§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE EARL OF MUNSTER)
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Your Lordships will recall that a few weeks ago we had a most illuminating and interesting debate on the whole subject of historic houses, and in the course of the Government reply, which was given by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, it was announced that we should shortly be introducing a Bill to enable financial assistance to be given for the preservation of historic houses. This is the Bill: it has passed through another place, and I ask the House to give it a Second Reading to-day.
I suppose it would be true to say that any discussion on historic houses naturally starts with the Gowers Report. This valuable document, for which we are extremely grateful to Sir Ernest Gowers and the other members of his Committee, sets out a system by which some 2,000 houses of historic and architectural interest may be preserved for posterity. As was announced on the previous occasion, we are unable to accept the heavy financial burden which we should have been forced to accept if we had approved all the recommendations of the Gowers Report. We are not alone in that, for I think I am correct in saying that the previous Government found exactly the same reason for declining to agree to all the recommendations contained in the Report. Nevertheless, we have accepted the main findings of the Gowers Committee: that without financial assistance these houses would perish one by one and with ever-increasing rapidity. The amount of money which can be given in the present circumstances must, however, be strictly limited.
The House will remember that when we had the earlier debate a statement 909 was made by my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack about the financial obligations which Her Majesty's Government were prepared to undertake to implement this scheme. Let me briefly recall them. A sum of £500,000 will be provided from the Land Fund over a period of five years to enable my right honourable friend the Minister of Works to purchase buildings and chattels. In addition, an annual sum is to be made available which in the first year will add £250,000 towards giving grants for the upkeep and maintenance of historic houses and their contents. I am well aware that this sum calls far short of what many of your Lordships think is necessary for the preservation of these houses, but, as I have said, in present conditions it is not possible for Her Majesty's Government to agree to any bigger sum. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has agreed that when the scheme has been in operation for a period of one year, he will consider what can be done in the future, but for the moment, at any rate, he is not prepared to make a bigger grant than £250,000.
This Bill is intended to attain two objectives: first, to enable the Government to take immediate action to preserve the best of the historic houses in the country and, secondly, to remedy a number of defects in the existing legislation on ancient monuments. Noble Lords who have examined this Bill with care will see that under its provisions financial assistance for the maintenance of historic houses can be given either by grants to owners or by direct purchase. The Gowers Committee recommended that, in the main, assistance to owners should take the form of relief from taxation. Much consideration was given to that proposal, but, for reasons which were clearly stated on the previous occasion, we have not been able to accept it. Apart from this, if the Gowers proposals had been accepted in full, they would have involved Her Majesty's Government in the expenditure of a vast sum of money, which, as I understand it, could not be calculated in any way whatever. We believe that the system of grants set out in this Bill is the best way of maintaining these houses of historic and national interest.
910 The Bill is divided into four Parts. The first Part gives the Minister of Works powers for the preservation of buildings of outstanding historic or architectural interest; the second Part makes certain procedural improvements for the making of preservation orders under the Ancient Monuments Acts; the third Part deals with certain minor amendments to these Acts; and the fourth Part deals with sundry matters. Under the first three clauses of the Bill an Historic Buildings Council is to be set up for England, Scotland an Wales, and the primary duty of the Councils will be to advise the Minister in the exercise of his powers under Part I of the Bill. The Council for Scotland will have, in addition, the duty of advising the Secretary of State for Scotland in the exercise of his powers relating to buildings of special architectural or historic interest under certain sections of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1947. Annual reports will be made by each Historic Buildings Council and laid before Parliament.
Clause 4 enables the Minister to make grants, subject to such conditions as he thinks fit, to the owner of a building of outstanding interest to assist in maintaining its structure, its contents and the amenity land in the immediate neighbourhood. Clause 5 empowers the Minister to acquire, manage and dispose of buildings of historic interest, their contents and amenity land. Clause 6 enables him to assist the National Trust or a local authority in the acquisition of historic buildings. Clause 7 gives authority for the National Land Fund to be used to assist in the acquisition of historic buildings, and Clause 8 enables the Minister to accept endowments from private persons towards the upkeep of historic buildings. I suppose that none of your Lordships will have overlooked the importance of the Historic Buildings Councils as set up in the first three clauses of the Bill. They will obviously have a most important and considerable part to play throughout the workings of the new scheme. It is therefore the intention of my right honourable friend that the members of these three Councils shall be persons who can give him the best possible advice in fulfilling the powers which Parliament intends to give him under the terms of this Bill.
911 I turn now to the second Part of the Bill, and the Schedule, which lays down the amended procedure for the protection of ancient monuments. Under the present Ancient Monuments Acts, the Minister may take a monument under his protection by making a preservation order under which his written permission must be obtained for all work done to the monument. If, however, the owner objects to the order, it lapses after twenty-one months, unless confirmed by Act of Parliament. This. I am sure your Lordships will agree, is a very cumbrous and perhaps weird method of procedure. Accordingly, the Bill proposes to substitute the Special Parliamentary Procedure for an Act of Parliament to confirm a disputed preservation order. Clauses 10 to 13 and the Schedule set out the procedure in detail, and perhaps I need not at this stage draw attention to them. But, in passing, I think I must mention Clause 12 of the Bill, which enables compensation to be paid to any owner who suffers loss as the result of a preservation notice or order being served upon him.
Part III of the Bill deals with Amendments to the Ancient Monuments Acts. Here I think I need mention only Clause 15, which extends the period during which a prosecution can be made under the Ancient Monuments Acts from six months to one year from the commission of the alleged offence. I am sure the House will support the Government, and agree with our view that no one should be able to avoid being prosecuted for an offence under those Acts merely because a time limit of so short a duration had expired. I do not think I need weary the House any further with the important but miscellaneous provisions contained in the other clauses of the Bill. I myself feel that the measure will be welcomed everywhere. I think that it clearly indicates the wishes of Members of both Houses, and of all Parties, that the houses of historic and architectural interest and importance which are to be found in this country, and are, possibly, unique throughout the world, should be preserved, so far as our resources will permit at the present stage. That is the Bill which I ask the House to read a second time. It is one which I believe it is important that we should get on to the Statute Book, and I hope that to-day 912 I may have the support and concurrence of noble Lords in all parts of the House when I move that this Bill be read a second time. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª—(The Earl of Munster.)
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I can assure the noble Earl who has just introduced this Bill that he will have the wholehearted support of Members of your Lordships' House on this side of the Chamber—indeed, I believe, with confidence, that he will have the support of every single Member of the House. On reading this Bill, my mind went back to the most difficult days of the war, when the nation was in great peril and we were struggling for our lives. Yet we found time, as the noble Earl will remember, to discuss such questions as the Uthwatt Report, the Barlow Report and the Scott Report, and to look to the future with that unconquerable spirit upon which we justly pride ourselves. I doubt whether any other nation in the world, in that situation, would have thought it practical to discuss questions of that kind. To-day, when there is a real financial stringency, and we are faced with great financial difficulties, and when there is every need for economy, it is once more remarkable that we should be discussing a measure of this kind which involves a certain amount of expenditure out of public funds. It is an indication, also, of the fact that we realise that man does "not live by bread alone." I therefore congratulate the Government most cordially on introducing this measure at this particular time.
Of course, the Government do not claim for a moment that this is the work of one Party. The paternity of this measure will no doubt be claimed by many people—and justly so. The amenities societies, for instance, can claim a great deal of credit for having kept before the general public the idea of the preservation of historic buildings. I think my right honourable friend Mr. Dalton can claim some credit for having set aside the sum of £50 million towards the creation of the Land Fund, out of the interest of which this Bill is able to provide the funds. I think Members of your Lordships' House, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Methuen, can claim a 913 good deal of credit for having kept this matter alive in your Lordships' House.
I believe I am right in saying that this Bill follows very largely the Bill which was in draft and which had been prepared by the late Government. I should also like to pay a tribute to the present Minister of Works, Sir David Eccles, whom we all recognise as a man of high æsthetic interests and culture, and but for whose insistence and pressure, I imagine, this Bill would not at this moment have seen the light of day. I should like to congratulate him also on a practical example of the restoration of an historic building for which he is responsible, namely, Lancaster House—the noble Viscount was there the other day. It is a most remarkable achievement. It is one of the loveliest of the London buildings which we possess, and I think it right that tribute should be paid to the Minister of Works for having carried through this great improvement.
I will not emphasis the inadequacy of the amounts which are being provided under this Bill. I am glad that no specific sums are stated in the Bill, because that fact will enable constant pressure to be exercised on the Government of the day to ensure that the amounts provided are adequate. I imagine that the amounts stated by the noble Earl in introducing this measure are initial sums. He recognised, as indeed the Minister of Works recognised, that they were inadequate for the purpose, and they are very different from the £10 million which the Gowers Committee regarded as necessary. I feel that the important thing is to get the principle of State assistance recognised in these matters; and this Bill fairly and squarely admits; the principle that, in many cases, historic buildings cannot be preserved without the assistance of the State. For that we are all grateful. It follows that the sums of money to be provided must be adequate for the purpose, and I think that any Government which has once committed itself to the principle will find it difficult to avoid reasonably implementing that principle as time goes on. I do not believe that it will be a very expensive matter at the outset. These schemes have a habit of taking a long time to mature. And if the proposal is that a sum of £250,000 should be made available in the first year, I say frankly that I doubt whether, with the best will 914 in the world, that amount will be spent. I hope that it will be possible to carry that sum forward, and even to increase it, if that should become necessary, although I do not ask the noble Earl for any undertaking on that point. I regard it as inevitable that that should be so. The noble Earl has explained the Bill in adequate detail, and I do not think there is anything that anyone need add to the general principle of the Bill, which I am sure we all accept.
There was a certain amount of discussion in another place on machinery. I do not think there was any substantial discussion at all on principle. I myself was glad—thoughI know there will be some difference of opinion in this House on this point—that the grant is to be given, not by way of relief from taxation but by a direct grant to the individual concerned. There would have been considerable controversy if it had been otherwise, and I think the Minister has been wise in making provision in the form in which it has been made. There was also some discussion as to whether access should be mentioned in the Bill. We all agree that, wherever State money is provided, and it is practicable, the public should have access to the buildings which have been preserved. Obviously, there will be some buildings which will receive State assistance to which it will not be possible to give access, but I think it right that the Bill should contain specific provision that, wherever possible, access should be provided.
There was another Amendment which was carried against the will of the Government, and carried, not by one Party but by representatives of all Parties. That is the provision which provides for giving an endowment to the National Trust to enable them to maintain buildings, in addition possibly to acquiring buildings on their own behalf. I am not sure whether that was a wise Amendment, so long as the amount available for capital expenditure is limited to £500,000 over a period of five years. If it had been possible substantially to increase that sum, then I think it would have been right to give the National Trust some assurance of continuity in the provision of maintenance grants. As it is, I am sure the noble Earl will appreciate that very little assurance is given as to continuity. All that is provided is £250,000 for one 915 year, and I think the National Trust are understandably apprehensive that they might undertake the expense of maintaining a building and then find that there was no guarantee of continuity of the grant. Nevertheless, it may well turn out to be a burden on the £500,000 that is available for capital expenditure, and in actual practice it looks as if Her Majesty's Government may have to increase that sum before long.
There was also a good deal of discussion of administrative tidiness. It was thought to be untidy to have one Committee listing buildings of historic and architectural interest on behalf of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and then to set up another body—the Historic Buildings Council—which would be responsible for advising the Minister of Works and other Ministers on exactly the same type of building. I think that both the Minister of Works and the Minister of Housing and Local Government were alive to the possible untidiness of that. It is, however, one thing to see a certain amount of untidiness, and quite another to find a way of clearing the matter up. My own view, for what it is worth, having gone into the matter, is that it is quite easy to make matters even more untidy by clearing up a particular piece of untidiness. I think that this is a very good example of that. Here I want to confess that, perhaps rather hastily, I allowed myself to be persuaded to sign a letter to The Times, instigated by the noble Lord, Lord Methuen. I think it was right that the point should be put forward; but, having read the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on an Amendment to combine the two Committees, I am bound to say that I am very much alive to the difficulties that he put forward. Certainly, I realise that it is not as simple a matter as it looks; and there is a considerable danger, as I say, of making matters worse in the attempt to create tidiness.
Nevertheless, I should like to have this point discussed in this House, and particularly after the Minister of Housing and Local Government—who we are glad to see is well on the way to recovery—has had an opportunity of looking at it. So far, it has been considered 916 by the Parliamentary Secretaries of both Departments, but I think this is a very important matter, and one which should be looked at by the two Ministers themselves. I should like, after that has been done, to have an opportunity of discussing the matter in this House and settling once for all whether it is desirable to make any change. A good deal of time was taken up in Committee in another place in considering whether such a change could be made at all—whether it could be done by Order in Council, or whether it was necessary to have a Bill. My own view is that it could not be done by Order in Council. I think it would be essential to have legislation. But whether that be so or not, one must recognise that, of course, it is possible to have either Orders in Council or a Bill which would amalgamate the two functions and take care of all the consequences. That is not the real problem: the real problem is whether it is worth doing; whether it would not create more difficulties than would be removed.
There is one other matter which I think ought to be discussed—it is a matter of machinery, rather than of principle. I refer to the definition of an "ancient monument." The significance of the point is that ancient monuments are dealt with by the Minister of Works and historic buildings are the responsibility of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I must confess that until a day or two ago I was under the impression that the distinction lay in the date of the erection of the building—that anything before the year 1700 was an ancient monument, and that anything after that was an historic building. I am now advised that that is not the case. If it is not the case, I do not understand what the distinction is. I have looked at the definition of an "ancient monument" and it certainly offers no help at all. Apparently an ancient monument is a structure which the Minister of Works says is an ancient monument. That does not get us very far. No doubt the Minister says it on advice, but I think we could probably do better than that. In any case, there is the significant factor that there is an Ancient Monuments Board. No doubt they have an organisation and a staff, and so on. But they are busily engaged in doing what seems to me, and to other people, exactly the same job as 917 the people who are listing historic buildings. Their job is to list ancient monuments. There is no great distinction between one and the other, and it would appear to be unnecessary to have two separate Committees doing very much the same job.
I mention this not because I expect the noble Earl who is to reply to give me a definition of an ancient monument, or to explain where it differs from an historic building, but because I feel that this is a matter which we may as well attempt to clear up while we are discussing this Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Bill. There are a great many other points of that kind which I think ought to be considered in Committee. Here, however, we come up against a difficulty. This Bill in its present form left another place late on Wednesday night, and was not available here until Friday morning. It is pretty good going to have had it available at all on Friday morning, and I make no complaint about that at all. But to-day is only Monday: we have had only a week-end to look at the Bill. That is not a very long time, and normally one would have liked longer. The Bill was substantially amended on the Report stage in another place. A considerable number of important Government Amendments were made, and one could have no clue as to what the Bill was going to look like merely by having read the Committee stage.
That is the first point: we have had very little time to consider the Bill. Secondly, some pressure was put upon Members in another place. I do not know whether similar pressure has been put on us here to speed up the consideration of the Bill so that it may become law before the Recess. If this sort of pressure is placed upon us, it means, in practice, that we have to take this Bill or leave it. There is no opportunity of making any Amendment, and very little opportunity even of putting Amendments down. I know that the noble Earl has been engaged on the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Federation Act, and he may have taken the view that that was virtually a treaty, which it was not open to this House to amend. But I do not think he would be right in taking that line with this Bill. I am sure he will agree that we should have an opportunity of amending this Bill, if we so desire. It 918 is a great pity, therefore, that the Bill should have reached us so late.
On the other hand, I say quite frankly that I would rather have this Bill and forgo any discussion on the machinery, rather than lose the Bill altogether. We are, therefore, in a dilemma. I want to ask the noble Earl whether it would not be possible, with the good will of the House—upon which, I am sure, he can rely—for the Committee stage of the Bill to be taken within the day or two after the Recess. I can promise him that it will be considered with all expedition. There are matters which call for consideration, and even for amendment. Even if Amendments are not pressed, it must be remembered that they are often moved in order to obtain explanations from the Government or a statement of their intentions. That is a legitimate purpose for putting any Amendment down. If the noble Earl can assure us that the Bill will not be lost, by the remaining stages being taken after the Recess, then I should very much prefer that procedure to be adopted.
In order to facilitate matters, I am perfectly prepared to let the noble Earl have in advance, before the end of the Recess, any Amendments for which I or my friends would wish to be responsible. Of course I am not in a position to speak for the whole House, but I should be grateful if he would consider this before the time comes for him to reply, and let us know whether there is any danger of this Bill being lost if the remaining stages are taken immediately after Recess. If his answer is that there is no danger then I believe the whole House would prefer it. Whether that is so or not, we all welcome this Bill. We hope that it will have a successful passage, and we are quite sure that it will do an immense amount of good in preserving the priceless heritages which we in this country possess. They are, indeed, unique, because I know of no country which has so many and such beautiful historic buildings and ancient monuments.
§ 4.41 p.m.
My Lords, the National Trust takes a great interest in this Bill, and I have been asked to express on behalf of my noble friend Lord Crawford his regret that, owing to the unconventional Monday Sitting of your Lordships' House, he has been unable to 919 represent the Trust on the Second Reading of this important Bill. I am aware I am a pale substitute for the Chairman of the Trust, but I have been on its executive committee for more than twenty years and I have been Chairman of the finance committee for more than fifteen, during which time I have concerned myself with trying to save and preserve the beauty of this ancient land. It is no easy and, indeed, is often a disheartening task, for there are large numbers of "death watch beetles" nibbling away at our endeavours by saying there is no use for old buildings and no money to preserve them.
For a long while the National Trust has been anxious about the future of these magnificent houses and has watched, helplessly, many of them go down into decay and ultimate demolition. I need hardly say, therefore, that the National Trust warmly welcomes this Bill and that we should like to express our admiration to the Minister whose energy and imagination has enabled it, amid all the pressure of Coronation Year, to reach the Statute Book. Some voices have been raised to say it is inadequately financed; and no doubt it would be pleasant to have command at once of the large sums of money that will ultimately be required to complete the job. But it is the first step that counts, and it is the first step that all Governments find it difficult to take. Reading the debates in another place, I was much struck, as I was on the debate on the National Theatre Act, by the absence of any genuine opposition. I think the reason for that is the wise flexibility of the Bill which will enable us to deal with circumstances as they develop and adapt them in accordance with acquired experience. Another encouraging feature is the intimation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he will perhaps not look unfavourably on a request from the Minister of Works for a larger grant in 1954.
Naturally, the National Trust welcomes the principle that the Government have power to use the Land Fund to endow or partially endow houses given to the National Trust. We have lost so many houses by the inability of the donor to endow sufficiently that we consider this amendment of the highest importance. We should like to pay tribute to the 920 unusual moral courage shown by the Minister in accepting the Amendment, in spite of official disapproval of the principle involved. I do not share the Minister's alarm. Everybody knows how small the sums at present are for carrying out the purposes of this Bill, and no one is going to bring on the Minister unreasonable pressure for endowments he cannot provide. He also has power—which he certainly has character to use—to refuse such demands. But sometimes such an endowment is the only way to save a great house; and surely the power to do this should be an integral part of the legislative plan—all the more so as we hope that in more prosperous times a larger sum than £100,000 a year will be allowed out of the Land Fund for these purposes.
After all, our great objective is to save as many houses as possible. I hope the Minister and the Councils who will advise him will not restrict their policy to keeping up a few houses in perfect order. The Ministry, as we know, is too easily led away into expensive restoration; the Trust, on the other hand, has always been obliged to seek the minimum in such matters. But even within its limited scope the Trust, under its country house scheme, has, by the generosity of owners, by grants from the Pilgrim and Dulverton Trusts, by donations and bequests and with the co-operation of the Ministry of Works, local authorities and the Government of Northern Ireland, saved for posterity some 100 houses, great and small, of endless variety and interest, and most of them as living entities. There are many important people who say there is no use for these houses; that a revolution has taken place, and therefore they should be pulled down. Your Lordships will remember that those who guided the Reformation did not adopt this ruthless and unintelligent policy. As many as possible of the abbeys and religious foundations were adapted to the new world and used to house the rising aristocracy.
We, on the other hand, have already suffered by tearing down so many of the great houses in London—Devonshire House and Chesterfield House, for example—that the Government has found itself in the position of being unable to give a cocktail party to Miss Margaret Truman without turning out the London Museum. Surely we should—as we are 921 all Liberals nowadays—"wait and see," and the use for these houses will emerge. They can be put, and have already been put, to many uses. Sometimes the Ministry of Works buys a house like Audley End and uses it for a State institution; sometimes the Ministry of Works leases a house, like Ham House, from the National Trust and the Victorian and Albert makes out of it a perfect museum; sometimes the National Trust divides a house like Attingham into three—the centre full of superb works of art shown to the public; the right wing lived in by the family; the left wing let to Shropshire County Council for adult education. All these result from successful co-operation, the unity of public authorities and private enterprise for a common purpose.
We live in a time of new experiments in government, and I have been surprised to find that the Treasury, held up as a reactionary institution which says "No" in its sleep, is always ready to back a new idea. The old principle that if the taxpayer pays the Treasury must control has been admirably relaxed to meet the necessary freedom required by the B.B.C. and the Arts Council. In this Bill we move a step further, undertaking what I hope will be a joint enterprise between the Ministry of Works and the National Trust. So far as the National Trust are concerned, I can say that we have no feelings of jealousy in this matter at all. In our view, the Ministry of Works excel in some directions and the National Trust excel in other directions.
In giving evidence before the Gowers Committee, whose admirable work paved the way for this Bill, I said that I thought the natural division of activity between the Ministry of Works and the National Trust was that the Ministry should deal with houses from which the family has departed and the National Trust with houses in which the family remains. This, of course, is no binding rule, only a general guide. The Trust has shown in its eventful history that it is not out for power and prestige but is ready to work with anybody who shares its desire to save and preserve our great artistic inheritance. We are grateful for this Bill. We believe it will give a great impetus to that objective.
This is a late date in the Session, and I hope that the Government agree with me that only Amendments will prevent 922 its passage into law before the Recess. There are many slips in political life. A General Election may intervene and we may lose the vital advantages which are already written into this Bill. Most of the improvements which we can all suggest—and I can suggest them myself—can be obtained afterwards in its administration. We want the Bill passed and, when it is, I can assure your Lordships that the National Trust will do everything it can to make it asuccess.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT WAVERLEY
My Lords, the right honourable gentleman the Minister of Works, when he introduced this Bill in another place, made no extravagant claim: he described it as a small beginning. He suggested—and I think we can agree with him—that it represented a step in the right direction, and he did, in fact, hold out some expectation that the financial provisions contemplated at the moment might be enlarged at some future date. Indeed, he went so far as to liken this Bill to a pilot plant—which, if the metaphor was sound, means something that may be followed by a more elaborate and a more productive enterprise in the future. I was delighted to hear the noble Earl, Lord Munster, give an assurance that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be prepared at the end of the first year to consider the possibility of increasing the annual grant of £250,000. I am inclined to agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that perhaps nothing need be lost by a more modest beginning, but everything will depend on the experience gained and on what it may be found possible to do hereafter.
Despite the friendly taunt that was addressed to me by the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack when we debated this matter some weeks ago, I am bound to say that I am quite unrepentant in the views that I expressed on that occasion. In particular, I think it unfortunate that it has not been found possible to adopt what I have always regarded as the major recommendation of the Gowers Committee: that relief should be given, in part at any rate, in the form of tax allowance. I recognise that such a provision would have introduced a note of controversy, but I think very little of the argument, which I notice was used in another place, that a tax 923 relief has the great disadvantage that it gives more to those with the larger incomes. That argument seems to me to be on exactly the same footing as the argument that it would be wrong to make any reduction in income tax because that would benefit, in the main, those with the larger incomes. I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord has had an opportunity of looking again at the observations that fell from him on the previous occasion, but perhaps he would agree that what he said about the financial and economic implications of a grant from the Land Fund was not wholly accurate—certainly not as accurate as it would have been if the interest on the Land Fund had accrued to the Chancellor of the Exchequer instead of piling up in the Fund itself, because in fact the Fund has been quite deliberately segregated from the other operations of the Exchequer.
I want to say only this further word about tax relief in this matter, as distinct from direct grant. It seems to me that procedure by way of tax relief has this great advantage: that, when once the conditions have been clearly laid down, the operation of the system can be more or less automatic, whereas the administration of what is of necessity a discretionary grant must involve an element of discrimination, and I personally think that experience will show that the practical difficulties of administering a grant of that kind for this sort of purpose are likely to prove greater than is at present supposed.
Now just one word about the administrative arrangements upon which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, touched. I notice that the Minister of Works, in introducing the Bill, made some reference to the co-operation that would be necessary between his colleague, the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and the Minister of Works, and he indicated that the discussions that were going on as to the most effective method of co-operation were not complete. I agree that there may be difficulty in bringing about at this stage a more complete integration of the powers of the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the cognate powers of the Minister of Works, but I should have thought, with great respect to what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, that there would be 924 a distinct advantage in having one advisory body, responsible, on the one hand, to the Minister of Works and, on the other hand, to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. That is the system which has found approval so far as Scotland is concerned, and I do not know why it should be supposed that difficulties would arise in England or in Wales which need not be apprehended in Scotland. At any rate, it may be found possible to give further consideration to that matter and to have at least a council which could serve in more than one capacity. We do want to mobilise for this important purpose—these councils will have a very important task—the best available talent. That problem may be aggravated if more than one committee dealing with the same kind of subject matter has to be effectively manned. I hope that it will be possible to give further consideration to that matter. I venture to think that what I have in mind could be achieved by administrative action, without express provision in the Statute. However, having made these few observations, I should like to make it clear how warmly I welcome the introduction of this Bill. I hope that its provisions will continue to have the full measure of support of which evidence has been given in the debate, and I, for my part, will certainly support the Second Reading.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF WEMYSS AND MARCH
My Lords, it is pleasant to find an important Bill like this one now before the House accepted with such unanimity by all Parties and interests in the country. It is quite right that this should be so. The Bill comes too late to save so many examples of our architectural heritage, which have already perished, but the preservation of the many that remain is becoming more and more the desire and interest of all sorts of people. It is not necessary for me to labour the point that the financial provisions are quite inadequate, for Her Majesty's Government themselves have freely admitted that. What is more important is that the Bill sets up what I feel sure is essentially the right machinery, though doubtless it can be improved later, as experience is gathered. It sets out, according to the right principles, to make a start in this important national work. Here I should like very strongly 925 to support the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, in his hope that the passage of the Bill before the Recess will not be prevented by the tabling of a mass of Amendments which, though they may be improvements, are not vital and which may result in the loss of the Bill. In order to make sure that the machinery of the Bill is successful so far as Scotland is concerned, I should like to assure Her Majesty's Government that the National Trust for Scotland are determined to give their wholehearted co-operation and to place any experience they have at the service of the Ministry of Works and the Historic Buildings Council.
I fear that this question may be premature, but I should like to ask the noble Earl, Lord Munster, to tell us all he can about the composition and the personnel of the Historic Buildings Council, in particular, the Council for Scotland. What type of people will they consist of—how many, and how chosen? What will be the remuneration of the secretary or the chairman? Will such people as, for example, members of the Councils of the National Trusts be debarred from membership of the Historic Buildings Councils, or, on the contrary, will they be welcomed because of their experience? I am sure the House will be glad of any information that the noble Earl is able to divulge at this stage.
We in the National Trust for Scotland welcome the provisions in Clause 4 (2) that were inserted into the Bill in another place, enabling the Government to give the Trusts capital moneys for endowments. We have long been pressing for this, because we know from experience that in the long run this is the most economic way to use money; and it will enable further funds to be raised from owners and other sources, at no cost to the taxpayer. I should like to emphasise the words "in the long run." We have never claimed that it is the best way to use extremely limited funds for the next year or two when so many buildings are urgently needing support; nor have we asked that the annual grant should be increased for this purpose. We have asked only for the principle to be conceded. Now, however, the principle of endowments from the National Land Fund has been conceded, largely, I understand, at the insistence of the right 926 honourable gentleman whom we all acknowledge as the "father" of the Land Fund.
Whilst not pretending for a moment to understand where the Land Fund really lurks, nor what the Treasury, in their wisdom, have done with it, I should like to contrast for a moment the power to give endowments with the power to purchase, which is also contained in this Bill. The Trusts agree that the power to purchase is desirable—I think I am speaking for both Trusts here—but they would deprecate strongly anything which would encourage a selling mentality in the owners of historic buildings. What we want is a giving mentality. We need to continue and to increase the happy and fruitful co-operation which now exists between the owners, the Trusts, the Inland Revenue, the Ministry of Works and, above all, of course, the general public. It is far better to accept gifts of property in this way and to allow any concerned, including the Government, to put their reserves into a secure endowment fund against future expenditure. After all, if you purchase a property you have still to make provision for future expenditure for its upkeep, either by endowment or in some other way.
May I ask the noble Earl one final question—namely, is the annual grant to be of the kind that can be carried over from year to year, or will any balance not spent at the year's end have to be returned? I can foresee that an Historic Buildings Council might have a project not quite ripe to be grant-aided, and would wish to keep something in reserve as the end of the financial year approaches. But if there is a threat that the money will be forfeited, the Council may be faced with having to spend it on a less worthy project to avoid losing it. This would appear to be a direct incentive to extravagance, and I hope the noble Earl can reassure us on this point. Meanwhile, I think this Bill should be welcomed and supported generally by all your Lordships.
§ 5.7 p.m.
My Lords, I have great pleasure in speaking, as briefly as I can, on this Bill. I am sure we are all pleased to see it and we desire, I know, to congratulate the Minister of Works for having produced it at a time when he 927 has been preoccupied with other matters. Those of us who have followed the debates in the House of Commons, on Second and Third Readings, and in Committee, must have been impressed by the way the arguments have gone and how the opinions of Members of that House changed from time to time, as they explored more and more some of the difficulties and intricacies of this particular Bill. I must say that I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said about the letter that some of us sent to The Times a little time ago. There was a slight delay in the actual publication of the letter, and by the time it was published I had already begun slightly to change my mind. With the noble Lord, I am afraid I also have veered round a little, and I am very doubtful indeed whether it would be wise to amalgamate the listing with the scheduling.
There have been discussions with the Minister of Works about this particular subject. It is a very difficult subject, and I do not think that at this stage we in this House can say anything particularly definite about it. It is, I think, for the two Ministers to confer and, with the advice of their experts, to come to a conclusion. But in my view, for what it is worth, there is a slight confusion of thought here. We have on the one side, the Ministry of Works, which is responsible for preservation, and on the other hand, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, which is responsible for the listing. We need in some way to marry the two. But it seems to me that what will happen eventually, and what I believe is already happening, is that when monuments of first-class importance are listed they will be handed over to the Minister of Works for preservation and, where the money is available, for grants.
It is for the two Ministers concerned to find out to what extent they can amalgamate the experts in their particular Departments. To transfer the investigators to the Ministry of Works might be a fundamental mistake, in so far as they have built up with the local authorities a very great work which might suffer on their transfer. It might be advisable, for that reason, to leave them where they are under the Minister of Housing. Their work is not only listing, but it is closely wrapped up with the actual planning, and it would probably 928 diminish seriously the value of the planning Ministry if they were removed. At the same time, there is no doubt that the Minister of Works requires men of experience with regard to seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth century buildings. At the present time—I am not making any sort of suggestion which is in any way derogatory to them—his experts are rather on the prehistoric and mediæval side. I think he needs to strengthen his Ministry with architects with interests in the somewhat later periods, and, of course, he would have them if he had the investigators passed to him.
This is a matter upon which I should like to put forward Amendments, but that depends entirely on the reply of the noble Earl, Lord Munster, to Lord Silkin's question. If putting forward the Amendments which I personally should like to put forward—they would be similar to Amendments supported by Sir Edward Keeling in the other place—would mean that we should belikely to lose the Bill, then I say for heaven's sake let us have the Bill! If it would mean nothing more than a loss of three months' Treasury money and that we should not lose the Bill (in normal circumstances the Amendments could be considered after the Recess) then let us have the Amendments. As Lord Silkin has pointed out, putting down Amendments is a way of obtaining clarification of matters which have seemed to us obscure. I will name one or two. I have already mentioned the questions of listing, planning, and scheduling—which is obviously a very difficult point which cannot be resolved at once, but which, I think, can be resolved over a number of years.
Some of the things about which I should like to put down Amendments are these. Clause 4 (3) of the Bill states:A grant under this section may be made subject to conditions imposed by the Minister for the purpose of securing public access to the whole or part of the property to which the grant relates, or for other purposes as the Minister may think fit.I do not think that is good enough. I think we should know a little more. I know well what was in the minds of Members in another place when they discussed this matter: it was the question of whether the public should be admitted or not. Obviously, the public should be 929 admitted whenever possible to houses which are receiving a State grant. But that is not my point. My point is that if public money is going to be spent on the restoration of buildings, the Minister must see that those to whom he delegates powers have the last say in how that money is going to be spent. They should not necessarily supervise it, but the work should be done to their satisfaction. Subject always to the noble Earl's answer to Lord Silkin's question, I should like to move an Amendment to that effect.
May I tell your Lordships how the law on this subject stands in France? In France a scheduled monument or a part of it cannot be destroyed or moved, or restored, repaired or modified in any way, without the consent of the Minister. A monument which is receiving a grant from the French Government has to be subject to the Beaux Arts supervision. The Beaux Arts Minister can always undertake, through his administration and at the public cost, with the ultimate agreement of those interested, works of repair or maintenance considered indispensable for the preservation of scheduled monuments that do not belong to the State.
I see nothing in the Bill—it may be in some existing Act, but if it is I do not know of it—forbidding the building, without the permission of the Minister, of a new structure against a historic building or ancient monument which is receiving a grant from the Ministry. This, I believe, may be covered by the Town and Country Planning Act. Perhaps the noble Earl will let me know if that is so—not now, but at some later time. If that is not provided for in the law, I think it should be. We do not want buildings to be suddenly erected against some historic monument. That has been done in the past, not necessarily in this country but certainly in other countries.
Another matter which may be dealt with by departmental machinery designed for the purpose is that any historic building of outstanding importance occupied by another Government Department should come under the Minister of Works for preservation purposes, although his Department might not actually pay for its maintenance. That matter should be dealt with. I think it is essential to air these subjects in the form of Amendments, which can, of course, be withdrawn when 930 a satisfactory reply is given. Here is one point which I think important. It was touched upon by the Minister in the debate on Third Reading on July 23. Owing to the rate of demolition of buildings of historical or architectural importance it is imperative that a proper record be taken before permission to demolish is given. The obvious body to do this is the National Buildings Record, either itself or in conjunction with some other body. The Minister, at present, has no such powers. It would be a small matter to add this provision to the Bill. The Minister, in the debate which I have mentioned, said he would like to take steps in this matter. I question whether he has power to do that.
Finally, there is the word "property," which is used constantly in the Bill, particularly in Clause 5. It is apparently defined in Clause 10 (3). I want to know whether it is intended to include chattels, fittings, fixtures, furniture, objects of art and so on. I give a case in point. Suppose there is a house which the owner is contemplating demolishing, and the Minister makes a preservation Order. Let us suppose, further, that this house has some very fine panelling. If the owner says: "You can have the house, but I am going to sell the panelling," can you prevent him from doing so? I doubt it. I think that these are all points that ought to be cleared up. That is why I agree with Lord Silkin that it is essential that at some time or other these matters should be aired and that the best way to air them is by means of Amendments. If it would mean that we should lose the Bill, of course, they are not sufficiently important for that. In conclusion, I should like to say how pleased we are to have this Bill at all. It may be a half measure, but it is a jolly good half measure, and I should like to congratulate the Minister, in particular, and all concerned who have made it possible.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the Minister on the very crisp and clear way in which he introduced this Bill to the House. I wish that I had his capacity for lucid explanation. This is a Bill for which all of us who are particularly interested in the great historic houses of this country have been waiting for a long time, and it is indeed a great pleasure to find that 931 at last there is a real prospect that a Bill for the preservation of these wonderful houses of ours will reach the Statute Book. I should be very sorry indeed if it did not reach the Statute Book before the Recess. I appreciate everything that has been so strongly urged by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in regard to the desirability of putting down Amendments, and also that some of the suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Methuen, do require attention. On the other hand, as the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, has said, one can never be quite sure what is going to happen in a political situation. Quite apart from that, the position in respect of these houses is so disastrous that the sooner we can get these Councils established and at work, and the necessary administrative arrangements ticking over, the better. It may well be that a gain of six, or even three, months at this stage may mean the difference between preserving and losing a number of really valuable buildings. Far from pressure being brought to bear on the noble Earl to forgo the Committee stage, I was pressing him the other day to make arrangements for the final stage of the Bill to be taken before the Recess.
I was glad to hear the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, on behalf of the National Trust. I think I have been on the executive committee of the Trust even longer than the noble Viscount, although nobody connected with the Trust has done more valuable work for historic buildings than he has, not only in the National Trust but also in the Historic Buildings Society. I am glad that he has spoken for the National Trust this afternoon, because I can speak perhaps more as a private individual. Although I support the Bill in general, some of my reactions are not so favourable. I think the main value of the Bill is that it sets up useful machinery, the plans for which were worked out by the Gowers Committee, probably the best that could be instituted for the purposes we all have in mind. I think it is a particularly valuable aspect of this machinery that it is being kept flexible, a point stressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher. It is especially important that the Councils should be strong bodies. I entirely agree with the noble 932 Earl, Lord Wemyss, that the success or failure of the Bill will depend to a considerable extent on getting the right men on the various Councils to be set up, and in getting really competent and able chairmen. There is no doubt that the amount of remuneration forthcoming will be altogether inadequate, but I hope it will be possible to get men with real administrative ability, drive and energy, prepared to take on the work of chairmen.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Methuen, that it is a pity the opportunity was not taken to co-ordinate the existing machinery. I appreciate that it is a fairly complicated task, and it may well be that, in the urgency to get the Bill before Parliament, there was no time to provide for that. If it is possible, I hope that the Government will begin thinking about arrangements which ought to be made, and will, if necessary, introduce a small amending Bill to have that done, because it is an important aspect of the whole problem.
The main criticism that has been made and—made perhaps more strongly in another place than in your Lordships'House—is of the amount of finance the Government are prepared to provide. That, of course, is quite derisory when we look at the magnitude of the problem with which we are dealing. Assuming that the Gowers Committee's estimate of £10 million a year was right at the time it was made, the amount now needed per annum is a great deal larger. To think of tackling this problem on £250,000 is like trying to put out a fire at a petrol dump by means of a Minimaxfire extinguisher. When I read in The Times that it is proposed to spend no less than £6 million—twenty-four times as much—on a new aerodrome at Gatwick, I cannot help feeling that the Government lack a sense of proportion. I was glad to hear the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, who was responsible for the finances of the country at a vital period, and who is well qualified to discuss these matters, indicate in the recent debate that in his view we could afford a great deal more. I think this point ought to be rubbed in, because it may well get about that as the Government are now supporting the preservation of historic houses, the general public are no longer required to give subscriptions. If 933 the result is that the money forthcoming for the two National Trusts falls off substantially, the situation would be as bad as, or even worse than, if we had never had the Bill at all. I do not think there is any need to emphasise that every month which goes by means that a new historic house in some part of the country is lost to us; and therefore, as I have said, it is of vital importance that the Councils should be set up and the administrative machinery put to work as rapidly as possible.
At this point I should like to make an observation about the important historic buildings which are already in the ownership of the State as such. In these debates we have been preoccupied, very properly, with the problem of privately owned national monuments. We have tended to forget the condition of some of our nationally owned monuments; and just as the financial provisions made by the Government in this Bill for privately owned houses are altogether inadequate, I am afraid that we have been making inadequate provision for some of our most famous State-owned historic monuments. I am credibly informed that the situation at Hampton Court is very serious, because money which is needed, if only to deal with the dry rot which has broken out in several parts, has not been forthcoming. Some of the historic houses referred to in these debates, important as they are, are really insignificant compared with Hampton Court. It would be a thousand pities if, in our anxiety over all these country houes, we were to forget that proper financial arrangements have not been made for dealing with those already under care.
Kensington Palace, which was badly damaged by enemy action during the war—a war which terminated as long as eight years ago—has not yet been effectively repaired; and every year that passes without the necessary work being done means that this important and valuable building continues to deteriorate. I say that rather aside from this debate, but I feel that the public, as a whole, do not realise what a serious situation exists in respect of a number of these absolutely priceless monuments, which, because they are already in the hands of the Ministry of Works, are regarded by people as being completely safeguarded.
934 I should like to turn again for a few moments to the importance of getting on with this work as quickly as possible. Our experience at the National Trust has made it abundantly clear that £1spent this year is often the equivalent of £5 spent next year; and if you have to wait two years, it may well be that you will have to spend £10 instead of the £1which would suffice this year. That emphasises the great importance of persuading the Treasury to be rather more generous in respect of the amount of money which is forthcoming. As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, it may well be that in the first year, owing to the time spent in getting the Councils established and the administrative arrangements made, the whole of the £250,000 will not be spent. If that is so, I hope that use will be made of the Amendment made to the Bill in another place under which endowments can be provided for the National Trust; because I can assure the Minister that over the last few years there have been many cases before the Committee of the National Trust where, if we had had only10 per cent. of the £250,000 to spend, we could have taken over the preservation of most important buildings.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, indicated, the real difficulty at the National Trust has always been the fact that the owner who has generously brought before the National Trust proposals for handing over his family house has not been able to provide an adequate endowment. Quite often he has proposed to make sacrifices which have evoked one's respect and admiration. The "pinching" to which he has been prepared to put himself, so to speak, and the cutting off of his family, in a way, in order that he may make all the farms on the estate, and other properties, available, has frequently evoked my admiration. But, in the hard light of surveyors' reports, what he could provide has not been anything like sufficient, and we have had to decline his generous offer, with regret. That is why I think the Amendment which was obtained in another place is so important. It may quite easily be that some comparatively small sum will make the difference. Certainly, in a number of cases which I can bring to mind so small a sum as £10,000 would have made all the difference. Out of the £250,000 it might be possible, even 935 in the early periods, to provide one or two endowment funds on that sort of scale—although I entirely agree with what was said by, I think, the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss: that it is not likely that there will be much demand during the early years for the use of this provision about endowments.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said he could imagine that the National Trust would be worried, because this Bill provides the finance for only one year, and after that, from a legal point of view, if the Trust were to take over properties on the strength of the Bill, it might find itself in difficulties. But I am glad to say that we have received assurances of a most generous character, and I am sure they are assurances which would be implemented, not only by this Government but by Governments in the future. It must be perfectly clear that, if these assurances are not, in fact, implemented, it will be quite impossible, in a number of cases, for the National Trusts to preserve houses which they undoubtedly will be taking over on the basis of these assurances. The resources behind these institutions are insufficient to enable them to maintain and preserve a substantial number of further buildings without financial support of the kind contemplated in this Bill.
The National Trust have frequently taken great risks in the past; and on a number of occasions, as the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, will remember, those risks have proved to be bad ones. We have been hard put to it to find the money required to carry out even rather inadequate maintenance work. I am sure that the risk which we still take on this occasion, in accepting these assurances from the Government, is nothing like so serious as many of the risks that we have taken in the past. I am confident that, as soon as this Bill is on the Statute Book, the National Trust will be able, with the active co-operation of the Ministry of Works, to go ahead with their work; and in the co-operative endeavour referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, we shall be able to get on—and, I hope, get on quickly—with the job which so many of us have been looking forward to doing over all these years—namely, that of making safe this magnificent heritage of our people.
§ 5.38 p.m.
My Lords, I do not want to cover any of the ground which has already been covered by the noble Lords, Lord Esher and Methuen, except to add my hope that time may be found to debate Amendments; although again, like them, I should much prefer to see the Bill go through than risk losing it. There is one point that I should like to raise, however, though it has now been substantially covered by an Amendment on the Report stage in another place which I had the advantage of seeing only this morning. It refers to Part II, to ancient monuments which have been scheduled or on which certain orders have been issued. The two cases I have in mind where the existing provisions were insufficient have been only partially covered by a new clause inserted in the Bill, namely, Clause 15, which gives power to prosecute in the event of an infringement against something scheduled as a monument.
The point here is that, in practice, a period of six months has been insufficient to collect the information and to institute proceedings under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts in the two cases I have in mind—and in one of those two cases the twelve months now provided in the Bill would have been insufficient, too. If Amendments are to be inserted in the Bill, I should like to see that period of twelve months extended to at least twenty-four months. If a monument is scheduled, and the appropriate entry is made in the Land Register, I do not see why, an infraction of that act of scheduling should be treated any differently from any other infringement of a similar nature—forexample, a charge, like a way-leave, or some other entry in the Land Register, as a charge against that land. In practice, the time taken to collect information about the destruction of some of the more obscure, but perhaps equally interesting, ancient monuments referred to in Part II is such that a period of twelve months is still as totally inadequate as six months has proved to be in the past. That brings me to what is, as I see it, the main gap in Part II of this Bill, the provisions for scheduling and the provisions for making interim orders on a building, delightfully described as one which…appears to the Minister to be an ancient monument.937 I do not know from where the Minister derives inspiration. I suppose that he wakes up one morning and sees something and says," By Jove ! I suppose that is an ancient monument."
The real difficulty is that the machinery of collecting information of damage or destruction does not appear in any of the Acts. It is almost the case where action by a common informer—if the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack would allow such a procedure again to be established—might be more useful. Nobody will suggest that there should be a large staff of inspectors or people constantly touring the country to see whether ancient or scheduled monuments have been destroyed. None the less, I am sure that the present machinery for collecting information is very haphazard. There are representatives in every county except one—and that is a small one—who are Ministry of Works correspondents for this purpose. Some of the areas which have to be dealt with by these repre5entalives of the Ministry are so large that, unless there is a very close network of information provided by voluntary workers, it seems almost inevitable that the destruction of monuments will escape unnoticed for a much longer time than the limit in which prosecutions can be instituted. If the Bill is debated in Committee on Amendments proposed, I should like that particular point to be raised, just as I should like to see an Amendment introduced extending the period of twelve months to something considerably longer.
§ 5.42 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to support the plea which has been made by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell. I am certain that in this matter of ancient monuments he is undoubtedly right as to the length of time needed to bring a prosecution effectively. It is with regard to the first part of the Bill that I should like to crave your Lordships' indulgence for a few minutes. It is customary on these occasions to genuflect towards the Gowers Report, and I should like to add my tribute to the work of that remarkable Committee. On the other hand, I feel that the Government have been right in their decision to proceed by way of grant rather than by the way of tax rebates or allowances which were suggested in the Gowers Report. 938 Such tax arrangements would be open to considerable criticism, and are probably politically not feasible.
I will not repeat what everyone else has said, that the amount proposed in the Bill is too small. On the contrary, I should prefer to say that I am grateful for what has been given, and I hope for more in the future. I believe it possible that even as this scheme is worked, so it will be found that more is needed, and that the "more" will be forthcoming. The Gowers Report, apart from its suggestion for the method of financing the maintenance of these historic houses, made, in my view, one other miscalculation. I believe that all its proposals, even had it been possible to carry them out in full would have been of only temporary utility. I think they made insufficient allowance for the immense expense nowadays of inhabiting even a fairly large house. It is too much to expect that in the future there will be people who will be prepared—except in a limited number of cases where it is a family house, and even then there will be fewer and fewer of them—to spend a half, and very often much more than half, of their income on running the house. No matter what grants they may receive for maintenance, the mere living in the houses is so expensive that I am afraid as time goes on it will become increasingly difficult—and this must be an anxiety for the National Trust—to find people able to inhabit these houses.
For that reason, I am afraid that in the long run we shall have to consider alternative uses for these houses. In that matter, again, there are both happy and less happy auguries. Some years ago, many of us were grateful when one of the greatest English country houses was taken over for what has become one of our great public schools. We thought that this would preserve the house and give to the school a setting which would be ideal and would have an influence upon the boys going there. Alas, we have been disappointed. Those who have recently visited that house will have been dismayed by its condition and horrified by the damage which has been done to the house, the park and the monuments in it. This is indeed a very unhappy augury. An American friend of mine who visited this house recently, on leaving it described it as "a pig-pen." I could use even stronger terms. A deep 939 responsibility must rest upon those who are in charge of boys coming from homes in which, for the most part, one would expect that a respect for such things as beautiful houses, buildings and parks would have been inculcated.
On the other hand, to look at the brighter side, I had the pleasure recently of visiting a fine house in my own neighbourhood, Lydiard Ingoze, acquired some time ago by Swindon Corporation. The Corporation had the misfortune to find that the house was in extremely bad condition. They have undertaken extensive repairs, and whilst I believe that at the moment those repairs have had to be supended for lack of funds, the house is made safer and there is a prospect that the superb internal decorations will be restored. It is with pleasure that I read Clause 6 of this Bill, which gives the Minister the right to help local authorities to take over houses. it seems to me that this is one of the most useful parts of the Bill, and I would suggest that the Minister of Housing should send out a special circular to local authorities to remind them that this help may be forthcoming in the future.
I have two small suggestions which I should like to put to Her Majesty's Government and which I hope it may be possible, if Amendments are moved, to incorporate in the Bill. I suggest that some provision should be made for the recording of those houses not judged to be sufficiently important—though perhaps containing parts of great importance or features of great importance—to merit special preservation by means of grant. Would it not be possible for the buyers of such houses, who buy them in order to demolish them and to make a profit out of their materials, to be compelled to make an adequate record of such buildings before they are destroyed? Heaven knows! it is a small consolation. It would be something if, for example, photographs could be taken and measured drawings made and deposited with the National Buildings Record.
Another suggestion I should like to make is in connection with the question of endowment. The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, mentioned the embarrassments of the National Trust when offered buildings which they would like to accept, but which their owners are unable adequately 940 to endow. To some extent this may occur because the owners have no funds which are not settled funds from which they could make endowments. It might be possible, so far as endowments are concerned, to put settled funds in the same position as settled houses and settled properties under the 1939 Act, under which it is possible for the owners of such properties to give them to the National Trust. It might not meet very many cases, but it would meet a certain number of cases of owners who would be pleased to make over some part of their settled funds as an endowment for houses which they desired to give to the National Trust. I hope these two small suggestions may be considered by Her Majesty's Government, and may also be considered by the House in general to be useful and helpful. I hope that the Bill may be placed upon the Statute Book soon. I believe it to be wholly good so far as it goes, and I hope that in practice it will go a little farther.
§ 5.51 p.m.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, will you allow me to stand for just two minutes between you and the reply which is to be given by the Minister? I do so as a consequence of certain observations which fell from the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, in regard to the Land Fund. I am quite prepared to accept that in my reference to the Land Fund in the previous debate I was not entirely accurate, and I apologise to the House for any inaccuracy. I wonder whether, in two minutes, I might endeavour to say to the noble Viscount correctly what I appear to have said incorrectly.
First, how was the Land Fund established? It was established by the Finance Act of 1946, a Fund of £50 million out of the Consolidated Fund. For what purpose was it established? Again we must look at the Act of 1946. It was established in the first place for a specific purpose mentioned in the Act, and in the second place it was establishedfor such purposes as Parliament might there after prescribe.They were wholly general. The third purpose for which it was prescribed went back to the Finance Act, 1910. By that 941 Act, the Inland Revenue had been empowered to accept land in satisfaction of death duties, and the primary purpose of the National Land Fund was to enable the Treasury to remit to the Inland Revenue the value of property which it had received—because property, unless it is sold, is not immediately available for the purposes of the Exchequer. That was the primary purpose. The second purpose, as I say, was absolutely general: "for such purposes as Parliament might…prescribe."
It will be asked: In what way was this dealt with? It was immediately invested in Government securities, except to the extent—and it was a large extent, £5 million—to which it was applied to Ways and Means Advances. And it now consists of those Government securities and a sum largely in excess of the £5 million applied in Ways and Means Advances. What, then, is the consequence—and this is the last question—of applying any part of the funds for this or any other purpose? Surely it is this: that when you have applied the money for these purposes it is not available to be applied for any other; and if the money is wanted for any other, then the Government have to raise it by borrowing, or in some other way. I wonder whether that is a satisfactory statement in relation to this National Land Fund.
I will add only this: that, of course, it might well have been in the minds of the Government of the day that it would be applied for a particular purpose, for some concrete purpose. But it lies with Parliament; and I cannot help thinking that Parliament expressly made the provision in these general terms just in order that future Parliaments might not be bound as to the way in which it should be used. I hope that I have explained the matter clearly and to the satisfaction of the noble Viscount—who, I see, is straining at the leash—and that he will correct me if I am wrong.
§ VISCOUNT WAVERLEY
My Lords, with your permission I should like to say that your Lordships will no doubt all be grateful to the noble and learned Lord for what he has said, and for the explanation which he has given. I made reference to this matter only because I had thought that on a previous occasion the noble and learned Lord suggested that I 942 had fallen from grace since I ceased to have any responsibility for the national finances, and that he sought to support that view by a suggestion which perhaps he did not intend to make: that payments from the Land Fund, which I suggested might be increased, were for all purposes tantamount to payments out of the Consolidated Fund.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Viscount has increased in grace. I am grateful to him for what he has said.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I think I can rightly say that you have given this Bill a universal welcome: indeed, each noble Lord who spoke made remarks to the effect that he hoped this Bill would soon find its way to the Statute Book. Let me say at once to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that it is, of course, true to say that the political Parties in the State, and also outside private individuals, have all contributed towards the progress of this Bill towards the Statute Book. The people to whom we have the greatest sense of gratitude must be the members of the Gowers Committee itself. I should like to endeavour to reply to some of the many questions which have been addressed to me to-day. As was stated by Lord Silkin and by Lord Waverley, I feel that this is a modest beginning. Anyway, we are proceeding on the right path, and I hope that, as the years go by, the importance if this legislation, and of the bodies which are being set up under it, will become greater and greater.
The question was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss, whether it would be possible for the Ministry of Works to carry forward any unspent balance from year to year. That, I regret to say, is not possible, as I feel certain Lord Waverley will agree. It has always been contrary to Treasury practice. But I at least feel this: that if the Minister should find that he was unable in the course of one year to spend the £250,000 which had been granted to him, then he might well go to the Chancellor of the Exchequer the next year and ask for a little more. Then there were questions raised about the very important bodies which are being set up under this Bill, the Historic Buildings Councils. What I have said before I repeat now: I imagine that those bodies will become increasingly important as 943 time goes on. My right honourable friend is therefore anxious to find the best people he can to serve on them. He is already in discussion with the Secretary of State for Scotland, and he would like to see, in conjunction with him, a small body set up comprising practical men and women who are interested in buildings and who will get their expert advice, not only from the Ministry of Works but from outside it as well.
Then we come to the question of the work carried out by the Minister of Housing and Local Government and the job carried out by the Minister of Works. I have no desire to go into that question at any length this afternoon, but, as was said in another place during the passage of this Bill there, discussions are now proceeding between the two Departments to see whether some settlement can be reached on what is obviously a difficult and complicated question. It remains to be seen whether some scheme can be worked out. I have no doubt that if and when that has been done, a statement will be made, either in this House or in another place, announcing that a decision has been reached. It could, I think, be done by administrative action, so far as the amalgamation of the committees is concerned; the transfer of powers would require an Order in Council. But it is a complicated story, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, and one with which for the moment I do not wish to weary your Lordships further.
I come now to deal with a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell. I doubt very much whether Her Majesty's Government would be wise to extend the period in Clause 15 by a further year. We have already added six months to what was undoubtedly a short period, but I think that the twelve-month period during which someone can be prosecuted for damaging an ancient monument should be sufficient, if we can arrange—and I think it can be done—with local authority bodies, together with voluntary workers, to keep the Ministry well informed about any damage which may take place to ancient monuments. But I hope that in no circumstances shall we again have the common informer to assist us in our task.
The two questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, I should like to 944 discuss with the Department concerned before giving him a reply, but I can assure him that I will write to him in due course.
Lastly, I come to my noble friend, Lord Methuen. I was a little doubtful as to the particular point he wished to raise. As I understand it, no modern buildings can in fact be erected against historic buildings. I think that that safeguard would be well preserved by the machinery of planning under the Town and Country Planning Act; and, for my own part, I have not much doubt that it is very unlikely that a modern erection would be placed next to an historic building.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
I am glad I have satisfied the noble Lord. I think I have answered the majority of the principal questions addressed to me.
May I now come to the question of the future stages of this Bill? I do not wish to apply any pressure at all to noble Lords, but we are naturally anxious to get the Bill as soon as we possibly can. If your Lordships concur in my suggestion that we should take the remaining stages of this Bill next Thursday, then it will be on the Statute Book that evening—namely, before we adjourn for the Long Recess. But if there are a large number of Amendments which noble Lords wish to put down for consideration on the next stage of the Bill, then I am bound to admit that it may be wiser to postpone consideration until a later date. I am nervous, not that we should not have opportunity and time in your Lordships' House to discuss the Bill when we come back at the end of October, but because, as noble Lords know full well, the legislative programme in another place might conceivably be heavy, and if your Lordships decided to amend this Bill, there might not be time to bring it back from another place and pass it before the end of the Session. If your Lordships agree with my proposition, I should like to have the concluding stages of the measure on Thursday, if that would be convenient. I think I need say no more except to thank noble Lords again for the way in which they have received the Bill, and I hope they will assist us in the future stages of the 945 measure in order to get it on to the Statute Book at the earliest possible moment.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.