HC Deb 18 June 1979 vol 968 cc903-4
27. Mr. Adley

asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will include preserved railway steam engines in working order on the list of industrial archaeological items not to be exported without a licence.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

Steam engines are already covered by the export control. An export licence is needed for any such item over 50 years old and worth £8,000 or more.

Mr. Adley

I thank my right hon. Friend for that not entirely satisfactory reply. Is he aware that many hundreds of thousands of people in this country have an active interest in railway preservation? Many of them were deeply offended when the Castle class engine, "Pendennis Castle", was exported to Australia. Therefore, will he see whether, in the light of the particular circumstances of preserved steam engines, the 50-year rule can be changed? Some of the engines which have been preserved may be less than 50 years old. My right hon. Friend would earn himself a great deal of gratitude from many thousands of railway enthusiasts if he were to look at this matter again.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I note the case which my hon. Friend advances. I was in no way responsible for the export of that engine. My hon. Friend is quite right to raise this matter, which concerns industrial archaeology. That is not often considered in the sphere of the arts. Important issues are raised here. I know that my hon. Friend is interested in the subject, and I wish him well with his forthcoming book.

Mr. Cryer

I declare an interest, as I hold five £10 shares in Keighley and Worth Valley Light Railway Ltd., which functions largely as a co-operative endeavour. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to give an assurance that he will exercise his supervision in this respect with great care. Items worth less than £8,000 are potential export items. They are part of our industrial heritage which is being increasingly recognised as important in its own right. They—and particularly preserved steam railway engines—are also increasingly important as a means of attracting tourists.

Mr. St. John-Stevas

I am aware of the importance of the matter raised by the hon. Gentleman. The limiting period has just been reduced from 100 years to 50 years. I shall certainly look at the question of the value of items and actual cases to see whether we need to make any adjustment.

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