HL Deb 17 March 1980 vol 407 cc38-55

4.19 p.m.

Bill read 3a;with the amendments.

Clause 1 [Establishment of National Heritage Memorial Fund]:

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 8, leave out (" hereinafter referred to as the"Heritage Fund"").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 1. There are two separate loose ends to tie up as a result of the amendment moved to Clause 1(1) on Report. The first concerns the way in which we refer to the fund in the Bill. As regards that matter I should like to speak to my Amendment No. 1; and Amendments Nos. 2, 5 and 7 to 15 and 17 and 18 by my noble friend Lord Reigate. The second matter concerns the corporate name of the trustees. As regards that matter, I should like to speak to my Amendments Nos. 4 and 16 and Amendment No. 3 tabled by my noble friend Lord Reigate. I apologise to your Lordships for bringing up these points at this stage, but we are dealing with a very complicated piece of drafting which was tabled as a starred amendment, which our legal advisers had little opportunity to study before the debate; and one of the purposes of Third Reading is to get this sort of matter put right.

The statement, which is embodied in Clause 1(1) as amended, which says that the fund is referred to in the Bill as the"Heritage Fund ", is incorrect. My noble friend Lord Reigate seeks to cure this blemish by adding the word"Heritage"before"fund"wherever the word"fund"appears. The alternative is to dispense, as we suggest in our amendment, with the words"hereinafter referred to as the Heritage Fund ". We think our amendment is the more elegant and economical. We lose the benefit of having a shorter name for the fund on the face of the statute, but I should stress, however, that the Bill provides only that this shorter name is for use in the Bill itself.

I am not sure how much of a loss that would be. There are other examples of bodies in the arts world whose formal names are shortened in common parlance. For instance, the Arts Council of Great Britain, as it is described in its charter, is always known in ordinary discourse as the Arts Council; and the Hall of the Arts and Science is always known as the Royal Albert Hall, or even the Albert Hall. Do we really need to legislate for ordinary discourse?

There is a further small problem if we follow my noble friend's amendments. If we leave in the statement that my Amendment No. 1 seeks to delete, then, in the next subsection, we have a reference to the fund which is in strictness a reference to the name of the trustees. I will come back to this point later, but it leaves an ambiguity in the Bill which it would be desirable to get rid of.

If we wanted to go into this seriously, it would be possible to tackle the matter by means of more drastic redrafting, but I do not think we should attempt that at Third Reading. So far as this point is concerned, it is largely a matter of taste whether our Amendment No. 1 is preferred to my noble friend Lord Reigate's Amendments Nos. 2, 5, 7 to 15, 17 and 18, though his amendments would leave us with this minor logical blemish in the first few lines of the statute.

My Amendments Nos. 4 and 16 and my noble friend's Amendment No. 3 raise a different matter. We are here dealing not with the name of the fund, but with the corporate name of the trustees; the name by which they are to be known. The Bill says quite firmly that the fund is to be known as the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and I put it to your Lordships that it would be decidedly odd to provide that the body corporate of the trustees was to be known by a name different from that by which the Bill provides for the fund itself to be known.

To summarise the position, as regards the name of the trustees, I strongly advise your Lordships to accept Amendments Nos. 4 and 16 standing in my name, and I hope my noble friend will withdraw his Amendment No. 3. As regards the other references to the fund in the Bill, in the light of what I have said, my noble friend may wish to withdraw his other Amendments, Nos. 2 and 5, and 7 to 15, 17 and 18, but if not, as I have said, this is a matter of taste and I am content to abide by the wishes of your Lordships. I beg to move.


My Lords, my noble friend has been kind enough to give me some elucidation of what he was about to say. The issue seems to be a fairly simple one. I thought that on the Report stage the amendment which I put forward met the sentiments of all sides of the House and provided the fund with what might be termed a convenient, short, corporate name under which it could act and have its being. Afterwards, it was pointed out to me that I had made a technical error in not referring to it as the"Heritage Fund"throughout the Bill, and all my amendments are consequential on the fact that it is clearer to refer to it as the"Heritage Fund ".

My noble friend leaves me in a dilemma, because as I understand it, it would now be illegal for the fund to use the name"Heritage Fund ". Unless it is, in some form, given legal authority by this Bill, it would become simply a nickname. This is what I was initially advised, which is one of the reasons that I have included the reference:"… hereinafter referred to as the"Heritage Fund "

It is a little unfortunate—and I am not sure whose fault it is—that we must have these rather petty arguments on drafting points at this late stage in the Bill. I should like my noble friend to satisfy me as to whether, in fact, the body can usefully operate as the"Heritage Fund ". I raised the rather flippant reference to the telephone operator having to answer the telephone every time it rings with,"National Heritage Memorial Fund ". I am sure that that could be overcome without anything ensuing, but in legal documents and in the publications the fund might have—for instance, its annual report—would it be in order to refer to it as the,"Heritage Fund "? Can my noble friend answer that? I should have thought not. Therefore, I think that this becomes rather important.

However, I am in some difficulty. This is all having to be done in rather a hurry, which I deplore. I should like to have the opinion of the House as a whole as to whether what I might call the"Reigate system"is or is not better than the"Mowbray system ", or should I say correctly the"Mowbray, Segrave and Stourton system "?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I also find myself in a dilemma here. Being eminently reasonable, I find that I like parts of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, and parts of the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Reigate. There have been occasions when I have been very ready to criticise the drafting of officials. We had the Report stage of this Bill last Monday and Tuesday, and at the end of that stage it was not altogether clear quite what had been accepted or what was happening. The feeling or the House at that time was that first and foremost Members wanted what is in the Bill—what it is a memorial for and about.

My feeling was that it should be the"National Heritage Fund ", because that would involve a smaller change than changing it to the"Heritage Fund ", but I do not feel very strongly about that. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, that it would be possible to use this as a working title. It would be rather heavy going, for instance, if writing paper were headed the"National Heritage Memorial Fund ". 1 wonder whether there is a way in which we can get round this. I take the point about," hereinafter referred to as the Heritage Fund '"and the question of the vesting in trustees—that is a problem. But on page 9 of the Bill I am quite happy for it to be spelt out as it is, that: Her Majesty may by Order in Council provide for the transfer to the Trustees ". I should hate this Bill to be held up any further. Indeed, perhaps one way of tackling this problem could be for a manuscript amendment to be tabled immediately. If the drafting which the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, has attempted to amend is incorrect—and it seems to me that there is some substance in that— and if we go along with the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, and call it the"National Heritage Memorial Fund ", would it be possible to insert in the correct place in the Bill: …hereinafter known as the Heritage Fund or the National Heritage Fund "? If it is possible to do that, I have a feeling from what was said last time that it would probably suit us all because the genesis of it is included. We have the spelt-out title where it should be so far as the trustees and the fund are concerned. All we lack is the legal or statutory permission to be able to use a shorter working title for the operation of the fund. I think there that either the"Heritage Fund"or"National Heritage Fund"makes rather more sense once it gets under way and starts working than this rather long title. Whether that is a possibility, I do not know.


My Lords, in this difficult semantic problem I feel some considerable sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray. It seems to me that as regards legal documents and letter headings The National Heritage Memorial Fund"is a suitable title. I cannot believe that in ordinary speech it will be referred to as other than the"Heritage Fund ". But that does not seem to me to matter very much. The important thing is the legal status and the letter headings. As regards the letter headings, on the whole I think that it is rather more important and conveys exactly what your Lordships have wished to be the spirit of the Bill throughout.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, has really made the point that I should like to make. The fund is not able to act under its shorter name in legal parlance. It is only a name to refer to it by in the Bill. In fact, it would be a nickname, as my noble friend Lord Reigate said. I do not think there is any matter of great import in this. It is a matter of elegance and neatness. I should like to leave it like that. I should like your Lordships to prefer my Amendment No. 1 to my noble friend's Amendments Nos. 2, 5, 7 to 15, 17 and 18.

On a more important note, I take grave issue over my Amendments Nos. 4 and 16 to my noble friend's Amendment No. 3. But as regards the first set, I hope your Lordships will take Lord Robbins' advice and my advice, and that my noble friend might see fit in the circumstances not to move his amendments. It is not a matter of grave import. It is just a matter of how we phrase it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

4.32 p.m.

Lord REIGATE moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 13, after (" the") insert (" Heritage ")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend will note that I did not even say"object ", or anything else, on the last amendment, so it will be obvious that I am going to withdraw this amendment. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, says. I just think that it is a pity that we have had to do all this in such a hurry. If the draftsmen had been locked up together for a little while they could have produced something that would have satisfied everybody. But there it is, we have reached this stage, and therefore I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 4: Page 1, line 14, at end insert (" Memorial ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this has been spoken to. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 5 not moved.]

Clause 2 [Payments in to the Fund]:

4.35 p.m.

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 6: Page 2, line 13, leave out (" Ministers ") and insert (" Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (in this Act referred to as"the Ministers ") ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a consequential amendment to the amendment moved on Report by the noble Lord, Lord Reigate, to provide for appointment of the trustees by the Crown on the advice of the Prime Minister instead of by the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. We still need this clarification as to who the Ministers are who are referred to in this Bill, and this is the appropriate point to insert it. I beg to move.


My Lords, I find that this is totally illogical and unnecessary. My noble friend will have noticed that Clause 18 says who the Ministers are. It says: the Ministers ' means the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster ". I see no reason to put it in at an earlier stage. My noble friend said that this was consequential on my amendment stating that the trustees should be appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Prime Minister. It is nothing of the sort. I fully realise that throughout the text of the Bill"the Ministers"are there, but I satisfied myself that who the Ministers were was stated clearly in Clause 18. Therefore, I see no reason whatsoever for this amendment.

My noble friend may be aware that Clause 18 is what is sometimes known as an interpretation clause. There are plenty of occasions when, for example, the Treasury is referred to, and to find the reason why"the Treasury"means the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster—the Chancellor of the Exchequer (your Lordships will see why I got a little obsessed with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster), you have to go back, to, I think, 1880. I think it is unnecessary.


My Lords, I must"come clean"to your Lordships. After my noble friend Lord Reigate had carried his amendments giving the responsibility for the appointment of the trustees to the Crown on the advice of the Prime Minister, I rose and mentioned that I thought that a consequential amendment might be needed on the lines now proposed, but I agree with my noble friend Lord Reigate that this amendment does not seem to be necessary atfer all. it brings us to the strange position which, so far as I know, is unprecedented, that we shall have in this fairly short Bill two identical definitions of the expression"the Ministers ", as my noble friend Lord Reigate has pointed out. It is unnecessary and it is tauto- logical to have such a situation. Therefore, perhaps my noble friend Lord Mowbray would reconsider whether his amendment really is necessary.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I am inclined to agree with the last speakers over this. I can see how the problem has arisen, because in this case the Minister for the Arts is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. This is explained in Clause 18, but by spelling out earlier in the Bill the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it seems to me that one is building that into a statute. I think that this is rather strange. This is nothing to do with the present incumbent of that office personally, but there is no reason for us to believe that this situation going on in perpetuity, or that it will always be the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. One day there may be a Secretary of State for the Arts, or it may be decided to rearrange the whole order of Ministers who have responsibility for the Arts and the heritage.

I am a little worried about building it in there at that point when this is not something just for this Parliament; it is something to go on the statute book. I see people in the future looking at this and wondering what it is all about. While they can turn to Cause 18, I should have thought that here it should still be"Ministers "; then one turns to Clause 18 to see what the present position is. I am not convinced by what the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, has said to US.


My Lords, if there are two definitions in different parts of the Bill it may be unnecessary but does it do any harm so long as they are identical, which they are?


My Lords, my noble friend Lord Cottesloe's last question has me wondering. My noble friend Lord Reigate's amendment to provide:hat the trustees are appointed by the Crown on the advice of the Prime Minister had the effect of deleting from Clause 1(2) the words explaining that the Ministers in the Bill were the Secretary of State and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The amendment reinstates this clarification at the earliest possible moment. It is important to indicate who the Ministers are; it is no good having"Ministers"in the Bill without the point being clarified and it is not good practice to rely entirely on an interpretation clause. This is a matter of drafting style and the parliamentary draftsmen have advised us specifically that the Bill should be drafted in this way.


My Lords, having regard to the existing Ministerial hierarchy and the relationships of the persons concerned, I am inclined to agree with what has been urged by the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, but I would ask the noble Lord, in his other capacity of being mixed up from time to time with the usual channels, whether, in the event of responsibility for the arts departing from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, whoever he may be at the time, an alteration could be made in the legal position nullifying this reference in the Bill?


My Lords, I do not think there is any intention of nullifying the interests of my right honourable friends the Chancellor of the Duchy or the Secretary of State for the Environment.


That was not my intention, my Lords. My intention was simply to ask whether, if responsibility for the arts ceased to adhere to the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster, an amending Bill could be rushed through in order that the rest of the measure should not be illegally orientated.


My Lords, I should have said that there is no statutory title"Minister of the Crown with Responsibility for the Arts ". This is merely a factual description of the Ministers who from time to time have that responsibility.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, unless I have missed it, it seems that nowhere does the Bill say that the Secretary of State referred to is the Secretary of State for the Environment; it simply refers to the Secretary of State, and there are lots of them. Then, in Clause 18, it defines the duties of the Chancellor in his capacity as a Minister of the Crown with responsibility for the Arts but, nevertheless, it says that"Minister"means"Secretary of State ". Should it not at some point refer to the Secretary of State for the Environment, if we are going to spell it out?


My Lords, I am certain that if one looks at the Bill in its entirety the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are spelt out in full, and I am not worried on that point.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I do not want to press the noble Lord unnecessarily, but if, as he says, it is spelt out—and I am sorry to be stupid about it—may I ask him to bring to my attention where it is spelt out? I am informed by some of my noble friends that they, too, are unable to find it. I cannot find any reference to the Secretary of State for the Environment.


My Lords, a note has just come to my hand saying that it is standard practice not to refer specifically to particular Secretaries of State but to refer to"Secretary of State"at large. That may explain the point the noble Baroness is worrying about.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (The Earl of Listowel)

My Lords, the Question is that this amendment be agreed to. As many as are of that opinion will say"Content "; to the contrary,"Not Content ".




I think the"Not Contents"have it.


My Lords, could the Question be put again?


My Lords, your Lordships have decided that you are Not-Content as regards Amendment No. 6.


I am sorry, my Lords; I should have said"Content ".


My Lords, from my knowledge of the procedure of the House it is not possible to go back on a decision of the House once it has been taken.


Perhaps the Question could be put again.


As I say, my Lords, my experience of your Lordships' House is that it is not possible to go back on a decision, once taken.


My Lords, this is a matter which, I think, is dependent on the wish of the House and I ask the House for its indulgence. It was a very complicated set of amendments to which we were speaking and they were very confused. I would ask the indulgence of noble Lords to allow the Question on the amendment to be put again. Unless anybody specifically objects, I suggest that the Deputy Speaker puts the Question again.


If I take that to be the the wish of the House, my Lords, I will do that.


Go ahead, put it again.


If no member of your Lordships' House objects, I will put the Question again.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 7 to 15 not moved.]

Clause 14 [Transfer of Ministerial functions]:

Lord MOWBRAY and STOURTON moved Amendment No. 16: Page 9, line 2, leave out (" Heritage ") and insert (" National Heritage Memorial ").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have already spoken to this amendment; I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 not moved.]

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

I think few here will disagree with me when I say that this was a good Bill even when it was first introduced. Since then, of course, it has received thorough consideration in another place and a number of major improvements have been made, not least in the extension of the indemnity proposals in Part III. I would like once again to acknowledge the role played by my honourable friend Mr. Hector Monro in steering this Bill through another place.

Today we near the end of our own consideration of this draft legislation. Your Lordships have also been extremely thorough in your deliberations and, though the Government have not been able to accept all the amendments tabled, I believe you, too, have secured significant improvements. As a result, we now have a Bill which has been tuned very finely to the views of those who are closely concerned with the preservation of our heritage. I must also express the Government's gratitude to your Lordships for your co-operation in helping the Government keep to their rather tight deadline on this Bill. I, too, had to forego my dinner hour on Monday and Tuesday last week, so I am well aware of the sacrifice in which we have all been involved. In particular, I thank the two Front Bench Opposition peers, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kings-bridge, and the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, to whose work the Bill owes so much.

I should like to take this opportunity to reiterate and stress a number of points which I regard as important and to expand slightly on others which we did not have an appropriate opportunity to discuss fully. First, the new fund, the Heritage Fund, will have enormous advantages over its predecessor, the National Land Fund. Perhaps chief among these will be its independence of government, an independence which has been increased by your Lordships' House through the removal of the clause which required the trustees to obtain Treasury approval for loans. And, of course, unlike Government departments which have responsibility for separate parts of the heritage, the trustees will be dealing with the heritage as a whole. Furthermore, the Government have always been concerned to give the trustees the widest possible powers to preserve the heritage, which are consistent with adequate parliamentary control over expenditure. It has always been our intention that the trustees should be able to help, wherever and however they wish, without recourse to long debates over whether they have power to do so. I think we have now succeeded in giving the trustees wide powers in this way.

Having said that, my Lords, I think it is worth stressing again that the Heritage Fund will primarily be a source of assistance to the very wide range of bodies, listed in Clause 3(6), who are concerned with the preservation of the heritage. It will be for these bodies to approach the trustees when they have an item in mind which they wish to acquire, and, for the most part, the trustees will wish to provide only a proportion of the cost of acquisition and preservation. So, it will still be necessary for the acquiring body to shoulder some of the cost, either through its own funds, or by public appeal.

Above all, I think we must recognise that the Fund is a"safety net"to prevent the loss of the most important parts of our heritage. The Government are satisfied that it will have sufficient resources at its disposal to fulfil this role. But it cannot provide, and was not designed to provide, for the vast range of items—land, houses, paintings, manuscripts, and other works of art—which individuals will regard as part of the heritage. Only those items which can be considered outstanding—and it will be left to the trustees themselves to define that term—will be given assistance. This is not to say, of course, that the Government underestimate the importance of the contribution that the new Fund will make to the preservation of the heritage, and we hope that as it becomes established and attracts private funds, this contribution will steadily increase.

I should like now to say a few words about Part II of the Bill, which deals with acceptance in lieu. We believe that the amendments tabled by the Government on the question of keeping items in their historic locations where appropriate arc a major step forward. It does not mean, of course, that all items accepted in satisfaction of tax will automatically be loaned back to their former owners for display in historic houses. That was never the intention. But what those amendments have secured, is the clarification of existing legislation. It is now crystal clear, both that items may be considered pre-eminent because of a significant association with a particular historic setting, and that, in appropriate cases, such items should be left in those settings.

Few who have experienced the lack of atmosphere in a country house, bereft of its family heirlooms and furniture, would deny the logic of this policy. As perhaps the first fruits of this new and enlightened attitude I would draw your Lordships' attention to the decision announced by the Treasury to accept, in lieu of tax, some portraits at Arundel. These, whilst becoming the property of the National Portrait Gallery, are to be loaned back for display at Arundel. Since these are portraits of my ancestors and ancestors of my noble cousin the Duke of Norfolk, the decision gives me personally very much pleasure.

Since no opportunity presented itself in Committee or on Report, perhaps I might take this chance to reply briefly to those noble Lords who, on Second Reading, questioned whether reimbursement of the Inland Revenue for property accepted in lieu of tax could properly be regarded as public expenditure. The answer, my Lords, is yes. When a work of art, or other heritage property, is accepted in lieu, the Government are denying themselves the opportunity of deciding to spend in a different way the money which would otherwise have been collected in tax. In effect, they are deciding to spend that money on acquiring pre-eminent properties, in just the same way as I should be doing if one of your Lordships owed me £10 and offered me his watch instead of the cash. The effect on the Public Sector Borrowing Requirement would be the same, whether the Government spent a million pounds, or decided to forego tax revenue of a million pounds.

Resources devoted to acceptance in lieu should be subject to the same controls as apply to other forms of Government spending. The present arrangements, and those which will apply after the provision of Clause 8 comes into effect, ensure that this is done in conformity with the general principles of parliamentary and Government accounting and expenditure control. I accept that this procedure is not a simple matter to grasp, but I am not persuaded that a system of notional credits, as my noble friend Lord Vaizey suggested, would be any simpler.

Lastly, I should like to reassure the House once again about Clause 14. As I have explained, this clause is designed to provide flexibility for the future by enabling the Government to transfer responsibility to the trustees of the Heritage Fund without recourse to primary legislation. The Government recognise that there is divided opinion among heritage interests as to whether such a transfer would be a good thing. I can assure your Lordships, and all those concerned with preserving the heritage, that the Government are committed to retaining acceptance in lieu in its present form, save for the need to transfer responsibility to the arts departments. However, if after, say, two years, we find that the revised system is not working satisfactorily, we will have the option of bringing in the trustees. But we would do so only after we had had the fullest consultations with both the historic houses and arts interests.

I believe that one of the most gratifying things about this Bill has been the all-party support it has received; it shows how deeply concerned we as a country are about the preservation of the heritage. This Bill, when enacted, will, I think prove to be the most important piece of legislation in the heritage field since the Second World War, and will form a strong framework on which this, and future Governments, will wish to build. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Mowbray and Stourton.)

4.57 p.m.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, this is a happy day for the heritage field and for those of us who feel very strongly about it. I find it impossible for my mind not to go back several years to the events at the time of Mentmore, and as we know it was then that there started this whole chapter which has culminated in the Bill receiving its Third Reading and being passed here today; and I hope that it will remain as it is when it goes back to the Commons. If we take our minds back to those years we can recall all the turmoil about Mentmore and the National Land Fund, which had to be explained time and time again. Not only did I have to explain it to the House and to heritage bodies outside; it had to be explained to me again and again, rather like a puzzle. I referred to it as a series of Chinese puzzles; it simply was not working at all. Had this new body been in existence at that time—I do not know what descision or recommendation it would have made about Mentmore—we would have had an independent body making a recommendation to the Government, or indeed if funds had permitted, perhaps deciding to buy the property. This body is a tremendous step forward, and the noble Lord was absolutely right when he said—indeed, it was an understatement—that it has enormous advantages over its predecessors.

I was especially delighted by some of the amendments made in your Lordships' Chamber; in particular the one mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray and Stourton, regarding the trustees' ability to give loans. I absolutely agree with the noble Lord that the redefinition of preeminent objects is a tremendous step forward. We now have written into statute the more recent procedures which will mean that if an object is pre-eminent it will be subject to a wider interpretation than previously. There is now also the possibility in certain cases of the object remaining in the place where it belongs, and above all, its pre-eminence can depend on its situation, which is extremely important.

I very much hope that Clause 14 will be activated as soon as possible. I think it is a great pity that these functions should not be transferred to the trustees, but I am fairly optimistic about that, and I believe that once the fund begins working and becomes settled down, a number of the worries and anxieties which are probably felt at the moment will disappear, and it will be found that it is better all round to give the trustees more independence, and indeed more responsibility.

I think that its sojourn in this House has been of great benefit to the Bill's health, as has been proved. Although it is based very largely (and I feel very warmly about it, as does my noble friend Lord Donaldson, who unfortunately is unable to be here today) on the White Paper for which I and my department were mainly responsible at the time, I must congratulate the Government on getting it into Bill form as quickly as they have and in expediting this legislation. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, for his unfailing courtesy throughout the Bill's proceedings. I think there have been some complications and technicalities about it which have been difficult to sort out. We have probably all got our ideas, even now, of what we should like the Title to be, and how we would like it to be incorporated, but I think we shall have to learn to live with that for the time being, because it is very much more important that this Bill should be on the statute book by 1st April, so that the fund can get to work.

Finally, I think we have to realise and accept that, even with the residue of the National Land Fund topped up by around £5 million a year going into this new fund, this is not going to be a tremendous fortune with which to guard and save our heritage. We shall need, as soon as it is possible, to top this up as much as we possibly can. I join completely in the hope that it will attract more private money. I think the loans part will enable money to be stretched very much further; but I do not think that the fact that this Bill sets up the fund means that anybody should let go of their interests or reduce their pressures for the heritage, because this is something which will need a great deal of care and many more increased resources as time goes on. I only hope that the next time we see this Bill will be at Royal Assent.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships will forgive me if I elect to say a very few words at this stage of the Bill. It has in my view been greatly improved during its journey through this House. It is an admirable Bill. To me, the nub of the Bill is, and always has been, in the independence of the trustees. This, really, in a way, was the mistake of Hugh Dalton, when he first initiated the Land Fund. If there had been trustees then, what happened in 1956 would never have occurred; what has happened since then would not have occurred; and we should have seen this fund a flourishing and established part of the law of the land. I must admit that when I first introduced the National Land Fund Bill, as it was then called, I was deeply moved by the trauma that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, was suffering on the subject of Mentmore, and the difficulties she was in. I thought then, and I still think, that it is impossible for Ministers of the Crown, who are beset by all the current problems of the nation, to be able to take an independent judgment on issues of this sort; and that is what I had in mind.

I think this is an excellent Bill, and I hope (perhaps I might express a word of caution which my noble friend might pass on) that when it goes to another place the other place will be reminded that the genesis of this Bill was here; that then came the Select Committee and the other proceedings; that our opinion on these issues is really of great importance; and that what happens in this House should be given much and real attention.


My Lords, as the president of a mining museum, which is one of the first full-scale experiments of its kind in Europe, I should like to say thank you to the Government, and to this House, particularly, for the meticulous care they have taken to try to build this up. The noble Lord, Lord Reigate, and myself were in the other place during the period of office of Hugh Dalton as the Chancellor of the Exchequer and during the introduction of the Land Fund, and if today he happens to be looking over the ramparts of heaven, or maybe somewhere else, I am sure he will be pleased with the congratulations which have been expressed to him and with the sense of independence which has been introduced into this.

Before I sit down, my Lords, our mining museum shows systems of mining from stall and pillar methods right up to modern machinery, and among the 30,000 people who have already gone down in the last nine months there have been people from other parts of Europe, and even the USSR (I do not know whether we are going to put a block on them going down the mines), who have been down. I hope that, ultimtely, an intelligent use of the Heritage Fund may mean that a mining museum can approach it occasionally. Finally, I should like to say thank you to the noble Lord who has guided the Bill through your Lordships' House.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.

Back to