§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.6 a.m.
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
It was the noble Lord, Lord Shawcross, who, when Attorney-General, in moving the Second Reading of that momentous and much welcomed Measure, the Solicitors, Public Notaries, &c. Bill, 1949, began his speech with the words, "This is a very dull Bill." I would not say that about my own Measure, although I must frankly admit to the House that this is a modest Measure. It is designed in some way to help the amenities of this country, and I hope that, after the splendid blow that was struck in another place last night for the amenities of the countryside, the House will not show itself backward in following the splendid example of their Lordships.
I cannot pretend that if the House is generous enough to grant the Bill a Second Reading and if, comparatively unscathed, it eventually passes into law, every building of historic or architectural interest in this country would automatically be preserved, nor am I under any illusion that every local authority will at once unlosen its purse to provide lavish grants. Nevertheless, I believe that this modest Bill would go some way to remedy a situation where a number of memorable buildings fall into disrepair, disuse and disintegration owing to lack of funds.
It is also my hope that the discussion we shall have this morning will again focus a small amount of public attention on this important problem. If there are Philistine local authorities, perhaps some of them will be stimulated to action if the House gives a generous reception to this Measure, and I hope that hon. Members will not think this too naive or innocent a view.
The purpose of the Bill is to enable certain local authorities to give grants, if they think fit, in respect of buildings of historic or architectural interest. May I, before turning to the details of the Bill, give the House a very short 779 description of the legislation which at the moment governs this field. I think that anyone who gives this matter any attention at all will agree with me that the law dealing with ancient monuments is both complicated and obscure. The first relevant legislation was the Ancient Monuments Protection Act, 1882, under which the Minister of Works was given power to acquire certain ancient monuments, to punish people who defaced monuments, to appoint inspectors, to become guardian of monuments, and become responsible for their maintenance. It is amusing to read the Schedule of Ancient Monuments attached to this Act. As one would suppose, Stonehenge features prominently.
The present powers of local authorities to deal with this type of problem come from the later Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act, 1913, and the Ancient Monuments Act, 1931. Under Section 11 of the 1913 Act, certain local authorities have the power to make grants and to contribute to historic buildings, as did the Minister of Works, or the Commissioner, as he then was. However, in the next Act, which was that of 1931, there was a limiting Section—Section 3 (3, b), which laid down that the Minister of Works was entitled to defray costs in connection with an ancient monument, butno expenses shall be incurred by the Commissioners under this subsection in connection with any monument which is occupied as a dwelling-house by any person other than a person employed as the caretaker thereof or his family.Dwelling-houses were thereby excluded.
To those who are surprised to learn that buildings are included in ancient monuments at all, I must explain that in the definition Section of the 1931 Act "monument" is to includeany building, structure, or other work, whether above or below the surface of the land, other than an ecclesiastical building for the time being used for ecclesiastical purposes, and any cave or excavation.Having defined "monument" in this way, the 1931 Act later in the same Section defines "ancient monument" as, among other things:any part or remains of a monument or group of monuments … of which the preservation is, in the opinion of the Commissioners, a matter of public interest by reason of the historic architectural, traditional, artistic or archaeological interest attaching thereto".780 Therefore, "monument" includes "building" and "ancient monument" can mean a building of historic or architectural interest, provided that the Minister of Works agrees. It may surprise the House to learn that "ancient" is defined in this way as something of historic interest should my noble Friend think so. I have sometimes felt that the compilers of the "Oxford Dictionary" might be surprised by this peculiar definition of "ancient".
What is even more curious is that local authorities were not caught by this new Section 3, although the Minister was. This was the Section which excluded dwelling-houses. So, from 1931 until the new Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act, 1953, my noble Friend had no power to make contributions to dwelling-houses, but borough and county councils did under certain conditions.
I shall try later to show that many local councils would be amazed to learn that they had these powers and that there is considerable confusion. I hope that I am in no danger of muddling the House at this stage about the law relating to ancient monuments, but I can assure hon. Members that there is considerable doubt about the legal force of all these definitions. I almost think that, if I have stated them accurately, I should leave the calm haven of the House for the more tempestuous waters of the Bar. At any rate, I hope, for the purposes of order, that I have satisfied you, Sir, that "ancient monuments" includes "historic buildings", but I shall return later to this very curious and unsatisfactory definition.
The power which local authorities have under the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act, 1913, and which has never been taken away, as well as being obscure is hedged with practical difficulties. First, only county and borough councils and the Common Council of the City of London were given powers and the proviso was made that all such plans were to be submitted to the Ancient Monuments Board, an advisory committee to be set up by the then Commissioner of Works. This Board, if it disapproved of the plans, had the right to report this matter to the Commissioner of Works, who was to have the final decision as to whether 781 or no plans should go forward. As I shall try to show, this reference to an Ancient Monuments Board is now archaic, unnecessary and even inappropriate.
I think that the House has always been rightly interested in the preservation of the architecture of Great Britain and that this interest has been shown, among other ways, by the successive Town and Country Planning Acts which have been passed by Governments of widely differing political complexions. All of us, for example, should be grateful to the then government for introducing, in 1925, into the Town Planning Act of that year a provision that one of the objects which town planning schemes might secure would be the preservation of existing features of architectural, historic and artistic interest.
The 1932 Act carried this one stage further by giving local authorities the power to make preservation orders forbidding the demolition of buildings of historic or architectural interest without their consent. Therefore, hon. Members will see that for many years local authorities have been concerned with the problem of dealing with historic buildings.
However, it was not until the Town and Country Planning Acts of 1944 and 1947 that the famous lists of buildings were compiled. Some hon. Members—perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr)—may remember that the Town and Country Planning Bill, 1947, caused some controversy at the time. Some of my hon. Friends felt that they could not support all its provisions. Certainly, one of the best points in both the Acts of 1944 and 1947—perhaps the yoke of the curate's egg, as it was witheringly described by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker Smith) on Second Reading—were Clauses 29 and 30, which required the Minister to draw up lists of buildings of special architectural and historic interest.
Nobody may demolish or seriously alter a listed building without giving two months' notice to the local planning authority. Local planning authorities and district authorities—I emphasise to the House that district authorities 782 appear now for the first time—were given powers to make building preservation orders and also to acquire buildings, either by agreement or compulsorily where a preservation order is in force and steps are not being taken properly to preserve the building.
I know that there are people who think that perhaps the preservation order system does not work very well and that there could be beneficial changes, but I do not think that I should really be in order if I were to argue that point this morning. However, there was one important omission from the Act, in that there was no provision in suitable cases for owners to be given financial assistance towards the cost of preserving their buildings. It may well be that it was thought, as I have tried to show, that there were already in existence adequate provisions in the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act, 1913, but in my view any such provisions were both inadequate and obscure.
It is a sign of how uncontroversial this problem is, at least in the party political sense, that when right hon. Members opposite were in power they set up the Committee which produced the famous Gowers Report in 1950. I am particularly glad to see the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) in his place this morning, and I hope that if he catches your eye, Sir, he will tell us something about that, because I know that he was one of those who gave evidence to the Committee and no doubt remembers all this very well.
Among the most important recommendations of the Gowers Committee was that there should be set up the Historic Buildings Councils for England and Scotland, which now advise my noble Friend the Minister of Works on a number of matters, particularly whether he should defray the cost, or part of the cost, of repairing or maintaining buildings of outstanding historic or architectural interest. No doubt if my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) is fortunate enough to catch your eye, Sir, he will tell us more about the work of the English Historic Buildings Council. At the moment, I will merely say that anyone who loves England and its magnificent heritage of buildings will agree with me that we are all in the debt of this Council, on which 783 my hon. Friend serves with such distinction.
I understand that the total amount available for distribution in England annually is about £400,000, so it is no wonder that the phrase "outstanding interest" is interpreted most strictly. It tends to confirm my view that, in certain suitable cases, local authorities should have proper powers to make grants.
I am sure that all hon. Members would agree that the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act, 1953, which set up this Council, filled a great need, and I am fortified in that view by the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates in 1960 and, in particular, by the debate we had on that Report on 14th February, 1961. I would not go as far as the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) went. In that debate he said that one of his hon. Friends had said to him that… most people looking down upon this Chamber regarded Members of Parliament as ancient monuments in an historic building.I would be the first to disclaim the need for a preservation order on myself as an ancient monument—and by hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) also looks all right in that respect.
I join with the hon. Member for Widnes, however, when he said:We think that there is a very great need here to try to arouse local interest. There is a danger of the relationship becoming one where the Ministry produces the money and everybody else—local authorities, amenity bodies and others—sit around and get as much as they can. That must not be allowed to happen. If we are to preserve our ancient monuments, we must do much to arouse local interest in this local heritage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th February, 1961; Vol. 634, c. 1330.]Both the Minister of Works and my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford referred in that fascinating debate to the importance of the work of local councils in this matter. My noble Friend, in particular, referred to the small use that was made of their powers under the Ancient Monuments Act, and I have ventured to suggest that this is in part due to the fact that very few people at present interpret these Acts correctly. I think that that is borne out by the fact that various local authorities when promoting Private Bills have specifically taken powers to make grants. Of course, as I think the whole House will agree, 784 it is axiomatic that much the most important of these Private Acts was the famous Southend-on-Sea Corporation Act, 1960, promoted by that excellent, but much maligned body.
Recommendation 68 and 69 of the Select Committee of Estimates Report dealt with the problems of local authorities. I understand—and perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford will confirm it—that grants are made to local authorities who own historic buildings in the same way as they are made to private owners. Indeed, in his evidence to the Select Committee on Estimates, in answer to Question 604, Sir Alan Lascelles said:So long as we consider that a house is worth keeping it is really irrelevant to us whether the owner is a public body, a nunnery or a private individual.I thoroughly agree with that, as I do with paragraph 69, which stated:Your Committee recommend that everything possible should be done to encourage local authorities to take a pride in their historic buildings.…In paragraph 75, the Committee said:In general, Your Committee would welcome any devolution of financial and administrative responsibility to local authorities. They are alive to the risk that once the Ministry steps in, other bodies have a temptation to abandon interest … But it has also to be recognised that this will not be achieved on any large scale unless the interest of local authorities and their members can be aroused. That applies equally to the large planning authorities and to the parish councils. No doubt there will always be some cases in which the central Departments find themselves without local support. But Your Committee believe that if local authorities are made more aware of their heritage and of what can be done by prudent outlay to preserve it, untapped sources of active support will be discovered. Your Committee recommend that the Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Department of Health for Scotland should make more conscious effort to arouse the interest of local authorities and in this they should enlist the support of the amenity societies.I therefore hope that the Second Reading of the Bill will, at any rate, have the support of those who served on the Select Committee on Estimates—whose Report was, I think, generally welcomed by the whole House—because it seems to me that there is great need for local authorities to add to the quota of assistance available from national funds.
In the first place, as I have said, the amount available is only about £400,000 785 a year. Much as some of us would like that amount to be increased, I do not think that it is realistic to suppose that it is possible in, at any rate, the very near future. I myself—and I am sure that many of my hon. Friends are with me in this—am a firm believer in rigorous control of Government expenditure, and if there is to be that rigorous control it is neither logical nor fair to argue that the Government should provide very much more money for this purpose.
If one reads the Report of the Historic Buildings Council for 1960, one can see that, as a result, there is obviously not enough money available for all the buildings it is desirable should be preserved. The Council states:Inevitably within these limitations there have been losses and we regret them.There must be many buildings in this country of great local interest which might not qualify for the adjective "outstanding". I am told that there is a particular problem in Devon. No doubt, if the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) were here he might be able to enlighten us, but I am told that in Devon the cost of rethatching buildings is very high. There are also charming high streets, groups of cottages, and buildings of that type which, although not of outstanding interest, are of great importance to the local scene and to their surroundings.
I understand, also, that when the Ministry of Works and the Historic Buildings Council agree to grant some money towards the preservation of a group of important local buildings, they not unnaturally expect the local authority to bear some share of the cost. For example, I believe that the Minister of Works will provide half the cost of repairs to the facades in the Royal Crescent at Bath, and that the corporation and the individual owners will provide about a quarter each. I believe that there are other cases in which my noble Friend agrees to meet most of the cost of repairing one or more "outstanding" buildings, on the understanding that the local authority will help with others which, though of less intrinsic merit, are, nevertheless, an important part of the setting.
786 As I have explained, local authorities are at present bound by the provisions of the Ancient Monuments Act. In paragraph 57 of the Gowers Report it is suggested that local authorities have the power to contribute towards the cost of preserving and maintaining ancient monuments, but not inhabited houses, in or near their areas. I certainly would not wish to quarrel with that distinguished Committee, but I think that most lawyers would agree with me in saying that the ancient monuments legislation is to be interpreted differently, and that the Committee was not accurate there.
That is an exact example of how much confusion already exists in this connection. There is no doubt whatever that certain councils are under the impression that they have no powers under the Act, and they are probably fortified in that view by paragraph 57 of the Gowers Report. Other councils are doubtful, and I should have thought that there must be considerable practical difficulty over this curious reference needed to the Ancient Monuments Board.
My Bill, if given a Second Reading, would remove all this confusion, and give a general, simple power to local authorities to give grants if they thought fit. It would also give powers to district councils, which are not covered by the Ancient Monuments Act to encourage the preservation of historic buildings in their areas by helping private owners or suitable purchasers of neglected buildings with the heavy cost of repairs and maintenance. Local resources would be able to supplement the help that is already given. It would be the first time that urban and rural district councils could enter into this matter in this way.
The House will see from the drafting of the Bill, that, in effect, it is a one-Clause Bill. In Clause 1 (1, a) local authorities in England and Wales have the power to contribute towards the expenses of any building in their area which has been listed under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947.
Before proceeding further, perhaps I should declare an interest in this matter, an interest which, I suspect, may be shared by some other promoters of my Bill. I am fortunate enough to live in 787 a house which my right hon. Friend has placed in Grade I of his list and, therefore, if, after long years of prolonged and active service in this House, I am to be rewarded by bankruptcy, I would be able to apply to the Epping and Ongar Rural District Council for a grant. No doubt, with the influential support of my hon. Friend the Member for Chigwell (Mr. Biggs-Davison) I should be able to obtain a lavish grant if the House gives the Bill a Second Reading. I dare say that many other hon. Members are in this position, but I can give the House an assurance that I shall do my utmost to avoid this position arising.
It would seem that it would be unnecessary for a local authority to obtain the Minister's consent before giving a grant if the building in question is already on the Minister's list and, therefore, is obviously suitable. Clause 1 (1, b) takes this further by allowing local authorities to contribute to the repairs of any building which they consider to be of architectural or historical interest—provided that they obtain the consent of the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
§ Mr. Edward du Cann (Taunton)
Could my hon. Friend explain why he thinks it is necessary for local authorities to obtain the consent of the Minister? Some of us feel that that should not be necessary.
§ Mr. Channon
I intended to deal with that point. Although it would seem perfectly proper that consent should not be obtained when buildings have been statutorily listed and, therefore, obviously have the Minister's approval, I should have thought that where buildings are not listed it would be wise to put the suggestion to the Minister. There might be some danger of the building being totally unsuitable and that its preservation should not be supported out of public funds. There will, of course, be cases where it would be appropriate for non-listed buildings to receive a grant and perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) will tell us a little about thatched-roofed cottages if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker.
Many buildings may be of interest, but are not statutorily listed for various 788 reasons. Perhaps the investigator had omitted the building in error. It may be that groups of cottages would be suitable for assistance and, as a group, are more pretentious than an individual building. In such a case a single building might not be considered suitable whereas a group of buildings—including that individual one—might be considered worth saving. Fortunately, my noble Friend now takes a contrary view about groups of buildings to that which was taken in the early days of the administration of these Acts.
Individual buildings of interest are likely to be included in the supplementary list which is included with the statutory list. These supplementary lists are an administrative creation and contain buildings which do not warrant the restrictions placed by the statutory lists on the owner; principally the obligation to give two months' notice of the intention to demolish or alter, for they may yet be of value to the local scene. I suspect that my right hon. Friend would be rather chary of giving his approval to individual buildings which are not even on the supplementary list and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary—who, I understand will reply to the debate; and I am grateful to him for coming here this morning—will tell us how the Ministry's mind would work in such circumstances.
I stress, and this is important, the wording of Clause 1 (1) which states:A local authority … may—(a) contribute towards …It is power to contribute and not to pay all the expenses. I do not think that owners of houses should imagine that in any but the most exceptional case they will get a complete grant covering all their needs. I have read the Report of the Historic Buildings Council which frequently points out that it is nearly always the case that the owners themselves must contribute largely towards these necessary expenses—sometimes to a much larger tune than they had originally imagined.
I need not detain the House further with the details of the Bill except to comment that Scotland is not included because—and I admit that I am not expert on Scottish law—I understand that the Local Government (Scotland) Act 1947, contains somewhat wider 789 provisions than its English counterpart and that these powers are not considered necessary for Scotland.
I have followed the definition of "building" which is given in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and is as wide as I can make it. I think that a bridge, a windmill or a market cross could be included as "structures" but, of course, neither earthworks nor barrows may come under it. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge feels particularly strongly about gardens. I must tell him, reluctantly, that, unfortunately, they cannot be included as structures or erections. In fact, the Bill does not apply to ancient monuments in the sense that a layman would mean the words—and I refer to someone fortunate enough not to be versed in the detail of ancient monument legislation.
I am informed that Clause 2 is necessary and is in the usual form. Any increase in rate deficiency grants is likely to be insignificant, but I would be grateful if the Parliamentary Secretary will give an assurance that if the Bill obtains its Second Reading the Government will agree to the necessary Money Resolution. Last week I came here to support the admirable Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) and although the feeling of the House was in favour of it being passed the Government said that they would not agree to a Money Resolution and, therefore, there seemed little point in pressing the matter to a Second Reading.
I do not know whether any hon. Member would question the principle that buildings of historic or architectural interest should be preserved, even at some cost to the public. Looking at the serried ranks of hon. Members here today I doubt whether any of them would be so uncivilised. I hope no such hon. Member exists, because it is my firm belief that if continuing attempts are not made to tackle this problem it will be a tragedy for this country and for architecture in the world.
Other countries are considering spending millions of pounds to preserve their great monuments. In Egypt, for example, there are plans for trying to 790 save the temple of Abu Simbel, which is threatened by the waters of the new Aswan Dam and which I had the good fortune to visit last month. I fear that, however desirable it may be, we would never be able to persuade U.N.E.S.C.O. to grant money to local authorities to save ancient monuments in England.
Surely we in this House, proud of the beauties of England, should not grudge a comparatively small expenditure to retain them. In passing, I would point out that a small grant given by a local authority in time will save very much greater expense later. It has always seemed anomalous to me that under the Town and Country Planning Acts rural and urban district councils have been given the power of compulsory purchase and, by buying a historic building, can bear the whole cost of repairing and maintaining it, and yet, at the moment, they are not even given the power to make a small grant to help prop the building up. Instead, they have to go through the whole machinery of compulsory purchase.
If any hon. Members consider it unnecessary to preserve historic houses, or to try to keep up some of our magnificent architecture, I can only refer them to the admirable words of my noble Friend Lord Chandos, who, in supporting the Second Reading of the National Theatre Bill, 1949—perhaps an even more important Measure than the Solicitors and Public Notaries Bill, though I wonder with what results—said:I have often been asked as a sponsor of this project what is the necessity for a National Theatre? This, of course, is a question which perhaps only the Secretary of the Philistine Society, if there is such a body, could properly ask. I usually reply in a rather conventional way by asking what is the need, come to that, for the National Gallery, for St. Paul's Cathedral 'Lycidas' or the 'Eroica' Symphony of Beethoven. These works are not necessities in the sense that the President of the Board of Trade and others use the term when speaking about clothes, food, or houses. In fact, we only begin to enter the realms of art when we begin to leave the realms of necessity."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st January. 1949; Vol. 460, c. 446.]In this somewhat different context, I still think that his words are most apposite. After all, the Gowers Report pointed out thatowing to economic and social changes, we are faced with a disaster comparable only to 791 that which the country suffered by the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th Century.l think that the position is considarably better since those words were written, but still, today—again I quote the Gowers Report—our concern is to see how we can best save something of a great national heritage, and in embodiment of our history and traditions, and a monument to the creative genius of our ancestors and the graceful serenity of their civilisation.I cannot claim that the Bill is anything more than a small step, but I think that it is a small step in the right direction, and I hope that the House will feel inclined to give that small step a sympathetic shove towards the Statute Book this morning.
§ 11.43 a.m.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
I am very glad indeed to support this Measure and to speak in support of the case which has been made so eloquently and thoroughly by the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon). I agree with almost everything that he has said. In particular, I agree that, as is provided in the Bill, there should be only contributions from public funds and that the owner of one of these properties should not be entitled to expect that the whole burden of repairs and maintenance should be met from the public purse.
Moreover, if as a result of such contributions the market value of a house is substantially increased over the years, and if subsequently the owner is obliged, or decides, to sell it, he should at least, I think, be under a moral obligation—whether it can be made statutory or not I do not know—to return to the Ministry or the local authority concerned, out of the price that he gets for the house, the sums that have been advanced to him by way of grants.
The only point in the hon. Member's speech with which I personally disagreed was his quotation of a distinguished name in support of the view that it was, I think he said, a matter of indifference whether the owner of the house was a private person, a school, an institution or a nunnery. I do not altogether agree with that. Perhaps it is easier to say this from this side of the House than from the other side. I think it is 792 obviously much better that a beautiful ancient house should be used as a school or even as a nunnery—though not in the Elizabethan sense of the word—than that it should be allowed to decay. Nonetheless, I always feel that when a house which has been a home has become institutionalised, it loses a great deal of its atmosphere. For instance, a room like the Double Cube Room at Wilton would look very sad indeed if it had to be furnished with the usual sort of hostel furniture. That is the only point at which I felt some disagreement with what the hon. Member said.
§ Mr. Channon
Perhaps I might point out that, as the hon. Member probably knows already, I live in one of the few houses which, having been nunneries, have gone back to being private houses.
§ Mr. Driberg
I think that I need speak only quite briefly, because the hon. Member has already deployed adequately all the main arguments in favour of his Bill. It is, after all, a relatively simple Measure. It is, moreover, as he stressed, only permissive. Nobody is going to oblige a local authority to take the action provided for in the Bill, and I imagine that the occasions for such action may be relatively few and the sums of money involved quite modest.
In supporting the Bill, I should perhaps declare a potential interest, since I happen—fortunately and unfortunately—to be the owner of one of the houses which have qualified for grants from the Ministry of Works on the recommendation of the Historic Buildings Council. I might, therefore, conceivably benefit at some future time from the passing of this Measure, if the House approves it.
I say "fortunately and unfortunately". Obviously, a person who has such a house is a fortunate person, but he is also, in my view, not the owner in any absolute sense of the word but a trustee. He is, if the building be of sufficient historic importance or architectural merit, a trustee for the whole community and for posterity. But those who visit such a house on a bright summer day when it is open to the public, and admire its treasures and see everything looking spick and span, often have little idea of the worries and headaches of maintaining it, especially if the owner has little 793 or no capital resources and only a moderate earned income.
It is an axiom that in an old house—beautiful as it may be—something is always going wrong: the roof leaks in a different place every winter; there are the twin menaces of damp and dry rot and the edacious beetle to be coped with, as best the owner can, again and again; and when one thinks that everything at last is in order, one is suddenly warned that an antiquated electric wiring system constitutes a fire risk and needs complete replacement.
Let me briefly give hon. Members an example, with some approximate figures, which I assure them are not imaginary. Take one house, thought to be worth preserving, whose current market value is perhaps £12,000–£15,000. In the past two or three years something like £3,000 or £4,000 has had to be spent on the repair of the house—essential and urgent repair made necessary by the scourges that I have mentioned, not mere redecoration, for indeed the house looks quite shabby, since no money has been available for that. The Minister of Works has contributed, as is the custom and as the hon. Member observed, up to half the cost of these repairs, and, quite properly, since public money is being contributed, they have to be carried out to the highest standards, under the supervision of and according to the requirements of the Ministry's architects.
Another very proper condition is that the houses should be open to the public at reasonable times. The owner of the house is indeed fortunate to obtain such a grant, but he is obliged to contribute at least an equal sum from his own pocket, and if he is a man with no capital resources and the house is fully mortgaged, it is a serious burden. It is unhappily the case that the Minister has to refuse far more applications for grants than he can approve. Hon. Members may be aware of the Annual Reports of the Historic Buildings Council, to which the hon. Member has already made reference. I wish to quote from the last two of these Reports. The Report for 1959, which is addressed to the Minister of Works, starts:Sir,1. In all our previous reports we have been able to record expansion of our activities in 794 one way or another; unfortunately this is no longer the case …The Council goes on to say that, as a result of economic stringency and financial limitation—we very much regret that as a result we have had to restrict our activities.The Council goes on to say:Nevertheless, it is already abundantly clear that we are having to recommend you to refuse grants to many buildings which would hitherto have qualified, and which in our opinion ought still to qualify for grants. In these cases it is only with the greatest regret that we have recommended you not to make grants since we realise that we may well be signing the death warrants of fine buildings. Repairs to old houses, if they are to be in keeping with the original workmanship, are bound to be costly … thus, if a grant is refused the owner has to patch the worst parts and ignore the rest, contenting himself with merely keeping the house habitable, while beneath the surface deterioration continues until ultimately the building is past repair.This, I am sure, is true in the case of many such houses all over the country.
In the last Annual Report of the Historic Buildings Council, the Council reports that it had forty-seven buildings on its list, but the sum of money available was not enough to go round. It continues:We therefore had to recommend the rejection of 22 of these applications"—that is, 22 out of 47—all of them buildings which in the past we should unhesitatingly have recommended for grants.It seems that this Bill will, or at least could, provide some useful supplement to the scheme for providing grants on the recommendation of the Historic Buildings Council.
One of the recommendations, which I do not think the hon. Member mentioned, made a year or two ago by this Council, has always seemed to me an interesting suggestion. I hope that this matter is still being discussed by the Ministry of Works and the Treasury. It is the proposal that in some cases, instead of an outright grant, there should be a long-term loan, possibly an unsecured loan, but, even if it were unsecured, there would be very good and reasonable prospects that the Ministry would ultimately receive back either part or even the whole of the amount which had been advanced, whereas a grant, of course, is an absolute expenditure of public money. I hope that that proposal is still under consideration.
795 It seems to me also that many houses which ought to qualify for grants, which the Historic Buildings Council would like to recommend for grants but cannot, because they just fail to be of the very highest order, are the legitimate objects of local pride and local affection. Perhaps this is to some extent sentimental as well as artistic. There may be on the outskirts of a large town some Elizabethan or Queen Anne house, standing in a gracious park, which has for long been a favourite destination for Sunday afternoon walks or outings or holiday excursions. I do not think that a contribution to the cost of repairs should be given for sentimental reasons only. That is why I think it valuable that the hon. Member has, to some extent, confined the limits of the Bill. One can imagine some absolutely ghastly building, of no possible architectural importance, being preserved for purely sentimental reasons. I noticed only a few weeks ago the same thing happening in the City of Chicago, which I visited specifically to look at the wonderful masterpieces of architecture there of the last sixty or seventy years, including, for instance, some of the fine early works of Frank Lloyd Wright—that legendary figure—which, unfortunately, are threatened with destruction, although an absolutely grotesque, castellated water-tower has been preserved in the middle of the city because the people of Chicago have a sentimental affection for it. However, that is by the way, but it illustrates the possibility that there could be mere sentimental preservation, towards which it would not be worth contributing public money.
The interest of a local authority in such a house may, to some extent, be practical as well as artistic. In recent years there has been a great increase in the number of houses open to the public, and, indeed, as the British Travel and Holidays Association is well aware, this is a prime tourist attraction. Therefore, the presence in the neighbourhood of a house of outstanding interest and quality may well bring thousands of visitors to the place on a typical open day, to the material benefit of local tradesmen and ratepayers, café and garage proprietors, hotel keepers and such like.
796 The hon. Member has explained very clearly and thoroughly why it is necessary to give local authorities this—as he calls it—"general, simple power". I believe that this Measure may also have a considerable educative value. Even those local authorities which do not immediately avail themselves of this power will at least have their attention drawn to the presence in their areas of part of this inestimably valuable heritage. For these reasons, I have great pleasure in supporting the Bill.
§ 11.59 a.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I should very much like to add a warm word of commendation for this Bill and to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on putting his opportunity to such very good use. In one sense, the tone of the debate must go down, because unlike my hon. Friend or the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), I have no need to declare an interest in my own home, which is not listed. It was built in the reign of Queen Victoria, and it looks like it. Nevertheless, I am very fond of it.
In general, I believe—I know that my hon. Friend will not misunderstand this—that it is well to adopt a reserved attitude towards Bills which will permit or encourage local authorities to spend more money. Undoubtedly, at this present season of rate-making it is well to enter that caveat. I say that by way of preliminary for two reasons. First, a not unjust accusation which is levelled against us by local representatives is that we here devise policies for which they there have to raise rates. Second, I am one of those who feel convinced—my hon. Friend on the Front Bench will not feel it incumbent upon him to reply to this—that we are approaching a crisis in respect of expenditure by rates due not least to the fact that, in times of rising income and public expenditure, the rate levy is a less accurate and fair charge on the national wealth than taxation.
I feel that I must begin with those preliminaries and add that, in welcoming this Measure, therefore, it is not enough to say that it is a useful and valuable Bill which will meet needs which we all have at heart. One must also seek to find considerations which 797 outweigh the objections I have just mentioned, that is to say, the objections to finding fresh channels for local government expenditure.
There are such weighty considerations, many of which were advanced and lucidly explained by my hon. Friend. Local wealth, as I am sure every hon. Member accepts, is not to be measured by rateable value alone. Historic buildings, large and small, have come to be recognised as part of our wealth, and a very encouraging result of the 1953 Act is that more and more people have come to recognise this. As the hon. Member for Barking said, not the least part of the work is educative and the more people who are inclined to set a value on these buildings the more, without legislation here, will their preservation be assured. It is fair to say, therefore, that in terms of sound investment for the future this Bill which encourages the preservation of the best stands higher than some.
I naturally welcome the Bill strongly as providing a supplement to the work of the Historic Buildings Council, about which several generous remarks have been made by my hon. Friend and to whose Reports the hon. Member for Barking alluded. The Council, when it was established by Parliament in 1953, was provided with a budget of £500,000 a year. For accounting reasons, into which we need not go now, since the financial year 1959–60 that sum has for practical purposes become £400,000 a year. That is the sum we are working with now. I assure the House that the obligations taken on since 1953 have in no way diminished. The cost of repairing houses has tended to rise, of course, and this type of work is a particularly expensive part of the building industry. Applications to the Council show no signs of falling off.
It ought to be clearly understood that we are involved here in a continuous process to which there is no obvious end in sight. We must accept that, by reasons of age, wear and tear and other factors, our historic buildings will never reach a point when we can say that they are now in a fit state of repair and we can afford to relax. There have been buildings in this country restored to that point. Windsor Castle, I think, is a good example of a building restored to 798 the point where its preservation is assured for a great number of years. Very often, however, when this is done to a historic building it loses some of its value.
The House should realise that for these reasons the Council, as has been made clear in its Annual Reports, has lately had to adopt stricter standards. As is explained its last Report, there is now what is called the B list. On to that list go houses which would otherwise qualify for grant. They are kept back until the end of the year. Then, when the Council can see how much it has left, the B houses are given the best the Council can manage.
I have tried to put these matters objectively. There can be no complaint about them, certainly not from members of the Council. It is for the country or for Parliament to decide what it thinks the job ought to have, and it is for the Council then to do the best it can with the money thus provided. We all want economies in public expenditure in general, but we all want expenditure on particular causes which we have at heart. As my hon. Friend said, this is not an attitude which can be consistently adopted. Yet, when I think of the considerable sum of pleasure and national advantage derived from these buildings, I feel that it would be a pity if we appeared to be losing too much ground in this work, falling too far behind the standard which Parliament envisaged in 1953 when the Council and its work was instituted. I do not hesitate to add that, if there is to be a modest increment in the sums to be spent, then, in my view, the way suggested in the Bill is the best way of doing it.
As my hon. Friend said, it is quite true that the Historic Buildings Council contributes to houses or buildings in the possession of local authorities. To the extent that the local authorities will now be enabled, beyond peradventure, to pay for the buildings themselves if they wish, we may be able to enjoy a slight saving. But there is a more compelling reason. If we are to spend—this is no more than guess—another £50,000 a year through the local authorities as a result of the Bill, then, much as the Historic Buildings Council would like to have its hands on that sum, there are cogent reasons why the local authorities should have it. 799 I should say that in this I am speaking for myself, not on behalf of the Council.
In all bodies like the Historic Buildings Council there is an inherent danger, however they are established, that their work will diminish the sense of local responsibility and even local interest. There will be a tendency to say, "There they are. They have half a million or so. They are responsible for houses all over the country. We see their work here and there, and there is no need for us to take any very great interest or spend any of our own money". While it is true that all these houses are part of the nation's heritage and, therefore, a proper charge to the Council, it is true also that their value is highest to those who live nearest to them.
Plainly, those who enjoy these houses, great or small, as part of their environment derive more benefit from them than people living in parts of England where they do not exist. In other words, their worth is visual as well as historic, local as well as national. It seems to me that this is one of the great points behind the Bill. Heaven forbid that we should regard the upholstering of these houses merely as part of our investment in tourism. It may indirectly so become, but there is a much stronger reason for doing what we do. It is done so that we in this island shall be able to go on enjoying, profiting from, and admiring the best of these buildings which can be kept up; and it may even be that a future generation of architects will put the lessons which can be learned from them to somewhat better use. The local obligations, therefore, are very strong, and I believe that the Bill will help to foster them.
It is well to stress what, in my experience, can be said to be the very large part which local authorities can play, for good or ill, in the whole business of preserving historic buildings. The attitude of the local authority towards sensible preservation in any district or county is of immense importance. Its influence is far stronger than the influence of the Historic Buildings Council or, with respect, the influence of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works. Indeed, in some cases the attitude of the local authority will be decisive. Over and over again, cases have come before the Council— 800 this is even mentioned in the Annual Report—in which the saving of an important building has hung upon the decision of the local authority. Buildings have been lost because a local council has felt unwilling or unable to take the attitude which we would wish. Local authorities themselves should be under no illusion about how important they are to the Bill and how much we all count on them. They ought to realise that it is difficult to exaggerate their importance.
Yet, as my hon. Friend explained, without the Bill their power to give practical assistance has been, if not uncertain, widely unrecognised and, in the case of smaller authorities, tenuous, to say the least of it. We all like to have a hand, however small, in these things, however little is at stake. That is very important when it is the local authorities which will be operating with the permission given in Clause 1 (1, b).
Having said that, I ought to warn my hon. Friend that he must not expect—and I am sure that he does not—a uniform result or standard as a result of the Bill. The Bill's effects will inevitably be uneven. The aim of the Historic Buildings Council is naturally to get a uniform standard, for reasons of fairness if for no other, throughout the country, but we cannot except to get that under the Bill. Places and districts where there is a strong feeling for these things and a willingness to encourage the local authority, and to do so knowing full well that the bill will come in the rates, will be where we will get results. The results will be less good in areas which, for one reason or another, do not care, or have less to care about.
That is something with which none of us should quarrel. All experience suggests that the attitude of local authorities to these things is most diverse. Why should it be otherwise? That is the essence of local government. Why should all local authorities be expected to adopt exactly the same attitude towards historic buildings, or, for that matter, many other things? Some authorities have a profound interest in their historic buildings, particularly the small ones, and take great pride in their maintenance, and what they have managed to do is not always a reflection of the amount of money 801 which can be raised with a penny rate. I could name, but I will not, very large authorities whose attitude towards these buildings is deplorable, and one or two small ones who in a very humble way have made contributions by effort and thought and other means, often out of all proportion to their size. It is not a reproach of local government but one of its assets that we have these differences. We must accept disparity and recognise that while the Bill will encourage the faithful stewards to do their work better, it may also encourage local opinion to stimulate the less enthusiastic stewards to revise their ideas.
Local authorities will face problems as a result of the Bill. We have acquired—and I welcome it—many amenity societies in this country. No doubt many hon. Members have taken part in their formation or annual meetings. They take a very active interest in these things and occasionally when dealing with buildings their enthusiasm tends to outrun their judgment. Local authorities will feel some of that as a result of the Bill. They will be encouraged to examine and to act smartly in respect of a wide variety of buildings, some of which will be worthier than others. They will get a great deal of advice and pressure on this subject from interested citizens, this being a subject in which every man knows exactly what he likes and feels free to express the strongest opinions. There is nothing like architecture to produce a good argument among those who know nothing about it, and among them I include myself. But it is a good thing to arouse interest and controversy about buildings.
There is one thing I want to mention about which I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will give his encouragement. There may be a case where the local council, particularly if it is an urban or rural district council, should say to the local amenity society, "We are overworked men and we have plenty of work on our hands and we cannot go chasing all over the district looking at historic buildings. Make up a little group of the best equipped people in your society and study these buildings and give us your considered advice. Act as an unofficial advisory group for the council. We cannot guarantee to accept your advice, but we will be glad to 802 receive representations, from you or anyone else, especially from those who have made a particular study of these questions." I envisage that some such local co-operation might be desirable.
There is one respect in which the Bill will have valuable results. That is with small groups of buildings of which not one could make an alpha claim, but where there are strong claims for preservation as part of a local street or scene. I agree with what the hon. Member for Barking said about sentiment, and it is inevitable that sometimes these will be buildings of which people have grown fond and for which there is a local affection, but which could not be regarded as having outstanding value in the other sense. Since 1960 the Council has been allowed by the Minister to do something about these buildings, but I think that local authorities will find that this is a field in which there is much to do. It will particularly affect, as it should, the small houses and the small groups in the villages and in various towns with which the people are particularly familiar and of which they have grown fond.
I would like to say a few words about the distinction between Clause 1 (1, a) and Clause 1 (1, b), that is to say, between those who are and those which are not on the list. One of my hon. Friends asked why the Minister's authority should be sought for buildings which were not on the list. It is clear that the list has been built up with tremendous care and skill by people who have known what they were doing. It is no reflection on those people to add that there are always buildings both on and off the list which another group of experts, no less competent, might differently judge. That is inevitable in any subject of this kind.
In the middle, when one has singled out the best and dismissed the meretricous in which no one would be interested, one has an appreciable group in which it is difficult to reach a final, unchallengeable opinion. It is no reflection on the Minister's experts to say that it must be recognised that that is true. Local authorities may have their own views about preserving such buildings for reasons which did not weigh remains theoretically—but only theoretically—responsible for seeing that money with those making the list. The Minister is not wasted on the unworthy.
803 Finally, we have read in one report of the Council of the value of a "stitch in time", mentioned by the hon. Member for Barking. I hope that local authorities will bear that aspect of the work closely in mind. Speed is often not only the essence of the contract but the saving of enormous sums of money later, especially when one is dealing with something like dry rot which runs like fire through some of these houses. I hope that when my right hon. Friend is operating under Clause 1 (1, b) there will not be any unnecessary delay in negotiations between the local authority and the Minister, because a matter of weeks at the wrong time of the year might make all the difference.
I must come finally to the reason which seems to me the most compelling in favour of the Bill. It gives the right weight to local pride and loyalty, so often stronger than any other kind of loyalty. Local pride and loyalty is often the strongest source of human endeavour, and in these days of centralisation we are perhaps in danger of overlooking this.
The Bill will stimulate interest and pride in local possessions. In ten years it may lead some of us to make sharp distinctions between districts and counties in which pride is taken and pride is not taken, and between those who take care and those who are careless. This is a good thing, and it does not derogate from the value of the Bill. There is no reason for everyone to feel the same about this, but those who care about local heritages will hereby be given a small stake in them, and this seems to me the overwhelming reason in favour of the Bill.
§ 12.21 p.m.
§ Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)
I support the Bill because I think that there is an awakening appreciation of our national heritage. We have in this country one of the finest displays of architecture of all periods, including even the Victorian era.
I think that at present this appreciation is largely confined to the stately homes, the Blenheim Palace or Castle Howard, and, to some extent, to the more modest manor houses, and certainly to our greatest cathedrals and parish churches. It extends, also, to some of our public 804 buildings, but there is as yet not the same appreciation for our pleasant villages and country towns, with their mixed arrays of houses of different styles and periods in their main streets.
I think that we must widen this appreciation to cover the ordinary village, to the house in the village or country town which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said may not be outstanding in itself, but which may be important as part of the general scene.
One of the values of the Bill is that it will help educate people to appreciate beauty of this more humble kind. And it will enable local authorities to give assistance, whether a house happens to be on the list or not, if it is part of a group that is worth preserving.
The growth in this general appreciation of our heritage is due partly to more education, but largely to the valuable work done by television in drawing the attention of people to the beauties of our countryside and pointing out what is outstanding about the buildings they see. We have, of course, also to recognise that the advent of the motor car has enabled many people to travel about the country and visit places of outstanding interest.
The work done by the National Trust and by the Ministry of Works in building up this appreciation of our heritage is an important factor to bear in mind. To some extent, local authorities with historic buildings in their charge have shared in this work of building up appreciation, but I do not think that they have done quite as much as some of us think they ought to have done.
This growing appreciation is reflected in the increased attendances at the various stately homes in the country, at National Trust properties, and at various Ministry of Works buildings. Outstanding buildings like Stonehenge and the Tower of London, and those which are publicised most, like the buildings belonging to the Duke of Bedford, draw the largest crowds, but many buildings of outstanding architectural or historical interest have not as yet earned the reputation that they merit.
Here, I take up a point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. I do not think that one should resent the fact that tourist traffic is one 805 of the factors that has helped to build up this apprecation of, and attendances at, these various buildings, Many people visit this country to see what we have to show. This is a credit to us internationally, and is also an important financial asset. When we are considering expenditure on ancient monuments, this factor should be taken into account on the credit side, because we earn foreign currency by people visiting us.
We have also to bear in mind that people are prepared to show their growing appreciation of our heritage by spending money on buying petrol and paying their half-a-crowns to visit places of interest. Also, as the growing membership of the National Trust shows, they are prepared to pay for this appreciation. The public generally are prepared to accept expenditure by the Historic Buildings Council, or through the Ministry of Works direct. Most people are prepared to pay their share of taxation for these purposes.
Certain problems must be faced. The Victorian era of industrialisation destroyed so much of our heritage that was of great value. With the great boom in building since the war, and with the redevelopment of town centres and slum clearance, there is a danger that much more of value will be lost if we do not face the need to preserve certain buildings in key positions.
It should also be acknowledged that there is some resentment among some of our modern architects against the desire of some people to preserve ancient buildings. We see this reflected in their speeches and in the articles written by the architectural pundits in the Observer, The Times, and other newspapers of that kind. There is resentment among them that some of the good sites in the centre of big towns, or in areas like Regent's Park, have been reserved for old buildings, when they would like to put up new buildings on these sites.
I am an admirer of the best of modern architecture, and I see no reason why there should be friction between those who want the best modern architecture and those who want to keep the best of the past. We have to try to reconcile the two points of view, but I think that it is necessary to keep a wary eye on some of the modern architects and their 806 supporters, otherwise we may lose much that is of great value in our national tradition.
I hold the view that the more variety we have in styles of architecture in our towns and cities, the better. I am in favour of new towns being built in the modern style, but I believe that it would be a pity to adopt, in many of our large cities, the general American tradition of pulling down everything of the past and rebuilding in the style of the present.
Functionalism is very much the rule today, but I cannot help thinking that in the 1980s people will regard the present style in much the same way as the architectural pundits of today look on the Georgian buildings of the 1930s. History shows that if a particular style in a period runs to one extreme—as functionalism runs to the extreme of simplicity—the next generation will possibly swing the other way. Perhaps the next style will be something like "functional baroque," in which detail and decoration become of greater importance than now.
I do not believe that any age has the right to argue that its particular style is the only one worth considering. We should seek to preserve the best of the various styles of the past. We must seek to preserve not only the great works, but also the smaller houses and the general layout of such of our towns and villages where the whole has beauty or is just pretty—though that is a word not liked by modern architectural pundits.
I would like to go further than the Bill in some directions. There are some towns and villages of outstanding merit as a whole; for instance, Ludlow or Tewkesbury, which both have enormous merit. There are also larger towns like York, Bath, or Cheltenham. National action should be taken to preserve them as entities—for instance, the building of by-passes to see that traffic does not shake them to pieces. That is of primary importance.
Various countries abroad make a greater effort to preserve what is of value than we do. Yugoslavia, for instance, has an interesting law to preserve "museum towns". This aims at preserving not only towns as a whole, like Ochrid, on a charming lake in Macedonia, but whole streets, or 807 quarters of a town, can be scheduled as museum areas, in which case no major alterations may be made without permission. The general idea is that interior alterations can be made to modernise the housing to today's standards, but the general layout and appearance of the streets must be retained and maintained in good condition.
The Ministry of Works should investigate schemes of that kind for rather bigger areas than the small groups of houses which will be covered by the Bill. But I do not think that we should expect all the expenditure to come from local sources for that purpose, though, of course, some should. The Civic Trust is doing extraordinarily valuable work in trying to get local people united on the idea of preserving and repairing or restoring whole streets, so that they may keep their present features while the buildings are modernised inside. The Bill will help to forward the work of the Trust to some extent, because, if a local authority can step in to help in this way, it will make it easier for shopkeepers and householders to combine for restoration work done through Trust schemes.
The Bill will be extremely helpful in clarifying the legal position as the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) said. Town clerks, if they are not absolutely certain, are only too inclined to advise their councils against taking a particular action if it is not quite clear whether they can take it or not. If the position is quite clear on the Statute Book, then the advice is likely to be much more positive. I hope, therefore, that the Bill will go forward. I would like to see, at a later stage, Government legislation going further in the matter of the large scale preservation of really outstanding towns and villages. I think, however, that in the meantime this Bill will be of important assistance to that end.
I notice that the London County Council is excluded, according to the Bill, from the authorities to which power will be given. I understand that, at the present, the L.C.C. uses such powers. Expenditure was recently proposed for that purpose. Whether the L.C.C. continues or not, whether we have a Greater London Council or not, I would have thought that the wider London authority 808 should be included as well as the other various authorities and boroughs in the London area.
§ Mr. Channon
The reason why the L.C.C. is omitted from the Bill is that it took powers as long ago as 1939 on the lines of those proposed in the Bill.
§ Mr. Parker
I took it that the Bill might be taking away the L.C.C. powers. I stand corrected.
I hope that the Bill passes into law. If it does, it will be a useful and important contribution towards the work of saving our national heritage.
§ 12.35 p.m.
§ Sir Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)
By its attendance here today the House has shown its gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) for having used his good fortune in the Ballot to introduce the Bill. Indeed, so benevolent is the mood of the House that the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) frequently referred to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) as his "hon. Friend"—a sign of the general acceptance of the Bill.
I believe that at the moment my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West is the youngest Member of the House. Let us hope that many, many, many years from now, in a rubicund and prosperous and successful late middle-age, when perhaps about to make his introductory bow to the Lord Chancellor in the House of Lords or to deliver the Queen's Speech in some Parliament House overseas, or even elder-states-manlike to reminisce to young Members in the Smoking Room, he will retain the introduction of this Bill as one of his happiest memories.
The Bill marks a step forward in the development of public opinion since the war. In this country we enjoy the tremendous advantage of two factors. First and foremost, we have lived for centuries protected by that narrow strip of water we call the Channel but which a French general aptly described as the best anti-tank ditch in the world. As a result, we have not seen warfare waged on our soil ever since, in 1745, Bonny Prince Charlie paused at the bridge near Melbourne, south of Derby, before starting his long retreat which ended in the tragedy of Culloden. It is true that our 809 country was damaged by air attack, but high explosive and incendiary bombs are dropped on specified targets and do not ravage the countryside as Germany was ravaged in the course of the Thirty Years War.
Secondly, we have always had the inestimable advantage of enjoying the services of highly skilled craftsmen. From the Norman masons who carved the dog toothed mouldings around the porches of our great cathedrals, to the mediaeval craftsmen of East Anglia who carved the saints of paradise on their rood screens, and down to the eighteenth century, when we were rich in local craftsmen. The great architects of the day published their building manuals laying down standard of taste, so that some manor in the Cotswolds or terrace in Bath or Cheltenham, or even an inn on the Great North Road, reflected the taste and perfect properties of Vanbrugh, Chambers or the Adam brothers.
This country has therefore, in the past been a veritable Aladdin's cave of treasures. One would have thought that, with this wonderful heritage, our local authorities might have vied with each other, as the cities of Italy in the time of the Renaissance, to preserve their treasures, and if their enthusiam flagged local societies might have urged them on—societies such as, in the United States, those formidable matrons known as the Daughters of the Revolution, resplendant in feathered hats, pearls and pince-nez, from whom a single glance of disapproval is far more terrifying than a discharge of musketry. But, in fact, this has not happened.
Local authorities have often competed in the destruction of treasures. Bulldozers have clawed their way through Georgian terraces, glass and chromium boxes have risen in their place, and the concrete tentacles of Subtopia have wound themselves around our countryside. So the Bill marks a step forward in the development of public tastes and interest in the beauties and heritage of our country since the war.
It is certainly true that the central Government have played their part. We have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford about the Historic Buildings Council. We know that Government grants towards the arts have recently been largely increased, 810 but much still remains to be done, and I think that my hon. Friend's Bill will do something to lessen the deficiency. My hon. Friend mentioned, I think, aid to historic buildings. I suppose that most people would agree that the greatest contributions of our people towards the arts have been, first and foremost, in the field of poetry and, secondly, in landscape painting and domestic architecture.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford pointed out, the Historical Buildings Council is restricted to helping buildings of outstanding importance. The smaller and often very delightful masterpieces cannot receive this grant. Therefore, I hope that local authorities will take the advice of my hon. Friend when, as I am certain, this Bill becomes law and will help houses of local distinction. Too often in the past the owners of such houses have resorted to remedies to keep them open. We know from the houses which we visit that a family ghost is an immense advantage and also, perhaps, though, less so, a service of china from which the family has eaten for generations. More often, though, it is the mundane appeal of the mystery bus tours which attracts people to these houses, or even more, perhaps, the excellence of their meat teas. I hope that the local authorities will avail themselves of these opportunities to help other houses of distinction.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West said that gardens could not be included, and for this I am very sorry. I hope that they may be under consideration. Very often the garden binds and welds the house to the landscape around it. It is true that very few Elizabethan gardens such as Levens remain, those beautiful landscape gardens with their topiary work. But we have many gardens with an eighteenth-century layout. The designers of these layouts tried to arrange the landscape as an artist arranges the details on his canvas, with the foreground, middle distance and distance with a distinctive feature, such as an obelisk or a piece of statuary reflected in a lake. Therefore, I hope that gardens will be considered.
Terraces and groups of houses were mentioned. Surely the square is one of the most enchanting features of 811 English architecture, and they are not to be found anywhere else. So I hope that groups of houses, squares and crescents, such as in Cheltenham and Bath, will be considered.
I wish to say a word about local museums. I have the privilege of being a member of the Museums Association. Throughout the country we possess a large range of treasures. Very often, through lack of funds, their presentation is not up to date. The Museums Association is sponsoring regional efforts of self-help, outstanding among which is that in the South-West based on Taunton, where local museum authorities have combined on a scheme to improve presentation. I hope that local museums will come within the scope of the Bill.
There are many other fascinating aspects of our life which could be considered. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West mentioned windmills. In East Anglia we have a countryside rich in windmills. Alas, many of them have been destroyed. There are the windmills we see in the paintings of Cotman, Crome and Constable. I have often thought that a windmill could be turned into an attractive residence by a local authority. It could be let out to great advantage.
There are likewise our canals. They represent a great treasure, sadly neglected now in the days of steam, motor vehicles and aircraft. Even as a tourist attraction they could prove most valuable. How far cheaper it would be for a great business tycoon with an incipient ulcer or anxiety neurosis to travel quietly down a canal, drawn by a solid-looking horse, rather than spend his money and fray his nerves on the beaches of Montega Bay or Nassau.
Finally, I would like to mention the so-called historical tablets which hon. Members who have been to the United States may sometimes have noticed. I was travelling through Northern Virginia last year when I saw a most attractive tablet by the roadside, very discreetly designed and unobstrusive. I could not resist getting out of the car and having a look at it. The inscription on it was as follows:Here at this spot Stonewall Jackson earned his reputation for imperturbability under fire during the first battle of Bull Run.812 When travelling through Virginia one finds historical tablets of immense interest. We have an immense wealth of history in this country which could be referred to on such tablets. Here Boadicea gathered her scythed chariots; here perhaps Harold rallied the Saxons against the Danes or some armoured knights charged each other in the Wars of the Roses. I sincerely hope that local authorities in this country will consider similar activities to those which I have mentioned.
I believe that my hon. Friend's Bill marks a development in the interest of the public in the arts since the war. It is certainly true that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has been referred to by an admirer as a "paragon of patrons", but I believe that there is still much to be done. The late W. J. Brown, a great authority on the trends of opinion and movements of public life in the country, once said that it takes forty years for an idea to be accepted. We are slowly waking up to the necessity of preserving our national heritage.
One of the most dramatic and effective speeches of Lord Randolph Churchill, the father of my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), was made at Blackpool, attacking the Administration of Gladstone, whose piecemeal Administration he described as an Administration of chips. He gave a dramatic description of a delegation of working-class men arriving at Hawarden Castle to see Mr. Gladstone. They were led first through the ornamental grounds, then out to the park where they saw the wreckage of many noble trees which had been cut down—for Mr. Gladstone's hobby was cutting down trees. Lord Randolph Churchill cried:The forest bleeds in order that Mr. Gladstone may perspire.Alas, I am afraid that the beauties and traditions of our country have been allowed to bleed in order that the developers and their bulldozers can perspire in the search of profit and novelty.
However, I would say in conclusion, being an optimist, that I do not despair. We must go on blasting our little trumpets outside the walls of Jericho. Indeed, one or two defenders are already appearing on the battlements asking for 813 a parley; we must not grant this. Perhaps the trumpet of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West will finally bring down these walls with a crash.
§ 12.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Worsley (Keighley)
This has been an harmonious debate and I shall certainly do nothing to cause disharmony. It is refreshing to find the rigours of party debate ceasing for a moment. The only irritation which I have experienced was caused by some remarks about styles of architecture, with which I hardy agree.
I was horrified when my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes)—who is not at present in the Chamber—described his house as Victorian, and looking it. I cannot believe that that was meant to be a term of praise in the mind of my hon. Friend. But, in view of what I wish to say later about the Victorian North of England, I rather resent that remark.
What was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) about metal and concrete boxes might, I think, in the context be accepted, in that he was talking of destroying Georgian terraces, about which I am in agreement with him. But if that is his view of modern architecture, I am sorry to have to disagree.
§ Mr. Worsley
That is the view of my hon. Friend, but I would challenge him about it.
Though I am not prepared to follow the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) in looking forward to the horrible conception of functional baroque, I think that the essence of a new approach in this country to the problem of preservation must be to look at the beauty and quality of every generation, including our own, and certainly the Victorian. Whether we like it or not, we live in a country moulded by the Victorians, not only from the point of view of the actual superficial appearance but in many other ways, and we must learn to live there and to preserve it.
Before coming to the burden of my remarks there are two matters with which should like to deal. Before doing so, perhaps I should declare an 814 interest in that I own three of the buildings which appear on the list of my noble Friend the Minister of Works.
§ Mr. Worsley
Yes, that make up for my hon. Friend. These are perhaps a somewhat miscellaneous lot. At least one of them is destroying by its own action the wish of my noble Friend to preserve it. There will be little to preserve in that it is unpreserving itself by virtue of age and inadequacy.
The two problems to which I should like answers relate to the question of the supplementary list of my noble Friend. I am not clear, from the Bill, whether the supplementary list is included—or rather the buildings on that list—among those to which local authorities can contribute without the permission of my noble Friend. If they are not, a further point about this list which I think of some importance is that there is some mystery about it. It may be possible for the owner of a house to have his property on this supplementary list without knowing it. I should be grateful to learn whether that is the case, and whether it is possible for the supplementary list to apply to property without the owner of it having any knowledge of that. If that be the case, it would seem to me a wrong situation.
My other minor point—perhaps this is something which we might discuss further if, as I warmly hope, the Bill reaches a Committee stage—is the list of local authorities which my hon. Friend gives in the Bill. I notice that he excludes non-county boroughs, if I understand him aright. I do not know whether that is the intention, but it seems to me a weakness. I represent a non-county borough, and though I do not know of any particular issue upon which it might wish to use the provisions in the Bill, I think that non-county boroughs should be allowed to do so.
I am not absolutely certain that there is no case for including parish councils in the operation of the Bill. Parish councils vary enormously in size and rateable value. Some are near district councils, and so on. I think that a case might be made—I say no more than that—for including them. Certainly, the 815 Select Committee, to which reference was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), laid special emphasis on the role which parish councils could play. One of its recommendations is that the Ministry of Works should enter into discussions with the parish councils to consider what assistance they could give in the care of ancient monuments. I think, therefore, that there is a case for looking at the authorities Which are given powers under this Bill.
I should like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West and other hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford, in this critical point. It is essential that when, as I hope, the Bill becomes an Act, it should not be regarded as an invitation to extravagance. It seems to me that the problem of preservation is not so much in the literal sense of simply preserving what is there. I am reminded of what I suppose must be one of the most fatuous Acts ever passed by this House, that relating to the New Forest, enacted during the last century, and which stated, in so many words, that because the New Forest was beautiful nothing whatever should be done to it, that treatment should not be given to the trees because this would preserve them.
Of course, in forestry the exact opposite is the case. If nothing is done to preserve a forest, it decays. The same is true of buildings. If we put up a list, that does nothing whatever to preserve the buildings. It may act as a red light to prevent unwarranted, foolish or even wicked action, but it does nothing specifically to preserve the buildings. In other words, the lists of my noble Friend are warning lights and, as such, are valuable, but they are no more. In most cases the problem of preservation is the problem of finding a use for the building.
It is essential that the range of means by which this is done should be wide. At present, and first and foremost, there is voluntary effort. In nine cases out of ten these problems may be solved by voluntary effort. This has always been the first line of defence. I agree with hon. Members who have stressed the importance of local responsibility. I consider that to be absolutely vital, 816 and by local responsibility is meant not simply the responsibility of the local authority, but also the responsibility of local people.
There is, of course, the Historic Buildings Council. Its work is built on the volume of money available. The National Trust does good work, but money is required so that the Trust may take over responsibility in cases where the management and preservation is likely to require money in the future. There is also—I am glad that this has been mentioned—the work of the Civic Trust. I am inclined to think that the schemes carried out by the Trust in some cities over the last couple of years is probably the most significant and hopeful development which has taken place.
A little later, in the general question I desire to develop, I wish to refer particularly to the industrial north of England. If the Bill becomes an Act, there will be yet another means by which assistance may be given by local authorities.
It is only if other voluntary private schemes fail that the local authority should come in, or if the voluntary schemes need an extra bit of help or a subscription from the local authority or from State funds. This is where public money comes in. But were it to be thought that, as a result of the Bill, the responsibility for preservation fell not upon private individuals, but upon the State or the local authority, that would be a great disservice and not welcome in the view of those in favour of encouraging voluntary effort.
In this whole question of preservation there is a tendency to think in terms of the substantial country house and what is now known in the jargon as "the stately". I think that part of the reason for this is that the spectacle of a large country house falling into decay is particulaly dramatic and it has emphasised itself in the public mind. Certainly, some of the most spectacular work of the Historic Buildings Council—I have particularly in mind Wardour New Castle and Castle Howard, which are monuments of national importance—deserves every penny of the large sums the Council has given.
There are many others on a smaller scale. There is a very fine house in 817 Yorkshire called Howsham, by the River Derwent, for which we practically despaired of any use being found. That, perhaps, is not of national importance, but it is of great importance, a very tine house. At the very last minute, a school was found to take it. It is not so much for this sort of big country house that the Bill, if it is passed, would operate. I think that it would be more used in the case of the middle-sized typically industrial town, which is predominantly Victorian. I am thinking specifically of my constituency town of Keighley.
Within the area of a town of that type we find one or two buildings of national importance, or we may find none because, as the hon. Member for Dagenham said, the Industrial Revolution destroyed a great deal of the heritage of the past. These are, too, very fine towns which sprang up in the Victorian age. In other words, where there was never a past which could be destroyed. The town of Keighley is typical of a great number. They have within the limits of the town a great number of buildings which are Victorian. They are fine buildings, rather eccentric, with exaggerated styles of architecture, but, nevertheless, they give a character to these towns.
In most of these towns, including Keighley, thinking is now in terms of central redevelopment. Goodness knows, most of them need it. If, in the view of the local authority, it was merely a matter of redeveloping completely afresh, I think that there would be a real danger that it would destroy the continuity of those towns. If we are to have pleasant, acceptable cities, representative of all styles of architecture, including the strange "spiky" town hall in the middle of a northern town, are entitled to respect.
Of course, these buildings will not be of national importance. Of course, they will not be the concern of the Historic Buildings Council. They should not be, but there will be many buildings—I am not referring only to the public buildings—which will be rightly listed as buildings of importance. It seems that this is where as much as anywhere local authority assistance ought to come in. The local authority should not only be thinking in terms 818 of slum clearance and urban renewal, important as that is. Beyond that, it should be thinking of preserving what is good and fine in the centre of these cities.
If the Bill is passed I think that it will add something to what, certainly for a great part of this country, is one of the really critical problems. We have in these towns very often the basis of a fine new city, but a tremendous amount needs to be done. I am terrified that the ruthless attitude of modern developers, whether they be civic or private, in the redevelopment of centres, will mean that we shall find that it is the Victorian building which will suffer and which may be lost.
I support the Bill not simply, as the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) said, as a useful supplement to the present provisions for preservation. I have a feeling that it could be more than a useful supplement; that, without great expenditure of money—because with all these things it is voluntary effort which is the first line of defence—it could start the work of preservation of the England we had the Victorian England, the England of the North and the Midlands, the England of the "spiky" town halls.
The Bill could possibly help in the work of education. This has been referred to earlier. I feel most strongly that there is room for much in the way of education of local authorities. We had a reference by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West to Philistine local authorites. There is—let us face it—a great deal of Philistinism, particularly about things built about a hundred years ago.
I end as I began, by saying what I believe to be fundamentally true, but, more than true, something of critical importance. In the proper preservation of our buildings we should look on all styles of architecture, of all ages, with respect. Although we do not for any age say that because something is old, or Victorian, it must be preserved, we should look at all these things with respect and preserve what is worth preserving in all generations.
§ 1.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
This Bill deserves widespread support and I hope that its passage will not be unduly 819 delayed. I think that some of the fears and doubts expressed by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) will be found, in practice, to have no real significance.
The hon. Member seemed to be very worried about the prospect that if the Bill were passed the large measure of voluntary support which he thinks is available will be, so to speak, nipped in the bud, and that voluntary effort will be dissuaded from taking part in measures to preserve ancient and historic buildings in particular areas if it is felt that local authorities can make a contribution. My experience, however, shows that where local authorities are given permissive powers the extent to which they use those powers, particularly for cultural and artistic amenities, is very limited.
Hon. Members will recall that every local authority has the power to spend up to a 6d. rate on cultural activities. The number of authorities which spend anything like a 6d. rate in that way is minimal. There are not more than perhaps one or two local authorities in the country which avail themselves fully of that permissive power. Others think they are doing well if they spend as much as a ½d. or 1d. rate on cultural and artistic activities. Very much more could be done, and the Bill should help to educate local authorities to carry out what I have always felt should have been part of their civic responsibilities.
My constituency is not particularly famous for buildings of historic or architectural interest—apart from Brixton Prison—but it has the nearest windmill to Westminster. This quaint building which, by a pure fluke, has been preserved to this day, was in danger of being demolished—or the land being bought—and it was found that neither the borough council nor the London County Council had any money which could be used for preserving this relic of the past.
We found a way out eventually. The County Council was able to buy some of the surrounding land, and make a rather attractive little park and open space. In the course of taking over that small area we took the windmill in our stride; it is worth preserving, and it provides pleasure and interest to people 820 in the neighbourhood. That kind of thing must be repeating itself in many places, and for that reason I am convinced that a Bill such as this will serve a useful purpose.
The references made by the hon. Member for Keighley to Victorian architecture brough to my mind another building of some interest. In Kennington Park—also not far from Westminster—there is a building consisting of a couple of houses which were designed and built by the Prince Consort a little over a hundred years ago as model artisans' dwellings. The building is situated in the park, and would be of great interest to the public if only the public had access to it. Unfortunately, despite all our efforts to persuade the L.C.C. to make the building available to the public, the L.C.C. has not found it possible to do so, the reason given being that it is used as a tool shed for the gardeners at the park, and that there is nowhere to put the tools. That is a pity. A building like that, with that story attached to it, should be open to the public, and not used merely as a gardeners' toolshed.
There seems to be an obvious anxiety on the part of all hon. Members present to see the Bill go through as soon as possible. We are all delighted to see the Minister of Works here—I suppose that he is deputising for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, who has had to go out——
§ The Minister of Works (Lord John Hope)
My hon. Friend must have known that the hon. Gentleman would make a speech.
§ Mr. Lipton
I trust that the Bill will evoke a sympathetic response from the the Minister of Works. He has many problems to contend with—dry rot, and other difficulties—but we are glad to see him here, looking reasonably cheerful.
I hope that the Bill will secure that degree of support in official quarters which will enable it to reach the Statute Book without undue delay.
§ 1.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
I cannot rival the polished delivery of the hon. Baronet the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr). I am sorry that he is no 821 longer in this place, because I had intended to describe him as a perfectly preserved historic monument. Perhaps, too, he is one of those beautiful objects on the landscape which can be moved from place to place, adding lustre to its surroundings wherever it is. At all events, long may he remain serene upon the landscape, but adorned with all the best that the twentieth century can offer.
I, too, have encountered the Daughters of the Revolution in my tours across the United States, and I want to say a word in defence of that water tower in Chicago about which the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) was so unkind. It is a water tower to end all water towers, and it should certainly be preserved. I do not think that just because a locality is sentimental about a particular building, it should be prevented from preserving it. If the Bill gives power to the Minister of Housing and Local Government to use the veto on any proposal to preserve a building that does not have great architectural splendours I hope that he will use that veto sparingly, because local people have their own views.
I welcome the Bill, and pay tribute to the enormous trouble that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) must have taken before bringing it to the House. I have seldom heard a more compact and satisfactory explanation of a Measure. I put myself on all fours with him by saying that I live in a Grade I country house, but that I probably have more worms and dry rot than he has—but that is as may be. May I also point out that although I speak as a private Member, I probably have as much dry rot as has the Minister whose Parliamentary Private Secretary I am.
I want to get to the serious matter of arousing local interest in buildings which have not attracted the attention of the Historic Buildings Council or other bodies. There is not nearly enough local interest in these buildings, although some local authorities are very good at looking after buildings that they themselves own. We are most fortunate in Bristol in that many of the fine domestic buildings are owned by the city council. That local authority has a good record for looking after those buildings, but does not have a particularly good record for sympathetic treatment of other 822 buildings of quality that are owned by private individuals. That probably applies to a number of local authorities, and if the Bill is passed, as I hope it will be, we shall find them suitably encouraged in that direction.
Local authorities must obviously have a very special knowledge of some of the local problems. They can see the day-to-day decay of a worth-while building, or of a locality that is becoming increasingly a slum area. They can see that happening before their eyes, and do not need to have it drawn especially to their attention. That is the trouble with the national bodies. Until someone approaches a national body it does not know what is going on, and the point about timely steps preventing an enormous expenditure later is a very good one.
I only wish that when local authorities spend a great deal of their time inspecting other people's drains—as seems to be one of their principal functions—they would look at the roof, and realise that that, too, could do with help. The Bill should help there. Many buildings not of national significance will, unless something is done, get into such a bad state as to be impossible to repair. By the Bill, a local authority could see that such a situation did not arise.
One matter has not been mentioned this morning; I do not know whether there is any solution for it, or whether the Bill could be expanded to include it. A very sad state of affairs can arise if one owns a decaying building and spends a good deal of one's own money on preserving it. It may be a building with no particular use. I remember that at home we spent £3,000 on restoring a stable building with a thatched roof. We got a very generous grant from the Historic Buildings Council, but the only contribution the local authority could make was to send a very charming man to us, who said, "You will have to pay £8 a year more in rates, for ever, because you have repaired the building." Had we spent the money on drink, or some other useful pursuit, and had let the building rot, we would have had no financial obligation whatever.
The House seems to be keen to preserve some of these buildings. While I do not think that anyone would expect 823 them to be derated, I must say, in fairness to the local authorities, that within the limits of what they are able to do, they are very generous about the rating of historic buildings. If one's own house was rated on the number of rooms in it, one could not afford to live in it, and that applies to any large house. I hope that no one will alter that, and that it will be possible to bring these buildings up to a reasonable state of repair without penalty when there is no financial gain to oneself.
The local authorities, in planning matters, have an important bearing on this problem. All too often, we see a country house in quite fine surroundings, but the owner, possibly because he is not clever in managing his finances, or possibly because of heavy death duties, which no party has seen fit to relieve to any great extent, cannot afford to maintain it and the whole place is put up for sale. In this modern age, in which there seems to be too many speculators about, a quick sale is very often what the trustees advise. A sale takes place, the house is split up and the local authorities—this is where they come in—give permission for the building of a whole host of small houses surrounding the large house, and its surroundings are ruined.
Because of that no one can be found to live in the big house, eventually it rots away or it is perhaps turned into flats, or someone makes a bit of money by pulling it to pieces and selling off the dismembered parts to people to put up in their London gardens. The Bill does not cover that particular aspect, but it has been mentioned in the debate and it is a very important one. If local authorities would take note of what is happening in this House, they could perhaps stop this by refusing permission to speculators to develop the surroundings of a fine building which is an amenity to the district.
On the question of public access, I think that the Bill will help to preserve many small and choice buildings. The Bill is not really aiming to help provide pubic menageries, typified by the activities of a certain noble duke; it aims to help more modest buildings in more modest places. I think that these are the ones that ought to be helped. The business of the stately home, which has been mentioned several times in the 824 debate, I deplore, when the idea is to run it as a business. I have found from my own experience that it is quite impossible to make money by opening a house to the public unless one turns it into a menagerie, as some people have done.
If one wants to preserve a place as a home to which people are welcome at times convenient to them and convenient to the owner, and if one wants them to enjoy the amenities of that home, as one does oneself, one cannot have too many people all at once. One has to look after them when they are there and make sure that they see all that they want to see. That is a very expensive process, because they all have to be taken round in small groups; one cannot have hordes of people going round at once, spoiling each other's enjoyment. One cannot make money out of it unless one turns the house into a menagerie. I think that the Bill will do quite a lot to help the smaller places which people can go to see in small numbers and which would not be a business proposition to their owners.
A point mentioned by the hon. Baronet the Member for Cambridge was the fact that gardens, woodlands, and so on, were not covered by the Bill. I would say, in passing, that in the Report of the Historic Buildings Council for England the making of grants towards the repair and maintenance of buildings of outstanding historic or architectural interest, or their contents or adjoining land is particularly mentioned. I do not necessarily say that that gives the word "go" for the restoration of gardens, but, certainly, the Council is able to help in the preservation of garden buildings, terraces, dovecotes and things like that. The preservation of notable gardens is just as important as the preservation of buildings.
There is a tragic case in the west of England of the gardens of Westbury Court, at Westbury on Severn. I was appalled to hear that they are all being destroyed. That this can happen in this modern age is fantastic. I hope that the speculator concerned makes no money out of it. I hope that his bungalows sink into the remains of all those glorious canals.
It is important—and here I disagree with the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker)—that what we are trying 825 to preserve should still be part of life. I deplore the idea of museum towns and museum streets. We already have quite a lot of those. I went to America and I saw colonial Williamsburgh. That is all very well, but it is a museum and there is not a great deal of life about it. It is a museum of life in the past. People live there and dress in period costumes, and so on. What we must try to do is to preserve what is best from the past and live in it and enjoy it.
I am always getting into trouble at home for leaving my fishing rods, gum boots and plumbing tools lying about in the fifteenth century porch on a day when the house is open to the public. I have discovered that the public are intrigued by all this. They are delighted to find that they are not visiting a museum. Surely, what delights the tourist who visits a stately home or country house is to find that lunch is just being finished, or that its remains are still on the table, or find out what breakfast cereal the family eats. All that is important. What we are striving for is to let other people, who do not live in these splendid places, enjoy something of their atmosphere. They cannot do this if these places are museums.
We are told that we must not store up treasure for ourselves where moth and rust corrupt, and we have heard a great deal in the debate about stopping the moth and rust corrupting. It is not much of a life for us to live amongst decaying beauty, and that is what we are doing in so many ways. In its modest way, the Bill will do something to stop this and I give it my wholehearted support.
§ 1.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Royle (Richmond, Surrey)
I, too, should like to join in the congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on this excellent Measure. I always thought that my hon. Friend had good taste, and this proves it. I was glad to be asked to put my name to the Bill, which my hon. Friend has explained so admirably in his opening speech.
I should like to refer briefly to the debate of July, 1953, on the Second Reading of the Historic Monuments Bill, of the main recommendations of that which followed the Gowers Report. One Report led to the setting up of Historic 826 Buildings Councils, which have done great work. Whilst the intention of the 1953 Act was to help and to provide grants for all buildings of historic interest, the final outcome was that help was provided mainly for great houses of outstanding merit. The reason for this was lack of finance.
The Government have to decide financial priorities, and I agree with much of what my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said on this subject. Every year, however, the Historic Buildings Council receives something like £400,000 which it has to advise priorities for the Minister of Works to hand out in grants. Although my hon. Friend the Member far Ashford was reluctant to say so, this amount is inadequate. I Should like my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, as well as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, to consider raising with the Financial Secretary to the Treasury the possibility of looking again at the Land Fund, which, I believe, stands at about £10 million. It was started by the Labour Government during their term of office between 1945 and 1951 and has never been fully used for the purposes for which it was established.
If it is decided by the House that the Land Fund should not be used those purposes for which it was set up, let us scrap the fund and raise money in the ordinary way through annual Estimates. I should like an explanation from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary about the use that is being made of the fund and whether we could not tap it a little more often to help such deserving causes as historic buildings and ancient monuments.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
Does the hon. Member know that the Minister of Health, when Financial Secretary to the Treasury, proved that the fund did not exist?
§ Mr. Royle
I was not aware of that. I hope my hon. Friend will be able to prove that the fund still exists, as I understand from the Treasury that there is about £10 million in it.
I would hate to see any cutting down of Treasury help to the arts, the ballet or the theatre. The Treasury help for 827 those is most generous. I also fully agree with the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford concerning appeals by everybody to reduce Government expenditure in general and then coming back with pleas for more Government expenditure for the particular. Whilst, however, there is always another year for recipients such as the arts, the ballet and the theatre, every year that passes with an old building is irredeemable and it is possible that irreparable damage is done. I should like my hon. Friend to give this his serious consideration.
I have the honour and privilege to represent the constituency of Richmond, Surrey. I am not in the same position as most other hon. Members who have spoken, with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford, of being able to declare a personal interest in the residence in which I live. I do, however, have a great constituency interest in that my constituency has buildings not only of great local value but of national calibre. Many of them are the direct responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works.
Two such major national treasures are Ham House and Kew Palace. I should like to take this opportunity of expressing the appreciation of my constituents to my right hon. Friend for the magnificent way in which his Department maintains this great national heritage and enables many people from all over the country, and, indeed, from all over the world, to visit them and appreciate the great houses which we have in Richmond.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
Would the hon. Member also include the beautiful old houses up towards the top of Richmond Hill, about which recently there has been some question?
§ Mr. Royle
The hon. and learned Member anticipates my next point. We not only have historic buildings of national importance like those I have mentioned, but we have buildings of all categories, including small-scale domestic architecture of great historical interest. We have them at Petersham, which has many fine eighteenth and seventeenth century houses, in Ham, in the village of Kew and, as the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. 828 Mitchison) has mentioned, at the top of Richmond Hill. The incident to which the hon. and learned Member has referred is not covered by today's debate, and it would be out of order for me to involve myself with it, but I am happy to say that that incident does not in any way involve the destruction of a fine, old historic building on Richmond Hill.
There are in Richmond old houses, such as Maids-of-Honour Row, on Richmond Green, which are nationally famous, and many buildings ranging from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth century stand in the area including Barnes and Mortlake. It is a local, indeed a national, heritage of which my constituents are rightly proud. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering, who clearly takes such an interest in my constituency, may be aware that there are still remnants of Richmond Palace by Richmond Green. The old gate house still stands. The room over the old gate house is where Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to have died on 24th March, 1603. The local story has it that as she died she gave her ring to her lady-in-waiting, Lady Scrope, who handed it out of the window to a horseman waiting below. He rode to Scotland and was the first man to give the news to James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England. I understand, happily, that none of the buildings throughout the constituency which I have mentioned, or those in private hands which I have not mentioned, are awaiting grants. The time may come, however, when the Bill could be of great assistance to us locally in Richmond. I hope that it never will, but the moment could come.
I underline the comment by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West that the Bill is only permissive. It clarifies the position for local authorities. Many councils are not aware of their powers under the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act, 1913. Again, owing to the limited funds available to the Historic Buildings Council, many fine buildings which are important in the local scene have had no chance of benefiting with grants from the Ministry of Works. These can and, I hope, will be helped by local authorities under my hon. Friend's Bill.
There are three points which I should like to mention briefly. Clause 1 (1, b) 829 allows local authorities to obtain consent from the Minister of Housing and Local Government tocontribute towards the expenses incurred or to be incurred"—for houses outside the lists held by the Ministry. I hope that we can again underline the importance of groups of buildings. This should be covered under Clause 1 (1, b), I hope that local authorities will follow the "New Departures" laid down on page 4 of the 8th Annual Report—for 1960—of the Historic Buildings Council for England. Paragraph 6 says that the Ministerwould in future be prepared to consider recommendations for grants for outstanding groups of which the value is not merely the sum of the merits of the individual buildings comprising them. You"—that is, the Minister of Works—made it clear that in recommending such grants we must define the group and give you a clear indication of the total cost of repairs towards which we were recommending help. Thus it is not possible for us to recommend a general grant towards the large and amorphous groups which in so many of our historic towns are vaguely referred to as 'the old town' or 'the old quarter'. On the other hand, where local authorities, amenity societies, or owners. are collectively striving to preserve areas of general historic interest, either in town or country, it is now possible for us to consider not only whether any of the buildings in them are individually outstanding but whether a small and defined group of buildings within the scheme does come up to our high standard—and, if so, it is now open to us to recommend a grant.I hope that local councils will bear those points in mind when considering providing contributions for buildings under the Bill.
Another point on which I should like to have conformation from my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West is whether "building" in Clause 1 (2) includes early industrial monuments. I hope that it does. From the wording of the subsection I can see no reason why they should not be included.
Another small point arises. It was mentioned by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker), in relation to the words at the top of page 2:'local authority' means the council of a county, county borough, metropolitan borough or county district".I am concerned about the proposed Greater London Borough. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West said that other legislation covered the 830 London County Council. If the London County Council disappears in the next few years, I wish to be assured by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that the Bill' will bring in the Greater London Borough and make it responsible for grants and not the Greater London Council. This is important, and I hope that my hon. Friend will comment on it when he intervenes later.
Whilst this short Bill in no way compels local authorities to spend money on the upkeep of historic buildings, it provides a great opportunity for them. I join my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West in urging them to use this great opportunity which is being granted to them. I wholeheartedly endorse some of the comments made at the beginning of the Gowers Report of 1950. They apply also to many of the old buildings which this Bill will assist.
These"—buildings—mirror some six centuries of our social history and domestic life…'They remain a living element in the social fabric of the nation, uniting visibly the present with national history.' They constitute a national asset whose loss will be irreplaceable.I am sure that the House will give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 1.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I rise to support the Bill, except Clause 1 (1, b). I am a believer in the autonomy of local government. I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, who had a distinguished record in local government affairs in Surbiton, will feel now about this matter as he did when he was concerned with local government in that town. I do not see why, when dealing with its own locality in a matter like this, the local authority—the county district especially—should have to go to the Minister of Housing and Local Government to obtain sanction for expenditure.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on having introduced the Bill. I hope that it will vet on to the Statute Book in the form I have described. The hon. Gentleman must have felt some misgiving when he found that some people, when faced with a Bill for £3,000 for 831 keeping intact and up to date a building which comes within the Bill, sit down and wonder whether they should spend the money on the building or on drink. I do not know what his private advice to them would be when faced with that alternative.
I have been a member of the Historic Buildings Council for England since its inception. We get considerable help from some local authorities, but it is a matter which causes us regret that occasionally some local authorities, which come to us for grants for building of the type covered by the Bill and are asked by us whether they would be willing to make any contribution towards the cost, would prefer to see the building removed. Fortunately, there are some towns in the country which have entered into schemes. I have in mind particularly Bath, Exeter and King's Lynn. Parts of King's Lynn are among the most beautiful and historic sites that we have.
These three boroughs in particular—there are others—have entered into schemes for dealing with the whole of their towns on the joint basis of contributions from the State, through the Minister of Works, and from their own coffers. I hope that other local authorities which have a considerable number of buildings which ought to be preserved will agree to participate in similar schemes.
I support the Bill. My hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) expressed the hope that it would have a speedy passage to the Statute Book. I have the same benevolent desires in respect of the third Bill on the Order Paper today. Therefore, I will not hinder that Bill by spending more time on praising this Bill. I hope that the hon. Member for Southend, West will receive from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary the kind of commendation that is necessary for a Bill which has Clause 2 printed in italics.
§ 1.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward du Cann (Taunton)
Speaking entirely for myself, but I am sure expressing the views of other hon. Members, I have learned very much from the brief intervention of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). He spoke, as always, with a tre- 832 mendous weight of experience. I very much agree with the point he made at the beginning of his speech, to which I shall refer again later. Indeed, I was anxious to make that point. That is why I wish to speak on the Bill.
I have never believed that it is right to say behind people's backs the nice things one can sometimes have the opportunity of saying to their faces. I therefore congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West on his good fortune in getting a high place in the Ballot. I think it was Napoleon who said, when any general was recommended to him, "Is this man lucky?" and if he was assured that he was lucky, he proceeded to put him in a position of importance. My hon. Friend is not only lucky but he has displayed the quality which no doubt Napoleon liked to see in his generals—that of good management.
The Bill is useful and valuable, and I warmly commend it. I thought my hon. Friend introduced it and presented his case with vigour, clarity and great expertise. It was a great pleasure to listen to him. It is always pleasant when we can have the sort of discussion we have been enjoying today, for I often feel that our work is rather like an iceberg—it is the one-eighth that gets into the newspapers of which the public is most generally aware. It is the sensational things—possibly the behaviour of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Nabarro)—that people are more aware of than they are of the useful, solid and constructive work done by back benchers.
I cannot think of anything more pleasing than hon. Members on both sides of the House making common cause about a matter which, though not very large in the scale of life as we live it today, matters very much to those who take an interest in the subject. Perhaps it is fair to claim that it is important to the country as a whole.
Another aspect of this debate and of my hon. Friend's initiative in introducing the Bill is that point is being given to a recommendation of the Estimates Committee. This Committee was set up by this House to do specific and detailed work, and, in my experience, it does extraordinarily hard and useful work. On the other 833 hand, I sometimes wonder whether we pay sufficient attention to its recommendations. It is good to think that here is an occasion when the Estimates Committee has examined a particular matter, has reported, has recommended, those recommendations have been accepted by the House and my hon. Friend has introduced a Bill to implement one of them. That is precisely as it should be. But it seems to call into question the larger matter of whether we are as assiduous as we might be in seeing that the recommendations of the Estimates Committee are followed up. There is very little point if it is to work hard, present reports which are accepted by the House and then not have its recommendations implemented by government.
I find myself asking why it should be left to a private hon. Member to introduce a Bill of this sort. The pressure of Parliamentary time is probably the answer, and I realise that this is always a difficulty. None the less, if this is the reason and if it is to continue in future in other cases, it seems to re-emphasise the point made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) yesterday, when we were discussing business matters, when the hon. Gentleman stated that it would be a very bad thing if anything were done to trespass on private Member's time.
There are certain existing powers under which improvements and so on can be made to historic buildings of one sort and another, and I dare say that many local authorities have general powers of one kind or another. As the Report of the Estimates Committee pointed out, most local authorities stand in ignorance of what their powers exactly are. Since the majority of local authorities throughout England have these powers, some attempt should now be made to emphasise the need—as we are doing today—for additional work to be done and a vehicle provided by which it can be done.
There is the legislation of 1913 but, as I understand it, although it has been helpful and has resulted in a great deal of useful work being done, it is not really satisfactory. I am advised that the powers under the 1913 Act have been somewhat ignored because 834 many authorities consider that they are both obscure and inconvenient. I am advised—and this is a point to which I wish to draw special attention—that the plans and specifications of all works to be undertaken by local authorities must be submitted to the Ancient Monuments Board for approval or for decision by the Minister of Works.
I do not suggest that that is inappropriate when public money from central government funds is being spent. None the less, I emphasise that I am advised that this is one of the chief reasons why the Act has not been used as widely as it might have been. There are, of course, other items of legislation. There is what one might call the "negative preservation features" of the Town and Country Planning Act. Again, it is excellent as far as it goes, but that is not far enough. Last, but by no means least, is the Act of 1953. It has become apparent from the speeches made today that that Act, although it has taken us somewhere along the road we wish to travel, has not taken us anything like as far as we might have gone; and for two reasons.
Firstly, the inadequacy of funds, and, secondly, it cannot, by definition, apply to as many buildings as we would probably like it applied to. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) made a relevant point which requires to be made outside perhaps more than inside this House when he said that we had no business whatever in Parliament calling for reductions in Government expenditure and then pressing for increased expenditure on that especial subject which happens to interest us. That is, of course, true. He went on to argue that the sum of £400,000 was sufficient in this context and he followed that by arguing in favour of the Bill.
That attitude, I thought, was slightly contradictory. If all hon. Members are in favour of the Bill—and from the speeches today it would appear that that is the case—the House should be perfectly frank and say that we are in favour of more money being spent on ancient monuments and historic buildings in general and that the sum of £400,000 is inadequate. After all, if we are in favour of the Bill, that is what we are saying, and we might as well be clear about it.
§ Mr. Channon
Is my hon. Friend aware that any new proposed expenditure would be by local authorities and not by the central Government? It is, therefore, perfectly possible to argue that while it might be unfair to ask the Government to provide more money from central funds, it is perfectly logical that there are local cases where help could be provided.
§ Mr. du Cann
It is quite right to separate the two categories of expenditure. I appreciate that one is national and the other local, but I understood the argument of the hon. Member for Ashford to be that we are concerned with the total volume of what might be termed "national expenditure" as an inflationary force. Since we are concerned with the expenditure of local authorities—for it is the national Government, Parliament, which obliges local authorities to spend more—it is correct to look at the situation globally. At any rate, I would agree that this is a matter which can be debated. None the less, it seems to me that any speech in favour of the passing of the Bill is a speech in favour of increased Government expenditure within the context of existing legislation. I am quite ready to declare my own point of view; I am in favour of increased expenditure in this direction.
We have this legislation, but it must be generally agreed and conceded that it is not satisfactory. It is very far from being satisfactory. Many buildings which should qualify and which one would like to see qualify do not qualify. Indeed, from many of the speeches that we have had during the course of today that has been made abundantly clear. There, then, is the need. It is inescapable. Something has to be done about it, and something should be done about it, and my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West has produced this excellent little Bill.
I have no quarrel at all with the greater part of the Bill, though I must say that I should like very much the Parliamentary Secretary to give us a certain amount of information in relation to Clause 1 (1, a). There the list of buildings of special architectural or historic interest compiled or approved under Section 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, is mentioned. Many of us would like to know 836 whether we can be told, for example, how many local authority areas in England and Wales have compiled lists. It would also be interesting to know how many local authority areas have compiled interim lists. Also, if anything can be said about the grants within that context it will be interesting, because one of the purposes, surely, of the debate and the Measure is to encourage local authorities to do more. Any information that we can be given about the leaders and the laggards will be both helpful and interesting.
Turning to Clause 1 (1, b), here I entirely agree with what the right hon. Member for South Shields, with his vast experience of local authority work, so truly said. My reason for interrupting my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West earlier was to endeavour elucidate from him his reasons why he thought it appropriate for a local authority to seek to obtain the permission of the Minister of Housing and Local Government before it gave a grant. I am sure that he will not be offended—the last thing I wish to do today is to offend him in any sense—if I say that I was not very convinced by what he said, nor when my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford later referred to the point was I convinced by what he said, and it was only the fact that I risked boring everybody by interrupting a second time that I refrained from doing so.
I can see no Rood reason whatever why the Minister should pontificate and lay down the law about how a local authority should spend its own funds. After all, the local authority will pay the piper in these cases if the Bill Roes through; it is surely entitled to call the tune. We have heard a good deal about local pride, and, indeed, local pride is one of the things that we want to foster. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) laid emphasis on the point of local responsibility. I entirely agree with him in the use of those words.
Indeed, I would go further and say—though I do not wish to introduce a party flavour into the debate—that surely it is a Conservative principle to trust the man on the spot. Surely, everything that we have tried to do for local authorities since we became the Government of the 837 country has been designed to that end—not to take power away from the local authorities, not to say, "It is the gentleman in Whitehall who knows best". We do not believe that. We believe that local people are fully competent to run their own affairs. I absolutely fail to see why, if a local authority decides that a building or a group of buildings in its area is worth a grant, it should have to go cap in hand to the Minister of Housing and Local Government to ask for permission to spend its money.
§ Mr. du Cann
No. I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) is mistaking the purpose of the Bill. The purpose is to allow local authorities to spend the money which they raise by way of rates on the repair and maintenance of historic buildings.
§ Mr. du Cann
No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with that point when he speaks. That is no doubt a matter upon which he will want to keep his eagle eye. Whatever the facts of the case may be, it must be right to say that local people have every right to decide for themselves how money raised locally shall be spent. After all, if they spend money in wrong ways or ways in which the local population thinks is inappropriate, the answer lies in the vote, because they can be dismissed. They are the servants of the people, and if they spend money wrongly, they should be dismissed. That is the way in which it should be organised. I very much hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West, particularly in view of what was said by the right hon. Member for South Shields, will reconsider the point and ascertain whether some alteration might be effected during the Committee stage of the Bill.
I have no personal interest whatsoever in the Bill to declare. I have been very interested in the successive personal interests which have been declared by some of my hon. Friends and, indeed, by some hon. Members on the other side of the House. It has rather made me feel that perhaps the population will get a picture of Members of Parliament on all sides 838 living in nothing but historic houses and ancient monuments. I live in nothing of the sort.
Nor do I have the kind of constituency interest which was, quite rightly, declared by my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle), with the beautiful houses and, indeed, historic palaces that he has in his constituency. However, like my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley, I none the less have groups of buildings and individuals buildings in my area of which my constituents and I are rightly proud, and we want everything possible done to preserve those which are worthy of preservation.
There is an important point to remember in this connection. It is that it is not worth preserving a building just because it is old. I would never believe in that. I would only ever believe in spending money on preserving a building if it were both architecturally interesting and fitted a modern use. It would be quite wrong if the Bill became a vehicle for impeding progress. I do not mean by that that I am indifferent——
§ Mr. du Cann
Does the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) wish to intervene? I did not hear what he said.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I was applauding the hon. Gentleman's statement that it would be a great pity if the Bill became a vehicle for impeding progress, even on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. du Cann
I am much obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I was not clear what he had said. I am most grateful, as always, for his support, which he is generous enough to afford me on many occasions.
I was saying that it would be a great pity if the Bill were to become a vehicle for impeding progress in building. There is no sense in holding on to old things just because they are old. They want to be held on to because they are useful and worthy of being held on to.
I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) made a very good point when he was talking about houses being lived in as opposed to being museums. We 839 do not want England to be full of houses which are museums. I remember in particular a very old friend of mine who occupied an historic house in Sussex which used to be open to the local archaeological society once every three months or so. I recall particularly how on the afternoons of those visits his wife would rush upstairs and take away the Sporting Life and the bottle of whisky which normally found themselves by his bedside and substitute for them a glass of milk and the Holy Bible. No doubt she thought that that was a thoroughly appropriate thing to do. But it seemed to me to be tragic in the sense that she and the family were pretending that the house was what it was not. After all, our purpose, presumably, in considering this piece of legislation at all is to say to ourselves that there are parts of our past of which we are proud and which are fine and that we want to draw inspiration from them not as tombs but as useful things, as adornments of our present-day civilisation.
This is a chord which is of special interest to us in the West Country. Sometimes it is thought that visitors to Britain should go immediately to London and see the Changing of the Guard, perhaps go down to Tower Hill and perhaps go to the British Museum, and then travel up to Stratford and then to Edinburgh, and then they will have seen the whole of the United Kingdom. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The true heart of the United Kingdom does not necessarily beat in London's West End, or, possibly, in Princes Street, Edinburgh. It beats in industrial areas like Keighley, in the West Country, in the mountains of Wales, in the Midlands and it beats in East Anglia. We in the West Country have initiated a "Come to the West" campaign which I think is playing its part in earning foreign currency for this country.
Therefore, although it has been suggested in some of the speeches made today that any money which is spent upon the restoration or maintenance of historic buildings locally is a matter which brings pleasure only to the local people, I do not believe that to be an accurate view. For example, I think that if my neighbour five houses down the street polishes his door knocker and his 840 front step, that lends beauty to my house as well, because I cannot consider my own house as a single entity. It is part of a row of houses, and the same thing applies to Britain. If we refurbish the villages in Somerset, it is not only a matter of domestic interest and pride to us but a matter of pride to everyone else in Britain. Indeed, I suggest that many of the workers in the industrial areas would find England a poorer place if we did not keep our villages in Somerset clean, tidy and our houses well looked after. They would not, perhaps, work so enthusiastically or so happily if they did not have the beautiful parts of the West Country to come to for their holiday.
In conclusion, I say that this is a wholly admirable Bill. I believe it to be an excellent example of the sensible use of private Member's time. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, when he conies to say a word about the Bill, will be able to assure us that it has the wholehearted and enthusiastic support of the Government, for it has already been made plain that this is a Bill which, deservedly, has the full support of hon. Members on both sides of the House.
§ 2.12 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I should like to add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), who has so happily used his good luck in the Ballot to bring in a Bill for a good purpose, who has brought in a short Bill and has secured support for it from both sides of the House. I think that all the compliments that have been paid to him today are well deserved. This is a complicated field of legislation which, possibly, stands in need of some consolidation and clarification. Anyhow, he led us through it with charm and clarity, and about as shortly as anybody possibly could.
I am quite certain about some of the speeches that have been made afterwards, and, therefore, I shall be brief myself, since I do not share any of the timidity that may be felt by hon. Members opposite about the third Bill on the Order Paper today. I will, therefore, confine myself to one or two points.
I cordially agree with the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) that a 841 stitch in time in these matters saves nine. I was shocked to hear at Question Time the other day about the condition of one of the Royal Palaces where, apparently, dry rot has been allowed to proceed to a very considerable extent indeed. I had another case in my own constituency where, while the authorities were trying to decide whether or not to take over a fine house in the area, the dry rot that had been there already, which they had known and been told about, roughly doubled the extent of its depredations.
A little speed in getting decisions in these matters would be able to reduce to a very great extent the damage by dry rot. Another thing which would be very useful is that the two Ministries responsible—Housing and Local Government and Works—should see that they have enough active inspectors to detect the extent of dry rot and get the necessary action taken before extensive damage has been done.
I turn from that to the particular points in the Bill. There is already a considerable amount of legislation—and I am not going through it—to provide for the preservation of—in the sense of avoiding interference with—ancient monuments, and buildings of special interest, whether historic or aesthetic. There is also legislation to provide for purchasing them. In fact, both Ministries do a very great deal towards the purchase of listed monuments, and, so far as I can see, the powers there are sufficient. The question is whether they are sufficiently used. There is also power to get this done by the local authorities, but, again, the question is whether the power is being sufficiently used.
I share the feeling, which has been expressed on the Government side of the House as well as on this side, that the amount of money available for the purpose is not at all too much. It is rather too little, but I think we have to bear in mind that, though this is a very important thing for the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to do, it has other duties by way of providing housing. No one really wishes to have it said that so much money is spent on preserving ancient houses that not enough new houses are provided, and 842 the same thing is true of other forms of repairs. The criticism can very easily be made, and with some force, as in the case of dry rot in one of the Royal Palaces the other day.
It is in that light that I look at the Bill, remembering that there is considerable provision for ancient monuments already, and that what we are providing for here—and I think that the hon. Member for Southend, West made this quite clear—is, principally but not entirely, the case of houses of particular interest which remain the property of and are owned by some private individual. It is to help that private individual that the Bill is intended. I do not disapprove of that. I think there are proper cases for it, but I think that the Bill requires considerable safeguards. While I, personally, and I hope that I speak for my right hon. and hon. Friends in this matter, wish the Bill to get a Second Reading, and wish it also to get the Money Resolution which will be required under Clause 2, and which I hope the Government will provide, we must reserve our rights and see what happens to it in Committee.
The two main things I have in mind are these. First, it is generally the rule that when public money is provided for the repair of private property there shall be some recognition of the public money so spent in the form of a right of access to the public. One hon. Member described this as a menagerie. I do not know what part of the public he considers as a menagerie, but in present times, those who live in a nice old house, even apart from this particular form of aid, are bound to recognise that they have a general public responsibility, and are, in a sense, as one of my hon. Friends has put it, trustees in the matter.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), may I say that when he said "menagerie" he was referring to a zoo. He was, in fact, referring to a noble duke's place at Bedford.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have not kept up with the cases of dukes and zoos. I misunderstood the reference as a metaphorical one. I am glad to have the explanation.
843 The second point I make is, I think, just as serious. My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) spoke of it earlier and it has been mentioned since. It is very easy indeed to get public money for a purpose of this sort, probably a very good and proper purpose at the time, and then dispose of one's interest in the house in some way, deriving the benefit of the public expenditure in the form of an enhanced price.
There need be nothing dishonest in it. A man may be in financial difficulty and it may be right and proper to help him in the repairs. He may, after receiving that help, find that his financial difficulties are far from solved. He may have to sell. In a case like that, whether the assistance be by grant, loan or special provisions far repayment, it ought to be right to ensure that an individual does not profit in that way out of public expenditure for what is, after all, substantially a public purpose.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am glad to see the promoter of the Bill expressing what I am sure is only general agreement with that, and I trust that it will be borne in mind when the matter goes to Committee. It is an important point and one which influences our attitude on this side of the House quite a lot. It is something we are always rather suspicious of in this type of case.
What is done about the consent of the Minister under Clause 1 (1, b) will, I think, be a matter for the Committee. There is a good deal to be said on both sides, but I notice that the paragraph in question no longer refers to "special" or "outstanding" interest. It refers merely to interest in general. With such a very wide definition, we ought to consider whether another check may be needed.
Having said that, I repeat my congratulations and my support for the Bill, subject to certain reservations, and I end with this comment. The Bill at present applies to Scotland. Scotland is not excluded and, moreover, Scotland is mentioned at one point.
§ Mr. Channon
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. and learned Gentleman, whose 844 knowledge of drafting is so much greater than mine, but I must point out that Clause 1 begins with the wordsA local authority in England or Wales may…
§ Mr. Mitchison
I was coming to that. Clause 2, on the other hand, refers to Scottish enactments. The Bill does not exclude Scotland. Consequently, it applies to Scotland, though, as far as I can see, it has no effect in Scotland. It is a drafting matter, which ought to be put right.
I think that the Scottish authorities—this is what I am told—are very good indeed in this sort of matter and have rather wider legislation and, possibly, apply it with more thoroughness as regards dry rot and the like, which I know they have in those parts. Also, perhaps, they are inclined to spend a little more.
I hope that the Government will accept what I believe is the general view of the House today, that they ought to do and spend rather more not only by way of grants in respect of old buildings but also in attention to old buildings when they are responsible for them. I know that this touches the Ministry of Works rather than the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, but no doubt the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government will tell us something about it.
§ 2.24 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Geoffrey Rippon)
I join with the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and other hon. Members in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on his success in the Ballot and on using it to such good purpose. The Bill which he has introduced with such force and, if I may say so, such clarity, will fulfil, if passed, a most useful purpose. It has been rightly welcomed on both sides.
Over the years, we have done a great deal to secure the preservation and maintenance of our ancient monuments and historic buildings. While the Bill introduces no new principle, it undoubtedly provides a much simpler method by which the major local authorities which already have some powers, can help and, 845 as my hon. Friend explained, it provides new powers for urban and rural district councils.
There is a great deal that the local authorities can and should do to supplement the financial assistance given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works in accordance with his powers under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act, 1953. Under the 1953 Act, my right hon. Friend makes grants on the advice of the Historic Buildings Council only in respect of buildings of outstanding historic or architectural interest. I join in the tributes which have been paid to the work of the Historic Buildings Council, of which my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) is so notable a member. It does an enormous amount of voluntary work in these matters.
It is, I think, generally accepted that the provisions of the 1953 Act nave been highly successful and that a great many fine buildings which otherwise would have been lost to the nation have been saved. However, as has been pointed out, there has to be a limit to expenditure in this way. Inevitably, the standard for a building to be accepted as outstanding is necessarily high.
It is right that the preservation of our finest buildings should be a central responsibility. They are an absolutely irreplaceable national asset, and the amounts required vary greatly in different parts of the country. There are, however, literally thousands of buildings now listed as being of special architectural or historic interest which are of great local value and which also represent an important part of our national heritage.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has a duty under Section 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, to compile lists of buildings of special architectural or historic interest for the guidance of local planning authorities. My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) asked what progress has been made in this direction. The aim, of course, is to provide a complete list for every local authority area, borough, urban and rural district.
By 31st November last year, out of 1,474 local authority areas 998 were covered by full statutory lists. A further 251 had incomplete lists known as 846 interim lists. They are compiled largely from reference books and from information which can be gathered from antiquarian societies and other sources of that kind. Although they are not complete, they have statutory force. In addition, 217 areas had provisional lists at the date I have taken. A provisional list has no statutory force. It is really the next stage after the survey towards the compilation of the statutory list.
When a provisional list has been prepared, it is sent to the local authority and to the preservation societies for their comments. It is necessary also to obtain the names and addresses of every owner and occupier so that they may have an opportunity to make representations. As the House knows, once a building is included in the statutory list, certain obligations are put upon owners and occupiers.
All this work puts a heavy burden on a fairly restricted staff, and I know that the House will wish to commend the work which is being done by the comparatively small number of people engaged upon it. No less than 80,000 buildings are included in the statutory lists which have been issued so far, and we estimate that the final total will be about 100,000.
The work of compiling the lists has been carried out with expert advice from the Advisory Committee on Buildings of Special Architectural and Historic Interest. I pay a warm tribute to the work of this Committee under the chairmanship of Sir William Holford and, latterly, when Sir William was president of the R.I.B.A., Sir John Summerson. This Committee has given a tremendous amount of time and trouble to its work.
Fortunately, most of this large number of buildings do not require any assistance from public funds, whether central or local. A great many attractive period houses are in good demand, but we know that they sometimes need costly repairs which cannot be undertaken by the owners and occupiers. The national and local preservation societies have done a tremendous amount of work, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said. They help with technical advice and in seeking purchasers who are able and willing to maintain these buildings.
847 Tribute was also paid by the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) and my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) to the work of the Civic Trust, and I hope that its efforts will not in any way be weakened by the passage of the Bill. Indeed, I imagine that it will be stimulated in its work by such help from local authorities as the Bill may afford.
As hon. Members have pointed out, the difficulty at present is that while the powers under Sections 29 and 30 of the 1947 Act with regard to the listing of buildings and the making of preservation orders provide an opportunity to consider and, where necessary, to bring under control proposed works of demolition or alteration, they impose no obligation on the owner to keep the building in good repair. The only positive action which can be taken in that regard is to acquire the building, either compulsorily or by agreement where a preservation order is in force and proper steps to preserve it are not being taken. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West is quite right when he says that it is rather anomalous that district councils have the power to acquire, but not to assist, which could be much more useful.
I agree with the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) when he says that compulsory acquisition is rather a desperate last resort, coming rather late in the day.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary would also include the National Trust, which receives public money and is often the means of keeping a building without disturbing the occupancy of the tenants.
§ Mr. Rippon
I am grateful for that observation, which makes a valid point to which attention should be drawn.
One feels that compulsory acquisition ought to be used only in circumstances where the owner is quite deliberately and from ulterior motives trying to destroy a fine building. But more often than not the problem is simply that he cannot afford the expenditure on repairs. In those circumstances it is right to proceed by way of assistance towards preservation. That is not only the best way, but in the long run the cheapest way of securing our object, as the hon. 848 and learned Member for Kettering pointed out.
As I have said, the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, does not help with maintenance. The provisions of the Ancient Monuments Act, which today have been discussed more than for many years, can be brought to bear, but they are neither clear nor convenient. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West said that they were both complicated and obscure. He illustrated that by pointing out that Section 3 (3, b) of the 1931 Act deprived the Commissioners and the local authorities of the right of contribution to maintenance under Section 4 of the Ancient Monuments Act, 1913, but did not touch the powers of the local authorities under Section 11 of that Act, which gives useful powers to the county councils and the boroughs but not to the urban or rural districts.
That Act gives power to contribute to the cost of preserving, maintaining and managing any monument which appears to the authorities to be an ancient monument, and the definition in Section 22 is clearly wide enough to cover historical buildings. There is some doubt about whether it can be employed with occupied or unoccupied buildings. However, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West was quite right when he said that paragraph 57 of the Gowers Report was not correct in this regard. Local authorities can contribute under the 1913 Act to occupied buildings, although only unoccupied buildings can be scheduled. They can contribute because although they are not scheduled, they may appear to be historic.
Then there are the difficulties about the application for the money through the Ancient Monuments Board and, if the Board disagrees, to the Minister of Works. It is significant that many local authorities have sought clearer and simpler powers under local Acts, three of them last Session. I hope that if the Bill is passed the lawyers will be relieved of the necessity to interpret obscure law, although I doubt whether they will be as happy as their clients about being relieved of that obligation.
If the Bill is passed, the procedure will be quite straight forward. Clause 1 (1, a) makes it clear that if a building 849 is included in a list under Section 30 of the 1947 Act, it is not necessary to obtain the consent of the Minister. That is sensible because listing is itself an indication that the building has considerable merit and it ensures that notice must be given of any work which injured its character. That provision will cover both statutory and interim lists which have statutory force.
Clause 1 (1, b) has proved slightly more controversial. The buildings to which it refers may be of architectural or historic importance, but may not be included in Section 30 lists, perhaps because there is so far no statutory list, but only a provisional list, or because the building has been omitted in error—and I am afraid that that happens from time to time—or the building may be in a supplementary list.
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley asked about the supplementary list. There is no need to inform the owner about being included in the supplementary list, because he can only benefit by that. There is no question of any obligation being imposed upon him. The supplementary list is only an administrative creation and contains buildings which do not warrant restriction being put upon them by being put in the statutory list, but which may be of value to the local scene. I accept what my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton said about the desirability of preserving groups of cottages which might not be included in a statutory list.
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley and my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford both said that it was quite right that the Minister should have some power in the matter of grant and that his consent should be required, pointing out that the Bill imposed an additional expenditure upon local authorities if they used these permissive powers and that it was right for the Minister to be consulted because he had some financial interest, as the expenditure of local authorities would be reflected in rate deficiency grants. That is why we need to have Clause 2, which is a reasonable provision.
I entirely share the view of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that we ought to give local autho- 850 rities as much responsibility as possible. I do not doubt that boroughs like Surbiton or Epsom, of which the right hon. Gentleman was mayor, can be trusted to exercise these powers. But, as the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) pointed out, there are certain dangers in respect of certain buildings which are not covered in the statutory list. There will be great pressure by many enthusiasts to get a local authority to make a contribution, and some smaller authorities may be misled because they will not have the benefit of quite such expert advice as some of the larger authorities. We do not want too many cases like that of the vicar who wrote in his parish magazine that his church had been utterly restored in 1884. This is, therefore, a wise provision.
My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley asked about parish councils, but I do not think that it is necessary for them to be included. Both county and district councils are to have this power, so that there are already two tiers in the county area and it would not he very sensible to add a third.
My hon. Friend the Member for Richmond, Surrey (Mr. A. Royle) asked about London and referred to the reorganisation of London Government. The Bill has nothing to do with the proposed reorganisation of London Government, and I do not think that it would be appropriate for us to legislate in it for that reorganisation. As has been explained, the definition of local authority excludes the City of London and the London County Council because they already have power to contribute without the Minister's consent towards the cost of preserving historic buildings.
The City, whose power is in a Private Act, is excluded by not being mentioned in the definition of local authority, but the London County Council has to be specifically excluded because its power is in a public general Act. Incidentally, the Metropolitan boroughs have power under the London County Council Act of 1939, but need consent. That is why they are included in the definition for the purposes of the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) was very much concerned about exactly what would be 851 covered by the Bill. He made an extremely eloquent speech, which I am sure we all enjoyed. I was a little surprised by his peroration, which referred to bringing walls down with a crash. I have the feeling that if my hon. Friend had been present when the walls of Jericho came down, so far from blasting his trumpet outside he would have been running round saying that they ought to be preserved as an ancient monument.
The Bill does not provide for contributions to ancient monuments as such. There are about 17,500 of these in England and Wales which will ultimately be listed, but, in practice, the sort of monument which forms part of the local scene which has been described this afternoon comes within the definition of building for the purposes of the Bill.
My hon. Friend need not be worried about obelisks and temples overlooking the lake. They will be in. Market crosses, small bridges, holy wells and commemorative monuments may well be included in the Section 30 list, but even if they are not they will be covered by Clause 1 (1, b). The upkeep of a garden as such is not covered but the repair of ornamental features, even boundary walls and statues on their plinths will be covered, so if my hon. Friend has a gazebo in his garden there is still hope for it. The sort of monuments which will not be covered are burial mounds, earthworks and similar remains, and it may be that it is right that these should be left within the province of the Ancient Monuments Board which is specifically concerned with these matters.
My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West referred to the recommendations of the Select Committee on Estimates, that the Departments concerned should make a more conscious effort to arouse the interests of local authorities in the preservation of historic buildings and ancient monuments. I commend that passage to the local authorities. My hon. Friend said that it is important to arouse the interest of local authorities in their local heritage. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford that in many cases the attitude of the local authority must be of decisive importance, and we hope that they will address their minds to this problem.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Has the Parliamentary Secretary power to make a grant in aid for expenditure under the Bill?
§ Mr. Rippon
It will be for the local authorities to make their grants direct. Our interest is in the contribution that we make to their rate deficiency grant. As has been pointed out, in many places the local authority concerned has a sound economic reason of its own for making this contribution. It will be in the interests of the ratepayers to help preserve buildings of importance.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Will the local authorities be encouraged to preserve the surroundings of these buildings, as well as the buildings themselves?
§ Mr. Rippon
They have power to do so. I am saying that as regards the Bill it will be helpful to them to spend money preserving buildings and areas around them because they can cover groups of buildings which represent a tourist attraction. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford that we should not put the Bill forward on that basis, but it is a fact to be borne in mind. In any event, it is something which brings great pleasure to those who live locally to see that buildings are kept in a decent condition.
In some cases there will continue to be this direct co-operation between the Ministry of Works and local authorities to which reference has been made, but there will remain many cases in which the local authority will have the main responsibility for securing the preservation of buildings of essentially local interest which would have no prospect of being accepted as outstanding by national standards. There are, as many hon. Members have pointed out, districts whose special character and charm depends on the use of traditional materials, and there again this Bill will give power to the local authorities to help.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge referred to windmills in East Anglia. They certainly form a conspicuous and attractive feature in many areas. I am glad that in my area the Norfolk County Council has promoted a special scheme to preserve the best examples in its area. At present, of course, it cannot be helped by the county districts who also have an interest in 853 their preservation, but they will be able to help under the Bill. It may be that my County Borough of Norwich could help, because the 1913 Act refers to assistance to ancient monuments and historic buildings in the vicinity of its area, but I do not know whether it knows this. It may be as ignorant as some other local authorities which have been referred to this afternoon.
§ Mr. Channon
I would be very happy if the Bill did preserve the power to help buildings in the vicinity, but does my hon. Friend think that it does so as drafted, as I do not?
§ Mr. Rippon
The Bill does not do that, but Section 11 of the 1913 Act does. I do not know whether Norwich is making the contribution it could do to the Norfolk County Council's admirable scheme for preserving windmills. Perhaps this is an illustration of the difficulties of the law at the present time.
I have no hesitation in commending the Bill to the House, and I assure my hon. Friend that the Government will facilitate its passage with the necessary Money Resolution.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Dealing with the Money Resolution, on looking at the Bill it strikes me that some things on the fringe of it ought to be seriously considered. I hope that the Resolution will be drawn with reasonable amplitude.
§ 2.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (Billericay)
Having heard the views of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary on Clause 1 (1, b) and the advisability of getting the consent of the Minister of Housing and Local Government before a local authority is entitled to give financial assistance for the preservation of an historic building, I am satisfied, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) is equally satisfied, of the need for this provision in the Bill.
I am, perhaps, somewhat fortified in that satisfaction by having listened with some fascination to the plea by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley), in what I think was an argument for the preservation of some of the Victorian town halls in the north 854 of England. I used to live in one of these Northern towns which had a Victorian town hall. Unhappily, one night, while I was away—I was not, of course, living in the town hall—it was burnt down. I am bound to say that, apart from the fact that everybody regretted the loss of the clock which could be seen round the town for a radius of about a quarter of a mile, no one seemed to regret the loss of that piece of architecture.
I am very happy to support the Bill and, although he is absent for the moment, I add my personal congratulations to those of other hon. Members to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) in choosing this piece of legislation following his success in the Ballot. The simple aim of the Bill, as I see it, is to increase the amount of money which can be spent on the preservation of distinguished and historic buildings. The grants which are now available under the provisions of the 1953 Act have proved, unhappily, to be quite inadequate. This Bill will do something to close the gap between the money which the Treasury provides and that which will be provided under the Bill by the local authorities.
With the limited amount of money available to the Government to give at present to this work of preservation, I feel that within about 100 years from now, if further funds are not forthcoming, as they will be to some extent under the Bill, many of our lovely houses which could certainly give pleasure for generations to come will have gone into the hands of the demolition contractors. The Government must face this. They have the choice, and it appears from their support of the Bill that they have accepted it. They must either increase the amount of money which will be available for the preservation of distinguished buildings or they must take over the buildings themselves.
To some extent this has been done by the French Government, and one knows of many fine chateaux which are in an immaculate state of preservation. But they are, in effect, show places. They are museums for antique furniture—they are not homes. I endorse the view put forward by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) when he talked about the loss of atmosphere that came 855 from merely having a fine building that was no more than a show place.
Happily—and I pray that this may continue for many generations to come—many of our fine houses are still homes in which people live. I always remember, when thinking about how one should furnish a beautiful room or a lovely house, the words of a very wise judge who was trying a case in contract on the sale of furniture. He said, in the middle of the case, "The only way I know to furnish a room is to live in it for 100 years". There is something to be said for that. One hopes that these fine houses which will benefit from the Bill will still remain homes to be lived in.
I have never quite made up my mind whether it is a good thing or a bad thing that some of these houses have been exploited, as it were, as commercial enterprises. I agree with the spirit of what the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said—that he did not quite approve of zoos being attached to houses. One knows that there are members of the peerage who have made very high—or perhaps the word "strong" would be better—reputations for themselves as showmen. One also remembers a sad poem which was written about ten years ago:The poor man in his castle,Brings tripper to his gate,From whom he seeks the florinsTo salvage his estate.Curiously enough, the entrance fees, on the average in those ten years, have only gone up to about half-a-crown.
There is no doubt, as so many hon. Members have said, that the law as it stands in relation to the powers of local authorities to give assistance for the preservation of historic buildings is confused. It is right that a Bill of this kind should be brought before the House with the purpose of extending and clarifying and emphasising the powers of a local authority in this work.
There is also no doubt that many local authorities have been reluctant in the past to give assistance for the repair and maintenance of these lovely buildings, and that some of them have sheltered behind the muddle, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West described it, which the law is in at 856 the moment. It is a good and a beneficial step that this Bill takes in the direction of codification and clarification of the powers of local authorities.
The number of fine and outstanding buildings in Essex is perhaps reflected in the number of hon. Members representing Essex constituencies who have been present in the Chamber and who have taken part in the debate. Of course, standing first is my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West. I like to think that today we are doing something in this House for which we shall be thanked by many people for many years to come. Naturally, we cannot evade the inevitable consequence of the Bill, that we shall, in a sense, be tempting, if not provoking, local authorities to spend more money.
No one likes to see any increase, however slight that increase may be, in the rates, but I think that anyone who feels any misgiving about an increase in the rates that may follow upon the exercise of the powers under the Bill can be comforted, and ought to be comforted, by the fact that these beautiful buildings attract people from all over the country and from other countries and, indeed, bring to the neighbourhood concerned and to the country at large a vast amount of prosperity, as we know from our tourist trade, and a reputation which is lively and active in any part of the world that one cares to visit.
Some quality in a building is a way of keeping for generations to come the atmosphere and the spirit, the quintessence, of tradition and history. Buildings, unlike people, have the quality that many of them grow more beautiful with age. One has, of course, to bear in mind the corollary of this, that with age these buildings become more expensive to keep—like people. But the cost, and really at times when one looks at the Estimates, the staggering cost of keeping these buildings in repair is no excuse for neglecting this essential duty. It is not only a national duty; it is, I would submit, primarily a local duty and one in which one would hope the local authorities would take an intimate, eager and lively concern.
For the first time, this Bill gives——
§ Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)
This is all very well, but does the hon. Gentleman realise that local 857 authorities, being treated as they are by this Government, have a lot of competing claims? I suspect that a lot of the hon. Gentleman's constituents would not accord quite the priority that he himself seems to believe should be accorded to ancient monuments. There are some who want better housing for the people, clinics for the children and, indeed, a better standard of living for a greater number of people who have not even an ancient monument in which to live owing to the policy of this Government.
§ Mr. Gardner
If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying so, I should have thought that that was the most trite objection one could have to a Bill of this kind. Of course, it is realised by all of us that there are priorities here, but we surely have to make some attempt to arrive at a reasonable compromise in our priorities. If we leave these buildings and these monuments to decay—they are, in fact, irreplaceable treasures—nothing that we can do can ever right the wrong which we commit.
It is nonsensical to suggest that vital work of this kind should not be carried out because of the cost involved. When one looks at the amount of money spent on it, and the amount of specialist labour spent on it, in many cases the cost is infinitesimal. If we take the money spent on the preservation and the maintenance of ancient houses, the cost of the specialist labour force involved, we find that there is an enormous difference between that sum and the amount required to replace the slums to which the hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. W. Griffiths) referred.
§ Mr. A. Royle
I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is mistaken, but I seem to remember that he is a member of our amenity society, the Richmond Society, in my constituency, which spends a lot of time in looking after old buildings and in seeing that local amenities are not spoiled. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to forget that fact.
§ Mr. W. Griffiths
Of course, I am all for amenities. But it struck me that here we have everyone saying that they are in agreement with the Bill, and hon. Members are talking about the same thing, and the effect of it all is to deprive 858 me of the opportunity of putting a case for widowed mothers. That is what the hon. Members are doing——
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. We have here attained a very difficult position. May I remind the House that interventions are properly used only for the elucidation of some point of a speech. To have an intervention upon an intervention being elucidated produces for us some confusion.
§ Mr. Gardner
I shall conclude by saying that no one is suggesting by the provisions in this Bill, or in any previous legislation, that the owners of these houses should be relieved of all financial responsibilities. It is merely an attempt to make it possible for them to do what they want to do. In keeping their properties in order they preserve for us all and for our children and grandchildren one of the richest inheritances we have in this country.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
I am sorry that I was prevented from being present when the Bill was explained by the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) I do not wish to detain the House unduly, but I think it only right and courteous, as some good words have been spoken of the Select Committee on Estimates—an unusual privilege to experience in the House—that, rather blushingly, one should express one's appreciation that the work put into the inquiry has borne some fruit. Perhaps it is a matter for a cynical comment—the Estimates Committee being designed to reduce expenditure—that the only recommendation which has been rapidly followed by legislation is one designed to increase expenditure.
In general, I welcome the Bill. It is a little irritating for anyone producing a Bill when a great deal of time is taken in discussing what other things might have been done by it, and which it does not set out to do. But I am sorry that the question of ancient monuments has not been dealt with. I consider that a sphere in which local authorities could play a particularly important part. This deals with what was said by the Parliamentary Secretary about the work of parish councils. It was felt, particularly in regard to small and isolated ancient monuments, that 859 parish councils could do the job more cheaply, by the use of voluntary labour, or by employing someone at a small cost, than could the Ministry of Works, which has neither the resources nor the time to do it. That has not been included and I am sorry.
On the other hand, I welcome the possibility—I do not think that it would happen in many oases—that local authorities will be able to carry out this work. It will be of great assistance not just for the money, but in the interest in local amenities which might be created in the community. That is the really important thing, that pride will be taken not only in particular buildings but in their surroundings and approaches and the conveniences available—the refreshment places, and so on.
May I say, rather wistfully, that it is a little galling to find that this paragraph in the Report, not a very big paragraph, has resulted in special legislation. I wish that the Government would be as keen on some much more important matters. There is, for example, the question of the working party on rationalising the listing and recording which has been sitting for an interminable time and seems quite incapable of producing any kind of report. That, I think, is rather playing with the House, because in the Select Committee we were told that the working party was considering these matters. That was a considerable time ago, yet the working party is still considering.
However, I do not wish to spend very much time on something which is not relevant to the Bill. I welcome very much the fact that the hon. Member for Southend, West has moved its Second Reading.
§ 3.11 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Agnew (Worcestershire, South)
I welcome the Bill and should like in a few words to say why I do so. It falls within the very pleasant category of Bills, often debated on a Friday, in which there is no element of compulsion in any provisions. It will rest for its success, if it passes into law, on a quite free choice on the part of those who will have the power and responsibility of operating it should they be so minded.
860 There has been some criticism which has taken the form of thinking that there is a risk that too excessive a concentration on the preservation of old buildings might result in other deserving causes which should attract public expenditure being starved of what they would have received. I do not believe that in this case there is any risk at all of that. To begin with, the provisions of the Bill restrict the expenditure by local authorities on buildings to buildings which have architectural or historic interest. It could not arise that the authorities would suddenly decide to preserve a long row of back-to-back houses just because they were old.
§ Mr. W. Griffiths
Surely here there is a clash of priorities for local authorities. The hon. Member is saying that the Bill is permissive. We have the situation in which a local authority has to decide whether it is able to afford to spend a certain amount of the rate fund on one object or another. In my city, for example, there are people who wish to spend more than others wish to spend on supporting the Hallé Orchestra. There is a clash in the local authority on different conceptions of priority.
§ Sir P. Agnew
I do not want to take up the time of the House unduly as our time is getting short. The hon. Member for Manchester, Exchange (Mr. W. Griffiths) is, of course, entitled to his opinion about how the minds of local authorities will operate, but concerning the buildings referred to in the Bill, preservation of old buildings in general becomes a bad thing only when that preservation generates a desire to try to copy them. I say that because architecture is a living thing and should not merely seek slavishly to copy the precise styles of what has gone before.
A point which arises on this is how the work of preserving the building will, so to speak, divide up. It may well be that central government and the great national societies will concentrate on the stately homes, the great houses and the like, which have been mentioned in this debate. Perhaps it will fall more to the purview of local authorities in giving what help they can to concentrate on the more modest buildings, but buildings which show great historic and architectural merit as being records of the way of life of the 861 past, such as tithe barns, watermills as well as the windmills which have been mentioned, and even bridges which have merit. All those things could come within the purview of the Bill.
One category of building which I have not yet heard mentioned is church buildings. I am not speaking of the cathedrals, which have endowments, although they are all too limited and are not able to contribute much towards the preservation of the fabric, but rather of the ancient parish churches, which have no endowment funds with which they can be maintained. Like other old buildings, they all seem to be getting old at the same time and to be demanding funds to keep their very roof upon them. Under the Bill, presumably, the local authorities will be enabled to give grants from their funds towards them.
The Bill is modest in character and liberal in outlook. It compels nobody to do anything, but it presents a challenge—and a challenge is a responsibility—to local authorities to do what they can with due regard to other claims to try to furnish additional proofs that we, the British nation, cherish the great heritage that has come down to us from other clays.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Kershaw (Stroud)
I am particularly glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. As the hour is late, I will be as brief as possible. I do not think that any part of the country will be more affected by the provisions of this small but important Bill than the area which I represent. The Stroud Valley has for a long time been settled and industrialised. It has a great many houses, built with the traditional materials, which are old and in need of repair and which, architecturally, are of merit. The mills of the Stroud Valley, with their architecture and their fitness for their purpose, have excited the admiration of many throughout the years.
There are a great number of villages of exceptional beauty. At the same time, the area is one of increasing industrialisation. It is an area, therefore, which not only has the problem of the older house and village, but which has the problem of where to locate the new houses which are necessary to house the incoming population. Those two factors have pro- 862 duced difficulties. On the one hand, the local authorities, one of whose tasks is to rehouse the people, have to find the land on which to build. On the other, those who live in these beautiful villages are, naturally, reluctant to see the character of their villages changed.
I have two matters in mind. My constituency includes a village called Woodchester. I do not suppose that there is any village whose inhabitants are more keen and active in the preservation of their village in the old Cotswold style. They lie within the area of the Stroud rural district and there is not an authority in the country which has done more to rehouse the people than the Stroud rural district has done since the war. It is natural, therefore, that the organisation of the district council and of the village should sometimes find themselves at loggerheads. I very much hope that the Bill will provide a means whereby they co-operate rather than fall apart in the solution of the problem.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) referred to the larger houses, and there are larger houses in my constituency. I am thinking more, however, of the problem of the village in which none of the cottages is in itself a historic monument, or listed, but where, to preserve the character of the village, its buildings must be kept more or less in their present state.
I have sympathy with the comment by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) that it would be unwelcome for houses to be bought and sold with the benefit of large subsidies. The cottage which stands in a row of buildings is a rather more difficult matter. Possibly, its owner is compelled to move because of old age. He may be a person of modest means who has lived for some years in the property after it has been repaired wish the aid of public subscription. I hone that in considering this important matter my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) will bear in mind that we are dealing not only with the large house which is about to be sold, but also with the small cottage which has been repaired.
I welcome the fact that the Bill is permissive. Only those buildings will be attracted to its terms which the local community feels are worth preserving. 863 Only buildings which excite local loyalty and admiration will attract the extra money which the Bill makes possible.
I regard Clause 1 (1, b), by which the consent of the Ministry is required, with apprehension. Not only can delay be important in the case of dry rot, for example, but it is a pity that the matter is not left entirely to local initiative. I do not imagine that large sums are involved. In the case I have in mind, the money would be furnished by local subscription, on the one hand, and by a contribution from the local authority, which cannot be great since it has to be paid from the rates, on the other. Those are the two sources from which the money will come. The local interest will be served by contributing, because in so doing the cost of erecting new cottages in place of those which are preserved will be obviated.
I do not see why the Ministry should come into the picture. Whilst, no doubt, the control of finance, in which the Ministry is concerned, is necessary, I hope that in Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West will be able to agree that if the local inhabitants and ratepayers regard a cottage as worth preserving, it should not be necessary for representatives of the Ministry to make a special visit to look at the small building in question, which is not necessarily an historic building. I welcome the Bill. I believe that it will be a great help to my part of the country and I very much hope that it will be passed.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)
I have sat through a fair proportion of this debate and, like other hon. Members, I am delighted that the hon. Mem- 864 ber for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) has introduced this Bill. I have noticed that it has had unanimous support on both sides of the House and that the Minister has given it his blessing. We have discussed the Bill for well over four hours, and I am wondering, as there are other Bills to come before us to which some hon. Members attach importance, whether the hon. Member for Southend, West would be willing to move that a vote be now taken.
§ 3.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
I apologise for not being able to be present during the earlier part of the debate, but I have listened to the remainder of it with great care and attention. I come here today to make one plea. The Bill, as I understand it, seeks to preserve ancient homes. We are a seafaring nation and we have forgotten one type of home which is immensely important. I ask the promoters of the Bill to think of some of our ancient ships.
I understand that there is no provision in the Bill for ancient ships. If some such provision had been made, not many years ago, Drake's "Golden Hind" would have been preserved for the nation. As it has happened, some people got together and the "Cutty Sark" has been preserved. But there are other ancient ships. I make the plea that in Committee that type of building and old home should be considered.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bills).