HC Deb 21 June 1960 vol 625 cc204-5
25. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Works whether he has considered the criticisms made in the Annual Reports of the Historic Building Councils for England and Wales about the inadequacy of the funds made available by his Department for the repair and maintenance of buildings of outstanding historic or architectural interest; and what steps he intends to take to meet those criticisms.

The Minister of Works (Lord John Hope)

I am considering the Council's remarks in consultation with the Treasury.

Mrs. Castle

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his parsimony on this matter to date has resulted in the signing of the death warrant of fine buildings, to quote the English Report? Is it not intolerable that retrenchment on the preservation of beauty should become one of the hallmarks of the affluent society? Will he not, therefore, at least restore the 33½ per cent. which was cut from expenditure of this kind?

Lord John Hope

As well as the Councils' remarks, I will consider the hon. Lady's.

Mr. Deedes

As it is seven years since the House had a chance of discussing this subject, when the original Act was passed, will my right hon. Friend represent to the Leader of the House that the possibility of our having even part of a day to discuss this subject might be acceptable to both sides of the House?

Lord John Hope

I will certainly see that my right hon. Friend knows about my hon. Friend's suggestion.

Mr. Dugdale

Will not the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is most unfortunate that at a time when this country has never had it so goad there should be so many buildings falling into decay for lack of adequate funds—

Mr. Ellis Smith

Especially workers' houses.

Mr. Dugdale

—including some workers' houses which are of historic interest and beauty? Will he not consider giving greater help so that these buildings might be preserved?

Lord John Hope

The right hon. Gentleman's observations lend themselves to some very tempting forms of riposte on which I will leave him to reflect in silence.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Is there any chance that if the House, in Committee of Supply, were to refuse an increase in my right hon. Friend's Vote for this purpose, he would report to the Chancellor of the Exchequer so that the Chancellor could reduce taxation to enable owners to keep the houses in repair?

Mr. Woodburn

While the Historic Buildings Councils appreciate the considerate and tactful way in which the right hon. Gentleman has approached this problem, two very large problems have arisen in Scotland and England which have taken most of the funds for one year, which makes the job a little more difficult in dealing with the smaller items. This is something quite outside what was originally contemplated in the amount of money granted. Will the right hon. Gentleman ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if something can be done for these exceptional cases to relieve the councils of the very large obligation involved?

Lord John Hope

I will certainly see that the right hon. Gentleman's remarks are borne in mind when we are considering this matter.