HC Deb 26 July 1957 vol 574 cc798-800

Lords Amendment: In page 15, line 46, at end insert new Clause:— (1)This section shall apply in relation to any subsidence damage where the damaged property is—

  1. (a)specified in the Schedule to the Ancient Monuments Protection Act. 1882, or for the time being specified in a list published under section twelve of the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act. 1913; or
  2. (b)notified to the Board by the Minister of Works as an ancient monument within the meaning of the Ancient Monuments Acts. 1913 to 1953, for the time being under the care of that Minister; or
  3. (c)a building notified to the Board by the Minister of Works as being in that Minister's opinion of outstanding historic or architectural interest.

(2)If and so far as, having regard to the nature and extent of the subsidence damage, it is practicable and in the public interest so to restore the damaged property to a condition comparable to its condition at the date immediately before the subsidence damage occurred as to maintain the historic, architectural, archaeological or other special interest attaching thereto at that date, then, for the purposes of remedial works in connection with that property, that property shall not he deemed to be reasonably fit for the purposes mentioned in subsection (2)of section one of this Act unless it has been so restored.

(3)Any dispute arising under the last foregoing subsection as to whether or how far it is practicable or in the public interest to restore any property as mentioned in that subsection shall be determined by the Minister of Works."

Mr. Renton

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This new Clause is proposed in pursuance of an undertaking which I gave in this House when we considered our Bill on Report and when we were discussing the obligation of the National Coal Board to do remedial works under Clause 1. We got into a discussion about whether the Board should have an obligation merely to restore the ancient monument for such functional purpose as it might have, or restore its character and beauty as an ancient monument as well as to restore its functional capacity. We found that the best way of dealing with this matter—and their Lordships so accepted—was to move an entirely new Clause to add an obligation in respect of ancient monuments.

In doing that I think that I may justly claim that we have gone a good deal farther than the undertaking which I gave when we were discussing Clause 1. What we have done is this. We have invoked the previous legislation relating to ancient monuments; and we have also had to add that any building which in the opinion of the Minister of Works is of historic or architectural interest should be covered as well; and for this reason, that from the definition of ancient monuments, in the various Statutes we find that they are buildings which are no longer lived in and used for an ordinary purpose. Of course, I am sure it would be the wish of the House that not only such piles of old stones should be protected but also those buildings which are still used for one purpose or another but are of historical or architectural interest. This new Clause will so provide.

The procedure will be that the Coal Board's obligation to repair will be to restore the building to its condition immediately before the damage, to the extent that this is practicable and in the public interest. Of course, here again we may have the question arising: what is in the public interest? In this instance any dispute about what is in the public interest will be settled by the Minister of Works, whose Ministry and officials have much expertise and experience in restoring and repairing ancient monuments.

I am very grateful to hon. Gentlemen opposite for having drawn our attention at an earlier stage to what might have become, had we not given it the attention which they indicated was necessary, a very difficult matter in bringing the Bill into operation in future years. We feel that now the matter has been well covered.

Mr. R. Williams

We on this side of the House give full support to this new Clause. The Parliamentary Secretary is absolutely right when he says that this goes far beyond the undertaking he gave. It shows that he has not only considered the representations which we made but has considered other aspects of the matter as well. It would be right, I think, for me to say that, in considering the points which we brought to his notice, he has not only gone into the matter and investigated them along the lines he suggested but has gone further. It is a first-class Clause and one which receives our full support.

Question put and agreed to.