HC Deb 24 February 1983 vol 37 cc1064-115

Order for Second Reading read.

4.2 pm

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Paul Channon)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill falls into two main parts, as the House will see. The first establishes boards of trustees for the Victoria and Albert and science museums, the armouries at the tower of London and the royal botanic gardens, Kew. It also empowers the Secretary of State to make changes in the funding and staffing arrangements of museums having links with the history and traditions of the armed forces. The second part of the Bill sets up a new commission to carry out certain functions in respect of ancient monuments and historic buildings in England. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment will be able to deal with any detailed points that hon. Members may care to raise on the second part of the Bill. I shall deal mainly with the first part of the Bill, which is my prime responsibility, and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will deal mainly with the second part.

The Victoria and Albert and science museums have, as we all know, a very long and distinguished history. They owe their origins to the deliberations of a Select Committee considering arts and manufactures in 1836 and, of course, to the effects of the great exhibition in 1851. The following year a department of practical art was created within the Board of Trade, and in the same year its museum of manufactures—later renamed the museum of ornamental arts—first opened in Marlborough house. The rapidly growing collections moved to the present south Kensington site in 1857. Although the early collections were predominantly related to the decorative arts, separate science collections developed from the outset, yet within the overall framework of what was then known as the south Kensington museum.

In 1899 Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone for a new building for the art collection, to be called the Victoria and Albert museum. When that building was completed, the art and science collections were physically and administratively separated and the science museum came into being as a completely separate institution. As the years went by, as the House will know, responsibility for the by then two museums eventually passed to the new Ministry of Education in 1944 and to the Department of Education and Science in 1964, where it is now borne by the Office of Arts and Libraries. Last year there were more than 2.5 million visitors to the Victoria and Albert museum and more than 4.5 million visitors to the science museum. The point is that, in contrast to other national institutions, such as the British musuem, they were part of a Government Department for purely historical reasons.

Nevertheless, over the years there has been a growing belief that there would be advantages in giving the Victoria and Albert and science museums greater independence from the Government and placing them on a similar footing to other national museums and galleries. This has been a continuous debate over many years, and the previous Government considered the issue carefully a few years ago. It was, in any case, a curious situation under which these two museums were part of a Government Department. It is very difficult to imagine a Department having the knowledge to control and run those two museums in detail. But technically they were part of the Department and were subject to the same rules as the rest of the Department.

Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge)

Is there not a similar anomaly with the four university museums? Although they are public museums, they are carried on the budget of the Department of Education and Science and the University Grants Committee. Is that not a suitable anomaly for correction now?

Mr. Channon

I understand my hon. Friend's point about the importance of the university museums. They have never been part of the Department of Education and Science. Government finance to the universities is channelled through the University Grants Committee, and I understand that it is a well-established principle that the UGC does not earmark money for particular purposes when it comes to university financing. The arrangement seems appropriate, in order to allow the universities the proper freedom to determine their internal priorities. However, that is not primarily one of my responsibilities and that important point should be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. I am sure that he will consider it most carefully. It is not relevant to the limited number of museums included in the Bill.

In future, policy for the Victoria and Albert, and science musuems can be laid down by the trustees. The situation will be much more rational. They will have greater freedom to plan and manage the resources at their disposal and to develop their own curatorial and other policies appropriate to such major specialist institutions. That was discussed recently and extensively in the Rayner scrutiny report last year, although, of course, it is not the first time the matter has been raised. When the Government had considered the Rayner recommendations, they took the view that the most appropriate form of independence in this instance was the trustee board model, which is a system that has worked well in the other national museums and galleries, and it seemed sensible to follow that course.

Granting independent status will be in line with the Government's general policy of keeping at arm's length from its arts bodies—as successive Governments have done—as they do with the Arts Council and other national institutions, such as the British film institute. It will also have other benefits. Until now the two museums have necessarily—under Governments of all political persuasions—had to abide by the rules for the management of Government Departments. That presented considerable difficulties for them, since the normal staffing considerations applying in Departments are difficult to apply in such a specialised context. By relieving them of some of those constraints the Government hope that the new boards will be able to develop longer-term staffing policies more in keeping with the needs of the institutions.

Of course, independent status will not give carte blanche to manage resources wastefully. Nor will it allow unlimited staffing. The institutions will have to conform broadly to Civil Service terms and conditions of employment and satisfy the Department that their posts are correctly graded and that staffing and other resources are being used efficiently. That is exactly the same arrangement as applies to the existing trustee museums. Therefore, the Bill is emphatically not a licence to do as the boards please. The museums will have their own Votes. However, in future the new trustees—not the Department—will account to Parliament for them. The boards will be obliged to publish periodic reports of their activities, which will be laid before Parliament, and will thus be fully accountable for their actions and expenditure.

There are, perhaps, two aspects with which I should deal, since they have been raised outside the House at least. The first is admission charges and the second is the position of the staff in the two museums. On the first point, I should like to make it clear again today—as I have done time and again—that the Government do not intend to impose charges for general admission to the main collections of the museums. That is a matter for the trustees' discretion, as it is in all the national museums and galleries. Nor do we propose to change the well-established practice of charging for entry to some special exhibitions and some outstations. I do not want to prejudge any proposals which the future trustees might put forward as part of their policy for good management of the museums. However, as drafted, the Bill confers the power of discretion in exactly the same way as in the other national trustee museums and galleries.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)

My right hon. Friend is raising a matter of prime importance. Does he not recognise that there has been a dramatic change in the attitude of the public towards paying for entry into museums? Indeed, the English tourist board carried out a survey in which more than 75 per cent. of those who were questioned said they thought it would be right so to do. Would it not be right for trustees, first, to have the power to make the charges; and, secondly—this is of the greatest importance—to keep the money and the profit derivable from those entry charges, which they could then use for the dramatic improvement of layout and, if I may put if generally, for publicity, so that many more people would attend better laid out museums and with the advantage that the museums would have more money to spend on their gradual and steady process of improvement?

Mr. Channon

As my hon. and learned Friend will know, the museums can already charge for special exhibitions and for some outstations. The museums receive the money back through a complicated system of revotes, which I have explained to the House on a number of occasions. The power already exists for the national museums and galleries to charge for general admissions. The Bill has no effect on that. The power exisits, but, of course, any sensible body of trustees who wished to charge for general admission would clearly wish to consult the Government before such a major change took place. I have the feeling that such a proposal would arouse certain feelings in the House and would not be wholly non-controversial. I wish to make it clear again, as I said last year, that the Government have no intention to impel the trustees so to do. The Bill is neutral on the point. It merely puts these museums on the same footing as other museums.

Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)

In view of what the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) said, will the Minister confirm that the Government are not implying or endeavouring to convey to trustees that they should adopt a different attitude to the introduction of charges from that of the past? I take it that the Minister can assure us on that matter.

Mr. Channon

I thought that I had already said that. If I have not, I shall say it again. The Government have no intention of imposing on trustees any new duty of that nature. I hope that I have disposed of that point. There is nothing in the Bill that should arouse any fears of that nature.

On the second point, which is of equal importance, I think the whole House will join me in paying a warm tribute not only to the present directors and staff but to those who have served throughout the history of these great museums, without whose service over many years they would not have attained their present international standing. I should like to tell the House the steps that the Government are taking to safeguard the position of the staff. I hope that this will set at rest any fears that may still persist in any quarter.

First, the Bill places the new boards under a duty to offer employment to all civil servants in the institutions at the time of the transfer, on terms not less favourable than those already enjoyed. Secondly, pay and other terms and conditions of service, although matters for the new trustees, will continue to be subject to Government approval under the Bill, for both present and future staff. Thirdly, the staff will continue to be members of the principal Civil Service pension scheme. Among other things, this means, therefore, that their terms and conditions of employment must be broadly comparable to those in the Civil Service, since this is a general requirement of participation in the scheme.

Fourthly, there is a long-standing agreement between the Government, the existing national trustee museums and galleries, and the Council of Civil Service Unions. This agreement provides, for example, that, in matters of pay, terms and conditions of service, the staff of the trustee institutions shall be treated for practical purposes as if they were civil servants. This agreement will be extended to the Victoria and Albert and science museums upon the change in status. Finally, the unions representing the staff at present are part of the Council of Civil Service Unions, and this channel offers them access to the national negotiating machinery for pay and other matters. These various steps should ensure that the staff will not suffer adversely as a result of the change to trustee status.

Until now the two museums have also been served by advisory councils, which will be superseded when the trustee boards are established. I am very happy to express the Government's gratitude to the council members for all that they have done to help with the development of the museums.

There are still a number of matters outstanding after the Rayner scrutiny of the V and A and science museums. On some of these matters I hope to make an announcement shortly, but most of the matters will be left to the discretion of the new trustees. On a few of them I shall wish to consult the trustees, and in some cases the trustees of other national museums, before reaching a Government view.

The trustees' general powers should be adequate to deal with any recommendations that might appropriately be referred to the boards for consideration and action. Only one or two points call for specific provision in the Bill—the main one being the establishment of boards of trustees. Other issues to be considered do not need specific provision in the Bill. For example, I announced last August that the Government propose to proceed with the theatre museum, and I hope work will begin this spring. I also announced last August that we hope that the museum of childhood at Bethnal Green will remain in being. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to have the general support of the House for that. But neither of these two issues is affected by the Bill. Nor is legislation required.

Mr. Philip Whitehead (Derby, North)

I accept that the Second Reading of the Bill is not the appropriate time to make a statement about the remaining Rayner proposals and the Government's attitude to them, but will the Minister accept that it would be inappropriate if the Bill were to go through Committee and pass into law without such a statement being made, as that might materially influence the nature of the amendments that we may wish to move in Committee?

Mr. Channon

I take note of what the hon. Gentleman says and will consider it. I very much hope that what he suggests will prove to be possible.

To save the time of the House, I shall move faster on some of the other points covered by the Bill. There are two other smaller, but equally important, national institutions, the armouries at the tower of London, currently the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, and the Royal botanic gardens, Kew, currently the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minster of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The prime quality of the collections held by the armouries suggested a status comparable to that of other national collections and a management structure that was similar. The Government propose that it should be accorded trustee status as well.

With regard to the Royal botanic gardens, Kew, which many hon. Members will feel has an equally distinguished history, my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food consulted the interests concerned last year on the proposal to place the gardens under trustees. The consultations have revealed a broad and substantial measure of support for this idea. The idea, in fact, is not new. As early as 1838 there was a suggestion that the gardens should be put under trustees, and from time to time the idea has been revived.

The merits of the matter are clear. Independent trustees are best placed to run an institution of this type and to give the support to the director which he requires in carrying out diverse and important activities in a specialised sector. I hope that as a result of this change the scientific and other staff at Kew and at Wakehurst place will find this beneficial.

The position with regard to the part of the Bill dealing with armed forces museums is somewhat different. The principal armed forces museums are already constituted as trustee or similar bodies and have the legal capacity to control resources and employ staff. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence wishes to change the basis on which these museums are funded. This will give the larger establishments the chance to manage their own resources. After the Bill becomes law—if the House agrees to it—this will be achieved by means of a grant-in-aid to cover those staff and running costs which at present are provided out of the general defence budget in one way or another.

I come now to the other main proposal in the Bill—the setting up of a new Commission for Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings for England. It has been agreed in another place that its title should be changed to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England. It will take over work presently carried out by the Department of the Environment, the Ancient Monuments Board for England and the Historic Buildings Council for England. This proposal was put forward by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence when he was at the Department of the Environment, and has received very full discussion, first, through a consultative document, which aroused a vigorous and constructive debate, and, subsequently, through a major document "The Way Forward", which set out the decision to proceed with the proposal.

It is proposed to establish in England a commission with responsibility for the management and maintenance of monuments in the care of the Secretary of State; to provide a lively and imaginative presentation of those monuments; to make grants to local authorities, private owners and ecclesiastical authorities for the preservation of historic buildings, ancient monuments and ecclesiastical buildings in use; to co-ordinate rescue archaeological work; and, finally, to advise the Secretary of State on listing, scheduling and taking monuments into care.

Under the proposals my right hon. Friend would retain responsibility and be answerable to Parliament for the broad aspect of policy, confirmation of decisions on listing, scheduling and taking monuments into care, and for the exercise of all planning functions under the Town and Country Planning Acts.

There are a number of advantages in setting up the new commission, but I need not weary the House by dealing with them in detail. Debates in another place and elsewhere have shown a wide measure of agreement for the view that the new body should produce a more positive and creative approach arising from the fusion of existing arrangements. I hope that it will exert a powerful influence for conservation in its widest sense. Both sides of the House hope that there will be an imaginative approach to the presentation of our national heritage and the development of commercial and tourist opportunities that they present, and a new approach to the educational use of the heritage.

When it sees what imagination can be used in museums, historic buildings and ancient monuments, the House must surely agree that there is plenty of scope for imaginative thought that will be to the benefit of the heritage as well as providing an incentive to tourism.

My right hon. Friend has asked me to stress that the Government's priority remains the preservation of the heritage. If hon. Members are fair, which I am sure they are, they will recognise that the Government, throughout their lifetime, have done their best to achieve that. There is great opportunity to educate and inform through good interpretation of historic sites, and a new commission is an appropriate way of achieving that aim. The commission's great asset will be the immense good will towards the heritage. There will be plenty of scope for private donations, sponsorship, voluntary assistance and so on.

Management of the royal parks and palaces will not be transferred to the new commission, although it will have an advisory role at those sensitive sites. The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments for England will remain as a separate body, carrying out its important work of recording our national sites. But there will be urgent discussions between the new commission and the RCHM about the relationship between those two bodies.

As the House will have expected, after being introduced in another place there was a lively and detailed discussion on a variety of points in both parts of the Bill. The Government have carefully considered all the points raised, just as they will consider the points raised in discussions in this House. I doubt that I need to discuss every clause in detail. I shall run through the clauses briefly, almost in shorthand, which I hope will assist hon. Members.

Clauses 1 to 7 and part I of schedule 1 deal with the Victoria and Albert museum. Clause 1 establishes a board of trustees, which will be appointed by the Prime Minister. Part I of schedule 1 deals with the details of status, organisation and procedure of the board and for the employment of staff. Clause 2 sets out the board's general functions. Clause 3 transfers to the board the objects in the collections and the general equipment for the maintenance and running of the museum.

Clause 4 provides that the original intentions of donors or testators may still be fulfilled, even though the deeds of gifts and bequests were drawn up before the establishment of the board. Clause 5 deals with the acquisition and disposal of objects by the board. Those important provisions are broadly similar to those that Parliament adopted for the British museum, which are generally thought to have been appropriate during the past 20 years. Clause 6 gives power to lend or borrow objects. Clause 7 makes provision for the board to be financed by money voted by Parliament.

Clauses 8 to 14, in almost exactly the same words as clauses 1 to 7, relate to the science museum. Therefore, I need not detain the House by discussing them.

Clauses 15 to 20 and part III of schedule 1 deal with the armouries at the Tower of London, the appointment of trustees and the financing of the armouries.

Clauses 21 to 26 and part IV of schedule 1, in the same way as the previous clauses, cover the royal botanic gardens, Kew. They lay down the functions of the board that will enable it to take over the activities of the gardens on research in botany, education, care of plants and other objects and admission to the gardens.

Clauses 27 and 28 and schedule 2 relate to the armed forces museums. Clause 27 gives power for the armed forces museums to receive grant-in-aid support. Clause 28 allows the Secretary of State to designate certain museums by statutory instrument. The museums so designated will be funded solely through grant-in-aid, and the effect of designation is to apply the provisions of the schedule. The staff employed at those museums as civil servants will not be adversely affected by the change in funding arrangements.

Currently, my right hon. Friend intends to designate the RAF museum at Hendon and the national Army museum in Chelsea. Others may be designated in due course. The majority of service museums, of which there are a large number, are relatively small unit collections, which will not be disturbed.

Clauses 29 to 32 and schedules 3 and 4 deal with the commission. They allow it to appoint advisory committees and to make offers of employment to civil servants—the terms of which must be no worse at the time of transfer. The commission can make its own pension arrangements, and the Government have already announced that they will recommend the adoption of pension arrangements by analogy with the principal Civil Service pension scheme.

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

On Third Reading in another place it was suggested that the commission's title should be changed to a somewhat abbreviated version of its rather long title. What is the Minister's thinking on that?

Mr. Channon

I said that the title was to be changed. I think that that is the hon. Gentleman's query, but if not perhaps we can pursue it in Committee. I know that there was a debate on the title of the commission and it is to be changed at a later date.

Mr. Faulds

I know that the Minister said earlier that it would be changed, but it appears strange that it still suffers the old title in the Bill. It is odd that it has not been altered yet.

Mr. Channon

It has not been changed yet, but it is to be changed.

Mr. Faulds

Changed to what?

Mr. Channon

Perhaps my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary can deal with that when he replies to the debate. I think that it will be a small change. Names cause most of the fuss in Bills of this nature.

Clause 30 sets out the purposes and functions of the commission. I need not mention them in detail. Schedule 4 deals with the detailed provisions on functions. It occasioned a great deal of discussion in another place because it is a long, complicated schedule which operates by reference to a number of existing enactments.

The Government fully understand the problems of studying the Bill because of that approach and will, therefore, provide for the help of hon. Members not only the usual notes on clauses, but a detailed guide to schedule 4, setting out its provisions alongside the existing statutes to which they refer. Copies of the document will be placed in the Vote Office. I hope that that will be of assistance to hon. Members. I know that it was much appreciated in another place. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State proposes to make the guide available as a departmental publication when the Bill becomes law.

Clauses 31 to 33 deal with certain management functions of the Secretary of State for the Environment at ancient monuments or historic buildings in England other than royal palaces. There are a few other minor clauses and schedules, with which I do not need to detain the House today. They are largely self-explanatory, and if hon. Members wish to raise points on them they can be considered in detail at a later stage.

The Bill is designed primarily to offer devolved status to some of our great national collections. It offers a wider framework for co-ordinating approaches to the preservation, conservation and presentation of our ancient monuments, historic buildings and archaeological heritage. From comments outside the House that I have seen, I believe that the Government's desire to provide for the future in this way is widely shared.

This year will be an exciting period for both the Victoria and Albert and science museums, which particularly concern me. Apart from the fundamental changes in their structure which we are debating today, next month will see the opening of the Henry Cole building at the Victoria and Albert museum and in the summer we shall see the opening of a major new extension of the science museum, devoted to photography, at Bradford. These are two great new developments, building on the existing achievements of these museums. They reflect the highest credit on the directors and staff of both museums. Both museums potentially have an extremely exciting future.

In my own field in regard to the Victoria and Albert and science museums, and in the wider field dealt with later in the Bill, I hope that the House will feel that the Government are putting the heritage, historic buildings, these two museums, the defence museums, the armouries and all matters covered in the Bill on a sound footing for the future. I hope the House will decide to give the Bill a Second Reading.

4.31 pm
Dr. David Clark (South Shields)

We do not wholly oppose the Bill. We think that it has considerable potential. It has many shortcomings. What we can all agree upon is that it is a much better Bill than when it was introduced in another place. Their Lordships made major improvements and knocked an ill-drafted and ill-thought-out Bill into something meaningful that we can use as a stepping stone towards an even better Bill, assuming that the House gives the Bill a Second Reading and there is a full discussion at Committee stage.

It is important to have a free and frank discussion at this stage. I hope that the Government will show the flexibility that they showed in another place. Although hon. Members on this side of the House may not have the expertise involved in owning and running large houses, many of us know something about our heritage and cultural background and we feel that we can make a meaningful contribution to the debate. It is important to get the Bill right because a great deal is at stake. We are talking about our heritage, something that we must preserve and conserve by definition for the future. Unless we get it right, priceless information, artefacts and so on will be lost. I hope that the Government will take a positive and flexible approach to suggestions and ideas from this side of the House.

It would not be appropriate for me to deal with the technicalities of the Bill. In parts it is highly technical and complex. There are major issues that it is right and proper to discuss in the House today. I regret that some of the more thrusting ideas and the more grandiose plans which were originally mooted have been tapered down. Although the Bill was tidied up in another place, there was a gradual erosion of some of its more dynamic aspects. Perhaps at the Committee stage we shall consider and reinstate some of the original proposals.

As the Minister said, the Bill is basically two measures: one deals with museums and the other with monuments, houses, buildings and such matters. I do not quibble at that. To me heritage is not divisible and it is well that we discuss the Bill in its wide sense because it brings home to us the overriding and overall nature of our heritage.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) will outline in detail our viewpoint on the museums side. We have reservations on public access; no doubt we will keep coming back to this. We also have certain reservations about staffing. We hope that those can be put right later to everyone's satisfaction.

The second part of the Bill, which covers our physical or extant heritage, has three aspects. They are, first, preservation and conservation; secondly, interpretive; and, thirdly, educational. I list them in no particular order. In the past we have rightly taken pride in our expertise in preservation and conservation. But we have been sadly lagging behind some of our continental neighbours when it comes to the interpretive and educational side of our cultural heritage. We must change that. We see the Bill as a vehicle to bring about change.

In an age of increasing leisure with we hope a more educated and discerning population, an increasing number of people will be interested in our culture, heritage and general historical background. That is to be not only welcomed but positively encouraged. That again we see as one of the main purposes of the Bill. In the past we have not got the right balance between education and continuing education. Many more exciting facilities should be provided to increase people's awareness of the richness of their cultural traditions.

The first important consideration is the title of the proposed new body, to which reference has already been made. The proposed title is the Commission for Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings for England. That is useless. It was suggested in another place that the title should be changed to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England. That is still too cumbersome to do the job that is required. If the new agency is to be successful it must capture the imagination of the general public and the media. It will not do so with such a long, cumbersome title.

In another place, after much consideration, the title of national heritage commission was rejected, mainly on two grounds. The first was that it was too wide, and the second that it would be confused with the national heritage memorial fund. I am not persuaded by either of those arguments. No one quibbles about the title of the Countryside Commission although it does not encompass everything in the countryside. We have Nature Conservancy, the Forestry Commission and the Department of Agriculture. There is nothing necessarily wrong in having a wide title.

Nor do I accept that there will be concern if people confuse the title with the national heritage memorial fund. In informed circles it will not matter, and I do not think it will be generally noticed. For many years there has been a Royal Commission on Historical Monuments for England at the same time as an Ancient Monuments Board. If there were to be confusion, it might be caused by those two titles.

I have tried to find another title. It is incredibly difficult if it cannot be called the national heritage commission. This is the National Heritage Bill so it is amazing that the new body cannot be called the national heritage commission. I have scanned the continental legislation. In Norway the relevant body is called the Cultural Heritage Council. We might consider that title because it would be much better than the title suggested by the Government.

What is wrong with the simple title "heritage commission"? That is the most suitable suggestion I have heard. It is all-embracing but there is merit in that. We need a pithy, short title, which will be taken up easily in the media and will be easily recognisable by the general public. I stress that if this quango or agency is to be successful it must be seen as a thrusting body. The title suggested by the Government, and even that emanating from the House of Lords is certainly far too long.

Another aspect that I have not heard discussed elsewhere but which it is right and proper to raise today is the siting of the offices. One reason why we see merit in the new agency is that it will be a public body, independent of any Government Department, and we hope that it will bring a new and dynamic approach to heritage conservation. For that to be achieved, we feel strongly that the headquarters should be located outside London. The new agency is an ideal body for dispersion to one of the regional centres. It would certainly be Labour party policy to consider the new commission as a most suitable candidate for location outside the metropolis, just as the Countryside Commission is in Cheltenham and the Forestry Commission is in Edinburgh. Both of those examples show that location outside London in no way makes such bodies less effective.

As I live in and represent an area in the northern region, it would not be appropriate for me to suggest a location there, as I might be thought to be pursuing a vested interest. I shall therefore desist from any such suggestion. I propose in all seriousness that the commission should be located in York. That city is well known and much visited, and the National Railway Museum there has been a huge success. The city is rich in archaeological remains and is well versed in these matters. Only last week there was the exciting announcement of the Jorvik Viking centre. We should encourage such developments and I ask the House to take my suggestion seriously.

Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

Why does the hon. Gentleman wish the new body to be dynamic when it is involved in preservation?

Dr. Clark

As I have tried to explain, there are various aspects of cultural heritage. Preservation is just one. The new agency must realise that we need to apply all the modern technological and scientific techniques to preservation and conservation. In addition, we need to be dynamic because in the past we have not shared our culture and heritage as we should. As a result, we have not served the nation or the disciplines of heritage, culture and history as well as we might.

York is ideal as it is easily accessible from Liverpool, Manchester and so on, and it is only two hours by train from London with trains virtually every half hour. The suggestion should therefore be seriously considered.

We very much regret the Government's announcement that the Royal Commission on historical monuments should be without the new commission. It is inconceivable that the new agency could function effectively, as the Minister and I wish, if the Royal Commission is not an integral part of it. I appreciate that the staff are justifiably concerned, but I believe that the body responsible for the paper inventory of our historic monuments and buildings must be part of the new agency. I should say in passing, in somewhat muted tones, that some people feel that the Royal Commission has kept too low a profile in the past. Perhaps it needs more resources, but it is taking far too long to complete the inventory. I certainly believe that it would be helpful to the Royal Commission and vital to the new agency for the Royal Commission to be part of the new body. The records that it keeps are essential to the work of the agency. If the two bodies are not in the same building expensive technological systems and computer terminals will be required, the new agency will be greatly inhibited, and many of the ambitions that the Minister and I share will be dissipated.

The hon. Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) queried my reference to dynamism, but I believe that dynamism is vital. So is funding. May we have a statement about the Government's attitude to the initial funding? If the agency is to get off on the right foot it must have sufficient capital not only to install proper management and financial controls and the organisation essential to its well-being, but to undertake some perhaps rather grandiose schemes to capture the imagination of the general public, just as the national heritage memorial fund did when it was first established. Indeed, that was one of the reasons for the fund's success. I see the Secretary of State nod, so I hope that there will be a statement on that. One thinks immediately of Stonehenge. There is also Bolsover castle. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) seems to have disappeared. If a little money were spent on them, such monuments could be very exciting. I hope that we shall have an assurance from the Government today that there will be fairly substantial initial capital funding to get the commission off to a good start.

I should not conclude without mentioning staff conditions and pensions, although I shall not go into detail. There is still great concern about this. I hope that we can give the staff the assurances that they seek. The Minister referred to staff in the trustee museums. As I understand it, they are on Civil Service pensions, but those pensions and conditions will not apply to staff of the new commission. I ask the Government to reconsider that as staff are very anxious about it. I see no insuperable reason why they should not continue to be covered by Civil Service conditions and pension arrangements. I hope that the Minister will deal with that.

One of the main reasons why the Opposition are inclined to support the new agency is that we believe that the time has come for the whole subject of heritage to be put on a different plane. The time has come to be far more adventurous. I hope that I have made that clear, if nothing else. My experience in the past few years has convinced me that that is possible and that there is no insuperable conflict between the preservation, interpretation and education aspects.

Hadrian's wall is a good example. It must be one of the foremost, if not the foremost, historic monument north of the Alps, stretching from Wallsend in the east to Silloth in Cumbria. The best preserved stretch is probably that between Housesteads and Steel Rigg. There the wall is 6ft or 7ft high and people can walk along the top. Every time I go there I see the same phenomenon. I see people realising, perhaps for the first time, the traditions and the culture of those days. There is a wondrous sense of timelessness, even for young people. One thinks of Houseman's Shropshire Lad when he talks about Wenlock Edge and mighty Uricon and says: Then 'twas the Roman; now 'tis I. That well describes the expression on the faces of youngsters and grown-ups as they walk along the wall 6ft above ground, looking out over the almost devastated wastes of Northumbria and suddenly realising that that was where the Romans believed that civilisation stopped. I must not be too provocative, but out there is Scotland. I shall say no more.

We have not really capitalised sufficiently on such marvellous monuments as Hadrian's wall. To support my contention I draw the House's attention to the exciting development at Vindolanda which is run by a charitable trust that has been built up by Professor Birley, his son Robin and Robin's wife, Pat. They have done a tremendous job there. One can see youngsters, especially from Tyneside schools, who go there year after year to capture the spirit of the Roman period. That is far better project than the National Trust or, indeed, the Department has ever run.

I declare an interest in that body—not a financial one—as I am a trustee of it. We can be proud of it. It is not simply an excavation. Youngsters can look and be enthralled by the meaningful interpretive centre. The feature that has come across to me most forcefully is the rebuilt sections of stone wall and wooden wall. They have also built a stone turret and a wooden turret. They are not on the site of the wall, but youngsters scramble up it and one can see that they are reliving that period. They are the Romans of today. Vindolanda has done more to get the value of heritage across to youngsters, especially those in the northern region, than any other institution.

We must be much more imaginative and even think about reconstruction on site. That is not new. There is the Zanten project in the Rhineland. The Germans are moving a motorway and a railway line to build an archaeological park. We should think about that. There is also the Carcassonne which is a wonderful medieval walled French city that was rebuilt about 100 years ago. We should be doing that here. When anyone goes to China, they always go to the great wall. It has been rebuilt. It is not the original great wall. In my constituency, there is the Roman fort of Arbeia which is probably the best preserved urban site in England. It is a fort that guards the entrance of the Tyne and the east end of Hadrian's wall.

Mr. Reg Prentice (Daventry)

I have been listening with great interest to the hon. Gentleman. I strongly agree with what he said about Hadrian's wall and the marvellous work being done on the site that he described. Nevertheless, tribute should be paid on the same scale to staff of the National Trust and the Department of the Environment on their many sites in Britain. I am thinking of those staff who look after such sites as Fountains abbey or the stone circle at Avebury. There are many other examples. Perhaps a point of difference is emerging. The hon. Gentleman refers to rebuilding castles, abbeys and other monuments. As he knows, it has been official policy for many years not to do that. I should think that official policy is right and that it would be a great mistake, for example, to build an extension on to Fountain abbey to produce an imitation of what it once was. That would never be valid. Surely it is better to preserve partial remains and look after them with great care than to go in for rebuilding what has disappeared.

Dr. Clark

Yes. I am willing and eager to pay tribute to the staff of the National Trust. I happen to be a member of the executive committee of the National Trust and I warmly applaud its work. I am also conscious of the admirable work that is carried out by the Department of the Environment. I mentioned the Roman wall from Houseteads to Steel Rigg. That is maintained by the Department which does a first-rate job. I am in no way trying to denigrate the National Trust or the Department of the Environment. I do not for a moment suggest rebuilding Fountains Abbey. I am merely suggesting that, in certain areas, little of most Roman forts remain above ground level, because of their age, even when they have been excavated.

It is an interesting fact that, once the site has been properly and fully excavated, nothing of historic worth is left. No doubt I shall be pilloried for saying so, but an archaeologist once told me, "I am a vandal. I go in, I examine the earth, I take it away and throw it back." Arbeia, for example, is almost levelled to the ground although it is one of the most perfectly preserved forts in England. The granary at that site is a distinctive feature. It was the centre where grain came in from the Tyne. It would cost £250,000 to rebuild that granary and the walls. That sounds terrible but, as we are dealing with a fort that is in a town where one man in three is out of work, some savings in terms of the unemployment rate could be made immediately. I am not quibbling, but one might also set that £250,000 against the price that one might pay for a beautiful picture.

If the right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) is worried about building on-site, perhaps he will be reassured if I tell him about another project along Hadrian's wall. It is called the Walltown quarry site. About 100 years ago, before we got round to scheduling, permission was given to quarry 40 acres of land on the site of the Roman wall. When we got round to scheduling, there was nothing there so the site was not scheduled. Northumberland county council has bought that 40-acre site which now forms part of the national park. The sight is obscene. There are derelict buildings and huge craters which are gradually being filled in. It hopes to be able to form a major archaeological park on that site, 400 yards of the wall being rebuilt on the site of the wall with mile towers, although there is no wall left because it was removed by the quarrying. I believe that such a project would take off. The county council calculates that the site would attract 400,000 visitors a year. That is quite likely as Walltown quarry is within one hour's travel of Newcastle and Keswick in the Lake District. One can see the potential of such a development. I hope that that is the type of project that the new commission will try to encourage.

I have discussed that point for longer than I had intended, but it was important to explain how the Opposition believe that the new agency could work. I hope that the House recognises that the Opposition wish the Bill well. We see major shortcomings in it, but we hope that they can be overcome. I hope that the Minister will be accommodating in this regard. We contend that heritage can be adequately preserved by the new body while other, much more imaginative approaches can be made. The two are not mutually exclusive; other countries have shown that.

We approach the Bill positively and constructively. We may not have the expertise of the grand house that emanated from the other place—we may offer more of the cottage, the stable or the servants' quarters—but we still have a contribution to make. We want to make it because we dearly want our heritage to be shared much more widely.

4.58 pm
Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)

My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts is to be congratulated as the Bill undoubtedly sets the framework for the future. I shall confine my speech to funding.

Yesterday, I chaired a meeting of several of my colleagues in the Conservative party and Michael Montague and his team at the English tourist board to consider what should be done for tourism. Almost immediately, they mentioned development of museums and historic homes. Everyone at that meeting—all the officers of the tourism committee and two others, and peers such as Lord Lloyd and Lord Montagu of Beaulieu—said that it was essential that museums should now make a reasonable charge for admission. I believe that all those museums that do not charge at present should have certain exemptions for old age pensioners and, most importantly, for students carrying their student cards. No one is suggesting that they should pay. It was also suggested that there could be a free day at the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert and the science museum if the trustees felt that to be right. The trustees of those museums have that power at present.

It was our unanimous view—we are in touch with all aspects of tourism in this country—that people's attitudes towards charging have substantially changed. Michael Montague told me that they had carried out a detailed survey of the public on this issue and to their surprise found that 75 per cent. of the public were in favour of paying for entry into museums. I am equally convinced of that, and one thing that I can say without fear of contradiction is that it is the virtually unanimous view of all foreigners who visit this country that they anticipate having to pay. They do not understand having to pay at the tower of London, beautiful Leeds castle or motor museums, all of which they regard as museums, but not at the museums we have talked about. There are many small museums which rightly charge for entry. All our historic homes and nearly all the National Trust homes which have been referred to make a proper charge. One pays more getting to and from the Victoria and Albert museum and the science museum than the charge which would be made for entry. A charge of a mere £1 would be reasonable for adults and half price, possibly, for children.

I believe that we need museums to achieve the best. We have the best body of curators anywhere in the world. They understand, promote and restore brilliantly all the works of art that they can. The British museum and a great many others can never show everything they have. I believe that the curators are virtually above criticism in their presentation of particular shows. We had the Tutankhamun exhibition and the Blake exhibition, which is remarkably successful. Those shows make a charge. In almost every case such shows are promoted brilliantly and the layout is almost first class.

Those of us who have been to museums in America to discover their promotional expertise, the layout of the museums and the way in which they sell themselves to the public in order to obtain large sums of money for the museums' benefit, recognise that we are weak in that direction. The Victoria and Albert, the science musuem, the national history museum, the British museum and many others have a great deal to learn about promoting themselves. We want to see them doing that and improving certain features—for example, their lighting, which often leaves a great deal to be desired.

Our museums sell perhaps one tenth of the publications sold by museums in America and France. There is a vast increase in the amount of money to be made on the educational side—books and postcards. The museums have not been able to do such things because they have not had the money. The curators and staff have had enough to do. They need the money to do these things and I appeal for support direct to the trustees of each of these museums throughout the country.

5.3 pm

Mr. Neville Sandelson (Hayes and Harlington)

I shall be brief, because many points have already been made and I do not wish to be unduly repetitive. I congratulate the Minister on bringing this beneficial measure before the House, but, first and foremost, I pay tribute to those in the House of Lords who made unique contributions to the debates and to the noble peers in Committee who dissected clauses and schedules of bewildering confusion and succeeded finally in producing some clarity. The Bill will almost certainly require further amendment before it becomes fully comprehensible. However, the noble peers performed their role in a way which should command respect in all parts of the Chamber.

Mr. Faulds

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I notice that the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) is leaving. Would it be possible to detain hon. Members who have just made speeches for a little longer than appears likely? There might be some comments that one or two of us would wish to make on the arguments.

Mr. Rees-Davies

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I appreciate the point, which is a perfectly proper observation. I told my right hon. Friend the Minister and the Chair that, unfortunately, I have an urgent constituency engagement at seven o'clock.

Mr. Faulds

That is fortunate for him.

Mr. Rees-Davies

I should have liked to hear the debate. I believe that it is of great importance and it is of interest to me. I apologise to the House.

Mr. Newens

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Might it be helpful if hon. Members who want to leave gave way so that possibly controversial points of view could be expressed?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)

The three hon. Members have made their points.

Mr. Sandelson

I take no exception or offence to the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) seeking to leave the Chamber. I disagree strongly with the views he expressed on admission charges. I shall probably refer to them later, but if I do not I am sure that others will.

Our society has political vandals who would seek to demolish that other House of our Parliament, itself a vital part of our national heritage, rather than repair, reform and maintain it. I know that hon. Members will allow me to conclude this brief insertion in my remarks by saying that such a course would be supremely philistine when one considers the unique and sensitive knowledge possessed by many in that other place on matters such as those contained in the Bill which, for many of us here, tend to be complex and rather remote.

We are dealing with a measure which commands support from all parts of the House, and I know that we shall consider it in that spirit, desiring only to improve the Bill in Committee. I join others in welcoming the proposed trusteeships which follow the lines of the so-called Rayner scrutiny last year. At the same time, I congratulate the Minister on so firmly rejecting the other suggestions contained in the report to which he referred, such as the levying of an entrance fee to the Bethnal green museum and the cancelling of the Covent garden theatre museum project. Those recommendations over-emphasise financial considerations to the exclusion of social need and functions. We welcome the Minister's assurance about them.

I wish to see the implementation of the Drew report that dealt with regional museums, albeit with some minor modifications. We would benefit greatly from a unified regional system based on area councils.

The proposed commission will face a formidable task. Many listed buildings are falling into dilapidation, often because they can no longer be used for their original purpose and must be converted to other uses. Many important monuments are magnets for tourists, but at Stonehenge the facilities can only be described—I hope not exaggeratedly—as squalid and inadequate. We must overcome the appearance of seedy neglect in our historic monuments. Dover castle, which was mentioned earlier, would attract many more visitors if it had up-to-date facilities. The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) referred to Bolsover castle as an example of buildings that have been left empty for a long time. The Minister will be aware that that castle is being repaired but that the work is far from completion.

An especially intractable problem is how to retain intact in the face of increasing costs and declining revenue country houses that contain unique collections. Owners are often compelled to sell their art treasures either piecemeal or completely. More help must be given in the form of conservation arrangements and further tax measures to secure the future of historic collections and outstanding country houses and parkland. British architecture is not only a priceless heritage and aesthetic achievement but an irreplaceable economic asset that must not be dissipated or dispersed. The commission will need a strong and efficient financial structure and strong funding in its initial stages. That would inspire great confidence in many people.

Lord Avon gave some assurances about the way in which the commission would be permitted to dispose of grants in aid, profits and bonuses, but should not such vital matters be written into the Bill? I hope that we can discuss financial control in Committee. Unless the commission is launched on a sound financial basis with clearly defined powers and duties, there is little point in making such structural changes.

We need further clarification of the commission's tax status. If, as was suggested at one stage in another place, the commission were to have all the status advantages of a top-class charity, liable only to VAT, that should also be included in the Bill so that we know where we stand.

We must find a way to enable the commission to give conservation and town scheme grants, although local authorities may refuse to designate a building or area. In many cases local authorities refuse, for a variety of reasons that are often understandable, to designate an area. Sometimes only few local residents are worried about the area, but grants may still be entirely justified and in the public interest. In such cases, the commission should be empowered to make direct grants, subject only to confirmation by the Secretary of State that the area is suitable for designation.

Although I look forward, with other hon. Members, to making further points in Committee, the commission's accountability to the outside world must be considered. There is always a danger that esoteric groups of academics and experts will become impervious to outside opinion. There is no reason why that should happen in this case, but we have hardly left the starting block. No one wishes to see a commission that is intolerant of lesser mortals and that believes that its values and judgment are beyond serious challenge. The commission will be endowed with wide-ranging discretion in the exercise of its powers, and it can make and implement decisions without parliamentary scrutiny or other checks. By the time that Parliament checks, the damage may have been done. We need the best obtainable expertise on the commission, as well as efficient managerial skills, but we do not wish to create a body that believes at any stage that it is a law unto itself.

5.17 pm
Mr. Christopher Murphy (Welwyn and Hatfield)

To consider this Bill one must adopt the position of the god Janus—one must look backwards to the past and forward to the future. We are endeavouring to conserve much of the past for the benefit of those who are still to come.

To consider a key principle of this measure is to recognise in part the need to provide several of our most respected institutions with a more realistic approach to their position. Many hon. Members must believe that the bringing of their organisational structure into line with that already well tried and tested is long overdue.

Discussion of such matters immediately raises the question of museum charges. It is right that a shaft of light, albeit somewhat dim, should shine again on the subject. As one who has consistently advocated allowing, not coercing, museums to charge, I welcome the opportunity for that. When one considers that similar bodies already have that right, that many charge for special exhibitions and that some so-called outstations expect payment from the visiting public, there should be little controversy. However, it cannot be stressed too often that each museum, if it decides to charge, should be allowed to keep the revenue for its own expenditure plans rather than its being regarded as a Treasury impost.

It is instructive to reflect upon the metropolitan museum of art in New York, which provides itself with entrance fees when none is directly sought. The instigation of the wearing of a lapel badge to denote that the visitor has made a voluntary contribution—advice is more than readily available about suggested suitable levels—produces the psychological stimulus for the handing over of ready cash. Such an approach in the United Kingdom could be of immense value to the arts. Coupled with that should be a greater tendency to provide attractive and relevant sales opportunities for souvenirs and educational items. Business technique has a definite place in the modern world of the museum.

To consider the other major principle providing foundation to the Bill is also to recognise the need for organisational structure, in this instance the establishment of the new Commission for Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings, or whatever its name will become. This is envisaged as being a more effective way of providing for their management and maintenance, a more lively way of presenting their benefits and a more appropriate way of dealing with grants, research and advice.

As one who has a natural aversion to quangos, I have approached this commission with some trepidation. However, the distancing of this important part of the heritage from direct Government and political involvement has some attractions in long-term stability.

The amalgamation of various bodies into one overall commission commends itself as a positive step on the way forward—to make use of the title of the Ministry's paper on the subject—to reduce unnecessary organisation, which is something of importance to all hon. Members. However, my acquiescence to this new commission is necessarily given with clear reservations.

It is appropriate to reflect on whether the new commission should correctly be regarded as the future offspring of the Department of Environment. Many of its properties will have a direct relationship with the Department of Education and Science, through the Minister for the Arts. At the same time, the obvious interests of tourism need to be reflected by consultation on matters with the Department of Trade as the Ministry responsible. Once more, the question should at least be posed, is not the time overdue for a Ministry of arts and heritage that might also embrace tourism so that all these interrelated aspects could receive direct attention?

Mr. Faulds

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that is one of the recommendations of the Select Committee. It would be interesting to see what sort of positive response there will be from the Government, and how soon we are likely to receive that response.

Mr. Murphy

I agree with the hon. Member; this is a subject that I have raised a number of times in the House. All hon. Members should look forward to a positive response from the Government at the earliest opportunity.

It is appropriate in a debate such as this to mention the immensely valuable work of voluntary effort in protecting our heritage. With this in mind, I pay my tribute to a museum in an old mill, appropriately enough at Mill green in my constituency, and, to return to my Roman theme, the only Roman baths under a motorway, the Al(M) also in my constituency, both of which provide excellent examples of such dedication.

Earlier, I invoked the spirit of the god Janus and do so again to complete my Roman references. This god was the guardian of doors and gates, and safeguarding those to our heritage, on perhaps a somewhat grander scale, is the essence of the role of this legislation that the Government have rightly introduced today.

5.23 pm
Mr. John Parker (Dagenham)

I declare an interest as a member of the Historic Buildings Council, a body that has a wonderful record of achievements. Since it was first created in 1953, it has enormously expanded the work of conservation. It started off dealing mainly with historic country houses and went on to deal with their grounds and surroundings. It has now developed in a big way in restoring the ordinary house of historic and architectural interest in conservation areas and special towns. It thus assists the local authorities and the residents of such houses to help put their houses and properties in order, an activity that has become a large part of its work.

I must put in a word in favour of quangos, which, despite all the criticisms of them, are one of the best British political institutions. For example, the Historic Buildings Council consists of a large number of architects who give their services to that body free, and the Government get the benefit of their advice without paying for it. That and many other bodies make a substantial contribution to the welfare of our country that should not be underestimated.

To note the various schemes that the Historic Buildings Council has taken up, there are historic towns such as York, Chester, Chichester and Bath which, through the work of the council, have over the years been revived as worthwhile monuments and as a part of our heritage.

The council has also played a part in our big industrial towns. Much restoration is taking place in Newcastle and Bristol, for example. Victorian buildings in many parts of Yorkshire and Lancashire are outstanding but were covered in soot and dirt. They are now being recognised as real works of art and are being appreciated by their inhabitants when put in order. The important thing is to find a use for these buildings when they are put in good order, which is not always easy. However, much work has been done in reviving much that is worthwhile in our industrial areas as well as in the countryside.

It is important to fund the new body properly. The success of the National Heritage council has been due largely to the fact that it started off with a considerable sum of money funded to it. This new commission should also have a large sum of money funded to it, as well as having an annual grant, if it is to get started and do a worthwhile job.

An important point that has not been considered so far is the staffing of the new commission. It was somewhat critically described as being a means by which the Minister could decrease the number of his civil servants, by hiving them off to another body. However, it is important to have a specialist staff for this commission. At the moment staffing for the Historic Buildings Council is from the Civil Service and there are people who work for the council and then leave for another part of the Department of the Environment. This is important because many useful people, when promotion comes along, are lost to the council's work. Therefore, it is important that the new body should have its own method of recruitment. There should be the possibility of staff changing over to the Civil Service, but the commission should be able to develop and create its own experts who will go up its own career structure so that it will become a body of importance that people wish to join, and in which they will be able to have a career. I hope that that point will be borne in mind when we are considering the organisation of the commission. I agree that it should have the same standards of pay, pensions and so on as exist in the Civil Service generally, but no doubt that will be taken care of by the Civil Service unions and the unions representing the staff.

We must look to the future work of the commission. It must continue making our country worth living in. It is important that our towns should be made so. There is a reaction, with which I sympathise, against much modern architecture. The past 20 years have shown an enormous revival of interest in our historic heritage, partly because people do not like many of the buildings that they see going up at the moment.

High-rise flats, for example, are very unpopular and much disliked. People look with appreciation at the cottages that were built in earlier periods. It is generally true of our industrial heritage that we want to keep the best of it. Post-modern architecture is improving and we are getting away from the matchbox style that we had 20 or 30 years ago. We need always to think about conserving the best of the past in our towns. We want the high streets of the future not only to be shopping centres but also to contain buildings that are visually worthwhile. Any new buildings should be in tune with those that already exist. The commission must be encouraged to ensure worthwhile surroundings for our towns and villages where people will want to live.

5.30 pm
Mr. Reg Prentice (Daventry)

I had not intended to speak. However, fascinated by what I have heard, I should like to pay tribute to hon. Members on both sides who have clearly studied this subject over many years. I have nostalgic memories of two periods of my ministerial career when I was Secretary of State for Education and Science and had responsibility for two great museums with which the Bill deals and when I was Minister of Public Building and Works and had responsibility for ancient monuments. At the time I took office at the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, it also had responsibility for historic buildings. However, the late Richard Crossman was keen to have these under his wing in his capacity as Minister of Housing and Local Government. For reasons that I could never understand, he had greater influence with the then Prime Minister than I had, and this subject was transferred across the departmental boundary. I am glad that all that is now in the past.

Like many hon. Members, I have taken great delight in visiting historic sites and ancient monuments. I have some in my constituency. We can boast the battlefield of Naseby, Sulgrave manor where the gunpowder plot was hatched and the birthplace of Lady Marcia Falkender. We can also boast the great British waterways museum—it is, in fact, a small museum but great in quality—at Stoke Bruerne, which I would recommend to anyone interested in the history of canals and waterways. The museum is maintained with great devotion by voluntary effort. Several hon. Members have referred to the vital importance of voluntary effort in a whole range of subjects with which the Bill deals.

The staff of what was the Ministry of Public Building and Works—now contained within the Department of the Environment—the National Trust, the National Trust for Scotland and similar bodies, include most devoted, experienced and expert people, to whom a great deal is owed. I was constantly impressed by the age range of these people. On a visit to, say, one of the great castles of north Wales, one would find members of the staff who had been there all their lives. They were devoted to the monument. Their knowledge of it was extensive. Their ability to talk about it was impressive. One would also find among the staff keen youngsters who were anxious to spend a career in work of that type. I recall some of the stone masons working on Fountains abbey and the young trainee gardeners in the royal parks. It was good to see young people wanting to devote their lives to work in these spheres.

I have much sympathy with the call made by the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) for a shorter and pithier title for the commission. I have no solution. I would have thought that the title of a commission had to describe what it did. I hope that I am wrong, but I reluctantly conclude that it may be unavoidable to have to include the term "ancient monuments". There is no abbreviation. It is also necessary, so far as I can see, to include the words "historic buildings" in the title. This does, however, make the title too long. I hope that someone will be able to solve the dilemma. We want a commission that is recognised and understood and that will gain an increasing reputation over the years. Ideally, it should have a short title to describe exactly what it does.

Mr. Murphy

I share the concern of my right hon. Friend about the title for the commission. I wonder whether my right hon. Friend would like to consider, as I have done, the simple title of the English heritage commission. We are talking about England. We are talking about our heritage. We are talking about a commission. That title seems to sum it all up. It is short and to the point. This will be crucial as people come to acknowledge it as a new and important body.

Mr Prentice

I assume the point has been reached where the only means of achieving a short title is by using the word "heritage" instead of the more exact description. I feel, on balance, that "heritage" is too wide. It covers many additional things. One is therefore reluctantly forced to opt for the longer title. This is perhaps a Committee point.

I have sympathy with the idea that the commission should be located outside London. There are always staff problems, of course. I believe that the Labour Government, when I was a member, went too far in much of their devolution planning. One understood the reasons for moving offices outside London, but some of the human problems involved were ignored. It was right that the present Government should reverse the trend. Subject to staff consultation, I hope that a location can be found outside London. I hope that I shall not be considered frivolous if I say, having heard the case for the north and speaking now in London, that there could perhaps be a compromise. Daventry comes to mind as a place located halfway between London and the north.

A larger question is that of museum charges. I have some experience of this issue. During my period at the Department of Education and Science, the then Minister for the Arts was Lord Jenkins of Putney, as he now is. One of the first actions of the Labour Government when they took office was to amend the legislation and so permit free admission to museums. Lord Jenkins was then able to claim, after only a month or two in office, that he was the only Minister in the Government who had carried out the whole of his manifesto commitment. There are difficult financial problems. If this country was twice as prosperous and if a larger proportion of public expenditure was devoted to these matters, there would still be difficult problems at the margin.

It seems wrong on balance that the large number of people who visit museums or historic buildings should not make a small direct contribution to what they have gone to enjoy. I understand the arguments to the contrary, and I believe that any such charge should be kept very low. There should be free admission for anyone possessing a student's card. In using the word "student", I include pupils of school age as well as those attending universities and colleges. One has obviously to encourage young people, who are interested, to return again and to learn more about the museum.

In arguing that the price should be low, I have in mind the family outing involving several children, for whom the low price has to be multiplied. It is my belief, however, that people in work, who receive ordinary incomes, and tourists to this country should pay something towards the considerable cost that is involved.

Two constitutional points arise. The hon. Member for South Shields paid tribute to the revision work that was carried out in another place. One is always glad to hear tributes to the other place from the Opposition Benches. We hope that they will continue and that all the right conclusions will be reached and eventually lead to a recognition that a two-chamber Parliament is needed. However, I had better not go too far down that path, or I should stray out of order.

The other constitutional point is that we are creating a quango. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) mentioned that. It is healthy to get rid of quangos if they are superfluous, as some of them undoubtedly were, but it is perfectly healthy to transfer work from part of the Civil Service to a machinery that is more devolved and which, for that reason, has more flexibility and more freedom from all the bureaucracy of the Civil Service. I do not use that word in a pejorative sense, but if something is directly part of the Civil Service it is subject to all the financial controls of that body, and the fact that there is a Minister answerable in Parliament, and so on, leads to more paperwork than one would want in a new devolved authority.

I wish the new organisation well. We are discussing several parts of our national heritage that are totally beyond price, and it is our duty in this House to be sensitive about what we do to preserve and enhance them.

5.41 pm
Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

The right hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) speaks with great experience because he had the good fortune to be the Minister responsible for certain of these matters at an earlier stage in his career. Some of us who are as knowledgeable have not had that fortunate opportunity of having been Ministers because of a massive misjudgment of our leaders at various stages, but we speak of course with knowledge as great as that of the right hon. Gentleman—if not greater.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned museum charges. I am terribly sorry to see this hoary old chesnut resurrected yet again. It does seem difficult to get it into the noddles of some hon. Members concerned with these matters that the boards of trustees have such powers if they wish to use them, but that the boards of trustees, who know more about these matters than most hon. Members do, do not choose to use them, and I am delighted to have had the Minister's reassurance that this Government have no intention of putting pressure of any sort on the boards of trustees to reintroduce those ridiculous charges.

The right hon. Member for Daventry was charitable enough to mention Lord Jenkins of Putney as having been the main protagonist in preventing the imposition of charges when a Labour Government came to office. He forgets, of course, that most of the opposition and most of the hard work was done by the honourable yours truly. It is nice occasionally, and necessary, to get these matters on the record.

The principal consequence of this Bill for the world of national museums is to dispose of an anomaly by bringing those few institutions which have hitherto come under the direct authority of Departments of State into line with the majority of national museums by making their governance the responsibility of boards of trustees, to whom public funds for their support will be voted.

One great advantage of detaching such institutions from the Departments is to insulate them from those cuts on a percentage basis which, being applied throughout a Department, cannot take account of the very particular services which the public is entitled to expect from its museums. But a board of trustees is in a position to dispose of the funds voted to it in such a way as to do the least damage possible to those requirements. For example, it is common knowledge that the trustee-governed museums were able to cushion the impact of financial stringency in a more rational and responsible and better balanced way than proved possible recently at the Victoria and Albert museum. The man at the Ministry does not necessarily have the knowledge and experience of the man at the museum, and cannot be expected to possess it.

For those reasons, the devolution of the museums is much to be welcomed, although it will be necessary for us to satisfy ourselves that the career interests of the staffs are fully protected when the change takes place; I am glad that a number of hon. Members have made that point.

The single major exception to this process of standardisation which would remain after the present Bill is enacted is the Royal Scottish museum, which is of course the direct responsibility, not of the Minister, but of the Scottish Office. However, the Secretary of State announced on 22 July last year that his policy was that legislation would be introduced transferring the responsibility for this museum also to a board of trustees. Perhaps the Government could take this opportunity this evening to say when further action in this regard is to be expected.

In so far as it substitutes boards of trustees for departmental control, this Bill gives effect to the basic recommendation of the Rayner-style scrutiny carried out by Mr. Gordon Burrett and published in May of last year. But although this principle is endorsed in it, the Bill implicitly rejects—quite rightly so—almost all the other Burrett recommendations, both those which needed legislative effect and those which did not. These include the encouragement to sell national property, whether works of art or collections of books—what a nonsense; that was made in much too light-hearted and irresponsible a way in the Burrett recommendations—and the proposals to abandon the theatre museum project—after all the expectations over the years about that; another nonsense—and the quite ludicrous intention to close the museum of childhood, which met some fairly forceful resistance.

I gather that Osterley park house and Ham house are safe, and that there is no present danger to those buildings. As far as those two outstations of the museum are concerned, an assurance would be welcome that clause 2(4) will enable the existing arrangements for them to continue, and that this is in fact Government policy. I hope that we can have that firm statement of commitment.

I am delighted to have had the assurance from the Minister about museum charges. I made a few adverse comments on the matter earlier, but I wish that the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) had been able to keep his patience and his seat for a little longer, because I think he would have noticed that his antediluvian attitudes and suggestions, however backed up by some of his hon. Friends and my hon. and noble Friends who have historic properties, are not received with any acceptance by the directors of most of the major museums and art galleries. I wish we could put that nonsense to bed once and for all.

As parts of a Government Department, the Victoria and Albert and Science museums have been entrusted with administering grants for assistance to non-national museums in financing acquisitions. In money terms, the role of the Victoria and Albert museum is very much the most important, with next year's grant exceeding the £1 million mark. It must be noted that there has been general satisfaction in the world of local museums with the way in which this administrative task has been discharged, in the past, by the small office set up for that purpose in the Victoria and Albert museum.

As the Bill stands at present, there is no provision relating to any change in the voting of funds for this function, over which the Department presumably continues to retain its control. That would not seem to me consistent with the general policy decision in favour of devolution—that is to say, the placing of an appropriate recipient of the vote between the Government and the adminstering body. As far as the administration is concerned, there seems to be widespread agreement that it is desirable to retain the machinery which has long existed in the Victoria and Albert museum.

The Government's delay in coming to any decision on how this function is to be exercised in future is perhaps due to the realisation that in the long run it is really illogical for the trustees of a particular London museum to be voted funds for assisting purchases by other, non-national museums, even while accepting that, administratively speaking, excellent machinery for that purpose already happens to be located in that museum.

The problem is, without disturbing the existing administration, to find an appropriate body as formal recipient of the vote, which is better equipped to act in a trustee capacity on behalf of museums all over the country than the board of a particular London museum is likely to be. It is a fact that an appropriate candidate for such a duty, whether now or at a later date, exists in the shape of the Museums and Galleries Commission, which is already the recipient of voted funds and which has an increasingly close relationship with regional museums. I understand that the commission would in principle be ready to accept that responsibility and I hope that that decision will soon be arrived at.

I should like to take this opportunity to remind the Government that it is hoped to see tabled some Government amendments which were envisaged towards the end of the Third Reading debate on 15 February in another place and reported at c. 167–169. Those relate to the bringing up to date of certain provisions to be found in previous legislation relating to transfers of the ownership of objects between national museums—The National Gallery and the Tate Gallery Act 1954 and the British Museum Act 1963. The Government accepted the desirability in principle of making those amendments but wished first to be certain that they would come within the Bill's scope. I cannot conceive any genuine difficulties arising as to scope, especially as the provison for repeal already in the Bill at the beginning of schedule 5, which I think is desirable, has no direct relevance to its scope.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) commented on the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. The Government have announced that the Royal Commission is not to be brought together with the commission, which may cause difficulty for the commission over the national monuments record. That record is primarily a vast photographic record of historic buildings and ancient monuments, architectural drawings, aerial photographs and archaelogical records. The commission needs not just "access" to the national monuments record but to have the record itself in the same building. For historic building and ancient monument inspectors it is the essential tool, used many times each day, providing original photographs and books which they cannot do without.

The national monuments record has been housed with the inspectors since 1948. They are the principal users and have made a major contribution to building it up. Its administration was transferred to the Royal Commission only in 1964. If the national monuments record and the commission were not housed in the same building, it would be necessary for the commission to have a complete copy of the national monuments record, with its million or more photographs and half a million drawings and records. The library would also have to be duplicated, as would all recordings.

Are the Government prepared to pay for that fairly expensive operation? In the long term, computerisation and electronic transmission may help, but considerable investment would be needed and the results might not be satisfactory. In any event, the Royal Commission should be the academic, research, publishing and recording arm of the commission. They work in the same field, so why on earth keep them apart? It is a complete illogicality.

It is not altogether clear whether it is intended to give the commission responsibility for the preparation of lists of buildings of historic or architectural interest. I understand that the listing will continue to be done by the Secretary of State but that he will be given power to accept lists prepared by the commission. If it is the Government's intention to split the preparation of the lists between the commission and the Secretary of State, it would be most unfortunate and I hope that that is not the intention. There would have to be two sets of staff, one at the commission and the other in the Department of the Environment, one proposing and the other disposing, no doubt according to different interpretations and priorities. The result would be a bureaucratic mass of red tape which could only delay the listing of buildings, particularly in urgent cases.

The listing issue highlights the scope for muddle and duplication between the new commission and the Department of the Environment. That is what my hon. Friend was suggesting when he said that there are many aspects of this that we are not too happy about. If the commission is to be effective it must not be tied to the apron strings of the Secretary of State, nor must there be a need for a residual shadow commission within the Department of the Environment whose only role in life will be to filter, question and generally delay the work of the real commission. If I may say so, that implies that the commission must be given the powers to get on with the job and not have to seek permission for virtually everything from the Secretary of State.

The key powers that the commission needs for historic buildings are powers to buy buildings without the Secretary of State's specific permission, to start compulsory purchase proceedings and to do urgent works to buildings in need of repair. Under the Bill—scheclule 4, paragraph 3, page 44—the commission will be empowered to buy buildings but only with the Secretary of State's permission and then only outstanding buildings. Those restrictions are a formula for inertia and delay. The commission would not, for example, be able to organise a demonstration project for the rehabilitation of, say, a row of cottages, since they would not be outstanding.

Inevitably—I do not want to be too uncharitable—someone in the Department of the Environment will have to receive, and advise the Secretary of State on, every request for acquisition, doubtless in accordance with some policy of his own. So even the power to acquire voluntarily would be shrouded by bureaucratic restraints. Since the new body is to be accountable to Parliament for the way in which it spends its money, why deny it the freedom of action that it needs to move quickly in urgent cases?

The new commission will not have powers to serve repairs notices for urgent work on unoccupied buildings. Instead, it could only do so if the Secretary of State specifically authorises the commission to do so—schedule 4, paragraph 17, page 50. In other words, where the commission wants to get urgent repairs done to a building it will have, first, to request the Minister to make the authorisation, secondly, wait until he does so, thirdly, serve the notice, and, fourthly, wait at least seven days before doing the works. That can only prolong the process and make it subject to inevitable bureaucratic delays; that really will not help the commission in its work.

The commission will be entirely without any compulsory purchase powers and the alleged justification for that, say the Department of the Environment officials, is that it is undesirable for non-elected bodies to have such powers. But wait a minute—if that is so, it is difficult to understand why it applies only to bodies concerned with historic buildings, since a large number of similar bodies have such powers, notably the Nature Conservancy Council and the urban development corporations set up by the Government only two years ago. All compulsory purchase powers are subject to a semi-judicial confirmation process involving the Secretary of State anyway, so it is difficult to sustain any objection of principle, as certain officials have tried to do, to the new body having those powers.

Finally, and I hope the House will bear with me, I want to mention repair powers. The situation would not be so bad if the repair powers themselves were effective and well used, but, as everyone who knows anything about this subject is well aware, they are not. The Department of the Environment has been far too complacent about the need for early legislation to improve them and apparently refuses to take this opportunity to upgrade them. It claims that the new commission must be given time to settle in under the existing powers before any moves are made to change them. If the result is that a further 10 years of departmental inertia are allowed to pass before legislation is brought forward, many important building types will have been decimated, the commission will have become widely discredited by then and will be at a severe disadvantage in making the best use of them.

Although I have expressed a number of reservations to the introduction of the Bill, I must say that in principle, and with a good deal of admiration for the Minister's work and that of his colleagues behind the scenes, I welcome this change in the responsibilities for historic buildings and sites and the introduction of the trustee board system for the Victoria and Albert and the science museums. Those matters are long overdue. The two Ministers have a marvellous chance to do a first-class job with a Bill that has already been immensely improved in the other place. I think, knowing both the Ministers concerned, that they will work with some assiduity to see the Bill on to the statute book in order to do this enormously important and valuable job in the retention, administration, repair and conservation of our heritage. I wish the Bill well, with those reservations.

5.59 pm
Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

One of the problems of speaking late in a fairly short debate is that most of what one wanted to say has already been said. The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) has dealt with some of the points that I wanted to raise about the role of the commission.

I am also totally opposed to the reintroduction of any charges for our national galleries. One of the most delightful tasks that I had when I came to the House in February 1974 was to support the in-coming Labour Government on the abolition of charges. We spent quite a lot of money on putting in turnstiles, but, thank goodness, they were never used. The real reason why I oppose charges is that many people have left their collections to the nation, sometimes stipulating that they should be freely available. It is totally wrong that we should then impose charges.

It is a terrible record, but it is to the Government's credit although I believe that the money was left by the late Charles Clore, that at long last the Turner gallery is being built, as an extension to the Tate gallery. When Turner left all his pictures in about 1830, they were supposed to be put on show to the nation. I assume that he meant them to be freely available. I hope that when the gallery is finished—I look forward to it—charges will not be imposed.

The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) put in a plea that the commission should have its home in York. I think that York does well already. If we are to move it out of London, why not put it in the ancient capital of England—Winchester? I do not represent Winchester, but it is a good spot. Salisbury, too, would not be a bad place. It could come to the ancient Isle of Vectis, which does have Roman remains, but I do not think that I can persuade the Government of that, certainly while it is under Liberal administration.

If charges were to be envisaged, we should look at the example of London zoo. The zoo is now desperate for money because it cannot attract the public. The entry cost for a family is between £6 and £8. If there were a charge of £1 for adults for the V and A and half price for the kids, that would amount to £4 altogether for a family. There would also be the travelling expenses. That is a sizeable sum of money. Once again I plead against imposing charges. I am grateful to the Minister for his undertaking that it is not part of the Government's policy to introduce charges now.

I welcome clauses 1 to 28, which deal with the establishment of boards of trustees and the trustees for armed forces museums. I originally had doubts about the establishment of the commission and wrote an article in that vein. The dealings that I have had with the Historic Buildings Council and the Ancient Monuments Board have always been satisfactory. The way in which our monuments have been maintained is a credit to them. The way in which they have dealt with applications for financial assistance to repair buildings of historic interest is also a credit to them. Their job is very much in line with the job carried out by the ordnance survey. We have paid tribute to the other place, which also had the common sense the other day to stand up for the ordnance survey.

Nevertheless, I accept that, among the bodies that are most concerned with our heritage, such as SAVE and the Civic Trust, which we hold in high regard, there is a general feeling that this is a forward-looking move. The new commission must be soundly and adequately financed, I hope on similar lines to the National Heritage Memorial Fund. I played a small part in the discussions before it was set up. I am delighted at the way in which it has been financed. Extra money has been given to it. It is performing a worthwhile role.

The new commission must also possess an efficient administrative structure and have a clear understanding of its duties. I hope that it will be able to deal with grant applications on its own without Department of the Environment interference. I am told that there are still uncertainties about schedule 4, which is complex enough to read, but that most other grey areas have been dealt with in the other place.

The hon. Member for Warley, East referred to the listing of buildings, to which I should also like to refer. Is that to remain with the Department of the Environment or to be handed over to the commission, or will the Department of the Environment act on the advice of the commission, which I think is the right way to proceed?

About four years ago I helped to establish a building preservation trust in my constituency. We have continually come up against problems when we have been anxious to restore properties in conservation areas, some of which have been derelict for many years and which have been only just kept in repair. The owners have been most unco-operative and for odd reasons do not seem to want to do anything about it. We have been unable to acquire the property. We have gone to the local authorities, which have been sympathetic and have served repair notices on occasions, but that has not produced the desired result. They did not feel able to go the whole way and serve a compulsory purchase order. One property has been empty for 25 years and is in a prominent situation in one of the main streets of our town.

The reluctance of the local authorities to serve a compulsory purchase order is largely a result of experience, when they have finished up without the backing of the Department of the Environment inspector and have faced substantial costs for taking such action. I understand that the new commission will not be in a stronger position and will still have to rely on the Department of the Environment or the local authority to serve repair notices or to see that they are carried out, or to serve compulsory purchase orders.

I shall give another example, which is tragic to me. A property in my constituency was converted into flats. The one remaining tenant wrote to the building trust that we set up asking us to intercede and saying that he was prepared to put up some money if we could acquire the property and restore it. I visited the property, which has a preservation order on it. It had a marvellous staircase, among other attributes, but the roof was collapsing and slates were coming off almost daily. In the flat where the tenant was living the damp was penetrating to an alarming extent.

I begged the local authority to carry out urgent repairs and at least to put tarpaulins on the roof. It thought that the house was beyond repair and refused to do it. The matter finished up with the Department of the Environment inspector, who agreed that the building could be restored. Three days later it was consumed in flames. I had suspicions about that, but that was the end of that building. Had we only moved a little quicker, it could have been saved and restored and now it would probably be put to proper use.

The other day I went to the Wedgwood factory at Stoke. After much campaigning I am delighted that Barlaston hall is being restored for use as residential accommodation, probably due to the efforts of bodies such as SAVE, Country Life and others. It can be done. It is such a shame that the process is so prolonged. I agree with the hon. Member for Warley, East that we do not act quickly enough. If we are not careful we shall set up the commission without the teeth to deal with the problems that we know to be around. In five or 10 years' time we shall give the commission those teeth, but it will be too late. Too many properties have gone already and too many will pass by the wayside. I cannot see why the commission should not be given powers similar to those of the Nature Conservancy Council and the Urban Development Corporation. If we cannot persuade the Minister to change his mind on that point, I predict that too many buildings of value will be lost.

I welcome the clauses on redundant churches. I hope and pray that the commission will succeed where others have failed. In my constituency, St. Thomas's Church in Ryde has remained empty since 1956. If the commission can have a salutary effect on the church society trust, require it to hand over the funds that it is sitting on and allow the building to be put back into proper use so that we can display the fantastic collection of china that was left by the late Mr. Brigstock, I should be delighted, as would many of my constituents. If the commission is to be successful it will need a strong chairman and chief officer, both with vision, at the outset. I hope that much care will be taken over those appointments.

I wish the Bill well, but I plead that this golden opportunity to improve and strengthen the present procedures is not wasted.

6.8 pm

Mr. Stanley Newens (Harlow)

Like the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) and my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), I welcome the Bill, but I wonder whether it has sufficient teeth to do the job that it sets out to do as well as it should he done. Despite the admirable work of the Ancient Monuments Board and the Historic Buildings Council, most people with any knowledge of ancient monuments and historic buildings have been concerned for some years about the problems of preservation, maintenance and general care.

Britain has a heritage of incomparable value. Unfortunately, it is not fully appreciated. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) spoke of Hadrian's wall and some of the best known monuments in this country. I recognise the immense importance and value of such monuments. However, less famous sites have been neglected and frequently vandalised. It is impossible properly to maintain all the sites, or to man them in the winter or even throughout the summer for the whole day. What will the new commission do about those monuments? I am worried that the more dynamic qualities of the new commission may not bring any improved benefits to the lesser known, more isolated and less exciting monuments that must be preserved.

The effect of the Bill on public service manpower will be to reduce the number of staff working in Government Departments by about 3,000. It may be that those people have made no contribution to the preservation of our heritage, but they will not be replaced. I have strong doubts about the wisdom of that. Does it mean fewer custodians at a time when we do not have a sufficient number of them? I am worried by the fact that some of the less spectacular monuments and houses may be vandalised and disappear. Adequate grants must be made available if that is not to be the case.

We all know of monuments and houses that have been destroyed, demolished or otherwise lost. To some extent, the introduction of entrepreneurial enthusiasm may do a great deal for some of our monuments, but we should not allow ourselves to rely on such flair for the preservation of our entire heritage. I hope that the Minister will consider the necessity of providing a safety net if other monuments are not to suffer.

I am worried about the concept that monuments and museums should be self-financing. Our heritage must be open to all who live in this country. I welcome foreigners and hope that they will see our heritage. It would be a great pity if tourists were attracted to sites of importance, yet some of our people could not afford to visit them. Many of those who are unemployed, on social security or in one-parent families will not visit museums if charges are made. It is not sufficient to say that the loss is that of those who decline to visit such places. The loss is to our nation as a whole. If significant numbers of our community fail to appreciate the importance of our heritage they will treat it with scant care be and inclined to vandalise it. They will then fail to give their services and help towards preserving it.

As part of the educational process it is important that we should make every citizen aware of our heritage. If that is to be done, the charges must be removed. It will not always work, but if people can gain free access to museums, historic houses and ancient monuments, they will buy books, pamphlets, postcards and mementos. It is better to get money back in that way than to deter people from entering the sites in the first place.

I agree with what the hon. Member for Isle of Wight said about families visiting places where the charge is £1 a head as suggested by the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies), who has now left the Chamber. That is a heavy charge for a family. With travelling it could mean that a family must spend £15 or £20 to make such a visit, and many families will not be persuaded that they can afford such sums. If they do not visit the sites, the loss will be to the community as a whole.

Mr. Stephen Ross

Many people make voluntary donations when they visit places such as the Victoria and Albert museum. There are collection boxes. There are friends of the museums, who give substantial sums of money. Money comes from those sources.

Mr. Newens

I entirely agree. Many groups of people come together and contribute to the maintenance of sites. It is important that we should provide the initial education that is necessary to stimulate their interest.

There has been a considerable growth of concern for our heritage in recent years. The hon. Member for Isle of Wight said that that growth had been expressed in voluntary efforts to preserve and maintain establishments. For many years I have been involved in seeking to persuade people to preserve historic buildings, especially windmills. Just before I came to the House in 1964, I mounted a campaign—which failed—to save a rare post windmill at Moreton just outside my constituency.

When I came to the House and spoke about windmills, several hon. Members regarded the subject as a joke, but now, 20 years later, the community's attitude has changed. Twenty years ago, windmills were being swept away with little concern. Today, the climate has changed. I know of several cases, some in my own county of Essex, where groups of people have come together, raised money and worked hard to maintain and restore these attractive buildings.

A range of historic buildings have been preserved. I was impressed when I visited Harwich some years ago to see the tremendous amount of work that had been put in to restore the redoubt. It is a fantastic achievement. That shows what voluntary effort can do.

The commission must help to stimulate the concern that will lead to more voluntary effort. The attitude taken by the new commission, especially in its early days, will be vital to nurturing and encouraging the growth of concern for our heritage. On that basis, I wish the new commission well.

The Minister has a very well deserved reputation of concern for our heritage—to which I pay tribute—but I hope that he will take account of some of the comments that have been made from both sides of the House. Above all, the commission must be adequately funded. If it is funded and given support, and if it has the dynamic leadership that we all hope for, it will do much to increase appreciation of our heritage and its long-term preservation for future generations.

6.20 pm
Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)

I listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens), whose concern for the heritage and for historic buildings was evident. I was particularly interested in what he said about the need to welcome foreigners to our shores. No fewer than 11 million people visit Britain each year. I learnt that statistic while taking part in a broadcast about the Elgin marbles this afternoon with Miss Melina Mercouri. She said that 5.5 million people went to Greece each year and that 11 million come to Britain. I assume that she has her statistics right. A large proportion of those 11 million are attracted by our arts and culture. They come, for example, to see the live arts, the theatre, concerts, the ballet and opera, as well as our heritage, our museums and our buildings. London is among the arts capitals of the world. Indeed, I would say that it was the arts capital of the world.

I am glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister has introduced the Bill, which will strengthen in particular the Victoria and Albert and science museums. They are two of our greatest institutions. It gives them independence and puts them on a footing that will enable them to enhance the service that they give to the public. They are two of our top attractions. However, it is important that we should attract more foreigners and British tourists to our second tier of museums and historic buildings. There is too much concentration on the favourites. There are some other extremely worthwhile and interesting things to see that are unduly ignored.

The tourist industry confers great benefits and generates a lot of employment. I should like to see it dispersed more not only between London and the provinces, but within Greater London and the south-east. I live just outside Hampton Court palace and in the summer I see hordes of tourists there in the morning and I see tourists here at Westminster in the afternoon. I wish that they were more dispersed.

Hampton Court palace is a remarkable place. The Department of the Environment maintains the building and looks after the two royal parks, Bushy park and Home park. The Department does a fine job, which is widely appreciated. I pay tribute to it for what it has done over the years, under successive Administrations. It certainly keeps the parks in very fine order and they are greatly appreciated not only by visitors from further afield, but by my constituents. Bushy park, which is next to Teddington, Hampton and Hampton Hill, is the local park, as well as being a park of national importance. Hardly a month goes by without my being asked to take up some query in connection with those royal parks. They are most beautifully kept.

My constituency is second to none in its appreciation of the heritage. There is a high average intelligent quotient locally. A large proportion of people like to go to the museums we are discussing tonight. And within the constituency's boundaries there are other buildings of interest, apart from Hampton Court palace. For example, there is Marble Hill house and park; Orleans house; the Royal Military School of Music at Kneller hall, where all our Army bands are trained. Long may Kneller hall and its bands flourish, because they are an important part of our national tradition. There is also Strawberry hill, the home of Horace Walpole, and now a Roman Catholic teacher training college. It is a building of great interest. There is another important building that is not exactly a historical building of great beauty, but which is nevertheless important. I refer to the stadium at Twickenham rugby football club.

People enjoy those local buildings and facilities, but they also enjoy going to great national museums, such as the British museum, which attracts between 3 million and 4 million people per year. The Victoria and Albert and science museums are now to have a constitution similar to that of the British museum. It is noteworthy that, since the British museum has been free to charge, it has never imposed admission charges. The Victoria and Albert, and science museums are unlikely to do so. As far as I know, nothing has been said in the debate about whether Kew gardens will charge under its new constitution. At present, Kew gardens charges an entrance fee of only a few pence. It is such a small sum that I doubt whether it covers the cost of collection.

Mr. Whitehead

Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the fact that the entrance charge for Kew gardens, which was for many years a nominal penny, has now increased to 15p is a step in the wrong direction and that there may be further steps in that direction?

Mr. Jessel

I expect that the hon. Gentleman has checked the figure of 15p, and I accept it. However, 15p is not likely to deter many people from visiting the gardens. I do not feel strongly one way or the other about charges. I was astonished when the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) sought to compare London zoo with national museums, such as the Victoria and Albert. A large proportion of those who visit zoos are young children, because animals are especially interesting to them. Although one would wish the same to be true of art treasures in our great national museums, that is, at least for a considerable proportion of young children, more of a hope than a reality. Although many go to the museums, the proportion is not as great as the proportion who visit zoos.

We are not surprised when we are made to pay perhaps 8 or 10 francs to enter the Louvre in Paris. Foreigners visiting the National Gallery are quite astonished that they have to pay nothing. That is not true of the Louvre or the Prado at Madrid.

Of course it can be said that the tourist trade is somewhat price sensitive, and that if the cost of a holiday that includes cultural aspects becomes significantly cheaper or more expensive it will probably have a substantial effect on the number of tourists to Britain, with consequential effects for the amount of employment generated in Britain. However, the entrance fee to an art gallery or show is a small factor in the cost of a holiday in Britain, compared with the cost of the air fare, hotels and any possible fluctuations in price due to currency changes. Not many foreigners will be deterred from coming to Britain because of a charge of £1 or so.

Therefore, there is a conflict between the reasonable wish that such people should contribute something to the cost and thus enable our institutions to make more purchases of art objects and the desire not to squeeze out families who might find it difficult to afford the £1 for each member.

That is a serious dilemma. When the issue last came up eight or nine years ago, it generated so much heat that I doubt whether it was worth all the fuss, and it is probably better to leave it as it is.

I have some other points to make. First, will the new body be able to take on the handling of blue plaques, which are at present administered by the Greater London council in Greater London, if it is decided to abolish the Greater London council? Will the new body be able to cope with that?

Secondly, the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) referred to the educational importance of art galleries. The whole House would endorse that. The presentation of our heritage in our museums has improved out of all recognition within the past 20 or 30 years and, in particular, in the past decade. The museums now put up vivid and effective descriptions of what people want to know which can be understood quite easily. In that way they are fulfilling their educational role. It is improving every year and will continue to do so.

Thirdly, I have raised the issue of hoarding by museums on previous occasions. Certain of our museums such as the National gallery display all they have, but other museums do not as they have more than they can show. They say they keep things in store partly for academic or collecting purposes. They say that if they have those items students or experts can see them, and that therefore the practice has some value. I believe that that is of limited value. 'The whole point of a work of art, whether it is a live performance or an object, is that it can be perceived. If an object is not on show it cannot be perceived or can be seldom perceived and is therefore largely wasted. I should like to express the hope that all museums, whether they have a constitution run by trustees, as envisaged by the Bill, or any other type of constitution, will set about trying to ensure that as many of their works of art as possible are not hidden away or hoarded in cellars, but are lent: or somehow put about so that people may see them.

Recently, some hon. Members had the opportunity to meet representatives of the Manchester art gallery, which has an excellent arrangement for lending those works of art that it does not have room to display to firms and companies in the area which pay a small fee to hire them. These works of art have to be displayed in places where a large proportion of the employees are able to see them. Some of the firms involved have set up works committees to help choose such works of art from the stock of Manchester art gallery. That is a splendid arrangement as it gives a great deal of pleasure. One would like to see it imitated all over the country. Will my right hon. Friend consider suggesting that idea to other museums, including those named in the Bill, to see whether they can imitate the excellent example of Manchester?

6.33 pm
Mr. Nicholas Baker (Dorset, North)

I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute a few words to the debate. I apologise for my absence for a large part of the debate. I was present earlier, but since then I have been serving in Committee. I have some important points to make, first, about museums, secondly, about churches and, thirdly, about the Commission for Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings for England.

I welcome the Bill's proposals for museums and support the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) about bringing treasures out from museums. Too few museums do so. I applaud the growth of travelling exhibitions. I hope that we shall see more such exhibitions. To the museum and art world, imposing charges is like showing a red flag to a bull. I am glad that the Bill preserves the power to charge, although, as my right hon. Friend the Minister said, there is no change in the exercise of those powers and no obligation on the museums to use them. I suggest that the powers should be used to improve museum facilities and to make them more interesting and exciting. My hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mr. Murphy) echoes that sentiment. I am not surprised at that, because he and I had the opportunity to visit the space museum in Washington last year. A visit to that museum, to the Sir John Soane museum or to the Dorset county museum, which is near my home, shows what museums can offer in excitement and educational opportunities for the young and the not so young.

My second point relates to churches. I have long held the view that the parish churches of Britain are an untapped treasury. They show the history of communities and are there for all of us to see. When churches become redundant they can, under the Bill, be taken over by the Commission for Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings for England. The communities that are responsible for parish churches could do very much more to prevent their becoming redundant. Every parish church is of historic importance, and every one of them deserves to be made to live, not in the way that they lived in the past, as religious centres, but as community buildings which provide not only a place for religious services but other facilities for the community.

Thirdly, I suggest to my right hon. Friend that if he wants a really unpleasant mnemonic, the commission might be called CAMHIBE.

Conservation is important, as is preservation. There is a difference between the two, as has been said in another place. Preservation is a defensive word which means that one is concerned to ensure that an item is not destroyed or does not disappear. Conservation—taken from the Latin word—implies that positive steps are taken to make the monument or building actually live. I should like an amendment to clause 30 to provide that both conservation and preservation are the responsibility of the commission.

My second point about the commission relates to the importance of advisory bodies. Many scholastic bodies in the community were worried about the form in which the Bill appeared. My right hon. Friend has done a good deal to allay some of those concerns. One of the main worries about the Bill is that the commission, according to schedule 3, paragraph 9, "may constitute committees". The commission is a managerial body which has the task of managing our monuments.

The commission will not supply the necessary fund of learning for the conservation and preservation of monuments. It will have to consult and will need advisory bodies. It is not sufficient to say that it may constitute committees. An obligation should be placed upon it to do so. I do not say that simply for the sake of having committees. Not many of us wish to create unnecessary committees. I urge my right hon. Friend to accept that the scholarship to be found in our scholastic bodies is important to the preservation and conservation of monuments.

Machinery must be established whereby the fruits of that scholarship can be applied to maintaining the buildings. A consultative council should be established on which not only scholars and archaeologists, but all those interested in national heritage can have a voice as an integral part of the new commission. It should be statutorily required to appoint such a body to offer scholarly and expert advice. If my right hon. Friend can introduce an amendment to the Bill to meet that point, he will do much to assuage scholastic concern.

My next point relates to the process of consultation and the timing of the bringing into being of the commission. I hope that the Minister will mention that when he replies and say how the scholastic bodies will be consulted. How does he intend their input to be used by the commission? It is a highly technical area. Centuries of learning depend on the monuments. I hope that when the Minister replies to the debate he will recognise that those go together.

I am happy to give my general support to the Bill and look forward to hearing what my hon. Friend has to say.

6.42 pm
Mr. Christopher Price (Lewisham, West)

I apologise for not having been in the Chamber at the start of the debate, but I have been here for a large part of it. I felt that I should make a few points as Chairman of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts, which has produced a report covering the subject. I shall not say anything controversial. Unlike Lord Jenkins in another place, I shall not even mention the Elgin marbles. However, there is a great deal in the Bill dealing with the disposal of works of art. I hope that the Bill—

Mr. Faulds

I wish that my hon. Friend would resist the temptation to be so reticent about the Elgin marbles. It is necessary that a voice should be heard in Britain saying that we are not all behind the extraordinary chauvinist selfishness over the retention of particular objects that are of unique, historic, national or religious significance to other countries. It really is time that we welcomed the fact that the world is changing. The Third world countries and the colonial world that used to possess the objects that we borrowed, stole or bought are entitled to the return of a limited number of what are, to them, nationally important objects.

Mr. Price

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention. I might have made similar remarks to his, but the Elgin marbles belong to the British museum, which is not covered by the Bill. I have strong feelings about the Elgin marbles, but I do not intend to vent them now.

Mr. Faulds

My hon. Friend is modest.

Mr. Price

The Minister has not yet responded to the Select Committee's report. We make no complaint about that, because a good response is better than an early response. I hope that he will view the Bill as the first step towards the formulation of a Ministry of Arts, Heritage and Tourism, as the Committee recommends in its report. The logic of the Bill goes towards everything that we said in the report about bringing together under one Ministry the responsibility for all the arts and all the heritage in Britain. I hope that the Minister takes that point seriously.

I welcome the provision to appoint trustees for the science museum and the Victoria and Albert museum, which is a logical step. Again, it fits in with everything that the Committee recommended. I hope that the Minister has learnt the lesson of Mr. Burrett and the theatre museum.

I am apprehensive about the Rayner studies into areas of the arts. I had hoped that the Minister had, during the Rayner study of the children's museum and the theatre museum, learnt that there are real dangers in applying the Rayner strict value-for-money accountancy procedures in an area of the arts and heritage where it is impossible to take the strict view of efficiency and productivity that is taken in other areas.

The present Priestley study in other areas also worries me. A young accountant has been brought in and, although he may be an extremely good accountant, we do not have any real confidence that he will treat the matter properly. I hope that, having put the bodies under trustees, and having set up a commission, the Minister will allow them to do their jobs without too much further ministerial interference.

6.47 pm
Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)

It has been a good and full debate, in which all of the contributions from both sides of the House have materially advanced what we all want to do today. This is a fairly rare occasion, and we must try to improve the Bill that began in another place—perhaps, for once, fairly appropriately given its membership and procedures. It was possible for Lord Avon to come forward more often during Committee, Report and Third Reading with various amendments and responses than would have been possible had the Bill begun here. Consequently, the House is having an opportunity to examine the matter.

I congratulate the Minister on his successful attempt to widen the hegemony of the Office of Arts and Libraries in taking responsibility for the Bill and, in a way, becoming the sort of Minister for the arts, tourism and leisure that the Labour party wishes to see established.

The wide responsibilities dealt with in the Bill require a spokesman in the Government of the day with access to, and the power to punch a weight in, the Cabinet. The Minister has punched his weight in or out of Cabinet, and has been extremely successful. He has moved matters forward—for example, the strengthening of the Museums and Galleries Commission under Sir Arthur Drew. It is one small step towards the museums council that the Labour party wishes to be established. My hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) referred to that. There are one or two problems about my hon. Friend's proposals, and I shall return to them later.

It has already been put to the Minister that this is not the whole debate that we should be having today. The Drew report has not been implemented. The 1,500 or so provincial museums still do not know of their destiny after the deliberations within the Office of Arts and Libraries have been concluded. Nor have we had, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, West (Mr. Price) has just mentioned, a debate on the report of the Select Committee on the funding of the arts. My hon. Friend made a characteristically modest speech. Some time in the course of this Session, which may be the last Session of this Parliament, we should have a debate on the response of the Government to that most important report. It would perhaps be our criterion for progress and co-operation on this important Bill that we get an undertaking that these other matters will be debated in the House.

This is essentially two hinged Bills, themselves bolted to the responsibilities of four Ministries. My hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), who opened for the Opposition, spoke eloquently about the latter part of the Bill. I echo everything that he said about the right of public access and public enjoyment of our historical heritage. My children, like his and many others, have walked Hadrian's wall, visited Vindolanda and seen what can be done by an imaginative process of preservation and conservation, to take up the point just made by the hon. Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker).

The proposed commission—let us call it the English heritage commission instead of having an absurdly long title that will not even make a satisfactory acronym—should be devoted to those important purposes.

In the few minutes available to me I want to refer to the part of the Bill that deals with museums. The reason why our noble Friends in the House of Lords and my hon. Friends here have approached the Bill with a certain scepticism is that it has been under the shadow of the Burrett exercise and the Rayner proposals. Mr. Burrett took a drubbing from the Select Committee later and some of his more controversial proposals have been dismissed to the point of no return.

The general comment of the Museums Association on that whole exercise ought to be echoed on all sides in the House. It said: we deplore the application of commercial criteria of cost-effectiveness to museum activities without proper consideration of the fundamental purposes of our national museums and an understanding of their fiduciary responsibilities to the collections and to the public. There are some extraordinary remarks in the report; for example, it proposes that if the public dare to write in for information or for an estimate for an article, the reply should be "polite but terse", so halving the time spent on giving that kind of access to the public. That was a fundamentally misguided approach to access and enjoyment of the museums service.

There is also the unhappy proposal of Mr. Burrett for the closure of the museum of childhood. He said: The loss would be more to public pleasure than to essential knowledge and scholarship. If it is a loss to public pleasure, it is a loss to us all. It is a loss essentially to the national heritage and to those who treasure it, not least the people of Bethnal Green and the many thousands of schoolchildren who visit that part of London.

There are people within the academic world who take the view that perhaps the public are seen too much in museums and that there should be a more academic approach to exhibitions. Sir Roy Strong, the director of the Victoria and Albert museum, has excoriated that kind of approach. He quoted the director of another museum who began a recent review in The Times by stating that exhibitions had no right to be staged unless they advance art historical knowledge. I echo what Sir Roy Strong said: Of course, art exhibitions can and should advance art historical knowledge but such exhibitions, maintained and paid for by the taxpayers, should not be art historical ego trips. There is nothing wrong with delighting, informing, even irritating an informed public. Too often, however, one has seen them used as vehicles by scholars to bring together indifferent works of art that they were too lazy to go and see. We have to inform and entertain the wider public. We have to bring them into the museums. One of the tests that we shall apply to the Bill will be to see that that is done a tradition that has been picked up and followed through by the museums that we are discussing. The position of the armouries at the tower of London also has to be strengthened.

I speak as one whose children take a particular delight in visiting the science museum. There one sees what open access has done. The many small exhibitions give constant delight to those who flood in and flow through that museum. Sir Roy Strong has achieved similar success with the Boiler-house project, a remarkable innovation at the Victoria and Albert museum. I do not want to see any departure from that. When I deal with the principle of charges we shall see where the danger lies.

I shall refer to a few difficulties that my hon. Friends and I see in the Bill. None of us would oppose the transfer of the two museums and the armouries to trustee status. That is right. One of our prime concerns will be equality of treatment with the other museums that have trustee status. As has been mentioned by several hon. Members, there are still considerable staff worries about the nature of the transfer, to which we shall give the fullest airing in Committee. Schedule 1(5) says that there should be no less favourable conditions of employment and it offers arbitration by an independent tribunal where there is a dispute about the favourable conditions. We want to know what the exact consultative procedure will be and also what will happen to employees who prefer to be on secondment from the Civil Service or who choose to leave because they do not regard the offered conditions of employment as satisfactory.

In another place the amendments put forward by my noble Friend Lord Jenkins were rejected, but it is a matter to which we shall have to return. Assurances that were conveyed by the Earl of Avon on representations about the matter are still awaiting clarification and legal advice. We shall refer to that in Committee because it is inappropriate for the Second Reading debate.

The appointment of trustees for the Victoria and Albert museum and the science museum is to be by the Prime Minister. Curiously enough, that will not be the position for the armouries. We have two major reservations. The first is on the issue of patronage. Amendments that were put forward in another place to allow the trustees to elect their own chairmen were rejected, but it was accepted that a chairman who resigned, presumably on an issue of principle, would be allowed to stay on for the rest of his term as a trustee. Some Opposition Members believe that appointments by the Prime Minister are not necessarily always right nor are they always made with the best interests in mind of the service or artistic endeavour that is under consideration.

Recently we have seen sad examples of what happens to gifted and courageous individuals who may temporarily be against the grain of Government policy. When their appointments came up for renewal they have found that they have not been renewed. I want to give one or two examples. There was the dismissal of the six regional health authority chairmen, the removal of Sir Richard O'Brien because his view of the Manpower Services Commission was not that of the Government, the removal of Richard Hoggart as vice-chairman of the Arts Council, the removal of Professor A. H. Halsey from the Social Science Research Council and, most recently and notoriously, because it concerned directly the Secretary of State for the Environment, the removal of Sir Ralph Verney from his distinguished chairmanship of the Nature Conservancy Council.

Similarly, individuals have been appointed recently who may not be regarded as the best qualified people to fill the positions in question. There was the appointment of Mr. Leigh-Pemberton to the Bank of England. Not all quarters, including some sections of the Conservative press, wholeheartedly approved that gentleman's outstanding qualifications for the post. The Daily Telegraph, having attacked the appointment in its editorial and been somewhat dismissive of it, could find only one thing to say in his favour in its City column, which said: He may have that independence of mind so valuable in a central banker that comes from Eton and Oxford, from possession of a country estate and the Lord-Lieutenancy of Kent". To borrow a phrase from my noble Friend Lord Annan, if I may so describe him, we wish to see not just the great and the good but sometimes the lesser and the better as chairmen and trustees of these bodies. That is more likely to happen if the trustees themselves can elect a chairman whom they regard, on merit, as best able to represent them and their interests and the interests over which he is charged to preside and as being in a position to resist Government pressure on any issue that may arise regardless of the political complexion of the Government. One thinks, for example, of what may happen if—heaven forbid—the next Government decide to impose museum charges. A chairman of trustees might stand out against that as being wholly against his remit. We would not wish people holding that view to be removed or debarred from appointment as a result of the procedures in the Bill.

Mr. Jessel

Why should that happen in the next four years when it has not happened in the last four years?

Mr. Whitehead

The Whips are murmuring "Very good" to encourage the hon. Gentleman, but I have just read out a list of the various dismissals and refusals to reappoint in recent times. The Government have followed a policy of naked patronage in many of their appointments. I do not wish to be partisan as I wish the Bill well, but that is one of our central reservations about the untrammeled exercise of Prime Ministerial patronage.

Mr. Faulds

Is my hon. Friend aware of the unfortunate rumours that a certain person is being considered for the chairmanship of the board of trustees or even just as a trustee whom public and private pressures earlier removed from the possibility of involvement in the national heritage commission? Does he agree that the lady in question would be most unwelcome in any position on the board?

Mr. Whitehead

I think that I know the identity of the person to whom my hon. Friend refers. If it is the person who I believe is now actively canvassed as a possible trustee of the Victoria and Albert museum, one would certainly wish to examine closely her record in preserving the national heritage in the stately home into the possession of which she recently came. I say no more than that at this stage.

On the appointment of trustees generally, Lord Eccles and Lord Annan were defeated three times in another place when they tried to introduce proposals for what would in effect have been a more managerial board. Lord Annan entertained the other House at length with stories of how Lord Sainsbury had taken off his coat, rolled up his sleeves and in two minutes on the back of an envelope entirely revised the British Museum shop and its selling policies. It was suggested that the trustees should be more like the board of directors of a company. To improve on that, it would also be necessary to bring into the board of trustees the director and perhaps three or four curators and senior staff of the museum, but that proposal was strongly resisted by the same individuals. It is extremely hard to press-gang people on to a board of trustees if they have no desire to be so co-opted, so we shall not be considering the proposals in that light. We shall, however, be considering two other matters.

First, why should only the leisured—those, perhaps, like the noble lady to whom my hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) referred—be free to accept appointment to trusteeships of this kind and the onerous duties involved because there can be no remuneration for the task? I find the arguments advanced in another place against remuneration for trustees wholly unconvincing. We have now reached a stage in our public life when, if we are to bring in people widely representative of that public life and not perpetually the same people, however eminent or qualified, we must widen and improve the conditions to encourage people to take such posts. On the museum circuit, if I may so describe it, the same people—Lord Annan and Lord Eccles are obvious and eminent examples—are appointed to one chairmanship after another because they have the weight, the independence and the expertise to undertake the task. We wish to see a wider form of trusteeship.

Secondly, in committee we shall seek to bring in what I would describe as the consumer voice. Somebody should be appointed or elected to the board of trustees who genuinely represents the consumers concerned. In the last three years, thanks to the initiative of Sir Roy Strong, the number of friends of the Victoria and Albert museum has grown to nearly 3,000. Why should not a trustee be elected, appointed or nominated from among them? There is no reason why that should not take place. It would follow the precedent established by the British Film Institute which allows two member governors to be elected from among the 14,000 members with voting rights. That has greatly increased interest in the BFI and in the way in which it is administered, and it has greatly increased the number of people prepared to pay membership subscriptions and to participate in that way. I am told that neither the Science museum nor the armouries has any objection in principle to following Sir Roy Strong's initiative. I wish to see the friends of the Victoria and Albert greatly strengthened. Many more people might come in from a wider section of the community if there were a trustee representative. We shall return to that in Committee.

I wish to deal briefly with certain other serious matters. We need further undertakings from the Government in Committee—or today if the Under-Secretary has time—about the retention of profits. The museums should be able to keep what they earn not from charges for general admission but from overall sales. The hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West (Mr. Rees-Davies) was quite wrong about the popularity of museum charges, but I shall return to that later. Nevertheless, the museums should be able to raise money and to retain what they earn in as uninhibited a way as possible. Will the Victoria and Albert museum and the Science museum have all the advantages of the trustee museums that already exist? Will they be able to run trading companies, perhaps especially linked with the out-stations, covenanted to pay their profits to the trust and thus not liable to corporation tax? That has been very successful over the years for the Ironbridge trust and many other such bodies. Will they be able to claim back VAT charged on exhibitions and otherwise? VAT refunds are now to be authorised for contracted-out services in relation to the National Health Service, as the Secretary of State for Social Services told us the other day. If inducements of that kind are good enough in the effort to break up the National Health Service, they should be good enough for our museums and for the protection and better subvention of our heritage.

What will be the relationship of the museums in their new role with Government Departments? It seems a curious anomaly, for example, that the science museum has to turn to the Stationery Office, which has the copyright on the museum's photographs and makes a charge for reproduction. Surely we have now reached the point at which matters such as copyright should be entirely made over to the museums concerned.

I shall now deal with the serious issue of charging. We give due notice that we shall introduce amendments in Committee that will define special exhibitions in relation to the amount of out-of-house material that is included, and we shall try to withdraw from the trustees the right to levy general charges for general admission. The Museums Association and others have discussed that matter many times. It is worth quoting what the Museums Association said in its response to the Rayner inquiry. It said: It must be borne in mind, however, that should charging be introduced at these two museums, it will put immense pressure on the other national institutions to follow suit and it will be difficult for the Government to preserve a neutral attitude on this matter … special arrangements should be made for scholars, educational parties and old-age pensioners … the introduction of charges causes a marked drop in attendance figures initially, which may make it necessary to embark on additional exhibitions and other attractions to woo back the visitors". I do not want to see that deterrent effect in our museums. All the museum directors with whom I have discussed the issue accept that for special exhibitions a charging policy may be feasible, but they believe that the deterrent effect of general charges upon those people whom they most want to see coming in to widen the appreciation of our museums would be great. They give as an example the disincentive, thanks to the Law Lords' decisions against the Greater London council's transport policy, the recent virtual 100 per cent. increase in transport fares in London. The fall-off in attendance at museums after that increase was considerable. If one puts turnstiles on the gates and tries to make a few bob out of school children, many people—my children are a case in point—will not make the necessary trek across London and will therefore not enjoy the facilities of the museums.

Mr. Murphy

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will recall that several of my right hon. and hon. Friends mentioned exclusions for people who are still at school, students and the elderly. I also mention the possibility, if there were museum charges, of a free day one day a week as is the case on the continent.

Mr. Faulds

The cattle.

Mr. Whitehead

A free day would be an absurd piece of tokenism. Perhaps it would be better than nothing, but it would be no more than a gesture towards the type of policy that I want and the type of people that I want to be encouraged to go. If we had the charges which the hon. and learned Member for Thanet, West said that the English tourist board proposed, those charges, even if they were only levied seasonally, would come precisely when the tourist season was at its height and when the school holidays were on. They would make it difficult for families that made the trek to museums at that time of year.

We want the assurances that were given in another place and which were given again here today made doubly sure in Committee. We should also like assurances about disposal. With Rayner's shadow hanging over us, we must re-examine those clauses that deal with disposal to see how informed opinion within any museum can be involved before any disposal takes place. In that respect, we must see how the Museums Association's code of practice can be observed in the letter and in spirit.

We want the pastoral role of those eminent national museums clearly defined and strengthened. My hon. Friend the Member for Warley, East talked of the commission and the possibility of implementing a role that would lead to the enhancement and financing of provincial museums. That is central to any discussions that we have on the Drew report. Whatever the Minister says in Committee, we want to see entrenched in this Bill the pastoral role of the Victoria and Albert museum and the science museum. If a decision that will be presented to the House is being made in the Office of Arts and Libraries—I hope coterminously with discussions in Committee about the commission and what powers it will have—we need to have real assurances in the Bill about the role of the Victoria and Albert and science museums with regard to the provincial museums and their duties as regards circulating exhibitions and the provision of expert advice to provincial museums made quite clear. That is not the case now.

In an intervention which, alas, was not followed up by a speech, the hon. Member for Cambridge (Mr. Rhodes James) mentioned university museums. We may be told that that issue is out of order in Committee. That is not so on Second Reading as these are the responsibilities of the University Grants Committee, which is independent of the Department of Education and Science. As we are dealing with institutions that are already the responsibility of different Government Departments—the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is responsible for the royal botanic gardens which has hardly been mentioned today—we can examine the parlous state of university museums and ask whether if they already have a semi-national status and, according to the Standing Committee on museums and galleries in 1976, are "steadily deteriorating", some steps ought now to be taken through the mechanism of this Bill or otherwise to give some of them national status. I recollect the opening lines of a rather good poem by my old friend James Fenton about the Pitt-Rivers museum at Oxford. It went: The Pitt-Rivers museum is closed 22 hours a day And all day on Sundays". That describes the impression that I retain of some university museums that are strapped for money and feel that, in the present austere financial climate that affects universities, it is simply no good looking to the UGC to honour its responsibilities to expand institutions that have a semi-national role. We shall return to that issue in Committee as well, provided that the rules of order allow it.

We should also carefully examine the divisions of responsibility in and policies of some of the service museums. The issue has been raised briefly in another place. I should like to return to the responsibility for the RAF museum at Hendon. When I take my children there, I am completely confused by the different policies in different pavilions of the museum. One is charged in some and not in others. I gather that there are three overlapping sets of trustees, yet the institution is under the overall charge of the Ministry of Defence.

We must deal with that issue because I do not believe that any Bill that deals with the service museums and makes them extremely useful proponents can leave such circumstances entirely unchanged.

We can make a good Bill better in Committee through care and scrutiny. There is no opposition to the commission on this side of the House. Nor is there any opposition to devolved status although, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields said, we want to devolve the commission as well as responsibilities to the museums. We believe that the commission should go to another part of the country. The Bill should be made less permissive and more prescriptive in some respects if we are to keep what we cherish in a national heritage open and accessible to the public in a lean, mean time. The Minister has tried to help in that respect. I pay tribute to him for it. We shall help him in Committee. If sometimes with the poet he is tempted to say Save, save, oh! save me from the Candid Friend!" I fear that he will have to bear with us. We shall be candid, but in the long run we shall be friendly. Moreover, we shall go all the quicker if the Office of Arts and Libraries can get us another debate on the Rayner and Drew proposals and on the report of the Select Committee. Having said that, I wish the Bill well.

7.18 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Giles Shaw)

It is a pleasure to reply to a debate in which there has been such a unanimous welcome for most of the principles contained in the Bill. There has been, quite rightly, some critical comment on some of its practical aspects. The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) made a number of precise and penetrating points, as we would expect. I am sure that he would not expect me to tackle many of them in the comments that I am about to make.

I thought that the hon. Member's suggestion about widening trusteeship through representatives of friends of art galleries was interesting. I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts will take note of it. It seems to have a potential to widen the commitment which in the end will determine how successfully a museum might be run.

The hon. Gentleman raised a number of particular points, one of which was on financing. He will know well the complications involved in the retention of sums of money between one year and the next. We have an arrangement whereby museums may spend during the year income in excess of that which has been estimated in the Vote. They may have unspent balances revoted to them in a subsequent year. It applies to receipts including those from admission charges to some outstations and special exhibitions.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the report of the Select Committee on Education, Science and Arts recommended changes in this arrangement. The Government are considering the Committee's report in full. I add, as a reply to other Members who asked when there would be a response to the Select Committee report, that the matter is still under full consideration, but I expect that there could be a report on the matter during the spring. I cannot be more precise than that.

My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts described the development of the commission proposal when he opened this debate. He said that I would say more about it. It may be of interest to the House to know a little more about how these proposals were developed and put in the Bill. They were outlined in a consultation document published in November 1981 by my right hon. Friend now Secretary of State for Defence but then Secretary of State for the Environment. This put forward ideas for changes in the organisation of responsibilities for ancient monuments and historic buildings. It left many questions open, quite deliberately, since the Government wanted to take advantage in an open-minded way of the comments and views of interested bodies.

The House should recognise that the degree of consultation that the document provoked—if that is the correct word—was substantial. Over 300 responses to the consultation document were received. That shows the enormous interest those proposals have engendered. During this consultation period Ministers and departmental officials had meetings with representatives of a large number of academic and learned societies. The House might be interested to know that among them were the Ancient Monuments Society, the British Academy, the Council for British Archaeology, the Georgian Group, SAVE Britain's Heritage, the Society of Antiquaries and some related societies, the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings, the Victorian Society, the local authority associations, and so on. It included the Civic Trust and most of the major organisations which hon. Members would have expected would wish to contribute to a proposal of this kind. I doubt whether any exercise that my Department has undertaken in recent years has been undertaken on such a wide scale with the interested parties seeking to commit themselves not just to comment but to constructive criticism.

We were then, on the basis of all this advice and comment, able to publish in June 1982 a document, "The Way Forward", which provides the basis for the proposals in the Bill. The Bill is largely based upon a long period of consultation on some exact proposals put forward in the White Paper and we have tried hard to answer some of the questions raised during the consultation exercise. There was particular anxiety, for example, that the proposals were an attempt by Government to commercialise the heritage.

Let me pick up a point raised by one or two hon. Members, particularly the hon. Member for Harlow (Mr. Newens) who was anxious to establish that there could be certain sites, particularly on the heritage side, which could suffer if the plum sites were able to drain off much of the available resources and public interest. The Government's first priority—I am sure that the House will share it—is to preserve and protect monuments for future generations. This will also be the commission's first priority. There is no question of neglecting sites at which receipts are less than costs, or of endangering popular sites by encouraging over-visiting. Relatively few Department of the Environment sites could fund themselves from the numbers of people who happen to visit them.

There are ways of improving public enjoyment of heritage sites and at the same time increasing revenue from them without introducing any insensitive or undesirable elements, over-commercialising, as hon. Members might describe it, or detracting from the historical or cultural interests of the monuments. That is fairly evident, from what hon. Members have said of their experiences not just in this country. The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) rightly spoke of the remarkable work being done in his part of the world. Hon. Members know that there are ways of improving access and enjoyment of our heritage without destroying it and that must be our duty.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, North (Mr. Baker) drew attention to the obvious distinction between simple preservation and conservation. There must be a creative view of preserving the heritage by developing it for enjoyment without destroying it. We are talking about passing our trusteeship of what we have inherited to future generations, but doing it with all the expertise and technology available in the scientific work of preservation, while at the same time ensuring that access is improved and has a regard for the people who visit as well as for the sites. I hope that those principles will find favour in the House.

Although "The Way Forward" was a decision document rather than a consultation document, there has been a considerable response with more than 90 bodies and individuals making further comments. We hope to have taken into account most of the comments in the detailed proposals in the Bill. I can assure the House that our minds remain open, as they should be, to any helpful and constructive suggestions. One such, I note, has been in relation to the naming of the commission, which is always a popular subject for offerings. I welcome the suggestions by the hon. Member for South Shields, and I shall refer to them later. I can assure the House that all these matters will be discussed in Committee. We want to establish an organisation which will have a firm foundation for the future.

Let me deal next with the scope and functions of the commission. At present the directorate of ancient monuments and historic buildings within my Department has a wide remit covering maintenance and management of royal parks, royal palaces and some 400 monuments in the Secretary of State's care; the protection of scheduled monuments and the co-ordination and financing of rescue achaeology; the list of historic buildings, including the accelerated listed resurvey—I shall have another word to say later about the anxiety expressed by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) about listing—and the provision of grants for the repair of ancient monuments and historic buildings and for work in conservation areas.

Not all these functions are to be taken over by the commission. The Secretary of State would retain responsibility, answerable to Parliament, for the broadest aspects of policy, including resource allocation—I shall return to this—for confirmation of decisions on listing and scheduling and taking monuments into care; and for the exercise of all planning functions under the Town and Country Planning Acts.

May I amplify the point about listing which was raised by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight? The relationship between the Department and the commission is important and crucial. He is right to observe that, after the completion of the relisting survey, which is now well advanced, the commission will be taking over the residual matters and will be in the advisory role to the Department of making recommendations on listing of the buildings and the procedures. As the "The Way Forward" makes clear, in the interests of completing the survey expeditiously—it should be well under way by the time the commission is established—there might be advantages in allowing those administrative tasks to remain in the short term within the Department where the expertise would be established.

Once the relisting survey is complete, the residue of such work would be transferred to the commission. That is broadly the way in which we expect listing to be operating when the commission is in being. The Secretary of State would remain responsible for taking decisions affecting the private rights of individuals. I hope that the House will recognise—compulsory purchase and acquisition were raised—that listing has important planning connotations and that the Secretary of State retains those rights in his planning function.

Furthermore, the Government announced on introducing the Bill that they had decided that the maintenance and management of the royal parks and royal palaces should not be transferred to the new commission. The decision reflected the Government's view of the importance of these sites in national life and the important security issues which they raise. I know that that is a matter which has greatly interested the House recently. They reflect the need for Ministers to remain directly answerable for activity in this sensitive royal preserve.

The vast bulk of the remainder of the work I have described will, however, become the responsibility of the commission. It will be building on the work of the Historic Buildings Council for England and the Ancient Monument Board for England. I am sure the House would wish me to pay tribute to the many people who over the years have made a major contribution on those two bodies to the preservation of this important part of our national heritage. These people give up a great deal of time to make a major contribution to work in this field. The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) paid tribute to those who work in the voluntary sector. These bodies will be subsumed in the new commission but I am sure the foundations they have laid will prove invaluable for further work. Some hon. Members criticised the creation of quangos, but I must argue that subsuming two into one should be regarded as taking two to quango.

The range of the commission's activities will be wide, providing advice to the Secretary of State on the scheduling of ancient monuments and on applicants for scheduled monument consent. It can acquire monuments or take them into guardianship, give grants for the repair of monuments and for archaeological investigations, and manage the Secretary of State's monuments on his behalf.

There are corresponding activities on the historic buildings side. The commission will be involved with the Secretary of State's functions of listing buildings in the manner that I have just described. It will take over the payment of historic building and church grants for outstanding buildings and for buildings in conservation areas and town schemes.

Besides what we might call those casework activities, the commission must develop its own policy ideas and press them on the Government when it sees a need for action. It will apply its energy and ideas to achieving improvements in the presentation of monuments and buildings. Hon. Members made some sound suggestions about that. The latter is an area where it is generally agreed that there is clearly room for improvement.

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Sandelson) mentioned Stonehenge, where improvement is not only desirable and necessary but long overdue. Such improvement will, without unworthy exploitation, enhance visitors' enjoyment of monuments and increase revenue.

The commission will reinforce those individual functions as the central and expert adviser in its area, drawing on the expertise of the inspectorate of ancient monuments and historic buildings, including the ancient monuments laboratory and the central excavation unit, and also the professional and industrial staff in the works organisation, who have built up a unique expertise that is highly valued in the heritage and conservation world.

The hon. Member for Warley, East made a characteristically well-informed and accurate speech. He raised several points, some of which I hope to answer now and others that I hope will be answered in due course. The Government have said that the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments and the commission that we are proposing to set up should be separate. The Royal Commission has an academic and scholarly independence that we should preserve. In another place, Lord Adeane promised full co-operation with the commission in practical matters, including arrangements for access to the national monuments record. The Royal Commission has plans of substantial technological importance to provide additional access, but they will be necessary only if the Royal Commission moves from where it is presently sited. The new commission will decide that matter, but access will improve with the agreement of the Royal Commission.

The hon. Member for Warley, East asked about the Secretary of State's acquisition of properties. The Secretary of State must consent to acquisition, because properties are expensive and have major resource implications. They also often involve planning procedures. However, the Secretary of State will be largely responsible for funding the commission and must therefore be involved in decisions that affect its long-term resource needs. The hon. Gentleman asked about repair notices and the commission's powers of compulsory purchase. Despite what he said, such powers, which interfere with the rights of individuals, are rightly reserved to an elected body, such as a local authority, or to a Minister. That is why it is right that the Secretary of State should reserve that power.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the Victoria and Albert museum, the theatre museum and the Bethnal green museum of childhood. Clause 2 refers to the building known as the Victoria and Albert Museum". Clause 2(2) mentions the Victoria and Albert building and "other premises". As the theatre museum and the Bethnal green museum of childhood are integral parts of the Victoria and Albert museum, there is no need to mention them separately in the Bill.

The hon. Member for Warley, East also asked about the Royal Scottish museum. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland made an announcement about its future status. The statement has been the subject of consultations relating not only to that museum but to other aspects of museum development in Scotland. My right hon. Friend is not ready to bring forward legislation on this matter, and I cannot say when he will see fit to do so.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel) asked about the display of museums' goods and suggested that they were guilty of hoarding. Hon. Members on both sides of the House must see some truth in that allegation. However, I must inform my hon. Friend that there have been improvements. Museums are making wide use of loan schemes that give them the opportunity to display the items that they have in store. National museums and galleries are displaying more of their acquisitions, and the loan schemes give them the opportunity to buy the many items on offer.

The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) asked about the prospect of long-term careers in the new commission. Expertise must be made more permanently available. That is not the case in the Civil Service, where there are rapid changes. The commission could provide opportunities to many dedicated people who do not see much prospect for a career in such a service. We should encourage them to believe that the commission will establish long-term careers for young people who are dedicated to this science.

Almost all hon. Members asked about the funding of the new body. People are concerned, rightly, that the heritage should not lose out because of those proposals, and the Government agree. They have stated clearly in another place the basis of the commission's financing. The grant in aid of the new commission will be separated into administrative costs, grants and expenditure on the care of monuments owned or managed by the commission. Virement of funds into the administrative budget will not be permitted, but other virement will be possible.

It has also been agreed that carryover from one financial year to another of unspent funds that have been committed but not spent on grants will form part of the financial regime. It has further been agreed that an increase in income resulting from the presentation of heritage sites brought about by the commission will not automatically lead to a reduction in its grant, and that private donations and other such income will not be taken into account in the negotiations on the grant in aid.

The commission's overall financial responsibilities will be substantial. No detailed calculations have been made, especially about administrative needs, but based on existing expenditure the commission might have a grant range of £40 million to £50 million at the outset. That significant grant in aid expenditure should be sufficient in its initial stages.

Anxiety was also expressed about tax. The Government have decided that the commission should be treated analogously with the National Heritage Memorial Fund in being given, by statute, tax advantages similar to those enjoyed by a charity. That would include the tax benefits that can be obtained through covenanting donations to a charity. The necessary statutory provisions will be included in this year's Finance Bill.

I pay tribute to the work of the Royal Commission since its establishment in 1908. It is owed a great debt for its detailed and scholarly work during the years, and for the technological developments that it is introducing to improve still further public access to its data base, the national monuments record. The Government have concluded therefore—I referred to this briefly in response to the hon. Member for Warley, East—that it should continue as a separate independent entity, as was announced by my noble Friend Lord Avon on Third Reading in another place.

The name of the new commission was touched on by a number of hon. Members., but although there are many candidates for different names, there are not many that fit the bill. A title that includes the confusing word "heritage" would cause confusion, for example, with the National Heritage Memorial Fund, whose work I know every Member admires. These are some of the difficulties that we have. On the other hand, references to ancient monuments and historic buildings produce rather a mouthful.

We may find that there is further discussion on this topic as the Bill proceeds through Committee, as the hon. Member for Warley, East has made clear. For the time being, the Government have agreed to a change of the title to Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England and we intend to amend the Bill accordingly, which answers the points raised today. I have no doubt that in Committee eloquent and active minds will be brought to bear on this problem and will come out with further suggestions, and I wish them well.

An organisation of the size of the commission, with its variety of responsibilities, will offer an attractive career to many of those now working in this area. There are staff who are dedicated and have a great professionalism, and they have deservedly gained a high reputation over the years. I hope that many of them will see the establishment of the commission as an opportunity to develop their skills further in a specialised environment.

The Government are firmly of the view that the commission should decide on its terms and conditions of service with reasonable flexibility within the overall constraints of a body largely financed by the Exchequer. There is not for the commission the precedent of existing trustee museums, which makes it appropriate for the staff of the trustee bodies set up by the Bill to remain on terms and conditions virtually identical to those of the Civil Service. The commission as an executive agency w ill need freedom to operate in what it sees as the most efficient way.

However, the Government have the interests of staff closely at heart, as is shown by the requirement in the Bill that offers of employment should be made that are no worse, taken as a whole, at the time of transfer than existing terms and conditions. Offers will be made to staff identified by the Secretary of State. It will, as I have said, be for the commission to decide on its terms and conditions of service, including its pay and pension arrangements, subject to this "no worsening" provision. The Government have already announced in another place that they intend to recommend to the commission the adoption of an unfunded pension scheme "by analogy" with the Civil Service one, including index linking. Matters such as organisation and location will also have to be an early concern of the new commission's management when appointed.

There has been some preliminary discussion with the trade union side, although it has not proved possible so far to get down to detailed negotiation. This is difficult in any case in the absence of representatives of the commission's management, who will have to take the final decisions. We have, however, decided to carry on with further discussions with the trade union side on the basis of seeking to develop proposals on terms and conditions of service that can be recommended to the commission. We hope that those discussions will be arranged very shortly.

I have dwelt at some length on the detail of the commission, as I know that it was raised by the hon. Member for South Shields. It is a matter of great concern and there should be no doubt that in making these changes we seek not only to protect the existing staff but also to offer opportunities that are comparable in pay and conditions to those that they currently enjoy.

I am grateful for the patience of the House, as I felt that I should dwell at some length on the commission, what it seeks to do and how we should set about that. In the Bill we have provided an important step forward—all are agreed on that. There seems to be some doubt on the Labour Benches about whether the step is far enough, and there are questions about certain details, but there is unamimity in the House and outside that what is proposed is crucial to our heritage.

I have implied that we respect the demand for adequate financing to ensure that the commission is successful. We strongly support the view that conservation and not just preservation should be the creative way in which we view the future. Heritage, after all, is a national issue, and it demands a national commitment if it is to be preserved and held in readiness for the future. The House has given a national and broad welcome to what is contained in the Bill and I trust therefore that it will allow the Bill to continue in Committee.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).