§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Report received.
§ Clause 1 [Trustees of the National Heritage Fund]:
§ The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Baroness Wootton of Abinger)
My Lords, there may be a misprint in the copy of the Marshalled List which some of your Lordships have. Amendment No. 1 should read: "Page 1, line 6", and then as printed.
Lord REIGATE moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 6, after ("1946") insert ("shall henceforth be known as the National Heritage Fund and").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of your Lordships if I ask leave to discuss Amendments Nos. 2, 4, 7 and 8 at the same time, as they are consequential on the first Amendment. It is very simple: having at an earlier stage altered the name of the fund and the name of the Bill, it now apparently becomes possible to alter the name of the fund to the National Heritage Fund and therefore be consistent throughout the Bill. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [Administration of the Fund]:
Lord REIGATE moved Amendment No. 2:
Page 2, line 7, leave out ("Land") and insert ("Heritage").
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ The DEPUTY SPEAKER
I should point out that if Amendment No. 3 is agreed to I shall not be able to call Amendments Nos. 4 and 5.
Lord GIBSON moved Amendment No. 3:
Page 2, line 10, leave out subsection (2).
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, my Amendment would deprive the Treasury of the power to order the trustees of the Heritage Fund to compensate the Inland 369 Revenue for capital tax lost when what are known as the "in lieu" provisions are used—in other words, when land, buildings and works of art are taken by the Government in lieu of tax. The Treasury, of course, has possessed the power to use, and has used, the Land Fund in this way since the Finance Act 1946. We are discussing this Bill in the knowledge that it may very well not become law and that it is the Government's proposals in the White Paper which are perhaps more likely to reach the Statute Book. One of the main differences between this Bill and the White Paper is that the latter envisages the abolition of the "in lieu" provisions, but I am moving this Amendment on the basis that this Bill becomes law and that the "in lieu" provisions continue in force.
§ My proposition is simply this: if we are dealing with a Bill to set up an independent body of trustees to administer a fund hitherto administered by the Treasury, we ought to take this opportunity to establish a better and different principle to the one we have followed hitherto. We should establish that, from now on, when the owner of a so-called heritage asset offers it to the State and when the Government, properly advised, are ready to accept it, it should be regarded as a tax-exempt gift to the State and the tax should simply be written off. Of course, it is true that physical assets have to be paid for with resources which could have been spent on something else, but there is a clear distinction between those assets which are consumable or which have to be depreciated and those which do not. In the case of land, historic buildings and works of art, the State is acquiring a non-expendable and non-depreciating asset—except, of course, that buildings require maintenance, but that is another matter—and there should be no need in such cases to compensate the Inland Revenue.
§ I believe this is an accepted principle in France, where it is recognised that the tax yield from such objects is so small in relation to the total yield from capital taxation that an exception to the general rule can be made: the tax foregone is accordingly written off. If we, too, adopt this principle we shall enable the trustees of the Heritage Fund to concentrate all their relatively scarce resources on the acquisition and, where necessary, 370 the endowment of buildings, land and works of art not offered in satisfaction of tax. If this Heritage Fund is to make any real impact on the problem it is set up to deal with, it will have to be many times larger than the Land Fund if it is to meet even the most essential calls upon it and at the same time compensate for the tax foregone. Let us instead adopt a more civilised approach; write off the tax and be done with it.
§ I hope that this Amendment may be acceptable to the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, but if, instead of this Bill, the Government's proposals become law the "in lieu" system will be replaced by private treaty sales, in which case no question of compensating the Revenue will arise. I should not like it to be thought, simply because I move this Amendment, that I favour the abolition of the "in lieu" system. In fact, quite the contrary is the case, and I fear that the disappearance of the "in lieu" system may throw even greater burdens on the Heritage Fund. Here I must declare an interest. I am chairman of the National Trust, which warmly welcomes the White Paper as a step in the right direction and wholeheartedly approves the concept of a genuine contingency fund. It is true that the National Trust has benefited greatly from the old Land Fund and I want to acknowledge this debt with gratitude. Much of the most beautiful countryside in the possession of the Trust has come to it from the fund and so have six or seven of the most famous houses in the country. Moreover, I would emphasise that, far from having found the Treasury unhelpful, we have been much assisted by the way in which it has dealt with us in all cases where the Land Fund has been used. So the National Trust is grateful to the Land Fund; nevertheless, we wholly approve the change to an independently managed fund.
§ Having said that, however, the consequential proposal to abolish the "in lieu" system does give us cause for concern, and I want to ask the Government to consult us and others before they frame their legislation. At present, bodies like museums, the National Trust, the National Art Collections Fund and so on—there are many such bodies—acquire heritage assets in lieu of tax at little or no cost to themselves. If in the future all those bodies have to apply to the Heritage 371 Fund for grants to pay for these things, the competition for the fund's resources will be extremely heavy. I am told, for example, that the indemnity value of privately-owned works of art now on loan to the national collections alone is about £75 million. I appreciate there are assurances in the White Paper that the fund is not expected to do everything and that the Government will sometimes give direct aid, but the present "in lieu" system would, on the face of it, seem far more predictable and, for myself, I should prefer to see it left in being when the new fund is established. As an instrument it has served us well, and if the difficulties of saving priceless assets for the nation are to be overcome it seems a pity to discard any weapon of proved efficacy. It is much better to keep it and write off the tax.
§ One last point, my Lords: it is a widely agreed objective that historic houses should retain their historic contents, but the National Trust has no purchase grants to help finance the acquisition of pictures or furniture by private treaty; and, if museums are asked to help us, will they want to leave pictures partly acquired with their precious purchase grants on the walls of National Trust houses? There are other worries with which I shall not detain your Lordships, such as the cost for the acquiring bodies of the negotiations now carried out by the Treasury Solicitor, and difficulties of that kind. Some of the acquiring bodies are quite unsuited to undertake negotiations at all, but I shall not detain your Lordships over these points. I hope the Trust, with other acquiring bodies and all concerned, will have the opportunity of discussing these matters with Ministers and officials before their proposals harden. In the meantime, I move this Amendment to call attention to the opportunity now before us to ensure that the relatively small resources now in the Land Fund and in the proposed Heritage Fund are not overburdened either by having to compensate the Revenue or by the removal of the "in-lieu" system which has served us so well. I beg to move.
§ Lord COTTESLOE
My Lords, I wish very warmly to support this Amendment moved by my noble friend—if I may so call him—Lord Gibson. I hope that the noble 372 Lord, Lord Reigate, will accept it. The subsection that it is sought to delete assumes that, contrary to the proposals in the Government's White Paper, the "in lieu" system by which the Treasury may accept items for the national heritage in lieu of tax will be continued.
I am most anxious that the "in lieu" system should be continued. It was first introduced in 1910 and over the years has played a valuable part in the preservation of the heritage. I will only instance the splendid works of art such as the Rembrandt portrait of an old man now in the National Gallery, the great Holbein cartoon of Henry VIII and other things from Chatsworth which were acquired by the nation for £1 million in the 1950s, and the Wellington papers currently being acquired for the nation for, I believe, a sum of £750,000 through the operation of the "in lieu" system.
The fact is that while the operation of the system, with the provisions that it incorporates for the douceur which is referred to in the White paper, may indeed put the Treasury to some little trouble on some occasions, it does provide the owners of important heritage items and their executors with the simplest and most effective way of enabling those items to become the property of the nation and to be kept, on the advice of the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries, in the most appropriate locations.
The expanded system of private treaty sales proposed in the White Paper will not be so simple or so attractive from the point of view of owners, and it will not therefore be so effective in preserving the national heritage. It is one thing for an owner to be advised to surrender something rather than to pay an equivalent amount of tax. It is quite another to tell him that he ought to choose a gallery that may or may not have the funds available and to open negotiations with them; and he may, anyway, wish to hand over his property to the National Trust and to ask them to continue to house in it an item that is historically associated with it, which he wishes to surrender to the nation.
Is the Minister able to tell the House whether the Government consulted the Standing Commission on this matter and, if so, what the Standing Commission advised? If they did not consult the 373 Standing Commission, why did they not do so? Perhaps he would tell us, also, whether the National Gallery was asked to express a view, or has expressed a view, and, if so, what it was. While, therefore, I ardently hope that the "in lieu" system will be continued as being in the best interest of the preservation of our national heritage, I support this Amendment because I believe that the operation of the "in lieu" system, the acceptance by the Treasury of items of the heritage in lieu of tax, should fall entirely outside the operations of the National Heritage Fund, whereas the subsection which the Amendment seeks to delete would perpetuate the system of reimbursement to the Treasury for items accepted.
The fact is that such reimbursement by the National Land Fund, which was provided for in the Act of 1946, was, of course, no part of the "in lieu" system that was introduced in 1910, more than 35 years before the National Land Fund existed. And while it was perhaps possible, though doubtfully, I think, to justify the Treasury, having accepted an item in lieu of tax, reimbursing itself out of another pocket, so to speak, from the National Land Fund which they then controlled, now that the National Heritage Fund is to be in the hands of independent trustees, such reimbursement would be quite indefensible. It would mean that the Treasury, having accepted the item—land, historic house, picture or whatever it may be—would not only have the item, but would also require to be paid for it. They would have their cake and eat it, too, and that, in ordinary parlance, would be tantamount to fraud.
I hold, therefore, that while the "in lieu" system should be continued, it should be continued independently of the National Heritage Fund and that there should be no question of reimbursement. If it be said that this would be an open-ended commitment to the Treasury, the answer is that they are always in a position to refuse to accept an item offered under the "in lieu" system; to refuse it not on any ground of their assessment of its national importance on which they would no doubt have, and would no doubt accept, the advice of experts, but to refuse it simply on the ground of not being able to find the money to pay for it. And if it also be said that the continuance 374 of the system would involve an additional Treasury expenditure of the £2 million or so a year, which the "in lieu" system has hitherto involved, the answer to that is that the White Paper tells us that more than £120 million a year is already provided for the national heritage, and to say in the light of that figure that some £2 million cannot be found to continue the "in lieu" system is manifest nonsense.
For these reasons, I warmly support the Amendment and I hope that my noble friend will accept it. I hope also, profoundly, that if the Amendment is not accepted the "in lieu" system will nevertheless be continued, for its continuance would quite certainly be in the interest of the preservation of our heritage.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ Lord ANNAN
My Lords, may I follow the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, for moving this Amendment. I shall not add anything to what they have already said about the continuance of the "in lieu" system, though here I must declare an interest as a trustee of the British Museum and of the National Gallery. But one of the factors which it is very important to take into account if there is any question of abolishing the "in lieu" system, is that the situation can very well arise where the trustees of whatever body is set up to administer the funds of the National Heritage Fund may well find that, in asking a museum or a gallery to accept a work of art, they will have to demand that that museum or gallery pays something towards the purchase of the work of art concerned. They would then find that, through no fault of the trustees of that museum or gallery, the trustees would have spent their purchase fund for that year and that work of art would then be lost to the nation. This is one of the things which anybody who administers a fund during the year for purchasing works of art knows can happen very easily. It is impossible to predict when works of art will come upon the market. That is the real value of the "in lieu" system.
May I also reinforce one point which noble Lords have already made on the principle of consultation. It seems to me very unfortunate that this proposal to abolish the "in lieu" system came about without, so far as I can ascertain. 375 adequate consultation. Indeed, directors of museums and galleries were in constant touch with the Treasury and had their regular meetings every month or so in the Treasury, but never a word was said about the abolition of the "in lieu" system. Of course, I am not suggesting that there was any deception on the part of anyone concerned. I am not for one moment suggesting such a thing. But it seems to me as if this proposal to abolish the "in lieu" system somehow got inserted into the White Paper at a rather late stage in the writing of it. I would have been much happier if museums and galleries had been asked for their opinion before the White Paper was written.
I say this, because I remember that it was only 10 years or so ago that some of us heard in your Lordships' House one of the most sustained polemics which has been delivered in recent times in this House. It was delivered by Lord Radcliffe at the time when the Government of the day decided, without consultation, to sell the site to which the British Library was to have been moved. Here, again, that was done without any consultation with the trustees of the British Museum. I wish that the Departments concerned in Whitehall would consult the trustees of these bodies before publishing something which is enshrined not in a Green Paper but in a White Paper, and therefore making it all the more difficult to get the Government to alter their opinion. May I just add my voice to those who wish to vote for this Amendment, and ask the Government whether they would very carefully consider the points which have been made in this debate before they introduce legislation in another place on this topic?
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ Lord AVEBURY
My Lords, I am the last person in the world to disagree with the noble Lord when he suggests that there should be ample consultation before proposals are brought forward in the form of a White Paper or legislation. It probably would have been helpful if the Government had embarked on some discussion with the museums and galleries before the drafting of the White Paper, and I am surprised to hear, from what the noble Lord and others have said, that they have not done so. However, I do not altogether 376 understand the opposition which has been expressed on all sides to the replacement of the "in lieu" provisions by the private treaty arrangements which are envisaged in the White Paper.
If there was any disincentive in the change for private owners to transfer their property to museums and galleries, or if it was made more difficult for museums and galleries to acquire private property, then I could understand the anxieties which have been expressed. However, to take the White Paper at its face value, it says that the identical tax and douceur arrangements apply in the case of private treaty sales to national and local museums and galleries, the National Trust and other institutions concerned with the preservation of our heritage. Therefore the individual owner is left in the same financial position, whether property is accepted in lieu of tax or is the subject of a private treaty sale.
That takes care of the position where a person transfers his property to a public institution, whereas if one looks at it from the point of view of the gallery or other acquiring body I read lower down on page 4 of the White Paper that the Government intend to make special arrangements to ensure that in cases where the acceptance in lieu provision would have applied, the acquiring body will not have to contribute more to the acquisition than at present. Provided, therefore, that the Government can satisfy your Lordships, first, that the person transferring the assets is in no worse financial position than he would have been otherwise and, secondly, that the museum, gallery or other acquiring institution does not have to find more money than otherwise it would have had to do, then surely nobody at all is disadvantaged by the change. We have a common system of acquisition by private treaty, which I should have thought was a simplification of the existing procedures.
However, this is the first time that I had realised that there was any strong objection to these proposals, and since the White Paper was published only a short time ago I think that it would be very helpful to hear what the Minister has to say this afternoon.
§ 3.32 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, DEPARTMENT of EDUCATION and SCIENCE (Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge)
My 377 Lords, before the noble Lord replies to the Amendment, I feel that I must say a word, but I am not going to be drawn at this stage into a full discussion of the proposals in the White Paper. The position is that my officials and the officials of the Department of the Environment, of the Treasury and of Scotland and Wales are at the moment meeting more than once a week in order to draw up a Bill which will eventually be presented to Parliament. That will be the right moment to discuss the details. However, my right honourable friend Mr. Joel Barnett, when he announced the White Paper to the Press, said that he thought that there would be a great deal to discuss, because there were a number of details which had not been settled, and he hoped that all interested parties would join in the discussion. In point of fact, one of my senior officials will be talking tomorrow to, I think, six heads of museums.
We in the Government are quite determined that the change in the "in lieu" procedure, which is roughed out in the White Paper, should not work to the disadvantage either of people who wish to submit things in lieu or of institutions which wish to acquire them. I am not going to take it any further than that today because the details are still being discussed. If we find that there are insuperable difficulties, we can even go back on things. The intention of the Government in the White Paper is perfectly clear. This is not an appropriate Bill on which to discuss the matter. Therefore, I shall not vote either way on this Amendment.
Today, I do not want to take the matter any further, beyond making two points. First, this is the first time for some time that my colleagues in the Treasury have been publicly congratulated by anybody, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Gibson for having said what he did. During the last 25 years that Department of State has done something very remarkable for this country, and it gets absolutely no credit whatever for it from the lobby. I resent this very much. But that is all right; that is what we are here for. Secondly, we are going to have complete consultation now. It might have been better to have had consultation first, but we must remember that there was a parliamentary committee which received evidence, that we were able to read, from 378 all the available bodies. It would not be true to say that it was consulted, but the matter was very closely discussed with the Standing Commission.
Having said that, that is all that I want to say at this stage. In due course, after full consultation, we shall have the opportunity to see what the Bill produces.
§ Lord REIGATE
My Lords, first may I say that it would be with great pleasure that I should accept the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, and supported by my noble friend Lord Cottesloe and by the noble Lord, Lord Annan. I do not know whether your Lordships will think that the Minister's reply to the question posed by my noble friend Lord Cottesloe is adequate. I do not propose to comment upon it.
My Bill has been before your Lordships' House in one form or another for over a year, and I cannot but feel that if the Government were at any stage moved to act in any of these directions they might have started their consultations with the authorities concerned; namely, the Museums Association or anybody else. It is all very well for the noble Lord to come along at this stage and to say, "I'm not going to bother with your little Bill. It will all be put right in our Bill". That Bill is not yet even drafted. When can the noble Lord promise us that it will be put before the House; and who, can he promise us, will introduce it?
I am not one to take umbrage, but I do not think that my efforts in this direction have been taken as seriously as it would have been sensible to take them. My Bill could have been taken at the Second Reading stage and have had incorporated in it all the recommendations of the Select Committee. I shall leave the point there. My Bill will have a Third Reading quite soon, I hope, if your Lordships approve it today, and in due course it will be presented in another place. If, however, the attitude of the noble Lord is repeated in the other place, the Bill will be stopped; that will be their decision and that is all there is to it. In the meanwhile, I am delighted to accept the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, if for no other reason than that Amendment No. 4 is no longer in order, which means that I do not have to 379 draw attention to the fact that I forgot to insert the words "of Inland Revenue".
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 3.37 p.m.
Lord REIGATE moved Amendment No. 6:
Page 2, line 16, leave out ("one-sixth") and insert ("one-quarter").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this alters the amount of the capital of the Fund upon which the trustees can draw without query from one-sixth to one-quarter. At an earlier stage of this Bill and, indeed, in the previous Bill, I was anxious to placate Treasury opinion, and I described this as a sop to Cerberus. I was unsuccessful. Since then we have had the White Paper.
§ At this stage I totally disagree with the intent of the White Paper to fetter the trustees as much as is proposed. It is the intention of the White Paper and, apparently, of the Bill, whenever it appears, to limit the expenditure on items of land and buildings to not more than —1 million, and on other items to not more than one-quarter of a million pounds at any one time without the permission of the Government. The phrasing of the White Paper is very vague. It appears that the total limit is to be £5 million. I find this to be quite unsatisfactory. I wish the trustees to have unfettered freedom where the income of the fund is concerned; I think that they are unsuitable to be trustees if they cannot be trusted. As to the capital, I think that the trustees should have the power to spend up to one-quarter of the capital of the fund. I accept that some restraint is necessary, if for no other reason than to provide some defence for the trustees against excessive and extravagant demands from other quarters. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Lord REIGATE moved Amendment No. 7:
Page 2, line 25, leave out ("Land") and insert ("Heritage").
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.380
§ Clause 4 [Appointment and dismissal of Trustees]:
Lord REIGATE moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 2, line 30, leave out ("Land") and insert ("Heritage").
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Lord REIGATE moved Amendment No. 9;
Page 2, line 31, leave out ("five") and insert ("six").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is quite simple. It increases the total number of trustees from six to seven; that is, including the chairman. I am sure from experience all your Lordships will agree that on any committee or board it is better not to have an even number. I beg to move.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ Lord REIGATE moved Amendment No. 10:
Page 2, line 33, leave out subsection (2) and insert—
("(2) In selecting suitable persons for appointment as Trustees, the Prime Minister shall give preference to those who appear to him to have knowledge of finance and administration, or knowledge of architecture and the fine arts or such other aspects of the National Heritage as he deems appropriate.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment deals with the appointment of trustees. Since I launched this Bill some long time ago, I have received a great many suggestions from various quarters as to the qualifications which should be demanded of whoever appoints the trustees. There have been a great many suggestions which would enlarge the scope of the choice, which I have so far resisted. However, in this particular Amendment I have amended the Bill to include such other aspects as might occur to the Prime Minister from time to time. The problem here is that no one really can define "national heritage". I was challenged on this by one of my correspondents and I sat down and tried to define it, but I did not get very far. The fact is that we all in our own hearts understand perfectly well what is meant by the phrase, "national heritage", and if we were all to put down 381 our definitions I should think 90 per cent. of them would overlap, but it becomes a little difficult round the edges of the definition. When I was talking to a friend of mine I listed the obvious matters which would come within the province of the national heritage and when I had given a very long list he said "You have forgotten Cruft's Dog Show". There are many people in this country who would look on that as part of the national heritage, but I doubt whether it would be very popular as an object of expenditure for the fund. However, it gives some idea of the difficulties encountered.
§ In this Bill I have stressed architecture and works of art. The original purpose of the Bill was, in Dr. Dalton's view, to secure land; but I think most of us realise that in the 30 years since Dr. Dalton made that proposition there have been considerable changes. Legislation has done more to secure our heritage as regards land than has probably been done by the National Land Fund itself. Circumstances have changed and I think most of us realise now that it is works of art and buildings which are most at risk. None the less there are other spheres of interest and the threat may change. The fact is as regards land preservation or conservation —or whatever the phrase is—it has one advantage, in that it cannot be pulled down like a building and it cannot be sold abroad like a work of art. So it has a stronger chance of remaining part of the national heritage than works of art or architecture. I am not averse to the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, in his Amendment, but I am anxious not to open the door any wider than that or the next thing I shall get will be a demand for wildlife conservation and possibly even Cruft's Dog Show. I hope your Lordships will agree with this Amendment and that it will solve the problem. I beg to move.
§ The DEPUTY SPEAKER
My Lords, we will now take Amendment No. 11 as an Amendment to Amendment No. 10.
Lord AVEBURY moved Amendment No. 11 as an Amendment to Amendment No. 10:
Line 4, after first ("of") insert ("land conservation, or knowledge of").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to say first that it was with some consternation that I heard the 382 remarks of the noble Lord the Minister in reply to an earlier Amendment, because we seem to be wasting the time of the House in discussing this Bill at all if the attitude of the Government is going to be that, notwithstanding anything your Lordships may decide, this Bill must be swept under the carpet and we shall have to wait until the White Paper has been fully considered and the Government have brought forward their own legislation.
§ This is a rather cavalier attitude to take to your Lordships' House. The Government come forward with a casual remark of this kind when we are in the middle of the Report stage, having carefully gone through—as the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, said—something like a year of very thorough consideration of these matters and arrived at the Bill which is now before your Lordships and which is capable of being modified as it continues its stages, both in this House and in another place, so as to fit in not only with the proposals in the White Paper but with anything which may arise from the consultations about which the Minister has just told us. Before we leave this afternoon, I hope that we can persuade the Minister at least to modify that attitude and to say that it is possible that if the consultations make good progress, as we hope they will—and the Minister has said that they are already under way—it is not too late for the results of those consultations to be embodied in this Bill when it gets to another place.
§ I certainly do not want to make the appointment of the trustees as complicated as the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, has envisaged. I can quite imagine the situation, because I know in other Bills people have suggested all sorts of other bodies which ought to be consulted and I would not wish to embody the trustees of Cruft's Dog Show among those who should be included in the list. To open the door to a multitude of other interests who think that they are entitled to special consideration when it comes to making decisions of this kind would be a great mistake; but I want to restore the central importance of land and to recognise it in the appointment of trustees, as it was originally envisaged by Dr. Dalton when he set up the fund in 1946. As my noble friend Lady Robson of Kiddington pointed out when the Bill was discussed on Second Reading, the fund was originally conceived as being mainly for the purchase 383 of land, although in point of fact I understand that something like 75 per cent. of the money which has been spent since then has gone on works of art and buildings, and only something of the order of 25 per cent. has been used to acquire land.
That is partly because other mechanisms have been developed and the Treasury point out to the Select Committee on expenditure (Cmnd. 280, paragraph 12) that Dr. Dalton's ideas for creating national parks and for the acquisition for the public of stretches of coast and open country has seen fruition in the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, and presumably in the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1968 and the Nature Conservancy Council Act of 1973. But the Select Committee went on to remark that the development of these alternative mechanisms has not allayed the fears for the future by organisations concerned with the land aspect of the national heritage. If one looks, for example, at the evidence given by the CPRE in paragraph 21 of the appendices to the minutes of evidence, one sees that in the CPRE's submission to the environment subcommittee inquiring into national parks and countryside it says:
We drew attention to the serious financial constraints which continue to prevent National Park authorities and the Countryside Commission from fulfilling the full potential of national parks"—
and it goes on in that vein.
That is why it is so important, I think, to ensure that in applying this fund, which will according to the White Paper have initially something like £5 million a year more than the National Land Fund has in its pocket at the moment—£15 million will be handed over and there will be another £5 million on top of that—the preservation of the countryside for the benefit of the people should be one of the main objectives kept in mind. It is for that reason that in this Amendment I am proposing that the wording of the noble Lord's clause on the appointment of trustees be slightly modified so as to include, in particular, land conservation. To allay his fears on the opening of the floodgates to the many other interests which might think that they had an entitlement to be represented, may I refer the noble Lord to the second paragraph of the White Paper where the Government state as their aim:
To maintain and enhance all aspects of our heritage, including"—
and they mention this first—
our countryside, historic buildings and their contents, and major works of art".
So if we have a difficulty in defining what we mean by heritage, the simplest solution, I would suggest to your Lordships, is that we merely accept those items which are mentioned in the White Paper as being the ones what we are talking about in this Bill. I beg to move.
§ Lord REIGATE
My Lords, I listened very sympathetically to what the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, said. I must say I am still very reluctant to open the floodgates, all the same. He referred to the White Paper which refers to the countryside. His Amendment refers to "land conservation". I do not want to be pedantic, but what does he mean exactly by "land conservation"? If you take it as meaning someone who has knowledge of the countryside, it would be very hard to find somebody who has not any knowledge of the countryside, whereas when you are dealing with historic buildings and works of art you have experts and an expertise which is not demanded in the case of knowledge of land preservation or land conservation. We are not talking about soil conservation but land conservation. I honestly do not quite know what the phrase means, and I frankly would prefer not to accept it.
§ Lord AVEBURY
My Lords, if one was thinking of a name out of thin air, one could not do better than refer to our colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Molson, who, as chairman of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, is a person who has detailed knowledge of the countryside.
§ Lord BOYD-CARPENTER
My Lords, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, preservation of the countryside in the sense of the prevention of despoilment by building and development is one thing, but I doubt whether the words "land conservation" are apt to cover that kind of expertise. As I understand the expression "land conservation", it mainly conveys to most people's minds the protection of land from erosion by flood, protection by erection of sea defences and that kind of thing, which I would have 385 thought was not particularly appropriate in this case. Both for that narrow reason and for the wider one, that once you start specifying specialities of this kind there is no end to the process, I very much hope that my noble friend will not accept the Amendment.
§ Lord AVEBURY
My Lords, there seem to be two points here. There is the question of whether the exact phrase I have used in the Amendment meets the requirement which I am trying to outline, and I think there can be differences of opinion about that. I certainly differ from the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, and the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. If they can think of a better way of describing what I am trying to do, I am certainly prepared to take the wording away and bring back something better at Third Reading, if the principle can be accepted. I think the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, is sympathetic towards what I am trying to do. He is only concerned, as I understand him, to ensure that, notwithstanding the concern of your Lordships' House with the protection of beautiful countryside, we do not give the opportunity to all the other interests the noble Lord has mentioned to come forward and demand to be included among those nominated as trustees. Provided that the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, can assure me that he is not in any way opposed to the principle, I am perfectly prepared to go away and consult with my noble friend Lady Robson, and of course with the noble Lord himself, and come back at Third Reading with wording that I hope will be acceptable to him.
§ Lord REIGATE
My Lords, I am most anxious to placate the noble Lord so far as I can, but I did consider the matter between Committee stage and this stage
and that is why I included the words "other aspects", which includes land conservation, soil conservation and almost anything else you like. I really would much prefer to leave it at that. If I may amplify the difficulty I am in, and which the Government will find themselves to be in if they ever get around to having a Bill at all, it is that it is a great mistake to tie the hands of the appointer of trustees with restrictions of this kind. And, blow me down!, the Government have done it already: they say Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be represented—out of a small number of trustees. Supposing they have seven, as I am suggesting in my Bill; three of those would be one Scot, one Welshman and one Northern Irishman; that is only four to represent little England and land conservation and everything else. It is a mistake at this stage. Perhaps I might in passing, although it is quite irrelevant to the Amendment I am discussing, draw your Lordships' attention to the sentence;
Scottish and Welsh bodies would continue to be eligible for assistance from the fund after Devolution".
§ Lord AVEBURY
My Lords, I did go as far as I thought I possibly could in trying to meet the noble Lord, Lord Reigate. If he does not feel able to accept the Amendment or to give an undertaking that after consultation he would be prepared to accept something on similar lines at Third Reading, I have no alternative but to test the feeling of your Lordships' House.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 11) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 9; Not-Contents, 102.387
|Airedale, L.||Banks, L.||Hampton, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Brockway, L.||Skelmersdale, L.|
|Avebury, L. [Teller.]||Grey, E.||Wigoder, L. [Teller.]|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Boyd-Carpenter, L.||Daventry, V.|
|Alport, L.||Campbell of Croy, L.||Davidson, V.|
|Annan, L.||Clwyd, L.||de Clifford, L.|
|Auckland, L.||Cockfield, L.||De Freyne, L.|
|Avon, E.||Collison, L.||Denham, L.|
|Aylestone, L.||Cooper of Stockton Heath, L.||Derwent, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Cottesloe, L.||Douglas of Barloch, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Cromartie, E.||Dulverton, L.|
|Ebbisham, L.||Kinross, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Leatherland, L.||Shinwell, L.|
|Elliot of Harwood, B.||Long, V.||Sligo, M.|
|Emmet of Amberley, B.||Lothian, V.||Snow, L.|
|Evans of Hungershall, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.||Somers, L.|
|Exeter, M.||Lyell, L.||Spens, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||McGregor of Durris, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Fisher of Camden, L.||Mancroft, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|Gibson, L.||Mishcon, L.||Stone, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Molson, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Glasgow, E.||Morris, L.|
|Gordon-Walker, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.||Strathspey, L.|
|Greenway, L.||Norfolk, D.||Sudeley, L.|
|Greenwood of Rossendale, L.||Norrie, L.||Thomas, L.|
|Gridley, L.||Northchurch, B.||Thurlow, L.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.||Torphichen, L.|
|O'Hagan, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Hale, L.||Plant, L.||Trenchard, V.|
|Hanworth, V.||Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Vickers, B. [Teller.]|
|Harmar-Nicholls, L.||Porritt, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Hatch of Lusby, L.||Rankeillour, L.||Ward of North Tyneside, B.|
|Henderson, L.||Reigate, L. [Teller.]||Westbury, L.|
|Hood, V.||Robbins, L.||Willis, L.|
|Hornsby-Smith, B.||Roberthall, L.||Willoughby de Broke, L.|
|Hylton-Foster, B.||Sefton of Garston, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Janner, L.||Segal, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Killearn, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment to the Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ [Amendment No. 12 not moved.]
§ Clause 5 [Short Title Commencement and Repeals]:
§ 4.6 p.m.
§ Lord REIGATE moved Amendment No. 13: