HL Deb 21 December 1982 vol 437 cc942-92

4.2 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 30.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 97A: Page 17, line 22, leave out ("towards the cost of) and insert ("and the Commission shall set up a charitable fund to receive such voluntary contributions and such other moneys (including profits arising from commercial operations) and endowments received under section 8A of the Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings Act 1953 as the Commission may decide and the income or capital of the fund may be expended to meet").

The noble Baroness said: My name should have been down to this amendment, but, in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal, I propose to move it. This is another of the several amendments to the Bill which touches on its financial aspects. I believe it was said many times on Second Reading, and has been said during this Committee stage, that the viability of the new commission depends entirely on the financial resources that it will have at its disposal. Unless the public can be confident that all voluntary contributions that it may make are safe from clawback into the Treasury hands, it will not make them. We want to be quite realistic and practical about this. Money will not be forthcoming if people feel that it is going into either a Government department or an agency of the Government, or into a quango. The best vehicle would be a charitable trust and the amendment makes provision for such a trust. There are many precedents for this arrangement, but the one that is possibly closest can be found in the charitable trust administered by the trustees of the British Museum. That is the repository used for donations to the museum. The system works, and it works very well. I can see no reason why it should not work equally well for the Commission. I beg to move.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

I support the amendment. I feel that there will be tremendous opportunities in the future for people to leave property, money and even objects to the commission for its care as an alternative, or complementary to, those who have left such things to the National Trust, and so on. There may be other ways of using such charitable trust funds, but it is certainly a situation where one wants to give confidence to the general public to take the heritage seriously and to feel that the commission will be the right repository for anything they wish to provide.

The Earl of Avon

May I also speak to Amendment No. 118A, which has a bearing on this question. The amendment moved by the noble Baroness would require the commission to set up a charitable fund to receive voluntary contributions and profits arising from commercial operations, and also to receive endowments. Amendment No. 118A would include the commission in the list of bodies in the Charities Act 1960 which, so far as they are charities, are exempt charities—that is, they are exempt from many of the controls exercised by the Charity Commission.

The amendments represent two different ways in which the tax advantages that have accrued from charitable status might be obtained for the commission. Let me straightaway say that the Government set great store by the role of the commission in obtaining voluntary assistance and in trading commercially and profitably. The Government would like to see the commission benefit from whatever advantages, in tax terms, can be obtained. But in exploring this issue the Government have noted that a number of organisations, such as the National Trust, which are charities and which engage in trading, have established trading subsidiaries which covenant their profits to the overall organisation. If the overall body were not itself a charity, the alternative approach is the creation of a charitable fund.

Let me take the question of exempt charity status first. This the Bill provides for the trustee bodies. It is important to note that the provision of such status must be regarded as carrying with it at least an implication that the body concerned will be granted charitable status if it applied for registration. There is no doubt about that in the case of the trustee bodies. But the situation in respect of the commission is more complex because it is a different kind of body. I cannot be definite about whether or not the commission would qualify for charitable status. That is a matter which could possibly be ultimately decided only by the courts. There are complications. For example, the commission's role in making grants to private owners for the maintenance of their houses may not be regarded as entirely of public benefit. Because of these complications consideration is also being given to the possibility of the commission establishing a charitable fund in order to fulfil the role of a recipient of trading profits and voluntary contributions. Again, however, there are complications. The relationship of such a fund to the parent body, the drafting of the rules governing the fund and the safeguarding of money held by the fund all require careful thought.

The Government have been exploring these different possibilities. The overall question of tax exemptions which we have already discussed is also relevant. This is a difficult area and I hope that the Committee will be prepared to allow us to reach considered conclusions and put forward whatever amendments we ourselves think to be appropriate. In principle we have nothing at all against the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, and in Committee terms I should like to agree to consider it.

Baroness Birk

I thank the Minister for that reply. This appears to be another example of where the Committee is happily knitting up the Bill for the Government, but we are happy to do that as long as the stitching that we put in is the stitching that the Government agree to.

The Minister made a distinction between the museums and the commission. He must pay considerable attention to what it is that we want. We are not saying that the commission itself should qualify as a charity, but that it should be able to set up a charitable fund which can be worked out quite separate from the rest of the work of the commission. In no way should the two things be confused. Giving out money to houses for repair should not be entangled with the charitable side. The charitable side must be entirely separate and it may well be that there would need to be a different composition or that some of the trustees may need to be different trustees for a charitable trust. Instead of a fund a charitable trust could be set up with certain purposes quite separate from the other purposes. I do not see any difficulty in this.

However, if the Minister is to reconsider the position and also a number of other sensible amendments which have been tabled, we hope there will be a constructive response and that he will come back with an entirely different Bill. I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.10 p.m.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu moved Amendment No. 97B: Page 17, line 23, at end insert— ("( ) The Commission may make use of voluntary services where it thinks it appropriate to do so.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 97B. I raised this matter on Second Reading. We are all delighted to see that the Bill makes it clear that voluntary contributions can be received by the commission, but, unfortunately, nowhere does it actually talk about the great benefits that can be derived from the voluntary services of which use can possibly be made. I believe that that should be on the face of the Bill in case anyone in the future might say that it was improper to allow people to do work for nothing rather than for payment.

Obviously, I recognise that it would not be appropriate for voluntary services to be used as regards a major monument where they would really displace those guardians who have been there for years and who certainly should continue to have secure jobs. But there are many places where volunteers can play a tremendous part. In America one knows that the word "docent" is used a tremendous amount in many places, particularly in education, where perhaps retired or part-time teachers can help in showing children around a particular monument.

In this country there are an enormous number of amenity societies whose efforts can certainly be tapped a great deal more than they are at present. I should like particularly to refer the Committee to that rather isolated ruin, examples of which exist all over the country, which at the moment cannot possibly receive all the love and attention it requires from one dedicated custodian, whereas it could easily be almost adopted by a local society. In such a way it could perhaps be kept cleaner and perhaps certain events could take place there. The whole thing could become very much more alive. I hope that the principle of the use of voluntary services will be accepted if it is not already inherent in the Bill. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

The Government have every sympathy with the purpose of this amendment. It has always been our intention that the commission should be able to make use of voluntary services and indeed would be better placed to tap the private goodwill which clearly exists. However, as with all the helpful points on Clause 30, I should like, if I may, to consider the matter further with a view to bringing it forward at a later stage in the revised version of this clause.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

The noble Earl has already given the Committee quite a number of assurances about Clause 30. In view of that, I am happy to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 97C: Page 17, line 25, leave out ("temporarily by way of overdraft").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 97C. This is another of the financial amendments and it is to remove some of the limitations on borrowing powers. We believe that this amendment removes an unnecessary restriction. The commission may well wish to borrow money on the security of property it is engaged in repairing—for example, listed buildings which are in the process of repair for resale on the rotating fund principle. However, there may even be a need to buy a monument, to research and conserve it and then to sell it under appropriate controls—even covenants such as the National Trust can hold. Indeed, will the commission be able to enforce covenants in the way the National Trust can under its Act of Parliament? That is not clear.

The commission may even need to borrow to set itself up properly with equipment and premises if the Government are too niggardly about it—we hope that, after all the pressure that we are putting on them from this side of the Committee, they will not be—or if they do not provide a capital sum to enable that to be done. Therefore, we believe that to leave out the words, "temporarily by way of overdraft", will remove a completely unnecessary restriction and an inhibition on the commission's work which ties it down far too stringently. Again I repeat: one of the reasons—as we are told—for setting up the commission is to have an independent body which can be more flexible and which has a different set of powers from a Government department. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

If the effect of this amendment would be to remove any restrictions on the commission's power to borrow, then the Government obviously do not see such a wide power as very appropriate. The commission will be funded largely out of its grant-in-aid and is unlikely to be in a position to service any long-term loan debt. In any case, such borrowing would count against the overall resources made available to the commission by way of public expenditure. Therefore, the grant would be reduced accordingly and no net benefit achieved.

The Government think it best to keep the financial arrangements for the commission as simple as possible and restrict borrowing powers to those temporary facilities required to even out its cash flow pending receipt of grant-in-aid. The commission should be a managerial operation, not a source of capital.

I hope that with that explanation and on that basis the noble Baroness may feel that she does not have to press this particular amendment.

Baroness Birk

I did not like that answer one little bit; I did not find it at all co-operative, but I am certainly not going to press the amendment now. I shall read what the Minister has said very carefully and then come back to the crux of the problem either in the same way or perhaps by a different route. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Avon moved Amendment No. 98: Page 17, line 27, at end insert— ("(7) For the purpose of exercising their functions the Commission may—

  1. (a) enter into contracts and other agreements;
  2. (b) acquire and dispose of property other than land;
  3. (c) with the consent of the Secretary of State, acquire land for providing the Commission with office or other accommodation and dispose of the land when no longer required for such accommodation.").

The noble Earl said: I beg to move Amendment No. 98. This amendment confers on the commission powers which are essential for the arrangement and management of its affairs. This amendment will give the commission the necessary powers to enable it to enter into contracts and other agreements. It will be able with the Secretary of State's consent to acquire land to provide itself with accommodation in the form of offices, stores or whatever is required. It will, therefore, have the choice of renting accommodation or buying it outright, which in point of fact covers one of the points just raised by the noble Baroness. It will also be able to dispose of it when it no longer needs it. These transactions require the Secretary of State's consent because of the substantial implications they will have for the commission's financial needs. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

I shall now call Amendment No. 98A as an amendment to Amendment No. 98.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu moved, as an amendment to the amendment, Amendment No. 98A:

At end insert— ("(d) establish companies to engage in trade with respect to properties under its ownership or management.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 98A. In welcoming the amendment moved by the noble Earl, I feel that there is something that should be added to it. We all read with great interest in the Government's consultation paper, The Way Forward, how they attach great importance to the commission becoming more commercially minded—for example, private historic houses—and increasing its revenue from admission charges and the sale of souvenirs, et cetera. The paper in fact stated that this should assist the preservation of the heritage by providing increased revenue to be ploughed back and, therefore, in due course, a higher standard of care and maintenance.

However, I feel that, without specific provision for the ploughing back of revenue by the commission, there is a danger—and I know the Committee feel very strongly about this—that extra revenue so raised could be, and possibly would be, deducted from the annual Treasury grant. Thus any such practice, if it grew up, would not only reduce the available funds, but would also remove the incentive to efficient management and enterprise. I pay great attention to that incentive, which was emphasised in the Rayner Report on Museums and also by the English Tourist Board, who underlined that the retention of income would not only allow for a larger programme of work, but would also encourage management to go beyond just the simple task of conservation to that of attracting revenue from visitors, and other sources, to increase income—in other words, as I said on Second Reading, to take some risks, to live a little dangerously and be prepared for the commercial world.

So this amendment is designed to draw the attention of the Government to their own amendment but I feel that the commission should have the power to set up companies and to engage in trade and that that should be specifically put into the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Birk

I would very much like to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. It is extremely sensible and follows through the flavour of what we are trying to do for the commission on the financial side. As regards the Minister's amendment, paragraphs (a) and (b) are perfectly right and what he is trying to do there is extremely laudable. But I am not very happy about paragraph (c), which says: with the consent of the Secretary of State, acquire land for providing the Commission", et cetera. Why, when the commission is to acquire land—it may be for office premises; it will certainly be for reasons connected with its work—should it keep having to refer back to the Secretary of State? Once again, the commission is being tied down and controlled even before it has set foot on what is supposed to be independent ground. This also applies to the disposal of the land. If the amendment goes through like this, it will mean that, once again, there will be more and more consultations', more and more civil servants will be brought into it; there will be delays and talks. I think that this is absolutely unnecessary.

If you set up a commission and have confidence in it (otherwise you should not set it up at all) and if you have confidence in the commissioners (otherwise you should not appoint them), they should be able to do these things on their own instead of being kept on leads like little dogs or on reins like small children. I hope that the Minister will take back that particular paragraph and look at it again.

The Earl of Avon

Perhaps I may just explain our thinking here. We are, of course, financing the commission by grant-in-aid. The commission may want to buy a house or rent a house: the capital sum may be £500,000 or it may be a small rental. Obviously, the commission does not have that kind of money, but we do not want to stop it having it. Therefore, we think that the best way is that it should come to the Secretary of State with its proposition and, hopefully, the Secretary of State will agree.

My noble friend's amendment to the amendment covers very much what I said on Amendment No. 97A about the actual position of the commission and whether or not it is in itself a charity, or whether, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said, we should have to set up a charitable trust within the commission. Until we know that, it is very hard for us to accept an amendment of this nature because we should not know how to link it into the main Bill. It is a complex matter and one to which we are giving attention. We entirely agree with my noble friend's thinking. I imagine that he wishes to connect both the trading and tax affairs and, as I said when I spoke to Amendment No. 97A, we shall be producing our own solution at the next stage.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

I thank my noble friend for that reply. Do I understand that in principle the commission will, in fact, be able to engage in trade and that there will be a vehicle through which such trade can take place?

The Earl of Avon

That is our intention.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

In view of that assurance, I shall be happy to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment to the amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Amendment No. 98 agreed to.

4.24 p.m.

Lord Beloff moved Amendment No. 98B:

Page 17, line 27, at end insert— ("(7) The Commission shall, in accordance with directions of the Secretary of State given after consultation with it, constitute an Advisory Council with responsibility for providing advice to the Commission on such matters as the Secretary of State or the Commission may from time to time determine.").

The noble Lord said: In the absence of my noble friend Lord Dacre of Glanton, I am charged with moving a number of amendments today which, like those that he moved the last time this Bill was considered, derive from considerations by the British Academy. As I think my noble friend pointed out, the Academy is the body considered representative of both the historical and archaeological professions, the two branches of learning which this Bill specifically affects. From the beginning they have had very considerable reservations, some of which appear in their own amendments and the amendments which the Academy has recommended, and some of which appear in the amendments of other noble Lords.

In view of the professional interest that the Academy has, I think it is regrettable that the Secretary of State did not see fit to answer its suggestion that he might meet a deputation from the Academy, in which case some of these anxieties might have been eliminated before the Bill came before your Lordships. In any event, the present amendment is the one to which I believe the Academy attaches most importance.

I think it has been agreed in this House that the commission itself should not necessarily be of a representative capacity; and no guidelines are laid down in the legislation as to who the members of the commission may be. It therefore appears to many of us even more important that there should be a mandatory requirement—not merely a facility—for appointing an advisory council, which itself could be broadly representative, on which not only the interests of scholarship but the interests of local authorities, of the tourist trade, and so on, could be represented through persons chosen in consultation with the appropriate organisations. It would also go some way to meet the point made earlier this afternoon by, I believe, the noble Earl, Lord Perth, about the disappearance of the Historic Buildings Council and the Ancient Monuments Board, because at least the policy aspects of their work could be subsumed in the advice which might be tendered from time to time by this new advisory council.

It was I think argued that the committees, through which it was suggested in an earlier amendment the commission might work, should not appear in the Bill as it was a part of the ordinary functioning of any such body to be able to appoint sub-committees and co-opt people on to them. However, it is not our opinion that this should apply to the advisory council. We believe this to be an essential part of the organisation which it is now proposed to set up. I think that no one is bound by every word, by every letter, of the amendment on the Marshalled List, but I would point out to your Lordships that, in fact, the language has very largely been taken from the British Library Act. I beg to move this amendment.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

I do not really see the point of this amendment. It does not seem to take the commission any further. Surely the commission will have within its ranks, we hope, and also on its advisory committees, which it will be setting up, all the expertise that it will need. The Secretary of State has already made known that he wishes to consult with the commission whenever he has a problem. I do not see why one has to have yet another advisory council. It will make bureaucracy even worse. As someone has just said, let the commissioners get on with it and let them appoint the committees they need. I am sure that all the expertise will be there. But to have yet another advisory council will make bureaucracy far worse. I do not think there need be too much fear about this. I think we could leave it to the commission to run its own affairs and to give the right advice to the Secretary of State.

Baroness Birk

I have put my name to some of the amendments tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dacre, and his colleagues in the British Academy. However, I am not very happy about this particular amendment because, like the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, I think it introduces a third tier, which we do not need. I think it makes even more important an amendment which was moved the other night by the noble Lord, Lord Dacre, and to which I also put my name, which was withdrawn after the Minister had explained why they did not like it. It was to the effect that the setting up of committees should not be a permissive function of the commission but should be mandatory.

At the next stage of the Bill I shall certainly be prepared to table or support such an amendment, that the word "may" should be "shall", so that the commission would be under an obligation to set up committees which would encompass the sort of people the British Academy have in mind—scholars and other academics, many of whom at the moment are on the Ancient Monuments Board—and would also bring in other people of equal distinction. In that case I do not think there would be a need for this form of advisory council. Although I do not like this amendment, I hope we shall rethink this matter and press the Government harder on the question of making it mandatory on the commission to set up committees.

The Earl of Avon

May I first respond to my noble friend Lord Beloff about the invitation which the British Academy gave to the Secretary of State that they would offer to see him. I understand that my Secretary of State responded yesterday to this matter. Had he done so earlier, obviously we might not have had the amendments. One of the major benefits of setting up the commission is the amalgamation of the currently separate advisory and executive functions. Both these functions must, in the Government's view, be exercised by the commission. Setting up an advisory council would serve to continue a separation between the advisory and executive roles and, we believe, would create an unnecessary further layer of mandatory bureaucracy. I think that the latter point was made somewhat forcibly by the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson, earlier in our discussions in respect of the British Library system.

I am sure that the commission will wish to set up advisory committees—and I noted what the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, said about making them mandatory—as they will be empowered to do, to draw in the widest range of expertise that is desirable. I believe that it is for the commission to decide on whether and how to do it, and I hope that the Committee will agree with this.

Lord Beloff

In the light of the lack of enthusiasm for this proposal, which I do not share since I think that a single advisory council would be better and less bureaucratic than a network of specialist committees, I am prepared, in the absence of my noble friends, to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.32 p.m.

Lord Sandford moved Amendment No. 99:

Leave out Clause 30 and insert the following new clause—

("The Commission's functions

(.—(1) It shall be the function of the Commission to undertake the specific powers conferred on them by any enactment.

(2) In addition to the specific powers conferred on them, by or under the subsequent provision of this Act, the Commission shall have power to do anything for the purpose of discharging the functions conferred on it by this section, or which is incidental or conducive to the discharge of those functions and in particular (but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions) for that purpose—

  1. (a) to promote or undertake publicity in any form;
  2. (b) To provide information and advisory services particularly with regard to the inspection of monuments, buildings and areas listed in section 29(1 A) above;
  3. 951
  4. (c) to promote or undertake research;
  5. (d) to establish committees, to advise them in the performance of their functions;
  6. (e) to promote and provide for the presentation of such monuments, buildings and areas listed in section 29(1 A) above and in particular by way of interpretative facilities for the public and educational facilities and services for the use of students and pupils;
  7. (f) to contribute to or reimburse expenditure incurred by any other person or organisation in carrying on any activity which the Commission has power to carry on under the preceding paragraph of this subsection.

(3) The Commission may make such charges as they may from time to time determine in respect of anything provided under subsections (1) and (2).

(4) Schedule 4 shall have effect to amend the enactments there mentioned for the purpose of conferring functions on the Commission and for connected purposes.

(5) The Commission may receive voluntary contributions in money or money's worth towards the cost of discharging any of their functions.

(6) With the consent of the Secretary of State, the Commission may borrow temporarily, by way of overdraft, such sums as they may require for meeting their obligations and discharging their functions.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 99. I commend it to the Committee with some confidence, first, because it has had a good trailer from my noble friend Lord Avon in the course of our debate on Amendment No. 97, and, secondly and chiefly, because of what was said in the course of our debate in this House last Wednesday. That was a debate about the quality of legislation. In the course of that debate there was a good deal of criticism of the vices that we see in so much legislation, which is composed of a network—or a cat's cradle, as the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson, said at Second Reading—something that is a characteristic of much of this part of the Bill and particularly Schedule 4. Whereas I should like to claim, if it is not too immodest to do so, that my amendment partakes of many of the virtues which that debate was seeking, in setting out on the face of the Bill the broad purposes and the main functions of the body we are trying to create.

I should like to commend both to the Committee and to the Government a new clause broadly along these lines. Were the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, here, I would point out to him that my amendment contains the same rubric as the clause it seeks to replace. It is a reference to "The Commission's functions", as distinct from the Commission's aims and objectives, which were the subject of my Amendment 92. This is only a probing, tentative amendment indicating the general idea, shape, appearance of a clause which would have that purpose. I would not claim that this particular form and this particular catalogue are the best we can end up with. That is the general idea.

I need not refer to all the particular points in this proposed new clause because many of them have already been dealt with by other specific amendments to this clause, or they will be dealt with by subsequent amendments to Schedule 4. A clause of this sort would enable those using this Bill to ascertain from it the general purposes and functions of the commission, to find them here and not to have to rely so exclusively on the cat's cradle of Schedule 4.

I turn to the particular matters referred to in this amendment. Subsection (2)(a), covering the function of promoting or undertaking publicity in any form, needs to be mentioned. That was, I think, brought up for the first time at Second Reading by my noble friend Lord Montagu and by myself and others, but it is not the subject of any other amendment to this part of the Bill. I would submit to the Committee that it is the area which stands in most need of improvement in respect of the properties currently managed by the Department of the Environment. I have an analysis here from the English Tourist Board which shows just how badly these properties have fared by comparison with other segments of what we might describe as the heritage over the past two or three years.

Nobody has done particularly well in the last two or three years. After a long period when the number of visitors was on a steady climb, there have been falls, but the falls in numbers of visits being made to ancient monuments are much greater than to other properties. The department has put up its charges to a far greater extent than the owners of other parts of the heritage, but its marketing budget has been totally inadequate. I mentioned this at Second Reading. It was an amount corresponding to the promotional budget of the City of Bristol in respect of its zoo alone. This is quite inadequate for the purpose, and has led to these rather depressing results, which must be corrected by much more imaginative marketing and promotion by the new commission. I need not say any more about that except to stress that it is such an important part of the function of the commission that, if nothing else is mentioned in this clause, this must be.

I turn now to subsection (2)(b), the inspection of monuments, buildings and conservation areas. This is also the subject of Amendment 104D in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, but that is only in respect of buildings owned by the Property Services Agency. I think that it must go much wider than that. The largest single sector of the national heritage—namely, the churches and cathedrals of the Church of England, which form a group two or three times the size of all the rest put together—have benefited from a systematic scheme of quinquennial inspections for the last 35 years. The benefit of this scheme is now so obvious and so substantial, and saves such an enormous expenditure of money, that it must not only be commended to those who are not at the moment subject to it but it must be a positive function of the new commission, having taken all the necessary advice, to set about introducing an inspection for all of the buildings that make up the national heritage which are not so subject to such inspection. That again is sufficiently important to demand a place in the clause itself.

I do not need to say anything more about promoting and undertaking research. This was the subject of Amendments Nos. 98B and 96V, and I think everybody recognises it as important. It raises the matter of the relationship between this commission and the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments, but we shall come to that on a later amendment. Subsections (2)(d) and (e) have been canvassed already, particularly by my noble friend Lord Montagu in his Amendment No. 96Q in respect of educational facilities. I said then, and I say again, how much I agree with him about that.

I want to say a word about (2)(f), which allows the commission "to contribute to or reimburse expenditure". It must be a function of the commission to be able to do this if it is to be able to establish, as I hope it will, a number of managing agents to help it execute its functions. This commission does not want to sit at the centre, as the department has done up till now, and manage all these properties directly itself. It wants to establish a whole network of management agreements whereby this management can be executed by local authorities, voluntary bodies and other bodies with expertise and ability in the care of the heritage, functioning on its behalf and working as its agents. For that to be done, it must be possible for the commission to make a contribution to their expenditure, and therefore that, too, needs to be mentioned specifically.

I need say no more about paragraph (f), which was covered by Amendment No. 97B in the name of my noble friend Lord Montagu; and we have discussed subsection (6) under Amendment 97C. With those remarks on the specific points but, more important, my remarks on the general idea of an amendment of this sort, I beg to move.

Lord Kennet

In supporting the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, I would ask a minor question about the amendment. It states many good things that the commission should do, but the one thing it does not state it should do is to conserve listed buildings and ancient monuments in England, whereas the original clause stated exactly that. I do not think I have overlooked anything, but the single use of the word "conservation" seems to have gone out with the bath water.

Lord Sandford

I do not think so, because my Amendment No. 99 complements and must be read in conjunction with my Amendment No. 92, and "conservation" appears there. Indeed, I would say that conservation is so important as to be stated as a broad aim and objective; whereas the functions are all set out in No. 99 as tasks the commission must discharge to achieve that aim. However, the noble Lord has raised a matter which could be looked at again between now and Report.

The Earl of Avon

Some of what I have said already, particularly in respect of amendments to the previous clause, also applies here. The Government have much sympathy with my noble friend and wish to see some simple and comprehensible statement of the commission's functions in the main clauses to illuminate the difficult text of Schedule 4, and we have already discussed that. However there are problems from a drafting point of view in framing a provision which duplicates what is already provided for elsewhere in the Bill, and the question of what to say in the body of the Bill needs careful thought.

The Government feel that, as drafted, the amendment is not quite satisfactory. We feel, for instance, that subsection (1) may to be too positive, whereas in subsection (2) the drafting in terms of the commission having power to do "anything" seems rather wide, as does the power to undertake publicity "in any form"; and we have already discussed the question of committees and whether the power is needed in paragraph (d) to establish committees when that provision is aleady made.

On policy grounds, the Government are doubtful whether it is proper that the commission should have such wide grant powers as are proposed. In relation to subsection (5), the Government would want to look at the phrase "money's worth". But we are clear that the commission would be able to make use of voluntary services, other than money, without specific provision. I suggest that, as with the other amendments to Clause 30, the Government take this amendment away and use it as a basis for further thought, with all the other suggestions, with the idea of bringing forward their own amendment.

Baroness Birk

Having listened to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, on this interesting amendment, I think we could go along with it so long as when the Government are looking at the matter again they take into account the points that have been raised on this topic on other detailed amendments, both those previously discussed and those yet to be debated by the Committee. I also support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet—and I was struck in exactly the same way by the wording. As the functions of the commission are primarily those of conservation and preservation, I agree that those words should appear in the clause dealing with functions; it could be lopsided and ill-balanced to leave the emphasis entirely in the provision dealing with presentation and interpretation.

I appreciate what Lord Sandford said in reply to Lord Kennet, but I do not think we should leave out all reference to conservation and preservation, as the most important of the commission's functions, when talking about functions. We must also be a little wary about doing so much by way of tourism and various other means of exploiting monuments and buildings that we almost wear them out. Those of us who have been connected with this matter in the department have seen that problem, and therefore the right balance must be struck.

Lord Sandford

I am grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this short debate and for the assurance given to me by my noble friend. The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is right to say that any redrafting of the amendment must take fully into account everything else that has been said in our debates on Clause 30. Indeed, nobody would have been more surprised than I if the Government had immediately accepted my amendment as drafted, and accordingly I beg leave to withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 30, as amended, agreed to.

Schedule 4 [The Commission: amendments.]:

4.47 p.m.

The Earl of Perth moved Amendment No. 100: Page 36, line 10, after ("chairman") insert ("and members")

The noble Earl said: I will, with permission, speak at the same time to Amendment No. 101. I appreciate that in a sense this amendment is out of order, in that it deals with a Scottish matter in an English Bill. The noble Earl, Lord Avon, has kindly pointed that out to me in a letter. All the same, I think it would be worth spending a few minutes looking at what happens in the Bill as it applies to England and in relation to the Scottish position. Sometimes what is good for England is good for Scotland, and vice versa.

In the Bill as it stands, the members of the commission for England shall be paid such remuneration as is thought fit by the Secretary of State; but in Scotland, as the Bill stands—this does not change what exists already—only the chairman may be paid; the others get just their expenses. My amendments would not make it obligatory, in the way that the Bill says "shall" in the case of England, but simply say "may".

I hope thought will be given to accepting an amendment now, although it is not a Scottish Bill, or that the attention of the Secretary of Stae will be drawn to the purpose of the amendment so that at a later date a similar provision may prevail for the Scottish Historic Buildings Council. In this day and age it is important that such members should be paid, not just the chairman but any of those who do what often is very onerous work. I am not suggesting they should all be paid; it is left to the Secretary of State's discretion. I therefore ask that this permissive amendment be allowed.

The Earl of Avon

As the noble Earl, Lord Perth, said, taken together these amendments would mean that the members of the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland, like the chairman, could in future be paid, rather than just receive their expenses. The paragraph in Schedule 4 which provides, among other things, that the members shall receive only their expenses is needed for technical reasons, to re-enact provisions which now apply. We are not making any changes. The Historic Buildings Council for Scotland and the Historic Buildings Council for Wales are being left in precisely the same position as they now are. It is perhaps worth noting that the position is the same as that which now applies to the equivalent English body, the Historic Buildings Council for England.

As noble Lords are aware, the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales decided that at the present time there should be no change in the arrangements for looking after the ancient monuments and historic buildings which are their responsibility. The retention of their separate advisory—and may I stress the word "advisory"—bodies in their present form is part of that decision. I hope that in the light of that explanation, my noble friend, unless he can find someone who is actually wanting to be paid, will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

The Earl of Perth

I am quite ready to withdraw the amendment. As I said, I merely wanted to make a point. I hope that the noble Earl will draw the attention of the Secretary of State for Scotland to the fact that, anyhow, one Member of your Lordships' House believes that in this case Scotland should be treated on a permissive basis in the same way as the English members of the new commission. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 101 not moved.]

4.52 p.m.

Baroness Airey of Abingdon moved Amendment No. 101A: Page 37, line 6, leave out ("outstanding") and insert ("special").

The noble Baroness said: I beg to move Amendment No. 101 A, and to speak to Amendments Nos. 102B and 102D, standing in my name. In each case in the amendments I would seek to leave out the word "outstanding" and insert the word "special". I believe that that would embrace a slightly different category of house as eligible for a grant. The family who occupy, or who have occupied, the house can contribute to its value to the heritage. For example, the house of Karl Marx has been listed, although it, and the houses adjacent to it, are totally undistinguished and drab in architectural terms. But as a historic shrine, as it has been described, it has been the subject of a grant. Opinion about Karl Marx may differ among your Lordships, but what has happened regarding his house is a fact; a grant has been given.

As an example I should like to take a house that is far more important in terms of architectural interest. It is Lyford Grange, in Oxfordshire. It was once a large house, with a moat, and a tower. It is now a much smaller house. In fact, it is a farmhouse. It has been considerably altered, and so perhaps may not be eligible for a grant on grounds of architecture alone. But its importance to the heritage lies in the fact that it was the famous centre of Roman Catholicism in the days when Mass was said in peril of death. It was the place where Edmund Campion, who was later to suffer torture and a cruel death in London, was apprehended.

My point is that throughout England, there are many good listed buildings which might not quite "make the grade" from an architectural standpoint alone. But the families who live in them, or who have lived in them, in many cases, over centuries, have faithfully served this country, often during very important periods, and such facts should surely be taken into account. I hope that this suggestion will find favour. I appreciate that my amendment was not put down very early, and I should apologise for that, but I hope that none the less it will be taken into consideration, and that my noble friend the Minister will be able to make a favourable reply.

Baroness Birk

My name is joined with that of the noble Baroness, Lady Airey of Abingdon, in the amendment and the other amendments to which she has referred. I wonder whether I might add to those amendments Amendment No. 102EA, which is on exactly the same point, though it is spelt out rather more. Amendment No. 102EA is starred because I fear that it was put down only yesterday. I have just discovered that it is not on the grouping list and perhaps I may give the Minister a moment to find it. Subsection (3) of the amendment, on page 5 of the Marshalled List, deals with exactly the same point about which the noble Baroness has just been speaking; namely, that of the house which is "special" or "outstanding" for a reason that is not to do with the architecture. There are several other aspects of the matter.

This is the first time in the Bill where in course of amending the 1953 Act the word "outstanding" is to be re-enacted, and the amendment proposes that it be replaced by the word "special". In addition to what the noble Baroness has said, which dealt with a particular type of application of the word "special" in relation to a house, I would say that, a building of outstanding historic or architectural interest", is a vital catch phrase. For 29 years it has been the aspiration of many owners—for many of them their only hope of salvation—that their houses would be judged to be "outstanding" in order to make them eligible, other things permitting, for a Historic Buildings Council grant. Of late it has come to mean even more than that, since an outstanding building now qualifies for conditional exemption from capital transfer tax.

The amendment, like all the others similar to it, is a probing one. I should stress that there is no intention to destroy the careful structure of HBC grants, since only in exceptional circumstances is it suggested that grant giving might go wider, to include the more ordinary listed building—all such being, buildings of special historic or architectural interest", for on the face of it inserting the word "special", as proposed in the amendment, means that grant could go that wide. But there are exceptional circumstances, and there is some justice in giving grants to ordinary listed buildings that are now disadvantaged. If such buildings stand in a conservation area, for example, ordinary listed buildings are already eligible for the HBC grant under town schemes. Section 10B of the 1972 Act sees to that.

Indeed, grants, including grants for improvement, can also be made, in respect of work in a conservation area, for the purposes of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the area, and ordinary listed buildings frequently qualify for assistance under the section under which such grants are made; that, again, is Section 10 of the 1972 Act.

But in rural areas, where there might be only a very few listed buildings in a small group, or even one such building standing alone, nobody will designate a conservation area, and nobody will set up a town scheme. Therefore there are now no grants available in circumstances such as that. Hence, if for no other reason than to be fair to these houses in rural areas, some way must be found of stepping outside the "outstanding" boundary to help ordinary listed buildings when they do not qualify for Section 10B town schemes or Section 10 conservation area grants.

Amendment No. 102EA—I must again apologise for the fact that it might have taken the Minister by surprise—may help. It is a first shot at a special procedure to be used only with care and caution by the commission. Doubtless the commission would be careful; I imagine that it would hardly be able to afford to be otherwise. The situation in Scotland, and in Wales, is just the same. So though the commission does not yet cover either of those areas, the amendment makes an attempt to cover them, since the point is important. There seems to be a need to bring in the Province of Northern Ireland as well, but fortunately that is not attempted in the amendment.

If Amendment No. 102EA, or something like it, finds favour, then the "outstandings" can stay unamended, as can some other uses of the term, in regard to which amendments have not been tabled. The amendments help in that they make the whole of the area of "outstanding" and "special" rather more flexible. That, I think, together with the points that have been made by the noble Baroness on designating houses as "special" for the reasons she outlined, makes a very strong case for it to be considered.

The Earl of Avon

As the noble Baronesses have said, these amendments attempt to widen the definition of historic buildings for which the commission may themselves make grants, and towards whose acquisition by the National Trust they may also grant aid. At present, they may exercise these powers only in relation to buildings of outstanding architectural or historic interest. This is a policy which was set in the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 which deals with the Secretary of State's powers, and we have deliberately followed them here for the commission. Substituting the world "special" would widen considerably the scope for making grants and, as the noble Baroness has said, that is the intention although they have both been at pains to say it would be in exceptional cases.

However, it is the reason that the Government are loath to take these amendments on board. The word "special" is to be found in the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 where it deals with the compilation by the Secretary of State or others of lists of buildings of special architectural or historic interest. I take it, therefore, that it is intended here to refer to all listed buildings. There are at present about 280,000 listed buildings in England. There will be very considerably more when the listing re-survey, now under way, is completed—perhaps as many as 600,000. Of the 280,000 now listed only about 5,400 (fewer than 2 per cent.) are Grade 1. This gives some indication of the extent of the difference in numbers between the outstanding buildings and the special buildings; although I must add, not all Grade 1 buildings are necessarily outstanding while others of a lower grading may be so.

The change of this one word could make an enormous difference to the number of grant claims made. There are not the resources available now to cope with this and the commission would not have them either. Although the commission will have grant-making powers and funds will be allocated for that purpose, we have to recognise that resources will always be to some degree, limited. That is why the Secretary of State's present role and the commissioners' role in the future is to preserve the most important historic buildings. There must be priorities for preservation and the vital thing is to preserve what is best for the heritage, in this case buildings of outstanding architectural or historic interest. Even with this restriction, the demands placed on the available funds would exceed the supply. We must consider that if greater demands are made, the resources available could only be spread more thinly and, given the pressures, probably to the detriment of those parts of the heritage which can at present be adequately preserved.

The noble Baroness went on to talk to her Amendment No. 102EA. This amendment would allow the commission to extend the scope of their own powers if they decided it would be appropriate. The Secretary of State will be able to do so on the advice of the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland or for Wales, as appropriate. The arguments I have been talking about apply here also.

As my noble friend was kind enough to say in her opening remarks, these amendments have been put down fairly recently and we have not had the opportunity to know what my noble friend had in mind or what the noble Baroness had in mind. I should like to read what they have said in some detail and perhaps my noble friend will consider my response and see if it has in any way changed her mind.

Lord Somers

Would the noble Earl tell me whether it would be possible to divide the listed buildings into two classes, a Class A and a Class B, Class A being those which would be worthy of aid and Class B not?

The Earl of Avon

They are already graded.

Baroness Birk

Speaking for myself, I thank the Minister for his reply and also for saying that he will read and look into the matter again. I will point out two things. One is that it is made clear in Amendment No. 102EA that exceptional circumstances make it appropriate in a particular case, so I do not think there are going to be a great many of those. Secondly, if, finally, they cannot see that this is the right way to deal with it, then, if we can find a way so that the houses that I cited which are in rural areas and may be single houses or houses that missed the net of either a conservation area or a town scheme, would be eligible for grant, because that was part of the purpose of these amendments, they could pick them up in that way. Otherwise, as far as I, personally, am concerned, I await to hear what the noble Earl has to say and come back on the next stage or see whether, perhaps, if we all met together between now and the next stage, we might be able to find some way of solving what has now turned out to be several problems rolled up into what look like identical amendments—but they are not so.

Baroness Airey of Abingdon

If I may speak for a moment, when I cited the case of Lyford Grange, I may say that it is an extremely isolated building but attached to it, and about half a mile away are some ancient almshouses, so that although it is isolated it is an enclave (as one might say) quite apart from its historical context which is the important point I am making. It is, as the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, was saying, very much in the country and could not possibly have been a conservation area, but it has very particular historical associations. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Avon moved Amendment No. 102: Page 37, line 8, leave out ("comprising, or") and insert ("which is situated in England and which comprises, or is").

The noble Earl said: This is a minor amendment of revision conferring on the commission the power to make grants for the preservation of buildings of historic or architectural interest. The commission's power to make such grants is restricted to buildings situated in England. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

5.9 p.m.

Lord Digby moved Amendment No. 102A: Page 37, line 11, after ("garden") insert (", park, designed landscape").

The noble Lord said: My noble friend Lord Strath-cona has asked me to apologise for his unavoidable absence and to move the series of amendments standing in his name which all relate to the widening of the commission's powers with regard to parks, gardens and designed landscapes which are all of artistic value to our heritage. It may be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak to the following amendments: Amendments Nos. 102A, 102CA, 103C, 103L, 103P and 104A. I need not remind your Lordships of the intense public interest in conservation of the countryside at present. I should like to point out that, except for mountains and moors, the natural beauty of our countryside is entirely man-made. It is a tribute to the genius of our forebears that they have created today's natural beauty. That beauty is a living thing and will die if it is not properly maintained. That is our duty both to our ancestors who made it and to future generations who will enjoy it.

I was most encouraged last Thursday that the noble Earl, Lord Avon, said that he had slight reservations about widening the commission's remit but that he would look into it carefully to see how it could be included. If a Minister has only slight reservations, it must mean that he entirely agrees and will do battle with his department, so I am very hopeful as to the outcome.

With regard to this particular Amendment No. 102A, it enables the commission to make grants and loans for the upkeep of parks and designed landscapes. The Bill as it stands provides for the upkeep of a garden or other land and it may be argued that "other land" includes parks and designed landscapes. However, I hope that the noble Earl will accept that the effects of our great landscape architects of the 18th century deserve more than being classed as just "other land".

To pass on to Amendment No. 102CA, until now the only acknowledged interest has been historical but, in truth, there are many more interests which are of value. Parks, designed landscapes and gardens can be architectural in the way that they are laid out in geometric form like the plan of a building; and nowadays they are very often laid out by landscape architects. They are often designed as settings for pieces of architecture. So the word "architectural" should be added. The really important point is that they are often works of art in the highest sense. It is for the commission to appreciate their qualities and to weigh them when it comes to judging their eligibility for grant. I think that the word "artistic" should be in the amendment.

The other amendments to which I am speaking are on the basis that, if it is right for the commission to be able to give grants towards gardens and landscapes under Section 3A of the 1953 Act, as the Bill provides, it is right that in each of the other amendments a reference to "gardens" should be made. There is another thread running through the further four amendments: the words "special" and "outstanding." We have been debating this matter, and I feel that in this context the word "special" gives more scope than the word "outstanding". I am sure that the noble Earl is sympathetic to the basis of all these amendments. I hope that he will undertake to bring in amendments at Report stage to ensure the future of designed landscapes, particularly because of their artistic interest. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

I am indeed sympathetic to what my noble friend is saying, although I must be careful of how I choose my words or he will be twisting my arm again. We had an interesting discussion about designed landscapes when my noble friend Lord Montagu was kind enough to define them for me. With the added words we have, I must say that I am in a muddle as to whether a garden or a park is a designed landscape or what the definition is. I also was rather sorry that my noble friend did not go on to refer to "arboricultural" and "silvicultural" because I was interested to know what exactly the commission were going to let themselves in for if they took on this apect. There is a clear danger here of spreading the commission's functions wider than their resources can support. The Committee should consider this when thinking of giving these added responsibilities to them.

These amendments would allow the commission to make grants to the National Trust for the acquisition by them of land of special silvicultural or horticultural interest. But this is not what we are establishing the commission to do; it is the Countryside Commission which is responsible for these wider aspects of landscape management, including historic parks. It does not seem sensible to duplicate functions in this way.

We have had some interesting discussions and I should like to have a careful look at the Countryside Commission's remit. I should like to consider exactly how far we can go with gardens, monuments and landscapes at the moment, and see whether there is any loophole between the two. If there is, I shall certainly think about taking up an amendment on the lines which my noble friend has suggested.

Lord Digby

I thank the Minister for that reply. I deliberately left out references to "arboricultural" and "silvicultural" because, had we known the position, we should not have tabled those particular words. I think that they have a basis but it may be said that they are more scientific aspects. That is why I emphasised the artistic side. In view of the reply of the Minister, I hope that we can look at the matter again, perhaps at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 102B not moved.]

[Amendment No. 102C had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendments Nos. 102CA and 102D not moved.]

Lord Beloff moved Amendment No. 102E:

Page 37, line 38, at end insert— ("(6) It shall be within the functions of the Commission, so far as they think it expedient for achieving the objects of this Act, and generally for contributing to the efficient management of monuments and historic buildings to carry out and sponsor research, and contribute to the expenses of public or local authorities having the care of monuments or historic buildings.")

The noble Lord said: This amendment has been covered to some extent by Amendment No. 99, which the noble Earl has agreed to consider. There is one point of clarification for which I would be obliged. In his remarks on Amendment No. 96 (which also dealt with research), the noble Earl said that he thought Amendment No. 102E went too far. I should be grateful if he would explain, without any commitment to a particular alternative, in what respect he thinks the amendment goes too far. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

I am afraid my noble friend is slightly ahead of me, because I do not have my copy of Hansard containing what I said last time. If my recollection is correct, we were talking about Amendment No. 96V, which I said was acceptable. I felt this amendment broadened the aspect. I think that was the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and I think I said we would prefer something on the lines of Amendment No. 96V rather than this one, which went that bit further. As I say, I do not have my brief on Amendment No. 96 V, so the noble Lord has me slightly in the air on that point.

Baroness Birk

I do not know whether I can be of any help. The basis was the same, that the commission should undertake research. Amendment No. 96V, which I moved, was simply saying that the commission may undertake or sponsor research in furtherance of its functions. I do not know that there is all that much difference between that amendment and Amendment No. 102E, except that the tail-end is spelt out rather more elegantly. It finishes up by saying: and contribute to the expenses of public or local authorities having the care of monuments or historic buildings". I would have thought that it was part of the commission's powers and duties, if they wished to do so, to do it that way or any other way. Maybe the earlier amendment was shorter, and that is why the Minister preferred it.

The Earl of Avon

May I quickly come back? I apologise to the Committee for not having at my fingertips what I said last time. This amendment goes further than the question of research. It seeks to empower the commission to make grants to any public authority which has care of monuments or historic buildings. The grant-making powers that it suggests are far too widely drawn to the extent that every public authority would be eligible for grant; and, indeed, that grant could, as the amendment is drafted, cover any expenditure of the public authority, not just that on monuments or historic buildings. The commission will have wide powers to make grants in relation to this main purpose. It is for this reason that we preferred the earlier amendment to the latter one.

Lord Beloff

In the light of that explanation, for which I thank the noble Earl, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 102EA not moved.]

The Earl of Avon moved Amendment No. 103:

Page 38, line 6, leave out from beginning to ("after") in line 7 and insert—

("(1) Section 5 of the 1953 Act (acquisition by Secretary of State of historic buildings etc.) shall be amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (3) there shall be inserted— (3) The Commission may be a party to such arrangements as are mentioned in subsection (3) of this section.

(3) In subsection (4)").

The noble Earl said: The amendment I propose is to paragraph 7 of Schedule 4 and will empower the commission to enter into arrangements with the Secretary of State, as to the management or custody of use",

of any property acquired by him and to take over the day-to-day-management of historic buildings owned by the Secretary of State. It has always been the intention that one of the commission's tasks would be to take over the executive responsibilities. The Secretary of State, under Section 5 of the 1953 Act, is able to acquire by agreement or to accept as a gift buildings of outstanding historic or architectural interest and their adjoining land and to make arrangements as he thinks fit for their management and use. The commission will have all the relevant expertise to manage them for him. The amendment also establishes that the commission will also have the power to agree to any such request and to enter into arrangements to manage such historic buildings. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 103A, 103B and J03C, not moved.]

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 103D: Page 38, line 22, after ("are") insert (", or are historically appropriate to,").

The noble Baroness said: Under subsection (2) of the new Section A which is to be inserted in the 1953 Act, which we will find in our guide to Schedule 4, the commission may only purchase or accept gifts of objects, for example, furniture, which will have been ordinarily kept in a building which it itself owns, controls or manages, or alternatively with respect to a building in the ownership of the National Trust. We then come on to Amendment No. 103E. If the commission is restricted like this, it may well find that it cannot even furnish a building it is given or has acquired from which the contents have been dispersed. I am sure the Government would agree that would be a ridiculous situation. The amendment puts things right by allowing the commission to acquire or to be given historically appropriate objects.

It seems strange, for that matter, to impose any restriction even of "historically appropriate" on the things the commission can be given, as distinct from "purpose". Surely this is something to be left to the good sense of the commission. I think what we want to avoid is having the commission buy buildings because it feels they really have to be conserved and therefore ought to be bought, and then having nothing to put into them—we would then, unfortunately, have the situation that one sees in so many chateaux on the Loire—or being restricted by not being able perhaps to add to any collection or add to things that are in a house, where it is possible to do so. This amendment is quite a small one and I think it is something which perhaps the Government will find they can accept.

Lord Digby

I hope that the Committee can accept this, because there are many instances, such as Sir Winston Churchill's memorabilia, and so on, which would never have been at Chartwell, for example, and might have been in No. 10 during the war. These are things which it should be possible to acquire under these terms.

The Earl of Avon

As the noble Baroness says, this amendment seeks to widen a rather narrow category of objects which may be acquired by the commission to improve the historical completeness and presentation of buildings in their ownership or under their control or management. The Government agree that historically appropriate objects are highly relevant to the overall conservation of the building and we are happy to accept the amendment in principle. However, I should prefer not to commit myself to this precise form of words because it may be necessary to make some small word changes to improve the construction of a subsection. Therefore, I would ask the noble Baroness if she would withdraw the amendment on the basis that we will incorporate this principle in an amendment put forward at a later stage.

Baroness Birk

I have to thank the Minister very much for accepting the principle. Of course, I will leave it to him to find a better form of words, and therefore I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 103E: Page 38, line 32, at end insert (", body listed in paragraph 12 of Schedule 6 to the Finance Act 1975 or body exempt under paragraph 13 of that Schedule.").

The noble Baroness said: This is another of the financial amendments. As I seem to have lost my notes on this, I will leave the amendment to speak for itself.

The Earl of Avon

Perhaps I may respond and that may help the noble Baroness: she can read it on another occasion. This amendment seeks to widen the categories of buildings for which the commission would be empowered to acquire objects from their own buildings or those of the National Trust to any buildings owned by a wide variety of bodies, including local authorities and the national museums and galleries.

The commission are being established to provide a more cohesive central focus for the heritage, but their first priority will be preservation. As I am sure the Committee will agree, the commission will wish, and will be expected, to apply their resources first and foremost to that priority. Where the commission have buildings which they are preserving and presenting to the public then it is quite appropriate that they should be able to acquire objects, as we have just decided. But the Government do not believe that the commission should be applying any of their resources to the purchase of objects for buildings owned by a wide range of other bodies. If those bodies have the responsibility for their buildings then it is entirely appropriate that they should meet the costs of doing so. Help is, of course, available in appropriate circumstances from other sources such as the National Heritage Memorial Fund. I would prefer to leave it that way.

Baroness Birk

I think that in the circumstances I had better leave it that way and perhaps come back to this on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Sandford had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 103F:

Page 38, line 38, at end insert— ("Such arrangements as to management or custody or property may include arrangements as to the discharge of those functions on behalf of the Commission by a local authority.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is an important one, but my noble friend Lord Ridley has already spoken to the matter and I do not propose to move this amendment.

[Amendment No. 103F not moved.]

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 103G: Page 38, leave out lines 39 to 42.

The noble Baroness said: This amendment removes from the Bill, by leaving out the relevant lines, a control on the acquisition of historical buildings and objects; even their acceptance of gifts. Under the control, the Secretary of State must first approve acquisitions or acceptances. I believe it should not even be necessary for formal consultation to take place. Doubtless the commission will go to the Secretary of State rather even than to his officers for advice with anything of importance. That should be enough; and that is what has happened in the past with the HBC or the Ancient Monuments Board.

To put in this control on the activities of the commission is pettyfogging in the extreme. There has to be some ultimate power of control given to the Secretary of State—a power to intervene and say, no. That really is the most that should be left to the Secretary of State in this arena. But, in practice, the Secretary of State has all the controls he needs, because in the last resort he controls the purse strings. So I hope that the Minister will accept this amendment, because this is another of those small amendments which are trying to get rid of this terrible stranglehold of controls on very small things, which runs through the Bill every now and then. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

As the noble Baroness said, this amendment is addressed to a fundamental aspect of the relationship between the commission and central Government. It seeks to give the commission complete freedom to acquire historic buildings and their contents as they see fit, without reference to the Secretary of State.

I am sure the Committee agree that the commission must have the freedom to operate successfully, but there are varying degrees of independence. In this case, I do not believe we can give the commission a free hand. Any acquisition by them will have substantial financial implications, not just at the time when the purchase price must be found, but for any number of years in future, when money must be found for maintenance, repair and, perhaps, custody. This will significantly affect the resources which the commission require—particularly when one considers that acquisition of buildings by the commission will take place only if there is no alternative way to preserve them. Almost inevitably, such acquisitions carry with them the highest repair and maintenance costs. Since the commission will be very largely funded by central Government, the Government must be able to exercise some control over the extent of the commission's activities and future liabilities.

It is not sufficient to say, "Well, give the commission their money and let them do with it as they wish". The sum which the commission will receive each year from the Government is not fixed at random, but will be related to their needs. It is only right, therefore, that the Government should be involved in decisions which affect the extent of these needs. This is an essential part of the Government's continuing overall responsibility for the heritage. I do not think that that will satisfy the noble Baroness very much, but I hope that she will be persuaded to some degree.

Baroness White

Could the Minister enlighten me? As I understand it, this subsection refers to subsection (2), as well as to subsection (1). I can appreciate the noble Earl's arguments on subsection (1), which refers to property, but the reference to subsection (2) covers objects as well, and in that I would have very considerable sympathy with my noble friend.

Baroness Birk

I am grateful to my noble friend Lady White for intervening. I was about to get up and point that out to the Minister. I still think that the principle should operate so far as subsection (1) is concerned. My noble friend is absolutely right. Subsection (2) states that, the Commission shall have power to purchase by agreement, or to accept a gift of, any objects which are or have been ordinarily kept", and so on. The lines which I want to delete state,

The Commission shall not acquire or accept any property under subsection (1) or (2) of this section", and so on. I do not think that that can be what the Minister meant, because his reply did not deal with that side at all. He was saying that the commission should not be allowed to spend money without the Secretary of State's control; in other words, they should not be allowed to go wild. But this also has to do with accepting gifts, and for a grown-up adult commission to have to go to the Secretary of State and ask "Can we accept this gift?" seems absolutely ludicrous. So I think that this ought to be looked at again.

The Earl of Avon

I fully accept the noble Baroness's second point, and I will have a look at it. As she rightly appreciated, I was talking entirely about the financial implications in paying the purchase price of a house.

But, as I said, I will look into what the noble Baroness has said.

Baroness Birk

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.34 p.m.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 103H:

Page 38, line 42, at end insert- (" (5) The Commission shall have power to acquire any such building, or land as is mentioned in subsection (1) above for repair, restoration or improvement and to hold it for disposal by sale or otherwise.")

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is concerned with the commission being able to have a rolling conservation fund. If the commission are to do their job properly, they will have to be able to get involved in rolling conservation fund activities. This is not the same as major conservation schemes, which are envisaged on a much larger and more intensive scale. This provision is intended to make it possible for the commission to step in and carry out rolling conservation schemes, when others are not available to carry them out. Again, this is one of the many financial amendments which we have been discussing, and I hope it will get support from other noble Lords. It is a way of enabling the commission to extend their activities, because without this sort of provision they will be very curtailed indeed. I beg to move.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

I should like to support this amendment. This matter was raised during the Second Reading debate. This scheme was very successfully evolved by the National Trust for Scotland some years ago. There they call it a revolving fund, but it is the same idea. There is no doubt that, on many occasions, the commission will be able to act as a wonderful catalyst to bring together a lot of interested parties, so that this sort of conservation work can be done. If the commission do not have these powers in the Bill, I hope that they will be given them.

The Earl of Avon

As I understand it, this amendment is designed to give the commission a specific power to rescue historic houses, repair or improve them, or do whatever is necessary, and then sell them again. However, with one small difference, these activities are already provided for under subsections (1) and (3) of the new clause to which this amendment would be an addition.

The important difference, from the Government's point of view, is the need to obtain the Secretary of State's consent to acquisitions. I do not think that I need to rehearse the arguments I have already given; but with the assurance that this is in subsections (1) and (3) of the new clause, and with the idea that I am going to look again at the Secretary of State's consent to acquisitions I hope that the noble Baronesss may be satisfied.

Baroness Birk

In view of what the Minister has said, and as he is going to look at this again, together with the other acquisitions, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Nugent of Guilford)

I should explain, before calling Amendment No. 103J, that if it is agreed to I shall not be able to call the next amendment, No. 103K.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 103J: Page 38, line 46, leave out from ("of) to the end of line 50 and insert ("any listed building in England together with land which is contiguous or adjacent thereto.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment deals with grants to local authorities for the acquisition of historic buildings. The Bill allows the commission to make grants to local authorities where they use Section 114 powers of compulsory acquisition after the service of a Section 115 repairs notice. But local authorities may well wish to acquire historic buildings by agreement in order to repair them, and without the rigmarole and delay of serving Section 115 repairs notices and going through the Section 114 compulsory purchase procedures, all of which are extremely tedious and mean a great deal of delay, trouble and bureaucracy on the part of local authorities. This amendment makes that possible.

Obviously, the commission will not use wider powers, if they are given them, except where a purchase is for the primary purpose of repair and conservation. As always, finance will be the limitation. It is important to have this amendment or something very similar in the Bill, because one of the tremendous problems for local authorities is using these powers of compulsory acquisition where that is more or less the last resort, and then not having the necessary funds or not knowing what they will do with a building once they have it. There are, also, the awful problems that arise when they issue a repairs notice but nothing is then done about it and they have to wait till the place is practically falling down. This is not so much a case of giving them power as a way by which we can save a number of buildings which now fall into complete decay. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

I accept entirely the purpose of this amendment. At the moment, the clause which this amendment seeks to amend will only allow the commission to grant-aid compulsory acquisitions by local authorities of historic buildings in need of repair. The Secretary of State's present powers enable him also to grant-aid local authority acquisitions made under Section 119 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. This allows local authorities to acquire any building of special historic or architectural interest. Following the general policy of transferring to the commission existing grant-making powers, the Government intend to put down an amendment to make the commission's powers the same. With that assurance, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Birk

With that assurance, and subject to how it works out and looks in print, we will consider the matter again. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 103K, 103L and 103LA not moved.]

5.41 p.m.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 103M:

Page 39, line 11, at end insert—

("Commission conservation schemes

6A. The Commission may initiate and carry out, co-ordinate or participate in schemes for the conservation enhancement and improvement of groups of buildings listed as of special architectural or historic interest and other buildings and areas in conservation areas and otherwise including schemes in partnership with Local Authorities, charities, Housing Associations and any other bodies or persons with commercial or non-commercial interests therein as it think fit.")

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is designed to allow the commission to do jobs that nobody else may be able to tackle and, if need be, to do them alone or together with other diverse interests, so that the commission may initiate, carry out, coordinate and participate in schemes for conservation and so on. All this is carefully spelled out in the amendment. The closure of historic defence areas such as Chatham Dockyard and the Woolwich Arsenal, the decline of historic town centres or complexes, such as Penryn, and the predicament of groups of 18th century mills in Lancashire in the North present massive problems involving regeneration and new uses. On that large scale, revival can often only be achieved if one body takes the initiative and forms a partnership between Government—which, under the Bill, would be the commission—the local authority, the Civic Trust or a local amenity body, a developer, or several of them, and private owners. That this is possible has been successfully demonstrated at Penryn in Cornwall and at Wirksworth in Derbyshire. Where there is no such initiative, as at the Woolwich Arsenal, outstanding historic buildings may be lost as the whole area falls into dereliction. Problems on this scale and presenting such opportunities at present exist in the historic Chatham Dockyard. I hope the Minister will find that he can accept this amendment or, if the drafting is not as he wants it, that he is able to accept the main point: the commission to be able to work with others in this type of co-operation. It can only result in saving more buildings and, very important, putting them to productive use. I beg to move.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

As the commission's work develops in the way in which we all hope that it will and grows in stature, more and more people, I am sure, will look towards it to carry out schemes which at the moment are not carried out at all. Chatham Dockyard is a good example, although a special trust may be set up there. It is important that powers should be given to the commission to have the widest possible area of responsibility for the heritage as a whole.

The Earl of Avon

The powers conferred by this amendment, which the noble Baroness explained to us, are wide ones, which would enable the commission to play a leading role in organising partnership schemes with a wide range of bodies or persons for the conservation of historic buildings and areas.

In so far as it is appropriate, the commission will be able to enter partnership schemes. It will have wide grant-making powers. In respect of any of these, it will be open to the commission to agree with another person or body appropriate ways in which they should use their grant money. There are specific legislative powers for partnership with local authorities in relation to town scheme grants and these powers will transfer to the commission. Other grant-making powers do not have the same sort of provision because there is a limit to the delegation of grant administration which would be proper.

Nevertheless, there is nothing to prevent the commission from discussing with all appropriate bodies and persons ways in which their grant money might, within the normal rules, be co-ordinated. Indeed, there is everything to be said for doing so in many cases. Since they will have a full range of grant-making powers to enable them to fulfil their responsibilities, they will be able to make an equally wide range of such agreements. I hope the Committee will feel that this is sufficient and that we should not have a specific power which, in the view of the Government, goes too far. The commission will have many responsibilities. I think we ought to be careful about adding to them, or we shall make it difficult for the commission to perform its duties as well as we would wish.

After that discourse about what it can actually do, I do not think we are all that far from what the noble Baroness wishes. I hope, therefore, she will find that what I have suggested is acceptable.

Baroness Birk

I feel that I ought to be sure that there will be lively and positive encouragement for things to be done which have not always been done in the past. One way of trying to set about that was to put it in the Bill. The Minister has said that the powers are there for there to be guidelines which the commission could send out to other bodies in order to try to encourage very much more these types of partnership conservation. Although the powers may be there, if they are going to be the same powers as the HBC has, this work may not take place. To get it under way is the problem. It is not only a question of money but of having the staff and being able to find a way round it in order to set these things on the road. If nothing goes into the Bill about this it will cause me concern.

I do not know whether any other noble Lords have ideas as to the way this could come about without there necessarily being an amendment similar to the one which I have moved. If alternatives can be thought of I shall be prepared to consider them. The fact is that nothing is happening at the moment. With the setting up of the commission we are trying to find a way of encouraging it to happen.

5.49 p.m.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

I wonder whether the reply which the Minister gave to this amendment means that he intends to consider the position again. I believe he said that he is going to do so. However, the Minister referred also to the powers which the Government already have. At this stage I feel it is appropriate for me to air some of the anxieties of the President of the British Academy, the Master of Selwyn College and the Professor of Aerial Photography in Cambridge, who has done a great amount of work on ascertaining where old field monuments, which do not show above ground, are to be found. The anxiety is that the conservation areas to which this amendment refers, and to which the noble Earl the Minister referred broadly in his reply, may not cover the tens of thousands of field monuments which, I am instructed by the President of the British Academy and his colleagues, have far greater potential for research and for the acquisition of new knowledge. Indeed, the two professors to whom I have referred wrote to me that, after reading Hansard, they wondered whether any noble Lords taking part in this debate realise that, while there are some 400 monuments in state care—comprising for the most part the ruins of great mediaeval buildings—and a large number of archaeological sites, there are also thousands and thousands of lesser field monuments which, they say, have far greater potential for research and for the acquisition of new knowledge.

I realise that the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has written to the president of the British Academy to assist in this matter, and the noble Earl has replied very broadly to Amendment No. 99 which the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has withdrawn. My intervention at this stage is merely to indicate the anxiety there is about the existence of field monuments which, I say for the third time, I am instructed by professors have far greater potential for research and for the acquisition of new knowledge than many of the monuments which are above the ground. I am sorry that I have not given notice of this question to the noble Earl, but perhaps he will consider this question of field monuments in the examination he is going to make.

The Earl of Avon

Of course I can give that undertaking to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, and I will bear in mind what he has said. The noble Lord may have been in the Chamber when it was said that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has offered to iron out with the British Academy the various points it wishes to raise. In response to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, I thought she was really making a case for including this matter in Clause 30. Can we look at that point too?

Baroness Birk

Yes, certainly. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 103N:

Page 39, line 11, at end insert— ("9A. After section 6 of the 1953 Act there shall be inserted—

"Advice on capital transfer tax: buildings, land and objects.

6A. The Commission shall advise the Secretary of State on the eligibility of land in England to fall within paragraph (b) of subsection (1) of section 77 of the Finance Act 1976 with respect to its historic interest and buildings, land and objects in England to fall within paragraphs (c), (d) and (e) respectively of that subsection.".")

The noble Baroness said: This amendment takes us back to the financial area and deals with the question on the commission and capital transfer tax. The ancient Ancient Monuments Board and—much more frequently and more importantly—the Historic Buildings Council do give advice on the eligibility of buildings, the land adjoining them, and those of their contents which are claimed as being historically associated with the building, or for the purpose of condition exemption from capital transfer tax under legislation which I will not go into now because it is far too complex. This is an extremely important area, and it has been of enormous help in the upkeep of houses and land in this country, as it was possible to claim exemption from CGT.

The first consultation paper put out by the department ignored this function, but in the last paper—The Way Forward—there was a paragraph on the subject, yet there is nothing in the Bill about it. Surely there is now a need to put something into the legislation to establish the commission's functions in this respect and to ensure that the commission can adequately perform them. Indeed, it must be hoped that the commission will be allowed to deal with claims in anticipation of transfer as the HBC once did before shortage of staff was said to be the reason for ceasing to provide such information, albeit on an informal basis. Such information is quite essential to the making of testamentary dispositions; that is to say, the writing of one's will. It is important that this aspect is carried forward in the legislation now before us because it is always fundamental to what happens in respect of the very many houses and areas of land which form such an enormous part of the heritage. I beg to move.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

I support everything that has been said by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and should like to make one other point. In the struggle to keep up our great estates, which has been continuing for many years (and which involves many Members of this House), one of the most important things is the forward planning for those estates. In preparing a comprehensive conservation plan for the whole estate, it is very much better to know which land is to be exempt. There was a time when the Treasury made it possible to get advice of this kind, but, unfortunately, because of shortage of staff, such advice has not been so available recently, If such advice will be available from the commission in future, it should enhance the possibility of the countryside being conserved in a very much better way and of the owners co-operating in this.

The Earl of Avon

The Government fully intend that the commission should fulfil the role which this amendment would give it. The Government will need the expert advice of the commission on capital transfer tax matters, and specifically on whether buildings, land or objects fall within the scope of the exemptions given by the Finance Act 1976 to property of historic interest; we made this quite clear in The Way Forward, and this will be part of the commission's general advisory role. Their advisory powers are currently provided by paragraphs 1 and 40 of Schedule 4. However, the Government intend to bring forward at a later stage a revised advisory power which, while not being specific as to this or other detailed subjects, will fully cover what the noble Baroness has in mind. With this assurance, I hope that the noble Baroness will again be happy.

Baroness Birk

; I thank the noble Earl for his reply, and on that basis I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 103P not moved.]

5.57 p.m.

The Earl of Avon moved Amendment No. 104: Page 39, line 14, leave out from first ("the") to ("to") in line 16 and insert ("Commission are requested in pursuance of subsection (3) of this section").

The noble Earl said: This is a tiny technical amendment to the drafting of the provision in paragraph 10 of Schedule 4, which enables the commission to undertake the management of properties accepted by the Secretary of State as endowments of historic buildings. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 104A not moved.]

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 104B: Page 39, line 38, leave out (", with the consent of the Secretary of State,").

This amendment seeks to remove yet another control by the Secretary of State—this time on the acceptance by the commission of endowment property. It surely goes without saying that the commission itself would not be offered the endowment of a specific property if the commission did not own or manage that property. It is surprising in the light of this particular restriction that the Secretary of State does not take unto himself the power to reject voluntary contributions under Clause 30; maybe there will be an amendment moved to that effect. Surely it should be evident by now that if this commissison is to be established, it must be trusted. This control is a quibbling little matter. The phrase, with the consent of the Secretary of State

has become such a regular one that people are beginning to write it in their sleep; perhaps it was written in someone's sleep on this occasion. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

We have taken the opportunity to reconsider this question and the noble Baroness will be pleased to hear that we can agree with her view.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Digby moved Amendment No. 104C:

Page 40, line 26, at end insert—

("Preparation of lists of gardens.

8B. The Commission and the appropriate Council shall prepare lists and plans of gardens, parks, designed landscapes and other lands which appear to them to be of special architectural, historic, artistic, silvicultural or horticultural interest and shall publish such lists and plans, with gradings, and may amend them from time to time for the purpose of identifying such gardens, parks, designed landscapes and other lands for the guidance of local authorities and other persons or bodies and their protection from damage by development in them or in their settings.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is rather different from all those on gardens and parks which have been dealt with already; it refers to the listing of gardens. It must be evident that matters are not as they should be in this field. For example, there is much concern on the subject of the M40 motorway which is coming too close to Beckley Park and likewise to Farnborough Hall. Both are Grade I listed buildings, but that has not influenced the Departmment of Transport adequately. Had there been an effective system of listing for gardens, parks and designed landscapes, with due publicity, and plans to identify the main features and the settings that also need due protection, the road engineers might have been more careful and much distress and trouble might have been saved. The Department of Transport itself would not have incurred so much expense in backing the wrong route. The route surely must be changed when the Secretary of State studies the inspector's report on the damage that will be done to these two properties. There are other cases to recall—Petworth, Chillingham—and there will be more unless gardens are listed.

Let us consider the practicalities for a moment. The Department have not smiled upon the idea that gardens should be listed. The difficulties, I suggest, are imagined rather than real. Already much work has been done with the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland in conjuction with the Countryside Commission for Scotland. Much work has been done on lists at the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies at York; the Garden History Society has done work, and so have several local authorities. An actual list containing 200 gardens, parks and designed landscapes in this country has been prepared and published by the International Commission for Monuments and Sites. The preparation of this ICOMOS list was the last labour of love of the late Lord Rosse. All this work proves that the job can be done without undue difficulty.

I am anticipating remarks from my noble friend Lord Avon that we have put in again the question of arboricultural, silvicultural and horticultural interests. I can tell him that I had prepared another amendment, which I did not table because I felt your Lordships do not like manuscript amendments, but which would be available to him should he consider accepting it at a later stage. It differs from this one only in that the interests have been reduced to historic, architectural and artistic; that is the very important one, artistic. It also embraces Scotland and Wales, and to make it even more palatable I have put in "may" rather than "shall". I do feel that an attempt to list gardens and similar landscapes is of vital importance and I believe it can be done. I beg to move.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

I should like to support this amendment. I remember some years ago discussing this matter with a senior civil servant from the Department of the Environment. He said it was impossible to do and there was no way of doing it. I thought at the time that this was a needlessly reactionary view to take. The fact is that it can be done. The noble Lord will be interested to know that his neighbouring county of Hampshire is doing this at the moment. In fact I was speaking only today to one of the planning officers, and 260 gardens are being listed at the moment in Hampshire. How they are doing it I do not know, but it can be done. If one county can do it, other people can do it.

It is very important, to my mind, that historic gardens are listed. They were mostly all man-made and made with the same skill and love and design as some of our great houses. We take great pride in our gardens in this country, and they are known worldwide. They have been disappearing at an alarming rate. I think it is essential that we should know what we have and that they should be listed in some way.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

I rise to support this amendment also. But I wonder whether it goes far enough. I wonder whether this proposed list would apply to those tens of thousands of field monuments to which I referred earlier, which have been discovered in particular by the professor of aerial photographic studies in Cambridge. I understand that these field monuments are considered to be of great historical importance and form the basis of research. This amendment refers to designed landscapes, and I should like to see it go a little wider to cover those field monuments which have nothing to show above the ground but which are, I am instructed by my professor friends at Cambridge, of such importance.

The Earl of Avon

The amendment which my noble friend described would require the commission and the Scottish and Welsh Historic Buildings Councils to prepare lists of gardens on an advisory basis. Such a procedure would potentially form a distraction to the new commission in its early years from what the Government see and I believe the Committee see as its major tasks. In particular the Government would not want to see anything slow up the programme of the accelerated listing re-survey which is now getting well into its stride.

I do not want to argue against the desirability of protecting historic landscapes. But the new commission will have to think carefully about its priorities and its use of resources and expertise. The Government see no reason why some work in the landscape field could not be done by the commission as part of its general advisory role. But the Government would hesitate to consider that such work, which would inevitably be partial and incomplete to begin with, needs specific legislative provision. If the new commission in time sees a pressing need for such provision, it will be able to ask for it, having been able to discuss and consider with other bodies in this field, such as the Countryside Commission, the extent of any remit that it might want.

What I really want to say to the Committee, while we are discussing these amendments, is that I do believe we should think very hard about how much we actually put into the Bill and tell the commission to do. I would consider this to be one of those things that they could certainly consider but which we need not legislate for. As my noble friend Lord Montagu told us, quite a lot of work is going on in an informal way. I understand that the HBC for England have been helping in this. I see no reason why it should not continue in an informal way. But I should hesitate to recommend the Committee to write this into the Bill.

Lord Digby

I thank my noble friend for that answer, but I am not entirely satisfied. I think I must ask him whether he would be prepared to accept this or some similar formula with the word "may", so that this will be available. I take his point that this commission is going to have a lot to do and it may not wish straight away to do anything about listing, but it would keep it in the mind and there is no reason why, if the word were "may", it should be implemented straight away. I hope my noble friend would consider something on those lines.

Lord Kennet

I should like to speak in favour of the word "may". It could be that the promoters of this amendment would also consider this. The point of listing in the case of buildings is that once a building is listed nobody is allowed to destroy or harm it without permission. I do not think there is anything in the Bill—I cannot be sure because I cannot understand the schedule—which suggests that the new commission will have any function in advising the Secretary of State on refusing or granting permission to demolish or harm historic gardens or landscapes. It may be that the actual listing should not be begun until it is proposed to give such a power to the commission or to the Secretary of State advised by the commission. I do think there is a case for putting in a "may" clause now, if only so that we do not have to come back and legislate all over again when it is judged that the time is ripe.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, about this. I think it is important to have something in, even if it is only purely permissive. The whole question of gardens, et cetera, is one which noble Lords may consider from some points of view even more urgent than the other extremely important matters which the noble Earl mentioned. It is still, thank God, fairly rare for major historical buildings to disappear without people noticing. It is not at all rare now for distinguished gardens and landscapes to be harmed, particularly the former. It is because they are the more ephemeral and the more worth noting—noting, that is, sometimes, in order that they may be restored. Some very important work has been done recently on the restoration of gardens, particularly, for instance, one or two of the gardens of the late Gertrude Jekyll.

In the whole of this area there is a necessity to keep this in the front of our attention so that we can watch what is going on, keep an eye on it, record what is there and not let this part of our heritage disappear or slip away in the way that it is only too easy for it to do. The noble Earl should look at this again, with the "mays" instead of the "shalls".

Baroness Birk

I add my support to this amendment. In view of what has been said by the Minister and the noble Lords who have just spoken it seems to me that it would be a very happy compromise all round if "may" is substituted for "shall". Certainly the most important place would be in the second line of the amendment. There is another "shall" further down which could also be changed to "may"— and may publish such lists and plans"— and then there is, may amend them from time to time". I agree with everything that has been said about the importance of gardens and keeping lists and plans because they, too, are not only a part of the heritage from the garden and landscape point of view, but are a part of history itself when they are recorded. It would be a pity to miss out on this altogether. I hope that now the amendment has been tempered with permissiveness the noble Lord will be able to give a happier answer.

The Earl of Avon

Speaking personally, I am very much in favour of what has been said because I am a great admirer of gardens, too. I will take this back to see whether I can obtain agreement to what the Committee so obviously wants to do. However, I must once again emphasise that the work we are considering now falls outside the basic remit in respect of ancient monuments and buildings. But having said that, and knowing the feelings of the Committee, particularly on design landscape as well as on gardens, I shall certainly have another look at this matter.

Lord Digby

I am most grateful to the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.14 p.m.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 104D:

Page 40, line 26, at end insert—

("Commission supervision of Property Services Agency.

8B.—(1) From time to time as it deems necessary the Commission shall cause all scheduled ancient monuments archaeological areas and buildings listed as being of special architectural or historic interest in the management or use of the Property Services Agency to be inspected.

(2) The Commission shall be consulted whenever necessary as it may decide and not less than annually by the Property Services Agency, at the cost of the Agency, as to the use and maintenance, proposed repair, restoration, alteration and extension of all such monuments, areas and buildings and on any proposal to demolish or damage them in whole or part and it shall advise the Agency as to their appropriate use and proper care and conservation.

(3) When, three years or more after the bringing into force of this Act, the Commission considers that any such monument, area or building is not being appropriately used and properly cared for and conserved it shall forthwith so notify the Secretary of State and refer to all such notifications in its annual report.

(4) This section shall also apply to all other Government Departments.".")

The noble Baroness said: This is quite a tricky but overdue amendment. I am quite aware that in talking about Government departments we are skating on thin ice, but I am afraid it has to be done. The amendment speaks for itself—quite eloquently, if I may say so. It is no secret to those who have anything to do with the Department of the Environment, with the Property Services Agency or with the historic buildings in the care of the department that to say that the PSA is not exactly renowned for its management of the many historic buildings in its care, in spite of notable exceptions, is rather an understatement.

The Earl of Avon


Baroness Birk

It is no good the noble Earl saying, "Oh!"; I am afraid it is true. It is one of those unpleasant truths that have to be told occasionally, and the moment has come now, when we are talking of the transference of functions from the department to the commission. One can keep all this very much "in house" when one is working in a department and battering away on one's own, or with help, but now we are making this change the time has come to shake up the PSA a bit. It needs it.

I refer, for example, to the decayed and neglected state of many of the historic buildings in Chatham. The Ancient Monuments Board drew attention to this in its recent report. Visitors who have seen them have commented on this. I also refer to the state of the historic buildings in Woolwich: and to the inept way in which architecturally and aesthetically the PSA sometimes treats buildings in its care. Unthinking alterations were made to the stable block at St. James's Palace. I am afraid—and I have seen this—repairs are sometimes effected at great cost with the wrong materials, so that yet more money has to be spent to put the damage right. Given good advice that damage could have been avoided and great economies made.

Often the advice that is given is very good, but the PSA do not take any notice of it. They are a very uncontrollable lot, and it is about time that somebody said so. If noble Lords do not believe it, they should go to Chatham and see the state of the roof there, and the alterations made to it. They should go to Woolwich; or to Chichester, to see where they have put up that Post' Office. I saw it, built and in use, but by then there was nothing I could do about it. I was Minister of the Department, and if it had been possible to kick it down I would have done so. It is absolutely appalling. There is no sensitivity to the surroundings. Your Lordships can see that this has been bubbling up for a long time, certainly in me. At the same time I must say that there are, on the other hand, because one must be fair, a great many successes. However, I am afraid the failures outnumber them, and the costs involved are astronomical.

I now refer to the amendment, having grasped the nettle very hard. Subsection (1) gives the commission the right to inspect. We can avoid any nonsense about security, because we can make sure that some of the commission's inspectors are positively vetted, although it does not necessarily follow that that will do any good. However, that is not the problem.

Subsection (2) places a requirement on the PSA to consult with the commission, at the PSA's own cost, which is quite right, as to the use and maintenance, proposed repair, restoration, alteration and extension of the buildings in its care, and on proposals to demolish any of them. All these aspects have to be taken into account if the great heritage of listed buildings in the PSA's control is to be looked after properly rather than allowed to decay, as is all too often now the case.

Subsection (3) gives the PSA time to set its house in order, with inspection by and consultation with the commission. It obviously cannot do that instantly. I am afraid the Augean Stables are far too large to be cleaned out in one fell swoop; time will be needed to sort everything out. Thereafter, the subsection requires reports to be made by the commission to the Secretary of State and to Parliament via the commission's own report. Frankly, this is a way in which the PSA can be not only controlled but harnessed, whereas a department is such a large section (and, as I have said before, a law unto itself) that that is extremely difficult.

Lest the PSA feels hard done by at being singled out—it probably does, and I do not blame it—subsection (4) applies to all other Government departments, because the PSA is not alone in neglecting and misusing the buildings in its care. The Home Office has some magnificent buildings in its care—mostly, unfortunately, attached to prisons—but they have been allowed to get into a parlous state.

The services do not have a particularly good record. They have many fine but neglected buildings in some of the restricted areas they control. The condition of these often pops up, and is reported in the press. One could also list the public utilities which always say that they do not have sufficient money. However, to be fair, the utilities are now taking a great interest in the environment and I know that many of the nationalised industries have appointed environmental directors. So there has been an improvement.

In Annex B to The Way Forward it says that it is essential that the commission be enabled to advise on the preservation and maintenance of historic buildings in the Government estate, and it proposes that it be given formal power to do so. The commission would, therefore, be concerned with matters concerning the fabric of these and other historic buildings and ancient monuments in the department's care and in the care of other Government departments. Therefore, for there to be buildings in the PSA's control or at least supervised by the commission is not a new thought. However, there is nothing yet in the Bill on that subject. Therefore, we need to ensure that not necessarily the exact words contained in this amendment but some words along these lines are contained in the Bill so that the buildings that are in the Government estate receive the care to which they are entitled because, God knows!, there is enough money spent on them as it is. I beg to move.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

I should like to support the amendment in some degree. The noble Earl will remember that exactly two years ago I presented a report to the Secretary of State in my capacity as Chairman of the Working Group on the Alternative Use of Historic Buildings, and that report went into the subject of PSA buildings, railways and so on in some detail. One of our recommendations was that the PSA should start listing its own buildings. Therefore, I was delighted recently to see that the first volume of its publication has come out dealing with the buildings in its care in the North of England. It is a very fine publication which will, I gather, be followed by others covering the country.

The matter which I think is of importance is that the Government are going to look to the commission for advice on the historic buildings under its care. If they do not look to the commission, to whom will they look? If they are going to appoint a commission to be the expert on conservation of historic buildings, then they should use it to advise them.

Lord Sandford

I also would like to support this amendment, or the intentions behind it. There is a good deal in the architectural standards of the PSA which leave a good deal to be desired. I share very much with the noble Baroness a distaste for some of the modern buildings that it has put up—for example, post offices, telephone exchanges and so on—in highly sensitive central areas. But I do not think that that is something with which we can deal in this Bill, which is to do with heritage buildings. Nor do I think that we can deal with all the problems at once in this legislation.

What is required is that the commission should feel obliged, should feel under a duty, to advise the Secretary of State on the more urgent matters that need to be looked into—and improved care by the PSA of its heritage buildings is certainly one of them. It ought also to advise the Secretary of State as to the scale and nature of the inspection that ought to be introduced, and gradually to put pressure on over the years and not try to seek to get a set framework in this Bill.

The Earl of Avon

The Government are aware, and I hope that they have been seen to be increasingly conscious, that many heritage interests express concern about the quality of conservation work carried out on the Government estate. Apart from the obvious point that resources are always limited, a good deal of this concern we believe is misplaced. So far as they are able, the PSA and other Government departments seek to take care of their historic property and much good work is done. I was rather hoping that perhaps the final curtain might be unveiled from our own frontage on our way in today so that we could see the superb work which they have done on that particular front.

It must be remembered that important as the care of the historic fabric is, it is the use of the buildings as hospitals, offices, et cetera which brings them within the responsibility of the PSA and Government departments, and that use—one could almost call them "working buildings"—will therefore inevitably have an edge in priority.

The Government think that the sweeping powers of inspection and statutory consultation envisaged by this amendment are inappropriate as between a ministerially appointed body and other Government departments. It is very unlikely that resources could be found to fund the necessary arrangements. And such rigorous oversight could well, at the end of the day, prove counter-productive.

The Government would prefer to see the commission proceed by advice and persuasion—and here I think I am at one with my noble friend Lord Sandford—being seen to be reasonable and responsible while still pressing the conservation case. The Bill already contains, in paragraphs 1 and 40 of Schedule 4, substantial advisory powers for the commission, and the Government have it in mind to widen those powers further. This has been particularly underlined by our discussion this evening. I feel that as attractive as the ideas of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, may be, the way forward here is by advisory powers and that is the more likely way in which to make progress than the proposed amendment.

Baroness Birk

I thank the Minister for his reply. I mentioned the post office at Chichester merely as an example of what I consider to be architectural insensitivity. I did not consider that the putting up of modern buildings necessarily had anything to do with this Bill, although in that case it was put up in a conservation area. Therefore, it is in fact still relevant to the Bill.

The Minister brought in the question of finance and costs. I am absolutely convinced that if there were a tighter control from a commission which was specialist in the field in which it would be operating, then enough money could be saved and the work would be so much improved that we would not have to worry about it costing more. In fact, there would be a saving which could perhaps be handed over to the commission to be used for conservation or to the conservation fund donated by the PSA.

I take the point about advice and consultation. But I would not like to feel that the matter was left quite as open as that. Somewhere in the Bill it should be laid down that some advisory routes should be worked out between the commission and the PSA, otherwise matters will just go on in the way in which they have up to now.

There is no doubt that there is everywhere both a feeling of disenchantment and grumbling. It is far better to have the PSA because when it is right it has the ways and means of showing that it is right. There are umpteen other examples, one of which is Richmond Terrace. It is practically finished—it has gone. It is an absolute disaster.

Therefore, there must be some mention of it in the Bill; it must not be so sotto voce that nothing is said to make it clear that the commission has a right to be consulted by the PSA and also to state its view. Here we move away from the question of whether it is part of a Government department. The commission, after all, has been set up by the Government; it is appointed by the Prime Minister. Unless this provision is included I can assure the Minister, with all the good wishes and hopes in the world, that nothing will be done. Somewhere in the Bill this must be stated.

On Question, amendment negatived.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Kennet moved Amendment No. 104E: Page 41, leave out lines 4 to 8.

The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, I shall speak to Amendment Nos. 104E and 104F together. These amendments concern the conditions under which redundant churches may be transferred to the new commission, and Amendment No. 104F is concerned with land attached to redundant churches. I shall tell the Committee what I think the effects of the amendments would be. If I am wrong—because I cannot pretend to understand the effects of the schedule as it stands—then no doubt the noble Earl, Lord Avon, will correct me.

At present the law says that, when a church becomes redundant, the diocesan board of finance, which is its owner for this purpose, may produce a scheme for it to be acquired by the Secretary of State for the Environment on the Ancient Monuments Commission side, or may give it—and this is the more usual course—to the Redundant Churches Fund. The same applies to the land. The churches which have fetched up in direct Government ownership so far have, in fact, mainly been parts of churches or ruins of some distinction, though that is not invariably the case.

It is now, quite naturally, proposed under the Bill that instead of making over these churches to the Secretary of State, the diocesan boards of finance should make them over to the commission. At present the scheme between the diocesan board of finance and the Secretary of State as future owner is, naturally, not subject to the approval of the Secretary of State because he himself is taking ownership. At present when the churches are passed to the ownership of the Redundant Churches Fund the approval of the Secretary of State is not required either.

The schedule to the Bill says that in the case of those churches that will now be given to the new commission, the approval of the Secretary of State shall be required, and in the case of those churches which continue to be given to the Redundant Churches Fund, it says nothing—namely, the approval of the Secretary of State will not be required in that case. The effect of the amendment, if I have it all right, is to remove the requirement for the Seceretary of State's approval in the case of those churches which are handed by the diocesan boards of finance to the new commission.

I move this amendment because I do not see why we should institute Secretary of State control over those churches without also instituting it over the churches which go to the Redundant Churches Fund, and I do not really see why either of them should be subject to the Secretary of State's approval. Things have continued quite well with the Redundant Churches Fund for 15 years or so now without that, and I should have thought that the new commission would fit into the same pattern without any trouble at all.

I expect the Minister may tell us that the Secretary of State wants to have that control in order that the commission should not take too many churches and thereby exhaust its funds or do anything rash in the way of acquisition from the diocesan boards of finance. To that, the answer is that the Redundant Churches Fund—of which I had the honour to be a member for some years—although always sorely tempted to take too many churches and so exhaust its funds early, has never in fact done so, even without the control of the Secretary of State to prevent it. In short, I submit that the new commission may be expected to be as responsible as the Redundant Churches Fund and that this nannying provision should be deleted. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is entirely right; the two amendments are both designed to remove the requirement for the commission to seek the Secretary of State's consent when entering into an agreement with the appropriate Church authorities to acquire and preserve a redundant church or land previously annexed or belonging to it.

Even though the specific aim of these two amendments is to remove that requirement, I think that these arguments follow the arguments that we had on Amendment No. 103G and Amendment No. 103M. If I may say so to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, there is absolutely nothing sinister about churches requiring this permission by the Secretary of State. When there is any question of money going out, this is just something that runs throughout the Bill. That is all this particular requirement is.

I did not quite follow the noble Lord in his argument as to whether or not there is money involved when a redundant church is handed over. The theme throughout the Bill is that wherever the commission is taking on a capital expenditure, as it were, that is by the Secretary of State's consent; but there is nothing sinister for churches. If the noble Lord can assure me that no money is involved in some of these transactions, I can look at that part again.

Lord Kennet

The Redundant Churches Fund receives a block grant to cover it for, I think, five years; then it is left to get on with its work and it spends the money over the five years as it thinks fit—not, indeed, on the acquisition of buildings, but on their maintenance once acquired. They come free to it and I imagine that, in this case equally the buildings will come free to the commission. No doubt their maintenance will cost some money, but I do not think that the Secretary of State would wish to have control over this or that little expenditure of £10,000 to maintain historic buildings, whether church or lay. Perhaps the noble Earl will be so good as to look at that again in the light of this information.

Lord Sandford

Although I am chairman of the Redundant Churches Committee of the Church Commissioners, I do not want to get involved in this discussion, but before we leave this paragraph I wonder whether my noble friend can answer me this question, not now but in writing. He will be aware that the Pastoral Measure, to which paragraph 13 refers, is dated 1968 and that last year we passed the Pastoral (Amendment) Measure. The amendment measure and this measure are now in the process of being consolidated by the Church authorities, and when that has been achieved they will come before the Ecclesiastical Committee, and so on. So we shall then be left with the business of the Church measure referred to being consolidated with its amendment measure, but the consolidation of the rest of this legislation pertaining to Schedule 4 not having been started but being urgently required, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, mentioned in connection with his first amendment this afternoon.

What I think we need to know is by what process these two sets of ecclesiastical legislation and secular legislation are to be kept in step. That is too difficult a question for my noble friend to answer now, but I should be grateful if he would write to me about it.

The Earl of Avon

With tremendous efficiency, I have a little note here but I cannot read it, so I shall write to my noble friend.

Lord Kennet

Am I correct in thinking that, in the light of the extra information that I was able to give him, the noble Earl is prepared to look at the possibility of deleting the Secretary of State's control in this respect, if not in others?

The Earl of Avon

Yes, I shall certainly look at it, but, as I think I have made clear, there is capital involved. That is the theme throughout the Bill, where the consent of the Secretary of State is included.

Lord Kennet

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 104F not moved.]

6.38 p.m.

Lord Kennet moved Amendment No. 104G:

Page 43, line 9, at end insert— (" (1A) In paragraph (aa) of subsection (1) after "of a" there shall be inserted "scheduled ancient monument or".

(1B) After subsection (1) there shall be inserted— (1A) For the purposes of subsection (1) above the setting of a scheduled ancient monument or listed building which is graded as "Grade I" or "Grade A" shall be taken as extending to not less than 500 metres radius from the boundaries of the curtilage of the monument or building and a planning application shall be regarded as affecting it if, without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, any part of the land or of the curtilage of any building to which the application relates falls within the setting so described.".)

The noble Lord said: This amendment does two things. First, it says that what ought to be done about informing the public and, indeed, the commission about planning applications within the setting of a historic building ought also to be done within the setting of an ancient monument. That is the first part of the amendment that I have tabled. Once again, I think that the effect of the present Bill as it comes before us is that people have to give notice of planning applications and all the rest of it and to take certain measures about publicity—and local authorities also have to take measures about publicity—within the setting of ancient monuments and historic buildings, but the word "setting" is nowhere defined.

It is my submission that it ought to be defined, and, in proposing the wording before the Committee, I have in mind—and this is perhaps something rather of a general principle which it may not be right to raise in the Committee stage of a Bill—that it would be a good idea to import a sort of flavour, if you like, of the French legislation into British law. All those Members of the Committee who follow historic buildings' systems in other countries and ours know that the old towns and cities of France are as well preserved as they are, not because they have a very tight control over this building or that or even over this conservation area or that: it is done by a simple rule of thumb method, which is to take the cathedral, or parish church, which is always a highly protected building in itself corresponding to a Grade I listed building in our country, and say that within a radius of 500 metres of that nothing shall be touched or changed without express planning permission. This it is that keeps the French townscape so marvellous. I say nothing of the countryside in France and of those bits of French towns and cities which do not have the benefit of standing within 500 metres of a monument classé, which is the French for Grade 1 listed building.

It would be beneficial if we could say that what we mean by the area within which full publicity must be given for planning permission is that very same 500 metre radius circle. Its chief advantage is that it is easy to administer. There are no questions asked; no arguments about it. You just put a compass on the cathedral, or whatever it is, and draw your circle and that is the publicity zone for applications, as we might call it. It does not say anything about whether or not permission should be granted or not granted within that circle, only that more people shall know about it than if the premises in question did not stand within that circle.

The catastrophic history of Beverley in recent years would probably have not been the same if Beverley Minster had been used as the centre of a circle around which everybody was to be apprised before any planning permissions were allowed to go forward. I am not sure that I have the wording right about Grade I and Grade A. I have vague knowledge—and I apologise for not having been able to look it up—that church buildings in use as churches, although they are listed, are listed according to a categorisation which differs somewhat from that used for lay buildings. If so, I apologise. If the Government accept the principle of the 500 metre radius circle, I should be happy to withdraw the amendment in the hope that we can get the right wording at the next stage. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

As the noble Lord, Lord Rennet, said, this amendment seeks to define the term "the setting of a listed building" in relation to the requirements on local authorities to publicise applications for planning permission which they consider would affect the setting of a listed building. The amendment restricts the new definition to Grade I listed buildings, but as a totally new departure extends the publicity requirements to all scheduled ancient monuments. I am not sure that that is what the noble Lord intended.

The problem here is that this is a major alteration to existing planning legislation, and I do not believe that it is appropriate to make such an amendment in this Bill. Nevertheless, the Committee might find it helpful if I comment on the terms of the amendment. The present arrangements for publicity set out in Section 28 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 are amplified in respect of the setting of buildings by paragraph 26 of Department of Environment Circular 23/77. This advises local authorities to be flexible in their interpretation of "setting" and recommends that where there is doubt the local authority should publicise. I believe it is better to allow for flexibility rather than to enshrine in statute a limit which often, however worded, gets treated as both a minimum and maximum. From that point of view I do not believe the amendment would help. There is also the question of applying these povisions to scheduled ancient monuments, many of which are only mounds in the ground. Publicity for these would seem to be difficult. I gather from the noble Lord that this is a probing amendment. I do not think I may have fully answered all his points, but I shall read what he has said.

Baroness Birk

I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, in his amendment. Whether or not the amendment is slightly defective from the Government's point of view, the principle it enshrines is important. The noble Lord initiated a debate on Beverley, and I remember trying with him to see whether we could do something about it. It was thought that it was quite impossible. Unless one does lay down something like this it is difficult.

I see the Minister's problem. The amendment goes rather wide. It is possible that one might be able to build in a limitation of visibility, so that if you can see the building from across the street, or within a visual purlieu, then it would have to be referred to the commission. I am thinking of the point made by the Minister about the number of referred applications.

Whichever way it is done, or not done, something must be done about this particular problem, otherwise we are going to lose so much of, if you like to call it that, our referred heritage. The curtilage of a building is as important because it is part of a building. Can the Minister take this back and undertake to come forward with something which would deal with this sort of case? Beverley is a first-class example of where there was no way of saving something although any civilised person would realise that something should be done about it.

Lord Sandford

The system in the noble Lord's amendment has some merit, but I think mainly in France and not in England. In France, where their secteurs sauvegarde's—the equivalent of our conservation areas—can be numbered in scores, 100 or perhaps 200, there is certainly some merit in having this protective circle round Grade I buildings. However I submit to the Committee that in this country, where conservation areas are numbered in thousands, we need a different form of protection, and in the great majority of cases that would be more effective than what is proposed.

Lord Kennet

May I disagree with what the noble Earl, Lord Avon, said about this being a major change in planning legislation. I think that that is an exaggeration. It is a minor change in planning legislation. It does not affect who may give permission for what, or when, or on what grounds. That is what I would call a major change. It simply changes the area in respect of which certain people have to be informed about planning applications. I would call it a minor change.

I still think that it is a good idea on the belt and braces principle, but I take into account what the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, said about the conservation areas. I also take note of what the noble Earl, Lord Avon, said for the Government about ancient monuments being often mounds in the ground miles from anywhere, and you do not want a 500-metre zone round all of those, I agree. Can the noble Earl go so far as to say that he would look sympathetically at the motion if we came up with another amendment on Report after discussion, taking into account everything that has been said?

The Earl of Avon

I shall certainly be prepared to look at anything that the noble Lord puts up again, and consult in the meantime.

Lord Kennet

I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Kennet had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 104GA:

Page 43, line 9, at end insert— ("(1A) In paragraph (aa) to subsection (1) after "of a" insert "scheduled ancient monument or". (1B) After subsection (1) there shall be inserted— (1A) For the purposes of subsection (1) above the setting of a scheduled ancient monument or listed building which is graded as "grade I" shall be taken as extending to not less than 500 metres radius from the boundaries of the curtilage of the monument or building and a planning application shall be regarded as affecting it if, without prejudice to the generality of subsection (1) above, any part of the land to be developed by the raising of a building thereon or of a building to be externally altered falls within the setting so described and—

  1. (a) is in direct sight as between any part of the scheduled monument or listed building and any part of any building to be raised or altered; or
  2. (b) can be seen at the same time by an observer at ground level as the scheduled monument or listed building.".").

The noble Lord said: I must apologise to the Committee. In the heat of the moment I have lost my Marshalled List of Amendments. The amendment is not moved. Perhaps I can come back to it at a later stage.

[Amendment No. 104GA not moved.]

6.49 p.m.

Lord Kennet moved Amendment No. 104H: Page 43, line 14, at end insert ("and copies of the application and of all plans and documents submitted with it shall be sent to the said Commission forthwith on its request or general direction.").

The noble Lord said: A friend has come to my rescue. This is an amendment which seeks to improve the documentation submitted by local authorities and applicants in the case of an application for planning permission in this sort of area, however defined. The Bill simply says that they have to send copies of the application to the commission. This amendment would provide that they also had to send copies of the supporting documentation and plans, and so on. It seems no more than a courtesy move, or an efficiency move, towards the commission that they should be in possession of the full facts instead of just a resume of them. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

Was the noble Lord speaking at the same time to Amendment No. 104J?

Lord Kennet

They are really dealing with separate points, and, therefore, I should prefer to deal with them separately.

The Earl of Avon

Amendment No. 104H would place a burden on local authorities by requiring them to send to the commission copies of plans and documents relating to planning applications affecting conservation areas, which have to be publicised, and then to allow the commission a period of 28 days in which to consider them. The commission would, furthermore, be able to extend this period, at its own direction, up to three months.

Perhaps I may be permitted to trespass a little outside the noble Lord's remarks and, in so doing, explain my point of view, and then he can, if he wishes, come back on it to me. Of course, the commission should be kept informed of such applications. That is why we have provided in the Bill for copies of notices to be sent to them. But what is suggested here is the sort of burden on local authorities that the Government wish to avoid. If, on receiving notification of a planning application from a local authority, the commission decide they would like copies of the relevant documents, they may of course obtain them, as may others. This should surely be their decision, taken in the light of the circumstances of the individual application.

They will then be able, if they wish, to study the papers and form a view, and I have no doubt they will be in touch with the local authority very swiftly if they consider there are important issues involved on which their voice needs to be heard. That voice and their influence on local authorities in these cases will depend greatly on the relationship that develops between them. We believe that that relationship will not be helped by a statutory imposition such as is proposed. Having explained our feeling on the matter, I hope I have gone some way to answer the point the noble Lord raised.

Lord Kennet

It is true that it would place a burden on local authorities if the amendment were adopted. But if it is not adopted, a burden is placed on the commission, and that burden is the burden of looking at the roughest headline of an application and trying to guess whether it is about something on which they should have a view, and then, on the basis of that guess, writing to the local authority asking for the authority to send them material which will enable them to decide whether they should have a view about it.

I agree it is a trade-off between inconvenience for local authorities and inconvenience for the commission. I do not think the Bill as drafted has it quite right, and I hope it might be possible to find a halfway house whereby the local authority should automatically send to the commission a little more information than the sort of bald notice which we see stuck up on gates, nailed to trees around the streets. That is all they are bound to send at the moment.

The Minister also went over some of the area covered by the next amendment, No. 104J, and I agree that he was right to do so because it would give the commission more than the time allotted in the Bill within which to answer, or be deemed to have no interest. This is a familiar problem in the conservation world. If you are not allowed to do something until somebody says you can do it, that is clear and the law usually provides that, if you have not been told that you may do it within a certain number of months—it is usually in terms of months—then you may appeal against deemed refusal. That is what happens with listed buildings at present.

The applications with which we are dealing here, as the Bill is framed, will leave the commission in the position that if it does not answer within three weeks, or whatever the period is, then it will be supposed to have no interest in the matter. Consider what that involves. It means that if the notification goes astray the commission has no interest in the matter; if the person who should be forming an opinion in the commission is away sick and they do not get the answer back in time, then the commission has no interest in the matter; if the typist who types the letters for the person who is supposed to have an opinion is away sick, then the commission has no interest in the matter. That is exactly the situation we had before the Planning Act 1968 about listed buildings themselves, and through that (as I used to call it) sick typist loophole we were losing hundreds of listed buildings; but that was stopped when it became necessary for local authorities to give express permission for demolition or change.

I should like to see the same sort of provisions adopted for the commission. It is quite a simple matter: if the commission has not answered within a reasonable period, then it is deemed to have returned an unfavourable opinion and must be persuaded to change its mind if the development is to go ahead. I think that is the right way to proceed. We cannot, in matters of this importance, risk a postal accident, illness or sheer mistake, to the extent that the Bill does, allowing things to slip through the net.

The Earl of Avon

I rest on what I said originally; namely, that we do not like the idea that the commission itself would, under Amendment No. 104J, require local authorities to allow them a period of 28 days in which to consider an application, with the period then being able to be extended, at the commission's own direction, up to three months. I think that would be a difficult one. We think the balance in the Bill is the honest answer: that the commission should be kept informed of such applications—and that is why, in the Bill, we have provided for notices to be sent to them. As the noble Lord himself said, he would be going a step further, and on the whole the Government would seek not to do that.

Lord Kennet

Those are hard words, and will cause disappointment among those who expect great things of the commission. I shall withdraw the amendment in the hope that we may have some contact with the noble Earl between now and the next stage, when perhaps a middle course can be drawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 104J not moved.]

[Amendment No. 104K had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

6.58 p.m.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 104KA:

Page 43, line 14, at end insert— (" 16A. After section 34 of the 1971 Act there shall be inserted—

"Commission to receive copies of local authority planning applications re listed buildings

34A.—(1) In England a local authority shall as soon as may be and in any case within seven days send the Commission for Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings for England a copy of any application for planning consent that it makes with respect to any listed building (or part thereof) or building (or part thereof) in a conservation area or Scheduled Ancient Monument in its ownership, control or management or with respect to which it is a prospective purchaser.

(2) Any such copy of an application shall be sent complete with copies of all plans and documents submitted with it on the making of the application.

(3) This section also applies to any application for planning consent made by any body or person with respect to such a building or monument in such ownership, control or management.

(4) The Commission shall advise the Secretary of State, or the local planning authority as appropriate in the circumstances of the case, on the merits of the application and he, or they, as the case may be, shall not determine it until he, or they, have received that advice.".").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment, dealing with planning applications and local authority property, is tabled to draw attention to the need for the commission to know about planning applications that are made to cover listed buildings which are themselves in the ownership or control of local authorities. Such applications might be made either by a local authority itself or by someone else with respect to a building owned by the local authority.

It would be naive to suggest that there are no occasions when local authorities allow their judgment to be swayed by local political considerations, even though they might feel that that was for the welfare of the community. However, listed buildings are really outside the political arena—apart from the fact that they do not have any voting value—and whatever happens to them cannot easily be repaired, and certainly the result of their demolition cannot be made good. The commission should, one hopes, be above political influences, but since decisions on planning applications can greatly influence the fate of a listed building, it is right that the commission should be allowed to keep an eye on, and advise about, such applications.

The amendment simply seeks to ensure that the commission is fully informed of such applications; it needs to see plans and documents rather than be fobbed off with a mere notice. Neither the local authority nor the Secretary of Stale, for that matter, should determine such an application until the commission has given its views. The commission should not make the final decision, but at least it should have the opportunity to state its views. In practice alterations to Grade I and Grade II buildings will be known about by the commission through listed buildings consent control. However, the commission will not know about alterations to Grade II buildings, either with respect to the necessary listed building consents or the planning applications, unless something is done about it. All we are asking for is that the commission should have the relevant information. I beg to move.

The Earl of Avon

Paragraph 16 of Schedule 4 requires that where a local planning authority, under Section 28 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, has to advertise a planning application which, in its opinion, would affect the character or appearance of a conservation area, or the setting of a listed building, it shall send a copy of the advertisement to the commission. That will then enable the commission, if it so desires, to make representations, but it does not interfere with the duty of the authority to determine the application in the light of the representations received from the commission, or from other bodies. In other words, the commission is enabled to make its views known without any interference with the planning authorities' duty to determine the application within eight weeks, or such longer period as may be agreed with the applicant.

The new clause goes much further, in that it seeks to cover a wider range of development proposals, and requires the local planning authority to send to the commission not a copy of any advertisement of the proposals, but a copy of the proposal itself, together with copies of plans and documents accompanying the application. Paragraph 4 seeks to prevent the Secretary of State from determining the application until the commission's advice is received, although responsibility for determination will rest with the local planning authority unless, exceptionally, the Secretary of State has exercised his powers of calling in the application for his own determination.

Where the local authority proposes to carry out development of a class to which Section 26 would apply if it were the subject of a normal planning application, then the local authority is obliged, under the general regulations, to advertise it. It is right that the advertisement, in this case, should be copied to the commission, and we shall examine the regulations to see whether an amendment is necessary to meet this point. But the amendment goes much wider than that; it requires the commission to advise on each case brought to its attention, whether or not it thinks that such advice is necessary, and it gives it effective control over the period in which the application will be determined.

We have all along thought that it would not be right for the commission, a body appointed by the Secretary of State, to intervene in the decision-making process of democratically elected bodies or persons. The commission will be able to advise local authorities or the Secretary of State if it sees fit, but, as with so many aspects of its work, the influence that it is able to exert will, and should, depend on the good relations that it is able to build up with local authorities. This is not an area in which we believe that legislation is necessarily very helpful, and indeed the Government do not consider that it would be right to make this substantial amendment to the planning system in the Bill. I hope that, with that explanation, the noble Baroness will feel that she does not have to press the amendment.

Baroness Birk

I certainly do not intend to press the amendment, though I do not think that the position is quite satisfactory. Perhaps the amendment is rather too sweeping, but I should like to find a way in which the commission would have a proper sight of planning applications that relate to listed buildings. Perhaps the Minister will have consultations and consider coming back with a proposal that does not take in quite so large an area, but deals with the kernel of the point. I think that that might be satisfactory.

Lord Sandford

Before my noble friend responds to the noble Baroness, I should like to say that I believe the view of the planning authorities would certainly be that they do not want to be delayed in coming to decisions on applications with all due despatch. There is, very properly, tremendous pressure on planning authorities to handle planning matters expeditiously. Certainly it is entirely appropriate for the commission, if it is created, to be given an opportunity to exercise its advisory role in relation to both the Secretary of State and the local authorities. The safeguard for those who feel that there are important heritage issues which must be protected is that the Secretary of State can intervene, either on his own initiative or after having heard the advice of the commission, and call in the application. There is a distinction between that and the executive actions of the planning authorities, or the Secretary of State, if he calls in an application, which must not be unduly delayed or interrupted. I believe that the balance in the Bill provides for the commission to exercise its advisory functions, and to do so in a way that does not impede the settling of planning applications with proper despatch.

The Earl of Avon

I thought that in her remarks the noble Baroness covered much that was covered earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Kennet. I said that I would see what I could do for the noble Lord, and so of course I can keep the noble Baroness informed. As I said to the noble Lord, the Government have proposed the approach that is set out, and, as can be seen from the remarks of my noble friend Lord Sandford, there is quite a lot of backing for it.

Baroness Birk

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Skelmersdale

On that happy note of amity, perhaps I may now move that we break for the dinner recess and resume the House. The Committee stage of the National Heritage Bill will not be resumed until five minutes past eight at the earliest. I beg to move.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.