HL Deb 05 December 1996 vol 576 cc782-8

3.30 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Financial assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line ID, after ("architectural.") insert ("engineering,").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 4. When we discussed the Bill in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Howie, proposed a number of amendments, the main thrust of which was to add the word "engineering" to the various lists of heritage "interests" which appear throughout the Bill. The amendments attracted support from the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, and my noble friend Lord Caldecote. My response was that the amendments added nothing of substance since the funding remit of the National Heritage Memorial Fund under the terms of the Bill will encompass objects of interest in relation to engineering history. I nonetheless recognised fully the noble Lord's firm conviction that engineering must be seen as an aspect of the heritage in its own right, rather than simply an element falling within architecture or science. I therefore agreed to look again at the case for making specific reference to engineering on the face of the Bill.

Having now done so, I have concluded that there are two lists of heritage "interests" set out in the National Heritage Act 1980, as amended by the Bill, where a specific reference to engineering might happily be included. These are the lists in new Section 3(1) and new Section 4(2) of the 1980 Act. My proposed amendments accordingly add the word "engineering" in those two places. The other lists of heritage "interests" in the legislation are rather narrower in scope and I do not think it would be helpful to add any further items in these cases for the reasons I explained at Committee stage.

I hope the House and in particular the noble Lords to whom I have just referred will agree that what I am now proposing represents a sensible way of dealing with the concerns expressed in Committee. I accordingly commend the amendments to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for his response to the arguments which I produced in Committee and for bringing forward these two amendments. Not only that, I am extremely grateful to him because last week he listed my house—admittedly only as Grade II; it was part of a bumper bundle of houses in the Hampstead garden suburb. But it is interesting that the notification of listing was accompanied by a number of papers, some of which actually defined what architectural interests meant in the eyes of his department. The definition reinforced the arguments which I have put forward; namely, that architectural interest did not include engineering interests.

I am grateful to the Minister for the step that he has taken; it is small hut welcome. However, at the risk of appearing churlish, although I do not wish to do so, I suggest that at the next stage of the Bill, he should take further steps. He said that the word "engineering" has been included in two places in the Bill. When we discussed the matter in Committee, I suggested that the word should be included in four places. He has excluded two of those and I wonder that that has been done.

In the schedule to the Bill at paragraph 1(3), new subsection (2)(a), where the Minister has made an amendment, it is followed by paragraph 1(3), new subsection (2)(b) and (c) where no amendment has been made. I support entirely the fact that the Minister has accepted my amendments where they relate to architectural and structural engineering. But engineering goes much further than that. Paragraphs (b) and (c) refer to any object which is of outstanding historic, artistic or scientific interest or any group of objects. "Objects" must include machinery. The Minister will explain if it does not include those things. If we go to the somewhat oddly named scientific museum, we find that a large part of what is on display there consists of engineering artefacts—machinery and things of that nature. A machine—whether it is a machine tool, a planing machine, a screw-making machine or something of that nature, of which there are many and which are part of our heritage—is an object under the terms of the Bill. If they are not, I shall stand corrected. But if those are objects they are of engineering interest and the word "engineering" should be include in paragraphs 1(3), new subsection (2)(b) and (c).

I asked the Minster to consider the point. If I am wrong, which has happened before, perhaps he will correct me.

I am very grateful to the Minister and, as I say, am anxious not to appear churlish. However, in Committee, I asked him why the word "structure" should not be added on page 2 line 4 at the end of "construct or convert buildings". He has never given me a satisfactory answer as to why that should not be included. When I wrote to him some time ago before Committee stage, I drew the noble Lord's attention to the Anderton lift on the River Wear, which is a great structure, although it is not a building. Its purpose or function is to lift barges from one level of the river to another. It is a great machine which moves on rollers. It is not a building of any sort but it is a structure. Therefore, the word "structure" should be included to cover such things as the Anderton lift.

In Committee I asked him another question to which I received no answer, and that rather surprised me. Paragraph 1(3), new subsection (2)(a) refers to, any land, building or structure". I agree with that wording entirely. But I am surprised that the word "structure" is appropriate in the schedule but is somehow not appropriate in the main part of the Bill. There may be a reason for that. I am sure that there is because the parliamentary draftsman would not do that if there were no reason. However, I asked this question in Committee and did not receive any answer. I should like to know why it is appropriate to include "structure" in one part of the Bill but not in another.

With those remarks, I welcome the Minister's two amendments which he has tabled. I am extremely grateful to him for listening to my pleas, in so far as he has done so. However, I hope that he will reconsider and at the next stage of the Bill, or even in another place, take that further step which will mean that the Minister and I are in total amity and agreement, a consequence which is much to be desired.

Viscount Caldecote

My Lords, we often criticise Ministers for being inflexible and resisting amendments proposed to Bills. Perhaps I may say how extremely pleased I am that the Minister has responded to the amendments suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Howie, in Committee and that he has shown such admirable flexibility. I fully support the amendment.

Perhaps I may add that it is a very happy coincidence that this morning there was the parliamentary launch of the Year of Engineering Success, which is to take place in 1997. Therefore, it is a happy coincidence that this amendment is brought forward on this day. I feel that we should be satisfied that the admirable flexibility which the Minister has shown. I do not feel like joining the noble Lord, Lord Howie, in pressing my noble friend to go further.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, I, too, wish to thank the Minister for his ready acquiescence to the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon at the Committee stage. However, I hope I may ask the Minister a question in support of what my noble friend has said this afternoon. Paragraph 1(3), new subsection (2)(b) states: any object which in their opinion is of outstanding historic, artistic or scientific interest". Having included the word "historic", which encompasses anything in the national heritage arena, we are worried that it should need to be qualified, or added to, by the words "artistic or scientific", but that no mention is made of engineering. That is one of the difficulties we are faced with. Will the Minister consider either extending the list, as he has done in a previous section, or deleting the words "artistic or scientific"? That would cover the argument we have made as regards making a distinction in the heritage arena between engineering and something that is scientific or artistic.

I hope I may ask a further question. What is the Government's interpretation of the word "historic"? I believe the generally accepted meaning of "historic" is that which has applied in the past. However, I suggest that it might encompass something that has just been created. I refer to a prototype revolutionary motor car which is not destined to go into production but which is an engineering marvel. At the point of manufacture of that engineering marvel it may not be considered to be historic in the sense that it is something from the past, but it could be construed as historic in the sense that it is a milestone in the engineering field. and therefore in the future it will be considered historic. Therefore it is worthy of protection. I leave the matter there. I support my noble friend Lord Howie in the suggestions that he has made for future supportive action by the Government.

Lord Stewartby

My Lords, I regret to say that I was not present when these matters were discussed at the Committee stage. The last thing I want to do is to complain when Ministers respond in an understanding manner to amendments which seem to have general support. I came to the Chamber this afternoon because I could not quite understand the purpose of this amendment. It seems to me extremely unlikely that the trustees would ever want to give financial assistance to items of an engineering interest which did not have that engineering interest by virtue of being historic, archaeological, architectural or scientific. The last thing I want to do is to introduce a note of dissent because the measure clearly takes nothing away. However, it poses the question whether engineering comprises a different category and is therefore subject to different considerations. Would engineering include electronic equipment? Obviously the main industrial revolution took place 200 years ago and therefore early examples of engineering equipment or buildings might well be 100 or 200 years old. However, in the case of computers one might be talking—

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but if he had been present at the Committee stage he would have heard my noble friend Lord Howie give a long description in his excellent case for including the word "engineering". If the noble Lord had read the annual report of the National Heritage Memorial Fund he would note that the fund already makes provision for a great many of these items which could be categorised as historic engineering. I am sorry the noble Lord was not present at the Committee stage. He is trying to pick up the pieces on a matter when he was not present at the original discussion.

Lord Stewartby

My Lords, I have apologised for not being present at the earlier stage. However, I remain unclear as to how engineering matters are not already covered by the words in the clause. Is any differentiation intended by the choice of the word "engineering" rather than "industrial" or something else? Does the word "historic" cover anything that was produced as recently as 20 years ago in a rapidly developing technology such as that of computers? That is the point of my question. 1 hope that my noble friend can enlighten me.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, if the noble Lord wishes to meet me outside the Chamber I shall explain this matter to him and all will be made clear in a few moments.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, as I hope I intimated in my opening remarks I intended to oblige your Lordships with these two amendments. I am reassured that the noble Lord, Lord Howie, is grateful that his house has been listed. People do not always feel that way about the process.

The point that my noble friend Lord Stewartby made is one that I made on the previous occasion that we discussed this matter. I have been given legal advice to the effect that the addition of engineering will not extend the scope of the Bill, and that the trustees will not now be enabled to do anything more than they previously would have done had this word not been suggested for inclusion. We tabled this amendment because a number of noble Lords felt strongly that this was an important statement about the importance of engineering in our society. I do not think anyone would dissent from that basic proposition.

As regards the second point that my noble friend made when he asked how old something has to be to be considered historic, we are entering the realms of theology. I have absolutely no doubt that something of the kind he is describing that will commend itself to the trustees will almost by definition be sufficiently important in the development and evolution of whatever activity we are referring to to make it historic in the context of that form of technology, and hence bring it within the scope of the word "historic" as used in this Bill. I shall consider the remarks made by the noble Lords, Lord Howie and Lord Monkswell. I said on the previous occasion we discussed this that I did not think that anything was added to the substance of the matter. However, I shall reconsider the matter, but I do so making it quite clear that I give no guarantee to be as obliging on the next occasion as I have been on this occasion.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 2: Page 2, line 42, leave out ("or").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 2 I wish to speak also to Amendment No. 3. With these two amendments we return to the issue of lottery funding for the Victoria County History, the Dictionary of National Biography and other similar projects. I loosely described those projects at the Committee stage as being benchmark works of historical research. I believe there is total agreement across your Lordships' House that such works should be within the funding remit of the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. It was with that fact in mind that my noble friends Lord Beloff and Lord Pilkington and the noble Lords, Lord Donoughue and Lord Strabolgi, added their names to amendments at the Committee stage. It also prompted me to bring forward amendments in my own name.

However, on that occasion doubts were expressed as to whether my amendments would achieve the desired effect. As the House will know, I therefore decided not to move them and agreed to look at the matter again. Since then I have examined the matter further and had the most helpful discussions with my noble friends Lord Beloff and Lord Pilkington and the noble Lords, Lord Donoughue and Lord Strabolgi. In that light I now bring forward revised amendments as on the Marshalled List.

The legal advice that I am receiving is still that the new Section 3A of the 1980 Act as amended. in accordance with the earlier ideas that I had, would encompass support for the Victoria County History. However, as I explained then, I am most anxious that the matter should be put beyond doubt and at the same time put in a way which protects the National Heritage Memorial Fund from pressure to support the general run of historical and topographical research and from frivolous applications. My conclusion is that it can best be done by enlarging further the scope of new Section 3A. This provision will empower the trustees to fund projects which relate to an important aspect of the history, natural history or landscape of this country and are of public benefit. The provision currently embraces exhibition and archive projects. My amendments will extend it to include the compilation and publication of a comprehensive work of reference or the publication of such a work of reference that has already been compiled. The amendments also cover the publication of archive material and any activity ancillary to the projects specified in new Section 3A.

I am satisfied that these amendments will ensure that the Victoria County History and other comparable undertakings are within the remit of the fund and are thus eligible for lottery support. The noble Lords with whom I have discussed the matter agree and I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Pilkington has added his name to the amendments, as have my noble friend Lord Beloff and the noble Lords, Lord Donoughue and Lord Strabolgi.

It will of course be for the National Heritage Memorial Fund trustees themselves to determine their funding priorities in the light of their statutory powers and the resources available. The Government's willingness to bring forward this provision must not therefore be seen as prejudging the view which the trustees take of any funding application they receive in respect of the Victoria County History or a similar project. I must also stress that this extension of the National Heritage Memorial Fund's powers does not mean that the lottery can now be regarded as a potential source of funding for mainstream academic research and publication in the field of history. Nor would I expect it to be available to support publishing ventures that should be self-financing. On that basis, I commend the amendments to the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 43, at end insert— ("(c) publish archive material, or (d) compile and publish a comprehensive work of reference (or publish a comprehensive work of reference that has previously been compiled), to do any ancillary thing.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule [Consequential Amendments]:

Lord Inglewood moved Amendment No. 4: Page 4, line 13, at end insert (", engineering").

On Question, amendment agreed to.