HL Deb 02 May 1985 vol 463 cc421-67

8.20 p.m.

House again in Committee.

Lord Graham of Edmonton moved Amendment No. 43ZA: Before Clause 5, insert the following new clause:

("Action Areasa.

From the abolition date, applications for planning permission for the development of land within any Greater London Council Action Area shall be determined by each local planning authority in the Area in consultation with any other authority in the Area and with local associations and community groups, and where it is considered by any such authority to conflict with or prejudice the implementation of the Action Area Plan the authority dealing with the application shall hold a local public inquiry, and all local planning authorities concerned shall have regard to the outcome of the local planning inquiry.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move the amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Birk as it appears on the Marshalled List. I would draw the attention of the Committee to the rubric "Action Areas". This in my view merits the serious attention of the Committee, and it would be helpful if I read the amendment in full. (" . From the abolition date, applications for planning permission for the development of land within any Greater London Council Action Area shall be determined by each local planning authority in the Area in consultation with any other authority in the Area and with local associations and community groups, and where it is considered by any such authority to conflict with or prejudice the implementation of the Action Area Plan the authority dealing with the application shall hold a local public inquiry, and all local planning authorities concerned shall have regard to the outcome of the local planning inquiry.").

The Covent Garden area I think, with no modesty whatsoever, could be looked upon as one of the world's greatest success stories of urban renewal. There is not a harsh word said about the manner in which certainly the authorities concerned, with the assistance of the GLC, have wrought a wonderful change, whereas in many other parts of the country, where in actual fact there have been major changes and the removal of a once busy part of a city to somewhere else, it is left in somewhat of a sad state. I do not think in actual fact that that can be said about Covent Garden.

The purpose of this amendment is to highlight the Bill's lack of provision for unified planning and development of this key part of central London, which will be vulnerable to disagreements between Camden and Westminster, and to install a machinery that will ensure the implementation of the action area plan.

Following the adoption of the Covent Garden action area plan in 1978, the Greater London Council has been the local planning authority for this area. The GLC has been concerned with ensuring a balanced mix of public and private housing, commercial and light industrial, and social and leisure projects. It has also managed the central market complex and acquired a major property portfolio.

Covent Garden as a large scale urban renewal project has been accepted as a major success for London in both social and financial terms. This far, 500 dwellings have been completed or arc under construction; 4,000 extra jobs have been created; the central market building has been acclaimed as both an economic and a design success; the GLC property holdings in Covent Garden have substantially increased in value, and the council have adopted socially based rent policies towards certain categories of shops in order to promote retail diversification in the area.

There now exists considerable speculative private redevelopment pressure to take advantage of the GLC's commercial successes and consequential increases in land and rental values in this area. This requires a consistent approach in making decisions on planning proposals to ensure the area's continued development.

Contrary to Sir George Young's assertion in the Commons Committee stage that the role of the GLC in Covent Garden was coming to a close and That the development was largely completed, the 10-year action area plan continues. The central market building and part of the piazza have been built, but the planned resident population target of around 1,200 people is still unachieved, mainly because of Government cutbacks on resources for public sector housing. A highly developed consultative machinery exists in Covent Garden involving the GLC, the Covent Garden Forum and the Covent Garden Community Association, tenants' groups and employers' organisations.

In the Commons Committee stage Sir George Young claimed that no representations had been received from groups in the area. However, both the Covent Garden Forum and Covent Garden Community Association have written to the Department of the Environment expressing their concern at the Government's proposals to transfer responsibilities for implementation of action area proposals and the planning of Covent Garden to the boroughs of Westminster and Camden.

The boroughs of Westminster and Camden are known to disagree on major policy issues, such as the provision of public housing, studio and office uses, car parking and public ownership of commercial assets. It is feared that the real policy decisions by either authority would damage existing achievements at Covent Garden and upset the balance of social and commercial objectives currently pursued. It would certainly be inappropriate for these two dissimilar boroughs to deal with planning matters in this area without adequate consultation both with each other and with local community groups.

This amendment proposes a consultation procedure between the boroughs and the local associations and community groups for development, and where the proposals are deemed as conflicting with or prejudicing the action area plan, the holding of a local public inquiry. It is only through such a mechanism that the substantial achievements which the GLC has produced in the area can be maintained and built upon.

That is how we see it from this side of the Committee. We may have it wrong. We are certainly anxious to be assured by the Minister that the procedures and provisions of the Bill will obviate these kind of worries which I do not raise in an alarmist way but which the Minister may be able to tell us are needless and unfounded. I beg to move.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

I wish to oppose this amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has said, there is already a very adequate consultative machinery there. Any suggestion of having public inquiries at the drop of a hat, which this amendment would do, would do nothing but place a dead hand on the progress that I believe is going on and will continue to go on in the Covent Garden area. I do not think this is a positive amendment, and I ask the Committee to reject it.

Lord Skelmersdale

I can tell the noble Lord, Lord Graham, and my noble friend Lady Gardner that I, too, am a fan of Covent Garden. My only regret is that the price of tickets at the Opera House is often higher than my pocket can stand.

Turning to this amendment, Covent Garden is the only GLC action area plan actually in operation, and although there are others in process, as the noble Lord, Lord Graham, has explained, they will not be complete by the abolition date. More generally, on this amendment, there are already under the planning system and as amended by this Bill adequate provisions; for example, in Article 15 of the general development order which I mentioned in Committee the other day. Anyone, whether an individual member of the public or a community group or any other body, has access to the planning register which every London borough and district council must keep. Of course, they are perfectly at liberty to inspect and comment on the applications listed there.

Secondly, a local authority has to advertise any applications which constitute departures from the development plan unless they propose to refuse them, and they must consider any objections which they receive as a result, whoever the objections may come from. Thirdly, many sorts of developments must be publicly advertised by the applicant before the local planning authority will determine the application, and again the authority must consider any representations they receive in consequence.

Going back to action areas generally, or rather the specific action area in Covent Garden, the noble Lord may not know that in 1982 the GLC agreed with the London Boroughs Association that when the London planning regulations were revised—a revision obviously no longer appropriate in view of this Bill—they should cease to be the local authority for the area. Moreover, they agreed at that time that responsibility for development control should revert to Camden and Westminster, and this is the current proposal. This is what I expect to happen.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I am grateful to the Minister for the care that he has obviously taken with that reply. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, rests the case for no change in the future, despite the change in status in the plan, on the fact that things have been managed well so far. The Minister tells us that, although there is a radical change—we were seeking to perpetuate the good manner in which it has been managed up to now by the GLC as the local planning authority—he wanted to ensure that there was some mechanism in case there was a breakdown in interpretation and so on. I take what the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, says. We do not want local public inquiries at the drop of a hat. I am absolutely certain that Camden would not want it—there is doubt in the face of the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes—and I imagine that Westminster would not want to rush into it. There would be the maximum collaboration possible, because no one wants to waste money, not deliber-ately, on needless public inquiries.

I did not appreciate that the GLC had, as it were, if not seen into the future, recognised that at some stage it would cease to be the local planning authority for the revision of the plans. In that circumstance the authority for planning would revert to the two former authorities. On the basis that they recognise that that was what they would agree to before, one should be puzzled as to why they are concerned now. There are perhaps some facts that I have to ascertain, revise or rephrase if I need to return at a later stage. I am grateful to the Minister for explaining the matter. I shall read carefully what he has said and, in the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 [Listed buildings, conservation areas and ancient monuments]:

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran moved Amendment No. 43A: Page 3, line 25, after ("areas") insert ("including Holland Park,")

The noble Lord said: With the leave of the Committee, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 43B, 53A, 58B 74A:

Amendment No. 43B: Page 3, line 26, after ("subjects") insert ("including Holland Park")

Amendment No. 53A: Clause 6, page 3, line 36, after ("Council") insert ("save that functions relating to Holland Park shall be transferred to the Department of the Environment")

Amendment No. 58B: Schedule 3, page 98, line 27, at end insert ("or in the case of Holland Park the Department of the Environment." ")

Amendment No. 74A: Clause 13, page 9, line 41, at end insert ("or, in the case of Holland Park, the Department of the Environment".")

I have spoken to the Minister about these and I have also spoken before about the subject matter of these amendments. Before the Minister for the Arts leaves the Committee, the subject is Holland Park, an historic park. I am grateful to the Minister for retracing his steps. I am asking that Holland Park should have the special consideration of the Government in view of its historic position.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Arts (The Earl of Gowrie)

I am not responsible for historic parks: they are the responsibility of my noble friend Lord Elton.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

I am sorry, I misunderstood that.

Lord Elton

I am going to stay!

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

Thank you very much indeed for that very helpful interruption. The other night I spoke at some length and told the Committee about the history of Holland Park—I shall not repeat that—and how it is a beautiful park, full of horticul-tural subjects of great interest, including 3,000 different shrubs and trees. It is a tourist attraction and therefore the public at large come to it. It is not merely a park associated with Kensington. It is not a municipal park.

The other night I was specifically concerned about what should be the position of the planning authority. My last amendment then was concerned to try to persuade the Government that the planning authority should be the Department of the Environment because that department looks after Royal Parks. I read a letter from a Member of this House, Lord Hurcomb, saying that Holland Park was run more or less as a Royal Park. Obviously it is not a Royal Park but it has been looked after by the GLC as carefully and helpfully as if it were a Royal Park. It is a greatly attractive area and requires special consideration.

These amendments are probing amendments, but the Committee will note that Clause 5 refers to listed buildings, conservation areas and ancient monuments. If Holland Park were a conservation area then its functions and care would be transferred as a result of Clause 5(a) to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England. If a national park were accepted as being a conservation area under Clause 5 that Commission would be empowered to look after it. I cannot say whether it is a conservation area: no doubt the Minister will tell me. I am delighted that the chairman of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission has been good enough to attend the debate this evening.

This clause governs "certain related subjects": what does that mean as regards Holland Park? Related to what? Is it related in any way to listed buildings? Obviously there may be listed buildings in Holland Park. Is it related to conservation areas? I have dealt with that. Is it related to ancient monuments? There are some very old houses there, but I do not know whether they would be called ancient monuments. In dealing with ancient monuments, as we shall later in the Bill, I shall be reminding the Committee, if it is necessary to do so, of the debates we had about ancient monuments some time ago when the noble Earl, Lord Avon, was dealing with them and giving grants to ancient monuments. I pointed out at that time that ancient monuments should include field monuments which are still underground and have been discovered as a result of aerial photography. The results of aerial photography have transformed the history of European archeology as well as that of Britain. I am assuming therefore that there may be field monuments. I do hope that the noble Earl, Lord Avon, is progressing favourably because we miss him so much in this House.

If Holland Park is a conservation area or is related to any of the subjects, I should be happy, because the Kensington Society, for which I am speaking—I have no other interest in Holland Park except as a member of the public—has for many years been looking after the area and is keen that Holland Park should be treated differently and not go back to a borough council for its care and protection.

So much for the amendments dealing with Clause 5. If I fail with my submissions on Clause 5 at this stage (and I presume I will), I shall come to Clause 6 and ask myself, does Schedule 3 cover the position of Holland Park? Schedule 3 is supposed to have effect for transferring functions relating to the national parks and the countryside. Is Holland Park a national park? Should it be a national park? Should it be considered as part of the countryside? Perhaps the argument that it is part of the countryside is a little far-fetched in relation to Holland Park but the word "countryside" has a wide implication. Therefore if Holland Park falls into the phrase "national park and the countryside" then under Clause 6 it would be bound to fall to the borough council of Kensington to look after it. If Holland House falls within the phrase, "national parks and the countryside", then my amendments say that the transfer, on the abolition of the GLC, to the London borough councils and the Common Council of the City of London should not deal with Holland Park and therefore it should not be transferred to the boroughs or to the Common Council.

In passing, I would say that I should be happy for Holland Park to be transferred to the Common Council, which runs the City of London and a number of large countryside areas in and on the fringe of London; but I have not had the opportunity of consulting with the Common Council to know whether they would take it on. Of course, as a Freeman of the City of London, having some knowledge of how the Common Council works, it may be that the Minister will be able to tell us that they would not take it on.

It is part of my submission that Holland Park requires special consideration and should not go hack to the borough council for its care and attention. In my submission, it should go either to the Department of the Environment and be dealt with as the Royal parks are dealt with (but not necessarily be called a Royal park), or else be dealt with by the historic commission or by some other special means. I have heard rumours that the position relating to Hampstead Heath in some respects is similar to that of Holland Park. Hampstead Heath, I understand, without any further amendment of the Bill, will be dealt with by three borough councils. That will cause difficulties and there is a great deal of anxiety about it. In my view, therefore, the sympathy of the Government should lie in doing something about Holland Park other than giving it back to the borough councils.

When last I spoke on this matter, the noble Lord the Minister was kind enough to say that he shared with me my admiration for Holland Park. I am asking him whether he can this evening go that little bit further and help me. Can he say that it is a conservation area? Can he say that it is one of the related subjects? Can he say anything else that would help the Kensington Society and the public to safeguard one of the great heritages of the United Kingdom? I beg to move.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I make just a brief intervention. I have listened very carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, has said. If ever there was a case of special pleading, we have heard it moved most eloquently. He is entitled—

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

With respect, as a lawyer, the words "special pleading" have a significance which I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, does not want to convey. He can use any other adjective, but "special pleading" has a different connotation.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

I can assure the noble Lord that the sense of what I wanted to convey was that it was an exceptional circumstance or a case that, if not pleading, he was arguing; in other words, that exceptions should be made to the Bill to take account of specific circumstances. I listened very carefully to what the Minister had to say. I am bound to say that I am not at all moved to have a Bill riddled with taking care of lots of individual illustrations, powerful as they might be. What I believe the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, wants—and I listened to him with care—is an assurance from the Minister that there is no need to be concerned that there will be any change under the new management from the care and concern which now exists. I understand that there are related parts and tracts of London which may be similar and which may have other solutions. I am looking forward to the Minister being able to satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, that there is no need for the Bill to be altered in that way.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, was kind enough to remind your Lordships of some of the things that I said at the earlier stage, as well as those that he said; so I shall not repeat my admiration for Holland Park. I understand that what he is trying to establish is that it is unlike anywhere else. In a sense it is; it is a most remarkable and enjoyable place for people living in that part of London. It is in a conservation area and it contains an ancient listed building—although the only ancient monument there was myself when I used to perambulate! But it is not a conservation area; it is a public park in the ownership of a local authority. It is not a subject related to any of those listed in the paragraph to which the noble Lord's amendment refers; it is a public park in the ownership of a local authority. It is not an ancient monument; it is a public park in the ownership of a local authority. It is not a national park nor is it a part of the countryside; it is a public park in the ownership of a local authority.

As that, it falls into a very large category and it is proposed to deal with it as it is proposed to deal with the whole of this category. I hope that that has disposed of the aspirations of the noble Lord as to the legal interpretation of the Bill and the actual meaning of the category. The noble Lord no doubt will have read again what I said on Tuesday on this very subject and he will see that I have gone as far as I can to guarantee anything that a Government can guarantee about the future care of this public park in the ownership of a local authority when it is transferred to the surviving local authority in the area in which it is located. I have done everything except to say that I shall appoint the park keeper and tell him how to run the place. One must leave something to the people who own it, who will be the local authority. I have a high regard for their ability and their intentions in this respect. There is really nothing I can say to reassure the noble Lord that I have not already said.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

I am obliged to the noble Lord. He has made it perfectly clear that this historic area is owned by the local council, the Kensington Council. May I assume that?

Lord Elton

It is part of the GLC; but, at the abolition, the successor body will be the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

The noble Lord is dealing with the matter as at present. I was not concerned with that. I thought that he was saying that now it is owned by the borough council. What he is saying is that if this Bill goes through, as it is now owned by the GLC it will go to the borough council. I take that position. The GLC has looked after this area very well: it has the resources to do so; it has the expertise to run it. It has available to it resources and expertise which are not at present available to the borough council.

The noble Lord the Minister was good enough on the last occasion that I raised this in Committee (and he has raised it now) to indicate that certain resources will be made available to the borough council in relation to Holland Park. We know nothing about the amount of that resource. We do not know whether it is enough to keep this historic area in the fine condition that it is in now. We do not know. I am not trying to inquire about rate capping or anything like that. The noble Baroness, Lady Stedman, raised this question with the noble Lord; and quite rightly. I am assured by the noble Lord that there will be resources available—we do not know what they are—by way of finance. I do not know, nobody knows, what resources will be available in the way of expertise for these valuable horticultural specimens—over 3,000 of them still in existence. We have no information as to whether that resource will be available.

The noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton, reminded the Committee at the last stage of some unfortunate things that had happened with regard to listed buildings at the hands of this very council. I do not want to discuss it in any detail.

We are worried, therefore, about the continuity of this historic matter. I will read what the noble Lord the Minister has said in regard to the position of Holland Park. I was very worried as a result of what the noble Lord said at Column 202 on 30th April towards the end of our discussion. Perhaps the noble Lord had been harassed by me a bit too much; certainly, I was pressing him rather hard, and therefore I quite realise that a slip of the tongue can take place. The noble Lord, said to me that night: The noble Lord"— that is me— may have some great scheme to entrust every piece of greenery in the whole of the metropolis to the Department of the Environment; I know not. But he put a scheme in his amendments"— I then went on a little later, as the Committee was getting a bit bored with the discussion—

Lord Elton

Will the noble Lord give way?

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

Yes, most certainly.

Lord Elton

Just in case it should happen again, may I just say that if I were able to substitute—though I cannot of course alter what is already in print—I should substitute for "every piece of greenery", "every public park in the ownership of a local authority", which was a phrase which did not spring in sufficient time to my lips at that moment. That would carry the meaning I intended to give.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

The noble Lord the Minister goes from "every piece of greenery" to a public park but this is 54 acres of historic buildings. We have a little saying in Wales that "a little chink lets in much light" and I rather felt that we ought to get more sympathy than that from the Minister. Before I ask leave to withdraw these amendments, as Holland Park is such an historic area—it is unique in London—I am asking on various grounds that it should be dealt with separately from some municipal park or, to use the words of the noble Lord the Minister, "a piece of greenery". I am asking whether perhaps the noble Lord the Minister would be good enough to receive a deputation from the Kensington Society to discuss this matter a little further.

I have been brought into this, to make these submissions, only recently. I have not been to Holland Park recently to see what the place is like. Therefore, in those circumstances I wonder whether the Government in dealing with a part of the heritage of the United Kingdom in this way would be able, without the noble Lord the Minister committing himself tonight, to consider whether a meeting of that kind would not help the Government. It would certainly help the safeguarding of Holland park and would satisfy a great number of the public that great care will be taken of this unique area.

I do not want to commit the noble Lord to anything tonight. I see that he is getting advice from the noble Viscount the Leader of the House in this matter, quite properly, and who am I to complain if the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, is listening to what I am saying? I hope that I shall get even from the Leader of the House, who comes from the North, an area where a great part of the heritage of this country is to be found, some consideration of a further examination of the position of Holland Park.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, can scarcely have been brought later into the proceedings than me. I have that in common with him. I am always delighted to see him and I am sure we can discuss the matter at a very early moment.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

I thank the noble Lord the Minister for that, and on that basis I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 43B not moved.]

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 44:

Page 3, line 32, at end insert— ("and ( ) to ensure that adequate funds are made available for archaeological investigations in Greater London after the abolition date.")

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is concerned with the problem of archaeology, and it is to ensure that adequate funds are made available for investigations in Greater London after the abolition date. Archaeology has always seemed to me to be the Cinderella of the historic and ancient services and anything to do with ancient buildings and monuments.

In Greater London, the first unified archaeological service was set up in April 1983, through the initiative and funding of the GLC. It is administered through the Museum of London and the Passmore Edwards Museum. During the consultation before the service was created, nearly all the London boroughs supported the proposals, although a majority had reservations about providing funds. This was at a time when only one-third of the London boroughs made any contribution at all to archaeology; and that figure has probably dropped back considerably.

The London Boroughs Association recognised the inherent difficulties of the alternative scheme, which envisaged a regular contribution from individual boroughs, which of course was not forthcoming. The GLC saw that the rapidly dwindling and irreplaceable archaeological resources for London required an effective integrated service if the archaeological treasures in London were to be found and also preserved. Central resources of administration have already increased the capacity of archaeologists to meet the demands of rescue excavation, and the establishment of the service has now ensured that adequate provision is made to meet an unprecedented number of major developments on key sites in inner London and on the West London gravel programme for 1982–86. Common computerised recording systems have been developed to link the results of archaeological work across Greater London and the City, and conservation environmental services and post-excavation work are beginning to be efficiently co-ordinated. The accumulated backlog of unpublished sites, the legacy of 20 years of ill-funded rescue excavation, which unfortunately is all part of the history of archaeology all over the country, will be dealt with in a properly organised publication programme over the next five years.

The real problem here is that the Bill gives no specific consideration to the provision of archaeological services in Greater London or the metropolitan counties. Several independent archaeological bodies have written to the Secretary of State for the Environment about this, and have received replies saying: It is hoped that the needs of archaeology will be borne in mind by the borough councils in considering how they can best co-operate to provide an effective continuation of existing services"; but since it was due to the inability, or in some cases perhaps the unwillingness, of London boroughs to make adequate resources available for archaeology that the GLC initiated the service, it seems highly unlikely that this solution can possibly be a satisfactory one. Indeed, under increasing pressure to curb expenditure it is improbable that those who have been willing to support archaeology in the past will find it possible to justify funding even at pre-1983 levels.

I am bound to say that archaeology will certainly be very low in the financial priorities of most boroughs and districts. Some major sites, particularly those threatened by large-scale gravel extraction, for example, involved the destruction of entire historic landscapes and settlements. On such sites excavation programmes are being planned over periods of three to five years, phased in with development schemes. This of course saves archaeological finds, which otherwise would completely disappear because they would have been built over.

9 p.m.

The GLC's strategic planning role is vital to co-ordinating archaeological work on linear developments such as highways and service routes, and in placing conditions on consents for mineral operations to allow proper advance investigation. The lack of regional perspective in planning and archaeological priorities will be highly damaging and will really mean that we are going to lose irreparably a great deal of our past. In the heavily urbanised areas of inner London it has been estimated that the majority of surviving sites will have been destroyed within the next ten years at present rates of redevelopment. London's archaeological resources are finite and are eroding fast. Most importantly, any irresponsible or negligent attitude taken towards this matter now cannot, as we know, be redressed later. I beg to move.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

May I say very briefly on behalf of my noble friend Lord Evans of Claughton, who unfortunately has not been able to stay tonight, that I strongly support what the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has said. I should like to mention in passing that, as I said earlier when dealing with another amendment, when we spoke about funding archaeological matters some time ago, when the noble Earl, Lord Avon, was dealing with the matter, archaeological investigations and archaeological funding should be directed to the field monuments, so many of which have been discovered only recently by means of aerial photography, as well as to those monuments which are above ground.

The Earl of Gowrie

The noble Baroness seeks to make it obligatory for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State to provide a particular level of resources to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, which may or may not be appropriate. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission is committed, I am glad to say—because I share the noble Baroness's interest in and approbation of archaeology in London, and we are joined in that by the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd—to providing financial support for archaeological research and investigation. I am glad, in an ecumenical spirit, to congratulate the GLC for what it has done over the years in this respect.

I do not think that any of us would doubt the importance of that work, which gives a fascinating insight into our past ways of life and the changing patterns of our natural and built environment; and, of course, we want to see it go on. I want to see it go on, confident in the knowledge that this is precisely what the commission intends. I know that the GLC provides considerable financial support for the provision of a permanent staff and organisation for carrying out archaeological work in London, but my noble friend Lord Montagu has agreed that the commission will take on the GLC's responsibilities in this area, both organisational and financial.

The Government have it in mind to introduce proposals to amend the Museum of London Act 1965 in due course, including an extension of the commission's powers to provide funding for this service. The Government have undertaken to reflect this additional responsibility in the annual grant that my noble friend's commission receives. However, I do believe that it would be unjust and inefficient to commit the commission to a given level of expenditure for a given number of years. The GLC is not, after all, constrained in this way: of course it is not. It makes its decisions on how much to contribute not only in competition with all the other demands on its resources—however rather less sensible some of us find some of the other demands to be—but also against an anticipated level of need that is discussed and agreed in detail with the Museum of London. I am sure that the GLC would resent outside interference in this process, and so I think it would be with the commission and my noble friend—and I believe that such resentment would be well founded.

I am glad to say that the Government have given assurances of continuing support from the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for the Greater London archaeology service. I hope that in the light of what I have said, and because I think the noble Baroness will be able to believe that I, like her, am on the side of the angels as well as of the archaeologists, she will not seek to press her amendment.

Baroness Birk

I do not intend to press any of the amendments that I am moving now. I am really concerned about this subject, and I am also trying to get information. I have to remember, too, when listening to the Minister's honeyed words, that he is on the side of the Treasury as well as of the angels.

It seems to me that there is a real problem here: that with all its willingness and, hopefully, efficiency, the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission is really not a body that has been responsible in the past for core-funding of archaeology. It seems to me that the commission has always been much more concerned, just as it was the concern of the old Ancient Monuments Board and the Historic Buildings Council, to deal with projects as they come up. I believe the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, wanted to speak before I wound up. Perhaps I should give way to the noble Lord. I did not notice that he was getting up.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

I am grateful to the noble Baroness. Since this is the first time that I have intervened during this Committee stage, perhaps I should warn your Lordships that I shall be speaking several times on amendments moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. Perhaps, as these amendments do concern the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, I should now declare an interest as its chairman. Perhaps, too, I might remind the Committee that the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission was set up by an Act of Parliament in 1983 with all-party support in both Houses and with support also from the noble Baroness. We were set up as an independent body. We value our independence, and I think that we shall wish to conserve it. However, it may be helpful to the Committee if I were able from time to time to intervene and express certain views, and give certain information which I believe my fellow commissioners would fully support.

We are not, we have not been and we shall not wish to be politically involved with this Bill, but we have given a firm undertaking to the Government that we are prepared to undertake the responsibilities as laid down in this Bill if Parliament so desires, and will do our best to discharge those responsibilities as best we can.

Turning to Amendment No. 44, the commission is as concerned as anybody that archaeology in London receives an adequate level of funding, and we are already discussing with the department how this can best be achieved. I listened with great interest to what my noble friend Lord Gowrie said about the proposed Bill amending the Museum of London Act. This will be a very sensible way forward, and my commission does not think any problems will arise with regard to looking after archaeology in London adequately.

Baroness Birk

It was very helpful to hear the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, but perhaps I may put one or two points to the Minister. The GLC's expenditure on the archaeological service in 1984–85 was around £450,000. Is the Minister able to give an assurance that that amount will be available for archaeology for the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission? Secondly, it is important to distinguish between the project funding of individual digs and the core funding for continuing professional services to provide an integrated service. This is where a very deep financial and resource problem arises, when you cannot keep a service of trained, skilled and experienced people going and they then have to melt away. What I am asking for is rather more assurance than I feel I have at the moment. I shall not press this to a Division, but, as I said in moving the amendment, this is not mentioned in the Bill, and I am concerned about the future of archaeology, as are the many bodies that have naturally been in touch with me and with other people.

The Earl of Gowrie

If the noble Baroness will do me the kindness of studying in Hansard tomorrow what I said, she will find that I have been pretty reassuring. Obviously, I have not tied myself to a figure, nor has the GLC or anyone else. But what I have said is that the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission is committed to providing financial support in this field, and that the Government have it in mind to introduce proposals to amend the Museum of London Act 1965, including an extension to the commission's powers to provide funding for this service. What I also said is that the Government have undertaken to reflect this additional responsibility in the annual grant that the commission receives. Even for a soul with a foot in the Treasury, that seems to me to be a fairly positive series of assurances.

Baroness Birk

I thank the Minister for those words, and of course we shall have to wait and see. It depends on what the funds turn out to be and whether they are enough for archaeology, so that money does not have to be stretched away from all the other areas with which the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission is concerned. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 45:

Page 3, line 32, at end insert— ("and ( ) to provide for the continued development by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission of the computerised sites and monuments record for Greater London maintained at the abolition date by the Greater London Council and of the working and financial arrangements existing at the abolition date between the Greater London Council, the Museum of London and the Passmore-Edwards Museum.")

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is concerned with the computerised sites and monuments record for Greater London. For the future fulfilment of the Greater London Council's historic buildings and archaeological functions, the continuing development of its computerised sites and monuments record is absolutely vital. The importance of the record would be difficult to over-state. It is immensely more comprehensive than anything of the kind previously seen, and it will provide services which no other such record has attempted.

The scale of the project is no greater than the problems of this great city demand, for in its 600 square miles Greater London contains one-tenth of all the listed buildings in Britain, as well as an unparalleled density of conservation areas, sensitive archaeological sites and many thousands of other features of historic significance. The form of the record has grown out of the specific needs of London, based on the extensive experience and detailed knowledge of the council's historic buildings devision, which not only has an enormously high reputation all over this country, but has an international reputation as well.

Although the project was first proposed only two years ago, excellent progress has already been made. Data collection has been in progress for six months and a live system will be ready for testing in another three or four months. Next year, if the work is not interrupted, it will begin to provide a service to all the authorities concerned with historic buildings and archaeology.

Three facts made the development of the record an urgent necessity. First, the records of the historic buildings division have grown in volume and complexity as the activities of the council in this field have developed over the years. Secondly, the council is the inheritor of a vast accumulation of working records arising from 80 years of preservation work, historical research and recording in London. Thirdly, and because of the only recently resolved difficulties of co-ordination, Greater London is one of the few areas in England and Wales which has not hitherto been able to develop a county-based record of archaeological sites and finds which might help to determine priorities in allocating resources as well as providing a research tool for planners, academics and teachers.

The record now in process of creation will integrate information on all aspects of the historical environment including buildings, industrial structures, parks, design, landscapes, and archaeological sites and finds. It will also for the first time make effective monitoring possible, especially in relation to the statutory control of historic buildings. It is rather surprising that, while extensive powers can be exercised over listed buildings, there is no machinery for collecting and analysing information on how these powers have been used and how effectively they are dealing with the identifiable pressure in particular areas. A significant feature of the system is the potential for mutual exchange of information between all these organisations and individuals interested or involved in the areas of knowledge comprehended by the record.

9.15 p.m.

Once the operational needs of the council itself are met, it was intended to provide access to the system in London borough offices and in the museums through their own linked terminals. I must emphasise that concern is felt not merely that this vitally important service should continue to be developed but also that it should not be straitjacketed by any inadequacy of the computer facilities available to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission or to any other body with which they are concerned. This would indeed, as I am sure they would be the first to recognise, be to waste the effort and skill already invested.

Although, in the light of this Bill, to say that the GLC is at present ideally placed and fully equipped to manage and enrich such a system seems rather extraordinary and goes against what is in the Bill, I think that Parliament and also the people must be assured—because archaeology belongs to the nation as do the historic buildings and ancient monuments—that its successor will also be adequately equipped and committed to the project, because once one is using the benefits of modern technology it would be absolutely disastrous and almost criminal if these were lost. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

The noble Baroness has moved an amendment which I think is probably a probing amendment as it affects the "brass plate" in front of the schedule. Clause 5 introduces the schedule and announces who lives within the front door, as it were, and the noble Baroness wishes to add to the functions of the schedule.

I should like to start by assuring the noble Baroness that the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission already have powers to keep records under the National Heritage Act 1985. They are therefore able to take on the GLC's site and monument records. The GLC is, I believe, justly proud of this record which it has been increasingly committing to computer files. It is at the heart of the activities of the historic buildings division and, like that division's other responsibilities, it will be well taken care of.

The computer on which the record is kept at County Hall will pass in the first instance to the London residuary body until suitable long-term arrangements can be made. Of course the commission will want to develop this record. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission are alive to the importance of records, as is the GLC. I do not doubt that the commission will treat the GLC's sites and monuments records in just the way that the noble Baroness would wish them to do. But this is their responsibility and they already have the power. It is not therefore necessary to make statutory provision for the sites and monuments record as the noble Baroness suggests.

As for the arrangements between the Museum of London and the Passmore-Edwards Museum, it is the intention, I understand, of the commission to continue to work with the Museum of London on rescue archaeology in London. The GLC does provide considerable financial support for the provision of permanent staff and organisation for carrying out the archaeological work in London, but my noble friend Lord Montagu has agreed that the commission will take on the GLC's responsibilities in this area; and the noble Baroness discussed it with my noble friend Lord Gowrie a moment ago. If therefore what the noble Baroness wants is a reassurance that what she wishes to happen, can happen, she can have it.

Baroness Birk

I am grateful to the Minister. However, I am still a little worried about the actual system that I a m talking about and the technology involved. We have to look at this in an international as well as a national context. It is quite outstanding. What I should like to know is whether all the machinery, the work, the computers, and so on, is going over to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission because otherwise, with all the good will in the world, it cannot parallel what is being done by the GLC unless it has the necessary equipment to do it. Perhaps the Minister can advise me on that.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

With the leave of the Committee, perhaps I may be permitted to say that the commission has already agreed to take over the equipment and the staff and will certainly continue to develop it. Moreover, the commission itself has its own computers, the GLC were not the only people to put records on computers. The great thing is to get them integrated and I assure the noble Baroness that we are taking this very seriously.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

May I say that having served as a member of the historic buildings committee I should like to put on record the high opinion that I have of it. I have often said rather harsh things about the GLC but this has always been a most exceptional group.

Lord Elton

May I endorse that?

Baroness Birk

The noble Lord will soon be wondering why he is abolishing the GLC.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. I was not in any way criticising the commission and I am sure it has some beautiful computers. I am not an expert but what concerns me is whether the quantity and quality of computers will be available to the commission. Those set up by the GLC are of a fairly large order, so I gather, but I do not understand the mechanics and can only speak as I am advised.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

I can assure the noble Baroness that compatibility will be given great importance by the commission in deciding how its computers will be ordered and operated.

Baroness Birk

I hope that when everything is transferred they do not forget to take the computers with them. With what I hope were assurances I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave withdrawn.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 46:

Page 3, line 32, at end insert— (" ( ) The Secretary of State for the Environment shall make adequate funds available in each financial year from 1st April 1986 to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England for the purposes of making listed building repair grants in London for properties not affected by the transfer in section 5(a) above, and the total funding shall, in real terms, be not less than that provided by the Greater London Council and the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (in London) taken together for this purpose in 1984–85".)

The noble Baroness said: This amendment is concerned with the funds for listed building repair grants in London, for properties not affected by the transfer in section 5(a) above". These are properties which are of special architectural or historic interest and which have been particularly cared for, but they are different from the properties which are in use or are functional for everyday activities. The annual provision for capital and revenue grant over the past three years has averaged £602,000. This money has been carefully directed to obtain maximum advantage over a wide range of repair and restoration activity, ranging from grants of a few hundred pounds in order to reinstate one or two sash windows and restoring the pleasing uniformity of a terrace of houses, up to hundreds of thousands of pounds given to fund-raising campaigns for the repair of monuments of national importance.

Unlike the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, or its predecessor the Historic Buildings Council, it has not limited its grants solely to repair work but has frequently aided work of purely architectural restoration where there appears to be a measurable gain in terms of public amenity. On reflection, I do not think that is true—my brief does not appear to be quite right.

However, it has in recent years taken a positive approach using the offer of grant to bring about improvements which might not otherwise have occurred and sometimes making problem-solving grants to break deadlocks and initiate desirable repair and restoration works which neither the owner nor any other agency would have been able to set in motion with funds normally available. All of us who have had anything to do with any historic buildings at all know that if the owners themselves will not do anything it is very difficult. Unless there is a body that acts as the GLC has done in the past, a great deal of our built-up or urban heritage will disappear and we just cannot replace those buildings.

The council has also identified areas of particular need—for example, churches and, more recently, theatres—and focused grant resources on those particular types of building. In one of SAVE's publications which appeared only a few weeks ago it pointed out that the very survival of some London churches was a direct consequence of generous grants provided over the past 20 years by the GLC.

The planned abolition probably means that such grants will soon cease to be available, and there is concern that the removal of the major single contributor to grant-making in London must be compensated for. The amendment therefore is designed to give Parliament the assurance that an appropriate level of funding in that area will be maintained. I beg to move.

Viscount Massereene and Ferrard

I am rather worried about this word "adequate", especially when it comes to money and public funds. Where does it stop? Of course the people who spend public funds are not the people who have created the money that they are spending. I am all for financial support for the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, but I do not think that it is a very good idea to say, as it does in the amendment: and the total funding shall, in real terms, be not less than that provided by the Greater London Council and the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission (in London)". I was under the impression that one of the reasons why we are doing away with the GLC is that it is too extravagant. If it is extravagant, I am all for it being extravagant over repairing listed buildings; but I think that we have to be careful here because "adequate" is a very broad term.

Lord Melchett

Does not that underline the fears that have been expressed not only on this series of amendments but earlier, and does it not contradict everything that the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, had to say when he spoke from the Front Bench about future funding? If the Government are abolishing the GLC because it is giving too much money to repair and maintain the historic buildings and churches of London, should they not say so instead of just sitting on the Front Bench and smiling and nodding enthusiastically when the noble Viscount says that that is the case? If they are going to let historic buildings in London collapse, should they not have the courage to say so?

Lord Elton

The purpose for which we are abolishing the GLC is not that it is giving too much money for repairing ancient churches. I can assure the noble Lord of that. There are other reasons. The noble Lord may not perhaps have noticed them but that may be because our efforts have been in vain.

We are fortunate enough to have my noble friend the chairman of the HBMC here this evening, and I say everything subject to his ear. We all know that London is a city with a great many fine buildings of beauty and historical architectural importance. The buildings are admired not only by many people who visit London but also by those who live or work in them day by day. They are important and their value has long been recognised in legislation. The part of that legislation which relates particularly to this amendment permits public funds to be made available towards their upkeep and restoration.

Over the years the Greater London Council has played a key role in this area, and in no way do we wish to belittle it. Of course the Committee is anxious to see that the value of this work is not lost and will not be snuffed out with the GLC on 1st April next year. The Committee knows that the payment of grant towards the repair of buildings of outstanding historical or architectural value is already an important function of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. The Committee will also recognise that the commission will be given the GLC's powers to make grants to any building or place of historical or architectural interest in London.

9.30 p.m.

The noble Baroness's amendment seeks to set total funding of this function by the Secretary of State at a level above a base-year total set in concrete for ever. I appreciate the aims of this amendment, but this is no way to manage finance. In this field, no one year can be taken as typical or representative. Ultimately, the resources which the commission will have made available to it must depend upon its assessment of needs and it will be for it to consider the extent to which it wishes to meet the demand in any one year, having regard to all its other commitments and responsibilities.

The suggestion that this Chamber should commit the Secretary of State to a given level of expenditure, regardless of other pressures, even within the scope of the commission's responsibilities and regardless of any proper assessment of needs, would be financial mismanagement of the worst kind. I have every confidence that the commission will carry out its responsibilities in respect of London in a constructive way. I do not believe it needs to be told how much money to spend on building repair grants in London, any more than it needs to be told how much to spend elsewhere.

The Government consider each year the sum that should be paid to the commission in grant-in-aid according to the resources it has available and according to the expenditure plans of the commission. The Government will of course allow for the commission's new responsibilities when they consider its resource needs for 1986–87 and future years. The commission will then budget according to the resources that are made available to it. That seems to us the sensible way to plan and to spend. The amendment suggests that there is an alternative way, by statutory constraint. That is something I am afraid we cannot accept.

Lord Melchett

Surely the amendment is not trying to tell the commission how to spend its money but telling the Government how much money to give the commission so that this valuable work can continue. Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord a question. He said that the additional work the commission will have to undertake will be taken into account when the Government come to determine the resource needs for 1986–87. As I understand it, that is what concerns my noble friend Lady Birk; and certainly it concerns me that sufficient resources should then be made available to the commission to ensure that it is able to maintain the excellent work that the GLC has done in this field. To know whether or not the Government are likely to do that, surely Parliament needs to know whether or not the Government believe that the level of resources which the GLC has allocated to this work in London in recent years is about right.

In other words, when the commission takes on this work, will the Government say, "You have taken on a level of work which was about right and we will take that into account in determining resources for 1986–87"; or will they say, "You have taken on work which the GLC has been doing. We consider it extravagant and wasteful"—as I understand the noble Viscount on the Benches opposite does—"and we will chop it back"? That is surely the question that the noble Lord needs to answer if he wants to go that way about determining the resources which are spent in future.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has been in government. He knows that no Chancellor will commit himself before a Budget to a level of expenditure. My money and our money comes from the Chancellor; so the noble Lord will not expect me to give a precise figure for the expenditure. However, I can repeat that we will take into consideration, together with the expenditure plans of the commission, the volume of support it has received beforehand from non-government sources.

Lord Melchett

I am sorry to press the noble Lord on this matter. However, the same topic will arise on a range of other amendments to which we shall come later in the Bill and, no doubt, later this evening. I did not ask the noble Lord to commit the Government to a particular level of expenditure under a particular head in 1986–87, and I would not expect him to do so. With respect, I asked the noble Lord a quite different question. I asked him whether the Government believe that the level of expenditure which the GLC has committed to this area of activity in recent years is about right, or whether it is extravagant. That is the question I asked.

Lord Elton

The noble Lord presses me very hard. If one looks at his question the other end on, he is asking a question on the amendment; and the amendment seeks to pin the Government to a particular figure, which is the figure that you arrive at if you add together the two sources of finance from which the HBMC operates. I can certainly say that I believe that the commission has operated an extremely sensible programme of which the Government approve. That is as close as I can go to saying anything that the noble Lord wants to hear.

Baroness Birk

The hour is very late. I am very conscious that if we do not make more progress, my noble friend, who has been extremely helpful on this amendment, will not reach his own amendments tonight.

My noble friend is absolutely right. The problem with these amendments is trying to find a way to get some assurance. The Minister himself said that the GLC was not being abolished because of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. I am glad to hear that. The trouble is that there could be a by-product disaster as a result of what is being done. I am not suggesting that the Government are asking themselves how they can kill it. However, because of abolition and inadequate resources, it could suffer which would mean the heritage for all suffering. That is the reason for putting forward the amendment. However, having said that, I beg leave to withdraw—

Lord Elton

Before the noble Baroness does so, I do not wish to give rise to unnecessary anxiety. The noble Baroness will accept, I am sure, that I cannot be pinned down precisely. I am grateful to her for accepting that. The consideration will be first what the GLC has spent. While that is considered, the HBMC will consider what it proposes to do. The commission will then discuss its plans with the Government in the light of that information. We shall then agree an appropriate level of resources. I cannot put it more clearly than that.

Baroness Birk

I am sure that the Minister is doing the best he can. Many of us, however, are worried about the possible outcome. I do not believe that he has any influence over it although he is doing his best. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 47:

Page 3, line 32, at end insert— ("( ) The transfer referred to in section 5(a) above shall not take place before the Secretary of State has laid before Parliament a report on the future arrangements for listed buildings and ancient monuments in London, which shall include details of the following:—

  1. (a) the level of funding which the Exchequer shall make available to the Commission in the five years following the abolition date for the maintenance and restoration of all listed buildings and ancient monuments to be transferred under this Act:
  2. (b) the staffing arrangements proposed for the Commission in the five years following the abolition date;
  3. (c) the arrangements for ensuring adequate liaison to ensure the continued maintenance of listed buildings and ancient monuments in London; and
  4. (d) arrangements for the provision of adequate architectural, scientific and technical expertise to the Commission and to other successor authorities within the meaning of this Act.").

The noble Baroness said: This is aimed at different aspects of the same problem, our concern about funding which will not match that of the GLC in the past in this area of archaeology, historic buildings and ancient monuments. Here again, I am concerned that the future of the 1,400 or so limited buildings in the council's ownership, which are to be transferred to ILEA's successor, to the fire authority, to borough councils or elsewhere, will be extremely uncertain if specific provision is not made for their care. I shall cut my remarks at this point, and beg to move.

Lord Elton

The amendment covers some very important issues. I can assure your Lordships to the extent that it is proper that the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission will be given the financial resources necessary for it to do the job expected of it in London properly. That is a key point to stress. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, will at least note it tomorrow in Hansard, because it is very close to what he was asking.

An important feature of the commission's existing activities is the financial support it gives for the preservation and maintenance of historic buildings. This is an important part of its budget. As a result of the transfer of functions from the GLC, the commission will be taking on additional repair grant responsibilities in London. Its grant-in-aid requirement is considered each year on the basis of a corporate plan setting out in detail how much the commission believes it needs to spend and what it wants to spend it on. On the basis of this plan, the Government decide how much grant should be paid to it for the forthcoming financial year. There is nothing new in this process. However, it would be new not to say extraordinary for either the Government or the commission to commit themselves to a given level of funding for a particular activity over a period of years. I am bound to say that the Government have no intention of doing anything of the kind and I would be surprised if the commission did either.

The second point concerns the staffing of the commission. The Government have never doubted or sought to disguise the fact that the commission will need to increase its manpower. It makes sense for the commission to look first to the staff already working in the GLC's historic buildings division and, as your Lordships will probably know, the commission has already announced that it intends to make job offers to these people on the same terms and conditions as are enjoyed by the commission's employees and staff. This was an early and positive step on the part of the commission.

I am in no doubt that there will be discussions between the Government and the commission about this and any related implications of the transfer of functions in the context of the commission's corporate plan for 1986–87. I can see no need, therefore, for any further statement about those arrangements. They will be discussed and agreed along with many other issues as part of an agreed plan and budget for all of the commission's activities and responsibilities in 1986–87.

I now come to what the amendment calls "adequate liaison" over the maintenance of listed buildings. I have to admit to being a little puzzled here because the commission already works closely with local authorities, voluntary organisations and other bodies and individuals involved in work on historic buildings on a day-to-day basis. I do not believe that my right honourable friend needs to lay before Parliament a report on the way in which the commission will conduct its daily business with the London boroughs. The success of any working arrangement depends upon the responsible attitude and reliability of all parties concerned. I am in no doubt that the commission will play its part, and I hope that the boroughs of all political persuasions will do the same.

Finally, I come to the question of professional and technical expertise. I am not quite sure why the amendment refers to the need for this expertise to be made available to the commission. The commission is an acknowledged centre and source of such expertise for the whole of England. However, I can assure noble Lords that the expertise is there, and I do not doubt that the commission will, as now, be prepared to offer whatever help and advice it can. Let us not forget that, so far as expertise specifically relating to London is concerned, which is at present provided from within the Historic Buildings Division, that same expertise will be available from within the commission, probably from precisely the same people. I hope that that explanation helps the noble Baroness.

Baroness Birk

I thank the Minister very much for that explanation. This amendment expresses real concern about the care of these buildings. The reference to "adequate… technical expertise" was not in order to criticise the commission for not having it, but in order to make sure that, with the extra responsibilities, the commission is given the resources to employ the extra expertise and necessary staff. That was the reason. I beg leave—

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

Before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment, perhaps it would help if I say that when we said we would take on these new responsiblities it was on condition that we had the necessary resources to carry them out, and that includes money for grants hitherto made by the GLC. It does not include the grants already made by the commission which are affected by this Bill. I believe that it is important for the commission, as a responsible body, to keep its freedom and its flexibility to dispose of its own resources as it thinks best.

I confirm that we have agreed in principle to make job offers to the staff of the GLC Historic Buildings Division on the same terms and conditions as are enjoyed by our own staff, although if there are any other inquiries I think that the delays would increase the uncertainty that the staff already feel, because they are not even allowed to speak to us about their future. I should also like to confirm that our ancient archaeological laboratory is used by everybody in the country and is considered to be the finest in the country. Therefore, I think that we shall have all the expertise we need at our disposal.

Baroness Birk

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 5 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 48 not moved.]

Schedule 2 [Listed buildings, conservation areas and ancient monuments]:

[Amendments Nos. 49 and 50 not moved.]

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 51:

Page 95, line 34, leave out sub-paragraph (4) and insert— (" (4) The Commission may cause investigations to be made and information to be published with respect to the history, architecture, archaeology, landscape and development of Greater London and shall continue the preparation and publication of the series of volumes of the Survey of London previously undertaken by the London County Council and the Greater London Council.")

The noble Baroness said: Perhaps I may take Amendments Nos. 51 and 52 together. Amendment No. 52: Page 95, line 36, at end insert ("and shall continue any such investigations as are being made by the Greater London Council at the abolition date and shall cause information to be published with regard to such investigations.")

Lord Elton

Would the noble Baroness give way? Does she intend also to take 53ZA?

Baroness Birk

Yes, I think they can all be dealt with together. Amendment No. 53ZA: Page 95, line 46, at end insert— (" . The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament on or before the appointed day proposals for continuing the publication of the series of volumes called The Survey of London together with details of its funding and management to enable the continuation of the research hitherto carried out into the history, architecture and archaeology of buildings or districts in Greater London by the London County Council and Greater London Council.") I shall deal with these amendments as briefly as I can in order to hasten the progress of the Committee. This matter is concerned with The Survey of London, which is very important. This raises several issues such as the continuance of a variety of research, recording, and intelligence work which is at present undertaken by the Council's Historic Buildings Division, and the need to preserve the existing link between the division and The Survey of London.

Because it is well known to noble Lords, I am not going into a description of The Survey of London and the work it does. It was founded in 1894 and has had a distinguished growth and history since then. The point about these amendments is that The Survey of London should remain with the historic buildings commission rather than go to the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, which I gather is where the Government intend to move it. It fits better with the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission than with the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments because the work is interlocking there whereas with the Royal Commission it is more in the way of being part of its archives.

The importance of the survey cannot be overstressed because of the continuing need for research into London's historic buildings for all sorts of purposes. It has always had great freedom from administrative interference. It has had independent scholarship and it has been able to exercise a great independence. It is the future of the survey which is the point which is causing concern.

The most like-minded organisation in my opinion, and the opinion of many others, with whom it should be linked is the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. What I hope that the Minister will be able to say—and I need only a quite brief reply at this time of night; I shall not pin him down with lots more questions—is that the matter is still open, and that the place where it will finally rest has not yet been definitely settled, and that it could go to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. I beg to move.

Lord Beloff

I am rather surprised, though I am prepared to be convinced, that the noble Baroness should think that the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, to which we are giving new work at almost every moment this evening, is necessarily a more suitable body to take over this responsibility than the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments. The importance of The Survey of London, which has given it its considerable standing—and there we are all in agreement—is its independence of practical and immediate considerations. It is a scholarly enterprise which does great credit to those who work in it and to those who have supported it.

The most important thing about its future, apart from the fact that it must be given the requisite finance, is that it should retain this independence, and that it should be to some extent at least at arm's length from practical considerations. To be linked with a body which has, among its many responsibilities, the actual repair of buildings, the conservation of buildings, is something not so obvious as would be a connection with another body, a much more ancient body, the Royal Commission, which is again concerned with scholarship in the abstract and the recording of existing phenomena. I, and no doubt others, would be delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, on his views and the Government's view, but I find it difficult and less convincing to follow why the noble Baroness does not like what I agree we had thought to be the Government's intention, that the Royal Commission should take over this responsibility.

Baroness Birk

May I just explain, and it might help the Minister as well in regard to what the noble Lord has just asked about. I think the reason is that for over 30 years now The Survey of London has been researched and written in close collaboration with the Historic Buildings Division of the LCC, as it was originally, and then the GLC. It was during this period that it amassed its current very high international reputation, to which the noble Lord referred, as a tool of architectural and urban history. I mean that it has a practical as well as a scholarly role. Now, the proposal is that the survey should be separated from the Historic Buildings Division. It does not really make much sense, when over all these years it worked with the HBD, for the survey to go to the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments, a body with which it has had practically no former connection, while the Historic Buildings Division, with which it has been closely linked for all this time, is to go to the new Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. It is for those very practical and historic reasons that I have stressed this point in my amendment.

Lord Elton

There is nothing inherently unreasonable in what the noble Baroness has said; nor is there anything inherently unreasonable in the position which the Government have taken on this and for which my noble friend has adduced some very clever arguments. It was a nicely balanced decision, but it was taken in the sense which the noble Baroness regrets. I think I can reassure her on one aspect—perhaps she is aware of the facts already—that the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments exists in Fortress House, Savile Row, and that is the same address as the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. The Historic Buildings department of the GLC exists in Chesham House, off Regent Street. That is also where the work of The Survey of London is done, in close association with it; so whether they stay where they are or move to the new address the "arm's length" that the noble Baroness referred to will be very short.

Lady Gardner of Parkes

In regard to Amendment No. 51, I would have to draw attention to the fact that this says shall continue the preparation and publication". I must draw to the attention of the Committee that during the time that I have sat as a member of the Historic Buildings Committee there has been considerable difficulty about whether or not the GLC would continue to publish the survey. I should like to see it continue, but certainly there have been a great many investigations into the most economic and suitable way of publishing it. It might perhaps be necessary eventually to have it published by some other body or authority, and the wording of the amendment would be rather restrictive.

Baroness Birk

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 52 not moved.]

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 53:

Page 95, line 46, at end insert— (" . From the abolition date the Commission shall not charge any fee for the admission of members of the public to any historic building or any other property owned or administered by the commission which is open to members of the public which has been transferred by or under this Act.").

The noble Baroness said: This is really just a question to ask the Minister briefly whether, when the buildings go over from the GLC to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, those for which no charge has been made in the past by the GLC will go over with them, and whether the commission will have the right to place charges on visits to these houses and monuments. I beg to move.

Lord Elton

The noble Baroness has denied me a particular pleasure because her amendment suggested that she intended to say that there should be an absolute rule against charging admission fees ever and I was going to ask her how she would have advanced that theory from the Box where she was standing if the GLC had remained the executive authority, and whether she would have imposed on them a no charge. The charging policy on a matter such as this must be—must it not?—for the responsible body which owns the property concerned, as it now is with the GLC. That will not be disturbed.

Baroness Birk

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 53ZA not moved.]

Schedule 2 agreed to.

Clause 6 [National Parks and countryside functions]:

[Amendment No. 53A not moved.]

Lord Melchett moved Amendment No. 53B: Page 3, line 36, after ("Council") insert ("save that functions relating to Camley Street Natural Park, Frays Farm Meadow, Hainault Forest, Denham Wood, Fir and Pond Woods and Oxleas Wood shall be transferred to the Nature Conservancy Council")

The noble Lord said: We now turn to a different area of GLC activity—namely ecology and nature conservation—and there are a number of major amendments on this. The purpose of this amendment is simply to probe the intentions of the Government about what will happen to some sites of very high nature conservation importance which are owned, and in most cases owned and managed, by the Greater London Council.

I do not intend to press the amendment. It might be an attractive option that this Bill should become hybrid and we could take some of it off the Floor of the House, but I do not expect the Government would agree with that and I know that that would be one of the effects of the amendment. The sites that I have listed, with the exception of Camley Street, are examples of areas which are managed by the GLC, which are either Sites of Special Scientific Interest or proposed Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

It seems to me that these give rise to rather different issues, although with some parallels, from those which came up under the discussions of Holland Park which we had extensively earlier today and earlier in the week, and discussions we might have about areas such as Hampstead Heath later in the Bill. These areas all require a high level of expertise in their management. I do not suppose anybody in the Committee would disagree that Sites of Special Scientific Interest, which cover about 4 per cent. of the land area—there are about 3,400 top wildlife sites in the whole country designated by the Nature Conservancy Council—are clearly of national importance. That is accepted by everybody and their management requires great care and attention to detail and can often be extremely expensive, as we have discovered under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, where management agreements have been made with farmers and landowners to encourage them to manage SSSIs in ways which are beneficial to nature conservation and the sums of money involved have often been quite considerable.

I want to say a word about one or two of the areas I have mentioned. I know that your Lordships will not want to go into each of them in great detail. Two of the woodland sites, Hainault Forest and Oxleas Wood, are ancient woodland. They were there before anybody lived in London and before London existed. They predate not only the GLC but all its predecessor authorities, and I dare say that with sensitive management they will outlive all the successors which will undoubtedly arise from the GLC's ashes. These ancient woodlands require great expertise in their management.

The GLC has a woodland management team which manages these woods, among many others. They travel around the GLC area. The equipment they use is shared around a number of woods. They have their own scientific expertise, which is necessary in determining management of woodland such as these. Hainault Forest is a coppiced hornbeam wood, unusual in that it supports hawfinches and it has an area of scrub associated with it where just a week ago nightingales returned to breed. I know that the nightingale is a popular bird and it is because of the excellent management of this woodland conducted by the GLC that it continues successfully to live there. It is a bird that is quite rare in the wider countryside but it is breeding successfully in the GLC area. Oxleas Wood is an oak woodland on clay soil. It supports all three species of British woodpecker. That is unusual even in the wider countryside and certainly unexpected in an urban area like London.

The first question I want to ask the Government about the future of areas such as these nationally important areas is how they see the expertise being provided to ensure that the management continues to be as sensitive and effective as it has been in recent years under the stewardship of the GLC. Having listened to the debate which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, had with the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, about one park, I imagine that these areas will be managed in future by local borough councils. I should be interested to know what advice the Government have had from the scientific staffs of those borough councils about the management inputs and about the expertise that they will bring to bear.

10 p.m.

The second question that I have to ask is about expenditure. Do the Government have any assurances from local councils (who I assume will be responsible for these areas) that the necessary level of expenditure will be maintained to ensure that nightingales can continue to breed in Hainault Forest and that woodpeckers can continue to inhabit Oxleas Wood, and so on? One of the other areas that I have mentioned raises rather different questions but I want to cover it in the same amendment to try to be brief. That is Camley Street Natural Park, an area which has been created as a wildlife habitat in the middle of London just behind King's Cross. It cost the GLC a very large amount of money—over £600,000—to buy and establish this site. It has been extremely successful. It is work that it has done in conjunction with a voluntary organisation for nature conservation in London, the London Wildlife Trust, of which I am patron.

It provided a very good example of co-operation between voluntary and statutory organisations. The London Wildlife Trust manages the site, the GLC provided the location and much of the ecological input from expert staff. This seems to me to be something, first, that is going to be too expensive for a local borough to continue to run; and, secondly, it is clear to me at least that no similar venture could be mounted without some strategic authority covering a large area with the necessary finance and expertise. It is something simply outside the scope of a single London borough. Indeed, Camley Street itself clearly will provide facilities for residents and, in particular, school children from all over London and not just from Camden, whose council has had an important input into the site. I shall not go into details of the other sites but I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in response to those specific questions. I beg to move.

Baroness Nicol

I am relieved to hear that my noble friend does not intend to press this amendment because, although I have the greatest sympathy with him and the greatest wish to see these sites continuing to be protected, preserved and managed in the way that they have been, I have to say that I consider that there are other sites up and down the country in the areas which are being changed by this Bill which will be equally deserving of expertise and management. I hope that later on, on another day during the progress of this Bill, we shall be able to introduce an amendment which the Government will be able to find acceptable and which will ensure an equal level of management for all these sites whether they be in London or the metropolitan counties.

Lord Skelmersdale

The noble Lord has asked me various questions to which I shall respond, but I should like to make it clear from the outset that the absence of ecology and nature conservation from this Bill does not mean that the Government are overlooking such matters. What I have to say now is general to the various amendments on conservation and conservation-related subjects which we are going to discuss on the next few amendments.

It is a fact that ecology and nature conservation do not, in general, figure among the statutory functions of the GLC and the MCCs for which specific legislative provision needs to be made in this Bill. This Bill is concerned with transferring duties from existing bodies to successor bodies. Such powers as the GLC and the MCCs currently exercise, mainly in their role as planning authorities, are also available to the successor authorities, the borough and district councils. Thus, these councils already have adequate powers to own and manage local nature reserves under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 as amended by the Local Government Act 1972.

The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, asked me in this amendment how I saw the future of such areas. One way I am afraid I do not see as their future is to be owned and operated by the Nature Conservancy Council because this is not appropriate for that body so to do. I see the boroughs getting together on this matter, possibly with a lead borough, which immediately brings up in Lord Melchett's mind, I have no doubt, the matter of finance.

I should like to refute the suggestion that boroughs and districts will not be able to take on tasks in relation to ecology and the countryside because they will not have adequate resources. Their resources will certainly increase in the sense that they will be able to derive income from rates in place of the precept that previously passed to the GLC and the county. The finance system will take account of the authorities' new responsibility in the distribution of the grant-related assessments in the setting of targets, if any, and in the setting of expenditure limits on any that are rate capped.

I do not accept that authorities will be without any resources to devote to these activities although of course at the end of the day it will be for the successor bodies to decide whether they want these functions to continue. I feel that it would not be in their own best interests to discontinue these functions for the simple reason that knowing the interests of Londoners as a whole, who of course are their electors, in such matters, I believe it would be a great mistake for them to take that view; but that, as I have said, is for the successor bodies.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

Do I really understand what the Government are saying on this matter, that it is really a matter of more or less indifference to them whether the care of these very valuable and very important natural sites should be continued; that the functions of looking after them and seeing that they continue to go on would be entirely in the hands of the boroughs. If so, it really is a totally inadequate attitude. I would have thought that even if there were specific duties laid on the boroughs, the idea of a consortium of boroughs with a lead borough, dealing with these scattered sites—and not all of the boroughs in the GLC area have them by any means—and the idea that there should be somehow an ad hoc consortium which gets together with even the implication that if they do not actually want to go on preserving them they need not go on doing so, seems to me a totally inadequate answer; but perhaps I misunderstood what the noble Lord the Minister had to say.

Lord Skelmersdale

No, I do not think the noble Lord has at all misunderstood. What I was saying is that local democracy is local democracy and therefore it is for the boroughs to decide their priorities in their particular area. I went on to say that I have no doubt that they will take the view that has just been expressed in the Committee and which I share; but it is for them.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

Is the Minister saying that there is no natural responsibility whatsoever for the preservation of these extraordinarily important sites?

Lord Melchett

With respect, the Minister is plain wrong. This is not a local responsibility. These are national sites, Sites of Special Scientific Interest. They have been notified by the Nature Conservancy Council as sites of national scientific importance. As the noble Lord will be aware, the Nature Conservancy Council draws up lists of damaging operations which landowners, farmers and occupiers of sites of special interest are not allowed to carry out because of the national importance of these sites. It seems to me that one of the things which should be added to this list of damaging operations is the Local Government Bill, because the noble Lord is in effect saying that this Bill can lead to the destruction of these sites and the Government will not do anything about it. Surely, that is just plain wrong.

Lord Skelmersdale

The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has misunderstood. Of course this Bill does not override any of the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, which we discussed at great length in 1981. What however it does is give responsibility in this particular instance to the landowner; and as the noble Lord well knows, the landowner has responsibility for all the SSSIs in the country whether they belong to the Nature Conservation Trust, to local authorities, to one of my noble friends or even the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, himself. It is the landowner who has the responsibility, and it is exactly that that is going to happen under this Bill.

Lord Melchett

That is helpful, because it is taking us forward. Can the noble Lord just tell us what consultations have been carried out by the Government with the local authorities who will become the landowners of these sites? He seems now to be slightly going away from what he said earlier about a consortia of local boroughs and leading boroughs, and so on. I think that is a nonsense, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, has already said. But if we are talking now about new landowners taking on important national assets, surely what the Committee needs to know is what consultations have been undertaken with these landowners. Have they agreed to take on these important national sites? I assume that the Government have some undertaking about the future management of these sites and that we can be assured they will be protected and that the wildlife there will not be destroyed.

Lord Skelmersdale

It is quite simple. The Bill directs that any property vested in the GLC at the moment will go to the borough in which it stands. That is the first thing. The noble Lord asked whether there have been any consultations. The very shaming truth is, no, because unfortunately you cannot consult with people who refuse to be consulted with. That is the position we are in right across this Bill.

Lord Melchett

Is the noble Lord saying that there is not a single site of special scientific interest owned by the GLC which will be going to a borough which is prepared to talk to the Government? I find that stretching things a little.

Lord Skelmersdale

No; I did not say that at all. What I said was that each of the sites with which the noble Lord is concerned will go to the borough in which it exists geographically. What I also said was that there had been no consultations because unfortunately consultations are not very forthcomng surrounding this Bill. I wish they were.

Baroness Nicol

That really was not an answer. Is the noble Lord saying that the GLC would not consult or that the borough on whose land the SSSI is would not consult? It would be helpful if we could have that cleared up.

Lord Skelmersdale

The GLC will not consult; nor will a fair proportion of the boroughs in London. That is the position.

Lord Melchett

That simply cannot be right, with respect. I am sorry to keep on, because I know everybody wants to get on to the main amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood; but I do not think we should leave it there if the noble Lord is just giving us some information which cannot be correct. One of the sites listed in my amendment, Frays Farm and Denham Wood, straddles the Greater London boundary and a part of it will become the responsibility of Buckinghamshire County Council. Is the noble Lord saying that it is impossible for him to talk to Buckinghamshire County Council?

Lord Skelmersdale

No, I am not. I am just making the point, which has been made several times by my noble friends from this Bench, that where consultations should realistically take place with Labour-controlled boroughs, those consultations are not being entered into, for the reasons I have given.

The Earl of Onslow

Is my noble friend saying that as regards this particular wood, which straddles the border of Buckinghamshire and whatever the successor borough is, its management would be divided in half? If that is the case it is thoroughly unsatisfactory.

Lord Skelmersdale

I wish I knew the answer to that question. I will certainly look into it, because I agree with my noble friend.

Baroness Nicol

May I press this a little more? If the answer to the question is that the whole of this site is in Buckinghamshre, with whom presumably the Government are on reasonable terms, is the noble Lord saying that he has not attempted to discuss it with Buckinghamshire; or has he tried to and something has happened? It really is not a terribly satisfactory answer.

Lord Skelmersdale

I have no doubt that discussions are going on with the Buckinghamshire County Council, but the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, who knows this area very much better than I do, has said that it will fall into dual ownership; and it is that which I promised my noble friend Lord Onslow that I would look into. I can only add that if there are conditions applying to that land, because there are Sites of Special Scientific Interest, exactly the same obligations will apply to the new owner as to the old. But I have a feeling that I said that some minutes ago, and it does not really add to my explanation in this discussion.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Dean of Beswick

Will the Minister agree that if some of the boroughs have this responsibility forced upon them when they do not want it, then, as they are the arbiters of the financial priorities in their own area, this type of activity may suffer?

Lord Skelmersdale

The whole local authority setup is all about priorities. What this Bill does is to bring local government closer to the people by involving boroughs and districts very much more in various items, and this subject is one of those items. I do not see the problem.

Lord Dean of Beswick

I am sorry that the Minister does not see a problem. Is it not a fact that, when local authorities are being severely restricted on spending on such vital services as housing, education and so on, they are bound to place the lowest of priorities on this aspect, which they may not have wanted anyway? Has that entered into the consideration?

Lord Skelmersdale

Perhaps the noble Lord can do what I failed to do, which is to ask the local authorities.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

Whatever its faults, the Greater London Council has a splendid record in looking after these sites and in putting together a department to look after them with extraordinarily good and well-respected expertise. In dealing with the main parts of the Bill, the Government have from time to time—the answer is an extremely good example—gone to great lengths to assure us all that they have set up organisations with responsibility for looking after the problems, so that worthwhile things that are being done will not suffer.

Are we to understand that in this case the whole thing is just being devolved to the boroughs as they are, with no particular steps taken? It may be hoped that some of the boroughs will get together and hire some expertise, which could well be scattered to the four winds by the time anyone gets round to doing anything about it. If the Government are saying that, it is not in keeping with the reassurances that they have given on other subjects and it shows that they ought to take the whole of this subject back and have another look at it. Unless the noble Lord can tell us something better than he has been telling us for the last 20 minutes, I think that this is a subject on which your Lordships' House would be absolutely right to press the Government very strongly at a later stage. I hope that the Government will look at it again.

Lord Skelmersdale

I must be very brief, and there are only two things that I want to say. First, I want to repeat that the local authorities will be subject to their overriding responsibilities as landowners under the Wildlife and Countryside Act. Secondly, as I understand it, the GLC is an elected body at the moment, and the successor bodies in this case will also be elected bodies. Therefore, it is a matter for the electorate.

Lord Melchett

We have strayed rather wide from the terms of my amendment, following (I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for saying so) his lead rather than mine, because I restricted my remarks to sites of special scientific interest, and to these ones in particular. We have strayed into a field which I am afraid we shall cover in later and more widely drafted amendments, and I shall not follow the noble Lord into that field. But I still think that there are very real problems here. I do not know what the Government's relationship was like with Buckinghamshire County Council before this evening, but I would guess that it will not improve a great deal when the county council hear that the noble Lord finds it quite impossible to talk to them. Hillingdon District Council is the other council involved in that site. Once again I am not sure what relationships were like previously but I dare say that they have not improved a great deal during the course of this debate.

Surely it must be possible, when dealing with nationally important wildlife sites which have been expertly managed by the GLC with a great deal of scientific care and expense, for the Government to take the trouble to talk to the landowners on whom they are foisting these sites just to check with them that they want to have them, that they are prepared to manage them, and so on, if only, for example, to make sure that the councils are aware of their statutory duties under the Government's Wildlife and Countryside Act. That is the issue which this amendment sought to raise.

I must say to the noble Lord that I do not think he has dealt with it, but we shall be discussing more general issues relating to nature conservation and ecology in later amendments and no doubt these particular points can be returned to then. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Renton)

Before I call upon the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, to move Amendment No. 54, I have to point out that in the second line the word "council" should read "councils".

Lord Chelwood moved Amendment No. 54:

Page 3, line 38, at end insert— (" ( ) In discharging functions under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the London borough councils and Metropolitan district councils shall consult with the nature Conservancy Council, the Countryside Commission and any other interested or relevant statutory body.").

The noble Lord said: I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 54, 55 and 58 together, which I understand is agreeable and will certainly save time.

Amendment No. 55: Page 3, line 38, at end insert— (" ( ) In discharging functions to which this section applies the London borough council and metropolitan district councils shall have particular regard to the need for protection of areas of ecological significance.").

Amendment No. 58: After Clause 6, insert the following new clause:

Urban nature conservation

(" .—(l) A scheme for the maintenance and development of urban nature conservation shall be made for Greater London or a Metropolitan County by the constituent councils, that is to say—

  1. (a) in relation to Greater London, the London borough councils and the Common Council; and
  2. (b) in relation to the Metropolitan county, the councils of the metropoltian districts comprised in the county.

(2) Any such scheme shall provide—

  1. (a) for ecological advice and services to be made by one of the constituent councils designated for this purpose by the scheme; and
  2. (b) for the other constituent councils to have regard to the ecological advice of the designated council in the preparation of each of their unitary development plans; and
  3. (c) for the other constituent councils to contribute as provided by subsection (3) below to the expenditure incurred by the designated council in providing the ecological advice and services or otherwise in discharging its functions under this scheme.

(3) The constituent councils shall be required to contribute to any expenditure of the designated council which has been incurred with the approval of at least two-thirds of the constituent councils; and the amounts of the contributions shall be determined so that the expenditure in respect of which they are payable is borne by the constituent councils in proportion to the populations of their respective areas.

(4) For the purposes of subsection (3) above the population of any area shall be taken to be the number esitmated by the Registrar General and certified by him to the Secretary of State by reference to such date as the Secretary of State may from time to time determine.

(5) The total expenditure incurred under a scheme by a designated council in Greater London or a metropolitan county in any financial year (including the amounts recoverable under the scheme from other councils) shall not exceed such amount as is for the time being prescribed for that area by an order made by the Secretary of State.

(6) A scheme may, in the absence of agreement between all the constituent councils, be made by a majority of those councils so as to be binding on all of them; but a council shall not be designated by a scheme except with its consent.

(7) A scheme may contain such supplementary provisions as the councils making the scheme think necessary or expedient.

(8) The council designated by a scheme may, by giving not less than twelve months notice to the other constitutent councils, withdraw its consent to act as a designated council with effect from the end of any financial year not earlier than the second financial year after that in which the scheme was made; and in that event the scheme shall terminate when the withdrawal takes effect.

(9) As respects expenditure incurred before the abolition date subsection (3) shall have effect with the substitution for the reference to two-thirds of the constituent councils of a reference to a majority of those councils.")

I apologise in advance to the Committee for having to present a rounded case for these three amendments, in which there is a great deal of nationwide interest, but I shall certainly be as brief as I possibly can.

The purpose of these amendments is to create a mechanism whereby urban nature conservation can be maintained as part of the planning process in Greater London and the metropolitan counties. I shall gladly explain the amendments, particularly the long one, Amendment No. 58, in more detail if asked to do so, but it is strictly comparable in its mechanism with Amendment No. 47, which provided for grants to voluntary organisations and was in fact drafted by the Government. So I think it is pretty straightforward.

As is stands at present, the Bill makes no special provision for the centralised ecological functions to these authorities, which will become the responsibility therefore of the boroughs and districts. In the past few years nature conservation in urban areas has become an accepted part of planning—I think I should call it a material consideration—urged on by the Department of the Environment through the Nature Conservancy Council. But the subject has been spearheaded by planning departments of the metropolitan county councils and the Greater London Council and they have done this as part of their statutory functions as structure plan authorities under Part II of Schedule 4 to the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, strengthened in London by the 1980 Regulations, Statutory Instrument 443. Section 71 of the London Government Act 1963 gives the GLC the power to collect ecological information and to carry out research into the natural environment. Under Section 48 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, we amended the Water Act 1973 and this puts on to the GLC and the metropolitan counties the obligation to further nature conservation in carrying out land drainage duties. In Section 22 of the same Water Act, water authorities are obliged to have regard to the desirability of conserving flora and fauna. Then Section 15(1)(g) of the Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1977 says that planning authorities "shall"—I emphasise that word strongly—consult with the Nature Conservancy Council about the developments on land of special interest, by which they presumably mean nature reserves and SSSIs.

Finally, Clause 6 of the Private Member's Wildlife and Countryside Bill, which we shall be considering on 17th May, requires, using the word "shall", the Forestry Commission to further nature conservation and to conserve flora and fauna and geological or physiological features of special interest. The word "shall" occurs in most of these cases.

In your Lordships' House on 6th June last, the noble Lord, Lord Bellwin, then Minister of State at the department, made it absolutely clear, and I quote his words: The metropolitan district councils already have the necessary powers to carry out this type of work".—[Official Report, 6/6/84; col. 764.] That was in reply to a Question from the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, who was asking about ecological work.

These amendments therefore simply make it obligatory, if it is not already, as I think it is, for the authorities to carry out the powers already vested in them. In a word, it is now established and accepted Government policy that environmental implications of land use planning and changes must—I prefer the word "shall"—be taken into account from the very outset. There are "shalls" everywhere! So strongly do the Government feel about this that they have urged our partners in the European Community to adopt the same attitude. The "shalls" in my amendment are, therefore, fully justified.

I have a document dated 1977, issued by the Department of the Environment, from which I shall quote only one sentence, although I could quote dozens, all to the same effect. It states: The Secretaries of State"— referring to our own Secretary of State and the Secretary of State for Wales— look to local authorities to take full account of natural conservation factors both in formulating structure and local plans, and in the consideration of individual planning applications". That is clear enough.

In my view it cannot seriously be argued that these amendments would be creating a new function and that they are, therefore, outside the subject matter of the Bill. That was suggested by the department. I seriously believe that the department is wrong, but if it is right and I am wrong, I owe the Committee an apology. In any case, to leave it to the whim of the boroughs and districts whether to consult the Nature Conservancy Council or, for that matter, the Countryside Commission would surely be thoroughly irresponsible: hence these amendments.

I turn now to the importance of the work that is being done in the ecological field in the GLC and the MCCs. There is no doubt about its importance. The Government fully accept that. All seven authorities have ecological advice to enable them to survey and identify sites of significance in their areas, and to keep records. I believe that the work that they do is thoroughly cost-effective. I think that without doubt—and I have looked into this with great care—it is highly professional. There is close liaison with voluntary bodies that have been generously and sensibly grant-aided.

One example of a voluntary body that has been helped a lot is one of my favourite charities, the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. It has done most excellent work with its grant-aid. I have no doubt at all that this ecological work has been much valued—and I have checked on this, too—by most boroughs and districts that come within the counties and within the GLC. They know that they have been getting value for money.

Dispersed to the boroughs and districts I do not think that there can be very much doubt that the cost to the ratepayers and to the taxpayers would be multiplied by at least four. That would be very expensive and quite unnecessary. It would also much reduce the range of expertise. The GLC's multidisciplinary ecology unit is only six strong, although it is being increased to eight, and the cost to the GLC last year, I am told on very good authority, of running this unit, grant-aiding voluntary bodies and carrying on related advisory services and advising the boroughs amounted to about £600,000. That was for the last financial year. That is value for money by any standards.

I should like to give three very brief examples which vividly illustrate the need for such work in London and in the metropolitan counties. In London the inspector's decision after a public inquiry into the future of the Gunnersbury Triangle in Chiswick ruled that warehousing should not take place on disused railway land because of its nature conservation value. Without the GLC's advice and help and the grant-aiding of work which followed from that inquiry there would not now be a local nature reserve in the Triangle; and a very good reserve it is.

Secondly, the Crayford Marshes would have been destroyed as a wildlife habitat had the GLC not opposed the Bexley borough's plans to develop the area and build on it. That was an excellent outcome. Thirdly, due to the work done by the GLC and its advice and grant aiding, the Welsh Harp Conservation Group was given, I think, £20,000 as a one-off contribution and it was able to turn an area in Barnet into a nature reserve. It is a very good reserve indeed, which has given people a lot of pleasure.

10.30 p.m.

There is also—and I shall not go on any more about this—the Camley Street Ecology Park, which my noble friend, wearing his ministerial hat and no doubt his ecological hat as well, as he is most interested in these subjects, went to last year and knows all about. I have not been there myself.

The London Wildlife Habitat Survey was completed a month or two ago and was very well and fully reported in three pages of Country Life some three weeks ago. All that work has provided invaluable information to back up future planning applications so as to ensure that nature conservation is as much a part of them as are traffic, roads and buildings, which is the way it should be.

If the work in the metropolitan counties is not on the same scale, which it is not, and is somewhat variable, being very good in some counties and not so good in others, it is still, I suggest, essential and significant work. I give only two examples. The county of West Midlands, with a tiny ecology unit (I think of only two or three people at the most) and employing four graduates provided by the Manpower Services Commission, recently completed a nature conservation strategy for the county. That was warmly welcomed by the Department of the Environment, and it wrote on 9th April 1984 that this strategy should be: a material consideration in planning decisions, including those by Inspectors and the Secretary of State". That was very much a feather in that county's cap.

Greater Manchester—and this is my second and last example—with the advice of a small team, again of specialists, now has 120 conservation areas, whereas 10 years ago there were only about 35. Its wildlife survey has identified over 250 sites of importance in the county, 76 of which are of national or regional significance and five of which have been declared SSSIs—and so on, and so on. The story is long. It would fill a book, but we started late and I wish to be as brief as I can. I am turning over two pages at a time most of the time.

We come to the big question. How can we ensure that that work is carried on on a county-wide and GLC-wide basis as it is carried on in the 47 or 48 shires? It is all on a county-wide basis. In my county of East Sussex and in the county of West Sussex the ecological work is excellent and district councils enormously value the work that is done by the counties. It is economically and well done in all the shire counties. Surely it should be carried on on a county-wide basis after this Bill becomes an Act.

If it is not carried on in that way I am quite sure that indifference and financial stringency will combine to make boroughs and districts opt out of the whole operation, because it will have a low priority in their minds. River valleys, coastlines and so on know nothing about boundaries between one district and another and one borough and another. This subject is not incorporated in the NCC's corporate plan and it was never suggested by the department. I think that it should be.

The NCC is already overstretched, although I take this chance to welcome the much more generous grant that it obtained a year ago which means that its resources pretty well match up now with its duties. But nonetheless it is still overstretched, and I do not think that it has the local knowledge or the expertise required to take on that work in the GLC and the metropolitan counties' areas. I speak from some experience here. As some noble Lords will know, I was for six years, until last autumn, a member of the council of the NCC. Its advice of course will always continue to be available in the background, and it has a small urban conservation team which is an efficient little group.

I have considered whether the residuary bodies might take on that work and I dismissed the idea because it would be only a temporary solution. I have considered whether joint boards might be satisfactory. On the whole, joint boards never seem to work very well and do not excite very much interest. Those who attend them are not always those who are most valuable within their councils. We must avoid a hiatus. We have somehow surely to keep the present staffs in being. What is needed here is the Government's view as to how that is to be done. I am suggesting only one way. What I am hoping is that my noble friend will say when he comes to reply that the Government, having listened to the debate, will put forward their own amendment at Report stage. I really do not think that it should fall to Back-Benchers to have to try to find a solution to a problem which the Government have posed. The Government must therefore decide on the structure and on the funding. I want to emphasise this to my noble friend. I seek from him today firm assurances so far as future funding is concerned. Without that, the whole thing will just wither away, and that would be a tragedy.

The proposals in our amendments are supported by almost all the bodies with which I have been in touch. They include the Royal Society for Nature Conservation, which fathers all the county trusts; the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds; the CPRE, and numerous other voluntary and educational bodies; the Ecological Parks Trust, which has been in touch with the Minister; the London Wildlife Trust, and many others. They are only a few examples.

I should be astonished if the NCC itself had not advised the Secretary of State that it would like to see these duties carried on as statutory duties. I do not know what they have said. They are very discreet. I should like to have found out. I know they have written, not once but twice. I hope my noble friend will let us know what advice he has received from the NCC, because I think we are entitled to know this. For that matter, I should also like to know what advice he has received from the Countryside Commission, though their problems are somewhat different, yet overlapping. I spoke to them this morning and they said they were "benevolent" (I think that was the word they used) towards these amendments.

The failure to carry on this work would have very serious social and ecological consequences. These amendments point to one way in which the problem can be solved. If it is not solved, I hope that we shall bear in mind a sentence in the conclusion of the report of the Select Committee on Science and Technology, where they said: Centres of excellence are slow to develop and easy to destroy". I beg to move.

The Earl of Onslow

Not surprisingly, I should like to support this amendment, at the very least, though preferably I would support a Government amendment along the same lines later on, at Report stage. I think that an ecology unit which is costing £600,000, with a staff of eight, dealing with the whole of London, must be infinitely preferable to 16 ecology units. That is on the basis of the belief that only half the boroughs will establish such units. Thus such a system would be much more expensive and would cover only half of London.

Perhaps it is not realised by those of us who live in the countryside, or perhaps by Members of this Committee, that the area of London covered by the Greater London Council has nearly 100 kinds of breeding birds and 2,000 species of plants, and that there are deer, foxes and badgers within 20 miles of St. Paul's. This has come about by the action o f cleaning up London—cleaning up London's river and cleaning up London's air—and because people have taken a strong scientific interest in what has happened. The GLC ecological unit is not there only to look after Mr. Livingstone's newts. It looks after the vast areas of educational interest in the area of the GLC. There is a story about the son of a West Indian immigrant, with a voice which was historically from Bow, digging into a pond and saying, "Cor, there's life in this pond!" This young man from an urban background had learned something of great importance: he was beginning to learn something about nature and the crossing of the countryside with the town. We are getting our ecology and our advice very cheap. As my noble friend Lord Chelwood has said, it is something that can be destroyed only too easily. I am convinced that this Government like excellence on the cheap. If the Government do not pay attention to what my noble friend Lord Chelwood has said and what I suspect the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, might say slightly more harshly—

Lord Melchett


The Earl of Onslow

—they will get something second rate and expensive. That cannot be right. I should like to refer to Circular 108/77 of the Department of the Environment and the sentence mentioned by my noble friend. This states: It should, however, be emphasised that nature conservation interest is by no means confined to traditionally beautiful areas and occurs in town as well as in the countryside". It is late, but I should like to develop briefly the importance of small areas rich in variety for the schoolchildren of deprived inner city areas. The value that those children derive and the education that such areas give them cannot be over-estimated. We are not asking for much. All that we are asking is that the Government should think seriously about what my noble friend Lord Chelwood has said. I suspect that they had not thought anything about it when they drafted the Bill. So there is no question of them going back on a commitment. There is nothing in the manifesto about it. They can listen, and they can be the intelligent Ministers that my noble friend and I know them to be.

Lord Winstanley

Like the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, on the amendment that he has moved, and indeed on the whole group of amendments to which he has spoken. In doing so, I hope that the noble Lord who is to reply will not think that I am being unduly cantankerous if I say that I think, faintly, it is rather a pity that we should now have embarked on what I believe are four pages of amendments on the Marshalled List which collectively deal with a subject of immense importance and one to which the noble Earl has drawn attention—namely, the whole question of countryside in our urban fringes and conservation in the midst of our urban areas.

As the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, has said, we need at some stage to hear loudly and clearly how these matters are to be undertaken under the new arrangements as and when we have those new arrangements. My involvement in the subject is twofold. I had the honour for some years to be chairman of the Countryside Commission. I shall come to my second involvement in a moment. I became chairman of the Countryside Commission at a time when the commission had taken a policy decision—wisely, in my view—that it should focus a little more of its energy and resources not on the very sensitive areas of the national parks, already well provided for with their own administration, and so on, but on countryside in our urban fringes which was being nibbled away in small patches. Agricultural land was being under-farmed because of the pressures of trespass, litter and vandalism. And with the disappearance of productive agriculture so, too, countryside was disappearing at an alarming rate.

We were also conscious of the fact that this is an era in which an increasing number of people choose to spend their leisure time—noble Lords do not need to be reminded that more people, for a whole variety of reasons, nowadays, have more leisure time—in informal countryside recreation. The commission decided rightly that if we could provide opportunities for that kind of recreational activity close to the homes of the millions who now seek those opportunities, that would be for the good of the country as a whole. As a result, we focused an increasing amount of our resources on the urban areas, and that meant on the areas of many of the metropolitan counties.

10.45 p.m.

Our first experiment probably took place in the Manchester area. Greater Manchester has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood. It is quite true that there a number of important conservation areas have developed and an important amount of wildlife has been discovered. However, the first experiment undertaken by the Countryside Commission was the Bollin Valley experiment, and it is right that I should underline this. It was a reclamation of an area of the Bollin Valley, which is a tributary of the River Mersey, which passes from Macclesfield and runs round Wythenshawe; it is a huge area of city rehousing, as noble Lords will know, which one would have expected to be exposed to a great deal of trespass, vandalism, and so on.

In that area there were in the region of 40 farmers, most of whom had given up farming under the pressures to which I have already referred. The land was being used for tipping waste, for the occasional parking of caravans, and for this, that and the other, and was not being effectively farmed. As a result, it was becoming more and more degraded and less and less satisfying in every sense to the local population. In view of what has been said in this debate in your Lordships' Committee it is important that I should underline the fact that the remarkable achievement of restoring productive farming to the whole of that area, where now each and every one of the farmers will say that they are farming very profitably indeed, has, in fact, restored countryside to the area.

That was only achieved because at that time the Countryside Commission was able to get 13 or 14 different district local authorities to work together in harmony. That is a very difficult job indeed, but I think it is right that I should underline it and say that I do not believe it is impossible to get district councils to undertake functions of the kind they might have to undertake if and and when this Bill becomes law. It is possible and has been possible.

However, with.the development of the metropolitan county councils one had an overriding, over-looking integrating force that could do a great deal more. From the Bollin Valley experiment we moved into the London area with the Herts-Barnet experiment, the Havering experiment and so on, in which, from my personal experience, the district authorities played a very important role. However, their part was nothing like as important as the immense part played by the GLC. Its officers and members took an immense interest and were able to do things which changed the whole nature of those areas—areas in which, from looking round the Committee, I know some noble Lords now actually live; areas which have changed their character in the way in which the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, mentioned, as did the noble Earl. In those areas we now have natural life and wildlife of a kind that, frankly, would not have been seen in any state before, because we have in a sense restored countryside.

That was my first involvement. I believe that if, somehow, that development, which has taken place in other parts of the country, were now allowed to retrogress, it would be a devastating criticism of our present policies. It would be deplorable.

I said earlier that I had two involvements, and I took on another role. I also have the honour to be the chairman of a trust which is known—and some noble Lords may have heard of it—as the Groundwork Trust. It arose from my connection with the Countryside Commission when it was decided that we would apply the kind of techniques which we had developed in areas like the Bollin Valley and in Hertfordshire, Barnet and so on, to the whole of the urban fringe of a free-standing urban area. At that time the Countryside Commission had to select an area in which it would work in partnership with the local authorities.

The area which was finally selected for what was then regarded as an experiment was an area on Merseyside—the boroughs of Knowsley and St. Helens. The whole idea was that this was to be a partnership between the Merseyside Metropolitan County, the St. Helens Borough Council and the Knowsley Borough Council—the three legs of our sponsors. A three-legged structure is extremely stable but, as noble Lords will know, take one leg away and it is apt to become a little less stable. The main partners were the Countryside Commission, the Department of the Environment, the Merseyside County Council, Knowsley and St. Helens. We were the first of the Operation Groundwork movement. This was, as it were, the pilot of the whole scheme. We have been in existence three years, and what we have done in restoring countryside in a devastated area of one of our urban areas really has been remarkable.

It has been so impressive that three successive Secretaries of State for the Environment have been to visit us and have gone away deeply impressed. So impressed have they been that they have extended this groundwork technique to other areas, so that now in the North-West of England there are five other Groundwork Trusts—in Macclesfield, Rossendale, Oldham and Rochdale, Wigan, and so on. It is now thought that the scheme will be extended to four or five other areas, and even to parts of Wales.

The point I want to make applies to all this group of amendments, and it is right that I should say it now rather than wait until Tuesday, or whenever it happens to be. It is that there is no question that the role of the Metropolitan County of Merseyside has been crucial in the work we have done. I am not saying that I would wish in any way to minimise the excellent work done by the permanent officials of Knowsley or St. Helens districts; they have done invaluable work, and no doubt will continue to do so; but we have to have some kind of undertaking that somebody is going to have the direct responsibility of taking over the functions which have hitherto been exercised by the metropolitan county.

I am not saying that nobody will do it: I am sure somebody will, but we need to know before we finish with this Bill precisely how those functions—very important functions which have been discharged for a number of years by the metropolitan counties and the GLC in particular—and that input are to be taken over by other bodies, and how they are to be integrated in such a way as to make the scheme cost effective and make it work. I support this amendment and I shall support some of the others when we come to them, but we shall not come to them tonight. They are important subjects.

Baroness White

As I understand we have to rise by 11 o'clock, I shall not follow the noble Lord in his autobiographical excursion. I shall simply quote one sentence from the notes that some of us have received from the National Farmers' Union concerning the extremely important matter on which the noble Lord touched, agriculture in the urban fringe, which is part of the totality of land care in the metropolitan areas. The note from the National Farmers' Union, having gone into a good deal of detail, says: Regrettably we remain unconvinced that the commitment, skills and financial resources currently addressed to critical open land issues will survive the abolition of the strategic authorities. They have no doubt of the importance of this.

The only other thing I shall quote is from the quite admirable West Midlands county nature conservation strategy, about which I should have liked to say a great deal more because it is an absolutely first-class document, describing such exciting, interesting, innovative—and all the other good adjectives you can think of—work in this direction that it deserves far more reference than one has time to give. I shall give one illustration to indicate that this is not a small problem.

They carried out a thorough and competent wildlife habitat survey. They have a county wildlife record centre. But the most striking fact is that the survey identified in the West Midlands county no less than 83,772 acres of undeveloped land. Not all of this is for nature conservation. Some of it is derelict, some playing fields, much of it is agricultural, but some 26,000 acres provide useful habitats. In other words, about 12 per cent. of the total area of the county is the habitat, or potential habitat, area.

I conclude on that. I have no time to go on. I am not sure what the Government's intention is about this. What I have quoted shows that this is not a small problem. This is not just a peripheral matter. This is a matter of considerable importance not only in Greater London but in the great conurbations. I shall leave it at that. I do not think that the Minister can possibly answer the debate at this stage. I hope that the Government are under no misapprehension at all that this is not just a fringe interest of a few environmentalists. It is a matter of great importance in the great conurbations.

Lord Melchett

May I ask what the Government's intention is on this. As I understand it we are due to rise in five minutes, and I just wonder whether it would not do this series of amendments greater justice if the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, could be persuaded to withdraw Amendment No. 54. We could then resume the debate, when the House is again in Committee on this Bill, on Amendment No. 55 and the subsequent amendments.

I had intended to speak to Amendment No. 58ZA, which covers exactly the same ground as the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, but I would not want to try and make a speech on a major amendment, I think the most important in my name to this Bill, in four minutes and also try and allow time for the noble Lord on the Front Bench to reply to both that and the speeches that have been made—and no doubt there are more that noble Lords intend to make—between now and 11 o'clock. I wonder whether the Chief Whip could give us some guidance.

Lord Denham

Of course, we fix things by arrangment between the usual channels, and we are very much approaching the deadline, I do see. In the circumstances—I wonder whether the noble Lord the Chief Whip opposite would possibly comment on this—I wonder whether the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, that my noble friend should withdraw his amendment at this stage and we should come back to the next one as first business on the next occasion is probably not the best solution.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

It is certainly a way round the particular difficulty which we face now. I think it is most unsatisfactory, in a sense, to break the debate in the middle of an amendment. My information is that it is likely that one or two more noble Lords will wish to speak, which would take us considerably past 11 o'clock, so perhaps the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Melchett might be the answer, without breaking the tradition of not breaking into an amendment.

Lord Chelwood

Do I gather the suggestion is that we should return to this subject on Tuesday, in which case it would fall to me, would it not, to move Amendments Nos. 55 and 58?

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

The position is that the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, has in fact only moved Amendment No. 54 at the present time; that the noble Lord should withdraw Amendment No. 54 now and, when we start again on Tuesday, we should start by the noble Lord moving Amendment No. 55.

Lord Chelwood

In that case, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No.54.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Denham

In moving that the House do resume, which is the general wish of the Committee, I would like to thank noble Lords for their co-operation on this rather difficult occasion. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

House adjourned at one minute before eleven o'clock.