HC Deb 19 April 2002 vol 383 cc863-9
Mr. Dismore

I beg to move amendment No. 22, in page 3, line 36, at end insert— '(lA) The Commission shall, before exercising its powers under subsections (1)(d) and (e) above, consult and thereafter take account of any representations made by the Government, or any equivalent body to the Commission, of the country concerned.'.

We are somewhat changing the subject now, and moving from international waters to international monuments. The Bill makes provision for the commission to produce books, films and souvenirs relating to monuments, buildings and so on overseas. I want to ensure that if we stray beyond our territorial waters to other countries, we do so in a way that will not offend anybody.

When the Bill was discussed in another place, Baroness Anelay said: I assure the House that English Heritage should not and will not operate in competition with existing commercial concerns. It will complement and not conflict with the services already offered by commercial concerns for operations outwith the UK. By developing relations with overseas bodies English Heritage will look to stimulate the market for UK commercial companies. Overseas agencies look to English Heritage for training and advice."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 31 October 2001; Vol. 627, c. 1493.] I very much hope that that is the case, but I know from my own trips to countries like Greece, where I frequently visit ancient monuments and museums, that museum replicas are becoming big business; they are produced to a high standard, are often expensive and are an important part of the income of many overseas museum services. If we start to produce such material, we should do so in co-operation with the authorities of those countries and not, as Baroness Anelay said, in competition with them. I therefore seek an assurance that, in light of the co-operation that was discussed in another place, we are not going to compete with overseas museum services.

We should also have regard for the sensitivities of overseas countries. The Parthenon sculptures, for example, are a matter of great debate between Greece and ourselves. The sculptures are in the British museum, which produces an awful lot of material about them in the bookshop. There are two very different stories about how the Parthenon sculptures came to be in the United Kingdom. I shall not explore them now, although it is tempting. However, I share the Greeks' view, rather than the British Government's. If we produced plastic parthenons for sale in the British museum, the Greek Government might have something to say. They might also have something to say about the context and content of any books or literature produced.

We must bear in mind the fact that a lot of souvenirs represent things that are culturally sensitive, such as the Parthenon, which is highly symbolic for the people of Greece, If we go down that route, we should recognise the importance of selling high-quality products; we should not stoop to the tourist tat that is seen on the streets of some countries. We should produce items in co-operation with overseas countries so as not to offend them. We must make sure that we work in co-operation with them and are not in competition with them.

Mr. Greg Knight

The hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) is a powerful advocate. He has moved a number of amendments today, and has taken me with him on some of his arguments. However, he has needed all his powers of advocacy for amendment No. 22 because his case is weak. I am against what he is trying to achieve; he has not explained why we should put the commission under that duty.

The main issue is whether the commission should be able to trade. I have serious misgivings about allowing it to start trading and selling trinkets and would much prefer the Bill not to include such a provision. However, having accepted that that power is in the Bill, the commission must be allowed the discretion to produce items as it sees fit. For example, if it believes that there is a market at certain British sites for tacky replicas of the Empire State building, why should we have to consult the Americans about whether to go ahead with the proposal? The process would be cumbersome and unwieldy, and it would not work. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.

Sir Sydney Chapman

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) for introducing the amendment. It gives us a chance to discuss a serious issue. We are discussing it in the context of the Bill being able to allow English Heritage to produce and publish, or sell, books, films or other informative material relating to foreign ancient monuments or foreign historic buildings", and to produce or sell souvenirs relating to such monuments or buildings".

The amendment would require English Heritage to consult. That would impose a huge burden upon it, and an unnecessary one. I tend to agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight). English Heritage has a reputation for not producing tacky materials and souvenirs. First, I think that it has a sense of taste, but I recognise that that is subjective. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, English Heritage always takes great care to understand and respect cultural sensitivities. I am sure that it would always act with propriety if it were to produce an item relating to a foreign ancient monument or building.

Mr. Knight

Is there not another consideration? If the amendment were accepted, the process would prove so cumbersome for the commission that it would wipe out any profit that it made from selling items.

Sir Sydney Chapman

I would not claim to be an expert in commercial processes, but I tend to agree with my right hon. Friend.

I rest my case, subject to what the Minister says, on the amendment being unnecessary. English Heritage justifies its reputation, given the way it has gone about things. It would consult where it was obviously necessary to do so. It would be unnecessarily cumbersome, to use the word of my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire, and bureaucratic to require it to consult in every instance. I invite the hon. Member for Hendon to withdraw the amendment.

Miss McIntosh

I do not wish to disagree with anything that my right hon. and hon. Friends have said.

I hope that the Minister will assure the House that the Government will not support the amendments. Amendment No. 22 would pose quite an obstacle and raise an unnecessary hurdle. Foreign Governments have to be approached for picture copyright, for example, but there are other circumstances where it would not be appropriate for them to be approached.

In congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) on taking the Bill through its consideration, we should be mindful that it emanated from another place. It has been on the table, so to speak, since 21 July 2001. The amendment comes late in the day, and we should he mindful of the reassurance of my noble Friend Baroness Anelay of St. Johns, to which the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) referred. It would be entirely inappropriate to use any opportunity today to revisit the issue of who owns the Parthenon sculptures, which are rightfully the property of the British museum.

Dr. Howells

As the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) made clear, English Heritage always takes great care to understand and respect the cultural sensitivities that apply to any ancient monument, historic building or artefact. I have every confidence in asserting that it will continue to do so. We shall have something to say if it does not. It will not he in competition with the heritage authorities in any other country. I am confident that English Heritage would automatically extend the care that it already shows to any foreign monument or historic building on which it was working. However, it would be an unacceptable burden to expect English Heritage to consult, for example, with the Egyptian Government before publishing a book in England about the pyramids.

The amendment is unnecessary and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) will show some faith in English Heritage as a fine organisation that displays a great sense of taste. I am sure that it will continue to do so, not only within the bounds of England and 12-mile territorial waters, but wherever in the world it operates.

Mr. Dismore

I have two short points to make. First, in response to the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh), this is the first opportunity that I have had to table amendments, as I did not have the good fortune to serve on the Standing Committee, so I cannot be criticised for that.

Secondly, the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) asked why the amendment was necessary. I answer by referring once more, with trepidation, to the Parthenon. I recently visited the Parthenon and met the director of the site, Professor Pantermalis, with whom I had a long discussion. He gave me a copy of a catalogue from an exhibition at the Berlin museum which the Greeks are mounting jointly with the German museum authorities. The Greeks have lent a large number of sculptures to the German museum. It is a wonderful catalogue, showing hundreds of items that we will never see in this country because of the dispute between our Government and the Greek Government over the Parthenon sculptures.

Through the amendment, I am trying to avoid offending other Governments so that, wittingly or unwittingly, we do not end up in dispute with them. The cultural world is international, with exhibitions travelling from country to country. Because of that, we run the risk of causing offence. The net result would be that we cut off our nose to spite our face. That is my answer to the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire: the amendment was intended to ensure that we work in co-operation with other countries, rather than in competition with them.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham)

Although I served on the Standing Committee, I had not intended to speak in the debate, as I hoped that the Bill would go through without hindrance. When the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) was fortunate enough to see the Parthenon, was he subjected to the admission charges? I gather that they have just been raised by 50 per cent., making a visit to the Parthenon a rather more expensive exercise than going to see the Elgin marbles in the British museum for free.

Mr. Dismore

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. On more than one occasion I have stressed to the Greek Government and all those involved with the Parthenon that when the Parthenon sculptures return to Athens, people must have access to them free, so that they can see them on the same basis as they can see them in their temporary home in the British museum.

I shall not prolong the proceedings. I see that the House is not with me on the amendment. However, I have made the point about the need to work with foreign Governments, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Order for Third Reading read.

1.28 pm
Sir Sydney Chapman

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

It is with pride that I introduce the Third Reading of the Bill, which I know commands support from all parts of the House, as it did in the other place. Of course, it derived from the other place, where it was introduced by the noble Baroness Anelay of St. Johns. If the House is minded to give the Bill a Third Reading, the credit goes principally to her and all the endeavours that she put into this important measure.

I claim that the Bill has all-party support, simply because it derives from a 1996 White Paper entitled "Protecting our Heritage", which was introduced by a previous Conservative Government. Many of the provisions in the Bill were to be found in the Culture and Recreation Bill which was introduced in the last Session of the last Parliament but did not proceed because the general election was called.

The Bill transfers responsibility for underwater archaeology from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to English Heritage. As hon. Members will know, English Heritage presently has responsibility only for archaeology on land sites.

As far as I am aware, all the relevant organisations and institutions support that principal provision of the Bill: not only English Heritage, but the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites, the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee and even the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Two other provisions in the Bill give English Heritage the right to produce souvenirs, about which we have just spoken, not only in England but in relation to monuments or buildings in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and rightly so.

The Bill also deals with an anomaly whereby English Heritage may offer its services and expertise in England, but not outwith the United Kingdom. There is certainly a demand for English Heritage's expertise, goods and services outside the UK and the Bill gives English Heritage the powers to meet that demand. English Heritage will be able to charge for such services and so generate additional income.

It is worth pointing out that the Bill gives English Heritage the power to delegate its functions to another person if the finance is available to do the work that is within its remit but it simply does not have available the personnel or the time. That is a purely practical solution to a problem that can arise.

It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to thank all those hon. Members who have been involved with the Bill, not only those in the House of Lords, but those who served on the Committee, which was fruitful. I am particularly grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) and the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) for introducing the amendments that have been withdrawn but which brought important matters to the attention of the House.

I also thank the Minister who showed me great courtesy and consideration as I attempted to pilot the measure through the House. His advice has been totally co-operative and I should like that to be put on the record, as also the great help that I was given on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) and, more recently, not only on Report but in Committee, by my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh). I am most grateful to them and I commend the Bill to the House.

1.33 pm
Miss McIntosh

I congratulate my noble friend Baroness Anelay of St. Johns on introducing the Bill as long ago as 18 July 2001, and my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman), whom I regularly describe as our national treasure, on so successfully bringing the Bill through all its stages in the House.

We welcome the Bill and the fact that it has all-party support. I welcome the transfer of responsibility for underwater archaeology from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to English Heritage. That is a particular priority of the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee, which made it a cornerstone of its 1989 document "Heritage at Sea" and, more recently, in "Still at Sea".

My right hon. Friend the Member for South—West Surrey (Virginia Bottomley) made similar recommendations in 1996 in the Green Paper "Protecting our Heritage" and the English Heritage report "Power of Place" recommended that English Heritage should assume responsibility for maritime matters.

The Bill proposes that English Heritage should assume responsibility for ancient monuments in the sea or on the sea bed within UK waters adjacent to England, and we support that. The importance of the large number of wrecks that have been identified throughout the Bill's consideration, particularly today, and prehistoric submerged landscapes are particularly valuable to us as an island nation and a naval and mercantile power.

The seas around us offer a plethora of significant sites and remains, which form an important part of our national heritage. In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the lead agency for managing the physical remains of the historic environment already has responsibility for marine archaeology. By contrast, English Heritage is unable to survey underwater sites, fund work on them, give advice relating to them or assist the Secretary of State in the discharge of functions conferred on her by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973.

Under the National Heritage Act 1983, English Heritage is not allowed to offer services outside the United Kingdom. I am delighted that the Bill will change that, recognising the fact that there is great demand outside the United Kingdom for the expertise, goods and services of English Heritage. That will enable English Heritage to generate extra income. It should not and will not compete with existing commercial concerns, but we recognise that overseas agencies look to English Heritage for training and advice, and would welcome its assistance. We support that.

We support the Bill, and congratulate all those associated with it, especially my noble Friend Baroness Anelay of St. Johns and my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet. I have great pleasure in commending it to the House.

1.36 pm
Mr. Dismore

I congratulate the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) on the Bill. I know that it is a difficult job to pilot a private Member's Bill through the House, having had his support for the Bill that I brought forward last week. Despite my comments and criticisms of his Bill, I think that it is worth while. I was grateful for the opportunity that he has given me to research in the highways and byways of obscure legislation, and perhaps get some ideas for future law reform of my own in the next Session.

The hon. Gentleman has done a great service to the world of archaeology and the protection of our cultural heritage by bringing the Bill to the House. I believe that today will be the final stage, apart from Royal Assent, and he is to be congratulated on that achievement.

1.37 pm
Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton)

Like the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore), I rise briefly to put on record Liberal Democrat support for this measure, and to congratulate the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman). He has piloted the Bill through the House with his usual professional skill and eloquence. Many people will welcome this legislation.

On a personal note, in anticipation of English Heritage's positive response to a grant application for All Saints church in Kingston, I welcome the extension of that organisation's powers.

Dr. Howells

I add my congratulations to the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) on the way in which he has navigated this excellent Bill through the House—I am fed up hearing references to "piloting". It was my privilege to serve with him right the way through it, including in Committee. His Bill gives valuable new powers to English Heritage. Its passage through the House shows that there is widespread support for it on both sides. I reiterate the fact that the Government fully support it.

The Bill will broaden the powers of English Heritage, allowing it to trade in overseas countries and become involved in underwater archaeology in territorial waters adjacent to England. The hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) made the important point that that will further enhance English Heritage's status as a leading body in this sector. It has a well-deserved, worldwide reputation.

I should also like to repeat a number of reassurances to the House. I can confirm that the overseas trading provisions in the Bill do not give English Heritage powers to undertake these activities in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, as they have their own heritage bodies. The devolved Administrations are content with all the provisions in the Bill. My Department has been in contact with Ministers and officials in the devolved Administrations, who have said that they are content with the Bill. I know that the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet will be pleased to hear that.

I can also assure the House that the Bill is compatible with the European convention on human rights.

Once again, I should like to say how pleased I am to offer the Government's support and to commend the Third Reading of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed, with amendments.

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