HL Deb 11 March 1980 vol 406 cc813-31

6.59 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now further considered on Report.

Lord GIBSON moved Amendment No. 21: After Clause 4, insert the following new clause:

"Consideration of Historic Association of an Object with a place . In exercising their powers under sections 3 or 4 above in respect of an object or collection or group of objects having a significant association with a particular place, the Trustees shall consider whether it is appropriate for the object, collection or group to be, or continue to be, kept in that place, and for that purpose the Trustees shall obtain such expert advice as appears to them to be appropriate.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, whereas under Part II of the Bill a duty is laid on Ministers, when exercising their functions under the acceptances in lieu procedures, to consider the desirability of leaving objects in places with which they are historically connected, in Part I of the Bill no such duty is laid upon trustees when exercising their functions in relation to giving grants for purchases. I wonder why not. Clause 9(5) in Part II of the Bill cannot be implicit throughout the Bill. Indeed, one would think it implied, since it is not mentioned, that a similar duty is not laid on the trustees. One would think it implicit that they should not have regard to this consideration, and I feel sure that that is not the intention.

In moving this amendment, I should like to make the point as strongly as I can that I am not anti-museum. It was suggested in Committee when an amendment of a rather similar kind was moved, but in different words and with a quite different emphasis, that it was inspired by feelings, in a sense, hostile to museums. I was chairman of the Victoria and Albert Museum Advisory Committee for a number of years and I am on the National Art Collection Fund whose purchases all go to museums. I am extremely museum-minded.

In saying this, may I just make the point that I am sure that the vast majority of objects taken into public ownership through public funds will go to publicly-owned places and not merely be publicly held. But the fact is that there will sometimes be occasions—and it ought to be laid upon the trustees that they consider this on occasion, it must be left to their discretion—when an object which they helped to purchase should be left in the place with which it is historically connected. In leaving it to their discretion, it nevertheless is important to give them guidance in the Bill and not to exclude from Part I a duty which is laid on Ministers in Part II.

Baroness BIRK

I should like to support the amendment to which I have put my name, moved by my noble friend Lord Gibson, for all the reasons which he drew out. Particularly I would like to associate myself with the remarks he made about museums. The Bill is extremely good in covering this point in Part II, and Clause 9(5) is something which we welcome very much indeed. But it is true that the point is not covered in Part I. It would make a very good balance if the Government would accept this amendment, and I hope the Minister will. In the unfortunate event of his not accepting it, I should like to have firm assurances that the trustees will be given guidance on the in situ question in the context of Part I and what the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, has said.

7.2 p.m.


I must apologise because my answer will be slightly longer than I would have liked, but it is very easy to make a generalisation in trying to improve a Bill. To give the full merits of the argument needs a few words occasionally.

Amendments and new clauses very similar to these were debated fully in another place. The Government's view is that leaving objects in situ should be facilitated and encouraged, with due weight given to the matters of conservation, security, public access and opportunity for study by scholars. If taxpayers' money is to be spent in acquiring objects of national heritage quality, we must ensure that they are placed to the best advantage, but that does not necessarily mean that they should remain in the house of the vendor. We shall make sure that the trustees are aware of this in the guidelines which will be provided to them by the Ministers. We have provided in the Bill that the trustees should have the minimum of constraint, and we have tried to leave them free to decide as much as possible for themselves.

They have to decide on their own definition of the national heritage. They have to decide on what experts they consult what conditions they impose on the assistance they give, and what proportion of the purchase price they bear. Against this background, we have to ask whether these new clauses add to or detract from the powers of the trustees. The trustees, I would point out to the noble Baroness, already have the power to make such conditions as they see fit under Clause 3(5). In deciding whether to give assistance, they can take into account any relevant considerations. It is improbable in the extreme that the question as to whether an object should be kept in situ will go by default. The vendor will be bound to raise it. In important cases, the trustees will be bombarded with advice on the point. It will be open to the trustees to decide, whether, in any publicity that they put out, they wish to say anything on the in situ aspect of their work.

The new clause thus does no more than state what is bound to happen anyway, but we need to remember that the bodies which will be seeking to acquire objects will for the most part be museums and galleries. Very few of these, national or local, will be prepared to lay out money of their own for the purchase of an item which they will not be allowed to put on their own premises. They will be persuaded to so do only in exceptional circumstances, but if the trustees are placed under an obligation to consider the point this could imply that they should always give this factor priority. Then some museums could be induced to back out because the conditions were unacceptable, or they might be frightened off from applying for assistance in the first place. We do not want the trustees and the museums to hassle over whether they are prepared to co-operate in the purchase of objects in case after case because the in situ aspect is given undue weight. I would not wish to make too much of this point, since the clause attempts to confine its scope to those cases where the in situ point arises, and that is likely to be a very small proportion of all the cases that come to the trustees for assistance.

The new clause also attempts to relate this to Clause 4, which deals with the situation where the trustees are to acquire and hold property in their own right. It is not the Government's intention that Clause 4 should be used except in very rare cases which shall always be considered on their merits by Ministers. In such cases, the question of the ultimate destination of the property would be the central issue to be decided. It would be superfluous to make an explicit reference to the question of keeping the item in situ.

The short point is that the new clause is really unnecessary and counter-productive. I take some comfort from the rather vague terms in which it has been drafted which do not specify why the trustees have to take the matter of the in situ aspect into account and what they should do about it once they have formed a view. I hope that the new clause will not be pressed in view of the assurances I have given about the trustee's existing powers and the guidelines they will receive from Ministers.


I was expecting the Minister to give us the answer which I thought I had got. I was so sure that he would give it that I did not bother to make reference to the fact that this point is covered by an earlier Finance Act. I do not know whether the noble Minister has that, but I think it was 1971, but I cannot remember what section. I was advised that this was covered by that Act, and therefore this is unnecessary. If that is not the case, I think his answer is not entirely satisfactory.


I must confess, speaking off the cuff, that I am not able to answer the noble Lord on that point at this moment, but I should have thought that the arguments I put forth were in their own right totally satisfactory, to be quite honest.


It is obviously pointless to press this amendment. We have been given very satisfactory assurances. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that I do not understand the point about the Finance Act, which surely applies to the in lieu procedures, whereas I was trying to extend the duty to the trustees in the exercise of their functions. I should have thought that what was sauce for the ministerial goose was sauce for the trustees' gander, but I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 not moved.]

Clause 12 [Approval of property for acceptance in satisfaction of tax]:

7.10 p.m.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 24:

Page 8, line 15, at end insert— ("(d) at the end of sub-paragraph (5) there shall be inserted the words "and, in determining under sub-paragraph (4) above whether an object or collection or group of objects is pre-eminent, regard shall be had to any significant association of the object, collection or group with a particular place,"").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if I speak to Amendment No. 27 with this amendment. An amendment along these lines was moved during Committee stage by my noble friend the Duke of Grafton. I said then that it would seem to be a useful clarification, but that I should like to check that the amendment had no adverse effects on another aspect of existing Government policy. I am happy to say that this has been done and I beg to move.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord for moving this amendment, because it is very much what we wanted. It is a tremendous improvement and it covers a great deal of the ground that we have been concerned with regarding the significant associations of objects or collections with a particular place. Therefore, I welcome it with great gratitude.


My Lords, I, too, am very glad that the Government themselves have introduced this amendment. It is clear that an object which may be of no outstanding importance in one setting may in another context be entitled to pre-eminent status and that the degree of importance attaching to an object is not in itself absolute.

I will give your Lordships an example. I know of two saddles—they do not belong to me though I have a family interest in them—two 17th century saddles, with their stirrups and bridles, leathers and reins and with associated screw-barrelled horse pistols—that are no doubt of substantial antiquarian interest, though I should doubt whether they are themselves of pre-eminent importance. But when it is known that they are the saddles ridden by King Charles I and Prince Rupert at the Battle of Naseby, they clearly have an historical interest. Whether they would, if they were in the Victoria and Albert Museum, be regarded as pre-eminent among the fine things there, I do not know—perhaps they would. But when it can be added that they are in the house where the King and Prince Rupert left them when they changed horses during their flight to Leicester after the battle (no doubt they were in a hurry and were glad to get rid of their conspicuous trappings), no one can doubt that in that particular place where they were left by the King and Prince Rupert in those circumstances and where they have remained to this day, they have a pre-eminent degree of interest and importance.

That being said, I must say that I prefer my own Amendment No. 25 to that of my noble friend's because it refers specifically to museums and galleries of different kinds. That is important because something which would not be preeminent in the context, say, of the National Gallery or the British Museum, might well be pre-eminent in a local collection. The point, therefore, is of some importance, and I hope that my noble friend may feel able to accept my amendment in place of his.


My Lords, If I may speak again with the leave of the House, because I am also now wishing to speak about my noble friend's Amendment No. 25, I should like to take this opportunity of reaffirming for the record what the Government's policy is. We obviously accept that an object can be pre-eminent per se or pre-eminent only by virtue of the setting with which it has been particularly associated. We also accept that when an object is assessed for pre-eminence it should be judged not in relation only to the great national collections but also in relation to collections of local authority and university museums and galleries. That has been Government policy, as your Lordships will know, since 1972 and I hope it is well understood that this is the position.

With regard to my noble friend's amendment, it is very similar to our own, as he said;but I hope he will not press the merits of his amendment beause it is defective in that it does not cover the position of estate duty cases, some of which may arise for a good while to come yet. Having said that, I hope that my noble friend will see the wisdom of accepting the Government's amendment.

[Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 not moved.]

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTONmoved Amendment No. 27:

Page 8, line 23, at end insert— ("(13) Any question whether an object or collection or group of objects is pre-eminent shall be determined under the provisions mentioned in section 8(3)(b) or (c) above in the same way as under the said paragraph 17(4).").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment in connection with Amendment No. 24. I beg to move.

Clause 14 [Transfer of Ministerial functions]:

Lord REIGATEmoved Amendment No. 28: Page 9, line 2, leave out ("National").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is consequential on an earlier amendment. I beg to move.

Lord REIGATEmoved Amendment No. 29: Page 9, line 2, leave out ("Memorial").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is consequential. I beg to move.

7.16 p.m.

Lord ROSS of MARNOCK moved Amendment No. 30:

Page 9, line 13, at end insert— ("(4) Without prejudice to the generality of subsections (1) and (2) above the functions of the Ministers in respect of the acceptance of land may be transferred to the Trustees in isolation from those in respect of other types of property.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the permission of the noble Earl and at his request, I desire to move this amendment. It concerns a point he has pursued for some time and it springs from what happened in another place, I think, at column 1434 on 30th January, when Mr. Hector Monro, the Under-Secretary of State, said: I hope that all those who are concerned with our heritage are clear where we stand on Clause 14. I hope there will be no concern about the way in which it will be implemented in the future".

The fact that this amendment is on the Marshalled List is an indication that not everyone is entirely happy about the way in which Clause 14 is going to be implemented—mainly as a result of a letter which was read in another place by Mr. Andrew Faulds. It contained these words, which were the words of the Chancellor of the Duchy—remembering that this clause empowers the Government to transfer from the respective Ministers, either both or one of them. their functions under Part II of the Act to the trustees. This was said in this letter: I will not put forward a draft order for parliamentary approval unless I have the willing consent of the museums". The words in the clause are "any functions". I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Wemyss does not resent the fact that the museums have had this promise given to them, but it brings us back to the meaning of the word, "any". Does this mean that this pledge is going to cover all the functions of the Minister?—because there may be functions that affect the museums and functions that affect other interests. The noble Earl points out in this amendment the land interests, and he suggests that without generality to the powers, this promise should not affect the possibility of transfer of the land interest to the trustees in due course. I beg to move.


My Lords, I spoke on this in Committee and I want to speak on it again. My belief is that the correct and best course that the National Heritage Act and Fund can pursue is summed up in Clause 14. I wish to see the trustees looking after all affairs to do with both real property and chattels, in lieu and otherwise;but I do not think it is desirable to push this through against the fairly strong opposition of half the customers—that is, the museums. Therefore, I have a certain sympathy with the Minister for the Arts, who wrote this letter, and I have to confess that I think it was a mild indiscretion to put it on paper. I have sympathy with him and if I were in his position I do not think I should want to force this through if one of the beneficiaries was strongly against it. This blocks the desire of the other beneficiaries, the landlords, who are keen to get this put through. The amendment suggests that the Government should undertake one half without the other.

The amendment is not only unnecessary, but a little controversial. If after long discussion with the museums the Minister fails to convince them, it is within his capacity to do this in any event. I cannot see what there is to stop it. If that is the case, it is slightly contentious to accept this amendment, and I would be cautious in agreeing to it.


My Lords, my noble friend will appreciate the wording of the letter. The letter said: …I will not put forward a draft order for parliamentary approval unless I have the willing consent of the museums". That virtually gives them a veto over any action which is desired to be taken by the Government.


My Lords, it does not appear to me to do that. It means that if there is a situation of deadlock, the Minister will have to solve it in whatever way he thinks best. One way is to say that he will pass this section over and not that section. There is nothing in the Bill to stop him from doing this.


My Lords, my sympathies lie with the ex-Minister for the Arts rather than with the ex-Secretary of State for Scotland. On the face of it, the amendment, as moved by the noble Lord, Lord Ross, is an attractive one. It would appear to enable us to satisfy both wings of the heritage movement by enabling us to pass to the trustees responsibility for accepting land in lieu of tax while retaining responsibility for acceptances ofworks of art and other items. Nevertheless, the Government must resist the amendment.

Let me make clear that we have no intentions of ever dividing responsibility for acceptance in lieu. This would, I think, be confusing both for those making the offer and those concerned with providing expert advice on quality and value. What would happen, for example, if a house and its contents, or a combination of some land—an historic house and one or two works of art—were offered in satisfaction of one tax bill? Two sets of people would be responsible for decisions, and this would inevitably lead to delays, and possibly to dual standards. I am sure that your Lordships and all who are concerned with preserving the heritage would not wish us to get into that situation.

We recognise that there is a difference of view between the historic houses world and the arts world on this point. The Government promised to retain the in-lieu system in its present form, and to all intents and purposes that is what we have done. However, we have had no choice but to make some changes, and the main one is, of course, that the Arts Departments instead of the Treasury, will be responsible for decisions on acceptance. We hope that this arrangement will work as smoothly as, or even more smoothly than, its predecessor, but we cannot be sure. That is why we have Clause 14 in the Bill.

If the present arrangements do not work as well as we hoped, we have the facility to bring in the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund without recourse to primary legislation. The Government intend to review the workings of the revised acceptance-in-lieu procedures once we have had a chance to see how they work out in practice—perhaps in two years or so—and if, in the light of that review and consultations with representatives of both the historic houses and arts interests, we feel that it would be appropriate to transfer responsibility to the trustees, we shall do so. But it would he unproductive to debate this point any further at this stage.

Again, I think that there was a clear misunderstanding on the part of some of those who studied the terms of the letter which my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster sent to Mr. Andrew Faulds on this subject on 30th January, the day of the Report stage of the Bill in another place. When he said in his letter that he would not put forward a draft order for parliamentary approval unless he had the willing consent of the museums, he was not speaking in his capacity as a Minister with responsibility for the management of Government business, as Leader of another place, but as Minister for the Arts. He was limiting himself explicitly to the area within his area of departmental policy responsibility. This must be evident when one considers that my honourable friend Mr. Hector Monro, who has responsibility, with me, for the environment side of the heritage, went on at once to say that the letter put in much more eloquent and clear terms what he had been saying in Committee and that he hoped there would be no concern about the way in which it would be implemented in future. In view of what I have said, and also bearing in mind the need to speed up our consideration of the Bill, I hope that the noble Lord will not press this amendment.


My Lords, in view of what the Minister has said about a review, and as the Minister intends to keep in touch with both sides—the failure to do so previously was a great mistake-1 shall not press the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 [Commencement]:

7.25 p.m.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 31: Leave out Clause 18.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Government have always made it clear that we hoped to set the new fund up and transfer the acceptance-in-lieu provisions to the new Ministers at the start of the financial year 1980–81—that is, on 1st April 1980. When the Bill was originally drafted, we were not sure whether it would make such rapid progress that it would achieve Royal Assent well before 1st April or whether it would suffer delay and not secure Royal Assent until some time later. For this reason we included provision for a commencement order in the Bill. As your Lordships are aware, we have now taken steps to arrange that the Bill may go through its remaining stages in time to meet this deadline, and I am grateful to all those who have curtailed their speeches in order to assist us. A commencement order should therefore no longer be necessary.

We are advised that the grant-in-aid can be paid into the fund as soon as the Act receives Royal Assent and that it can start to earn interest right away.

My right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for the Environment have been actively considering the names of possible trustees, in consultation with the Prime Minister, and I hope that we can announce the name of the chairman very soon. This has been somewhat complicated by the decisions which we took last night.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I am delighted to hear the Minister's assurances and his promise to enforce this by the beginning of April. If by any unhappy, unlikely and unfortunate chance—not to do with your Lordships' House—there is any delay, do I assume that the interest on the capital will be paid? This amounts to about £100,000 a month, and it would be disastrous if the fund did not get this right from the beginning.


My Lords, I am speaking off the cuff, but I do not think it would be able to earn interest in the Heritage Fund until it is actually paid into that fund.


My Lords, does this mean that in another place the Government will accept our amendment?


My Lords, I have no information on that subject.


My Lords, that could cause delay.


My Lords, the Government have had very strong advice from this House but it is not for me to advise my right honourable friends as to how they will see fit to implement this. A little angel has just wafted me information. I can tell the House that interest will be paid on the capital. I take that to mean that it will be paid as from 1st April, whether it is paid in or not.


My Lords, the Minister referred to the further progress of the Bill in this House as well as in another place. Will he give some idea of the opportunity that will be given on Third Reading, including the opportunity to move amendments which appear to me to he necessary and consequential, on what has gone before?


My Lords, if I have the leave of the House —we are becoming a little unconstitutional tonight—I think the answer is that one takes a risk in this matter, if we are to have the Bill on the statute book by about 1st April. If noble Lords are going to move amendments which will be heavily contested in another place, then I should have thought that we were putting the Bill at risk, which I am sure is a fate which we all want to avoid.


My Lords, may I ask what possible reason there could be for moving amendments on Third Reading, when they have not been moved tonight? What is the object? Why were they not moved tonight?


My Lords, it is not for me and I have no amendment. But we have one slight problem. Amendment No. 3 last night, which was purely consequential and totally unimportant, was omitted. It is not shown in Hansard as having been moved. That is the only one. It is so inconsequential that we could rectify that at Third Reading, without any possible let or hindrance. That should never be considered to be a worry. But any major amendment which has not been moved up till now would, I am certain, delay the Bill.


My Lords, only so that the House should feel that there would be no possibility of unnecessary delay, having heard the noble Lord say that two Ministers who were named in the previous debate were now consulting with the Prime Minister, and since the only alteration would be that the Prime Minister would have to consult with the Ministers, could they merely rearrange their seats and get on with the job?

Schedule 1 [The Trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund]:

7.32 p.m.

Baroness BIRKmoved Amendment No. 32:

Page 13, line 10, at end insert— (".—(1) Her Majesty may by Order in Council provide for the payment of emoluments to the Chairman of the Trustees out of the Fund. (2) No Order shall be made under this paragraph unless a draft of the Order has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment arises out of our previous discussion in Committee, when there was a very strong feeling by everybody that there should be a permissive power to enable the chairman of the trustees to be paid, if and when necessary. The amendment was subsequently defeated in a Division, and it seemed to me and to my noble friends that there might be a way of doing what was wanted—hence the amendment before your Lordships tonight—by Order in Council. The advantage of that is that it distances itself even further from what Ministers evidently feel is an unpopular decision.

It means that the power would not be activated at any time, unless the Government wished to activate it. It also means that an order cannot be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, each House of Parliament. So that it leaves the situation almost as it is now, but with the opportunity to pick up the power if it is needed, without having to go to primary legislation. Since I think we all believe, whichever Government is in power, that there is far too much legislation, this seemed to me to be a very neat way out of the problem and a happy solution which should not offend anyone. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, I should like to support the noble Baroness in this amendment, which is very modest in relation to the one which was pressed in Committee. At the end of the day, it merely provides for the remote possibility, should it prove to be necessary, of remunerating the chairman. I think that the Government would be very unwise to resist this amendment. As I said in Committee and I say it again now, they would be very ill-advised at this stage to do anything which would in any way narrow their choice of the chairman of this very important body. None of us should underestimate the weight of the burden which the chairman will bear, particularly in the initial years of this scheme.

When I spoke in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, replied that he felt there would be no difficulty and that the Government were looking for a cultured generalist. It may well be that they will find one. My fear is that it is possible, at the end of the day, that the noble Lord may find that his choice is limited to a few rich, retired, cultured generalists.

Let me make it quite clear that I have no objection whatever to the riches, particularly if they are self-accumulated. They may be evidence of activity and endeavour;and, indeed, they may have given the person concerned an opportunity to have close familiarity with the kind of things that we are trying to preserve. But I am a little worried about the retired. I am sure that each and every one of us hopes that for this appointment we will have somebody who is extremely vigorous and able, and I feel that to have the maximum possible choice the Government ought to have this last opportunity for remuneration should that prove necessary. It may not prove necessary.


My Lords, I fully appreciate the sincerity with which the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and the noble Lord. Lord Winstanley, have spoken to this amendment, and let me assure them that I fully appreciate the argument which they are putting forward. We have no wish to look around for some man who is so rich that he does not need to have any other succour. As your Lordships are aware, we are providing the normal expenses for travelling and so on, which will be necessary for the job to be done. But once the first few weeks or months are over, we do not expect this to be anything approaching a full-time job. The chairman and the trustees will have a full-time secretariat—not big, but efficient—which will do the job. They will be approached by people;it is not a job where they will have to think about what they are going to do. They will not be there to go looking for things;they will be there to be approached.

We have already debated and divided on this question three times in our two Houses. I appreciate that this is a very ingenious attempt to get around the previous objections, by merely leaving the issue open for a future Government to decide without recourse to primary legislation. However, there is no essential difference between this provision and the one on which we have already voted to give the Government permissive power to pay the chairman. All that this amendment does is to make it a little harder for a Government to do this, by obliging them first to bring in an Order in Council. If they wished to do this, of course they could do so.

The principle at stake is whether we should refer at all, on the face of the Bill, to the idea of paying the chairman of the trustees. We remain of the opinion that it would be totally wrong to countenance this idea. If the noble Baroness presses her amendment, I am very sorry but we shall have to ask your Lordships to vote again on the matter and, as before, to reject the amendment.


My Lords, I hope that the Prime Minister and Her Majesty the Queen will not appoint somebody who is so rich and so retired that he does not think before he acts, which is what it seemed to me the noble Lord was saying we could expect from the chairman. I think I must have misunderstood him, but that is what he seemed to me to say. At the end of our deliberations, it would be a pity to divide again, as the cohorts which always lurk behind the Front Bench are all having supper, and I cannot see any point in putting to a vote something which we are bound to lose by an enormous amount. So I shall advise my noble friend that I do not think it is worth pursuing, though I think that the Government will be quite wrong, as is often the case.


My Lords, by leave of the House, and before the noble Lord sits down I must say that I never said that we were looking for someone who was so rich that he could not do the job. We are not interested in whether he is a rich man or a poor man. All we are interested in is whether he is a man of general culture and common sense.


My Lords, as I was the black sheep on the last occasion, and voted with the Opposition on the amendment which they proposed, I should like to express once again my regret that Her Majesty's Government are not prepared to accept this amendment, which is even less permissive than the last one. If a proposal was brought forward under the resolution, I should vote against it. It will he quite unnecessary, for a very long time to come, to find someone suitable who needs to be paid—if one may put it in that way, without being too discourteous. So it seems to me, as statutes are usually designed for all time, that you may just as well have this power. I hope that it will not be used for some time, but at least, if there was a change of circumstances, the power would be there.


My Lords, I recognise that powerful arguments have been put forward in favour of this amendment: that it is only an enabling amendment and that it can only be brought into effect by an order approved by Parliament. But there is another side to the coin. If it is operated at all, then it will probably become in practice the general rule. The chairman of a public body, in my experience—and I have a little experience—if he is unpaid, has the real advantage that no political pressure from his Minister can interfere with the exercise of his independent judgment of what is in the best interests of the enterprise. That independence of judgment and action has at times real advantages. I think that perhaps the House should consider that, on the other side of the argument.


My Lords, if I may add to what has been said, is it contended by those who urge this course that this will be a job demanding, let us say, three days a week? In which case I can think of many people who might otherwise he well suited who might hesitate. I find it difficult to believe that it will make such inroads on time. When I cast my eye round the horizon of museums and similar bodies with which I am connected, I should have thought that the experience of the last quarter of a century showed that people of modest means are willing to accept the position and the honour.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (The Earl of Listowel)

My Lords, is it your Lordships' pleasure that this amendment be withdrawn? The Amendment is by leave——

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I have listened very carefully to what everybody has said, including the noble Lord the Minister. I am very sorry that the amendment has got this rather dusty reception. I thought it was rather ingenious and I certainly hoped that it would be acceptable. I do not think that there is any point——


My Lords, I think that the noble Baroness is out of order.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I moved the amendment;it is mine and it has not been withdrawn. I think I am in order and I shall go on until I am proved to be out of order. As the Minister has said, the principle contained in this amendment has now been voted on several times. I agree with my noble friend Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge that the tramp of the heavy feet of those who had not used their ears but who would march through the Division Lobby would make it a rather wasteful exercise. Therefore I shall, with leave, withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 33 not moved.]


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure for 16 minutes, after which we will resume the Committee stage of the Education (No. 2) Bill.

[The sitting was suspended from 7.44 p.m. to 8 p.m.]