§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Consideration of amendments on Report resumed.
Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 80AN:
Before Clause 43, insert the following new clause:
§ Before the abolition date the Secretary of State shall consult with the councils of London boroughs, the Sports Council of Great Britain, the Arts Council of Great Britain and other interested bodies and persons on arrangements for the continuation of events, entertainments and sports championships organised or promoted by the Greater London Council before the abolition date.")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 80AN. The House will be aware that this particular aspect of activities has not so far received the attention which I believe it deserves. The events, entertainments and London-wide sports championships which are organised by the GLC were mentioned briefly at Committee stage. It is almost certain that most, if not all, of them will disappear when the GLC is abolished. That will be a very great pity. The Minister may have a brief which will seek to persuade the House that such a thing "ain't necessarily so". We want more than assurance that he believes it to be unthinkable that these activities will not be taken care of. If ever there was a probing amendment or a peg on which to hang a case, that is the status of this amendment.
§ There are people outside the House, as the Minister knows very well, who will read with interest and with anxiety what is said here. I think the Minister can be helpful, if he wishes. There are more than 800 events, ranging from small children's entertainments to large-scale entertainments such as the Easter Parade, which are enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people each year. Over a hundred of them are organised on a regional basis and they attract visitors from all over London and beyond. In addition to the Easter Parade, in this category there are the Greater London Horse Show, Thamesday, the Kenwood and Crystal Palace open-air symphony concerts, which enjoy an international reputation, large-scale corn m unity festivals at Victoria Park, Burgess Park and Lampton Park, the Thamesmead Festival, the South Bank Spring Festival, the Holland Park open-air theatre season, the South Bank Weekend, the GLC-Capital Radio Steel Band Festival, the South Bank Children's Festival, the Spirit of London painting and photographic competitions, and many more. Furthermore, there are the GLC's London-wide sports championships, which are held each year, covering athletics, bowls, cross-country running, cycling, cyclo-cross, swimming, table tennis, golf, race-walking, and orienteering.87
§ The problems which face those who organise the events and the sports championships are twofold. First, most of them are held in GLC parks, and if the parks are split up among the boroughs, there seems to be little chance that the boroughs will wish to continue to organise events which are of a London-wide nature. Although the Government have not said anything about these events in the Bill, they have implied that whether or not the events continue will be left to individual boroughs to decide.
§ In the case of events held on the South Bank, such as Thamesday, the South Bank Spring Festival and the South Bank Weekend, these will be matters for the Arts Council. We know, of course, that after the Arts Council takes over the South Bank it will be seriously short of funds. I would ask your Lordships to remember that only two weeks ago the council revised its estimate of how much money it will be short of when it takes over the arts functions from the GLC and the MCCs. The estimate has been revised from the very worrying figure of £8 million to the quite disastrous one of £16 million. That takes no account of the running costs of the Jubilee Gardens, the Festival Pier, and so on. Is it likely, even if it wants to, that in these circumstances the Arts Council will be able to continue the old GLC's South Bank events? I do not think there is any chance whatsoever.
§ The second problem is that all these events and sports championships are organised by one highly experienced team from the GLC's Department for Recreation and the Arts. I am delighted to see that the noble Lord, Lord Birkett—assiduous as always in these matters—is in his place, and perhaps he can be helpful to your Lordships. This is a very efficient and economical form of organisation, but only a body which organises many events could justify the employment of a group such as this. Therefore when abolition comes the team will be broken up and its valuable expertise lost, unless the Government are prepared to step in and offer a solution which will keep the team together and ensure that these much-loved events continue. That is why this amendment requires the Government to enter into consultations with the bodies concerned to try to ensure the continuation of the GLC's entertainments.
§ This is a modest amendment. It asks for modest things, such as consultation, to ensure that people can be reassured. It places no onus, financial or organisational, upon the Government. It simply asks for reassurance so that the House may be satisfied that the good things which have been done in the past are at least borne in mind and that there is the possibility of a hopeful framework within which these events may continue in the future. I beg to move.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, for the fact that I was not in my place when he moved this amendment but, in recompense, I shall be very brief. Of course the amendment is prompted by the very best of intentions to ensure continuity in sports championships and related matters, but the problem is that it seeks by its terms really to consult to ensure that the old GLC regime shall be continued. That binds the succession and, as I understand it, that is precisely what the 88 Government do not wish to do. It is only for those reasons that I oppose the amendment in principle, although I accept the good motives for its advancement.
§ Lord Birkett
My Lords, I imagine that your Lordships will have anticipated at this moment a very short speech from one of the "old regime". I, too, must apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, for not being in my place when he moved his amendment. I can only plead that traffic builds up in certain areas of London. Lest anyone should think that there is actually a political connotation to that traffic, I plead ignorance of everything except arts and recreation this evening.
Entertainment, sport and indeed all that might be considered ancillary activities also come within my sphere of influence at the GLC. Not long ago the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said of me that he could understand why somebody in my position would regret the passing of such a fascinating job as I am lucky enough to have. I know he said that with the best possible intentions and with the kindest thoughts in his mind and so I do not for a moment reproach him for it; he is of course right. One of the jobs which gives me most satisfaction—it is not, of course, the job of which the noble Lord was speaking, but job satisfaction is a fashionable but unfortunate phrase, though it is accurate enough in my case—and about which I feel most keenly is entertainments, particularly those large London-wide entertainments which are really the reason for my uttering a few words on the subject tonight.
I am referring to the sort of entertainments which cover the whole of London and which are aimed to attract the whole of London. Your Lordships will be familiar with them. They start at the beginning of the season with the Easter Parade in Battersea Park and they finish up at the end of the season with Thamesday—the kind of four- or five-year-old regattas that we have invented for the South Bank—and include the Greater London Horse Show and, of course, not ours exclusively, let me be clear, but certainly helped and much encouraged by ourselves, the London marathon.
8.30 p.m. What I find so enormously satisfying on those occasions is not just the fact that hundreds of thousands of people come out to enjoy them. Indeed, on those occasions—I leave aside the marathon, when you can reckon in millions, if you count the roads of London surrounded by well-wishers and excited spectators—such as the Easter Parade or Thamesday one can count those who enjoy them not in thousands, but in hundreds of thousands. We rely always on the police for our guesses because they are cleverer at it than we are, but it is very difficult to know exactly how many people visit occasions of that sort, because you never know whether the people you are counting have been there from dawn to dusk or whether they have "renewed" themselves; that is, they have come for an hour before lunch and totally different persons have come after lunch. Nevertheless, when one is talking of estimates of a quarter of a million people for such events, even supposing one was out by 100,000 89 people, one would still be talking about 150,000 or maybe 300,000 people. So one is talking of enormous numbers of people.
But it is not only the numbers that give me the satisfaction. It is the feeling in the air. Any of your Lordships who have been at the sort of occasions I am talking about will sense in the air the kind of goodwill that is absolutely the opposite of so many glum and aggravating occasions in our life today. The kind of "aggro", as the modern generation has it, that pervades so much of our life on the streets is notably absent on such days. Quite the contrary; I feel that on a day such as Thamesday, at the Easter Parade and certainly at the marathon, if one wants an instance of how society should behave towards itself, those days show it.
Of course, one may say, "Why, that is simply because it is a kind of bunfight, a circus, a free entertainment provided at the ratepayers' expense, at the taxpayers' expense or at somebody else's expense". It is true that it is at the ratepayers' expense or the taxpayers' expense, but, believe me, my Lords, it is worth it because it shows on those days exactly how life ought to he. Life cannot always be free events. I see that as clearly as anybody else. But these are things which should not be lost.
That brings me to the ultimate point of this debate, which has shot through every argument this evening and indeed on many other evenings. Why, if these things are good—and I hope that your Lordships will agree with me that they are—will they not survive after abolition? My argument is that they will not survive because such tasks will be placed in the hands of very local local government in London. A moment ago the noble Earl took me to task for saying, "What remains after abolition?" I should have said that it was that tier of local government that will remain after abolition. The point about my argument is that boroughs will not be able to manage. It is not that I have any suspicion of the goodwill or indeed the financial ability of boroughs.
The noble Earl was quoting local authorities in the arts which he admired enormously. I echo his admiration. He is right of course. What he did not do was to put the opposite case of those local authorities for which he and I will, I know, equally feel no admiration. It would do scant good for the cause of the arts if I were to proceed to mention those authorities by name, as the noble Earl mentioned the good ones, but he, as well as I, knows that they exist. It is the inconsistency of the pattern that troubles me; not the lack of goodwill throughout. I have nothing except admiration for those boroughs which do their job within sports, the arts and recreation. But they cannot be relied upon. That is why I believe that a strategic authority for these matters is necessary, and to leave it to a second tier of purely local authorities will not do. It is for that reason that I support this amendment.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, I must confess I derived a certain amount of innocent amusement from the first part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, which sought to knock down arguments that I was not going to use in the first place. However, this new clause requires the Secretary of State to consult all interested parties about arrangements for 90 continuing the various sporting events and entertainments organised by the GLC. That sounds quite unremarkable, until one looks at it again.
The sting of this amendment is in the tail; namely, that it intends that any event currently organised or promoted should be continued by putting pressure on the successor bodies to continue these events in a way which we cannot accept. Decisions on the future of these events are quite properly a matter for the successor authorities. It is not for the Government to interfere in the discretions of London borough councils on what artistic and sporting events they are to organise or promote. The relevant powers are discretionary, and the noble Lord is quite right in saying that such decisions should be taken by the councils themselves. Similarly, it is neither right nor necessary for the Secretary of State to consult the Arts Council or the Sports Council, both of which are independent bodies, on the schemes and events that they are likely to support after abolition. We are convinced that they will continue to exercise their usual good judgment without unwarranted, and I suggest unwelcome, interference from us.
As my noble friend Lord Campbell has said, noble Lords opposite have consistently given the impression that only a unified London-wide body can continue these great sporting events. In this amendment they are replacing the GLC by the Secretary of State. I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, is in his place, because my information is that none of the events referred to either by him or by the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is supported by the GLC at the moment. By "supported" I do not mean of course the use of the ratepayers' money that the noble Lord referred to; I mean whether the GLC itself, or indeed his own organisation within the GLC, is the sponsor of the individual events.
We have already recognised that after abolition individual authorities may not take sole responsibility for projects and events that benefit a much wider area. That is why we have announced a limited extension of Exchequer funding that will be made available for these to be administered by the Sports Council. Concern has been expressed about the future of the London Marathon, for example, but the contribution of the GLC to the marathon has been much exaggerated in some quarters. The marathon will continue as now to be administered by an independent organising committee, it will continue to seek private sector support from sponsors, and my department will continue to offer what assistance it can to ensure the continued success of the race.
§ Lord Birkett
My Lords, if the noble Lord will give way, perhaps I ought to explain that the events that I was referring to, which included the London Marathon, are all, with the exception of the marathon, entirely organised and sponsored, if that is the right phrase, by the GLC. We have for the most part invented them. Certainly we have run them and they are exclusively the province, the expense and the organisation of the GLC. The marathon is, of course, the exception, and I readily acknowledge that the GLC is not the only organiser. It is, however, the provider of the finish, the provider of the start, the provider of the organisation for the registration of runners—which is 91 quite the most complicated matter of the year, let me assure your Lordships—and it is the provider of a great number of services along the way. It may be that it would survive without us, but it would not survive very easily or very happily without us.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, I asked for the noble Lord's view and I am very grateful that he gave it. But the point I was making was that the boroughs will be free to carry on such events as Thamesday, the South Bank Weekend, the Greater London Horse Show, the Easter Parade in Battersea Park or anything else that has been mentioned this evening. The important point is that the decisions on whether they wish to continue these events or organise new ones must be left to them. We expect them to continue to take their sports and recreational facilities seriously, as indeed everyone will admit they have done in the past. Over and over again, the Opposition have based their case on what I can only call not trusting the local authorities. This clause represents another unwarranted and quite unnecessary check on the freedom of responsible and capable successor bodies. I therefore urge the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I intend to withdraw it, but it is rather sad that the Minister has so much faith, not in the willingness but in the ability of the boroughs to carry on that which the GLC has carried on. This is the Government that will be screwing down as tightly as possible the resources that the boroughs have to enable them to do a range of things; this is the Government that will be laying responsibility upon responsibility on the boroughs and yet this is the Government that say that they see no reason why, on the question of organising and partially funding these London-wide events, they should not continue in the same way.
If it is possible for the Minister to attend group meetings, Conservative or Labour, in every London borough this week, this month or next year, he will find that they are absolutely eaten up with their ability to do a range of things and it is not possible for them to take this easily on board. The intention will be there, but when the priorities line up this is a priority that will slip and slip and, in the course of time, people will forget these events. All we are asking is: why not consult so as to try to let the boroughs see that the Government are concerned that these events are kept on? I suspect that the Government are not concerned that these events should continue. I do not say that the Government have been destructive or malicious; they are simply saying that they are not prepared to go through the simple exercise of consultation.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, quite rightly pointed out that there is an implication in the words of the amendment that we want what has been successful in the past to continue. That is absolutely right. We also recognise that there will be a new ball game next April and they will be their own masters. We simply sought to get the agreement of the House that what we specify is good and worthy of being preserved, and we wanted the Government to have a duty to consult, which would not have implied anything more than trying to stimulate a desire to keep 92 these events going. I strongly suspect that when, as we shall, we return to these matters in three or four years' time a great many of these events will have gone and the answer we shall get from the London boroughs, whatever their political complexion is, "We've got enough on our plate." I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave withdrawn.
§ 8.45 p.m.
The Viscount of Falkland moved Amendment No. 80AP:
Before Clause 43, insert the following new clause:
§ ("London Conservation and Heritage Authority.
§ .—(1) On the abolition date there should be established a body corporate which shall be known as the London Conservation and Heritage Authority.
§ (2) The London Conservation and Heritage Authority shall consist of members elected by the local government electors of Greater London in accordance with this Act and the Representation of the People Act 1983.
§ (3) Prior to the abolition date the Secretary of State shall make an Order confirming upon the London Conservation and Heritage Authority such functions under the enactments specified in subsection (4) of this section as will enable the Authority to promote the conservation and preservation of such areas and buildings in Greater London which he shall specify in the Order as being worthy of conservation and preservation, including all Conservation Areas in Greater London designated at the date of the passing of this Act under the Town and Country Planning Act 1971.
§ (4) This section shall apply to—
- (a) the Town and Country Planning Act 1971;
- (b) the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979;
- (c) sections 5 and 6 and this part of this Act; and
- (d) any other enactments which the Secretary of State shall consider relevant to the functions of the Authority under this section.
§ (5) The London Conservation and Heritage Authority shall exercise such functions as are vested in it within the financial provisions laid down in this Act.").
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, what this amendment seeks to change in the Government's Bill is something which, if not complicated now, gives rise to visions of all kinds of complications in the future. As we see it, the situation is quite simple. The present committee of the Greater London Council, which is probably one of the least party political committees on that council, is the only way by which the ordinary people of London can, through their electoral power, safeguard the heritage of ancient buildings and monuments which we have in London. The picture in London at present is not a pretty one. I do not think any of your Lordships would say that London's skyline is a pretty sight, but it would be a good deal less pretty if this committee of the Greater London Council had not put the brake on and prevented some disasters.
§ There are some recent ones which will be fresh in your Lordships' minds. The building known as the Palumbo project will probably come readily to mind, but there were such proposed monstrosities as the Hay's Wharf project and an enormous building, the name of which I cannot remember, but which was tall and green and it stood about 500 feet high, dwarfing the Tower of London, all the churches and even St. Paul's. I am reminded that it was called the Green Giant. The name sounds attractive, but the building was most unattractive.93
§ Through the agency of this Committee, which is not only representative of the electors of the City of London but is a carefully chosen body, extremely good work has been done and it has drawn to itself on this subject the advice of some of the most eminent brains in the land. Notwithstanding this brake on the progress of—if I may be contentious at this time of night—rapacious developers; and I do not suggest that all developers are rapacious, because some of them are my best friends, but they tend to be rapacious and heavily armed, and sometimes link with boroughs which do not have the interest of conserving historic buildings at heart—
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Viscount could enlighten me, because I do not want to listen to the rest of his speech under a misapprehension. He started the passage on which he is now engaged with a reference to the Palumbo development and then went on to the Green Giant. He then said that if it had not been for this committee—and then I lost him. Is he telling the House that it was this committee which decided that the Palumbo development should not take place, because I am sure he cannot be doing that?
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, I am grateful to the. Minister and I was not doing that. I rather clumsily bracketed a number of monstrosities together. I was not suggesting that this committee was in any way involved. I was trying to illustrate to the House that over a period of years there have been a number of projects with which this committee was involved. The Palumbo one was not, but I think it groups itself quite naturally in one's mind with those monstrosities. It is the purpose of the movers of this amendment to ensure that all steps are taken to prevent projects of this kind going forward, without every possible precaution being taken through the electoral system.
We have here this excellent committee. There may be noble Lords who will say that in some cases it has not been excellent, but all committees are at times subject to error. But if it had not been for this committee, which affords the people of London a way of expressing their view and their concern for the future of their environment, the position would be a sorrier one than it is today. London must have one of the least attractive skylines in Europe. There is still a lot to be done, there is still a lot to be preserved and there is still a lot left, but even in the short time that I have been in London I am astonished at what has happened from the reaches of Fulham right through past Aldgate Pump. One can produce a myriad of examples of listed buildings and places of interest which have just disappeared.
What we have here is the suggestion that in some way two quangos (that is a very unattractive word, but I must use it) which consist of Government appointees—there are two of them, and that is why I made reference to the complications that could occur—can replace the committee. The two quangos will have to work in unison because their responsibilities overlap. We have the London Planning Commission and the Historic Buildings and 94 Monuments Commission. These bodies will have among their number—some of the names have been whispered abroad—some very eminent and capable people who are as committed as I and my colleagues are, and as most Members of your Lordships' House are, to seeing that at this late stage some kind of uniformity, some kind of cultural symmetry, if I may use a rather pompous phrase, some long-term planning for the cultural heritage of London, can at last be achieved.
Even if the people making up these two quangos should be satisfactory in every degree in terms of their capacity to judge what is conservable and what is not, it is extremely doubtful whether they will be able to play a properly briefed and effective role in a public inquiry. Those people who now take part in public inquiries have a wealth of experience. One thing which has been noted in recent years is the thoroughness of the procedures of public inquiries. Highly complex matters are discussed, and I do not think that some of the members of these quangos will even be willing to involve themselves, at least initially, in the complex issues which are involved.
It will be difficult to oppose the enemies of conservation, if I may thus describe them. I do not think it is too emotive to say that one can visualise the developers and the allies which collect around them. Sometimes these are boroughs which are attracted because of the tightness of their financial budgets. I do not imply anything sinister by this—it is human nature—but there are advantages when you are allied to powerful interests such as some principal developers. If one does not have in the boroughs the kind of expertise and cultural commitment which is available to the present committee, it is easy to see that when issues of this kind come up it will be very difficult to oppose them.
The whole business of conservation has become a difficult area. There is the extremely intense conservation which a lot of people find extremely boring. Many people say there is too much conservation. There is the jocular Mr. Auberon Waugh, who in the latest edition of Private Eye suggests that for one's own good one should go out every day and punch an architect. I hope it is a jocular approach, but there is a kind of desperation in this kind of humour. I hope your Lordships will agree in some measure that we need in some way to emulate the example of other European countries in the way they have tackled the business of conservation in terms of historical continuity. That is evident in their cities.
Indeed, in this country cities such as Bath—I do not know whether many of your Lordships have been to Bath recently; one of my colleagues on these Benches who, unfortunately, is not here tonight, the noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has been very much involved with it—and York have against enormous opposition had very satisfactory development and have become prosperous as a result. If London is allowed to continue in this way without at least the elected inhabitants of London being able to express their view and being able to influence the decision about conservation areas, and so on, the whole thing is likely to collapse into utter anarchy and incompetence, and by pure force of expertise and power there is the 95 likelihood that certain projects, which I described at some length at the beginning of my speech, could emerge unchecked and our beautiful city, with its reputation as the seat of Western democracy, could emerge with just the character and flavour of a suburban shopping centre.
This should not be a party political matter. Conservation should cut across political lines. I would suggest to your Lordships that this be considered very seriously. The amendment suggests an elected body—I know that this does not appeal certainly to two noble Lords in this Chamber—which can replace the council. It is hoped that the 13 million people of London will become aware that "environment" does not relate just to the disappearance of buildings of beauty and of historical continuity, but also to the environment in which young people grow up.
I live in Battersea. I live in one of the two remaining Victorian cottages in an area of utter desolation. I am surrounded by enormous blocks which are full of deprived people and people needing psychiatric help. This is the result of the planning, if I may call it that, of the 1950s. Let us hope that this never happens again. I suggest that the only way to develop London in the way it should be developed is by something along the lines of the amendment which we are now proposing. I beg to move.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, the noble Viscount has spoken with verve and eloquence of the complexities of the future, but this amendment, though such is not the noble Viscount's intention, imports its own measure of complexity. In case it be thought otherwise, I speak not as an enemy of conservation. I declare in that regard my interest as a member of the Georgian Group and yet another conservation society.
This amendment proposes a directly elected body corporate with executive functions to promote conservation and preservation in London. But why London and nowhere else? Why assume that the London boroughs are not competent to manage their own affairs in this regard? That is the theme that drives through so many of these amendments.
There are, however, it would appear, no reserve powers in this regard. I wonder whether my noble friend could consider whether in effect a reserve power exists in the calling in procedure, because there should be some form of reserve power. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the technicalities of the Bill to be able to find where it is. I do not think it is in Clause 100, but I cannot believe that there is no reserve power at all. I thought, with respect, that your Lordships might require a measure of assurance in that regard.
Leaving that aspect aside for the moment, important though it is, the setting up of this body corporate, directly elected with executive functions, again as a superimposed tier of administration, is yet another attempt to derogate from the principles of devolution. Apart from the principle—one can leave that aside for the moment, it is so tedious—there does not appear to be any special case made out on the merits of conservation and heritage in this regard. The 96 body corporate would be cumbersome and costly. I suggest that it would do little more than the London boroughs are able and willing to do. Apart from involving an unnecessary derogation from the principle, it involves a permanent bar to devolution because this, as I understand it, is a permanent statutory body. The effect is, whether or not such be the intention, that this is another harbinger of that manifest desire to set up this elected tier of local government as a second tier in yet another area. On those grounds, I oppose the amendment.
§ 9 p.m.
My Lords, my support for the amendment is based on my unshakeable belief that beauty, harmony and orderliness in one's environment are indispensable ingredients for a balanced, properly adjusted life. It was Plato who said:Let our youth live in a beautiful land".It is perhaps not fanciful to suggest that the lack of beauty and orderliness which one sees in so many of our great cities today is perhaps at least partly responsible for the soccer hooliganism, violence, and so on, which seem to be increasingly prevalent.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said, despite its manifold and splendid beauties, no one could call London a well planned city. While serving abroad one of my chief delights over the years on my spells of leave in London was to visit St. Paul's Cathedral, of which I am a Friend. I expect some of your Lordships are, too. But over the years I have seen this great cathedral increasingly hemmed in by concrete horrors which, particularly when viewed from a distance, shatter the sublimity of Wren's noblest creation. Indeed, so pervasive is the presence of these new buildings that St. Paul's now seems to be the odd man out. How can I answer the many overseas visitors who I take to St. Paul's and who ask how we Londoners can allow such a situation to develop? What can I say to them?
Then there is Euston. For many years I have been a great railway lover and, possibly like many of your Lordships, I deplored the destruction of that great station with its Doric arch, its great waiting hall, and so on. From a railway point of view the station was a mess. It could not exist and cope with the modern electrified trains. It had to go. But was it necessary to destroy the Doric arch? Surely something more lovely could have been built than the monstrous horror which replaced it.
Some of your Lordships will no doubt be familiar with the strict conservation orders protecting the hearts of many of the great European cities. Indeed, I ask: would the French allow skyscrapers to crowd in on Notre Dame? Would the Italians permit ferroconcrete monstrosities to overshadow St. Mark's Square in Venice? I wonder, indeed. However, perhaps even more interesting and instructive than these European examples are the comparisons I could draw with some of the Arab countries with which I am very familiar. It has often been said that Arabs are philistines; that they are totally unmindful of beauty; and that they are uncaring about the preservation of their cultural heritages. Well, some 20 years ago that was so. Then the oil money came rushing in, fast and furious, and the order of the day was, "Build, build, 97 build, expand, expand, expand. Destroy the old, let us build a new city".
Inevitably, many of those building projects were hastily conceived, haphazard and higgledy-piggledy. However, I am glad to inform your Lordships that wiser counsels prevailed and, as many of your Lordships will be aware, that situation does not exist today. In major towns in places like Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Muscat, for example, one sees that the need for sound planning and sensible conservation has been almost universally accepted. Furthermore, these Arab countries have devised building forms which incorporate traditional Islamic features within the framework of modern designs. So the whole concept—although one cannot say that it is necessarily beautiful, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder—is one of symmetry, order and co-ordinated, well-planned design.
That trend does not apply only to the Arab world. In Malawi, for example, one sees the new capital of Lilongwe, where, so extensive has been the beautification of this city that if one walks around it is hard to see the building for all the flowers, the trees and the grass. What a lovely concept that is.
I would suggest to your Lordships that we have failed so far. We have failed to learn the lessons taught us by France and Italy. We have even failed to learn many, of the lessons which the developing world can teach us. Such failures, I would submit to your Lordships, cannot continue. We must surely preserve our great and glorious capital city, London, from the evils of speculative building and unco-ordinated planning.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, suggested that we should leave it to the boroughs. I do not believe that local authorities can satisfactorily execute an overall plan. For example, there may be one borough which believes in small houses and another which believes in high rise. There must surely be an overall, co-ordinated plan. I know that in London we have our preservation areas and our listed buildings, many hundreds of them, and all of us at heart are conscious of the need for preservation and conservation. But unless we create an overall elected authority such as that envisaged in this admirable amendment we shall not be able to save London as a source of solace and inspiration for future generations.
§ Lord Denning
My Lords, I hope that your Lordships will not accept this amendment. The proposal is to set up a new authority altogether—a new corporation to be called the London Conservation and Heritage Authority. What functions is it to carry out? It is to carry out, for instance, existing functions under the Town and Country Planning Act or the Ancient Monuments Act. Let those functions be carried out by the existing authorities—by the boroughs themselves or whatever it may be. They can perfectly well be carried out by them and we should not have a new authority established to take over the position. I would oppose the amendment.
§ Lord Montagu of Beaulieu
My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words as chairman of the 98 Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission because the amendment concerns functions which it is proposed should be transferred to us under the Bill. I made the point at the Committee stage that the position of the commission is completely neutral, as we are a non-political body, set up as an non-political body. Therefore we do not wish to get concerned there. Our concern is that satisfactory arrangements should be made for the conservation of historic buildings, monuments and archaeology and that that should continue when and if abolition takes place.
In that context I am not convinced in any way that a single-function authority which the amendment proposes, subject to the inevitable controls on resources and requiring the establishment of yet another bureacracy, would be a satisfactory alternative to the role proposed for the commission in the Bill. I point out that the commission has an enormous amount of expertise within its body which has been inherited from the Department of the Environment. Nevertheless I am aware that there is some degree of concern—and I understand that—about the nature of the commission as an appointed body rather than a directly elected authority as proposed here.
Therefore I think that the House tonight may find it useful if I say a word or two about our intentions should those responsibilities be passed to the commission. We certainly propose to establish a London historic buildings advisory committee to advise the commission on matters affecting historic buildings and conservation areas in London. The chairman of that committee I propose should be a commissioner, but the Secretary of State in his wisdom may wish to appoint yet another commissioner with special responsibilities for London, in which case I would welcome that. We have not yet decided how the rest of the committee should be made up and what balance there should be between experts and those with political experience and affiliations. Obviously that issue will need further consideration. I am sure that the commission will listen with interest to the opinions expressed in this debate. Nevertheless, I feel that we can do a good job in looking after London's historic buildings.
As the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, has just been speaking. I may remind him that since last November all listed building consents have had to come to the commission, and I believe that that system is working well. We gave evidence at the Palumbo inquiry, and I like to believe that our evidence was listened to. I hope that these few words will help the House to know what our intentions are for the future.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for bringing us back from planning to conservation. I thought for a moment I had misunderstood the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. Indeed I interrupted him at one moment to make sure I had him right. He was referring to a chain of developments which could not be laid at the door of conservation but which were the outcome of planning procedures.
I am not sure whether the noble Viscount was here on 10th June when we conducted the second stage of 99 a series of elaborate debates on the planning procedures for London, involving the unitary planning authorities at the London borough level, and the use of Part I of the district unitary plan as the equivalent of the present strategic plan, and keeping the various Part Is of the unitary plans in step with each other by means of the Secretary of State issuing strategic guidance. The point we had reached on the 10th of this month was the point at which we discussed how we should indeed get a voice for London, with some linkage to the electorate of London, into that process. All this, the noble Viscount would have found very fascinating and very relevant to his concerns.
However, they did not seem to me quite to chime in with what had been talked about, which was conservation and the listing of buildings, which is something on which the Secretary of State is already very ably advised in some respects by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission and to which a larger role is now to be given in London. We are not giving a larger role to some strange animal or new creation. It is a body which we have grown very quickly to know and respect in this House and elsewhere. Nonetheless, insofar as it is necessary, after the excellent intervention of my noble friend, I welcome the opportunity to clarify the position on that and our proposals for it, and to give some reassurance where that is appropriate. What I cannot do is to suggest that the debate is the occasion for anything more.
9.15 p.m. Again, I am not quite certain whether the noble Viscount has been here at earlier stages when as a House we have repeatedly come to the conclusion that it is not the wish of your Lordships to establish a body corporate made up of people directly elected to discharge statutory functions on a London-wide basis. It has become almost a litany of disapproval. Thus the noble Viscount will not expect me to welcome what he has proposed as the basis for anything except a reassurance.
The Government have for long recognised the high regard in which the GLC is held by very many people in the exercise of its heritage responsibility—and I use that term in its widest sense. It is for that very reason that the Government reached an agreement with the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, whereby their long-standing experience and expertise would be kept together in one place. This agreement has been widely welcomed. Therefore, there is a continuity of which the noble Viscount may not be aware.
The fact is that the commission, although it is still in its formative stages, has already established itself as the leading authority on the conservation of the heritage, including directly, in giving substantial financial assistance to conservation projects, the repair of individual historic buildings. It has established itself as a responsible body which is prepared to work with local authorities and other public and private bodies as well as the individual citizen.
I do not think there is any doubt that it is exceptionally well placed to take on these new 100 responsibilities and that the people of London stand to gain a great deal from its direct involvement in the protection of their heritage. Indeed, the combination of the resources of the commission and the resources of the GLC's Historic Buildings Division will be formidable and are likely to be the envy of others, even those in France which the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, feels are so well protected. Looking at Paris, I am not certain that they are absolutely, completely protected. The people of London therefore stand to gain, not to lose.
I should also like to stress to your Lordships that the commission is not a body which is unaccountable. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, who is himself accountable to Parliament, approves the commission's budget and the contribution that his grant-in-aid should make to it. All this is done on the basis of a corporate plan submitted to him by the commission. In addition to this, the commission is required to make an annual report to the Secretary of State on the exercise of its function. The Secretary of State is in turn required to lay a copy of that report before each House of Parliament.
Your Lordships may also wish to note that the Bill provides for two very important modifications to existing GLC procedures in respect of applications for listed building consent and the designation of conservation areas. In each of these cases the powers of the commission will differ from those of the GLC in one very important respect. First, paragraph 1(17) of Schedule 2 gives the borough to whom a consent application has been made the power to notify the Secretary of State of an application that the commission has directed should be refused. If that borough, for whatever reason, does not feel able to accept that direction it can then notify the Secretary of State. Secondly, in paragraph 1(14) of the same schedule there is a requirement that the commission shall obtain the Secretary of State's consent to the designation of a conservation area.
In these two important respects the citizen is being afforded a special degree of protection. In effect, the elected body, the council, can appeal over the head of the non-elected commission to the elected Secretary of State. In the event of disagreement, the Secretary of State will always therefore be able to be involved in the decision-making process.
Finally, both the Government and the commission recognise that the assumption of these responsibilities in London will give the commission powers that are not mirrored elsewhere, and give the commission a special London flavour. It is therefore the intention of the Secretary of State to appoint a commissioner, as my noble friend has said he would welcome, with a specific London remit. I was glad to hear my noble friend Lord Montagu explain that the commission's intention is to set up a special London advisory committee.
In considering the transfer of the GLC's heritage responsibility, the most important thing is to concentrate on the successor's inherent ability to do the job. The commission has the capacity. That is why it is being given the job. Although the job is not outside its existing broad statutory constitution, both the 101 Government and the commission have accepted that some modifications need to be made. These are being made. I ask your Lordships, therefore, to be reassured. As to the call-in powers of the Secretary of State, I have just recited them in the two paragraphs of the schedule to which I referred. I should also have mentioned the helpful intervention of my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway at that stage.
All the other projections with which the noble Lord is concerned that link up in the really elaborate and strong network of planning requirements will remain in place. The form in which they remain in place is under active discussion in this House and outside it. I believe that at Third Reading we shall have an amendment that will satisfy the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, and the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, on their particular interest in planning, which is to protect meritorious old buildings, as well as those of your Lordships who feel that it is necessary occasionally to develop, as the noble Lord was good enough to accept at the beginning of his speech. I cannot, for those reasons, ask your Lordships to accept the amendment. I ask the noble Lord to accept the assurances.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord the Minister for his courteous and lucid remarks. I should also like to express my appreciation to the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, for throwing some light on the body and the kind of considerations that it has in mind. I do not like using the phrase "those on this side of the House", because it is a pity that this is something that develops along party lines. I believe that conservation of this kind should go above these considerations. Nevertheless, what concerns us a great deal is the strategic long-term planning of conservation and the preservation of buildings. All of us, I believe, have the same ends in view. It may be upon the manner in which we reach those ends that we disagree. It is perhaps that we have rather vaguer ideas of the monitoring of taste over a long period.
It seems to me that planning and conservation are so closely linked that a difficulty arises when a planning permission which is in every way admirable in fulfilling the desires and aspirations of the creators and, indeed, in adding to the community is granted but other considerations are less seriously considered. The consideration of the preservation of old buildings and of pieces of history could ultimately outweigh, in my view, and also in the opinion of other noble Lords, even those considerations of planning which are acceptable in almost every case. It is the problem of the weight of the preservation against the planning that perhaps concerns us in the longer term.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I do not wish to protract this discussion, but I should like the noble Lord to take on board the point that preservation is part of planning. It is the function of the Secretary of State, when important decisions are taken to him, to have in mind the conservation considerations and to balance these against what the noble Viscount calls planning, although I think he means development. Planning consists of balancing conservation against development. That is where the protection which the noble Viscount seeks should be. That is why our debate on 10th June was, and our amendments for Third Reading will be, so important to him. That is why he is wrong to pursue the line which he is pursuing at the moment on only one aspect of planning.
The Viscount of Falkland
My Lords, I accept the Minister's point. There is an area of confusion here, and it is an area of confusion which is in many people's minds outside your Lordships' Chamber. I think that the whole view of conservation in this area is extremely woolly. In a way I may have projected this woolliness in your Lordships' House; but I think it is useful in that it shows that in public attitudes there are areas which give rise to concern.
Nevertheless, I have been impressed by the sincerity and the helpfulness of the noble Lord the Minister and his noble friends while at the same time I still express anxiety. I am concerned about bodies being created which are made up of appointees. In a society such as ours—indeed, ideally in every society—I believe it is preferable that the views of the electorate should be expressed on all matters of this kind. I believe that t hey should be elected bodies rather than quangos of this kind. However, this may work very well and I have been impressed by some of the remarks that have been made, particularly those by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. But I do not think it is difficult to project one's imagination into the future, and there may be other overriding factors in the Government's mind. I am a little concerned about the remark made by such an eminent person as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and that made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, said that it should devolve to the boroughs; but the boroughs do not have a very good record, particularly in conservation. If one takes a close look, there is cause for anxiety there.
All things being considered, I accept the assurances which have been offered by the noble Lord the Minister and shall wait to see how matters develop and whether we can clear up some of this woolliness. I shall wait for the Third Reading of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.103
§ Clause 44 [Historic House Museums]:
Lord Cottesloe moved Amendment No. 80AQ:
Page 28, line 34, at beginning insert ("Save as provided in section (Hampstead Heath) below,").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 80AQ, and at the same time it might be for the convenience of the House if I speak to Amendments Nos. 80AR, 80AS and 80AT.
Amendment No. 80AR: Page 28, line 38, after ("State") insert ("except such lands mentioned in section (Hampstead Heath) below,".
§ Amendment No. 80AS: Page 28, line 42, at end insert ("(insofar as this relates to Kenwood House and its contents).").
§ Amendment No. 80AT: After Clause 44, insert the following new clause:
§ ( "Hampstead Heath.
§ .—(1) Hampstead Heath and all land held therewith by the Greater London Council immediately prior to the abolition date, that is to say the land known as Golders Hill, Sandy Heath, The Hill, West Heath, Parliament Hill, Kenwood and Hampstead Heath Extension, shall on the abolition date, unless an order has before that date been made under section 99 below, be vested together with any appropriate functions in the London residuary body.
§ (2) Any order made under section 66(3) or under section 99 in relation to the land referred to in subsection (1) above shall transfer those lands in their entirety.
§ (3) In making any order as in subsection (2) above the Secretary of State shall have regard to the functions performed prior to the abolition date by the Greater London Council in relation to Kenwood House and to the desirability of continuing lakeside concerts in the Kenwood part of Hampstead Heath.").
§ Amendment No. 80AT embodies the heart of this matter. At this time of the evening I shall endeavour to be brief. The purpose of these amendments is to enable the Minister to ensure that all the lands that go to make up the 800 acres and more of rural countryside that is generally spoken of as Hampstead Heath, together with the woodlands and meadows of Kenwood and its lake, are managed as a unit, as they are now by the GLC, and are not fragmented between the boroughs or otherwise.
§ This would enable Kenwood House and its contents, together no doubt with its terrace and garden, to be assigned, if that is desired, to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, while the wide expanses of the heath would be under a unitary management which would care for the wildlife and the rural aspects that are so much enjoyed by many hundreds of thousands of people—Londoners and others—keeping in touch with and having regard to the views and interests of the public, as the GLC has done so admirably in recent years. I hope that the Minister, who I know regards these matters with sympathy and understanding, may feel able to accept these amendments. I can see no reason why he should not. They would not tie his hands, but they would enable him to ensure that the arrangements are such as all concerned would wish. I beg to move.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Lord Strabolgi
My Lords, I should like to support this amendment, to which I have given my name. I hope the Government are going to be able to give us 104 some news of what they intend to do about Hampstead Heath. It is a difficult decision, and there are various options. But until that decision is made it is vital that the Heath should be passed to the residuary body; otherwise, I am advised that it would go automatically to one of the boroughs.
As I see it, there are six options. There is first of all the question of dividing it between three boroughs; and, of course, unlike Gaul, I think Hampstead Heath probably cannot be divided into three parts. If it is a question of passing it to the borough which owns the largest number of hectares, which is Camden, I think nobody would want that. It would be difficult for Camden to run it with the rate capping, and everything else.
Then there are the City of London, the DoE, the commission, and the National Trust. The Government are rather favourably inclined towards the City of London. We were told by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter—I am sorry he is not in his place—that they run Epping Forest very well. On the other hand, I am sorry to say that they have not got such a good record over Highgate Wood. I believe they planted beech trees there which are quite inappropriate with oak, as they prevent the regeneration of the oak wood. They have also, I am told, built houses on the edge of the wood—houses for employees, I think, but all the same houses on the edge of the wood.
There is the question of the commission and the National Trust, of course, who would need an endowment. I personally rather favour the DoE. They run the Royal Parks very well. They run Richmond Park, which in many ways is wild country similar to the Heath, extremely well. But I think that while the Government are considering all these options and also the question of the finance, which is important, it is essential that the Heath should be passed to the residuary body—I can see no reason why it should not—in the interim. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Elton—I know his heart is in the right place over this—is going to give us some news tonight.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, I, too, should like to support this amendment and make two points. It appears that the most favoured body so far as the Government are concerned to take over the running of the Heath is the City of London. I would have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that if that is the case it will meet with fierce resistance, and fierce resistance based on practical experience of the ability of the City of London to manage areas of a similar character.
My noble friend Lord Strabolgi mentioned Epping Forest. Frankly, that is a bad example because the City of London play a very small part, if any, in the running of Epping Forest, which is in the hands of the conservators. It is the conservators who determine policy and carry out management work there. I do not think that the record of the City of London, and in particular in respect of what my noble friend mentioned, justifies anyone placing any confidence in it being able to manage as complex and varied an area of open countryside in the middle of London as the 105 Heath represents. I hope that the Government will try to dismiss that from their mind.
I would agree with the suggestion made by my noble friend that if this has to go to an unelected body it should be the DoE, with their responsibilities for the Royal Parks and, in particular, Richmond, which is by far the closest analogy to the Heath that we have available.
The second point I want to make has not been touched on this evening, and I do not think it was touched on in earlier debates. I have tried to read the debates on all the different occasions on which the Heath has been mentioned, and there are a large number of them and they occur in many different contexts. It seems to me that the Government have not yet fully understood the complexity of the different buildings which surround Kenwood House itself. I am happy for the house and its contents and the formal gardens immediately adjacent and behind the house to go to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. That seems a reasonable decision, although it would be much better for the whole thing to be managed as an entity as it is now.
But there are other buildings there, such as the flats which, I understand, are occupied by staff or by retired staff of the heath, not of the house. There is the coach house, which contains an excellent cafeteria and restaurant which really services the heath and the people walking on and enjoying the heath to a far greater extent than those visiting the house. It seems to me that those buildings should be managed with the heath, not with the house and its contents.
There is the land in front of the house, the lakes and Kenwood itself, which historically has never been part of the house although it is widely thought to be the case. Historically it appears to have been a separate bequest to the heath under quite different terms from the bequest of the house and the land that went with the house itself. All in all it would be a tragedy if part of that woodland, or indeed all of it, and the lake in the wood were to be separated from the management of the rest of the open countryside which makes up the heath. I hope the Government will consider that point.
Obviously the concerts should continue and should be considered to be part of the management of the house. I do not think that the wood and the lakes should go with the rest of the countryside to whichever body is thought appropriate. I hope that the Government will come to the conclusion that the Royal Parks administration should do that job.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Cottesloe and to the noble Lords, Lord Strabolgi and Lord Melchett, for bringing this perhaps rather domestic but nonetheless important London concern to your Lordships' attention. It is a subject of close concern to a number of your Lordships, not least to me, and I am glad of the opportunity to reassure your Lordships on one or two issues.
In drafting the principal amendment noble Lords have recognised the normal and expected way in which ownership of the heath and responsibility for its management would be allocated; that is, by order under Clause 99. Subsection (1) of the new clause defines the full extent of the heath. Subsection (2) 106 requires that if an order were made in the normal way under Clause 99, it shall transfer the whole of the heath as a single entity. The first concern therefore is to see that the heath is not broken up like Gad or anything else. I shall return to that in a moment.
The second concern of noble Lords is that if' the destination for ownership of the heath has not been decided by abolition day, it shall not go into some kind of administrative limbo, or indeed to the local borough by default. In subsection (1), therefore, they also provide for that eventuality by saying that in that case it shall pass to the London residuary body. Their second concern, therefore, is to see that the heath does not fall into some procedural hiatus in the devolution process. Again in subsection (2) noble Lords provide that on transferring ownership out of the London residuary body and into the finally chosen destination by means of an order under Clause 66(3) the whole of the heath must be passed on entirely.
The third and final concern of noble Lords is to protect not only the unity of the heath but also the continuation of the lakeside concerts in what they describe as the Kenwood part of Hampstead Heath. This is something that they wish the Secretary of State to have in mind before he makes a final transfer.
I shall deal with the concerns of my noble friend and his co-signatories and of a much wider audience, whose anxieties I am sure they accurately reflect, in the order in which I have illustrated them. First, both my right honourable friend the Secretary of State and I remain firmly wedded to the principle of keeping the heath as a single entity. It was because we became aware of public concern about what was seen as the unequal and opposing interests of the three boroughs concerned that we embarked on the present discussions in the first place. It was in the context of the anxiety that the noble Lord and others have expressed that my right honourable friend undertook that the heath should be managed as a single entity. That undertaking I am happy to repeat.
The second concern of the noble Lords is that the future of the heath might be rendered insecure if it has not been finally dealt with before 1st April next year or that it might go willy-nilly into three boroughs. I believe that that anxiety springs, in part, from a perception of the number of subsidiary issues to be resolved and the range of options to be considered between now and then. We have not yet, it is true, come to a final conclusion. I would hope and expect to do so well before April. Even if we had not done so or if, as I think is more likely, we had done so but had not worked out the final details, the result that the noble Lord seeks to guard against could not happen.
If noble Lords look at Clause 61 of the Bill, they will find a reference in subsection (2) to residuary property. The term "residuary property" is then defined as:Any property for the vesting of which provision is not otherwise made … under this Act or any other enactment".If ownership of Hampstead Heath had not been transferred by the beginning of April, it would become residuary property. If noble Lords look at subsection (1) of the same clause, they will see that, as residuary property within the meaning of the clause, ownership of the Heath would pass automatically to the London residuary body.
107 I think your Lordships can agree, on reflection, that my right honourable friend's undertaking and mine and the existing provisions in Clause 61 between them take care of both the first and second of the three concerns. These concerns have been with general principles. We have been looking at the whole Heath, as it were, from a distance.
With their third concern, subsection (3) of the new clause, we zoom in to a precise and particular problem. As background to this problem, those noble Lords not familiar with the issue should know that on the edge of the Heath there is a very fine house known as Kenwood House. This is one of the three historic house museums listed in Clause 44. It came to the GLC from its predecessor, the LCC, and it came to the LCC as a bequest from the late Lord Iveagh, as did a good deal of the surrounding landscape. There is general satisfaction with the decision expressed in Clause 44 to transfer Kenwood House to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission and the capable and sensitive hands of my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu.
I do not propose to go into very precise detail because I do not think this House as a whole would wish to devote its time on Report to matters on that scale. However, there is one important issue beyond the mere practicalities and I am glad that the noble Lords have drafted the amendment in a way that enables me to clarify it. It is this. By defining the Heath as they have in subsection (1) and by requiring it to remain indivisible, as they do, they establish the principle of no separation. Then they indicate in subsection (3) that they are anxious to continue the lakeside concerts. Moreover, they expect this to be achieved by the Secretary of State taking into account the desirability of it happening when he makes the order transferring the heath to new ownership. That can only mean in statutory language that the order itself is to reflect the desirabililty of what they want. The order is an order to transfer property. It can therefore only reflect the desirability of what they want to happen and make it likely that it will happen in terms of the ownership of the property.
There is little doubt in my mind that the concerts—and in this I am at one with the noble Lord, Lord Melchett—are events that go with the house and that the running of concerts is more akin to the running of a museum or a stately home than it is to running a very large public open space like the Heath. If the order were to reflect the desirability of the lakeside concerts continuing after abolition it seems to me the only way that could be done would be by transferring ownership of the lakeside on which the concerts are to take place together with the ownership of the house, which is the natural background and setting.
There is nothing very new in assigning this area with the house rather than with the Heath, because that is what the first recipients of the very valuable bequest themselves did many years ago. It is possible to argue that the land that goes with the house ought to be the land within the fence that the LCC put up some years ago. In support of the view that land should go with the building, I was today approached by the noble Lord, Lord Moyne. Your Lordships will know that he is the 108 grandson of the late Lord Iveagh who gave both the house and grounds in the first place. His view, which he kindly said I should quote, is that the glory of Kenwood is the house in its setting. He said:The garden of Kenwood is its landscape and not a few flowerbeds around the house. It seems to me important that responsibility for the house and park should be vested in a single authority".I know that that is also the view of the Friends of Kenwood House.
§ Lord Melchett
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord to get something clear? He said in that quotation of the noble Lord, Lord Moyne, that the house and the park should be vested in a single authority. Can the noble Lord say what he was referring to in the term "park"? Is that the ground fenced by the LCC, the ground that was originally granted with house, or the heath plus house as a whole?
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, it was by way of a telephone conversation at a distance and I could not say what the noble Lord defined as the "park". But I put the matter on the record to show simply this. Your Lordships may not want to dwell on the details for long, but what I have said shows that I have received many submissions on this matter and there are clearly contradictory views on what is best. I spoke on it at length only to make it clear that even on our undertaking to transfer the heath as an entity there is room to differ about the precise location of its boundary and that the solution inferred by the drafting of the amendment would be a respectable one, if that is what should finally emerge.
I return to the various concerns which your Lordships have expressed and to another which we have had clearly shown as underlying them all. I repeat that the heath will be managed as an entity. I repeat that interim arrangements already exist which will ensure that it will be transferred' to the London residuary body if no other single body owns it by 1st April 1986. To that I add the important assurance that the residuary body would take on staff to run the heath, at the same time. I also accept the desirability of continuing the lakeside concerts, although that must rest with the successor authorities and not with central Government.
The underlying concern to which I referred was not so much who the eventual owner should be but that, whoever should finish up in possession, the views of those most interested should be heard and the interests of local residents spoken for. I want to put it on record that I share that concern and that I intend that provisions shall be made for that purpose under any arrangements at which we eventually arrive.
I hope that my noble friend will consider very carefully what I have said and will feel that he may withdraw his amendments of which a considerable part is, as I have made clear, a duplication of what is already in the Bill and which your Lordships could not therefore in any case accept. I hope that he will accept also that he has my entire goodwill and I hope that we arrive at a solution which will not only preserve the heath, but also keep happy those who enjoy it.
§ Lord Cottesloe
My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for the assurances that he has given, and, 109 indeed, very grateful to my friends on the opposite side—if I may so call them—for what they have said. With regard to what the Minister has said, there is one thing that I should perhaps say that might be further investigated and found to be helpful. I found to my surprise that there are two separate trusts under Lord Iveagh's will, one of which I understand deals with the house and its contents, and the grounds are in a separate trust. There is no particular reason on that basis why the grounds should not go in with the heath without affecting the trust. However, I am very grateful indeed to my noble friend for what he has said and for the sympathy and understanding with which he regards the whole matter. In those circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendments Nos. 80AR, 80AS and 80AT not moved.]
Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 80AU:
Before Clause 46, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Archaeology in Metropolitan Counties
§ .—(1) The provisions of this section shall apply where immediately before the abolition date there are in being in a metropolitan county arrangements (including the employment of staff) provided by the council of that county for the carrying out of archaeological excavations and related matters within the area of that county.
§ (2) The councils of the districts in a metropolitan county shall establish a joint committee of members of those councils whose duty it shall be to seek to co-ordinate—
- (a) the continued provision in the area of that metropolitan county of the arrangements referred to in subsection (1) above in a form as near as is reasonably practicable to the form of those arrangements immediately before the abolition date; and
- (b) the employment, provision or use by those councils for the maintenance of those arrangements, of staff, property and facilities.").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment is concerned with archaeology. The theme of archaeology, which is an essential ingredient in our understanding of our heritage and history, has been present during the passage of this Bill, from Second Reading through to the Committee stage, and now to the Report stage.
§ In order not to take up too much time I shall briefly draw the attention of the House to the fact that during Committee stage consideration was given to giving the responsibility for archaeology to the appropriate residuary bodies. That would enable permanent arrangements to be worked out. Although there were some speakers who supported this concept, rather more recognised the absolute necessity for keeping the units together. The amendment was defeated on the basis of not liking the idea (after the Minister had spoken) of archaeology going to the residuary bodies.
§ Following that, there have been further discussions with the archaeological profession and also with the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Commission. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, was hoping to be present but he had to leave the House. He and his commission support the idea embodied in this amendment of joint committees being set up, as does the Council for British Archaeology.110
§ These arrangements would be simple and effective. They would be tidier and easier to start off at this stage. Although the Minister may mention Clause 94(2)(b), which gives districts the power to get together and set up a body, this would be a much neater way to do it. It would also remove a great deal of the anxiety which archaeologists themselves feel at the moment. There are in the metropolitan counties only 23 professional archaeologists; otherwise they are all people who are either from the Manpower Services Commission or volunteers. It is necessary to group them, in order that the work is done properly and that funding should emerge, into county-wide bodies. There are precedents for that type of arrangement. The Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit is managed by a committee representing the city, the county councils and the university.
I remember that at the Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, suggested the attachment of these units to universities. He gave the example of Israel, where this happens to a very large extent. The problem in this country is that we have a history of local government funding, and with the disappearance of the metropolitan counties and the GLC it is a question of what will take their place in regard to funding. Whereas the universities can give archaeology a home by way of giving it a place in the structure, they are not able—and in the future I think they will be less able because of cuts—to find the necessary funding. At the same time, the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Commission and English Heritage funds on a project basis, when it funds. That means that somewhere the core funding has to be found if archaeology is to be an on-going activity in this country, not subject to starts and stops. Indeed, al the Committee stage on 14th May the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, explaining why he did not like the residuary body, said at col. 1076 of Hansard:
Is there really not any possibility that in a metropolitan county there can be some co-ordination whereby the districts may jointly draw upon the skills of these teams so that they do not have to duplicate them?
Later on, he said this:
… there may have to be a co-ordinated county body supported by a number of districts. I would suggest that this matter be carefully considered".
§ That is almost identical to the amendment which I am moving this evening. It does not go in any way contrary to the grain of the Bill, because quite clearly it is the councils of the district in the metropolitan county. It means that it would save a lot of delay: and with the districts having so many other functions put on them, a leadership of this sort—which is really what it is—would start by being joined together because you cannot divide the 23 specialist archaeologists among the six or seven metropolitan counties. They would start with a proper structure and could then work in that way. I should have thought that this amendment would find favour because of the very respectable and responsible support that it has outside and also because it is a practical solution which is entirely in accord with the Bill. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, this amendment, ably introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is an amendment which she tabled at Committee but which she did not move, advancing instead another related 111 amendment to transfer archaeology, not, as she now suggests, to a statutory joint committee, but to the residuary body. That amendment fell foul of your Lordships' wish to avoid transferring any permanent function to this temporary body without giving it a final destination, and it was defeated on a Division by a substantial majority.
I am sure your Lordships will not wish me to repeat word for word everything that I said when the noble Baroness spoke to her related amendment. Briefly, the fact is that there is some excellent work being undertaken by archaeological units under the auspices of the metropolitan county councils. It is highly regarded. It is well supported by public funds, and the Government accept that there is a need for the work to continue. The Government do not accept that the districts neither can nor will touch it.
In returning to the charge with this amendment, the noble Baroness seeks to overcome her difficulties by handing archaeology not to a temporary body but to a permanent body which is to be a joint committee. That committee, I note, will have a duty that is limited to preserving intact, as far as possible, the local authority archaeological arrangements, if any, which existed in all parts of a metropolitan county before abolition. It has, I note, no duty to create such arrangements where none existed; nor does it have any duty to improve such arrangements that do exist at abolition. Indeed, in subsection (2)(a) it is actually discouraged from doing so. Its duty is not to strengthen, encourage or improve, but to seek to co-ordinate the continued provision of those arrangements in a form which is as near as is reasonably practicable to the form of those arrangements immediately before the abolition date; in other words, to fossilise, as it were, the arrangements for archaeology in a form which all of us recognise as being often far from perfect.
The amendment does not provide for establishing new efforts where there is none; and, as I say, it turns its face against improving that effort where it does exist. I hope the noble Baroness can be persuaded that things are not absolutely as bad and the districts are not absolutely as devoid of interest in her subject as she may think, and that there is a more contructive path that she could follow. Even if she cannot be so persuaded there are provisions either already in the Bill or tabled for inclusion in the Bill by the Government which will, I think, do a good deal to reassure her.
The first thing I ask her to reflect upon is Clause 94 of the Bill as drafted. That Bill already imposes a duty on all districts in every metropolitan area, not just in those with existing archaeological units, to establish by 1st September 1985 a joint preparatory committee. This committee will have a duty to co-ordinate preparatory work for the exercise of functions previously exercised concurrently with the counties. However, under subsection (2)(b) of that clause the joint committees will also have the specific duty to consider whether any of the functions could with advantage be jointly discharged, and if so to promote arrangements accordingly.
This will enable them to make joint arrangements for the employment of staff and the provision of 112 facilities for their archaeology. It will also enable them to consider the provisions for archaeology in the context of their other related activities; for example, in the fields of historic buildings, county sites, monuments, records and conservation. It will also allow them to decide on the best arrangements in the light of those that exist at present.
My second point, on which again I should like to reassure the noble Baroness, is that the districts can be assured of support in this work. I have previously drawn your Lordships' attention to the initiative being undertaken by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission in offering help and advice in setting up joint successor arrangements of the sort I have described.
The noble Baroness told us in Committee that the districts, at least in West Yorkshire, are willing to cooperate. So they are, I believe, elsewhere. But there remain inhibitions against co-operation which I can only describe as political and which are profoundly worrying to the staff who actually man the service. Failure to co-operate until after abolition will not, it is true, necessarily result in the dispersal of an archaeological service. To those whose concern is only for the service and not for the small band of dedicated officials who deliver it full-time, that can only be reassuring.
As I have already mentioned in other debates, Amendment No. 81C will place a duty on each residuary body to contact all successor authorities in this area to see whether any of them wish, or are likely to need, after abolition any professional or technical services for which prior arrangements have not been made, and if so to enter into agreements for the residuary body to provide professional or technical services on a temporary basis. That gets the archaeological service to where the noble Baroness wanted in Committee to get it, but not on a permanent basis as she wished. We can discuss that amendment later this week.
Archaeological services will come within the scope of this duty. Thus the residuary body will be actively consulting successor authorities about the need for it to take over certain staff on abolition date, in order to provide services temporarily. The residuary body will then collaborate with successor authorities in actively promoting permanent arrangements for services that it takes on on this basis. I stress to your Lordships that this means that valuable expertise will not be lost. Provided there remains a need for any services that the residuary body takes on to continue, there need be no hiatus during the transitional period.
That is, as I say, very important and reassuring to those concerned only with organisation, but we must also be concerned—and I know that the noble Baroness is concerned—about the implications for the people who work in archaeology, and indeed for other public servants of every description, of the prolonged and unnecessary uncertainty caused by the refusal of some authorities of any sort of co-operation on any front.
The way to break that deadlock is not by an amendment such as this, nor by one that has been redrafted to remove the shortcomings that I have described in it; nor can it be to impose, as some noble 113 Lords would wish, any functional statutory duties where none at present exists. The purpose of this Bill, I remind your Lordships, is clearly stated and we cannot go beyond it now. It is to transfer functions and duties; not to create them.
Therefore, what I ask the noble Baroness to do is something I ask of all people who wish to avoid local authority staff having to suffer totally unnecessary anxiety in order to satisfy political aims cherished by their elected and their trade union masters long after they have the remotest chance of fulfilment; because, let us face it, the only possible justification of non-co-operation was to ensure that abolition never took place at all, and now this House has joined with another place to say that it shall. The purpose of non-co-operation is defunct and the harm it does is therefore now entirely without point.
What the noble Baroness might do, I therefore hope, with the advantage that I do not have for this purpose of sitting on the other side of the House, is to remind those authorities of their duty to the staff as well as to the electorate of the metropolitan counties to which they are the heirs, and to mention to the districts in West Yorkshire, which she assures us are prepared to co-operate, that they should start to do so, and that they could do worse than take up the offer of help made by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission in the letter to which I referred a moment ago. With that, she could, I am sure, do more good than she could with any amendment like this one, which, for the reasons I have given, I fear I cannot commend.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, I must say that that was a hell of a long answer to a very simple and quite short amendment and introduction. At one point the noble Lord the Minister rendered me almost speechless when he talked about fossilising the arrangements for archaeology. If we are going to stay with archaeological metaphors, I would say that I feel he is absolutely scraping the barrel in order to find reasons for refusing the amendment. Incidentally, I did not move the amendment in Committee. It was my noble friend Lady Lockwood, who unfortunately cannot be here this evening, as her husband is unwell. I have read very carefully everything that was said. On that occasion the noble Lord the Minister carefully explained how wrong it was for this responsibility to go to the residuary body. Now he is talking about it going to the residuary body and suggesting all sorts of extraordinary motives behind this very simple amendment which suggests only that the districts should get together. The noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, said in Committee at cols. 1077–78 of the Official Report for 14th May:I will admit that the commission is concerned that there may be a reduction in archaeological conservation work in the metropolitan counties as a result of the abolition of those councils and the disbandment of the teams. We have been discussing with Government various matters and have pressed them to find some method of ensuring that funds are available for the continuing work of these archaeological and conservation teams or whoever may take over from them. We have been writing to the archaeological units up there, suggesting that we establish trusts or companies limited by guarantee to take over the work".Having discussed that with him, the noble Lord agreed that the joint committee would fulfil the same function. The whole question of non co-operation is a 114 different one. I agree that it causes difficulties at the moment, but the Minister knows perfectly well that once the Bill goes through, as I fear it will, another situation will arise.
I shall not repeat all that I have said before. However, in view of the small number of professional staff and the importance of using them to the best of their ability and using the structure, a provision of this kind is needed. If the amendment had said that everything should be improved or increased, the Minister would have had some very good answer as to why that could not be accepted. The noble Lord knows that perfectly well. This is just a case of nit-picking.
At this time of night I am certainly not going to go any further with the amendment. The Minister mentioned that he would be coming along at Third Reading with some amendments. I do not think that this is MI5 stuff or anything like that, and if he could indicate the lines along which the Government are thinking about archaeology, we would all be much happier and I could withdraw my amendment feeling that something constructive was to be done.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I just want to confirm that the amendments are already on the Marshalled List. Unfortunately, a good deal of explanation is needed and I do not think I can provide it in an intervention in the speech of the noble Baroness. She will remember that we have previously had debates about professional and technical services. If she looks around Clause 61, she will find what we are looking for. I would rather not try to get into that debate now. However, we are proposing that where there are available in the field valuable professional and technical teams who would be dispersed for lack of adequate reasons, for whom it appears that there will be a call after abolition date but the arrangements are not yet made, the residuary body will be under a duty to go to the Secretary of State and ask for an order to transfer them and their equipment and property to the residuary body pending the making of those arrangements. I hope that I got that right in what was a very condensed form. It is certainly the shape which the noble Baroness asked me to give her.
§ Baroness Birk
My Lords, I thank the Minister very much. I have seen that amendment on the Marshalled List; it has been there for some days now. I find it rather weak in structure but we are not discussing that at the moment. I am disappointed that that is the answer but perhaps as we go along we can strengthen it. However, I do not think I shall get any further tonight so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Lord Strabolgi moved Amendment No. 80A V:
Before Clause 46, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Arts in Metropolitan Counties.
§ .—(1). The councils of the districts in a metropolitan county shall not later than 31st Deccember 1985, establish a joint committee of members of those councils whose duty it shall be from the abolition date to exercise the functions to which this section applies.
§ (2) This section applies to the functions of a metropolitan county council exercised immediately before the abolition date relating to powers to make grants or loans and to give guarantees to bodies or persons carrying on artistic or cultural activities (including the provision of museums and art galleries").)115
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, whom I am glad to see in his place, stated that the arts will not suffer as a result of abolition. It is, of course, appropriate to recognise the value of the promised additional central funding.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, I am reluctant to interrupt the noble Lord but what I have always said, in various idioms, is that there is no need for the arts to suffer as a result of abolition. If people are wilfully determined that they should, that is another matter.
§ Lord Strabolgi
My Lords, I am the last person to want the arts to suffer. That seems to be a most extraordinary statement from the noble Earl and is one that could only be made late at night. If the noble Earl prefers the words, "the arts need not suffer" I am absolutely at one with him.
The point I was making is that it is appropriate to recognise the value of the promised additional central funding for the arts. However the Minister has ackowledged that this does not replace in full all that the GLC and MCCs spend on the arts, and therefore that the borough and district councils will be expected to play their part after abolition.
The recent Arts Council press release which we discussed earlier on a previous amendment, and bid to the Minister for an increase in this sum, have dramatically underlined this financial shortfall. Should the council be successful in its bid—and I hope it will be—that would of course solve most, if not all, of the financial problems. However, it would totally remove the responsibility for funding those organisations currently supported by the metropolitan county councils from the successor authorities, thereby removing any direct local authority involvement in the arts and also the vitality of plural funding, both aspects of which have been so highly praised by the Arts Council.
I should like to stress that this amendment does not seek to replace or contradict any of the Minister's proposals, but rather to complement and supplement them by creating an efficient mechanism by which the anticipated funding by the district councils could be managed. It is not a covert attempt to increase funding for the arts; rather, it is to ensure that the arts do not suffer. The amendment seeks to establish a joint committee representative of the district councils seeking to allow for the funding of the arts through an efficient system. It would assist both district councils and other funding agencies, and the organisations involved, by saving them the additional time—and, therefore, the cost—spent dealing with the multiple applications. It would spread funding over a wide area so that the contributions are fairly distributed throughout a region, reflecting the regional significance of the activities. It also seeks to avoid a possible downward spiral of funding created by individual districts choosing the lowest possible figure and others following suit.
It is our submission that a joint committee would provide a forum for discussion and for funding and would thereby assist in maintaining arts provision on an equitable basis throughout the county area. It is our view that such joint committees would be able, as the MCCs do now, to work in partnership and close cooperation with the relevant regional arts associations 116 and the Arts Council. I hope that the noble Earl will feel that this is a constructive amendment that is helpful and complementary to what he is seeking to do. I beg to move.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Lord Ritchie of Dundee
My Lords, if the local authorites are to be called on to do a lot to replace funding that was undertaken before by the county authorities, we cannot expect that they should deal with all multiple applications individually. One cannot imagine a situation in which an arts organisation has to go to half a dozen different district or borough authorities in order to persuade them to support some scheme. It is also extremely complicated for those councils to have to consider different applications from different quarters.
I know that there is provision in the Bill whereby a two-thirds majority of a group of councils can give authority for supporting some particular venture, but it seems to me that that process is likely to be cumbrous and complicated and likely to militate against innovation, initiative and new ideas. There is always a tendency on the part of bodies of people considering new ideas to say, "No." It is much easier to say, "No" than to say, "Yes". As I say, I think that a scheme whereby different councils have to consider a certain application would be much more likely to produce a negative rather than a positive answer.
There is also the question of continuity of funding. All arts organisations give cries from the heart that whatever funding they receive they should have the feeling that it will be continued and will not be spasmodic, in order that they may plan for the future. That is one of their recurrent cries. I fear that if individual councils were the sole bodies considering applications, they might so easily say, "Well, we supported you last year. I am afraid that there are higher priorities this year. Sorry, old chap, you will have to go somewhere else."
I think that a joint committee such as the one proposed in this amendment is more likely to do two things. I think that it is more likely to continue to support anything that it has already committed itself to supporting; and also that consideration of arts ventures will be its specialty and it will not be spending its time weighing up priorities in the way that the individual councils will.
It is true that the regional arts associations are already providing overall regional strategic funding for the arts, but it should be borne in mind that they are handling mainly central funds. Indeed, the promised £16 million and any additional sum that they may be lucky enough to get constitute central funds. A committee drawn from district and borough authorities would be handling locally raised funding and would be representative of those who had actually contributed. There would therefore be involvement of ratepayers through their representatives. They would not just be handling funds that had been dropped like manna from on high, which is what the regional arts associations are more concerned with. It would be an example of the principle of no taxation without representation.
We should consider, too, that a committee would be an organ of multiple funding, and multiple funding 117 should always be the aim, both to ensure some degree of continuity and to provide variety in planning. Also, a committee could cover areas where there is poor provision. Some councils are likely to be stingy. Some areas are likely to have a greater need than others. A committee could take an overall view, make provision where that seems necessary and stimulate a generous response where that might be lacking. For those reasons I urge your Lordships to support the amendment, which I believe to be essential for the vitality of the arts in the areas formerly so well served by the "met" counties.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, I certainly acknowledge to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, that he intended this amendment wholly constructively. I acknowledge that he moved it in an attempt to be helpful and to ensure support for institutions which may be suffering from anxiety at a time of change. The way the noble Lord moved the amendment reflects the concern, which the Government share, concerning the anxieties that may come about as a result of change, especially perhaps in the context of certain integrated services. I am thinking of the integrated museum services, for example, at present maintained by the Tyne and Wear and the South Yorkshire metropolitan county councils
That said, I do not think the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, would be the right solution in the present situation. The reason is that district councils already have powers to establish joint committees to administer arts and museum activities on a shared basis within their areas. It seems to me that it would not be appropriate to single out the successor authorities in the metropolitan areas and, as it were, to force them to do what in all other areas would be done on a voluntary basis.
We have gone far enough in the metropolitan areas to urge co-operation and shared solutions to problems or functions which cross district council boundaries with the introduction into this Bill of Clause 94. The House will recall that this clause requires the establishment of joint preparatory committees of the successor districts no later than 1st September of this year to discuss matters of common interest. I do not see that such preparatory committees could be considered as a model for the permanent statutory provisions moved by the noble Lord in his amendment. It may be—and I very much hope it will be—a decision of such preparatory committees to establish permanent joint arrangements for museum and art gallery services where they feel this to be appropriate. However, I do not think it proper to anticipate the deliberations of local authorities, which should surely be free to decide their priorities, especially where discretionary expenditure on the arts is concerned.
The reality of discretionary spend would still hold, even if the principle were to be dented by accepting the new clause. It does not make explicit the financial provision which would be needed by the joint committee. It is implicit that some financial agreement would need to form part of a joint committee, but this would remain an area in which each district council would of course be free to argue for greater or for lesser annual spend. The museums, 118 theatres or other institutions involved would have expectations of greater security which might not be fulfilled. Most likely there would be no built-in compulsion for district councils forming a joint committee automatically to increase their support because, of course, that would be contrary to all the democratic principles of local authority budgeting and planning.
The new clause proposed by the noble Lord envisages the joint committee making grants or loans to bodies in the performing arts field. I see no harm, and in many cases I see much advantage, in districts voluntarily getting together to support bodies whose scope and importance transcends a single district. However, I very much doubt whether they should be compelled to do so. If they do combine, they will have the backing and expert independent advice of the regional arts associations, as the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie of Dundee, acknowledged, as well, of course, as the backing and advice of the Arts Council. Joint voluntary funding could be an advantage to the regional arts bodies, which would need to discuss their finances with one funding source rather than with six or ten district councils. Perhaps the joint preparatory committees would put this on their agenda for further discussion.
Therefore, in conclusion, I should hope that the district councils, in particular in Tyne and Wear, will wish to see the continuation of the pioneering and, from my experience, having visited it, the absolutely first-class integrated museum service. I hope also that they will weigh up the best means of securing this, either by establishing a trust or by establishing a joint committee. I have made clear since April last year that if a satisfactory arrangement is agreed, I shall contribute annually a reasonable sum towards the future maintenance of the service. But I would not, for the reasons I have given, wish to see this Bill compel these councils or fetter their discretion in any way.
At the end of the day, I believe that the local authorities in the metropolitan areas will wish to show both the Government and their own ratepayers that they are responsible and clear-sighted when it comes to support for the arts and museums and galleries. They would rightly resent any implication to the contrary. Such proposals as are before us in the new clause could well prove counter-productive if accepted. Given that I have accepted the very constructive spirit in which the amendment was moved, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, will not press it.
§ Lord Strabolgi
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for what he has said. I am sure that he will agree that over the last decade or so the Arts Council and the local authorities, working together, have been responsible for some noted developments. Nowhere has this success been greater than in the GLC and MCC areas. The GLC and the MCCs taken as a group have been the unquestioned leaders in the field of local authority support for the arts. From the councils' point of view, it is difficult to envisage alternative arrangements that, taken as a whole, would serve the arts as well as those they are designed to replace.
I have listened carefully to what the noble Earl has said. I think that he has accepted a good deal of the spirit of the amendment. What we have done is to 119 establish the principle that some form of countywide administration is needed in the metropolitan areas for the continued and effective operation of the existing county authority functions relating to the arts and cultural matters. With that, the noble Earl and myself, not for the first time and, I hope, not for the last, are at one. I think he has accepted the spirit of the amendment, and I beg leave to withdraw it.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 46 [Metropolitan county museums]:
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 80AW:
Page 29, line 31, at end insert—
("(3) A trust shall be established for any museum or gallery service and any collection of works of art or objects of historical or scientific interest belonging to a metropolitan county council and not vested on the abolition date in accordance with subsection (1) above.
(4) Any trust established under subsection (3) above may make grants towards the upkeep of museums and art galleries and any collection of works of art or objects of historical or scientific interest housed within the area of the metropolitan county.".
§ The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment is to establish the principle that some form of countywide administration is needed in the metropolitan areas for the continued and effective operation of the existing county authority functions relating to museums. The present proposals in Clause 46 and in related ministerial statements cover Merseyside, with the exclusion of Speke Hall and Croxteth Country Park, and Greater Manchester. They provide for the integrated service in Tyne and Wear only if the districts co-operate in management and funding. They omit the countywide service in South Yorkshire and all the other grants, both revenue and capital, given by MCCs to museums and art galleries.
§ The amendment does not conflict with Clause 46. It adds to it without necessarily adding to the central funding arrangements and would create efficient management arrangements for existing museum services which are not otherwise coped with by Clause 46 or related ministerial statements. I beg to move.
The Earl of Gowrie
My Lords, I shall be brief in my response to the arguments put forward on behalf of this amendment simply because much of what I have just said in response to the proposed new clause moved by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, is apposite in this context. I pay tribute to the noble Lord for his concern for museum and art gallery collections for which no specific statutory provision is appropriate but which are in a position of anxiety which I understand and with which I have some sympathy.
The alarm with which many of these bodies face the future is not of the Government's making since I have made clear since April last year that I will make a sum of money available by way of the Museums and Galleries Commission to assist the smaller museums and galleries over the transitional problems, mentioned by the noble Lord, after abolition. I am afraid to say that the alarm is a political consequence of those district councils, particularly in Tyne and Wear, which refuse—I think now largely out of 120 pique—to face the fact that abolition day is fast approaching. Here I echo the comments made by my noble friend Lord Elton in the debate on archaeological services.
These councils have ignored my invitation to discuss the continuation of the integrated museum services and the result inevitably has been despondency among the staff and growing concern in the museum world generally. That seems to be a very high price to exact to threaten such a service for the sake of a little discussion between themselves and with my department.
As it stands, the amendment would not achieve very much. Outside of property on Merseyside, for which a trustee body will be created under Clause 46(1), there is very little in the way of collections owned by a metropolitan county council. For instance, in the case of Tyne and Wear the district councils own the majority of the collections and the buildings in which they are housed. With so very few objects to care for and own, we are therefore essentially looking at the establishment of trusts as channels of funding for museums and art galleries within the metropolitan areas. This is unnecessary. The Museums and Galleries Commission is at the moment applying for a royal charter which will, when granted, enable it to make grants to local authorities and independent museums and galleries. A suitable amount from the £17 million of additional central funding, which I will make available to support the museums affected by abolition, will go to the Museums and Galleries Commission. Therefore, I envisage that most of the grants will be in addition to those made by local councils or on a similar matching or challenge basis—perhaps it is best put as a partnership basis—to the practice of the Arts Council. I certainly hope that the Museums and Galleries Commission will go down that road as it is very effective.
Therefore, we do not need a proliferation of trusts to do the job either of the district councils or of the Museums and Galleries Commission. Both have the expertise to make judgments on what museums or galleries to support, and both, after abolition, will have quite adequate funds. On the subject of funds, this amendment suggests no pattern for trusts, and like other amendments recently it is ominously silent on the question of money. If it is expected that central funding would be forthcoming, I am afraid that I must disillusion the House. Beyond that part of the £17 million which I shall make over to the Museums and Galleries Commission, I expect local councils to continue to fund local institutions of enjoyment, benefit and enlightenment to their own ratepayers. The metropolitan areas are no different in this from, for example, Stoke-on-Trent, Leicester, Bristol or Portsmouth. Indeed, the major collections in Birmingham, Leeds and Sheffield, which are affected by the legislation, are never passed out of district council hands.
Therefore, while I appreciate the concern which the noble Lord has expressed in moving the amendment, I emphasise that it is misplaced. Adequate funds exist; adequate channels exist to make those funds available for the smaller museums' services and institutions. 121 Trusts are not the answer. Common sense and a more responsible attitude on the part of a few district councils is. I urge such councils to enter into discussions with me, and I urge your Lordships to reject this amendment if it is pressed.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I took one minute in moving the amendment and the Minister has, quite properly, taken five minutes to reply. I am absolutely certain that the value of the debate to those outside will be in direct proportion to the time taken. I am sure that the Minister has said something that will be helpful to those who have sought this opportunity to raise the matter here. I very much hope so. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Viscount Buckmaster moved Amendment No. 80CA:
After Clause 47, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Report on Welfare Benefits Projects.
§ Before the abolition date, the Secretary of State shall consult with the Councils of London Boroughs on arrangements for the continuation of projects undertaken previously by the Greater London Council with the object of informing the public of their entitlement to welfare benefits and encouraging the take-up of those benefits.")
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this is a simple and straightforward amendment. It is perhaps the simplest of all the amendments on the Marshalled List tonight, and perhaps one of the easiest for the noble Lord the Minister to accept. It seeks to ensure the continuation of the valuable work done by the GLC in the sphere of informing the public of their entitlement to welfare benefits. The need for such a service is revealed by the fact that many millions of pounds-worth of social benefits remain unclaimed every year. Over the last year the project ensured that no less than £10 million-worth of unclaimed additional benefits was claimed by pensioners so entitled.
§ Now what does the project do? The services which the welfare benefits project runs are as follows: it provides local information campaigns which give advice and information at bus stops; a free phone and free post inquiry service; it provides monthly features on television explaining how to claim such benefits as attendance allowance, mobility allowance, maternity benefits, special heating allowance, housing benefits, and many others.
§ The most important area of all is that it translates all this information into no less than 10 ethnic minority languages. As the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, will agree, this is important in the context of our ethnic minorities here. How difficult it is for us Britons to understand the immensely complex regulations relating to benefits; how much harder it must be for so many of our ethnic minority residents who have limited knowledge of English. This applies particularly to women. It applies to Asian women, Bangladeshi and Pakistani women, and so on. It applies to many of the Vietnamese boat people, again particularly women, and it is a valuable service.
§ Then there is an additional provision of training in welfare benefits work for ethnic minority groups, and also the project has developed a remarkable computer which enables operators, after a brief period of 122 training, to go into a house and just press a mass of little digits and they can discover straight away what the claimant is entitled to. This is in no sense a radical amendment. No one could possibly call it a wrecking amendment. I consider it a reasonable and restrained amendment. In that sense, I beg to move.
§ Lord Ennals
My Lords, I have a number of reasons for wishing to support the amendment, which had originally been tabled in my name. I was then not certain that I was going to be here at this moment, and the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, put his name down first.
Often those who are in greatest need of the help provided by social services and social security are those who are least liable to apply. The amendment is to ensure that the most needy in our society are not deprived of this information, and have it brought to their attention. In the Green Paper which we are to debate in this House on Wednesday, the Government have expressed the view that entitlements are complicated. Whether their proposals will simplify this is another matter, and it is a matter for debate, but the Government's acceptance that they are complicated is enough of a reason to make sure that the work now done continues to be done.
The GLC has done an excellent job, as stated by the noble Viscount, in supporting welfare rights centres. The Government must surely recognise this and must want to ensure that that work goes on. If it were not such a late hour, I should also want to refer to refugees, who, as well as ethnic minority groups, are, for linguistic reasons, less likely to know what their rights are and therefore more in need of welfare rights centres.
The amendment, as has been said, makes no demands upon the Government and does not seek to create a new organisation, but simply calls upon the Government to have discussions to see that these needs are met. It would probably have been a better amendment if it had taken in the metropolitan county councils, because the point applies not only to the GLC, but to county councils in West Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Merseyside, all of which have been active in initiatives to inform the public of benefit entitlements. In West Yorkshire, for example, the county council in 1984 commissioned a study on the availability of welfare rights advice throughout the country. On the basis of the Government's national figures on unclaimed benefit the study estimated that up to £40 million benefit entitlement was unclaimed each year in that county alone, affecting the most needy and vulnerable sectors of the population. They have sought to ensure that as high a proportion as possible receive their entitlement. In some cases this has been done by sustaining and developing the work of citizens' advice bureaux. Sometimes it has involved setting up welfare rights centres. My final reason for supporting this amendment—and I hope that the noble Lord will accept it—is that one of my sons runs a welfare rights centre.
§ Lord Stewart of Fulham
My Lords, I hope the Government will feel that they can accept this amendment. It is not subject to some of the objections that have been raised to similar previous amendments. For example, it does not compel the London boroughs to do this or that; it simply requires that the Secretary 123 of State should consult them on arrangements for the continuation of the projects previously undertaken by the Greater London Council. In the course of those consultations it is entirely open for the boroughs to say that they want to continue those arrangements with this, that or the other modification. There is no straitjacket imposed on the boroughs as to what they should do, but their attention is drawn to this important subject of seeing that people receive the benefits to which they are entitled.
Early in their life the Government made it known that one of their policy objectives was to prevent what was called "scrounging" from the welfare state. That no doubt is an appropriate activity for Government, but a Government who undertake it are surely under an obligation also to do the reverse, to see that people are not deprived of the benefits to which they are really entitled because the system is too complicated or because they belong to a group in the population who find it difficult to understand how the whole thing works.
The noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, and my noble friend Lord Ennals have described the various groups in the population who need this help and the increasing number of modern methods of giving it. We have now built up, with the help of the GLC, a valuable part of the welfare state. Thanks to the Green Papers that the Government have recently produced, before long the whole nation will be engaged in a discussion on how the welfare state should be organised.
However, a discussion of that kind is greatly vitiated if there is a serious discrepancy between the benefits to which on paper people are entitled and the benefits which they actually receive. It is very difficult to assess the value of any scheme of benefits if we are far from certain that it is working out in practice as it is meant to on paper. I believe, therefore, that it cannot be disputed that the Greater London Council has been doing a very valuable piece of work and that it ought to be continued. In this amendment, arrangements are made to help that without placing any straitjacket on the boroughs and without interfering with what the Government regard as the main purposes of the Bill. I therefore hope that they will feel able to accept the amendment.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will not agree to put this amendment into the Bill, basically for two reasons. First of all, as the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, has admitted, it is quite illogical to apply it in the case of London and not apply it in the case of the metropolitan counties. I would suggest, on the contrary, that the need for seeing that this information is available is probably greater in the metropolitan counties than it is in the rather more sophisticated atmosphere of the metropolis. I agree entirely with the noble Lord—and, indeed, I draw on my own experience when I was Minister of Pensions and National Insurance some years ago—that there is real need to see that those most in need are informed of the benefits to which they have a right. That is enormously important. But an amendment of this sort, first of all, excluding the provinces and confined 124 to London, and, secondly, imposing a duty on the Secretary of State to consult without imposing any actual duty on anybody to do anything, seems to be a very ineffective thing to put into a statute.
Moreover, I think it is a little offensive, perhaps, to the London boroughs to suggest that they are not at least as equally aware as is the GLC of the need to inform people living in their boroughs of their rights under the social security scheme. I cannot see why it is thought that the GLC's activities are such that the Secretary of State must seek to persuade the boroughs to follow them. I would suggest that the London boroughs are at least as capable of knowing what their duties are in this respect as the GLC.
§ Lord Monkswell
My Lords, on a preliminary reading of this amendment it would be quite easy to use it as a vehicle to attack the Government. I resist that temptation because, on a further reading of the amendment, one can see that it is a very practical and sensible suggestion to put to the Government to adopt within this Bill so as, I would think, to do two specific things. The first is to ensure that there is a discussion between Government, the GLC and the boroughs in London about how activities can be carried on to ensure the best take-up of the welfare benefits. I would hope (and I am sure that the Government would accept) that it is the wish of the Government that all the welfare benefits that are available should be fully taken up for the benefit of the people of this country.
I would suggest that there is a second reason for the Government adopting this amendment. It is that in the process of having that consultation with the London boroughs and the GLC, they will obtain valuable advice and information about the various problems that are associated with particular welfare benefits and the mechanisms by which those benefits can be helped to be taken up by the people, and also what changes may be necessary to ensure that the benefits that this House and the other place have seen fit to place upon the statute book with a view to assisting the people of this country can be better deployed.
I return to my original statement that on this side of the House this occasion is not being used (as it could quite honestly be used) to attack the Government, but to commend this particular amendment to the House in the belief that not only will it help the people of the country at large but also the Government to fulfil their duties to the people.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Ennals, that I am glad to recognise the worthwhile work being carried on by the GLC in its effort to boost the take up of welfare benefits. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, that the Government want all those who are entitled to receive those benefits; and the Department of Health and Social Security have been co-operating fully with the GLC's officers in their efforts. I see from the nodding of the heads opposite that I do not need to recount the rather lengthy list of ways in which they have done so. As I have often said in discussions on this Bill, it does not follow that because something is done well by the GLC it cannot be done equally well or better by the boroughs. The boroughs have the same general 125 spending powers under the 1972 Act as the GLC and can mount their own campaigns. The advice and the help of the Department of Health and Social Security will be just as available to the boroughs as it is now to the GLC. They provide expertise and continuity, which is vital.
It is open to the boroughs to co-operate with each other in running these campaigns, if they wish to; but in fact I understand that the GLC itself is currently organising its own campaign on a borough-by-borough basis; so it may be that that would not be appropriate. I ought to say that central Government's efforts will continue in this field. At the moment the DHSS has a national Freefone advice service which has recently been extended to the GLC area. They distribute leaflets and claim forms widely and are redesigning them to make them simpler. They already have had one "Plain English" award for this work. Information officers appear on radio and TV programmes on benefits and give talks in local communities; and they write articles in the local papers. The department have translated information leaflets into six Asian languages. They give leaflets inviting a claim to supplementary benefit to all retirement pensioners, widows, sickness benefit and unemployment claimants. They advertise family income supplement in every child benefit order book. They help local authorities to identify housing benefit claimants who might be entitled to other benefits. A lot is being done. I accept that more needs to be done and look forward to continuing co-operation between central Government and the boroughs in the future.
Abolition offers not one single obstacle to that. It does not need the formal provisions for consultation which the amendment suggests—suspended in the air without an application, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter pointed out. The initiative for local action must rest with the boroughs. As I say, the advice, help, experience and skill of the department will be readily given. Formal consultation of the sort suggested in the amendment would merely absorb departmental resources unnecessarily which should be deployed to more creative purposes.
I assure your Lordships that I am not being boneheaded about this. It is not simply that we will not accept any change that is suggested to the Bill; and we have demonstrated that already. But I honestly believe that the movement of this from the upper to the lower tier of Government with the continuity provided by the department will ensure that that continues.
I thank the noble Lord the Minister for those remarks, which have gone some way towards allaying my misgivings. This is obviously quite an important subject, in view of the number of noble Lords who have supported the amendment. I must say that I am not entirely satisfied with the answer of the noble Lord the Minister. Perhaps I may mention one aspect. He said that the information which the Government would put out would be translated into six Asian languages. Perhaps I may remind him that the GLC welfare project is now putting out no fewer than 10 different language translations. But that is a minor point. In view of the assurances the Minister has given me, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Lord Denham
My Lords, I think we have probably reached as far as we can reasonably go this evening. If noble Lords opposite are agreeable. I will beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
House adjourned at four minutes before eleven o'clock.