HC Deb 07 July 1977 vol 934 cc1396-7
1. Mr. Hordern

asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will set up, or reconstitute, a land fund, to be devoted to buying outstanding works of art, or buildings, for the nation and ensure that such a fund should have an independent board of trustees for its administration; and if he will make a statement.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Robert Sheldon)

In view of the arrangements that already exist through the National Land Fund and other sources for the purchase of outstanding works of art and other property for the benefit of the nation, I do not consider that the establishment of a further fund is necessary. And even if such a fund were set up and controlled by a body of trustees, the basic problem would still remain of finding the money from within the resources available to the Government.

Mr. Hordern

Whatever is the history of the National Land Fund, is it not abundantly clear, because of the muddle over Mentmore, that a strong case exists for setting up a separate fund to deal with the ravages caused by the capital transfer tax? Does the Financial Secretary agree that such a fund would be able to purchase works of art and land for the nation? Will he now reconsider this whole question, because of the severe loss to the nation that will otherwise occur?

Mr. Sheldon

It is a question not of the money being available but the use of the money. The hon. Member will find that some of his hon. Friends would agree with the way in which the Mentmore case was handled.

Mr. Bulmer

Is it not the case that our historic inheritance is second only to that of Italy and that inflation threatens it as never before? What work is being done in the Treasury to deal with the problems of maintaining our heritage until the end of the century? Will the Financial Secretary make its findings available to the House? Does he agree that the time has come for a Royal Commission to go into the whole matter?

Mr. Sheldon

The hon. Member talks about our artistic inheritance. I agree that it is a valuable part of that which we possess in this country. The hon. Member will be aware of the relief given under capital transfer tax and capital gains tax, and of the new clause that is being considered which gives relief to maintenance funds for historic houses. That will be widely welcomed.