§ 3.14 p.m.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. I am sure the contents of this Bill will be familiar to your Lordships. Many of you will have watched with keen interest its progress through another place. For my own part, I am particularly happy to be associated with what is the first major piece of legislation on the preservation of the national heritage for more than 30 years. This Bill, if enacted, will make a very significant contribution towards preserving our heritage; a heritage which, despite the valiant efforts of so many willing groups and individuals, is continually at risk from the ravages of time and the cheque books of wealthy overseas buyers.
17 Perhaps I should begin by making clear where responsibility for this Bill lies: it is shared equally between my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. But, because its provisions extend to the whole of the United Kingdom, my right honourable friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will also be concerned. In addition, my right honourable friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has an interest in view of the proposals in Part II of the Bill to transfer certain responsibilities—the acceptance in lieu procedures—away from Treasury control. I shall say more about that later.
I am sure that your Lordships will know much of the background to the Bill, and I therefore intend to cover this only briefly. The Government's main proposals stem from the recommendations in the third report of the Select Committee on Expenditure (Environmental Sub-Committee) for the Session 1977–78, which dealt with the National Land Fund. This, in turn, arose from the problems the then Government faced when offered Mentmore by the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery. All of us who profess concern for the future of our national heritage must acknowledge the debt we owe to those in another place whose thorough and incisive investigation of the administration of heritage policy resulted in such an admirable report containing such positive recommendations.
I shall not trouble your Lordships with all those recommendations, but I should like to remind you of some of the more valuable lessons that were learnt. First, the report made clear that the Government needed to alter the way in which resources available for preserving the heritage were administered; secondly, it warned of the concern which existed in the heritage world about the central role the Treasury played in decisions on heritage policy; and, thirdly, it highlighted the complexity of the system for accepting items in satisfaction of tax and stressed the need to clarify these procedures and the National Land Fund's role in them.
With this Bill, the Government have responded most sympathetically to these recommendations. And I do not overlook the contribution of the previous 18 Government and, in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, whose White Paper of early last year provided, with some important exceptions, much the same response as the present Bill. I am sure noble Lords will agree that the preservation of the heritage transcends party political divisions.
I turn now to the Bill itself. It has three Parts: the first provides for the establishment of a National Heritage Memorial Fund under independent trustees; the second, for the transfer of responsibility for the acceptance in lieu procedures from Treasury Ministers to my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster; and the third, for the establishment of a statutory basis for Government indemnity cover for loans of works of art for public benefit. Some important changes to these basic proposals have been made in another place and I shall endeavour to highlight these where appropriate.
Part I of the Bill establishes a National Heritage Memorial Fund to be administered by independent trustees. Noble Lords will be aware that it was not the Government's original intention that the word 'memorial' should appear in the fund's title; this was inserted in another place to reflect the original concept of the National Land Fund as a means of preserving tracts of outstanding scenic land as a memorial to those who gave their lives for this country in the Second World War.
The fund is intended primarily to be a source of financial assistance to those bodies wishing to acquire and preserve items of outstanding heritage quality. Although the trustees will have powers to acquire items themselves—in exceptional circumstances and only with the express permission of Ministers—it is not intended that this should be the normal practice; the Government do not expect the trustees to go into the business of running country houses or to set up their own museums or galleries.
The initiative will, therefore, lie with the wide range of non-profit-making bodies eligible for assistance—museums and galleries, both national and local, the 19 National Trusts, preservation trusts, bodies concerned with the conservation of nature and other similar institutions. It will be for them to identify items of heritage quality and approach the trustees for help. Provided the trustees are satisfied that an item is of sufficient merit, they will be able to offer a grant or loan to help with its acquisition and preservation. The level of assistance will be a matter for the trustees to decide case by case, but, while the Government would expect most bodies to be able to make a contribution from their own funds towards an acquisition, we recognise that there may be instances—perhaps where small preservation trusts are concerned—where 100 per cent. grants or loans will be needed. The Bill allows for such cases.
The trustees will be able to impose any conditions they think fit on the grants and loans they offer. These could, for instance, relate to the need to return a work of art to the setting with which it is historically associated—perhaps an important country house; or to the level of public access which is appropriate—including restrictions on public access, if this is thought necessary as in the case of a nature reserve, or to the maintenance and care of property acquired with the help of the fund.
My Lords, you will have noted that this Bill contains no strict definition of the national heritage. This is quite deliberate. In the Government's view the national heritage is a somewhat elusive concept, which defies exact description. Rather than run the risk of excluding items by drawing too narrow a statutory definition, we have elected to leave it to the trustees to judge what can or cannot be considered part of the heritage, bearing in mind the broad guidelines contained in the Bill.
It will be clear from what I have already said, that the trustees will be given a great deal of freedom under the terms of the Bill, summed up by the term "unfettered discretion" coined by my honourable friend Mr. Hector Monro, during a debate in another place. They will be able to decide what constitutes part of the heritage, they will be able to decide on the level of assistance that is appropriate, and they will be able to attach such conditions to grants as they see fit. Further, the fund will receive its resources in the 20 form of a grant at the beginning of the financial year—in advance of proof of need, which, as your Lordships will know, is a departure from the normal arrangement with public expenditure. Furthermore, the trustees will be able to retain any unspent balances at the end of the year for investment and expenditure in the later years, and they will be able to accept gifts and bequests from private sources and invest these, constrained only by the Trustee Investments Act.
Nevertheless, the Government recognise that the trustees will require guidance on their work. For this reason they will be required to consult expert bodies—for instance, the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries and the Historic Buildings Councils—about help they intend to offer. However, the fund will not be beyond the control of Parliament. Each year the trustees will be required to prepare an annual report and accounts, which will be scrutinised by the Comptroller and Auditor-General and laid before Parliament.
There are two other points I want to mention with regard to Part I of the Bill. First, there is the question of the resources that will be made available to the fund. For the coming financial year, the Government have decided to provide a sum broadly equivalent to the balance in the National Land Fund—expected to be some –15.5 million—for both the National Heritage Memorial Fund and for expenditure on acceptance in lieu. In practice, this will mean upwards of £12 million for the new fund. This is not as large a sum as the Government would have liked but, given our straitened financial circumstances, neither is it a paltry or ungenerous one; and, properly invested, this capital should provide sufficient income for the trustees to discharge their responsibilities. In future years, the Government are proposing that some £5.5 million per year will be made available and divided between the trustees and acceptance in lieu. We sincerely hope that, as the fund becomes established, these public monies will be supplemented by private funds.
I think I should make clear at this point that the Government recognise that there may be cases which will outstrip the resources of the fund—perhaps a major house and collection. In this case, we would not expect the trustees to cope 21 but would have to consider how we could respond directly to the specific situation. The second matter is the appointment of the trustees—a subject which I know will attract the close attention of your Lordships. I must say at once that no decisions on this have been taken, but I can tell the House that my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are now urgently considering a list of possible names—and I can assure your Lordships that there is no shortage of high calibre candidates. Our intention is that the trustees should not be experts or specialists—they will, after all, be required to seek expert advice—but should have a wide general knowledge of the arts and the heritage. The trustees will include people connected with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and the appropriate territorial Ministers will be consulted about appointments.
Lastly on this part of the Bill, my Lords, you will be aware that it is the Government's wish to bring the fund into operation as soon as possible after 1st April 1980. To do so it will be necessary for this House to deal with it expeditiously. Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will be sparing with your amendments.
I turn now to Part II of the Bill—the transfer of responsibility for acceptance in lieu from the Treasury to the Department of the Environment and the Office of Arts and Libraries. Your Lordships will recall that it was the proposal by the previous Government to do away with these procedures that led to such disquiet in the arts world, and as a result, the Government resolved to retain the system as part of their plans for preserving the heritage. It seems desirable, however, that the Ministers directly concerned with the heritage should, in future, be responsible for decisions on the acceptance of items in satisfaction of tax. This involves my right honourable friends the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for the Environment taking over these responsibilities from the Treasury. This necessitates placing financial responsibility with these Ministers and reimbursement—of which I will say more in a moment—will in future be borne equally on the Votes of the Department of the Environment and the Office of Arts and Libraries.
22 I think at this stage I must attempt to explain—briefly I hope—the present working of the in lieu system. It is possible for owners of heritage property, who have a capital transfer tax debt, to offer to the Commissioners of the Inland Revenue a work of art, a manuscript, a piece of land, a building or other heritage item in satisfaction of that tax. At present the decision on whether the item should be accepted is taken by Treasury Ministers, who first assure themselves—by recourse to expert advisers—that the item is of sufficient quality. And this means it must pass a stringent quality test. If accepted, the value of the item is then offset against the tax liability; and the Treasury reimburse the Inland Revenue from the National Land Fund for the amount of tax they have foregone.
This question of reimbursement is, my Lords, a controversial issue. I do not wish to become bogged down at this stage with a detailed explanation of why reimbursement must take place. But your Lordships will realise that the heritage cannot have unlimited resources placed at its disposal, and that taxation foregone is a use of resources. Without reimbursement, it would be impossible to quantify heritage expenditure, and public expenditure priorities could be seriously distorted. When we come to Committee stage, I will, if necessary, provide a further explanation—but for the moment let me make quite clear that reimbursement is necessary and the Government are absolutely commited to continuing the practice.
As I have already said, under this Bill responsibility for acceptance in lieu will pass from the Treasury to the Department of the Environment and the Office of Arts and Libraries, and reimbursement of the Inland Revenue will be borne equally on their Votes. The decision will still be taken on the basis of expert advice—although perhaps from a wider spectrum of advisers than at present—and, while we would expect the Secretary of State for the Environment to take the lead where land, houses and contents are concerned, and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster where works of art are involved, decisions will be joint ones. Although reimbursement will come only from the Department of the Environment and the Office of Arts and Libraries, the territorial Ministers will, of course, have 23 a decisive voice in cases involving items in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
There is one point on acceptance in lieu to which I would draw your Lordships' special attention; it is the question of leaving items in their historic settings. Much has been said and written about the damage which is done to the heritage if historical items are removed from the houses with which they have a long association, and as the Government have made clear in another place, we are fully sensible of this problem. As far as acceptance in lieu is concerned, there are two issues: first, whether an item may be accepted because of a particular association with a setting; and secondly, whether it can be allowed to remain in that setting once it has been accepted. The first of these raises no problems; there is no doubt whatsoever that items can be accepted because they are pre-eminent in a particular setting, be it a country house or private museum. The Government are therefore taking steps to publicise this interpretation of existing legislation. But we are opposed to diluting the qualitative test by amending the word "pre-eminent". This would make it extremely difficult to maintain a consistent standard and could seriously threaten the viability of the in lieu system.
As to allocating items to their original settings, I would draw the attention of your Lordships to an amendment made by the Government in another place to Clause 9 of the Bill. It is now quite clear from Clause 9(5) that, where it is appropriate for items to remain in their setting, this will be given full consideration by the Ministers concerned. I believe this is a very significant step forward in our fight to preserve the heritage for public benefit.
I now turn to Part III of the Bill, which deals with indemnities and was much amended by the Government in another place. Your Lordships will, I think, be aware that the Government bear their own risk for items lent to them as do national museums and galleries which are supported totally or mainly through monies provided by Parliament. Thus, loans to these institutions were already covered; but loans from them to, say, a local museum or gallery, were not covered, unless the latter undertook to insure or indemnify 24 the object. This clearly discouraged the wider display of works of art and other heritage items and for some time the Government have operated, on a non-statutory basis, an indemnity scheme so that in appropriate cases such loans could be covered.
As originally published, Part III of the Bill merely provided statutory backing for a slightly expanded version of the present informal arrangements. The thinking behind this was that, while the Government could justifiably cover loans by or to national bodies directly and largely funded by Parliament, from which considerable public benefit would derive, it was not appropriate for the Government to enter the "commercial" insurance market by offering cover for the many small loans between local museums and private bodies, where, arguably, public benefit would be small. However, the view of the heritage world was strongly that a more flexible scheme was needed which at least gave Ministers the opportunity to provide indemnities in a wide variety of circumstances. After discussion, the Government determined to amend the Bill, even though the costs of such a scheme could be higher and the contingent liability is certainly greater.
Thus, as the Bill now stands, my right honourable friends the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretaries of State for the Environment, Scotland and Wales and Northern Ireland may at their discretion and with the approval of the Treasury, offer indemnity cover for a variety of loans. It will now be possible to indemnify loans from national museums and galleries to other nationals, from nationals to locals and vice versa, from nationals and locals to private bodies and individuals and vice versa—I think that includes everybody—provided that the Government are satisfied that public access to the item will be facilitated or that the loans will contribute to understanding and appreciation of the item. Clearly, too, the security arrangements of the borrower would have to be scrutinised and declared satisfactory.
These are very flexible terms indeed and I can assure your Lordships that the Government did not agree them lightly. It follows, therefore, that the administration of these powers must be stringent so that the scheme is not stifled by over- 25 application. I would therefore like briefly to say a few words about how the scheme will be run. I must first make quite clear that the costs of the scheme will be met from within existing resources. This means there will be no new army of civil servants processing applications and, if there is a flood of requests, each will have to take its turn.
It is proposed that there should be an upper limit (an indicative rather than an inflexible one) on the total amount at risk at any one time, so that the Government and Parliament can be aware of the contingent liability. And because the Government are agreeing to share some of the costs of loans, it is proposed that consideration should also be given to whether a share of any financial benefit which is derived should be taken by the Government. The circumstances in which this might arise are perhaps few, but one might envisage, for example, a loan for a special exhibition at a country house where there was a clear and identifiable income to the owner of the house as a result of the loan.
While it will be the normal practice to grant indemnity cover where loans involving the national museums and galleries are concerned, I must stress that there will be nothing automatic about indemnities for other loans. Each will be considered on its merits and, only if it is clear that substantial public benefit would be derived, will cover be provided. In deciding on these questions, the Ministers concerned will seek the advice of experts—such as the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries and, in appropriate cases, the Historic Buildings Councils.
Despite the stringent application of the scheme, the Government believe that it will bring substantial benefits to the heritage. It will, for example, in appropriate circumstances, enable items which are accepted in satisfaction of tax to be allocated to, say, a local museum and then lent back to a house with which it has significant historic association. And—again where the circumstances are right—it will allow indemnification of private loans to local museums and galleries which may well result in the museums being given the first option on a sale and thus reduce the risk of items being sold overseas. 26 I think your Lordships will agree that this is an important step forward.
My Lords, I have spoken long enough and I am very pleased that many others in all parts of the House are to contribute to the debate; and, in particular, I look forward to hearing the two maiden speeches. This Bill is a major step forward in the preservation of the heritage. It provides the framework for a wide and flexible heritage policy on which this and future Governments will wish to build. And I would hope that, having looked at the Bill in detail, your Lordships will give it their blessing in time for the National Heritage Memorial Fund to be set up as soon as possible, certainly by the beginning of the next financial year. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Mowbray and Stourton.)
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Baroness STEDMAN
My Lords, first I owe the House an explanation. For some reason—perhaps a temporary lapse of memory on someone's part on the way here—I seem to have got myself on the list of speakers as a Front Bench spokesman. I want to make it quite plain to the House that I am now footloose and fancy free on the Back Benches, and therefore anything that I may say this afternoon is my idea and my suggestion; I am not necessarily speaking for all my colleagues.
§ Baroness STEDMAN
I am sure you are. We welcome this Bill. It has had general welcome, and will have general welcome from all sides of the House. That is evident from the list of speakers, and, like the noble Lord opposite, I am delighted to see that there are to be two maiden speeches to which we are all looking forward with interest. The two noble Baronesses will know that they will have the support of the House, in its usual friendly manner, when they make their maiden speeches.
I believe that the detailed consideration which the Bill received in another place has produced a better Bill for our consideration. 27 I am not quite sure about the amendment to the Long Title, which could be interpreted as implying a memorial to the heritage that we have already lost; and since it will no doubt be referred to in general as the Heritage Fund, I think perhaps that the addition of the word "Memorial" is a little superfluous, but I appreciate that it is a way of reminding us all of what was in the mind of the late Hugh Dalton when he established the National Land Fund.
I am particularly concerned that the fund should be used to help the owners of some of our smaller historic houses to dispose of them to the State when they can no longer afford to care for them, and I equally believe that the quality of our landscape should also be preserved. But could not the Department of the Environment, or the Countryside Commission, or some similar body establish a national plan as to what stretches of countryside or coastline, not yet in public or National Trust ownership, should be identified and should be closely watched so that they can be prevented from being sold for purposes that are against the public interest and spoil the landscape?
I know, also, that there is still concern that archaeology is not specifically mentioned in Clause 3, on the basis, I believe, that it is covered by the reference to items of outstanding historic or scientific interest. But I am concerned that some of our industrial archaeology may disappear for ever. I accept that we cannot hope to save every mill or furnace, but they are an integral part of our history as an industrial nation, and I hope that this fund will be available to draw upon to save the outstanding mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire or further examples of engineering triumphs, such as Ironbridge and achievements like that.
I am not sure that the procedure for leaving items in situ has really been tightened up enough. It is referred to in Clause 9, but I wonder whether there should also be a reference in Clause 12 to the acceptance procedures, making it clear that where an item has a significant association with a particular place, it should be accepted under Clause 12 and should remain in situ.
What advice will be given to the trustees? My noble friend Lady Birk 28 suggested in the past that we ought to have a list of houses, places, paintings, furniture, et cetera which we have an absolute duty to preserve for the nation. Will the trustees, or any other body set up to advise the Department of the Environment or the Minister for the Arts, be asked to earmark the most important examples of our heritage in their settings with, possibly, a second list showing the geographical regional distribution and perhaps starring the prime examples that ought to be saved? Unless, and until, the nation as a whole becomes more prosperous we will not be able to afford to keep every 18th century building either in private or public hands. But if such a list were to be prepared, the trustees would have to hand some guide for a national or regional plan. I am not suggesting that they should take any action on any of these properties unless they were not being properly maintained and cared for, or unless they were likely to come up for sale.
What guidance will the trustees be given so that they can publicise far and wide the fact that any owner of a historic property, a beautiful stretch of coastline or countryside, or the possessor of a national work of art should always approach the Heritage Fund trustees before going to the open market? I accept that in very many cases it is likely that the trustees may not feel able to recommend the purchase, either because it is a duplication within a region, or because they feel that the particular work of art is less important to the regional or national heritage. But we need variety, especially in our buildings. We need our Castle Howards, our Blenheims, our Cragsides. But we also need the smaller historic houses of different periods to show our national genius over the centuries. We shall have to accept that there will be some casualties if the private owners, the National Trust, and local or national government cannot afford to maintain everything; and so we accept that the trustees will have to be selective.
The Government could also look for sensible suggestions in respect of running and maintenance costs, and at the capital gains tax law in respect of present and future funds required for continuous maintenance. I should like to ask the Minister whether he will go back to his officials and whether they will study the 29 absolute and conditional exemption under Section 29 of the Finance Act 1965, which has been superseded by the Capital Gains Tax Act 1979. Will they also look at Section 76 of the Finance Act 1976, which has now been superseded by Section 147 of the Capital Gains Tax Act? If owners are discouraged from selling their magnificent settings or parks with their historic houses—due to tax problems—those settings or parks can be lost for ever, and it is the national heritage that will be the loser.
As I understand it, the district valuer considers the exemption of land which is exempt under the provision of Section 101 of the Capital Gains Tax Act 1979, which relates to a residence and the land necessary for its reasonable enjoyment. But there is also a provision in the Finance Act 1976, and extended to the Capital Gains Tax Act by Section 147 of that Act, which provides for the conditional exemption of land essential for the protection of the character and the amenities of a building outstanding by reason of its historical or architectural interest. This type of claim is the one which is considered by the Historic Buildings Council. So the exemption is very well covered where there is an actual transfer on a death, or between willing parties, but on a private treaty sale to the Department of the Environment, or to the National Trust, the vendor takes all the benefit of the first exemption, but under the Treasury arrangement only 10 per cent. of the second one.
The fund and the acceptance in lieu system must be seen in perspective with the larger scene. Both of them are part of the heritage's safety net. With only £12 million plus of capital at the outset, with no income grant for 1980–81 in the fund, and only £3 million for acceptance in lieu for that year, it is a very fragile safety net, as well as an essential one. So more money would help, and any cuts would be extremely serious. So promises that were made in another place in this respect must be kept in so far as the acceptance in lieu is concerned. It is good to have had already firm assurances that the fund will be put into the list (in paragraph 12 of Schedule 6 to the Finance Act 1975), so that gifts to it will be fully exempt of capital transfer tax, and it will be allowed to make private treaty purchases involving the douceur.
30 But what is needed most of all is budget action to build confidence in the conditional exemption system, logically to improve and extend the maintenance fund system, and to adjust the other taxes affecting the heritage. We might ask the noble Lord opposite to put pressure on the Chancellor to consider this when he is looking at his Budget proposals for next month.
We need to have guidelines laid down as to the procedure for negotiations and just the sheer mechanics of running the scheme administratively. There has to be a close relationship between the two Ministers and their departments; there has to be a sympathetic Treasury; and there is an Inland Revenue involvement. What advice is going to be available to the trustees? Will the Historic Buildings Council give guidance as to the setting? Will it be the Historic Buildings Council who will give advice as to grants? The Treasury is obviously going to be involved in capital gains where the "in lieu" procedure obtains, and the Inland Revenue are at present involved if it is an outright purchase. All these bodies must be brought together at a very early stage of the negotiations.
Then, too, if we are proceeding with this scheme, should there not also be a panel of district valuers who become real experts in this field and can work to acceptable standards everywhere? I must confess that I have a personal interest in Baddesley Clinton, since the Department of the Environment agreed to enter into negotiations to purchase the house, in its setting, with its contents, just before I left office, and Treasury approval had then been obtained. These negotiations, I understand, are still proceeding, but some lessons might be learned from them; in particular, the question of the setting of the building. In the case of Baddesley, which is one of only two unaltered moated manor houses in the country, only six acres of parkland were allowed as the setting: yet, in the same area, a Victorian house, which had been blighted by M.40 proposals, was purchased by the Department of the Environment and 17-odd acres were considered appropriate in addition to the 3-plus acres in respect of that house. The yardstick obviously shortened very much in the case of Baddesley, and I understand that the 31 further North you travel the greater is the acreage allowed for the purposes of the setting. My suggestion of a panel of valuers might prevent these glaring inequalities.
I think it is also imperative that the trustees should produce a brochure, a booklet or something easy to assimilate and to read, on the administrative procedure, which should be made available to future applicants to the fund, explaining what is and who are going to be involved in the negotiations concerned. No procedure has yet been laid down, and, as far as the owner of Baddesley is concerned, he had to find his own way through an absolute labyrinth of Government departments. Sometimes speed will be absolutely essential, and guidelines such as I have suggested could help to hasten the negotiations. With Baddesley, those negotiations have now been going on for almost a year, and they are still proceeding; but informal talks on Baddesley were proceeding for six years before that. Not only might some owners lose heart and sell privately if there is that sort of delay; they might even die before we get round to negotiating. I think we ought to express our appreciation to Mr. Ferrers Walker and his family, who have been involved in the Baddesley negotiations, for the patience and tolerance they have shown, and are still showing, during this period of negotiations.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, it might be to the convenience of the noble Baroness and the House if I tell your Lordships that the negotiations have been completed, and the Government and the owners' solicitors are now involved in drawing up the final hand-over documents.
§ Baroness STEDMAN
My Lords, I was aware of that but I was choosing my words with care because there has been no public announcement about it, and as far as I know the actual contract has not yet been signed, so the negotiations are proceeding. I hope the department are going to look back on Baddesley to see what happened, how it was all dealt with and who was involved, in order that they can learn some administrative lessons from that and make life easier for the trustees and for future applicants in similar cases.
32 My Lords, I was delighted to read that in the course of the debate in another place the question was raised of occasionally too much public access destroying the very gem that we are seeking to preserve. Many of our smaller country houses and manor houses cannot cope with a massive degree of public access, and I was grateful for the assurance in the other place that the trustees, or whoever is in charge of the property, will have total authority to exclude and limit visitors as well as to include and admit them. I think, again, Baddesley would be a fair example of a smaller property which could be destroyed if too many people traipsed around it day after day.
In conclusion, my Lords, I should like to say that I welcome the Bill, and I am sure that it has general support from all sides of the House. It shows concern for the whole of our heritage, for our coastline, for our countryside, for our gardens, parks and buildings, and for their contents and treasures. I am sure it is a measure that is going to find general support and acceptance on all sides of the House, and I hope the noble Lord opposite will be proved right in his assumption that it will not be very long before it is on the statute book.
§ 3.56 p.m.
My Lords, I have little to say on this Bill at this stage save to give it the warmest possible welcome on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches. Naturally, I would wish at once to thank the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, for explaining the broad implications of the Bill, and some of the details of its proposed working, so very succinctly and so clearly. I would also wish to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, for underlining some crucial points, and perhaps doubts, in her own inimitably clear and perceptive manner—doubts which I think we all have to bear in mind. In particular, I would underline what she had to say about the need to preserve some of the elements of our industrial archaeology, scattered about, perhaps, in parts of the country in the North, which are not at once recognisable as places worthy of preservation but which, frankly, I think need very careful thought. One can wander about the Pennines and see strewn around the history and origins of 33 the wealth of our nation, and many of those elements, I think, need to be looked at with very great care.
With regard to the broad principles underlying the Bill—namely, the need for us to make every possible effort to preserve our national heritage in the broadest possible sense of those words—I am of course absolutely delighted to learn, as I did learn from a very full reading of all the debates in another place, that the Bill was received in a fine ecumenical spirit in another place with, as the noble Lord said, virtually no difference whatsoever appearing between the parties, and, as is perhaps rather more rare, with no differences displayed even within the parties. That apparently universal recognition of the need to preserve our national heritage surely augers well for the future of so many beautiful things and places which in reality belong to the past but which must be preserved for the enjoyment of future generations, and I am certain that noble Lords in this House will display a similar degree of unanimity as did another place, although, of course, that is rather less rare here than down the corridor, if I may say so.
Perhaps I may now briefly draw attention to one or two points which I think will need careful watching as the Bill proceeds and, indeed, as the scheme comes into force. First, a word or two with regard to finance—and I am very glad that the noble Lord in fact concentrated on this point and reassured us in many ways. It is surely essential that the trustees should have at their disposal funds which are adequate to enable them to accomplish the immense task with which they will be faced. I should not like to think that they will be put constantly in the position of having to make judgments as between this, that or the other property, all of which in reality require preservation—judgments which might be difficult, which might be embarrassing and which, in the long run, perhaps, might not be for the good of the fund.
My Lords, how right we are, I am sure—the authors of the Bill, the noble Lord and those Ministers in another place who have explained the Bill's contents—to concentrate some of our attention on the use of fiscal measures in order to preserve essential elements of our national heritage. We live in a world 34 nowadays in which it is not possible always to get people to do things in the national interest by telling them to do them, by legislating that they should do them or merely by persuasion. We are not in a world now in which many people can automatically afford to make grand gestures by bestowing land and their own personal property on the nation for preservation. We must, I think, make a proper use of fiscal measures.
Declaring an interest as the chairman of the Countryside Commission, I have been involved in these matters in the past, with the obligation from time to time to advise the Treasury on the possible abatement or remission of capital transfer tax in connection with estates, properties and areas of landscape and countryside in which there is a national interest in terms of visual amenity or access or other matters. It is not always an easy duty, particularly when one has had to look at the statutes under which we have had to operate hitherto, and under which we have to judge and to certify that certain land and landscape is of "outstanding" scenic beauty.
It seems to me that the word "outstanding" implies some regard for the context in which a particular property stands. An area of countryside surrounding, say, a great estate in the midst of the brick pits in Bedfordshire might be outstanding, and is outstanding; but if one were able to lift it bodily and deposit it in the heart of the Lake District National Park, then, perhaps, it would not be quite so outstanding. I think it necessary when making these judgments to make them in the context in which a particular property lies. Therefore, I hope that the trustees, in working this fund, will be enabled to take the most liberal possible interpretation of their duties rather than having to operate with fixed, rigid criteria.
Next, my Lords, I am delighted that it has been made absolutely clear by Ministers in another place and by the noble Lord today that land and landscape beauty is surely covered under the fund and under the Bill. I welcome the assurance given in another place, and repeated in other words by the noble Lord today, that the trustees will be what were called in the other place "cultured generalists". I would not for a moment wish to criticise those so besotted—and I use the term 35 without any implied criticism—with love, and deep love, of pictures, period furniture, early porcelain, silver, glass and the like. On the contrary, I believe that those people, particularly with their individual and precise preoccupation with certain articles, have focussed attention on elements and items of immense beauty and importance and have enabled the national conscience to be alerted to dangers which have arisen in regard to them. Those people have rendered a great service. Indeed, I could hardly say otherwise, if I may declare yet another interest, with a wife who has what she is pleased to describe as an antique business; although I am bound to tell your Lordships that antiques are not so much a business as a disease, and those who acquire this contagion, acquire it with a total disregard of normal business criteria, merely in their determination somehow to preserve beautiful things. Thank heaven for the presence of those people and, indeed of so many of those people throughout our nation!
It has been rather sad to see so many beautiful things exported from our country to other places; although I am bound to say that, from my own experience recently, it has neen a pleasure to see that those items taken away by the "shippers", as they are called in the trade, carried away on lorries and transported across the Atlantic, on the whole, nowadays, seem to me to consist of things most of which I am happy to see the back of. It is interesting also to note that with the pound now riding high many of the better things and early pieces of period furniture which disappeared—and far more pieces of Hepplewhite went across the Atlantic than Hepplewhite ever dreamed of—some of the genuine ones, I am happy to say, are now returning here. That is pleasurable news. I hope that they will remain here.
But, returning again to the subject of landscape—and we have referred to "cultured generalists" as trustees—it is necessary that the trustees should be aware of all the different elements of our national heritage, but it is also essential that landscape should not be disregarded. One hopes that among the trustees there will be people who have a genuine, well-known renowned interest in countryside matters—and I do not say, necessarily, 36 representatives of the Countryside Commission. That will be taken care of (as it often is) by the National Trust and by many others who have demonstrated their love for this crucial part of our national heritage, our countryside and its beautiful landscape. That is something which, if we lose it, is very difficult to get back again. That does not return across the Atlantic when the pound rides high. Once gone, it has gone virtually for ever.
A final point, which I think was underlined by the noble Lord and perhaps referred to by the noble Baroness, is this. I should like to say it to emphasise, in my personal view, the need for the trustees constantly to consider the desirability of maintaining properties as a whole. I make no criticism of the wonderful efforts made by bodies like the National Trust who have preserved some fine houses which I have visited with great pleasure. But sometimes it is sad to see that some of them have had to be furnished and stocked almost totally with imported articles, of great beauty and value, loaned by great galleries, by generous people or acquired in a number of ways. Surely the experience of visiting these places is immeasurably enriched if they are, to as great an extent as possible, as they originally were, and if they still contain the things which were virtually born with them. And that applies to the land surrounding them. It is unpleasant to see a great house and its parkland, with the parkland getting nibbled away on the outskirts and with the countryside and agricultural land surrounding it also gradually being nibbled away and allowed to sink into some form of degradation and deterioration. Let us try to preserve, so far as possible, the elements of our national heritage as a whole; the contents, the surroundings and the environment in which they are placed.
I am reminded by my noble friend of a place that I have often visited, a great house which is not such a great house in itself, the former home of Ruskin, Brant-wood, on the eastern shores of Coniston. What impresses me about visiting that delightful place is that the things in it, which are not unique in themselves, are genuinely the articles which were in it when it was occupied by Ruskin. Also, the land surrounding it, largely as a result of the Lake District National Parks Planning Board and the National Trust, has remained almost precisely as it was 37 when the house was originally in the occupancy of Ruskin himself. I make that point as an example. I hope that the trustees will tend to think generally in that way of the need to preserve units as a whole, their contents with them, their surroundings and their environment.
Finally I make a brief apology. Early this evening I have an engagement, not totally unconnected with our national heritage, which might make it necessary for me to miss the noble Lord's reply. I shall do what I can to remain. Perhaps if noble Lords are more disciplined than I am and speak for shorter periods than I have spoken, it might be possible for me to be here throughout. I shall look forward with great interest to the two maiden speeches that we are to hear and to hearing in this debate other noble Lords who have immense experience and expertise in this field. This, I think, is a happy day for our nation. I would finally wish this Bill godspeed and good luck and hope that it finds its way on to the statute book as soon as possible, because our national heritage is still disappearing at an alarming rate and the sooner we have adequate arrangements to protect it, surely, the better.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ Baroness AIREY of ABINGDON
My Lords in addressing your Lordships' House for the first time, it is the greatest privilege for me to make my maiden speech on a subject with which I am passionately concerned. I must declare an interest because my brother is the owner of an historic house. I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, for mentioning his wife. Perhaps here I might just speak for one moment and thank those many wives, and recognise them, who look after our beautiful houses throughout the country. They are not just the chatelaines, but they are very often cook, nanny, gardener, et. al. That having been said, I wholeheartedly welcome the National Heritage Bill which I believe is the single most important step taken by any Government in the preservation and conservation of our cultural and historic inheritance.
The Government have decided to appoint trustees to the National Heritage Memorial Fund. I welcome very much the addition of the word "memorial" because it will 38 remind us that this is a memorial to those who fell in the last war. Many of the older ones among us know of the letters that we received from people, loved ones, fighting in the desert or in Normandy who thought about this beautiful country. So I think it is perhaps the most perfect title that we can have to have inserted the word "memorial". I also hope, on a slightly more mundane base, that it might mean that some people thought it would be a good idea to give or leave money to this memorial and thereby help us to preserve even more.
My Lords, I wish this Bill every possible success. I should like to congratulate my right honourable friend the Prime Minister and her colleagues for finding parliamentary time for this measure, and for so carefully taking note of the wishes and needs of those most directly involved with the care of the very heart of our civilisation. I should also like to congratulate the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for the Environment, and all those at Westminster and outside who have given so much of their time and energies to what I believe to be a most noble and patriotic cause.
I found it particularly sensitive that pre-eminent works of art, major historic houses and, as has been mentioned this afternoon particularly, land of outstanding scenic beauty, can still be accepted by the State in lieu of capital taxes. However, I should like to speak this afternoon particularly about my special concern for smaller manor houses. This has already been mentioned; but some of these smaller manor houses are unsuitable for opening in the ordinary sense; maybe it will be a question of special permission. However, I believe that their need is very great. They may not contain great works of art, but in their own way they are a vital facet of our national inheritance.
With your permission, my Lords, I should just like to read four lines:The people who own works of art are not all rich. Some own only one picture. Others exist, hanging on by the skin of their teeth, in the smaller country houses and manor houses, with their precious possessions which have been in the family for centuries".That was from a speech on the arts by my late husband, Airey Neave, in another place in 1974. So it gives me special 39 pleasure to feel that I am this afternoon perhaps continuing what he started at that time.
§ Several noble Lords: Hear, hear!
§ Baroness AIREY of ABINGDON
My Lords, we both took great pleasure, as many of you, my Lords, might do, in visiting the chateaux of the Loire. I particularly remember one visit when we had been to that lovely chateau Azay-le-Rideaux which is perhaps the most furnished of the French chateaux, and we drove on full of enthusiasm. As we went along, we saw a little chateau or manor house with a drive up to it. It looked very beautiful and we saw a notice saying that it was open that day to the public.
Alas! When we arrived there it turned out to be a mirage, for it was rapidly falling into decay and was in a very advanced state of desolation. But having got as far as that, we thought that we would go on. We rang an ancient clanging bell and were taken by an old crone down dank passages until we came to the only room which appeared to be on show. It was in fact what had been the salon, and there were signs of beautiful plaster work; otherwise there was just one darkened picture over the mantelpiece and a few chairs which had been beautiful but which were in rags. However, there was one of those cords that we are accustomed to seeing in English houses which rope off those pieces of furniture which should not be touched by visitors, or chairs which should not be sat upon. But in this case behind the cord there was a table and two very ancient French gentlemen and two very ancient French ladies, dressed in black, playing cards. They paid no attention to us, and we were the only visitors.
It was a pathetic sight and we left that house saddened and determined that we would do all in our power to see that such a thing should not happen in this country. I believe it was with that at the back of his mind that my husband spoke six years ago, and I this afternoon have the privilege of speaking to you, my Lords.
However, although this Bill is a great step forward, I think that there are certain things that we have to consider. One is the trouble of repairs. These have 40 already been mentioned this afternoon. Of course, there is always the great problem of VAT. I know that this is a great difficulty; I am a committed European and I know that there are great arguments for taxes being paid in this way. However, I think that it is a terrible thing with ancient monuments that their owners who are striving to keep the place in repair are thinking to themselves, "If we leave it a few more years it will be that much more expensive". I plead with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do something about VAT for the historic houses and all historic monuments.
If this proves to be very difficult, I believe that there are other methods which could be recommended, such as a listed building repair allowance. I very much hope that something will be thought of to ease this problem, because otherwise the small manor houses in particular, which are unable to open and perhaps to insure their contents, will have very great problems in the period in front of us. I know from experience that if you do not do something to a roof fairly quickly, it can be a question of having to put up an umbrella over the bed.
May I now turn to the provisions in the Bill for indemnifying works of art which have been mentioned by several of your Lordships this afternoon, including the noble Lord the Minister. It is a very interesting idea that it may be a possibility, under this indemnification, that pictures or furniture might be returned to the houses from which they came. I remember the fascination of being shown around a house by someone who was obviously the owner but was incognito, and seeing on the wall a picture with exactly the same kind of face, and hearing what that person did or how he built a certain wing.
I believe that there is great importance in works of art being returned in situ, if possible, and that is a very splendid idea which has been put forward with great lucidity this afternoon. It would be wonderful if this method of indemnifying works of art made it possible for there to be exhibitions up and down the country. People in other parts of the country, as well as foreign visitors, would then be able to see great loan exhibitions staged elsewhere, rather than in our capital city of London, with its very serious overcrowding.
41 I should, of course, be very glad if many of our historic houses could be included in this category. All of them will be helped in so many ways by this Bill, and I should like to renew my congratulations to all those, of all political parties, who have contributed so much to its success.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Lord GIBSON
My Lords, it is a real privilege to be allowed to be the first to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Airey, on her maiden speech, which was so perceptive, so stimulating, so interesting and, at times, so moving. It is also a very exceptional pleasure to me personally, because her husband was one of my oldest friends and our friendship went back to our schooldays together. I only wish that he could have been here this afternoon to listen to her. How proud he would have been of her—as proud as we are delighted to have her among us. I hope that she will deliver speeches on many and varied subjects. We shall benefit greatly if she will. Before I address myself to the Bill, may I just apologise for a very long-standing engagement which I feel I must not cut, and which may necessitate my leaving before the end of the debate. I shall read with great attention the reports of the speeches that follow my departure.
I must declare a most direct interest in the Bill that we are debating, for I am chairman of the National Trust and, clearly, the Bill touches the Trust very closely. Let me, of course, say at once that I welcome the Bill unequivocally. It is a good Bill, putting to rights a matter that had gone shamefully wrong. It is an improvement on the White Paper which was issued towards the end of 1978, and which itself was an immense advance on anything that had gone before. But the Bill is an improvement in that it retains, the in lieu procedures—though, alas! without dispensing with the need to reimburse the Inland Revenue for tax foregone. Never mind, my Lords. Perhaps one could not really have expected it in present circumstances. By using the word "may" in Clause 8, the Bill leaves it open to change that procedure one day in the future. Incidentally, the split system—acceptance in lieu—which is envisaged here will be exceptionally complex to run and I hope that it will be run in very close 42 consultation with the trustees. I note that if it does not work very well, it can be unified at a later date.
It is particularly good to have the word "memorial" put into the Title. I do not suppose that the principle enshrined in the Bill will ever now be in danger—I certainly hope not. But I am sure that if the National Land Fund had been more closely associated in the public mind with a memorial, it would have been more difficult to reduce it in the middle 'fifties.
The original intention to set up a land fund as a means of preserving, as a war memorial, land and buildings for public enjoyment, and doing so without incurring public expenditure with each acquisition, was frustrated. But that intention has now at long last been realised. The importance of this fund is that it can be used when it is most needed. It is a genuine reserve, as the Minister has said. It can carry forward its unspent balance, if it has one, from one year to the next. This fund is therefore given a basic independence and thus, at last, we have the makings of a sensible system for the public rescue of heritage property.
I say "the makings of a sensible system", because of course this fund, while it is the prerequisite of a comprehensive system, does not form such a system by itself. It will be at the heart of it, however, and the trustees will have a central and catalytic job to do. They will be the agency which brings together those who must part with heritage assets, and those who are to take charge of such assets on the public behalf. I believe that they can, and should, have more than merely a supporting role to play. With the scope that this Bill gives them, with their authority and their funds—small though they may be at present—with their contact with Ministers and Government departments, as well as the knowledge which they will develop of the amenity societies and their work and all those interested in the heritage, the trustees of the fund will be much better placed than anybody else to lead the whole movement to preserve, in these fast-changing times, the physical aspect of our past for the enjoyment of the present and the future.
Of course, they will work closely with those such as the National Trusts for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 43 on the one hand, and Scotland on the other, whose role it is to hold and to look after land, buildings, pictures and the rest; and into this category of people with whom they will work, fall also museums and galleries, local authorities and, indeed, private owners of historic houses, ably represented as they are by the Historic Houses Association. That is how I envisage the role of the trustees developing and I congratulate the Government on having made it possible.
Yet, my Lords, I am not quite clear about the extent to which the Government see it in this way, for they have not given the trustees the freedom which they deserve and which they must have if they are to be fully effective. According to Clause 4(3) of the Bill, the trustees have to ask Ministers whether they may make an acquisition themselves—although, of course, they may make grants without permission—and they have to ask them for how long they may retain it. Clause 5 imposes similar restrictions. Why? It is because, we shall be told, it is not their role to hold property. We understand that very well and it is clear enough in the Bill. But why tie them so tightly, I wonder, in the matter of tactics? Negotiations in these matters are often delicate. On occasion, time is needed, and on other occasions a decision is needed very quickly. Why not leave timing and tactics to the trustees? Why not tell them that they may acquire property, but may not hold it for more than perhaps a year? They are to be men of quality. Would it not be better to give them maximum flexibility and then review their performance in the round year by year and let Parliament call them to account?
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was good enough to refer in another place to the growth of the National Trust and he foretold a similar growth for the Heritage Fund. He forecast that in the future the branches of the National Heritage Fund would spread ever more widely over the heritage, protecting it from the economic storms and changes that make it so especially vulnerable. He recalled the even more modest beginnings of the National Trust which, he said, has now become one of our great national institutions, known throughout the world for its skill and sagacity. If the National Trust deserves this tribute, and I think 44 that it does, I am convinced that it could never have grown to deserve it without the flexibility that comes with independence. The two are inseparable, and when the Bill comes to be examined in detail I beg that that shall be your Lordships' guiding principle.
May I make a few short points about the Bill. There is one feature of special concern to the National Trust which I must mention. In Section 3, the Trustees are given power to assist eligible recipients to "acquire, maintain and preserve". Nowhere is it explicitly stated that they may endow. It has been said in another place that "maintain and preserve" covers endowments; but why, I wonder, has the word "endow" not been used? After all, maintenance and preservation might be effected by annual deficit payments. The Government have used these in the past to finance certain properties taken on by the National Trust by agreement with the Government, and we are extremely grateful. But the fact is that the National Trust has found that it cannot maintain its own standards of preservation, its own priorities, under a system of annual deficit grants, and I have to say that we do not wish to take on any more houses on that basis. If we are to be the agents chosen to manage a property acquired by the State, that property will have to be financed by endowment; and since, when we take on a property, we undertake to maintain it in perpetuity we have to build into the endowment required a figure reflecting some part of our fears about inflation. Having done so, we then take all the risks. This is the only basis on which the National Trust can satisfactorily operate. I am disturbed that the word "endow" does not appear in the Bill because, whatever assurances may have been given, or may yet be given in Committee, a court of law will look at the wording of the Bill and not at assurances.
Another point I hope we shall look at carefully is the requirement, to be put upon trustees in Section 3, to have regard to the desirability to secure public access. If that means simply that they must consider whether it is desirable or not, well and good. But the important thing to remember is that public access and public benefit are not always the same thing. Let me give your Lordships an example which might commend itself to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, 45 who is President of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and with whom I had the pleasure of visiting the Society the other day. The example is this: you must prevent public access to places where rare birds nest if you want the public benefit of seeing them fly.
I hope we shall also consider the possibility of allowing the trustees to assist the purchase of rights of way and other easements without necessarily having to purchase the land. In managing property for the public good, such acquisitions, when you cannot get hold of the land, are sometimes crucial to good management. I could give examples, but I shall not weary your Lordships with them, where they have been very important to the National Trust. An example is the power to purchase shooting rights and extinguish them. I hope your Lordships will not think that I am hostile to sportsmen. Very much the reverse is the case. However, it can be important to be able to get hold of shooting rights and extinguish them if one wants to manage a particular piece of ground for the benefit of the maximum number of people.
Another matter which is of great importance to the Trust and which has been mentioned already is the recognition in the Bill that objects taken into national ownership can be left in their historic setting. This is a great step forward and I welcome it with great enthusiasm.
There is one omission in the Bill which saddens me, and I would hope that it might be remedied. I am sad that the National Art-Collections Fund—I am a member of its executive so I must declare an interest—is not among those eligible to receive works of art from the Heritage Fund trustees. It would be particularly appropriate if it were, I think, since its expertise in deciding where works of art shall finally be lodged is unsurpassed. Certainly if the trustees of the Heritage Fund are not to hold property themselves without ministerial sanction, it might be convenient for them to be able to hand over such property, when in the form of works of art, to the National Art-Collections Fund.
As I have said, the Heritage Fund will be at the centre of the system for conserving our heritage, but it is only one element of the system; and, speaking for one minute 46 about small houses and their contents—as did the noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon—no system can preserve small houses which does not make full use of the private owner. If private owners are willing to share their possessions with the public, in the sense of showing them over their houses, they must be given real encouragement. One member of the Select Committee whose report gave rise to this Bill originally, argued constantly that private owners were unnecessary, that they were privileged, that their privilege should not be supported and that private ownership was not the sine qua non of preservation; the State could do it all. I can only say that the National Trust certainly could not do it all without changing its character completely and becoming a vast and impersonal bureaucracy. The State could not even try. It would have to impose such a bureaucracy at vast expense to do the job.
The only way to preserve these houses for public enjoyment is to help owners to do it themselves on terms that ensure access. Help is already forthcoming but it is not yet fully effective, and one prerequisite of further advance is an improvement in the maintenance fund arrangements. I know that this is not a matter for today, but I hope that it will be borne in mind. If the Government will recognise that fiscal changes are still needed here, then we really shall have a credible system for ensuring that our heritage survives in the form which gives people most pleasure. I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Bill and I do not want my enthusiasm for it to seem qualified because I have drawn attention to what I see as its imperfections.
The National Trust owns a seventeenth-century church at Staunton Harold, once a family home of the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. The church was built during the Commonwealth, at a stormy time in our history, and its founder, Sir Richard Shirley, is commemorated by an inscription there which reads:When all things sacred were throughout ye nation Either Demollisht or profaned, Sir Richard Shirley Barronet founded this Church, whose singular praise it is to have done ye best things in ye worst times And hoped them in the most callimitous".For bringing forward this Bill in these times, which are pretty "callimitous", we are entitled to feel that we are hoping 47 "ye best things in ye most callimitous times", and the Government are likewise deserving, my Lords, of singular praise.
§ 4.39 p.m.
My Lords, it is with great humility that I crave the indulgence of the House in making my maiden speech here. I will try to be as brief as possible but before I start to say what I intend to say I should like to congratulate my sister in distress, the noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon, on her most delightful speech. I agreed with every word she said and I hope in the future frequently to hear her speak again.
First, I should like to congratulate the Government on producing a Bill which is long overdue if any of Britain's historic heritage of old buildings and their contents are to survive or remain in this country for very much longer. Secondly, I must declare a personal interest in this matter as the owner of a small, but partly very ancient castle of considerable historical and architectural interest, particularly to the immediate locality, where old buildings are few and far between. I believe, although I may be wrong, that it is the oldest building in Aberdeenshire still inhabited by the descendants of the original builder. Also it has something else which may be unique: portraits of every Chief of the Frasers in unbroken succession from 1570 down to my father. For reasons with which I will not bore your Lordships it is not at present open to the public.
The setting up of a National Heritage Fund is a great step forward and Clause 3(1)(a) encourages me to make a plea to the Government to make a slice of that cake available to the many owners of similar buildings all over Britain which are open to the public but which, for various reasons, cannot attract a large enough number of visitors to do anything like cover their most basic maintenance costs. The owners of many comparatively large houses are also in difficulties, although theirs are less acute.
Scotland has very few "Great Houses" as understood by that term in England. Indeed I believe there are only six which are treated under Case I for admission charges by the Inland Revenue. Until the late 18th or early 19th centuries 48 Scotland was a very poor country indeed as compared with England and until the late 18th century very few lairds, even great landowners, could afford to build on anything like the scale of their English counterparts. Consequently the national heritage of Scotland, particularly in the north and north-east, consists mainly of small and awkward castles and houses, often of great historical or local interest, often in fairly remote situations or even very remote ones such as Kisimul on a rocky island in Castlebay, Barra, which was remote enough to be the stronghold of pirates called McNeil, and also a few larger houses of great attraction but too remotely situated to attract a sufficient number of visitors to make any realistic contribution to the basic cost of upkeep. Apart from their remote situation, many are too physically awkward to be open except by appointment to small parties and are fully occupied by the families who own them. They do not have separate wings where the family can have private quarters and state rooms which can be open every day to large numbers of visitors, even if the numbers of visitors existed. Nevertheless they are of great interest to local people, to historians, archeologists, students and above all to tourists in the season, especially in bad weather, of which we frequently have a good deal, even in the summer!
The cost of their upkeep is, however, enormous. Often the buildings are very high. Slaters are almost impossible to get and are not keen on working on high roofs. Who can blame them? So one owner I know has to hire a large mobile crane every time slates need replacing. Incidentally this particular house is open from March until October, a longer season than most, and its owner does all in his power to attract the maximum number of visitors. But his roof maintenance costs are huge, as are those of many others. Painting, too, is difficult as men do not like working off very long ladders. The same applies to cleaning of rones and downpipes. Other repairs are also very costly, especially if done in such a way as not to spoil the original fabric of the building. Heating, a minimum of which is necessary in our climate to prevent deterioration of both building and contents, costs a fortune. Insurance is exorbitant, as are security, rates, road maintenance and the wages of such minimal staff as are necessary 49 to conduct visitors round, clean and maintain the surroundings in such condition as not to repel visitors but, if possible, attract them. Because of this, many houses are not being properly maintained even now and are in process of decay.
Yet these small, poky and, by English standards, poor slums are our historic heritage. With, or even without, continuing inflation many owners are faced with giving up in the very near future. One owner of an exceptionally fine house told me last week that he will have to move out within the next year unless some really helpful legislation is forthcoming very soon indeed. The house will be abandoned and the contents, some of great local interest and, in this case, considerable beauty, will be dispersed.
Without wishing to be in any way derogatory about the wonderful work done by the National Trust, the Royal Commissions for Ancient and Historic Monuments and the Historic Buildings Councils, et cetera, it is a fact that many of the public prefer to see round inhabited houses and the rooms used by the family. When I do show visitors round my house, which I quite often do, they almost always say how much they have enjoyed it because it has the lived-in feeling and atmosphere of a family home. And I do not think it is only because I have not asked them to pay!
My Lords, I implore the Government to extend, if it does not already do so Clause 3(7)(c) to include private owners of such amenities described therein and to include the private owner in the category described as a "body"—which as many of your Lordships well know, is Scots for a person!—or else, by some other means, such as enabling a proportion of maintenance costs to be set off against tax, give some considerable assistance to the struggling owners of these properties. If they are to survive, there is no time to be lost. Indeed, it is already almost too late.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Lord COTTESLOE
My Lords, I am very fortunate that it falls to me to be the first to congratulate the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, on a notable maiden Speech. It would perhaps not be accurate to describe her as a maiden Lady! She has made a valuable and constructive 50 contribution to our debate. With many of your Lordships I well remember the affection in which the House held her father, who was a familiar figure on the Cross-Benches for many years and we must all be glad that the noble Lady is following in his footsteps. We shall hope very often to hear her in the future.
Like other noble Lords and indeed many others who are interested in our national heritage I should like to welcome most warmly this Bill, which embodies most of the unanimous recommendations of the all-party Select Committee which considered these matters last year in another place. To the members of that Committee and especially to their chairman, Mr. Arthur Jones, we owe a great debt of gratitude, and no less to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the right honourable Norman St. John Stevas, who is the minister now responsible for the Arts.
I will not go over once again the lamentable history of the National Land Fund, set up by Mr. Hugh Dalton in 1946, nor the way in which his inspired vision of a memorial to those who gave their lives in the last World War has been, for more than 30 years, frustrated by the Treasury. This Bill will do something to set matters to rights. It may indeed be said that it is "too little and too late". All the same, late is better than never, and as for "too little", well, if Hugh Dalton's intentions had been fully realised great sums might in these last decades have been applied to preserving our national heritage of unspoiled coast and countryside, of our historic houses and their contents. Still, we are fortunate that even now there is so very much for future generations to enjoy. If the sums now available for the purpose under this Bill are by the standard of the inflated values of today small and inadequate, it would be churlish in the present economic climate to look a gift horse in the mouth. So I welcome this Bill warmly and unreservedly.
The Bill was very fully considered in another place and a number of amendments made which improve it. But there is one specific matter that still needs the Government's consideration and to which I should perhaps draw your Lordships' attention, for it has, I think by inadvertence, been misunderstood, and if the Bill is to be fully effective it should 51 be put right. In the provisions for acceptance of property in satisfaction of tax it is set out—I refer to Clause 9—that property so accepted shall be transferred to an appropriate institution or body on such conditions as the Minister may direct.
This is clearly right and proper in respect of buildings and land transferred to what I might call amenity bodies, the National Trust and so on, when receiving land or houses, et cetera, transferred to them by the Secretary of State for the Environment. Indeed this requirement, as set out in this Bill, follows the Finance Act 1946, which set up the National Land Fund in the first instance, and is now, in this Bill, to be repealed. But since that time the National Land Fund has been expanded to embrace property of other kinds, not only land and houses but their contents, pictures, furniture, libraries and so on, works of art that fall under the aegis of the Minister responsible for the arts and libraries, that will, if they are accepted in satisfaction of tax, naturally be transferred to museums or galleries or public libraries, or directed—as they may be under this Bill, and one hopes often will be—to be retained in their context as a part of the contents of a historic house, or whatever may be most suitable.
It would be quite inappropriate, as I think your Lordships would agree, that objects directed by the Minister for the Arts to museums and galleries, or to public libraries, should be held by them subject to conditions set and controlled by the Minister. Museums and galleries should clearly not be subject to any such direction in detail. Certainly the museums themselves, and also I believe the Standing Commission, feel very strongly on this matter.
This blemish in the Bill could be resolved very simply by the Government introducing an amendment in due course to divide subsection (2) of Clause 9 into two separate subsections, one under which the Minister concerned will lay down conditions in respect of property transferred to amenity or nature conservation bodies, the other without any reference to conditions where property is transferred to museums and public libraries. I hope that my noble friend will give careful 52 consideration to this matter and that the Government will bring forward an appropriate amendment at a later stage.
If this is done, I would also express the hope that the amendment will, in covering disposals to museums and libraries of objects accepted in satisfaction of tax, take the opportunity of adding explicitly in the new subsection two bodies that have since 1973 been eligible to receive accepted objects, the National Art Collections Fund and the Friends of the National Libraries. These two bodies, set down in the Treasury Guidelines of 1973, as reprinted in the report of the Select Committee on the Land Fund, were by some oversight omitted from the Treasury Guidelines of 1977 entitled, Capital Taxation and the National Heritage. I need not, I think, enlarge to your Lordships on the outstanding services of the National Art Collections Fund to our museums and galleries over more than half a century, and I am sure that your Lordships would agree that a specific reference to the National Art Collections Fund in this legislation would not only be a grateful acknowledgment of those outstanding services but would be a great encouragement and a very real help to those concerned in the valuable work done by that fund. I hope my noble friend may be able to assure us that this will be done. My Lords, with those comments and suggestions, I welcome the Bill most warmly and gratefully.
§ 4.55 p.m.
The Lord Bishop of WORCESTER
My Lords, to enjoy two maiden speeches in one afternoon on a similar subject is a privilege that we do not often have in this House. It is a particular pleasure, is it not, to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Airey, on her speech. Over the years, many of us have appreciated herself, her revered husband and her family for the manner in which they have exercised care and understanding not only for our heritage but for a great deal else. We hope to hear more from her. Also, indeed, I am sure we should express our appreciation to the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun. Clearly, both from her interesting account and indeed from her experience, your Lordships' House will benefit, I hope, in future a great deal from her comments.
53 I would speak for a moment as representing the Episcopal Benches in your Lordships' House, first in welcoming the Bill. This is undoubtedly a very important Bill, as it is likely to become an omnibus Act covering a great many spheres. The intent of it is important for us all, and the decision that the working of the Bill shall be under one department augurs well for better understanding of Government aid in these various spheres. I should like to speak nevertheless for a moment on the National Heritage Bill as it affects the Church. Your Lordships will understand that a substantial proportion, in fact a huge element of our heritage, to put it casually, is in the hands of the C of E; to put it more seriously, is a matter of great concern to the Church. Parishes as well as cathedrals have over the years accepted responsibility, and at present accept responsibility, with some apprehension, for their buildings, for their treasures, for marvellous works of art, particularly in the field of sculpture, for priceless libraries and indeed for pockets of land of amenity value. I speak here as one of the governors of the Church Commissioners with special responsibility for redundant churches, but as I look wider our hope is for an increased partnership with the State in the conservation of our heritage, an increased partnership, not a sole responsibility. I would also hope for an increased co-operation between statutory services, of which we look like having several, and the voluntary bodies that are concerned with the same matter. The co-operation between the statutory and the voluntary in this whole field of our heritage is of enormous importance.
Surely it has been the particular genius of our country in these spheres not to have one or the other, not statutory or voluntary care but both. So I would hope that with the establishment of such a fund there would also be a readiness on behalf of the trustees to engage and develop local initiative, local care and local pride in the places and items of heritage; and a readiness to have such local initiative, care and pride matched, with the National Heritage Fund to sustain such movements and, If necessary, to prime the pump and monitor local voluntary initiative in these matters.
I should like to remind your Lordships of the progress of the partnership of 54 Church and State. In 1968 the Redundant Churches Fund was established by agreement of Parliament with a half-and-half responsibility. At present, we are in the second five-year period and the budget is in the realm of £2,900,000 which is to be divided half-and-half between the Church and the State. That system is working well. In 1977 the terms of the Historic Buildings Trust were widened to include churches in use. Already £2 million has been received from the Government for the conservation of this enormously important heritage. However, the £2 million that has been received, has been matched by a much larger sum given by local communities and local churches. That, of course, is of tremendous importance.
I should like to mention that under Article 8 of the agreement we in the churches realise the whole problem of the maintenance of some of the listed churches which might otherwise call for demolition. Under our new agreement we, in the Church Commission, will not go forward with any such demolition without reference to the Department of Environment. That is another instance of partnership and the type of partnership that we hope will be enlarged in the terms of the proposed fund.
Nevertheless, it could be asked: What will be the policy of this fund—which does not appear plain from the words of the Bill—as regards cathedrals? I shall not open the major question of State aid for cathedrals. That has been very carefully looked into by a working party during the last year or two. The cathedrals still have their own capacity for fund raising, but it is to be hoped that the management of the proposed fund will be encouraged to assist and to enter into partnership with those bodies, especially cathedrals, which are beginning to run their own museums. I am thinking of those cathedrals that now have their priceless treasuries open to the public and those cathedrals that have libraries.
I hesitate to put the following example forward, but this afternoon we have been allowed to mention our own domestic situations. Within the house in which I am invited to live there is a library beyond valuation. It was put together in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is open to the 55 public on carefully arranged days and once again I pay tribute to my wife, who entirely manages the opening of the Hurd Library to the public in that part of Worcestershire and much else of the state rooms of Hartlebury Castle. I hope that the trustees will recognise that there are these pockets of amenity and heritage which are in very grave danger of deteriorating and being lost to the pleasure of the public.
Paragraph 3(7)(a) makes no mention of such possible provision, but I understand that in another place the matter has also been raised and that an encouraging response was received. It is surely increasingly difficult to meet the costs of this particular type of small heritage, but it can be done in partnership with voluntary work.
In conclusion I should like to point out that the Bill speaks of amenities. Is it not to be hoped that amenities in the heavily populated areas will not be overlooked or regarded as sub-standard? Although I would urge the inclusion of cathedral treasuries, cathedral libraries and museums such as the ones I have mentioned, I would also ask for the inclusion of churches and chapels and even rectories, which are often listed buildings, buried in heavily populated areas such as I have within the Black Country. I ask that such amenities which are used by the local populations and loved by the local populations should receive the attention of this fund. When they are buried in urban areas they are in grave danger of being lost altogether.
The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, mentioned the importance of context—of the setting of the amenity. I do not think that that can be overestimated. As regards all these matters we on the episcopal Benches are grateful for the many blessings that look like being forthcoming in this otherwise rather bleak season. We would give all the support to the Bill that we can. I hesitate to join in an otherwise mere chorus in begging leave of this House to be gone before the end of this debate, but, the General Synod is sitting and other ecclesiastical duties call. It may be that, with regret, I shall not be able to be present to hear the reply.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ The Duke of NORFOLK
My Lords, I too would like to congratulate the two noble Baronesses on their maiden speeches. I knew the husband of the noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon, quite well at Oxford. How pleased and how proud he would be with the way that she made her maiden speech. I hope that Lady Saltoun will find cause to desert the tribal fastnesses in which she lives and come South and continue to give us some of the benefit of her wisdom and wit.
There is a long list of speakers and I wish to make only three points that will try to develop themes which I see in the Bill, which I think want emphasising and which in particular need to be put into the Budget or the Finance Bill, which we all know is compiled in the other place. However, before I do anything I must declare an interest. I have a family home in Yorkshire. I am chairman of Arundel Castle Trustees which is a charitable trust set up to run Arundel which my cousin left to the nation with the consent of his wife, my father and so on.
We all know that the cheapest way of running private houses is for the owners who live in them to be put in charge. We all know that that means that there is another side to the penny—those houses must be open to the public and the public must benefit from them. There is no question of any owner being subsidised for a private domestic life. The owner agrees before this takes place to have the house open—I think it is for a minimum of 50 days—and then all these matters follow.
I see in the Bill provisions about surrending some of the chattels in lieu of capital transfer tax. In my experience, when I surrendered five pictures at Arundel with the help of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, to pay death duties—capital transfer tax now—the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, and I had a great problem in overcoming the fact that it was not possible, without special regulations, for those pictures to be surrendered to a body, the National Portrait Gallery, and then left in a house that was not of the National Trust type. The noble Lord, and the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, had to make special arrangements in order that they could be left at Arundel—where they 57 are now—but still belong to the National Portrait Gallery. In a sense, Arundel is a guinea pig. Leeds Castle was the first such charitable trust and Arundel is the second. I understand that there are many more in the pipeline.
However, the point I want to develop further is that an owner should be able to surrender, in payment of capital transfer tax, a picture, a chattel or something else, and that that object can be left in the owner's house even though the owner had not made that house into a charitable trust. Surely that is the intention which we should all seek. I do not want it to be the case that every time a chattel is used in satisfaction of capital transfer tax, it must go either to a national museum or to a local museum; I hope that it will stay in the house where it belongs.
The other effect of leaving works of art in houses in which they belong is that it curbs the terrible tendency for such works to be centralised in London and Edinburgh. We all know the extent to which our great museums and libraries in London and Edinburgh are full of treasures, and down in the basements more treasures are stacked up. It would be nonsensical for further works of art to be added to them. I appreciate that sometimes works of art must be so transferred, but I hope that they can be left in the houses where they are at present.
I should like to develop this point further. If possible, I should like Ministers to agree to an item being surrendered and to its being transferred, nominally, to the local museum. I give the example of Arundel, which is in our minds. Such an item could be transferred to Chichester Museum but left at Arundel, or, to take another part of the country, it could be transferred to Norwich Museum but left in a house in that area. I do not see why we have to burden the administration at this point by going to the big national museums and libraries.
The outcome—and it is a hidden point—is that the locality would still believe that the chattels belonging to it are present. On that, wonderful things build. Arundel has now been a charitable trust for five years. We hold a Shakespearean play at Arundel; when we are trying to get grants from the Arts Council we have what is 58 called an Arundel Festival. It is not quite that; but when we are trying to obtain grants that is what we call it. It adds a wonderful atmosphere to the locality and people begin to be proud of their surroundings.
It is remarkable that all the people who go round these country houses—I touch wood, so to speak metaphorically—do not want to damage anything or steal anything; they respect the works of art in a most remarkable way. I have been round many country houses, like those of your Lordships; I see school children and tourists, and I ask myself how people can behave as they do when they go to a football match. They are the same people, but under these civilising influences they seem totally different. I must mention, quietly, that some visitors who come from across the water are not always quite so respectful as we should like them to be. Perhaps that is something to do with their education, and a good mark for the way in which we educate our people.
My second point is as to how we decide what can be designated as worthy of being used in satisfaction for payment of capital transfer tax. The old word used to be "pre-eminent"; now the word "outstanding" is used. The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, said in his opening speech that he did not think this would be changed. I understand that it is the Ministers who will decide what is pre-eminent. Of course, the nation cannot accept very ordinary works of art. However, as was said in another place, something that is pre-eminent in London is obviously pre-eminent everywhere—presumably even in Edinburgh; but something might well be very pre-eminent in a locality but not be pre-eminent in London. I should like that word to be defined much more broadly than it is at present.
If I could give a clue, I think that anything that has been exempted as being of national importance and, therefore, which has not incurred death duties, unless sold, ought to be worthy of being declared pre-eminent. Of the five pictures that were transferred, one was not going to be considered pre-eminent at all by Messrs. Christie, Manson and Woods, who were to draw up the list of suggested pre-eminent items. John Hayes, the director of the National Portrait Gallery, 59 wanted a picture of Cardinal Newman. The picture in question was a Millet and a very good one. My cousin's father, the Duke Henry, was a great friend of Newman and had him made into a cardinal, and so on. It is a particularly fine picture and is very rightly staying at Arundel. However, but only after a great deal of persuasion was it put into that category. I should like to see the definition made very much broader, particularly when an item in a manor house or a Scottish castle in the tribal areas is involved. I should like it to be defined by the local museum, but it must, of course, be something of importance.
Finally, this Bill is all part and parcel of a great move forward. I think that everyone in the House agrees that this is not a party matter; in fact, everyone is attentive to it and happy that such good groundwork was carried out in the other place. At present to designate Arundel Park as "heritage land", there must be a death or a transfer of ownership (such as a death), or it must be bought by someone. I do not think that that is right. It should be possible for any owner or body to have something designated "heritage land" without any transfer in ownership at all. We have had to go through a subterfuge here of forming a maintenance fund to keep the heritage land going, and that compels the Treasury to see whether it is worthy of being heritage land. I hope that that can be made simpler; perhaps it can be covered in the Budget. I hope that anything that is worthy of being heritage land can be so described without there being any transfer in ownership.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, perhaps I can clear my mind by asking the noble Duke whether it is his idea that this should be in lieu, without a debt for it to be in lieu of? That is the problem, is it not?
§ The Duke of NORFOLK
My Lords, I well understand the question. In this particular case, it is simply the intention that this land should be designated "heritage land", which means that it can be handed on from one generation of families to the next without its being subject to capital transfer tax. The other use referred to is, that if it was given in lieu 60 then it would become, so to speak, national land. I am not wanting that to be the sense of it. Have I made my point clear?
§ The Duke of NORFOLK
My Lords, having made those three points I really do not wish to speak for much longer to your Lordships, except to say that we are unique in our country. We have not been invaded since 1066. We have not had the ravages of wars such as they have had on the continent. We have not had those awful revolutions they have had. What we have is absolutely unique. I return to the point I made before: if it can be preserved, it has a great effect on the youth of our nation and on the way people respect things, their home life, and all their history. I commend this Bill as being a great move forward.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ Baroness ELLIOT of HARWOOD
My Lords, we have had an extremely interesting debate. I was particularly interested in what the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, said about the problems and experiences that he has had in connection with his wonderful property. I hope that the Government will feel that what the noble Duke has just said is something that can be incorporated in the Bill, because he has had the experience and difficulties which this Bill is designed to try to prevent. This is a wonderful occasion when we, in this House, have no one dissenting from the object of the Bill. It is something we all want.
As I was listening to the speeches, I thought what a pity it was that this Bill had not been brought in 100 or perhaps 50 years ago. I remember at an exhibition—at the National Trust, or it may have been the National Art Collections Fund—seeing a book containing photographs of all the houses and properties that had been lost and destroyed because it was impossible 61 for the owners to maintain them. There was no fund to prevent them from being lost to the nation. I am sure that all of us today hope that this is going to be one of the ways in which the heritage we now have can be preserved. I agree with the noble Duke that our heritage is fantastic, since we have never had a war and enemies on our soil. The worst we have had was the bombing in the last war which, alas!, destroyed a number of lovely things, but much of it has been restored. We have this heritage which other nations would long to have, and would do all they could to preserve.
I should like to add my congratulations to the two maiden speakers. We had the most delightful speeches from the noble Baroness, Lady Airey, and from the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, from the tribal regions to which I belong, so I appreciate very much what she said about Aberdeenshire. I could give examples from the Borders where the importance of preserving great houses is equally acknowledged.
I hope that this trust works closely with a number of other trusts, many of which have been mentioned today. We know the great National Trust—the noble Lord Lord Gibson, has been chairman of one—and the National Trust of Scotland. They have done and are doing marvellous work, but there are other trusts possibly not so well known in this sphere which also work on the heritage. There is the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust; the Pilgrim Trust, the Nuffield Foundation; the Rowntree Trust, and many more. They are doing work which could co-operate very well with the National Trust we are discussing today. They have given grants over many years to preserve our heritage.
I have been for 40 years a member of the Carnegie Trust. While the heritage is only one side of our work, we have still managed in the course of a number of years to have a policy which has helped museums and the countryside in many different ways, and which is now called the Heritage Policy. It includes giving money to local preservaton societies, and in every way trying to help to develop the countryside so that people living there and coming into the area can explore, understand, and get to know the beautiful areas of England, Wales and Scotland.
The trustees are particularly interested in this. We try to work as closely as 62 possible with the localities. We have established meeting places where you can learn about the countryside, where there are photographs, illustrations, descriptions of the flowers, the trees, the buildings and so on in the rural environment which is part of the countryside. What has been done in that way has, I know, interested people greatly in preserving the beauty of the countryside, teaching them how to understand and appreciate the beauty. As someone said, it is not only great buildings that we want to preserve, it is also the beauty of the hills, sea coasts, and all the other lovely things.
In the last five years our trust has distributed more than £472,000. It does not sound a great deal when you think in terms of millions, but it means that we have been able to work closely with other trusts—particularly the Pilgrim Trust—in helping to preserve these important parts of our heritage. I should like to stress the great importance—which I think the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, mentioned—of allowing these trustees, who I am sure will be great experts in a wide field of the heritage, to be as independent as possible.
There is a bit of the Bill that I do not like very much, and that is the reference all the time to a Minister; whether it is the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister for the Environment. By all means let those departments be closely associated, but if you are to get first-class people and have an excellent policy and do it in the right way, you have to let these people have their independence and allow them to take decisions. That is very important. Many of the great pictures, objets d'art or manuscripts which come up for sale perhaps come up without the department's knowing. It may be too late to consult someone as to whether or not a certain picture, or manuscript, should be bought by this fund, or this fund with the help of some of the other trusts. It may have gone before you find out that it is for sale. Therefore, it is important that the trustees should have the opportunity of acting swiftly and acting, as I am sure they will, with knowledge and appreciation.
I hope when we come to discuss this Bill in detail that matters of that kind can be stressed, and small amendments 63 made which will not in a sense alter the Bill at all but simply mean that you have more trust and give people more responsibility, and if possible not to have to refer everything, or certain things, to the departments and Ministers concerned. Knowing of the business in ministerial departments, I cannot help thinking that they would be only too delighted not to have the responsibility for approving every important decision made by the trustees. I am sure that the Ministers concerned would feel only too happy that they could trust these people to act on their own. I also think that working independently they may, in the case of buying things, get them more cheaply or obtain better value for money than after the long period of discussion and consultation which might have to go on with Government departments, so I hope we will allow the new trust to have as much independence as possible.
I hope too that the fund will be able to deal with what many noble Lords have spoken about today, namely the smaller houses, smaller castles and smaller areas. I appreciate that the idea of the Bill was sparked off by the sale of Mentmore, but we do not want it to concentrate just on very large properties, important though they are—and the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, gave an excellent illustration of how the Arundel Trust is run—because we want it to be interested in the small things and little places and, as the right reverend Prelate said, in the churches. I hope therefore the trust will cover help to a very wide range of organisations and people. Of course it will not have enough money; that is obvious. Nevertheless, we are starting it off at a very difficult moment in the economy of the country and we all want it to succeed. I feel sure it will gather momentum as it goes along and that the alterations in taxation which are being offered to people will be a tremendous advantage to the fund, and that will be of great importance.
The general principles of the measure are excellent and we can all support them. I would again stress the need for consultation with other trusts in some of these fields, because co-operation would be advantageous to all concerned and add to the amount of money which the new trust will have. While I do not think we 64 will want to make any big alterations to the Bill, there may, as a result of listening to this debate and studying the measure, be small amendments which we will wish to consider in Committee. Meantime, I wish to say with what pleasure and enthusiasm I support the trust and I hope it will live up to all the expectations we have of it. Anything any of us can do to help I am sure your Lordships will be only too willing to do.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ The Earl of PERTH
My Lords, I go along with the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of Harwood, on the two points she made: first, that the trustees of the fund which is being set up should, as it were, act as a catalyst and collaborate with many other trusts covering the whole field, and I have no doubt that point will be well in their minds when they commence functioning. Secondly, on the importance of their independence and right to do the things they want, I think the Bill provides for that in most cases, but clearly if it did not that would need to be looked at very carefully.
Apart from the speech of the noble Baroness, we have heard very remarkable maiden speeches from two other noble Ladies, that of the noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon, which was most moving and memorable, and that of the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, a speech of which I know her father, who, as noble Lords will remember, used to sit on these Benches and was one of the great guardians of procedure in the House, would have been proud. I hope we shall hear them both often in the future.
I too am in many ways glad about what is being done in this Bill, but there is one feature of it which I confess makes me sad. What I have in mind is the amount of money we shall find in the trust from the start: it is less by some £3 million than what is in the National Land Fund at the present time, and even what is to be there—namely, £15½ million—has had £3½ million of it earmarked for purposes, very right in themselves, outwith the control of the trustees of the fund. So we start with a fund for the trustees of only £12 million, and I wonder if it can do one fraction of all the hopes that are being built on it.
65 From what Ministers have said in another place, and indeed from what the Bill itself says, I know that it is expected there will be an annual further grant of £5½ million. We also know that in cases of emergency, Parliament is in a position to do more. All the same, it is not a very great amount of money for all that it is setting out to do. I do not want to appear carping and ungrateful in saying that, because I recognise the great difficulty the Government face today owing to the crisis in our economy. When I look around and see the way people live, it is perhaps sometimes hard to believe this, but I have no doubt, and your Lordships will know it is a fact, that there is no money easily to give for whatever purpose.
My welcome for the Bill is for one reason above all and I believe it is by far the most important point to come out of the measure. It is the fact that the Treasury will no longer hold the heritage purse-strings; spending from the fund will be totally outside its control and that really is a great advance. By the very nature of things, when times have been hard, the call to preserve our heritage has been the greatest—because people have been in difficulties and having to sell or otherwise dispose of their goods—and in the past it has been at that very time that the Government have not been able to come to the help of whoever may have made the call.
Often today mention has been made of Mentmore, and noble Lords will remember how Mentmore, which might have been obtained for public enjoyment without any cost to the Government for 50 years, was lost for a niggardly £1 million or so. However, it roused public opinion and led to that excellent all-party report in the other place chaired by Mr. Arthur Jones, and in its turn that has given birth to this Bill. All who laboured to produce this end deserve our thanks, be they inside or outside Parliament. I hope—I am sure this is the hope of all noble Lords—that in the future the mouse which has been produced will, as in the Aesop fable, prove stronger than the lion.
Importantly, the Bill provides that the Minister for the Arts and the Secretary of State for the Environment shall in future have the main responsibility for safeguarding our heritage, and I am sure 66 that is right. As I fear I shall be away when the Bill is in Committee, I wish briefly to make two points in regard to the "in lieu" procedure. First, up until now, the in lieu procedure has always been conducted in an atmosphere of secrecy. None of us knows what is going on until very often it is too late. I understand some of the reasons for this; namely, the confidentiality of tax matters and so on. But I very much wonder whether many owners would not welcome others than the Treasury, or whoever is negotiating, being told early of what is proposed, so that, for example, the trustees of a fund could be alerted and thus make preparations.
Again, one thinks of Mentmore. For several years negotiations went on, and finally the owner lost patience—I am not sure that I altogether blame him—and we have just heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, of how at Baddesley the negotiations, which may now be completed, have dragged on for year after year. If we could know about things sooner, it might accelerate the situation and might also make it easier.
Recently there was the example of The Grange. The Department of the Environment asked the opinion of the public as to what should be done with it, and three or four different alternatives were given. Whether or not the right one was chosen, I know not, but what I do know is that the procedure was much quicker than in other cases and the public was involved. I hope that as a general policy the Government—of whatever party—will try to ensure that the public know sooner rather than later.
My second point regarding the in lieu procedure is in relation to Clause 9(1), under which Ministers are to decide what should be accepted and done with objects accepted. Under present procedures Ministers consult their official adviser. He is almost always based in London. Very often there is only one adviser, who has great responsibility. I am not saying that he does not do the job well, but I am saying that those in the Provinces, in the tribal areas of Scotland, in Wales, and even perhaps in Northern Ireland, may be a little unhappy about this state of affairs and may indeed at times have a real grievance. I wonder whether it would not be better if in future Ministers 67 make use of not just one official, but rather of a well equipped and somewhat larger body to advise them in such cases. In saying that I particularly have in mind the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries. In their deliberations they would seek the help of the official adviser just as today the Reviewing Committee seek the help of whoever may be concerned in their decisions. I know that the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries would be prepared to take on this task, and I hope that this suggestion will be very seriously considered.
My last point concerns VAT—which was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon—and its charge on repairs to historic buildings. By their very nature these buildings have to be preserved unchanged and cannot be improved, thus perhaps avoiding VAT. It is an absurd situation that VAT is charged on repairs to historic buildings, whereas new buildings get away with a nil rating. That is a topsy-turvy kingdom, and I hope that something is done to change it.
I do not think that I have time to mention in detail my own case in this connection, but I should like to tell your Lordships very briefly—and this is an interest I must declare—that, very fortunately, I live in a group of buildings which are of great historical and architectural importance. The chapel in those buildings has an outstanding 17th century painted ceiling. Quite suddenly the whole of the roof is in danger. I shall have to do something about it as soon as the snows are finished and the weather is fair. My temptation is to go to the Historic Buildings Council and say, "May I please have a grant for at least 15 per cent. to cover the cost of the VAT on what am going to do?" Is it not absurd that out of one Government fund there should be made available to me money so that I can merely pass it on to another pocket of the Government?
I hope that a way can be found to get rid of VAT in the case of buildings which are of great historic importance. If the Historic Buildings Council was to issue a certificate saying that a building must be preserved (in the way it does in relation to buildings generally) would not that enable the Treasury to accept that in such 68 cases VAT should not be charged? I have given an example concerning a relatively small sum, but this matter is of very great importance all over the country. I hope that once again the Government will do battle with the Treasury and win on this point.
The Bill is a start. It has an excellent framework for great things in the future. I congratulate in particular the Minister for the Arts upon having fulfilled a pledge. We all know his real concern and involvement in the matter. Fifty million people visit our historic houses in a year; 25 million visit our museums and galleries. That is a fairly formidable political force, and I hope that Parliament will remember these figures when it decides what more it is to do in the way of topping up the fund. To those who care about our heritage, and in particular to those who fought so valiantly and unceasingly to safeguard it, I say, "Continue to keep up the pressure. Continue to be alert and watchful, and then this Bill, which provides so good a framework, will achieve, a generation late, the purpose—and more—for which the Dalton Fund was conceived".
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, what a delight to hear two maiden speeches in one afternoon—and both from charming ladies. The sweetness and light we have received from them extends to and pervades all the parliamentary proceedings on the Bill so far. I am glad to see that it still has support from all corners of the House. I think that that support also includes the view that has already been expressed at least twice in the debate; namely, that the best and the cheapest way of conserving and caring for the heritage is by keeping it in private hands. That is particularly true of the small houses—a point first made by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman,—and it is particularly true, too, where it is important to keep the whole of an estate or a property intact with all its belongings in it. No one is better able to care for those belongings, the family heirlooms, than the family itself. It is for this reason that I particularly welcome the parts of the Bill that seem to me to make provision for this.
If it is not possible to keep the heritage in private hands in the sense of keeping 69 it in private ownership, let us at least try to keep it in private hands in the sense of it being in private management working through a charitable trust. I am pleased to see that provision for that arrangement is clearly envisaged in subsection (6) and subsection (7), paragraph (c) of Clause 3, where bodies of that kind are referred to. Of course there will be the fear, the suspicion and the criticism that private owners, left to their own devices, will be irresponsible in regard to the care of what is entrusted to them or has been handed down to them, or will be selfish in the sense of not sharing their treasures with the public as fully as they should if they have been in receipt of public funds for their care.
But, my Lords, that position can now be fully catered for under the provisions of Clause 3(5), where the scope for laying down conditions is fully set out. I should like to see these being extensively and imaginatively used. The conditions to which I refer are divided into two parts; namely, conditions as to the management of the care and conservation of a property, and conditions as to the management of what is described (I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, rather ineptly) as access. I should like to spend a minute or two elaborating on this a little, and perhaps return to it at Committee stage.
The management of the care and conservation of the heritage is a more complex subject than might appear at first sight, and one of the last things that I think I achieved before leaving the Department of the Environment and responsibility for these things was to urge that that matter should be studied and researched—and I am glad to say that it has now been done by the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies at York—so that there will be a corpus of expert knowledge on which the managers and owners of the properties effected can draw. This subject covers the range of policy—the policy of a private owner or the policy of a charitable trust—for the repair, the maintenance and the restoration of the land, of the houses and of their contents; and I would hope that use could be made of this clause to lay down conditions which are realistic to the owner, appropriate for the properties concerned and imaginative and sensitive. Hitherto, conditions of this sort have been applied in a broad brush sort of way by the Historic Buildings Council and other 70 bodies giving grants of public monies, but there is enormous scope for the approach to be considerably improved.
I should like to draw attention to one particular point; namely, to do with insurance, which is also included in this aspect and is mentioned in the Bill. This should be looked at and thought about afresh if we are to introduce indemnity. Insurance by a private insurance company—and I ought to declare an interest as a director of one—involves a survey of the property before a policy is entered into, in which such matters as burglar-proofing, rewiring of dangerous electrical circuits, protection against the possibility of fire, and so on are all considered, and conditions laid down as to what should be done by the policyholder. It is important, when bits of heritage are moving about from one situation in which they are privately insured to another situation in which they are covered by an indemnity from the Government, that there should be an evenness in the precautions taken, and this involves fairly close consultation between the Government, who are offering the indemnity, and the private insurance companies, which are covering the property on other occasions and at other times. That is a point which we can go back to at Committee stage if need be.
The other set of conditions applies to the management of access, and, up to now, this is almost the only word that is used. There are conditions of access laid down before the Historic Buildings Council, for instance, gives a grant, and these include something as basic as opening by appointment or opening for so many days in a year—a minimum of, say, 50—and leads to the kind of pattern which you see in the annual publication which lists the properties open to the public. It is important that the properties should actually be open and the public able to go in, but it is unusual to prescribe anything about the way in which guided visits should be arranged, or whether there should be any; the extent to which things should be on display or specially exhibited; and whether there should or should not be schemes of interpretation—and here I should like to pay tribute, as the noble Baroness, Lady Elliot, has done, to the work of the Carnegie Trust, which has done a tremendous amount to stimulate the interpretation of the heritage to the 71 public. There is the possibility, too, of parts of the heritage being used for historical study and the environmental education of our children in the course of school visits. All that is covered by the general term "access". It is such an all-embracing subject that Lord Gibson is quite right to say that access is not a particularly appropriate or sufficiently comprehensive term.
It seems to me that a property receiving grant from the Heritage Fund needs to have policies both for the management and for the care and conservation of the property, and also a policy covering access. I would hope that private owners, or any owners and any managers of properties benefiting from this fund, will be required to initiate policies of a fairly broad and comprehensive kind covering both those fields, and to have discussed and agreed them with the trustees before the grant is settled. Going beyond that slightly, there is one final point. I hope that the trustees will carefully consider, preferably before they start to administer this fund, the example of the churches, who have now for a long time, for 20 or 30 years, had quinquennial inspections of the fabric of the church and its contents, in which an architect goes over the whole building and reports to the parochial church council as to the state of the fabric and what needs to be done to bring it into good condition and repair, and to restore it. In my view, the time is long overdue when the more important secular buildings which make up our heritage should come under a similar regime, and I should like to suggest to my noble friend that the introduction of the National Heritage Memorial Fund on 1st April of this year is no bad moment to introduce such a régime.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Lord MANCROFT
My Lords, I, too, should like to offer a few words of welcome to this excellent and most useful Bill. By coincidence, it comes before your Lordships' House at a time when a perfect example of something the Bill is intended to deal with is in the public eye. I refer, of course, to the future of Heveningham Hall, the old Vanneck family house in Suffolk. It used to be pronounced "Henningham" in the days when I played in the gardens there as a child. The Times described it as one of the finest 72 examples of its period in the country. One expert—namely, myself!—would go further and say that it is the finest example; but it illustrates, I think, one of the difficulties with which we are faced in this Bill, and that is the problem of trying to find some purpose for such a beautiful house. There are too many houses in this country at the moment, which will all be liable to be looked at by the terms of this Bill, for which it is going to be extremely difficult to find a useful purpose.
I was for some time chairman of a firm named Waring and Gillow, which was founded, your Lordships will be surprised to hear, a long time ago, in 1690, up in Lancaster, which is rather suitable in view of the fact that it is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster who is fathering this Bill. Shortly after the war we came across a large trunk full of old work-books of Edward Gillow and his successors, and they made fascinating reading. We discovered one thing among others, and that is that Sheraton was an articled apprentice in the firm, and his work was described by his pupil-master as being "Too fantastical". What struck me going through those work-books was the enormous number of houses for which Waring and Gillow had supplied furniture but of which I had never heard, which had disappeared completely—they had either fallen down or been pulled down—and whose names meant nothing to me. That fills me with considerable alarm.
We know now, of course, of the difficulties of taxation, of expense and of repairs. As the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, pointed out in her excellent speech, the ideal, of course, is for the owner to live in the house for which the furniture was designed. Not many of us can equal the noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald (I am sorry to see he has just left his place), who lives in a house, Nostell Priory, which was designed by Adam with the help of decorator Angelica Kauffmann, the furniture for which was made by Chippendale to fit the house. Not all of us can do that; that is the ideal. But if we cannot do that, then we can find a school to go into the house, or business premises or a tourist attraction; but there comes a time when there is no purpose that one can find for a house, and that is what worries me. We are going to find that there are more of those 73 than we realise. The noble Baroness, Lady Airey, in the course of her charming maiden speech referred to a little French chateau with old people sitting behind the table. France is full of such houses which are nothing more or less than mausoleums. I hope that we shall not fall into the same trap; and I hope that we shall realise that we have really undertaken more than we realise in looking after these houses for which it is going to be impossible or extremely difficult to find a suitable employment. They are too far off the beaten track, and that is why Gillows found that so many of those houses came down. I hope in saying that that I do not sound a philistine or that I should be called a philistine, I trust by saying, when we talk about pictures, that we have far too many pictures in this country and we just cannot display more than a few of them. The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, talked about my native city of Norwich. He raised the problem there which I do not think he realised. When the famous collection, the Colman Collection of the Norwich school of pictures from Crown Point was given to the Norwich museum, it carried with it a proviso that the pictures were not to leave Norwich. Many collections of pictures are like that, I believe; although I have not had the chance to check that this is so; but it is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to get the pictures displayed away from their homes in the way that many noble Lords have suggested this afternoon.
I used to work for the British National Export Council. My work took me far and wide. When abroad, I always went to the embassy, the consulate-general or the consul to tip my hat to the Queen's representative. I was depressed to find out how poorly the walls were hung with pictures. I thought that the idea would have been to have, since we are talking about my native city, a fine Crome or Cotman to illustrate the British heritage and to illustrate the British way of life to the foreigner. The ambassador with whom I raised the matter had some depressing pictures of his own on the walls which I later learned were painted by his wife and he said that it was almost impossible to get the Foreign Office or the museums to produce the pictures. Occasionally, one finds things like Joshua Reynolds' portrait of Samuel 74 Johnson on the walls of the embassy in Washington or that of Byron in Athens; but usually they have been brought there by nefarious means by the ambassador whose successors are still waging battles with the Foreign Office and the galleries to get them back on the walls.
So I decided to raise the matter in your Lordships' House and to ask why permission could not be given to museums, who have stacks of pictures in their cellars, to give some of them to the embassies and even to business firms of repute in all parts of the world. The answers were interesting. The first referred to legal difficulties to which the noble Duke has referred. Some of these now have been overcome. The second reason given was that students would wish to go to see the pictures which were hanging in the cellars and should not be deprived of the privilege.
I plucked up courage to ask the curator of one of the leading London museums if students ever did look at pictures in the cellars. "Yes", he replied. "When was the last occasion?", I asked. "Four months ago", he said. So this is not, I think, a very good case and I think that the Bill will now assist in this matter and I welcome that assistance. It also gives indemnity to those pictures that occasionally get mislaid or lost. This happens. Vandalism is on the increase. We have only to look at the telephone booths in the cities and the graffiti on the walls. One evidence, so far as I can see, of the raising of the school-leaving age is that the rude words are now written higher up on the walls than in days gone by. Therefore, there is the risk; but it is not always that a Goya is stolen or a knife put into a Rokeby Venus. This is a risk that has to be run and I am glad that the Bill tries to make amends for what has happened in the past.
One reason was given which intrigued me as to why pictures should not be loaned to embassies abroad. I am not making this up; it is in Hansard. We were told that there was a risk that when pictures went into hot climates they might be eaten by termites. I got hold of the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, who has served a great deal of time in the King's service in hot climates. I asked him: "Did you ever know of a picture having been eaten by termites?" He said, 75 "No! But I must be fair. I do remember once a Government report being eaten by termites. But as it came from my lords and masters in Whitehall and therefore probably would have been written by termites, I did not mind".
In so far as this Bill helps these two worries which I have in mind, I give it a cordial welcome; but I wish to reiterate my anxiety that we have taken on a little more than we realise and that we shall find a larger number of houses than we can cope with and for which with, all the goodwill in the world, it will be difficult to find a useful purpose. But with all the goodwill that has been shown this afternoon in your Lordships' House, I am certain we shall find a solution.
§ 6.5 p.m.
Baroness RYDER of WARSAW
My Lords, I should like to join in adding my congratulations and expressing my pleasure to the noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon. We all admire her marvellous example of courage and service to others and her speech surely inspires each of us tremendously. What an original idea it was of the late Hugh Dalton in 1946 to allocate from the sale of surplus war stores £50 million to be the basis of the memorial to the dead of the Second World War. But how sad it was that the governments of both political parties forgot about his visionary policy; and how awful it was that the Treasury should have neglected to bring the existence of this sum, earmarked as a war memorial, to the notice of successive Ministers. However, the blackest and bleakest moment occurred in 1957 when the Government of the day filched the original £50 million from the Land Fund and left it with merely the accumulated interest.
How has this interest been used since? As far as I can make out it has been spent in reimbursing the Inland Revenue for works of art et cetera which have been accepted in lieu of tax. Surely, this is no war memorial in the sense that we would recognise it.
However, the Select Committee formed in 1977 to investigate the Treasury's shortcomings made enlightened proposals, many of which I am delighted to see in the present Bill. But what of Recommendation No. 7? Why has this been 76 forgotten? It reads that, as an interim provision, the Government make good the £50 million removed in 1957. It seems to me more than regrettable, particularly when this amount, which was originally allocated in 1946, would be worth today about £250 million.
However, the trustees of the new National Heritage Memorial Fund are to be allocated the sum of approximately £12½ million this year with which they will be expected to attempt to protect and preserve our cultural and historical inheritance in all its forms. What a daunting responsibility faces them; what strength of character, vision, courage, knowledge and other noble virtues the trustees will require! May I, with humility, urge the Government to be very careful in their choice of the men and women who will take on the awesome task and challenge.
One small point bothers me. I suppose it is necessary to have regional representation from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but surely we should be considering Britain as a whole. However, I wish the trustees every possible good fortune and hope that they will never bow the knee to the establishment or the Government of the day. They will certainly need every possible help since their professional secretariat may lack experience. While I appreciate that the trustees will have much power to assist the National Trust and our museums and galleries, they will not themselves be able to act as principals in acquiring properties. Perhaps if they are successful in persuading a reluctant Treasury to hand over more cash, they ought to be able to help a far wider range of worthy heritage cases which do not at present come within the ambit of this Bill.
My Lords, here I must declare an interest. Over many years the small Sue Ryder Foundation has sought to save listed buildings large and small, and especially those of historic interest, from total disrepair and to restore them and use them for those of different age groups who are in desperate need of nursing and care. These houses and gardens are all open to the public but the fact is that under the present circumstances funds are not available for the provision of these beds, nor are funds available for the preservation of these houses.
Of course, I speak only from the experience which I have gained, but the fact is 77 that while we set out to create homes for those who suffer from ill-health, the secondary advantage is that houses of historic interest are preserved. There must be many other similar cases where the preservation of historic houses has come about as a secondary cause. It would be a great pity if, as a result of Government cuts—for which we all understand the need—both the care of the sick and the preservation of our heritage were to suffer under the same hammer together. One could go on to give several examples of neglect today, and, to our distress, our nation has lost over 700 houses, small and large. May I also say how I agree with the positive points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that a beacon has been lit by the payment of £12½ million this April from the Treasury to independent trustees. But the beacon must become brighter with both Government help and private patronage, or all the good that has been started will count for naught. Never should we lose faith again with those who paid the supreme price for their country.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ The Marquess of HERTFORD
My Lords, may I add my voice to those congratulations to the two noble Ladies who have joined us and spoken for the first time today. I must confess to being in a slight difficulty because the noble Duke the Duke of Norfolk has said almost everything that I had it in mind to say, so my speech really can be quite brief, for which your Lordships may be very thankful.
I of course welcome this Bill although in one respect it does come as a grave disappointment to me. It is, I think, generally accepted that historic houses and their contents form a very important part of our national heritage; but the value from many points of view—aesthetic, cultural, historic, educational, architectural and, in the tourist trade, financial—is enormous. It is also generally accepted that the greatest threat to their future comes from the Commissioners of Inland Revenue. Yet in this Bill they receive no specific mention at all. Clause 9 is, as the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, pointed out, fairly helpful in 78 this respect, and in particular, subsection (5) of that clause. But I do not feel that it goes far enough.
One of the great attractions of historic houses is the remarkable miscellany of works of art secured by succeeding generations from all over Europe. Many of them may bear no relation to each other, and they may have no obvious connection with the house that they are in, other than the fact that they may have been in it for quite a long time. It must indeed often be difficult to decide whether or not an object does have what the Bill calls a significant association with a particular place.
If works of art are to be taken away from historic houses and given to public museums—most of which are very short of space already—then one effect would be that the power of those houses to attract tourists will be diminished, and the gap which I am afraid nearly always exists between income and expenditure will grow even wider and an ever larger number of houses will disappear, either being pulled down or ceasing to be homes which are on view to the public, or they will become a heavy charge upon the public purse. If a work of art is already on view to the public in an entirely appropriate setting which greatly enhances its appreciation by the general public, then there could surely be no point at all in taking it away.
I would therefore venture to suggest that Clause 9(5) should be redrafted, to say that works of art should be kept where they are unless there are very strong reasons for removing them. Far be it for me to draft an amendment; but I should be very encouraged to know whether the Government will receive that idea with any favour.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Lord VAIZEY
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the two noble Baronesses who made their maiden speeches today, and to say how much we shall look forward to their contributions in the future. I should like also to apologise because, although I have never before spoken for longer than nine minutes in a speech in your Lordships' House, I may go slightly over that target today because I have three points to make. 79 Two of them are simple but the third is a little complicated, and I want to make it carefully so that I do not get it wrong.
I should like first to pay a tribute to my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who has been a very good friend of the arts during his tenure of office, the public lending right obviously pleases us authors, and now we have this excellent Bill which we have all wholeheartedly welcomed. I should like also to associate with that tribute my noble friend on the Front Bench opposite who played a formidable part in the life of the last Government in making sure that these two measures reach the happy stage that they have today.
My next tribute must be to the late Hugh and Ruth Dalton. The first part of the Bill is an important part, it establishes a principle to which we have all been delighted to give support today—the establishment of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The word "memorial" has just been referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Ryder of Warsaw. My wife and I were fortunate enough to be friends of the late Sir Hugh and Lady Ruth Dalton. Lord Dalton, as he later became, as the House will remember, was responsible for introducing the original National Land Fund. Hugh Dalton was a very brave soldier on the Italian Front in the First World War, and he bitterly regretted the deaths of so many of his friends in that war, and of so many of his younger friends in the Second World War. He was determined that he would seize the opportunity which, being Chancellor of the Exchequer gave him, to introduce a memorial which he thought was worthy of the people who had died in the two world wars: the preservation and the enhancement of the beauty of our countryside.
His wife, Ruth, was of course a trustee of the National Trust, and a prominent member of the old London County Council, in which she played a tremendous part in getting the Iveagh Bequest into its present excellent condition. Personally, I can think of no more wonderful memorial to these two splendid people than the present Bill. I understand that an amendment may be moved to insert something into the Preamble or the early parts of the Bill. If so, I certainly would 80 give such an amendment my warm personal support.
The second thing in the Bill, which is perhaps the most important of all in the long run is the notion of indemnity. I think I am right in saying that over £75 million has been indemnified so far at a cost of £750, which presumably was the damage to a frame of a picture lent to some museum. I think that now that this principle has been established, which will cost the public little or nothing, the benefits will be enormous. To adapt a parable:We sow and we have reaped one hundred thousand fold".It is pretty good value for public money.
The third part of what I have to say is the really complicated one. This is where I want to speak with some care, possibly with some dullness, and I apologise to your Lordships in advance for that. One of the outstanding merits of this Bill, as I think everybody has said so far, is its preservation in Part II of the principle of the acceptance of property in satisfaction of tax and, equally important, the transfer of its administration from the Treasury to the two Ministers. It is a fact worth stressing that not only the retention of this long-established option, but also its placing under their joint aegis, have met with the most emphatic support not only from your Lordships but from our public museums. Both provisions are generally understood to have been achieved as a consequence of the powerful advocacy of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as the Minister with responsibility for the arts, and of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, on the Front Bench opposite.
All those who are anxious to reduce to some extent the prospects of the dispersal abroad of much of our cultural inheritance will continue to feel a debt of gratitude that such a far-sighted policy has been pressed for and is now being put into effect. So that is very important. Therefore, I make clear my full support for this principle, and for all that my right honourable friend has done to give this principle life.
But some observations, which concern the disputed question of the correct interpretation of the mechanism laid down in Clause 8(1) and (2) of the Bill 81 for the so-called financing of the acceptance system, may not be out of place. Clause 8(1) gives powers for the two Ministers to pay to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue a sum equal to the amount of the tax debt satisfied by the surrender of a property to the Commissioners by a tax debtor. In parenthesis, notwithstanding the permissive form adopted in the provision—that is, the word "may"—it has been stated in the other place on behalf of the Government that such payments would, in practice, be obligatory. So your Lordships might think that the word "may" should be changed to the word "shall". On the face of it, under the Bill, therefore, the Commissioners are paid by the Ministers out of monies voted to them from the Consolidated Fund—that is, from resources raised from the generality of taxpayers—in order to offset those monies which are not available to the Commissioners, because the Commissioners have accepted a property in substitution for cash due to them in satisfaction of a tax debt which has arisen.
Logically, from this it would appear that the Commissioners of Inland Revenue, when exercising statutory powers conferred upon them to accept on behalf of the public the surrender of property instead of cash in discharge of a tax debt—in other words, to accept payment in kind—are, nevertheless, also in receipt of taxpayers' money in compensation for the cash which they would have received had those powers not been exercised. This is the transaction which is not altogether accurately described by the Treasury as "reimbursement", but which I must say looks to me, and I think to everybody else, like having it both ways; that is, receiving cash as well as payment in kind.
If this were the end of the story, the payment from the Ministers to the Commissioners of Inland Revenue would amount to a doubling of funds raised from taxpayers, in the sense that, while the original tax debtor has discharged his debt by the surrender, according to statute, of acceptable property, funds supplied by the generality of other taxpayers are also drawn upon to effect the cash payment on his behalf. But, of course, that is not the end of the story; it never is when one is dealing with the 82 Treasury. Double entry bookkeeping has been invented.
If we turn to Clause 8(2), we find that the Commissioners of Inland Revenue are enjoined to deal with the payments received from Ministers as if they were payments from the private sector on account of capital transfer tax. This, in effect, establishes not only that the payments in question are not in fact payments from outside the public sector, as normal discharges in cash of tax debts would be, but that the commissioners are given no choice but to transmit them to the Consolidated Fund, in exactly the same way as all such cash payments received in the normal course of tax collecting.
Thus, what at first sight would appear to be a genuine authorisation for the public expenditure of voted money is, in actual fact, no more than an accounting device to operate which taxpayers' money is borrowed but never spent, being eventually refunded. In truth, such notional amounts as are intended to be used in this way—as distinct, for example, from grants paid to the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund in Part I of the Bill, which would genuinely constitute public expenditure when received—are from their creation earmarked exclusively for that sole purpose. They pass from the Consolidated Fund to the Ministers, and from the Ministers to the commissioners, who have to transmit them back to the Consolidated Fund from which they originated.
Since the emergence from the public sector of the so-called payments is ruled out, and since it is an acknowledged fact that transactions internal to Government cannot by themselves constitute real public expenditure, there can in reality, I submit, be no genuine expenditure of public funds, only those notional metaphysical happenings which are so beloved of the Treasury. This unnecessary rigmarole, in other words, is the outcome of arcane dogma.
Acceptance of property in satisfaction of tax is a transaction which takes place on the revenue side of the ledgers, not on the opposite side; that is, the side relating to public expenditure. When a statutory provision permits the possibility, in certain rare and exceptional circumstances, for the discharge of tax debts in kind rather than 83 in cash, the State is, in fact, refraining from insisting on the raising of cash by the tax debtor in those exceptional circumstances. The reason for this is the sensible one that to insist without any such exceptions on the raising of cash, would be liable to cause damage to a competing national interest, in that it would entail the dispersal by sale, necessarily abroad in many cases, of this country's cultural inheritance.
No one is seriously arguing that a system of this kind should be operated as a so-called open-ended commitment; that is, that there should be no governmental or parliamentary control of the extent, in the quantitative sense, in which this statutory exception to the normal procedures of revenue raising should be used. Nor, of course, has anyone suggested that proper entries, necessarily expressed in pounds, should not be made in the ledgers of the Inland Revenue recording the extent of such recourse in a quantifiable way. And that is, in fact, what would occur, according to the accounting device which is set up under Clause 8 (1) and (2).
In this connection, your Lordships may be amused to hear of a self-evidently nonsensical Treasury convention, which has laid it down that if the Inland Revenue were not to receive something like money to enter in its blessed ledgers, then none other than the Inland Revenue itself is deemed to have committed the misdemeanour of incurring public expenditure by the act of accepting property in satisfaction of tax. However, no one would advocate the infliction of such a stigma as a misdemeanour, unreal though it may be, on the luckless Inland Revenue. In other words, accepting property in lieu of tax counts as public expenditure on those objects which are accepted. That is the point, that when you accept an object in kind it counts as revenue raised, but it also counts as public expenditure.
To sum up, a substantial difference of opinion exists—and I think that, in practice, this will turn out to be a very significant and important point—as to whether the tokens figuring in these "in lieu" transactions represent, in actual practice, as distinct from Treasury theory, real money, the employment of which involves the expenditure outside the public sector of taxpayers' money. But the truth is 84 that what would be paid by the Ministers to the Inland Revenue cannot rate as real money—that is, money voted for and used for public expenditure—since its transfer from the public to the private sector, constituting a purchase, is expressly excluded by the mechanism laid down by the Bill for the Commissioners to pass it to the Consolidated Fund as if it had reached them as a payment of a tax debt from the private sector, which it does not.
However, the Treasury persists in claiming that what takes place is a purchase by the State, despite the fact that any such contention is plainly contrary to the wording of the proposed statute. Not only this, but it has also been claimed on their behalf in another place, perhaps slightly condescendingly, that some honourable Members profess "not to understand" how acceptance of something in lieu involves a sale by the taxpayer. But the truth is precisely the reverse; it is the Treasury itself which professes not to understand that what occurs is not in fact and cannot be by definition anything which could plausibly be termed a sale in the real world.
It was reasonably suggested when the Bill was under discussion in another place that the most straightforward way in which to deal with the problem of accounting and of control—and we fully accept that these are real problems—was to take a leaf out of the French book by adopting a system of units of account. This had the advantage of recognising that a spade is a spade, or a picture is a picture, and so of not misleading Parliament on that score, while providing for a type of governmental and parliamentary control which was specific and open. But the Treasury prefers its own mysteries in the hope that perhaps Parliament and the public may be misled.
In short, the demerit, from our point of view, of Clause 8(1) as drafted is that it all too effectively does what it is presumably intended to do; namely, to obscure the essential fact that the payment is nothing whatever to do with public expenditure but is merely an accounting device to quantify tax payments which have been collected in kind from tax debtors. This is vitally important when public expenditure is quite properly being controlled with cash limits, and what have you, because if this is defined as expenditure 85 and not as tax raising then it will fall very heavily under the public expenditure cash limits.
The beneficial potentialities for the preservation of our cultural inheritance of the system for acceptance in satisfaction of tax, established in Part II of the Bill, are considerable and far-reaching, but they can all too easily be frustrated if your Lordships and the public fail to grasp, and to insist, that the real nature of the decision which may have to be faced from time to time is whether or not to permit the sale of items of our heritage to raise cash for the Revenue in circumstances which inevitably have no direct connection with the established priorities of public expenditure, and which will almost certainly happen during the middle of one of our perennial economic crises.
Continuing to reiterate that the expenditure of public money, accurately so defined, cannot be involved in these transactions, does not however entail any denial of the necessity to keep what is so obviously an accounting device under quantitative control. But persistent attempts to stand the English language and common sense on its head, which I regret to say emanate from the Treasury, ought not to be thought really necessary, or to be so accepted, in order to effect the requisite control.
So with that note of warning and with profound apologies for having gone seven minutes beyond my normal time length, may I say that I have tried to explain why I am a little worried about the accounting procedures in the Bill but that otherwise I welcome the Bill and wish it a very happy passage on to the statute book.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Lord BALFOUR of BURLEIGH
My Lords, may I begin by associating myself with all those noble Lords who have given such a strong welcome to this Bill and at the same time associate myself with other noble Lords who have welcomed and who have so much enjoyed the maiden speeches to which we had the pleasure of listening earlier this afternoon. It would not be possible to imagine two better speakers, both of whom spoke so dramatically and eloquently of particular aspects of the heritage problem with which we are concerned. I hope very 86 much that we shall very often hear the maiden speakers.
We all feel that this Bill is a very great step forward in bringing us up to date with what are two opposing trends of our times, both of which would have been barely credible to an observer from the viewpoint of the 1930s. The first is the astonishing growth of public interest in and concern for our heritage, whether it be beautiful land, plants, trees, birds, animals, houses or their contents and, indeed, works of scientific and historic interest; namely, the object of this Bill. The second is the rate at which the cost of conservation of these things is rising. It really amounts to a tidal wave threatening to engulf us before we can achieve the objects which we all hope will be achieved by this Bill. There really is no time to lose in getting it on to the statute book and appointing trustees with the necessary powers—a point to which I shall return.
A great feature of the Bill, in my view, is the understanding which I believe it incorporates of the value of in situ retention and its recognition that this job of conservation simply cannot be done without the involvement on a large scale of the private owner, as the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, has so clearly described. This is a tremendous achievement. We all recognise at the same time the very great difficulties the Government have in building in provisions of this sort in a proper and balanced way.
There are two important aspects which I hope will be given further attention, and I shall turn to them in a moment. At this point, may I declare my interest as a council member of the National Trust for Scotland. The National Trust see clearly that with the arrival of this Bill and its provisions they and their sister National Trust for England and Wales will lose the almost virtual monopoly of access that they have had up to now under the provisions of the National Land Fund, in that this function will be uplifted and taken over by the trustees. The National Trust could not more warmly welcome this change. They believe that in determining the destiny of much of our heritage the dominant factor should be the trustees and they recognise clearly how much will have to be done.
I was fortunate enough to be present last night at a meeting of the National Trust 87 when we obtained the assistance of a very large number of bodies in Scotland who have followed the progress of this Bill through all its stages. If I counted them correctly, there were 19 separate organisations, including museums, wildlife organisations, those concerned with the retention of small houses and every other kind of interest. The remarkable thing which many would not have expected 20 years ago is the identity of view of all these bodies, be they private owners or public bodies, in almost all respects.
Perhaps I may turn to two particular points upon which I am convinced that some alterations must be made. The first is a point which has been referred to by many noble Lords; namely, the somewhat strange wording of Clauses 4 and 5 in which it appears that permission of Ministers must be sought by the trustees before acquiring or accepting gifts of property. I listened with great care to the words used by the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, when he introduced the Second Reading of the Bill. It seems that the concern centres upon the view that the fund should not be concerned with owning property for long periods. I am sure that everybody agrees with this view.
I would ask that consideration should be given to the role which the trustees are being asked to play. The trustees ought to be able to take, among many other risks, the risk of acquiring property for a minimal period, and I feel that it should be for not less than one year. This will be necessary if they are to get help from others to support them with a matching effort in terms of finding solutions for the destiny of much property which will be the subject of concern. I believe that it will be quite impossible for Ministers to be caught up in each and every decision as to whether the trustees can retain for a short while—because that is all that will be asked for—property in this way. I believe it to be irrational and impractical and not at all in conformity with the scale and scope of the responsibilities the trustees are to be asked to discharge if they cannot be given this power. If it is felt that a limit should be placed upon this power, surely something could be done by limiting the expenditure in such a case to a percentage of the funds at the disposal of the National Heritage 88 Memorial Fund at any one time. A limit could be placed upon the amount that might be used for purchase. If all-party support for this view were necessary—and it would certainly come—I should like to draw attention to the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, who illustrated this so very clearly from her own experience, and also to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Gibson from his different viewpoint of experience.
Turning now to Part II of the Bill, Clause 12 refers to the Finance Act 1975, Schedule 4, which gives the test for objects to be accepted in lieu of tax—that is, would the object be a pre-eminent addition to a public collection, whether national, local authority or university? That is difficult enough, but the pre-eminent test is now complicated by the in situ provision, which involves the whole problem of the pre-eminence of an object or group of objects in the context of an historic house. The present system whereby a single expert adviser is asked to make a judgment has already given rise to dissatisfaction. It sounds quite right that the Minister should take advice—and that is all he is doing—but if it is a single view it amounts to more than advice, and I believe that in the operation of this provision we are placing an intolerable responsibility and burden on advisers who frequently, in the context of their task, are not by any means disinterested parties. The ideal way for this to be dealt with is to bring the trustees into the question. I recognise the difficulties, but they ought to be brought in at the earlier stage and I hope this can be re-examined. If that proved to be quite impossible, the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries already recommends on the allocation of objects once they have been accepted, and it would seem logical that recommendations on acceptance should also be made by them.
That is all that I wish to say in detail at this late hour, but I should just like to express the hope that the Bill may come into effect as soon as possible in view of the shortage of time we have to deal with this problem, to which I referred earlier.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ Lord CRATHORNE
My Lords, I am delighted to be able to join other noble 89 Lords in congratulating our two maiden speakers today and also to welcome this Bill. The fact that there has been such widespread agreement in all parts of this House, and indeed in another place, not only about the aims of the Bill but also about its content, surely augurs well for the heritage. Much of the ground has been covered in excellent speeches today and I merely want to re-emphasise one or two particular points.
There is no doubt that this is the most important piece of legislation for the heritage but it is also important to point out that on its own it is not really sufficient and it must be part of a comprehensive policy which should include sensible fiscal measures such as have been mentioned today and I do not see that this is the time to enumerate them again.
This fund can really only ever be a safety net—a welcome one but its resources are relatively modest. For instance, if two major houses came up at the same moment for rescue the fund would begin to look very small, although I was pleased to hear from the Minister earlier that in such an instance money might be made available from other sources. Obviously one hopes that the fund will expand as rapidly as possible. Putting it at its basest level we get such marvellous value for money from our heritage. The number of tourists and the money that they spend here every year is out of all proportion to the money which any Government may have to spend on the heritage. As we know, people come here not for our weather but for the very things which we are trying to preserve by this Bill.
The in situ provision is obviously greatly to be welcomed and one thinks of appalling instances such as that of Althorp, where those marvellous Van Dycks were taken from the walls for which they were painted by Van Dyck. Let us hope that this Bill will prevent anything like that ever happening again. I lecture every year in America on English country houses and I have always used slides of that particular Long Gallery: I can hardly bear to think of the fact that those Van Dycks are not there any more.
One or two noble Lords have touched on the importance of trusting the trustees. The noble Baroness, Lady Elliot of 90 Harwood, made that point and I think it is vitally important that the trustees can act very speedily. As someone who has been involved in the art business for many years I know how significant that requirement is and I just wonder whether some of the procedures involving trustees and Ministers and the Treasury are not rather too complex, but again I do not think this is the moment to expand on that.
I also hope that the trustees will be drawn from a very wide circle of people. One point which has not been raised today is the fact that the Government did not include any provision enabling the chairman and the trustees, either now or in the future, to be remunerated in however modest a way that might be. There is an excellent tradition in this country of unpaid public service but is it correct that perhaps the right man for the job as chairman should be prevented from becoming chairman because of his own financial circumstances? Another point which has not been mentioned, although it is not strictly related to the Bill, is this: has the Minister considered where the heritage fund will be housed? I should like to make a plea that it should be not in a large concrete office block somewhere but in a building suitable to the task they are undertaking; perhaps there may be the possibility of rescuing a suitable building for the trustees and those administering the fund.
I am sure everyone will be pleased about the indemnity provisions. There is just one point I should like to raise on that: the Minister mentioned earlier today that there would be a limit to the amount of the Government indemnity and he very skilfully did not tell us what that would be. I think at this moment the figure of items indemnified runs to about £72 million. It would be interesting to hear from the Minister what is his feeling about that.
Another point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, which I should like to mention relates to the purchase of easements, rights of way and sporting rights. As a member of the Yorkshire regional committee of the National Trust I know how important that point is and I hope that the Minister will look into it. I should like to end as everyone has ended, by wishing the Bill well. This is surely a good day for our heritage.
§ 6.49 p.m.
My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon, because she really gave us some of her thoughts about this matter. We rarely hear expressions of people's thoughts; we hear their expressions of opinion. I should like also to congratulate the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, from whom now I think we shall get some education about Scotland, which will not do us any harm.
May I refer first to the Heritage Committee in the House of Commons. I think we should not let this debate pass without paying particular tribute to that committee. When I was in the other place we worked very hard on it and I am still a member of it. It has done a tremendous amount to get this Bill put on the statute book, and I should like that fact to be recognised.
I should like to quote from Kipling's Children's Song:That they may build from age to age an undefiled heritage".That is what we are trying to do for the future.
Then from the Book of Common Prayer:The lot has fallen unto me in a fair ground—yea, I have a goodly heritage".So we have quite contented people in this country.
Clause 3 is of particular interest because it defines the national heritage to include any land or building which in the opinion of the trustees is of outstanding scenic, historic, aesthetic, architectural or scientific interest. What about archeological interest? Surely this is where our heritage begins. Perhaps when we come to the Committee stage we may be able to give consideration to that. One thinks of Stonehenge, which was built even before the palaces in Crete. There we have a very worthwhile heritage that we can consider and study in the future. There are two very splendid museums, one in Devizes, founded in 1853, which is still contributing to findings and archeological matters. They are supported mostly by voluntary contributions. Another one, at Avebury, belongs to the National Trust. These two museums have done a great deal to explain to us our beginnings in this country.
92 I should like to know whether the Council for the Protection of Rural England will be able to apply for help in regard to ancient buildings such as barns, farmyards and so on. For example, in Wiltshire there are a great many very ancient barns and some mills, some mentioned in the Domesday Book. Many of them are on land belonging to the Ministry of Defence, and at one time the Ministry used to keep them up. They are scheduled and listed. Now they tell me they have no money. I have seen everybody I can about it, including the PSA, but nothing has happened, and I regret that many of these structures are being pulled down. Some of them are quite unique; they are built on staggels, and if they are not repaired fairly soon they will fall to pieces. I should like consideration to be given to whether they could be given a grant through the Council for the Protection of Rural England.
Then, of course, there has been a great attack upon trees. In one valley in Wiltshire 40,000 elm trees have been cut down in a 7-mile radius. Trees are part of our heritage. Thank goodness, the disease has not attacked oaks, because they take so long to grow. In Wiltshire there is a Small Trees Trust. I wonder whether these various trusts can be helped with the reconditioning of the land and the replanting of trees.
I should like also to discuss the question of industry. I feel that it is necessary that we take far more interest in the relics we have from industry. I know that a great many have been thrown away very recently because there is nowhere to house them. I would suggest that far more contributions and far more help could be got from the general public. For example, the Plym River had trees, a forest, on either side. It was decided to sell it as a private property and it was going to be used for commercial forestry. This would have ruined the walks for people and ruined the fishing. We formed a committee in Plymouth and raised over £8,000 in two months. Plymouth is not the easiest town in which to raise money, especially not in this sphere. This money was handed to the National Trust and the local authority agreed to pay for a forester to look after the property. I suggest that we could do more of this if the interest of the general public was 93 aroused and with the assistance of the National Trust and other organisations.
If I may turn to the Ministry of Defence, the Royal Dockyards, which are over 300 years old, have the most fascinating buildings and also museums within their walls. I was down in Portsmouth this morning and I was able to see some of these beautiful things. These museums are kept up mainly from contributions from Americans. In Devonport, for example, there is the Rope Walk and also still the gallows. I am against hanging, but I think it useful to have available specimens like these which were used for hanging French prisoners of war in earlier days. In that way we can show future generations what life was like in this country. There are very many small houses, cottages, which could very well be the subject of help. I know of one in which an old lady was living. It had a thatched roof. She could not get it repaired, and eventually we had to raise contributions. She was sitting there one day when a duck which had nested in the roof fell down on the Sunday lunch. This cottage was really well worth saving. We got enough people together, with a small contribution from the local authority, in order that this could be done. I think we should do far more in this way to help ourselves.
As was mentioned by the last speaker, many tourists come to this country, which I personally think has the finest scenery in the world. We have some beautiful houses like Chatsworth and Wilton which are really English from beginning to end. I am not very sorry that Mentmore was up for sale. I think that it alerted everybody so that we got on with something, but it was not, in my opinion, a very beautiful house, and a great many things in it were not British. I would much sooner that we turned our attention to Turner, to Gainsborough, to Fernley, to Stubbs, to Reynolds—things that really are our heritage—by which to show our people as they are in this country.
I should like now to mention the question of Laxton. I understand that since 1952 it has been owned by the Ministry of Agriculture. It is a fine example of the mediaeval open system of cultivation. I should like to know from my noble friend whether it is true that the Government are thinking of selling it. I think to do so would be very unfortunate. I hope it 94 will not be sold but will be kept as it is, because it is working, it is in use by the local people.
As a final point, I think I am right in saying that my noble friend said that, unlike most monies in this case if it was not spent by the end of the year it would not be handed back to the Treasury. May I congratulate him. As a civil servant, as I once was, it was absolutely maddening at the end of the year, if you had a little money left, to have to rush round trying to find something to spend it on, otherwise it went back to the Treasury. I should like to congratulate him on that aspect and thank him very much for giving me that reply.
§ 6.58 p.m.
The Viscount of ARBUTHNOTT
My Lords, we are nearly at the end of a long list, and I know you hope I will not detain you for very long. First of all, I must join other speakers in congratulating the two noble Ladies who have made their maiden speeches today. First, I congratulate Lady Airey, perhaps particularly because of her tribute to the wives of those who look after our heritage, a remark that I will take home, where I know it will be very welcome indeed; and, secondly, I thank Lady Saltoun for her fine championship of the problems of those of us who live in the North and East of Scotland and have our problems with smaller houses.
I believe this to be one of the most important pieces of legislation for safeguarding our heritage to have come before us for at least a decade, if not longer. It has been welcomed on all sides, and I certainly endorse that welcome. We all have a variety of views as to what our heritage means, as a result of our background and upbringing and for many other reasons. It will mean different things to different people. I confess to being almost a philistine in matters of art, music and literature, even though I think I know what I want or like, but I do have an abiding love of the countryside in all its dimensions. Consequently, I shall address myself to the care of our rural and environmental heritage, as I understand it. In that connection, I was particularly gratified to hear the last speaker mention Laxton Fields, which I know well and which I should like to see preserved in some way and not just sold to the highest bidder.
95 If I seem prejudiced then I hope that your Lordships will excuse me, but the reason is that I was born and brought up and educated and trained for my profession and present occupation as a country Scot. I have served with the Countryside Commission for Scotland and I have worked for the Nature Conservancy in Scotland. In fact, although the balance has been redressed to some extent this afternoon, I fear that too much time has been spent during the progress of this Bill so far in considering the conservation and care of the objects and the bits and pieces of our heritage and their future in suitable buildings, and too little time on the heritage within our countryside.
The Scottish dimension demands a much wider view and more thought for the care and future of the landscapes, natural history and rural settings of our heritage in which the houses, castles, country churches of Scotland—of all denominations, not just the Church of England, as we heard earlier—and their contents all have a part to play. Not only has Scotland the most extensive areas of wild and beautiful countryside in the United Kingdom, and proportionately a greater amount of areas of natural scientific interest, but it is in Scotland that those landscapes and places of natural history interest can and must play their part in the contemporary and ongoing economic health of the countryside.
I should like to take historic gardens as an example to illustrate that last point. In a recently published survey of scenic and historic gardens, the author points up the anomaly in recent, if not contemporary, Government attitudes to the heritage. Fewer and fewer gardeners are being recruited to work in private gardens, which are regarded as luxuries, and no help can be given to what is deemed a personal extravagance. On the other hand, it is Government policy to preserve the heritage garden and encourage rural employment. Some compromise must be achieved.
Mention has been made of the purpose of the heritage. I see our heritage, especially in a rural setting, not as some sort of cultural island, but as a means of sustaining employment and the viability of remoter areas. In that regard its 96 sensible use as an attraction to visitors can alone help sustain the economy. I hope that it is firmly grasped by all concerned with this legislation that, if our heritage is to live today and in the future, we must contrive ways in which it can play its part in our daily lives.
We have the good fortune in Scotland to be able to work together to that end. Often, indeed mostly, led by our own National Trust for Scotland, as has been mentioned already, we see a coming together of activities and management plans complementing each other, whereby charitable bodies, Government agencies and private individuals co-operate to achieve just that integrated use of our heritage that I feel is so important, indeed vital, to its future wellbeing.
My concern about the future and the way in which this legislation will help or not, can be summed up in the following way: the National Trusts will not be able to care for the future of our heritage on their own. The care and protection of it will remain in other hands and mostly will still have to be in those of private families and individuals, as has already been mentioned so often. The future must therefore, depend on other legislative and fiscal attitudes to land ownership. Having said that, there will still be areas of great natural beauty or historic or scientific interest that will inevitably come on to the market and I do not see where the owners of last resort can come from. I think that this is a matter to which we must all give attention. My own personal wish is that more use will be made by landowners of charitable land trusts—and again those have been mentioned—which will meet all criteria as eligible and satisfactory means of safeguarding a local community interest in an heritage property for the benefit of the nation.
I am delighted that the fund is to be managed by independent trustees, but the choice of the trustees of this fund is another matter of importance and naturally I should like to see a strong representation from Scotland because of the special claims which I have outlined for that country. Let us not forget that the safeguarding of landscapes of outstanding beauty was fundamental to the aims of the creator of the National Land Fund, and again I endorse everything that everyone has said so far this afternoon about the 97 original objectives of the fund. I am delighted that the additional word "Memorial" has been added to its title. I should like to make the special plea that, within the use of the fund, some priority is given, when the opportunity occurs, to securing areas of scenic beauty or nature conservation interest, and that they should be given as much attention as the other objects of historical and heritage interest to which we have been addressing ourselves.
The trustees, their regard for our rural heritage and their actions as a meaningful charitable trust, will inevitably depend upon their composition, but also upon the guidance given them by Government. It is my fervent hope that the trustees will see, as part of their purpose, the importance of playing the significant role in the whole complex activity of safeguarding our heritage that existing agencies and trusts already play in an integrated and co-operative way. I believe that the trustees must enter into the main stream of daily thought and planning and provide constructive help and guidance for the great objectives that bring us here today to welcome the Bill.
As unfortunately I shall not be able to be present during the Committee Stage I should like to deal with just two detailed points. Under Clause 4:The Trustees shall not retain any property acquired by them … except in such cases and for such period as either of the Ministers may allow".In Clause 5 it says that they shall not accept a gift, other than money, except under a similar constraint. I believe that once again this is possibly an acceptable practice in cases of objects of art, but it will cause the utmost difficulty when it is proposed to acquire land or accept it as a gift. Delays do abound in decision-making over land. The trustees should be trusted, as others have said, not to have to seek prior approval for acquisition or the receipt of gifts of land and there should be a specified period of time during which they can hold land before approval is required. Again, as regards Clause 14, I believe that the future has been preempted by a ministerial letter quoted in another place which appears to put museums in a privileged consultative position, whereas all that part of the heritage that is not the concern of museums—and again I refer particularly to the countryside—is put at a disadvantage. I would imagine that, depending on what 98 is meant by "any functions" in Clause 14(1), countryside interests would at least want to be assured that my belief is misplaced or that "any functions" of concern to them could be transferred to the trustees as early as possible.
I do not want to appear to be carping on matters of detail, because as everyone else this afternoon has done, I wish the Bill well. I also hope that nothing that I have said will appear to be too partisan or too much like special pleading. This Bill is a notable and truly welcome first step towards the future care and conservation of our heritage and as such it has my wholehearted support.
§ 7.9 p.m.
§ Lord SKELMERSDALE
My Lords, when I put my name down very late to speak in this debate I was perfectly aware that much of what I had to say, to use the phrase of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, would be nibbled away at during the course of the speeches by a large number of noble Lords. However, I had hardly expected to be stripped naked, as it were, in the presence of two maiden Ladies who we all congratulate for having given us the benefit of their wise advice on this particular occasion, and we hope that we shall hear from them very often in the future.
I am glad to be able to tell your Lordships that I am left with one tiny scrap of modesty. It is that I have a new interest to declare which very much pertains to the subject of this Bill. For my sins I have recently been made the vice-chairman of an organisation called the Council for Environmental Conservation, COENCO for short. This comprises nongovernmental organisations, as they are so often called, spanning the whole spectrum, from pure nature conservation, in the shape of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the SPNC or the World Wildlife Fund, through the National Trust and the National Trust of Scotland, to the Councils for the Protection of Rural England and Rural Wales. We cover a complete range of the various specialised non-governmental organisations within our environmental remit.
Everyone in those organisations and outside them to whom I have spoken about the Bill is very pleased that it has come as far and as fast as it has after 99 what, in the last two years, can only be described as a very shaky start. However, everyone was rather concerned that the land and building interests would not be as fully covered as we have learned this afternoon it is intended that they will be by my noble friend the Minister and his right honourable friends. That is all very well and all very fine.
However, I am afraid that I still have some rather niggling doubts, one in particular. During the course of his speech on the Report stage in another place, my noble friend's right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster gave the firm assurance that he would not act under Clause 14, which is the arrangement whereby the new powers of the two Ministers—perhaps I should say the five Ministers if we include the Regional Ministers—are transferred to the trustees of the fund without the willing consent of the museums. As a conservationist and as someone passionately interested in land and buildings and all that goes into them and surrounds them, that is something that causes me not a little concern. I hope that this evening my noble friend will be able to give me the assurance that when these powers are, as I hope they will be, transferred to the trustee of the fund all the relevant interests will be consulted and be found willing, and not just one section of them.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Lord TAYLOR of GRYFE
My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships for failing to put my name down on the list of speakers at an early stage in this debate. I do not propose to make a speech but merely to ask a question arising from some of the speeches that have been made this afternoon. First, I must declare an interest. I am a trustee of the Scottish Civic Trust and I attended a meeting last night with the trust at which the business covered two main items. First, we were identifying buildings of some architectural merit in order that they might be protected; secondly, we were substantially engaged in raising money in order to carry out that function. I wonder whether it would be possible within this Bill for the trustees to make funds available to organisations, such as the Civic Trust, which are engaged in activities which are complementary and 100 ancillary to the work and functions of the trustees.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Lord DONALDSON of KINGSBRIDGE
My Lords, ever since the Third Report of the Expenditure Committee was published in March 1978, many of us, myself included, have been thinking about this Bill. I wish to say at the beginning of my speech that it has gone better than I ever dared to think it would. There were many very difficult problems and they seem very largely to have been surmounted. I congratulate wholeheartedly the Minister, his representative here and the Government.
Having said that, may I pause for one moment to say how delightful I thought our two maiden speeches were. I was extremely pleased with Lady Airey's description of herself as chatelaine, cook, nanny and gardener. This is a common position among wives and is seldom recognised. I was rather worried by the picture which the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, painted of the difficulties of mending roofs in distant places with inflation rising as it is. They were two most interesting speeches, most charming and both contained a good many questions which require answers. Luckily, it is not my business this evening to answer them.
I am particularly glad that the results have been so successful because the arts have always been a bipartisan job in this country, and I hope that they always remain so. I think that both I and the present Minister have observed this throughout. We hope to go on doing so. In the course of the debate someone described it as "ecumenical"; I think that there is a sense in which it is. I am particularly glad that the Minister has been successful in persuading his somewhat philistine colleagues to keep to the figure of £15 million in our, the Labour Party's White Paper. After all, it restores what remains of a fund which was established by my party, through Hugh Dalton in 1946, as a thanks offering for victory and a war memorial, and which was cynically reduced to £10 million from £60 million by the party opposite in 1957 through Mr. Enoch Powell. Having just said that we are bipartisan, this is not the preliminary to a party attack. But 101 a point worth making is that we managed to persuade our colleagues in the harsh financial climate that they were in to set aside £15 million. To his credit, be it said that the present Minister has held his, in my opinion, far more difficult colleagues to the same figure. The figure has grown through interest to £15½ million.
I do not know whether the noble Lord who is to reply will be able to answer my question, but I ask it without any vicious intention. In spite of the talk of further cuts, can he assure us that this figure will be sacred and immune from further cuts? I am the second speaker from these Benches and I suppose the second speaker this evening who does not have an ancestral house of the faintest interest—I have a house which is on List B in London, which hardly counts at all, and I have built two others. I am afraid that both my noble friend Lady Stedman and I are almost unique in this debate in not being owners of ancestral homes. Therefore, I hope that any little flavour of difference here will not be resented.
I am particularly glad at being able to congratulate the Minister wholeheartedly, because I refrained from attacking him when he was obliged to make that terrible retrospective cut of £1,100,000 to the Arts Council's three-month old grant. I knew that he was as unhappy at disappointing our hopes and his own (very freely expressed as they were) as we all were, and I saw no point in rubbing it in.
I think it is true that the arts, in spite o[...] their incomprehensible preference for a Tory over a Labour Administration, have been noticeably ill at ease under the new régime. Indeed, the Arts Council have still not been told what their grant for the coming year is to be, which leaves them in a parlous position. If I remember aright, I let the chairman know unofficially in 1978 before Christmas what his grant would be. These are the sort of problems one has, particularly when a new administration comes in thinking things are a good deal easier than they are.
I thought it was a triumph—and I am going to talk for a minute or two about what happened before the election because I know more about it, and it is part of our bipartisan tradition that we start something and the other side goes on with it—when our Government agreed in that 102 harsh financial climate to put up what amounts to £15 million of new money as a reserve fund for the national heritage. I know that to laymen it did not seem like new money. The noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, has left me a good deal puzzled as to the truth about this, but the important thing is it felt like new money to the Treasury and it is that which matters. Like the…Christian scientist at Deal,Who admitted though pain is not real,When I sit on a pinAnd it punctures my skin,I dislike what I fancy I feel".Anyway, we got agreement and issued a White Paper undertaking to put £15 million into a National Heritage Fund to be administered by independent trustees, and to be topped up annually by £5 million if needed. This the Minister has succeeded in maintaining intact, and I congratulate him.
This Bill is indeed an improvement in two ways on our White Paper, though not I think on what would have appeared in our Bill had it ever come to pass. It is better, in that it has left the in lieu procedure more or less as it was. Here for the record I should like to go into a few details. When we achieved our objective of finding this money it was felt that as the Expenditure Committee had made it clear that it thought it a mistake for Treasury Ministers to take aesthetic decisions—a point underlined by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, earlier today—it would be right to agree to the independent trustees administering the fund, but they should take the lot and relieve Treasury Ministers of the in lieu procedure as well.
This left us with some serious difficulties as to how the procedure had best be changed, so we gave a promise in the White Paper that individual vendors and purchasing bodies should not be worse off than they would have been under the existing procedure, and in the meantime we began intensive discussions with the arts world as to how best to effect this in the forthcoming Bill. However, some people seemed to have thought that we were insincere and trying to put through a change to their disadvantage. I was accused of bad faith on several occasions, and our assurances were treated as dishonest.
On the last day of the Session I was able to tell the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, 103 in a Written Answer that I thought we had got agreement all round to a method which would be satisfactory, and it is interesting that it is in fact the method envisaged in Clause 14 of the present Bill as a possible development, which the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, was saying in fact he hoped would come off. That is a little defensive statement after a long period of extremely distasteful hesitancy on our part when we were not in a position to go further.
The second improvement in this Bill over our White Paper is in the wide increase in indemnities. We made the first advance here in 1973–74 when we got agreement for indemnities to cover the loans of objects from national to provincial museums and galleries. We took it a stage further when we arranged indemnity for the Royal Academy at the end of 1978 for their splendid postimpressionist exhibition, and now this Bill extends it very much further to cover pretty well all that we have ever asked for. It is a most valuable and important extension, and I congratulate the Minister most heartily.
May I turn now to one or two detailed points. First, I am not entirely happy about the name. I think it is essential that reference should be made to the objective of the Dalton Fund, but I think my honourable friend Mr. Dalyell, when he put up the first amendment about this, suggested that it should be in the form of words in the Bill. I am going to put up a form of words as an amendment, which I am not going to discuss now. We shall discuss it later, but I shall not press it if the House does not agree. I do not like the "National Heritage Memorial Fund". I think the "National Heritage Fund" is better, so long as the Bill contains what we want in it.
As the President—the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, was kind enough to refer to this—of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, let me say that we were a bit worried, but Clause 3 satisfied us totally. It gives "scenic" and "scientific", though I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, that we probably should have "archeological". If she does not, I think I shall put down an amendment about this. One noble Lord spoke about the control of public access. 104 We want something in to make it clear that we do not only have to expand, we can also reduce public access if necessary. The inclusion of nature conservation gives us everything I think we could want, and so I think that Clause 3 is extremely satisfactory.
Clause 4 is a worry. I am not satisfied with it. It is the one clause that people have been a bit critical of here. It seems to me that the trustees should be allowed to buy and hold for a limited period. Somebody suggested a year. I would suggest a month. The kind of situation one visualises is an exquisite piece of furniture coming up suddenly at auction. The V & A want it and have spent their grant. The trustees go in and buy it for them. Equally, if we have a wetland which is being sold somewhere and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds cannot afford to buy it, the trustees ought to be able to buy it for them provided it is handed over in good time. I shall discuss this with other interested noble Lords, but I think we want something more here. I do not know whether anybody will agree.
I want to say a word—I have missed the second act of Othello so I can go on—about the in lieu allocation in Part II. The position is that £3 million or so is put aside for the in lieu. It always used to be £3½ million, but I am not going to quibble about that. If it is not all spent it reverts to the Heritage Trust. That is very good. But if it is all spent there is no reversion in the other direction. The Heritage—which probably will not all be spent because it is a large sum—cannot be added to the in lieu for reasons of a technical kind which I have forgotten but which seem to me satisfactory.
So Ministers have to turn either to savings, which is a very uncomfortable turning to have to make—I had to do it once or twice, but one does not want to make them do it too much because they should be doing it already—or to private sales, which is available at the moment, or, in the end, to special grants. But people worry about the amount of money available under the in lieu.
I did a little sum from page 5 of the report of the Estimates Committee, which contains everything that has been spent from the Land Fund in the last 20 years. I did the last four years and from 1974–75 105 to 1977–78, only £1.2 million was spent on property and only £2.4 million on chattels; and of the latter, £300,000 really belonged to the first figure because it was chattels bought in situ. So the true figure is £1.5 million for the environment and £2.1 million for the arts, and that is over three years. I do not think it will be long before we exceed the £3 million about which we are talking, but it is probably rather unreasonable to say that at this moment, when the last figures—which are admittedly two years old—were £700,000 for the one and £500,000 for the other, and that is an interesting and important point which should be made.
Before resuming my seat, I wish to take up a few points from the debate. One noble Lord asked whether the Minister would give us in his reply the upper limit of indemnities. It would be interesting to know what sort of figure the Government have in mind; I do not suppose the noble Lord will give it, but there is never any harm in asking. The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, suggested that the word "endow" should be in, and I think I agree with him, but we shall have to consider that further. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Cottesloe, that the National Art Collection Fund and the National Libraries Fund should be possible recipients. I see no reason against that and many for it; I am sure that can be agreed and I hope we shall have a Government amendment to that effect.
I was very interested in the talk by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester about cathedral museums and libraries. I have seen a few, they are marvellous and they should be treated like all other museums and libraries. Actually I thought they were, but perhaps the Minister will look into that to see whether, if they are not, under this Bill they would be reasonable recipients.
The question which worried a number of noble Lords was that of local preeminence. The Dartington Reynolds is the classic case; a goodish Reynolds, of which we have an enormous number in this country, in an enormous long gallery which was more or less built round it. It was not, of course, because it is Elizabethan. It has been there ever since it was painted and it was turned down as not being pre-eminent. It was perfectly 106 clearly pre-eminent in Lincolnshire and it was perfectly clear that the answer which one noble Lord put up—that a museum locally should take responsibility for it and look after it—was right.
As for the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, I do not think it is any good asking for the moon. I think we have done jolly well to get £15 million, with £5½ million a year after that, out of this Government in these conditions. I will not therefore add my weight to that, although I should like some philosopher—Bernard Williams or somebody like that—to sort out the real truth; I am not satisfied that the Treasury answer might not stand up.
It is time we heard the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton. I would say, in conclusion, that I have had a good deal to do with artistic people, and they do not agree very easily, but we have not had a single dissident word here from the land-owner or peasant; we have all agreed on the importance of the Bill and we wish it the fastest possible translation into reality.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
My Lords, this debate has been most useful and constructive, and I have listened with the greatest interest to all the speeches that have been made by noble Lords in all parts of the House. Like other noble Lords, I wish at the outset to offer my warmest congratulations to the noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon, and the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, both of whom are good friends of mine, and I have known Lady Saltoun and her husband for 40 years. It is clear that they will be in your Lordships' House a lot; they will be most welcome here, as they have been assured by all noble Lords.
To deal with the last speaker first, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings bridge, is an absolute saint. I canonised the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, once before she left office, but I must thank Lord Donaldson on this occasion because he made a really responsible Minister of the Arts speech, answering half the questions, and for that I can only say, "Thank you very much". I am most grateful to him for his praise of my right honourable friend and his appreciation of the points 107 involved in the Bill, because he knows full well, as he explained, what has been involved, and I am most grateful to him for the way he put it over.
He asked whether I thought the figure was sacred. If my right honourable friend's word is to be believed, and I do believe it, then unless the cow jumps over the moon or something awful like that, then, yes, it is sacred. As for the small point he made about, for example, the V&A needing a piece of furniture, as I understand it the trustees have no need to go to the Minister; they can give a grant to the V&A. That is what they are there for.
For the noble Lord's masterly treatise on the subject of "in lieu", I am most grateful. On the upper limits of indemnity I do not think we have in mind any particular figure that I have heard; it is something which, as I said in my opening remarks, will be looked at and evaluated so as to know what we are liable for, but I do not think at the moment there is any particular figure in mind. We already have indemnities for all the big museums, and it will be a quantification of that sort. I do not anticipate any particular trouble on that.
The noble Baroness, Lady Ryder of Warsaw, asked—and again, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, half answered this—about the recommendation of the Expenditure Committee; that the £50 million removed in 1957 should be restored as resources permitted. As she and your Lordships will be aware, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster said on Third Reading in another place that he would be delighted to be able to do so but that it was just not practical in the present economic conditions.
The noble Lords, Lord Gibson and Lord Winstanley, asked why endowments were not provided for in Clause 3. The answer is that they are specifically provided for in Clause 3(6), which was deliberately inserted in Committee in another place in response to concern which had been expressed on that point.
My noble friend Lady Airey showed, in a most notable and wonderfully appropriate maiden speech, that none of us can doubt the very deep commitment to 108 the heritage which she shared with her late husband. Her enthusiasm for the smaller manor houses is something which all concerned with the heritage must share, and I have no doubt that that will be reflected by the trustees of the fund. Several other noble Lords also expressed worry for the small houses and small castles in what was called by one noble Lord "the tribal areas". These smaller houses will of course often be suitable for purchase by private buyers, but the best may then fall to be considered by the trustees.
The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, my noble friend Lady Elliot of Harwood, and, I think, my noble friend Lord Cottesloe, asked why the National Art Collections Fund was not mentioned as being eligible to receive works of art from the National Heritage Fund trustees. The answer is that the new fund is designed to help by providing money for the ultimate recipients of heritage objects. The National Art Collections Fund is an outstanding example of those bodies which have themselves raised and provided money to help the ultimate recipients to acquire heritage objects. The new fund will stand alongside the National Arts Collections Fund, the Pilgrims Trust, the Carnegie Trust Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries and other such bodies. It will not be an ultimate repository of works of art.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Worcester raised the problem of cathedrals. I trust that the partnership between the trustees and the Churches to which the right reverend Prelate referred will be very evident indeed. We had intended in the Bill to cover cathedral treasuries and libraries, and we shall give further consideration to ensuring that they are so covered.
Several noble Lords and noble Baronesses have expressed anxiety about the trustees being fettered. I am most anxious to stress that the trustees will have a completely unfettered discretion to enable others to purchase objects or property. If they wish to purchase anything themselves—perhaps something needed in exceptional situations—agreement with Ministers would be needed. This is surely appropriate when trustee ownership is not desirable in itself, but is to be used in an emergency.
109 My noble friend the Duke of Norfolk, the noble Lords, Lord Sandford and Lord Skelmersdale, the noble Marquess, Lord Hertford, and probably some others, too, expressed worry about the retention of goods in situ in their historic homes, which were accepted in lieu. I can reassure the noble Duke and the noble Lords that it will be possible both for chattels and pictures to be accepted in lieu of taxation, and, if they have strong association with particular houses, for them to be returned to those houses while remaining in the ownership of a local or national museum. This has always been possible, but we are now anxious to see it happen on a regular basis. The Government's proposal in Clause 9(5), and the proposals on indemnification will facilitate this.
The noble Duke spoke about pictures that he might have in his charitable trust at Arundel, but which belong perhaps to Chichester Museum. Chichester Museum would be very happy for the pictures to be in their historic situation at Arundel Castle. Similarly, in Yorkshire there may be famous objets d'art or pictures which are technically in the ownership of Temple Newsam, but which are lodged at Castle Howard. There is no problem here.
The noble Earl, Lord Perth, suggested that under Clause 9(1) the disposal of objects accepted in lieu of tax was decided on the advice of officials; indeed, in some cases only one official. I can reassure your Lordships that advice on the allocation of such objects is always sought from the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries and the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts; and the majority of the items are allocated to institutions outside London.
My noble friend Lord Cottesloe suggested that it was wrong that objects accepted in lieu should be disposed of subject to conditions laid down by the Government, but that it was right to lay down conditions as to the disposal of land and buildings. I do not see why a distinction should be drawn in this way. When property is accepted by the State and allocated to a suitable recipient, it surely behoves the Government to ensure that it is adequately safeguarded in the interests of the taxpayer. Some national museums and galleries obviously have in their trust deeds 110 provisions which make it unnecessary to seek such undertakings as to conservation, display and indeed retention of the object in question, but other museums, galleries and similar bodies may not be so restricted by their trust deeds or memoranda of association. In these cases, which in practice involve the vast majority of objects accepted in lieu of tax, it is necessary to obtain undertakings, and the Government could not agree to dispense with their powers under the Bill to require such undertakings.
The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, asked in particular about capital gains tax and VAT. I have taken careful note of her points about the division of the benefit of tax exemption of such property which is sold by private treaty or offered in lieu. As the noble Baroness will be well aware, these are really matters for my Treasury colleagues, and I assure her that I shall draw to their attention those points as well as other matters of taxation that have been raised in the debate.
The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, also took us to task a little because of slowness in regard to Baddesley Clinton. We came to power only in June, if I remember aright—
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
I beg your Lordships' pardon—in May. In July we took a decision in principle to go ahead with what the noble Baroness's Government had decided—namely, to help—and we were negotiating busily with the owner who, probably quite rightly, wanted certain conditions made. We had to have certain valuations by experts of pictures and various objets d'art, and all this took time. We finally reached agreement in November, and now it is merely a matter of the solicitors drawing up the contract as to what we have actually agreed. So I hope that the noble Baroness will not think too badly about us.
My noble friend Lord Mancroft spoke about museums being able to lend works of art to embassies. This matter is slightly outside the nature of the Bill, but I should point out to him that there is a very good Government collection, which was in the hands of the Department of the Environment. In fact in 1972–73 I was chairman of the Government buying committee of which at that time my noble 111 friend Lord Cottesloe was a distinguished member. We had a budget—which is still there—of £100,000 for buying works of art. At that time I had a list of all the pictures owned by the British Government for Ministries, embassies and consulates, and details of where they were. This is a very fine collection, and I was very surprised to learn that my noble friend Lord Mancroft thought that some of the embassies were very badly "pictured". From my experience they contain extremely good pictures, and if they have not—
§ Lord MANCROFT
If the noble Lord will allow me to intervene, I should like to point out that I was speaking of 20 years ago. Perhaps the fuss I made then has made the noble Lord behave in such a splendid way now.
§ Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON
I was going to say that if an embassy does not have adequate pictures, it is usually the fault of the Ambassador who has not asked for them or has returned them; some Ambassadors return things which they do not like. That is not a matter for the Government. The Government provide the pictures. I should add for your Lordships' information that now the Department of the Environment has given up this picture collection buying and the ownership of the pictures, and the matter has been transferred to the arts and libraries section of the Government.
One of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, was in fact answered in my opening speech. The Government are insistent on reimbursement, as I think the noble Lord probably understands, but I do not have time to go into this problem. If I were to we should be here a very long time.
The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, asked about Laxton being offered for sale. As I expect the noble Baroness knows, this matter is in the hands of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and subject to arrangements which would ensure the preservation of the ancient field system, it is to be offered for sale.
The noble Viscount, Lord Arbuthnott, made strong points about the countryside's needs and interests. Nature conservation has been included in the Bill, and the trustees will have powers to do what the 112 noble Viscount wants them to do; and this will be done. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, asked whether bodies which advise Governments—such as the Scottish Civic Trust—can receive aid. The answer is, yes, if they are purchasing objects or land as defined in Clause 3.
My Lords, I hope that in winding up this debate quickly I have managed to answer to your Lordships' satisfaction at least some of the queries and questions raised. I give your Lordships my assurance that we will study most carefully the written record of this debate, so that we can answer fully the detailed questions which, quite properly, your Lordships have raised and drawn to our attention, and which we shall go into further at Committee stage.
I think it is fair to say that your Lordships have given a most warm and generous welcome to this Bill, and surely this is only right, for it has been heralded by everyone concerned with preserving our national heritage as the most significant step forward since the war, and such all-party support is perhaps rare enough nowadays. The sooner the Bill is enacted, the sooner the National Heritage Memorial Fund can begin to make its contribution towards the preservation of our heritage. I would therefore suggest, my Lords, that it behoves us all to be as speedy in our handling of this Bill as a thorough consideration of its provisions permits.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.