentleman knows, because he and I have discussed this on a number of occasions, that I have been interested in the subject. We have, however, never really agreed about quantity; the hon. Gentleman has always wanted to go very much further than I have. I do not think that he had a very strong case to argue 796 today, and I believe he knew it was not a very strong case, or he would not have exaggerated as he did by arguing for the "abolition" of the National Land Fund. That was a misuse of the English aanguage. A reduction from £50 million to £10 million is not "abolition". The same spirit of exaggeration appears at intervals throughout his speech.
When the Fund was set up by the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), I always supposed that he and many others—I was among them—who supported it expected that the early stages of setting up national parks would be a great deal more expensive than has, fortunately, in the end proved to be the case. Events have shown that a sum of money of the size originally proposed was not needed for the purpose.
I am extremely glad that it has been found possible to set up national parks without wholesale acquisitions of land within their boundaries. The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees seemed a little nostalgic and disappointed that there had not been more acquisitions of land. I am sure that most people, particularly those who live in the areas concerned—about whom nothing has been said from the Opposition benches during our debate—are far from anxious that that sort of development should take place.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I am sure the hon. Member will remember that I made the point that, for example, people living in those areas were fully entitled to electricity and that the extra costs involved in protecting the countryside at the same time should be borne not by them, but by the nation as a whole.
I agree that the hon. Member mentioned that. I did not want to embark upon a long argument about the merits and demerits of the case and the cause of the delay in providing electricity in the Lake District, because if we did that we should be here until very late at night; but I think that the case against the Clause is greatly exaggerated and that hon. Gentlemen opposite know that their case is not as strong as they represent it to be. The sum of £10 million is a very substantial one to have in a Fund of this sort for such purposes as Parliament has so far laid down.
I was pleased to hear the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire (Mr. Woodburn) refer to the work with which 797 the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) and I have had something to do as members of the Historic Buildings Council. The right hon. Gentleman exaggerated when he was speaking of the difficulties of the National Trust. I admit that he was speaking of Scotland, where things are perhaps somewhat different from England, but I do not think that he was wholly accurate in the detail of his argument. That did not affect his general principle, that here we have one of the uses of the Fund.
So far, the money from the Fund has been spent under two heads. One purpose has been to reimburse the Revenue for lost Estate Duty when certain properties have been taken over in lieu of cash. We have had nothing to do with that side, but we have been given the responsibility of making recommendations to the Minister of Works about the acquisition of certain properties of outstanding architectural, historic or artistic interest, their contents and surrounding land. I think that is where the right hon. Member for East Stirlingshire went a little wrong when thinking about the National Trust in Scotland.
The first stage is limited, I think, to £500,000. So far, in the course of the several years that we have been working we have not yet reached that sum. Many of the arguments which we have heard from the Opposition benches tonight would have been far more relevant if we had made very large inroads into the different sums under the various authorities which Parliament has given Ministers, but we have not, in fact, yet found that there has been such very great pressure under this head, although I should not like to say that in the future the pressure will not greatly increase. Then, and not now, is, I think, the right time to consider how we shall finance those future purchases.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have talked about the voluntary societies and "pinning their hopes" of the future on the Fund. I see no reason why the National Land Fund should be treated as a kind of sacred cow or something untouchable. as though if its scope is changed their future will be changed with it. It really is not so. The Financial Secretary has said that no change of policy is intended by the Clause.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
It is the very fact of the present policy about which we are arguing. It is because, as everyone has surely agreed, insufficient financial assistance has until now been given, and because even worse circumstances are likely to arise with the change in the grant position vis-à-vis local authorities, that nearly every amenity body which is at all concerned in the matter has been aproaching us about it.
If all amenity bodies are so concerned, they ought really to think again, because it just is not worthy of their concern. The hon. Gentleman and I have discussed this in the past, and he knows that I have been anxious to have more money to be spent on these purposes, but I have never thought the problem anything like as big as he has tried to represent it today.
The case which hon. Gentlemen opposite have tried to deploy today is a great exaggeration. I am surprised to hear the hon. Member argue in the terms in which he has done. He has been a member of the Public Accounts Committee in the past, as I have been. One of our financial principles is not to put money into a number of special funds which do not come under normal Parliamentary control annually; generally, we prefer to have money voted by the House of Commons every year. There may be occasions in special circumstances when we wish to follow a different procedure, but in the light of what has happened over the last ten years I cannot see any case for continuing the National Land Fund at the size originally proposed, or for making the fuss that we have heard from the Opposition benches today.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
The hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) said that we treated the National Land Fund as a sacred cow. We think that the cow ought to be milked. The Government have turned it into beef.
§ Mr. Ede
Unfortunately, there is not a surplus of this kind.
As President of the County Councils Association, I think that the Association's letter was justified, but it had nothing to do with the Clause, because it was written in February and we did 799 not hear about the proposal to reduce the Fund until the Budget. It was an indication from a responsible body, speaking for the Westmorland County Council, among other bodies, and anxious to see that what is very largely a benefit to the urban districts and especially great cities should not be borne to the extent it is now borne by the rural counties which are not blessed with the rateable values which the great cities and some of the more urban counties enjoy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (MT. Benson) is far too modest in having retired from the Committee so soon after making his speech, for he is the first chairman of a subcommittee of the Public Accounts Committee to have managed to convert the Treasury to adopt what he has advocated. The fact that we have these exceptional circumstances with which to deal is a further warrant for looking into the proposals very carefully. My hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield, who for a good number of years has addressed us on Finance Bills, has at last managed to achieve, I will not say fame, this notoriety. It is a pity that in announcing his decision during the Budget the Chancellor did not give dishonour where dishonour was due.
I am not very much concerned with some of the book-keeping matters with which we are dealing. With the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Vane) I serve on the Historic Buildings Council. I hope that he will agree that on occasion we have to draw the line very tightly in what we recommend because of the limited funds at our disposal. It is true that we have not spent the amount which is allocated to us for each year, but that is due to the fact that some of the very large grants which we have recommended can be used only over a period of years. The highly skilled labour required for some of this work, where one is dealing with some of the finest examples of craftsmanship and architecture, is not available in sufficient quantities to enable some tasks to be done at the rate we would like.
Where we have to draw the line most tightly is where we are dealing with the £250,000 or £350,000 a year voted money and not with the sum from the Land Fund about which we 800 can make recommendations for purchases. That is not where we are tight. It is the other side.
§ Mr. Ede
The hon. Member has jumped in too soon. I was about to say that further assistance from the Land Fund, if necessary provided by fresh legislation by Parliament authorising us to spend it, will enable us sometimes to deal with very urgent matters, where some ancestral mansion has had a leaky roof for a generation and a half, and where the whole of the interior is very rapidly deteriorating, and where quite irreplaceable chattels of great historic value are in danger.
After what the Financial Secretary said about the exact effect of the Clause, I hope that we may look for some signs from the Government of believing that greater expenditure in this matter would be felt appropriate. I accept all that has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) about the need for better financing of the national parks. But there are many other ways in which the gracious life of the past can be brought to the full realisation of a materialistic age.
When I was in the United States of America recently I visited the city of Salem, and in an address which I gave subsequently I commented upon the example that Salem was of the gracious life that had been lived there by a previous generation. A gentleman who was proposing a vote of thanks to me said that he was astounded to hear a Socialist talking about the gracious way of life. My wish is that a far larger proportion of the population should be able to live the gracious way of life than has ever been the case before. I value these ancient mansions and their history and setting because of the story they tell of the gracious way of life—when the graciousness was reserved for a very small minority of the nation. I hope that we shall be able to preserve these things as an example to a materialistic age of the way in which great refinement and enjoyment could be obtained by people of an era that is vanishing.
When I was in the infants school I was taught:The rich man in his castle, The poor man at his gate, God made them, high or lowly, And order'd their estate.801 When I repeated that to my mother on coming home from school, she said, "I am having no such blasphemy in this house". The National Union of Agricultural Workers has rewritten the verse as follows:The poor man in his castle Stands waiting at the gate To gather up the florins To salvage the estate.The hon. Member for Westmorland and I know that, heroic as are the efforts of some of these noble families to preserve their estates and share their heritage with other people, not one of those propositions is so far a paying concern, and the probability is that they lose more than they make, particularly when Income Tax on the collection is taken into account.
We live in a time that has seen a tremendous social change. If all that is gracious in the past—in which a minority lived in graciousness—is to be preserved for the future, it will have to be by national efforts. I assert that it must be national, because we cannot thrust upon rural counties the task of keeping recreation grounds—whether for the mind or the body—for the great cities. Everybody has to share. I hope that what the Financial Secretary told us tonight means that the ideas that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) had in mind when he founded this fund still dominate the Government, and that as widening needs are revealed the purposes to which the fund can be put will also be widened, for I am certain that if we neglect the duty that falls upon us today succeeding generations will be much the poorer, and we shall be blamed for having allowed so many noble things to disappear.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
As one who, for many years, was associated with the National Trust of Scotland I want to say a word or two about the Clause. I will not go into the metaphysical argument as to when a fund is not a fund. I have always been led to suppose that this Fund was an entirely bookkeeping transaction and was like the grin on the face of the Cheshire cat—that it was an indication of intentions—or perhaps it was the smile on the face of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton)—an indication that he would look favourably on certain 802 projects for maintaining houses and their contents, land, and so forth.
The original intention was that the Fund should be available to enable the Government to take over houses and land in lieu of the payment of Estate Duty. I would have hoped that at some time we could have been told—from a Treasury point of view—why such a very small use was made of the Fund for that purpose. I know that many questions have already been put to the Treasury, but they will probably not be answered in this debate. I suspect, from my experience with the National Trust of Scotland, that one reason for the small use made of the Fund was touched upon by the hon. Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Henderson-Stewart), namely, that it is the question of upkeep that is so difficult, because for that purpose very inadequate sums are usually paid.
I think it also true to say that while it has sometimes been possible to get large amounts for a particular object, to take over a house or some land, or something of that kind, it has been much more difficult to get money for general administration. We cannot keep this process going unless we have fairly large unattached funds which may be used for general purposes, for the payment of staff, and so on.
I hoped that we should hear how the Government will deal with further objects about which the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland spoke when setting up the Fund, I should like to know the feeling of the Government about this. Are they going to provide money for the adequate upkeep of museums, for example?
Take the question of the purchase of pictures. It is a horrifying state of affairs, when a picture is sold for £104,000, while many of our best picture galleries get grants of £3,000 or £4,000 a year. It may be that we should not give any grants at all, but to give such derisory grants is to achieve neither one thing nor the other: we get neither good pictures nor economy.
We read about the gigantic bill for the restoration of Oxford, and that might be the sort of further purpose which the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland had in mind when he set up this Fund—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not Oxford."] Well, 803 the right hon. Gentleman is a broadminded man and his ideas might have extended even to Oxford.
Then there is Nature Conservancy, which has come into effect since the time when the Fund was originally set up. While the Government have stated that their policy is not changed I hope that they will go further and say that however big may be the call for the preservation of buildings and the acquisition of land, at least they have the matter in mind and are examining the ways of meeting it.
Now I wish to say a word in defence of Governments. It has been hinted that they have been stingy and niggardly and that nothing has been done. But when I was Secretary of the Trust I remember going to see the Treasury when the late Sir Stafford Cripps was Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think that we should put on record that he made grants to both National Trusts and there have been other substantial Government grants made for the acquisition of buildings and works of art. With the rise in prices they may not have been enough, but it is not entirely true to say that this matter has been neglected. We had the Historic Buildings Act, and the Gowers Committee went into the question at some length.
I urge the Government to follow up the work which has been done. I think that a foundation has been laid. I do not mind whether it comes out of the Consolidated Fund, or if there is a special Act of Parliament, or how it is done, but there is no doubt that on today's values we shall lose from this country absolutely irreplaceable works of art unless we are prepared to make bigger grants for their acquisition and for their upkeep in museums, country houses or galleries.
I believe that, first, we should concentrate on consolidating and maintaining our existing national heritage. I feel that we give totally inadequate grants to existing museums and galleries and inadequate support to the existing National Trusts. I believe that there is much to be done. A great deal of land has been acquired for the Government and is available to the public. I agree that we have to go further, but there is a tendency towards acquiring new little bits of property here and there and allowing what we have to fall into disrepair, or else to give inadequate sums for adminis- 804 tration, if it be houses, or for general upkeep if it is land.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
There is an old saying that ideas make institutions and institutions kill ideas. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) had the idea of laying aside money in a Land Fund particularly for national parks. I thought that a splendid idea. I admired him for making the statement and I hope that the idea will not be killed now by the "Benson institution". I am very interested in the question of national parks, and I am concerned about it from the point of view of Welsh interests. We have had speeches from hon. Members representing Scotland, and I think it is now my turn to speak about the national parks in Wales. There is more land in Wales which forms national parks than in England and Scotland. We have Snowdonia, the Pembroke Coast and the Brecon Beacons, which has been made a national park within the last month, and places of outstanding beauty, particularly Gower and the Lleyn Peninsula and other places of nature conservancy.
I am concerned about the future administration of the National Land Fund at £10 million. I wonder whether the Financial Secretary would tell us, in view of all the ideas which have been put to him this afternoon, whether in future years, if he finds he has not sufficient funds, he can make a book entry of additional money to that supposedly nonexistent Fund. I am sure that I and many others will welcome any entries that he can make to it.
I hope that the Financial Secretary will consider a few suggestions. He may reply by saying that they would require legislation, but I am sure that it is not beyond the wit of the Financial Secretary to suggest to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor that he should try to find some method of legislation to meet the points which I am going to suggest with regard to the national parks. A grant of 75 per cent. is low in some of the counties which are interested. There is a reluctance on the part of local authorities to find the other 25 per cent., because they say—and this is a legitimate point which they put forward—that these are national parks—that they belong to the nation. They do 805 not belong only to Breconshire, Caernarvonshire, or Pembrokeshire, but they belong to the nation, and, therefore, they are a national responsibility.
I am sure that some method could be found by which money from the Land Fund could be used for certain requirements of the national parks. I can give instances of the low product of a 1d. rate in some of the counties in Wales covered by national parks. In Merioneth it is £1,300, and the rate for the county at the present time is 14s. 6d. In Brecon, it is £1,935 with a rate of 14s. 6d., and in Pembrokeshire it is £2,954 again with a rate of 14s. 6d.
In all the Reports of the National Parks Commission we find some observations about proposals which are required. In the last but one Report, we find Pembroke making proposals with regard to providing accommodation for visitors. The local ratepayers could not possibly find the revenue for that purpose. I am certain that before the end of the week we shall have some information about the future of local government finance. Judging by rumours, local government finance in the future will not help national parks when it comes to the block grant basis. Therefore, the Financial Secretary might use this nest egg to meet the proposals which the National Parks Commission in their Sixth Report suggested were in line with the intentions of the Fund.
One remembers the London conference of the Park Planning Authorities and the County Councils Association. They put forward a proposal. If they had known what we have been told today, those ladies and gentlemen would not have taken the view they did of the Land Fund. Nevertheless, I am very glad to find that there are youth organisations which are greatly interested and concerned about the national parks.
The Festival of Wales Committee in Wales next year will, I hope, give great publicity to the new national park at Brecon Beacons. I am sure that it would be glad to find financial assistance coming not only from visitors going to that particular part, but from any means that the Government can lay their hands on in order to support it. I am sure that if the Chancellor were here—part of that National Park comes into his constituency and he had the opportunity this weekend 806 in attending fetes to admire the national park—he would in his heart not be against allowing the Land Fund through legislation to spend some of its money on that national park.
Has the Minister any information about the future of national parks? Has the Minister of Housing and Local Government yet replied to the suggestions made by the National Parks Commission in its last Report? All he did was to acknowledge the letter on 3rd February, 1956. Surely information should be made available now. What is the Government's intention? The Chancellor was criticised because he did not call a conference of youth organisations to discuss what was to be done with the National Land Fund. I hope he will still call a conference to discuss assisting national parks.
I sometimes think I am a bit of an idealist, and I hope that in the near future we shall have a Minister for Leisure. He should have power to bring in Bills, and not only to look after great matters such as those mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), but also to promote a means of building up the gracious life for our people. I hope that the Financial Secretary will not give us a dry intervention as he has done already, but will at least say that he will consider the ideas which have been put forward.
§ Mr. Dalton
Somewhere in the recesses of the Treasury there has for years existed a brief, proving to the satisfaction of the drafter of the document that there is no such thing as the Land Fund. The brief was last used, I think, by the Lord Chancellor at the time, Lord Simonds during a grim financial debate in another place. He made the same assertion that the Financial Secretary to the Treasury has made, "The thing has no real existence. There is no Fund." In between those two pronouncements I have heard no reference to this brief and I judge that most members of successive Governments have put the brief away as being unsuitable for public exposition and as unlikely to secure credence.
The plain truth is—it is as well to get it once more on the record—that in 1945 and 1946 we were selling, the war being over, vast quantities of war stores of all kinds. It appeared to me—I was advised by the Treasury that this was the right 807 way to proceed in order to do what I wished to do—desirable and appropriate —when the memory of the war was still fresh, when ideals were still high and when, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has said in his speech tonight, wider purposes were before all our eyes as it seemed that the country was starting upon a great new chapter after our victory in the war—to set aside some part of that money so that, by various means, the beauty of England, the famous historical houses, the wonderful stretches of still unspoiled open country, might be preserved in the future, and that gradually, in other ways, also, the gracious life that my right hon. Friend has so well described, might increasingly become part of the heritage of us all.
It was towards that end that I caused £50 million derived from the sale of war stores to be set aside for peace stores for a wider and more spacious life. The large majority in the House which then supported the constructive proposals of Ministers of that time authorised the setting aside of this money in 1946 and authorised its being placed into a fund which has ever since been specifically invested in short-term Government securities, the details of which have been published from year to year.
The Fund has as real an existence as any other financial operation of the Government. If they are all nonsense, and none has any reality, as a philosopher, now turned into a junior Minister, tried to prove today, that may be in line with certain metaphysical doctrines; but that applies to this Fund no more than to many other of the multitude of financial operations which pass muster in the House from time to time.
I have stated the purpose of the Fund. It has accumulated, and the question, frankly, is: what should be done with all this money? The National Land Fund has behaved like a most exemplary citizen. Had it been a private citizen it might have been singled out for a decoration by Her Majesty. It has saved almost all its income every year, it has resisted all temptation to live recklessly, and it has set aside this money for great future purposes.
The question now is, the Fund having grown to this imposing magnitude: what is the Chancellor of the Exchequer 808 going to do with all this money, consisting of a Fund provided by me, plus the interest which has naturally accrued? What is he going to do with it? We are still waiting to hear the answer.
This Clause is a very poor answer. Apparently, he is going to tear up a number of securities and throw them into the waste paper basket. That is all. He proposes to tear up £50 million out of £60 million worth of securities and throw them away. I will not suggest how he might increase the sum by various readjustments and reinvestments. I will merely say that the fact that until now the Fund has been kept in short-term securities has been a continuing symbol of the belief that it would be spent within a short time. This was the basis which we had adopted.
What is the Chancellor going to do with this money? I hope that he will tell us a little more about what hopes we may have. The Financial Secretary held out rather vague hopes that some of the purposes which have been so eloquently advocated and defended by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee in the debate might be met, if not specifically out of the Fund as it now stands, at least by some assurance of a countervailing operation to what we regret and regard as stupid, dull and reactionary.
That is how I ventured to describe it when I spoke in the Budget debate. This is not a party issue, by its nature, and I am sure that we all hope that the first impression which I formed may be wiped out by an assurance that in the coming years there will be provided sums of money from the annual revenue which will go some distance towards implementing the hopes which have been expressed.
My hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson) is not here and I may, therefore, perhaps be forgiven for passing over rather sadly the speech which he made. He said that it was a very narrow point. He brought to its discussion a very narrow mind. I will say no more about him than to point out that he did not rise in his place and make any comments when these proposals were originally made. I see that he has returned to the Chamber, and I welcome him. I had not proposed to dwell at great length on his intervention, except to say that I did not agree with him.
809 I was merely recalling—and I think he will not contradict me when I say it—that although he says that the motion for setting up this Fund was thoroughly bad finance, he did not tell me that at the time. My hon. Friend did not say so publicly in the House. He did not, so far as I remember, either speak or vote against this provision in my Finance Bill in 1946. Moreover, I look back with gratitude and appreciation to the part he played, when I was Chancellor of the Exchequer, as one of my principal unofficial advisers outside the Treasury. He was at that time chairman of the little group of Labour Members selected for their special competence in financial matters, on whose advice I frequently and heavily relied. I do not recollect his presenting to me, in that capacity either, any criticism of this plan.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Dalton
I think I can guess at some of the people from whom, in—how shall I put it?—in his sunset decade my hon. Friend has been learning. But my hon. Friend and I are in agreement on a number of the main points, and, with that, I shall not further pursue the debate with him in this Committee.
Passing, now, to the proposals which have been made for the wider purposes to which this money might now, in part at least, be applied, national parks have been mentioned much in this debate, and very properly. It was my hope in 1946, as I stated, that some of this money would in due course be applied to that purpose. It is true also, that, for other reasons which have been discussed and explained, when the Act setting up the national parks was introduced in 1949, it was for various reasons decided better to proceed by other methods.
I shall now quote the observations of one or two noble Lords, in the hope that their evidence will, perhaps, be treated as cumulative to that of hon. Members of this Committee. Lord Silkin, as he is now, who was then the Minister of Town and Country Planning, when the question of the possible use of the Land Fund for National Parks was raised, said: 810So far as the Bill is concerned, it matters very little whether the finances come from one fund or another".That was right enough. Then he said:We can rest assured that whatever money it is necessary to expend on the purposes of this Measure, Parliament will provide it"— [OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 26th May, 1949; c. 480.]That, unfortunately, has been proved wrong. My noble Friend in that respect anticipated the future with too rosy an eye. It is certainly very regrettable that the payments made from national sources for national parks have been so very small.
There was published in The Times of 7th June a very interesting article by Lord Antrim, who is Chairman of the National Trust in Northern Ireland. I have no doubt that the Chancellor will have seen it. Following on what I said in my speech during the Budget debate, when I referred with approval, and hope that the Chancellor might be willing to take a leaf out of the book of Northern Ireland, to what had been done there about this matter, Lord Antrim said that, in 1948, the Minister of Finance in Northern Ireland, following English example, established a Land Fund of £1 million. The population is much smaller, of course.
In this Act, Mr. Sinclair, the Minister of Finance at the time.… included provision for endowment and repair of buildings, thus extending the scope of his Act to cover operations which in England and Scotland were not possible until the passing of the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act. 1953.In this respect, therefore, Northern, Ireland, following our example, has now leapt ahead of us and made this very useful provision which we, indeed, made also, so far as the letter of the law was concerned, in 1953.
How have things gone? Lord Antrim notes the marked contrast between the way in which money has been granted from the Ulster Land Fund and the National Land Fund. The Ulster Fund is two years the younger of the two Funds, but already £260,000 has been taken from it and another £60,000 has been promised. In other words one-third of it has already been spent on these admirable purposes which are legally open to us, but of which so far, 811 we have availed ourselves in such a parsimonious fashion. What this points to is that we should speed up the use of part at least of the resources of the National Land Fund for these extended uses as Northern Ireland has done.
Lord Wemyss has been mentioned. He is the Chairman of the National Trust for Scotland. I did not have the pleasure of meeting him when he came here, although I should have been glad to get his views on the matter. He has been very much disturbed at the way in which the operations in Scotland may be affected by a reduction in the available sum which is left in the Land Fund.
Whether or not £10 million is the right sum to meet the requirements under the present law for some time to come, there is no doubt that the general psychological effect of this reduction and of the fact that the Government have now put it forward will be very discouraging to many people who are deepdly interested in good and admirable causes. They will get the general impression that here, too, is something marked out for ruthless economy regardless of the objects underlying the expenditure. It will have a depressing, discouraging and deflating effect upon all sorts of people who otherwise not only might have admirable ideas, but who also might have been willing to make substantial contributions to such collective funds as those of the various trusts and other voluntary bodies. Lord Wemyss, I am told, is very much disturbed at the way in which this may react in Scotland.
Pursuing the catalogue of noble Lords—Hilaire Belloc once wrote a little book of verse called "More Peers"; it followed an earlier book called "The Bad Child's Book of Beasts"—I now come to another noble Lord, who was once a Member of this House and whom we all greatly respect, the Chairman of the National Trust for England, namely, Lord Crawford. He spoke the other night on sound radio and he deplored very much another side, which, I know, has been brought before the Chancellor: that is, the danger that we shall be stripped cleaner and cleaner of valuable pictures which we would like to have in this country, in public collections and in other accessible places or in 812 private houses visible to the public on reasonable terms of access. This, too, is greatly endangered by present tendencies.
Here again, although legislation or a special grant in next year's financial arrangements would be required, Lord Crawford has put forward a strong argument, which is supported by many other people of judgment, knowledge, public spirit and artistic perception, in favour of an increased provision which might easily be provided from this very large sum that the Chancellor has to play with, for increased purchases of pictures and other works of art.
Finally among these noble Lords I come to Lord Strang, who is Chairman of the National Parks Commission. I think that he was going to meet the Chancellor. I hope he has been able to meet him and put his views before him. From what I know of Lord Strang's views in the past, and, indeed, from his public pronouncements, he would find it very helpful in his work as Chairman of the National Parks Commission if he could be assured of a more generous grant.
In spite of the fears in 1949 I should like to have seen the Government of the day pay a substantial capital sum in endowment of the National Parks Commission and to have let it spend it, making due reports which would have been published and made available to the House. That was not done.
Now, Lord Strang, I think, like many other people, would prefer the National Parks Commission to have the prospect of an annual grant from the Fund than to be told that everything is to be cut down. Additional legislation would be required, of course, for that.
§ Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras, North)
To help my right hon. Friend to complete the record, the Executive Committee of the National Trust for England and Wales, of which I am a member, discussed this matter, and the Committee was unanimously opposed to the proposal of the Government.
§ Mr. Dalton
That is a further piece of relevant evidence. Nobody would accuse the National Trust of being a Socialist body, or, indeed, of being in any degree coloured with political prejudice at all. It is a body which speaks for all parties and for persons belonging to no party 813 whose concern is the beauty of this country and the opportunities for artistic appreciation of splendid things.
I have cited a large number of persons who have expressed apprehension at this Clause. It would still be possible for this apprehension to be removed if either the Chancellor himself or the Financial Secretary could give us some much firmer assurance as to what will be done to assist the various causes, good causes I think everybody will agree them to be, which I have been enumerating.
Even though the Government insist—because the Public Accounts Committee thought they should, and for the first time for many years, a proposal of the Public Accounts Committee has been accepted by a Government of some colour—that they mum go through with this apparently destructive and stupid operation, I hope that they will, none the less—having listened to what has been said, and having taken account of all the arguments adduced by a number of people, including many noble lords, who I hope also might have weight in influencing the Government's decision—give us an undertaking, or series of undertakings, for increasing the provision to be made in the next financial year. If they do I think that we shall have not had this debate in vain. But whether or not that will be, we cannot judge until we have had a further reply from that Box.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
This is one of the most important Clauses in the Bill. It expresses the attitude of this Committee towards our great national heritages of one kind and another. Much has been said about historical buildings, much has been said about works of art, and many of them in this country are priceless. We cannot hope to retain them all. The national parks and the areas of outstanding natural beauty form one of our heritages, and I hope that not too much money will be spent on works of art or on historical buildings if, by that, we are to lose some part of the national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty.
One of the most important purchases from this Fund was Cothele in Cornwall, a thirteenth century mansion, a wonderful place. I am glad that Cornwall has the distinction of being the first to benefit 814 by the Fund set up by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton).
Those of us who have much to do with national parks or follow the activities of the Commission are frightened at the very small revenue at its disposal. They are quite inadequate to meet the cost of maintaining the parks in any decent way. One reads in the Western Morning News, our Plymouth morning paper, about the difficulties of keeping these parks. Hardly a week passes without some reference to them. The work of the park committees is cribbed and confined by the paucity of the finances at their disposal.
There is need for electricity to be taken to the national parks, but equally there is the fear that the beauty of the moorlands will be spoiled by the erection of pylons. The National Land Fund is a source of revenue to help meet excessive expenditure on taking electricity to national park areas without spoiling the parks themselves. Much of the cliff land in Cornwall has been given in small pieces from time to time to the National Trust. Some of the land has been bought out of funds raised locally and by friends of the county, and some has been acquired through the National Land Fund, but from time to time I have had to remind the House of Commons that the National Trust has had to cultivate parts of heath land in order to obtain revenue to maintain the whole. Places of great value in flora have had to be ploughed up by the National Trust, although when they were in the hands of other owners for centuries they were never ploughed. Now that we are achieving greater efficiency in agriculture, there is no need to take over open downs for cultivation as seemed necessary years ago.
There is also the problem of litter on cliffs and parks. People throw cigarette ends, papers and broken bottles on the cliffs and moors, and these places have to be cleaned. They should be cleaned, just as streets in towns are kept clean, but we cannot expect a county council or a small local authority to do that when they have not the financial resources. Paths have also to be kept in a proper state for people to walk on them. Gorse grows over them and makes them impassable very quickly, but slight attention regularly will keep them clear. The cliff paths in Cornwall 815 extend to 280 miles and provide a great problem in upkeep. Great expenditure is not required, but a certain amount must be spent annually.
The hon. Member for Farnham (Mr. Godfrey Nicholson) said that the National Land Fund should be disposed of and that the House of Commons should consider each proposal for acquisition as it came along, but surely all hon. Members know that that is an impossible idea. We know how impossible it has been in the House of Commons in recent years to get even comparatively small sums of money for the provision of water supplies, sewerage systems and the maintenance of roads in decent condition in our rural areas, to say nothing of the provision of schools. This suggestion by the hon. Member for Farnham is a very bad one, which I hope will not be adopted.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) showed great imagination and initiative in establishing the Fund. It gave heart to those of us who had come through two world wars, because we thought that the wars had not been fought in vain. We should do something as a nation to preserve our great heritage, because the time is now passed when that can be preserved by individual effort.
The Bill introduced by the Duke of Norfolk in recent weeks is evidence of that. I hope, therefore, that the Chancellor, even at this late hour, will take courage from what has been said in this Committee, will withdraw the Clause, and will give further consideration to the matter in the coming year.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Gloucestershire, West)
At this late hour, I will not keep the Committee long in raising one or two points.
If the £50 million in the National Land Fund has not been used, there is something to be said for the point of view of the Financial Secretary in arguing in favour of its reduction. The point which most of us who criticise his suggestion would like to know is why the Fund has not been used? When I saw it was to be reduced from £50 million to £10 million I was shocked. It would not have been such a shock if the suggested reduction was to £30 million or £25 million. We all know that there are 816 many ways in which the Fund could and should have been used but has not been used.
It is true that the money should not be left to accumulate, as it has to nearly £60 million, outside the immediate control of the House of Commons. In that sense I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Chesterfield (Mr. Benson), although I regretted the rest of his speech. We must keep some control over the Fund, but it is ridiculous to have to come to the House every time a sum of money is required to be spent in order to preserve an important historical building.
§ Mr. Philips Price
That is the object of the scheme of my right hon. Friend in setting up the Fund. There is one reason why some of the money has not been used. I understand that the National Parks Commission has no power to handle the money in the Fund. It has been tried, and those who speak for the National Parks Commission have been asking for that power for a long time, but the request has not been granted. I think I know the reason why. The National Parks Commission was not given that power under the Act of Parliament which set it up in 1947, due, it seems, to an omission on the part of those who sponsored the Bill at that time. This point has only been raised indirectly during the debate but it is a major point.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
If my hon. Friend will allow me to interrupt, I referred to it, according to some hon. Gentlemen opposite, at too great a length, in explaining the point, as I thought, clearly.
§ Mr. Philips Price
Yes, I think my hon. Friend did mention it, as did one or two others, but the point has not been emphasised, and it is extremely important. If it is true that the National Parks Commission is not able to handle the National Land Fund, the sooner that is put right the better. That point must be emphasised. I want to know what the Government will do to put this right, because then they will have no excuse to say that the money has not been spent and that therefore the amount must be reduced.
817 I agree with my hon. Friends that there is no end to the objects on which the Commission could spend the Fund, for instance, putting electric overhead cables underground, bringing electricity to remote areas, and doing all sorts of things to preserve the beauties of those areas. But there are other sides to the matter. There is the historical side—beautiful old houses and parks have been mentioned—but I do not think any fresh legislation is needed there. It is really a question of getting on with it.
The National Trust is constantly considering offers of valuable historic properties, but it cannot accept them because the owners have not the funds with which to endow them. That is a fact. I know several owners of beautiful historic mansions in the south-west of England who are living in mere corners of their properties now. They realise that times have changed. They are letting the public visit their properties and thereby trying to cover expenses, but they are not all succeeding. In spite of their opening their properties to the public, I shall not be surprised if the owners are unable to carry on, because the expenses are so great.
There is a case for such properties to be handed over to the National Trust with the necessary funds to keep the places going, and I would hope that the families could still have a right to live there. Country people like the old families there; they do not want the old families to have economic privileges as they did in the past, but they would like the connection between the families and the old places to be maintained. Another way in which to use the Fund would be in keeping such fine old places going.
I much regret the use of the unfortunate failure to spend the Fund as an excuse to cut it down to the miserable amount suggested. I think that my hon. Friends and I are entitled to register our protest and our vote.
§ Mr. Powell
I hope that the Committee will not think me discourteous if I briefly reply now to a debate which has ranged very wide and in which many hon. Members have spoken of a subject in which they are personally and keenly interested.
I have been accused of treating this as purely a dry accounting matter, but the 818 Clause is concerned with an accounting matter, and, as I explained earlier, only with an accounting matter. The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), though perhaps himself in his sunset decade, has not lost his great knowledge of public finance, and when he asked my right hon. Friend what he intended to do with all this money, he knew perfectly well that whenever a sum of money is spent through the National Land Fund what happens is that a new borrowing is made from the public, and the National Debt is pro tanto at that moment increased.
The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Chetwynd) said that it did not matter about accountability because, after all, the House of Commons gets the accounts of the Fund; so he asked why we should worry about having Estimates. I do not know what view the House of Commons would take if the Government announced that they had decided to dispense with the procedure of having Estimates because Parliament would, in due course, get the Appropriation Accounts, which could be debated, and that would be sufficient. We must, of course, as far as possible retain the normal Parliamentary forms of control over our expenditure.
The debate has covered both the present purposes to which, under the existing law, the National Land Fund can be devoted, and has included a number of suggestions for further purposes to which, if the necessary legislation were passed, it could be devoted. It is easy to underestimate the amount which is being done under present powers through the Fund. The expenditure through the Fund in the last financial year alone amounted to about £1 million.
The Committee may be interested to note that 26 properties have been acquired and transferred to the National Trust, six to the English and Scottish Youth Hostels Associations, six to the Forestry Commission and one or two to other Government Departments which can preserve their amenities for the nation. In addition, there have been the important collections of works of art at Petworth and Ickworth, recently acquired and placed in the custody of the National Trust. Several other transfers, including some very important ones, are pending.
819 The properties transferred in this way to the National Trust have ranged from about 46,000 acres of the Penrhyn Estate, in Snowdonia, to the Claremont Estate, at Esher, a fine example of eighteenth century English landscape gardening. The National Trust is, in this way, co-operating in a very admirable manner with the public in the preservation of this part of our heritage. It would be a mistake to suppose that anything which is being done in this Clause in any way inhibits the policies of which I have been describing the effect, or is any derogation of the work of the National Land Fund.
Reference was made to the work of the corresponding Fund in Northern Ireland, but it is worth noticing that despite the payments made through that Fund, its amount to date is practically the same as when it was first established, in 1948.
§ Mr. Dalton
That is because it invested in longer term securities at a higher rate of interest, because its payments out have been one third of its capital.
§ Mr. Powell
The right hon. Gentleman has exaggerated the extent of the payments out to date, but, obviously, the addition of interest—
§ Mr. Dalton
I am quoting what Lord Antrim said in an article in The Times on 7th June, when he gave figures.
§ Mr. Powell
The right hon. Gentleman has added an item of payment which has not yet been made in arriving at his pro-
§ portion. No doubt the addition of interest to the Fund in Ireland, as in this country, has been responsible for its present size.
§ Further potential purposes, expenditure on which might be made in this way, by borrowing rather than through revenue, have been mentioned during the debate, notably purposes connected with the national parks.
§ It would, of course, be necessary for Parliament to legislate for that, and if and when Parliament legislates to that effect, then will be the time for Parliament to make the appropriate financial provision in this or some other way. But nothing which we are doing now will inhibit Parliament in so legislating, if it is desired, just as nothing which is now being done in any way inhibits the pursuit of present policies under the existing law, or implies that they are in any way to be altered.
§ Once again, and for the last time, I say to the Committee that we are merely making an accounting change which will comply with the general requirements of the House of Commons of ensuring that from time to time the Government have to come to Parliament for a renewal of their authority to meet this kind of expenditure by borrowing.
§ Mr. Dalton
In view of the most unsatisfactory, unhelpful, unimaginative and pedantic reply, we shall divide against the Clause.
§ Question put, That the Clause stand part of the Bill:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 240, Noes 198.823
|Division No. 157.]||AYES||[934 p.m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Boyle, Sir Edward||Danoe, J. C. G.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Brooman-White, R. C.||Deedes, W. F.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bryan, P.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Drayson, C. B.|
|Ashton, H.||Burden, F. F. A.||du Cann, E. D. L.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Butler.Rt.Hn.R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Barber, Anthony||Cary, Sir Robert||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E. (Kelvingrove)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Channon, Sir Henry||Elliott,R.W.(N'oastle upon Tyne.N.)|
|Barter, John||Chichester-Clark, R.||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Erroll, F. J.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Cole, Norman||Fell, A.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Conant, Maj Sir Roger||Finlay, Graeme|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Cooke, Robert||Fisher, Nigel|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Fort, R.|
|Black, C. W.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Foster, John|
|Body, R. F.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col- O. E.||Fraser, Hon, Hugh (Stone)|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Cunningham, Knox||Gammans, Lady|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Currie, G. B. H.||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Glover, D.||Leavey, J. A.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Godber, J. B.||Leburn, W. G.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. Sir Alan||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Goodhart, Philip||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Redmayne, M.|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Gower, H. R.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Green, A.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Grimond, J.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Crosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||McKibbin, A. J.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Gurden, Harold||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Sharples, R. C.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Shepherd, William|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesfd)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold(Bromley)||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Speir, R. M.|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P.(Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hon. Sir R.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Markham, Major sir Frank||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Steward, Sir William(Woolwich, W.)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Marshall, Douglas||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Holt, A. F.||Mawby, R. L.||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Hornby, R. P.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Teeling, W.|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Temple, John M.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Moore, Sir Thomas||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Howard, John (Test)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Neave, Airey||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Nicholls, Harmar||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark (E'b'gh,S.)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Nicolson, N.(B'n'm'th.E. & Chr'ch)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Oakshott, H. D.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Osborne, C.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Page, R. G.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Joseph, Sir Keith||Peyton, J. W. W.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Joynson-Hicks, Hon. Sir Lancelot||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Kaberry, D.||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Kershaw, J. A.||Pott, H. P.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Kimball, M.||Powell, J. Enoch||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Kirk, P. M.||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Mr. Richard Thompson and Mr. Edward Wakefield.|
|Lagden, G. W.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Burke, W. A.||Dodds, N. N.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Donnelly, D. L.|
|Allen, scholefield (Crewe)||Callaghan, L. J.||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Carmichael, J.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Champion, A. J.||Edelman, M.|
|Baird, J.||Chapman, W. D.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Chetwynd, G. R.||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Clunie, J.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Coldrick, W.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)|
|Beswick, Frank||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Fienburgh, W.|
|Blackburn, F.||Collins, V. J.(Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Fletcher, Eric|
|Blenkinsop, A,||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Forman, J. C.|
|Blyton, W, R.||Cove, W. G.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Boardman, H.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Gibson, C. W.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Cronin, J. D.||Greenwood, Anthony|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Crossman, R. H. S.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.|
|Bowies, F. G.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Grey, C. F.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hale, Leslie|
|Brookway, A. F.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Deer, G.||Hannan, W.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Delargy, H. J.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham. N.)|
|Hastings, S.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Ross, William|
|Healey, Denis||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Royle, C.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Mason, Roy||Short, E. W.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Mayhew, C. P.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Mellish, R. J.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Holmes, Horace||Messer, Sir F.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Mikardo, Ian||Simon, J. E. S.(Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Mitchison, G. R||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Monslow, w.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Moody, A. S.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Hunter, A. E.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Morrison, Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Mort, D. L.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Mulley, F. W.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. P. (Derby, S.)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Janner, B.||O'Brien, Sir Thomas||Swingler, S. T.|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Oliver, G. H.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Oram, A. E.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Jeger,Mrs.Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs.S.)||Oswald, T.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Owen, W. J.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Padley, W. E.||Tomney, F.|
|Jones, Rt. Hon.A. Creech(Wakefield)||Paget, R, T.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Viant, S. P.|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Kenyon, C.||Pargiter, G. A.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Parker, J.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Peart, T. F.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Lawson, G. M.||Pentland, N.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Ledger, R. J.||Popplewell, E.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Prentice, R. E.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Willey, Frederick|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Probert, A. R.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Proctor, W. T.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Logan, D. G.||Randall, H. E.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Rankin, John||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Redhead, E. C.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon, A.|
|McGovern, J.||Reeves, J.||Woof, R. E.|
|McInnes, J.||Rhodes, H.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Mahon, Simon||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons|
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 39 ordered to stand part of the Bill.