§ Regulations shall be made by the Minister for the protection of ancient monuments likely to be affected by subsidence damage and in appropriate cases for the repair of such damage or for such restoration as may be reasonably practicable.—[Mr. Robens.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Mr. Robens
I beg to move, That cue Clause be read a Second time.
We are inviting the Minister to produce Regulations which will protect ancient monuments which are likely to be affected by subsidence damage and, where it is not possible to provide against subsidence damage, to effect the appropriate repairs according to the value or antiquity of the ancient monument.
We discussed this matter for a short time in Standing Committee, when the Minister said that he thought that procedure for the protection of ancient monuments had been overlooked and that i was important that they should be protected because, in most cases, they cannot be restored once damage has been done.
We all agreed with what the Minister said. We all took the view that it was very desirable that ancient monuments should be protected as far as possible against damage as a result of mining subsidence, and that where there had been some damage then the repairs should be consistent with the character of the ancient monument. It means that the Minister would have to make very special provisions, because Clause 1 (2) 1379 says that the Coal Board should do such remedial workas may be necessary to render the damaged property reasonably fit for use for the purposes for which, at the date immediately before the damage occurred, it was or might in all the circumstances reasonably have been expected to be used.A number of illustrations were given in Committee which showed that damage to an ancient monument might be repaired within the terms of the Clause which I have read, but they would, nevertheless, be the wrong repairs for an ancient monument. There was reference to the possibility of an old Norman church being damaged, having a roof fall and having the roof repaired easily with corrugated iron, just as the Guards' Chapel has been restored. That could not be regarded as the right sort of remedial repair, but, under the Bill, it is exactly what could be done, and the Coal Board would by that time have cleared off its obligation.
Hadrian's Wall runs across a good deal of my constituency. Its original purpose no longer exists, but it acts as a division between fields and presumably in many cases marks the boundaries. If, as a result of mining subsidence, a good deal of it were destroyed, one could put up an iron fence, but it would be very incongruous in those circumstances. I could go on giving illustrations of how remedial measures could be taken which might enable the ancient monument to serve the purposes which it was serving before, but many illustrations will come to the minds of hon. Members.
In short, the new Clause is designed in order that power should be given to the Minister to draw up some very special Regulations about ancient monuments. We are not even seeking to say what he ought to put in the Regulations; we regard that as a matter of good taste and common sense. Nevertheless, the power ought to exist, and I hope that the Minister will approve the Clause and that the House will accept it. It is a very reasonable Clause which must appeal to all those who want to see the retention of our ancient monuments and to see them properly preserved in this country. I therefore hope that the Minister will accept the Clause. All it does is to give him power to make Regulations. I think that there should 1380 be such power, and I hope that the Minister will willingly take it when it is offered.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
This question was considered at considerable length by the Turner Committee because we were very much concerned at the damage which could be done to what I think we referred to as our national heritage, and we were, of course, anxious that these ancient monuments should not be undermined. Our proposals, which are familiar to hon. Members, were that the purpose of the new Clause should be met by what we described as the key points principle. The key points were, of course, very much wider in ambit than ancient monuments. The principle was designed to cover all sorts of important objects, which might be ancient monuments or might be reservoirs or factories, for instance.
In dealing with this question, we should be very careful indeed to see that we are not too narrow in what we propose. I raised this question on Second Reading, and in reply to the debate my hon. Friend said—I think rightly—that the position has changed somewhat from the time of the Turner Committee recommendations in that the Town and Country Planning Acts have come into much greater force and effect and we know much more how they will work. He said that this question of protection is better taken care of as part of the Town and Country Planning Act machinery than under a Bill primarily designed to deal with damage done by the working of coal when coal is worked.
If I may say so, I thought that that was a valid answer, and I have not pursued the matter at any stage since. I believe that the right way to deal with this problem is not under the Bill but under the machinery of the Town and Country Planning Acts. On the whole, that machinery is working fairly well, and not many complaints are made that important aesthetic objects are being undermined and damaged.
§ Mr. Oliver
Does it not depend wholly on the nature of the historic monument or historic building whether it comes within the province and the purview of the Town and Country Planning Acts?
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I agree with the hon. and learned Member, and I am 100 per cent. in agreement with the principle 1381 that anything which is an ancient monument ought to receive absolute protection.
§ Mr. Robens
I see the argument that the Town and Country Planning Acts could probably prevent coal mining operations which might cause damage, but assuming that there is damage to an ancient monument, would not the hon. Member agree that there is nothing within the provisions of the town and country planning legislation which will compel the Coal Board to do the kind of repair which is necessary when an ancient monument has been damaged despite all the care taken in extraction?
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I had not appreciated, when the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) was moving the Second Reading of his new Clause, that he was considering that case. I agree that there is some room there for questions to he asked, and I shall listen with great interest to what my hon Friend the Parliamentary Secretary says in reply to the debate.
As I understand it, the new Clause is primarily designed to give ancient monuments absolute protection; if it is not, I think that it ought to be. The difficulty is that there is a great deal besides ancient monuments which ought to be protected. There are many buildings of the utmost importance in isolated communitites which should receive protection, and we all know that in many coal mining areas the communities are isolated and have not ready access to other parts. I should, therefore, be sorry to see one particular class of building alone receive treatment which, I think, ought to be generally available to all buildings which could be described as coming within the category of key points. For that reason, I should not support the new Clause. I should not like to have to vote against it, and I hope that it will not be pressed.
I ask my hon. Friend to say that it is the view of the Government that ancient monuments ought to be protected. If he cannot give an answer to the particular question put by the right hon. Member for Blyth, I hope that he will say that the Government will further consider the matter before the Bill reaches another place.
§ Mr. George
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) says that, instead of giving protection through the Bill for ancient monuments, that could well be left in the hands of the town and country planning authorities. I have been following what my hon. Friend has said with great interest, and I should like his help on this question In my recollection, the town planning authorities have control only over new mining, but have no control over old mines, so that they could not be the appropriate authorities in the second case, if damage to ancient monuments occurred.
§ Mr. Oliver
The new Clause is, I think, rather narrowly drawn. The expression "ancient monument" is not sufficiently comprehensive, and such things as buildings of historic importance ought to have been included. If the Parliamentary Secretary will cast his mind back to the Committee stage, he will recall that what is asked for in my right hon. Friend's new Clause is needed as a result of the wording of Clause 1 (2):Subject to the provisions of this Act, as soon as reasonably practicable after the occurrence of any subsidence damage, the National Coal Board…shall execute such works …as may be necessary to render the damaged property reasonably fit for use…One could not very well restore an ancient monument or building of historic importance by making it "reasonably fit for use" because we do not know what its use is; it may well have nothing but aesthetic value. If those words had not been introduced, to govern practically all the conditions in relation to mining subsidence, it would not, perhaps, have been necessary to move the new Clause at all.
§ Mr. Renton
I find myself in the unusual position of being able to give satisfaction to every hon. Gentleman who has spoken on every point which has been made, but without having to accept the new Clause.
The new Clause raises two quite separate matters in regard to ancient monuments only. First of all, there is the question of protecting ancient monuments, and, secondly, there is the question of their repair and restoration in the unfortunate event of their being damaged. We can, of course, all agree that ancient monuments are an irreplaceable part of our heritage and that, when legislating on 1383 any subject, we should do all we can to protect them.
I assure the right hon. Member for Blyth (Mr. Robens) that ancient monuments can be, and are already, fully protected by means of the planning legislation. We have several sets of circumstances to bear in mind. I will mention the example of ancient monuments lying, or standing—whatever it may be—on the surface under which coal is already being worked. That was the basis of a question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Pollok (Mr. George). Even in such cases the local planning authority can issue a direction under Article IV of the General Development Order, bringing any further coal working there under planning control. Thus, even in cases like that where at first sight it might be thought that the position is irretrievable, the local planning authority can act, if it has reason to believe that the ancient monument might be jeopardised.
In view of the well working machinery which has been established between local authorities and the National Coal Board in order to inform local planning authorities of the progress of coal workings, I should have thought that there ought not to be any difficulty about keeping local authorities informed of any possible danger.
Next, we have to consider the protection of ancient monuments standing on land under which, so far, there has been no coal working. In regard to such cases, the House will remember that an application for planning permission is necessary. If it is found that the working of the coal would destroy, damage or interfere with an ancient monument, the local planning authority can refuse planning permission altogether if it wishes. There have been cases where planning authorities have done that. There was one example at Asbury Hall in Derbyshire, where planning permission to work coal underneath was refused altogether, even though it meant a loss of no less than 500,000 tons of coal. That is a good example.
There are other cases where a local planning authority can say, "We do not refuse planning permission altogether. We will grant it on certain conditions." The conditions may involve, for instance, 1384 underpinning, sometimes very expensive underpinning. That may very well meet the point.
I say, therefore, that there is already full provision for the protection of ancient monuments. The law is there, administered by the people best able to administer it, namely the local planning authorities themselves. They have a special duty in the protection of ancient monuments under the Town and Country Planning Act; they have, indeed, to schedule a great many of them. But their responsibility is not limited to that, nor indeed are their desires or opportunities. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) asked about buildings which are not ancient monuments, but which, nevertheless, ought to be protected by the planning procedure. The answer to his question is simple. If the local planning authority thinks that any such building ought to be protected, it can either refuse planning permission, or, as I say, grant it subject to conditions. Any building, can, therefore, be protected.
As to the question of restoration and repair, I quite appreciate the difficulty which was at first sight felt by the hon. and learned Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Oliver) who asked how an ancient monument could, by being repaired, be madereasonably fit for use for the purpose for which at the date immediately before the damage occurred, it was or might in all the circumstances reasonably have been expected to be used.I hope that this is not too much a matter of argument, but what I suggest to the House is that it is possible to restore an ancient monument in a way which would retain its interest and value as an ancient monument. After all, if it is a thing of beauty and no more, one can say that it is being made fit for the purpose for which it was expected to be used, which was to be looked at and enjoyed by people.
§ Mr. Renton
I am advised that it is not straining the language, and I submit to the House that it is not doing so.
The right hon. Member for Blyth particularly asked me to answer a question which he put. He referred, for example, to the Guards' Chapel. The 1385 analogy is not perfect because, obviously, it was a temporary restoration to enable the chapel to be continued in use. That did not mean that it would not one day be properly restored. Sometimes when mining subsidence damage occurs to an ancient monument it may be necessary to do some temporary patching up. But, in our view, that would not be complying with Clause 1 (2), and proper restoration would be required in order to comply with that subsection.
§ Mr. Robens
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman explain what he means by Clause 1 (2) covering it? Secondly, does he really say that the words:…as may be sufficient to render the damaged property reasonably fit for use£cover the question of repair of ancient monuments?
§ Mr. Renton
I do say that. The National Coal Board has a duty under this subsection to render the ancient monument reasonably fit for that purpose. It may have to restore it in a way which would retain its interest and value as an ancient monument; that is what the National Coal Board must do in order to comply with the subsection.
§ Mr. Robens
May I come back to the question of the Guards' Chapel? The purpose for which the chapel is used is that of religious services. It has been restored and the purpose is now adequately served by what has been done, but no one would say that that is how the chapel should remain permanently. In the Bill, the words do not say anything other than that it would be restored fit for the purpose, not that it shall have an aesthetic beauty or anything of that character, but merely that it shall have functional repair.
§ Mr. Renton
I am greatly obliged to the right hon. Gentleman because he has illustrated the matter further and drawn attention in my mind, and perhaps in the minds of other hon. Members, to the fact that ancient monuments frequently have a dual purpose. They have a function, such as that of a cathedral or a bridge, but they also have a function derived merely from the fact that they are ancient monuments, part of the national heritage and something that people want to see and enjoy. When the word "purposes" is used in Clause 1 (2) we are advised that 1386 it does not have a limited meaning. It does not mean merely functional purposes. It does not merely mean purposes as an ancient monument; it means purposes in an unlimited sense. That being so, to take the example of damage to an ancient church, it would be necessary to restore it in such a way as not merely to enable church services to be held there in future as they have been in the past, but also to restore it in such a way as to preserve, so far as physically can be done, the ancient character and appearances of the building. I hope that explanation satisfies the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Robens
I would he perfectly satisfied with the explanation provided that the hon. and learned Gentleman were the judge of the county court when an issue like this was being discussed, but I cannot believe that if the matter really arose, and action was taken, good lawyers could not argue that, whatever the hon. and learned Gentleman had said in this House, it had been restored fit for the purpose for which it was used before, and on that basis that was all the legal obligation on the Coal Board.
§ Mr. Renton
Very well, if that is how the right hon. Gentleman feels—and I can quite understand his feelings—I will have another look at this to see, in order to make abundantly plain that no county court judge could misunderstand the position, that the word "purposes" is, if necessary, further defined so as to make sure that a dual purpose, a purpose as an ancient monument as well as a functional purpose, is what is contemplated when defining this obligation.
§ Mr. Ede
What we want to avoid is having the kind of restoration by which so many Victorians restored quite good medieval churches for the purpose of continuing to carry on the form of worship, but completely destroyed the whole atmosphere of the place and ruined some of our best architectural monuments.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Renton
I am not a Victorian; I am an Edwardian. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) is a Victorian and, therefore, I must not express my feelings about some of the things the Victorians did. I do most heartily agree with him—and indeed it is what we all desire—that the original beauty of an ancient monument should be so far as possible restored.
1387 Bearing in mind that we have the town and country planning legislation to give protection, that we have this Bill to provide for restoration and repairs, and that I gave the undertaking that we will look at the meaning of the word "purposes" in order to see whether it is adequate for what the right hon. Gentleman and the rest of us have in mind, I trust that with that explanation the right hon. Gentleman will not wish to press the new Clause.
§ Mr. T. Brown
The question that I am going to put to the Parliamentary Secretary may appear to be rather funny. I am fully aware that under Clause 8 churches and ecclesiastical property are covered. We are asking for regulations to protect ancient monuments. Not very far from where I live we have a very ancient and beautiful church. Just outside the gates leading to the church are medieval stocks which were used to put people in. If those are damaged by the proposed new colliery at Parkside will it be possible to claim compensation for damage to the stocks?
§ Mr. Renton
I think that is a hypothetical example and I really ought not to give an opinion without a very full inquiry into the circumstances.
§ Mr. Renton
If the stocks are scheduled as an ancient monument what I have already said would apply.
§ Mr. Robens
I wish merely to say that I accept wholeheartedly what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said and I would, therefore, beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.