HL Deb 04 November 1996 vol 575 cc529-70

3 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

It is just two years since the National Lottery was launched and your Lordships will be well aware of the enormous success it has already had in raising funds for good causes—a success which goes far beyond even the most optimistic commentators' expectations.

It is proof of the interest in this Bill that it has encouraged so many distinguished noble speakers and in particular I am looking forward to hearing the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Luke.

Of that money generated by the lottery for good causes one-fifth is available for the support of heritage projects throughout the United Kingdom. The term "heritage" is of course a convenient shorthand for all the tangible survivals of our past. It covers such items as historic buildings and monuments, artistic treasures, artefacts of all kinds, and landscape of scientific or ecological importance. I should say too that the concept of "national heritage" can embrace items of local and regional significance, since it is widely recognised that the quality and diversity of such items are themselves an important feature of the national heritage as a whole.

Responsibility for distributing lottery money for the heritage rests with the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which was established under the National Heritage Act 1980 as a successor to the National Land Fund. The National Heritage Memorial Fund's responsibilities in respect of the lottery are in addition to its original responsibilities, while its powers remain those granted it by the 1980 Act.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund has so far made over 530 lottery awards worth £328 million. I shall mention three random examples of recent awards as an indication of the range of projects involved. A grant of £95,000 has been offered for the conversion of an 18th century commercial building in Crail, Scotland, for use as a childcare centre. The sum of £975,000 has been offered for the restoration of HMS "Trincomalee", a Royal Navy sailing frigate launched in 1817 and now the second oldest ship afloat. And at the top of the scale—the largest award yet made—was announced only last Thursday; namely, that £25 million is available to secure the structure, operation and environment of the 87-mile Kennet and Avon Canal, linking the River Thames at Reading with the River Avon at Bristol, a remarkable example of canal construction and engineering.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund has also deliberately begun to develop themes for lottery awards to ensure that the money is distributed in a coherent and thought-through manner. Earlier this year it established a programme to stimulate applications for the restoration of urban parks, and last month saw the launch of a joint National Heritage Memorial Fund/English Heritage programme for church repairs, to which each side has contributed £10 million for the first year.

The chairman of the fund trustees, the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, whom I am delighted to see here today, may wish to say a little more about the way in which the National Heritage Memorial Fund has approached its task. However, it is already clear that the lottery is a very valuable source of new support for the heritage.

The Government's aim in bringing forward this Bill is to widen the powers of the trustees generally, and in particular to extend the benefits of the lottery even more widely across the heritage sector. We want to see lottery money being used to enhance opportunities for everyone—and in particular young people—to have access to the heritage, to study it and to enjoy it. We want to ensure too that lottery funding can be an option for any worthwhile heritage project, with no unnecessary barriers standing in the way.

The problem which faces the trustees now is that the existing powers of the fund, as set out in the National Heritage Act 1980 to which I have already referred, effectively confine its funding remit to projects which involve the acquisition, maintenance or preservation of tangible heritage assets. Of course, the current powers are sufficient to enable the fund to support a wide range of major heritage projects and indeed, as I have indicated, it is already taking full advantage of the opportunities.

Nonetheless, the current terms of the legislation do limit the National Heritage Memorial Fund's role as a distributor of lottery funds. It cannot make funds available for access, education and youth initiatives in the heritage field. It cannot provide assistance for information technology projects or schemes for the development of heritage-related skills. It is severely limited in its ability to fund nature conservation work.

The Government want to remove these constraints. We would like to see the National Heritage Memorial Fund undertaking a role in the heritage field analogous to that which the Arts Council and Sports Council are now successfully playing within their sectors but which is at present outside its remit for the reasons I have already explained.

We want the National Heritage Memorial Fund to have the opportunity to fund, for example, special transport schemes to enable children to visit heritage sites; reduced admission charges at sites for the young and the elderly; bursaries for training young people in conservation skills; and projects to ensure the survival of rare flora and fauna. We would like the fund to be able to support a wider range of museum projects, on the lines discussed in the Government's Treasures in Trust document published in July.

We would also like the fund to be able to offer support for two categories of project which enhance understanding of the nation's history independently of its tangible remains. The first is exhibitions relating to an historical subject area. An example might be a museum exhibition on the life and work of an important figure in history or on the ecology of a particular region. The second is the creation of an archive, in any medium, relating to a significant aspect of national history. This might include, for example, an oral record of the distinctive experiences of particular localities or ethnic groups, or a major archaeological survey.

That then is the first theme of the Bill: extending the National Heritage Memorial Fund's funding remit to take in a much wider range of worthwhile projects in the public interest. However, we have been looking not only at the issue of what type of project the fund can support; we have also been considering the question of who is eligible for assistance.

Under the legislation as it stands, eligibility for National Heritage Memorial Fund assistance is confined to public bodies and charitable bodies established for a specific heritage purpose. Of course, this is wide enough to take in a great many important projects. But it also places many projects beyond the reach of the fund which must, by any reasonable standards, be seen as having equivalent heritage value.

Let me mention a couple of specific examples of the problems. Many almshouses are of course run by charities. But they are not normally charities established for a heritage purpose. The National Heritage Memorial Fund has therefore had to reject a number of applications for lottery funding for the restoration of outstanding historic almshouse buildings. I believe most people would see that as something of a nonsense.

Or again, one of our most distinctive forms of historic building is the seaside pier. As noble Lords may be aware, 1996 has been designated as the Year of the Pier. Sadly, many of our seaside piers are in need of major repair work. Those which are in local authority or charitable ownership are eligible for lottery funding and a number of awards have in fact already been made. But many piers are privately owned and are therefore beyond the scope of the fund's current powers. If, for example, a resort has two piers next to each other on the seafront, one of which is owned by a charitable trust and the other is privately owned, the former is at present eligible for lottery funding while the latter is not.

Over two-thirds of our historic buildings are estimated to be in private hands. Hence a substantial part of our built heritage is outside the National Heritage Memorial Fund's existing terms of reference and therefore ineligible for lottery assistance. Nor is it simply a matter of individual historic buildings. There is considerable scope for the allocation of lottery funds for heritage projects of a more strategic kind; for instance, historic townscape schemes as an element of urban regeneration or integrated conservation projects in the countryside. Yet as things stand the National Heritage Memorial Fund is often unable to help because much of the property affected is in private ownership.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund itself, English Heritage and other leading heritage bodies, all take the view that it makes no sense to limit the impact of the lottery in this way. So did the National Heritage Select Committee in another place when it issued its report on the National Lottery earlier this year.

The Government fully agree. The availability of lottery funding ought not to depend on who happens to own the property concerned. It should be determined on the basis of the actual project for which funding is sought. The key considerations are: is it a project of importance for the national heritage? Will it produce a clear benefit for the public as a whole?

So that is the second theme of the Bill: the removal of the current restrictions on eligibility for lottery support in favour of a new approach which looks at the nature of the project rather than the identity of the applicant.

I am aware that the proposed new approach to eligibility has prompted two specific concerns. The first is that it is the Government's purpose simply to enable lottery grants to be made to owners of historic houses. For the avoidance of any possible misunderstanding, I should make it clear that my own family home, Hutton-in-the-Forest, near Penrith in Cumbria, which I own and where I drafted much of this speech, is a Grade I listed building open to the public.

I hope it is clear from what I have already said that the privately owned heritage includes a great deal more than historic houses. Indeed, it goes wider than historic buildings generally. The new rules on eligibility will also apply of course to, for example, museums, land and artefacts owned by private individuals. Furthermore, it should be emphasised that eligibility to receive money is not of course the same as receiving it. Eligibility is merely an entitlement to have one's case considered on its merits. It is a matter for the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund how the funds for which they are responsible are disbursed.

Moreover, there is nothing new about giving assistance from public funds to privately owned heritage property. It is a long-established element in the array of policies which we have in Britain to preserve our historic buildings and landscapes, and which command all-party support.

For many years, English Heritage and its sister agencies have been running grant schemes for historic buildings of outstanding quality, irrespective of ownership, to which tight conditions are attached and enforced, including if appropriate clawing back money already given. What is important is that the National Heritage Memorial Fund should continue to work closely with English Heritage and other heritage bodies across the whole of the United Kingdom to ensure that money is applied where it is most needed. I am pleased to be able to tell your Lordships that the National Heritage Memorial Fund has begun constructive discussions with the 21 relevant statutory bodies on future funding priorities in the light of the new powers contained in this Bill, after which it will be consulting more widely.

A separate concern is that the Government's intention is to allow lottery money to substitute for English Heritage funding and thus through a sleight of hand renege on their original undertaking that lottery funds would be additional to existing government expenditure programmes. I am glad to have this opportunity to clarify the position. Money raised by the lottery does not replace existing grant funding. It is separate from it. As the Prime Minister said: We will make no case-by-case reductions on conventional public spending programmes to take account of awards from the Lottery. The money will not replace public expenditure". Nor does this prevent lottery money from complementing other funding. Within the built heritage sector, it is entirely right that projects which are beyond the scope of English Heritage's grant programmes—in terms of either eligibility or affordability—should be able to be considered for lottery funding. What matters is that there should be co-ordination and agreed strategies on the role of lottery funding in relation to other heritage programmes. As I have said, discussions are now taking place to that end.

I would now like to turn to the detailed provisions of the Bill. The main substance is in the first clause. This redefines the funding powers of the National Heritage Memorial Fund trustees as set out in Section 3 of the 1980 Act. The new provision involves three principal changes. First, it extends the fund's funding remit to encompass more than just the acquisition, maintenance or preservation of land, buildings or objects of importance to the national heritage. The fund will now also be able to fund projects to secure access to the heritage; to encourage study, understanding and enjoyment of the heritage; to develop skills relating to the heritage; and to fulfil ancillary purposes. The extended powers cover the natural as well as the cultural heritage, so that the fund will be able to support, for instance, work to preserve rare species of wildlife.

Secondly, the existing exclusive list of recipients eligible for National Heritage Memorial Fund funding disappears. Instead the fund will be able to fund any project which is of importance to the national heritage and is of public benefit. Whether a particular project satisfies these requirements is of course essentially a matter for the trustees themselves, but as regards public benefit, access to the public will obviously be a key consideration. Indeed, there will continue to be a specific requirement on the fund to have regard to the desirability of public access or display in relation to any project being considered for funding.

Thirdly, there is a new power for the National Heritage Memorial Fund to fund public exhibition and archive projects relating to an important aspect of the United Kingdom's history, natural history or landscape and which the trustees consider are of public benefit.

As I have indicated, we are proposing these changes mainly with the fund's role as a lottery distributor in mind. But the changes will also apply to the original National Heritage Memorial Fund, which, as your Lordships know, serves as a fund of last resort for the support of heritage projects in memory of those who have given their lives for the United Kingdom.

I will make only the briefest mention of Clause 2. This repeals existing provisions which require the fund to obtain departmental and Treasury approval to the payment of allowances to trustees and to certain staffing matters. This is a simple housekeeping measure and in line with our general policy of relaxing such controls over public bodies. To the extent that controls continue to be needed, they can be exercised by way of the fund's financial memorandum.

This is only a short Bill, but I believe that all those who care about our nation's history and its future will recognise it as a measure of very considerable significance. It will extend the impact of the National Lottery more widely across the whole heritage sector. It will bring a great deal more of the heritage within reach of lottery funding; and it will open up a whole host of new opportunities for people to discover it for themselves, to study and explore it in depth and to treasure it as one of our greatest national assets, and one of the pleasures of life. I commend the Bill to your Lordships.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Inglewood.)

3.16 p.m.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing the Bill so clearly. I was particularly struck by the reference to seaside piers in need of repair. I should like to ask the Minister about the backwoods hereditary Peers of this House, many of whom are beyond repair and, sadly, perhaps facing demolition.

This is an intriguing Bill. Twelve days ago there was not a whisper of it in the Queen's Speech, yet here it is—small, but seemingly perfectly formed. On studying it, I can now understand why. The Bill, although modest, is very worthy in intention and makes positive, helpful contributions about the national heritage. It is not partisan, scores no party points and does not have many votes in it. As such, it was clearly disqualified from inclusion in the mish-mash of sloganising that we suffered last week.

I should like to take this opportunity to say how very much we are looking forward to the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Luke.

I should make it clear at the beginning that we on this side broadly support the Bill because it helpfully gives the heritage lottery distributors more flexibility to distribute grants to a wider range of eligible beneficiaries, putting them, as the Minister said, on a similar basis to the arts and sports distributors. Under the Bill, the heritage lottery distributors will be able to support a wider range of heritage buildings, townscapes and landscapes, including the piers and theatres, and access to that heritage. The Bill will encourage study and understanding and the creation of heritage archives and intellectual property, including the science heritage, and nature conservation, including animals and plants. It helps to embrace the whole heritage mosaic of ownership, public and private, of access and preservation, and especially the improvement of our intangible, as well as tangible, heritage.

The original 1980 National Heritage Act is clearly out of date. The modifications in the 1993 National Lottery etc. Act were inadequate and too restrictive—and we are all responsible for that. The question of eligibility of candidates caused dissatisfaction, with private individuals and commercial companies being excluded. The definition of "eligible projects" was also unsatisfactory, excluding, for example, car parks, oral histories, new cataloguing, information technology databases and so forth. It also left the trustees' administrators subject to excessive Whitehall control. That seems to be well addressed in Clause 2. I understand that those at the pit face are happier with that. The re-modelling of the purposes and powers of Section 3 of the Act in Clause 1 is much more positive, creative and flexible. I particularly like the use of the word "enjoyment", which is so often alien to our legislators, the coverage of "things of any kind" in line 9 and the defined purpose of encouraging the study, understanding, compilation and dissemination of information. Taken with the opening reference to, scenic, historic, archaeological, aesthetic, architectural, artistic or scientific interest, including animals and plants", I feel that some progress may have been made towards a desirably broad definition of our national heritage.

The whole of new Section 3A is very useful. It covers archives and includes living oral histories and exhibitions of heritage. But in the context of study and understanding of our national heritage, I ask the Minister to confirm that such great heritage projects as the Victoria county histories, which are close to my historian's heart, are clearly covered by the Bill. Speaking subject to correction, I believe that they were launched with funds from the 1851 exhibition. They have come to a virtual halt, and it would be appropriate to re-finance them now. They have made great contributions to our knowledge of local heritage.

The proposed assistance to private historic houses has aroused particular interest, even on this side of the House. It may be questioned by some who fear that toffs on wealthy estates will get away with more public subsidy, adding to the welfare state and the common agricultural policy. However, it was supported by the report of the Select Committee in another place. I shall explain why we on this side support the principle, providing strict conditions and criteria are adhered to. I gave my personal support to helping private historic houses in this House at Question Time some years ago—perhaps New Labour, old houses. One cannot understand how logically or fairly one can preserve the built heritage while defining out private historic houses which constitute two-thirds of the built house heritage and receive 11 million of the 15 million visitors to historic houses per year. Surely, it is cheaper and more efficient to have them maintained in private hands with the help of lottery funds than for them to fall into disrepair or wholly into the lap of the state and the National Trust.

The fact is that it is better to have heritage houses lived in. They are more alive and less like museums—one thinks of the noble Minister's house, which is very alive—and visitors prefer that. My right honourable friend in another place the shadow Secretary of State for National Heritage, Mr. Cunningham, also has a long record of support for this initiative. He personally intervened to help rescue Munster Castle in the north east. He has asked for confirmation from the Minister that St. James's Park, the sacred home of the blessed Newcastle United Football Club, would also qualify for grant as top of the league of British footballing heritage.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, not for long!

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, I reassure noble Lords and noble friends that it is not meant to be unique to Newcastle. Northampton Town springs to mind, although I accept that with reference to Arsenal and Millwall noble Lords may have serious doubts about the heritage contribution.

Having stated our most generous support for this principle, we on this side insist that the criteria and conditions of grant must be rigorously applied. The key condition must be wide access for the general public, together with benefit to the local community. One must also have firm clawback provisions to prevent owners from making development profits from grants. The access conditions must be strictly enforced. Public access must be genuine and frequent, with none of the fiddles occasionally observed in the past whereby access has been at the owner's convenience but it rarely seems to be convenient to the owner. Grants must have strict prior conditions with regular subsequent monitoring. The rule must be: no genuine access, no grant.

Means-testing should also be rigorous. After all, it would be outrageous and unacceptable for a government which introduced stringent tests for the poor who applied for social security benefits to operate loose means tests for those with rich assets. I ask the Minister whether he can say more about the administrative arrangements for grants. Clearly, we need a sensitive balance. We want grants and conditions to be rigorously selected and monitored but do not want to create a bureaucratic monster, nor give free range to the politically correct petty napoleons or the nannies and ninnies, sometimes sadly found for example among environmental health officers and (speaking from personal experience) even some of the harridans occasionally found in English Heritage. Perhaps the Minister can explain further the administrative arrangements. It is probably best to use the expertise and long involvement of English Heritage in conjunction with the team of the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, which has done an excellent job in the past two years. As to that, I look forward to more details in the schedule.

To look more widely than the strict legislative text now before us, there is concern about the financial plight of certain relevant parts of our heritage. This Bill does not give more resources to the heritage sector. It simply and properly encourages more applicants to apply for existing funds. The heritage lottery fund is already five times over-subscribed by existing applicants under the previous narrower eligibility. Even more worrying—and, I believe, damning of this Government—is the way that the introduction of lottery cash has been used by the Treasury as an excuse to cut direct grants to heritage. This is in total breach of the firm promises given by Ministers in this House at the time that the National Lottery Bill 1993 was being debated; and it is in breach of the personal commitment given by the Prime Minister at the time that lottery funds would be additional. The pledges on additionality have become a sick joke. That was and is deplorable, and all in the heritage world watch the coming Budget with trepidation. I believe that the direct grant to the National Heritage Memorial Fund has been savagely cut in recent years, proportionally by more than any other sector, and grants to historic houses have been reduced.

Most alarming is the plight of our museums, especially the British Museum. While the lottery may help with one hand, the Treasury takes it away with the other and slashes annual revenue grants. What is the point, my Lords, of providing new galleries and exhibitions if there is no one to staff and protect them?

Along with other suffering museums and galleries, the British Museum—our top tourist and visitor attraction—has had its grant cut in real value year after year. Compared to 1991–92, the real value of its proposed grant for next year has been slashed by £6 million (roughly 15 per cent.). That is at a time when the emergence of the new British Library means that the British Museum suddenly has 40 per cent. more space to manage, and £3 million less in its share of the provision for library maintenance and security. That extra space should be seen as a magnificent opportunity for Britain's and the world's most distinguished museum to develop new services. Instead, it adds to the financial crisis which the Government have imposed.

It will be a scandal if the Government force the museum to introduce entrance fees, cutting out millions of visitors at a time when lottery cash is flowing fast, but is excluded from its revenues which the Government cut.

I shall not delay the House further since I suspect the Minister may have a train to catch and the rest of us must eat. I have tried to convey our support for this excellent Bill while at the same time deploring the Government's savage cuts in direct funding to the heritage. I look forward to hearing whether there are any words of comfort in the winding up speech of the noble Baroness.

3.32 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie

My Lords, I, too, join in welcoming and looking forward to hearing the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Luke. I have no objection, in principle, to the effects of the Bill. How could I, when two-thirds of what can broadly be considered as the national heritage is in private hands? But I hope to highlight some practical issues, and to draw the Minister's attention to an urgent national heritage issue in Argyll.

First, I need to declare the interest, in that I am vice chairman of a building preservation trust in Clackmannanshire, which is a current applicant for heritage lottery funds for a List A, schedule 1 ancient monument.

My first issue is contained in Clause 1 relating to new Section 3(2) of the 1980 Act, which provides that the trustees may: give financial assistance for any project which appears to them to be of public benefit". When I compare that to the wording of the 1980 Act: is of importance to the national heritage"— I am left to wonder: is that too loose and too imprecise? Does it not represent a dilution of the criteria? We are, after all, considering how publicly subscribed funds are to be distributed.

My second issue surrounds the meaning to be derived from new Clause 3(7) which provides: the Trustees shall bear in mind the desirability of public access to, or the public display of, the thing in question and of its enjoyment by the public". That contrasts with the tougher and more focused wording of the 1980 Act: the Trustees shall have regard to the desirability of securing, improving or controlling public access to, or the public display of, the property". The new clause seems to downgrade the fundamental importance of public access. It could seem to allow the trustees to consider a proposal by which the public would be excluded. In the context of grant aid to private individuals, I should have thought that a more rigorous and prescriptive approach would have been more appropriate. Is it good enough to say that, because private individuals own two-thirds of the national heritage, they should be grant aided without substantial benefit accruing to the general public (the subscriber)?

My third issue arises from Clause 2(b) and is a genuine question. Contained within the trustees' expanded power to appoint staff, is there any commitment to open an office in Scotland, or is this an expansion of a centralised service?

At present there is an overload of worthy cases. Why are we being asked to widen the applicant base? The current backlog has the undesirable effect of causing other agencies in funding partnerships to underspend, and so suffer clawback to the disadvantage of the national heritage. We already have a huge number of applicants under the current rules. Is it wise to open the floodgates at this time, especially when the assessment and approval process seems to be taking seven months to two years? I hope that there will be a substantial delay in the implementation of this provision. Perhaps the Minister will consider delay until the Millennium Fund has expired. At that time the residue of the Millennium Fund could be transferred to national heritage funds.

Finally, I wish to draw the Minister's attention to the former railway bridge over the narrows of Loch Creran at Dallachoilish. I do not expect an answer to this today. The Creagan Bridge is owned by the Secretary of State for Scotland and is in urgent need of listing by Historic Scotland. This structure was designed by Sir John Wolfe-Barry, the designer of Tower Bridge and son of Sir Charles Barry, assisted by H. M. Brunel (son of Isambard Kingdom Brunel) and E. M. Crutwell.

This twin lattice girder bridge was designed carefully to ensure that its visual impact did not interfere with its dramatic setting, as it stands in an area of outstanding natural beauty. The handsome, single arch approach spans and the central pier were built of rock-faced granite ashlar, and finished in a romantic Scottish baronial castle style, with crenellated parapets all of which blend with Loch Creran and the surrounding rugged landscape. The threat to that structure comes from a proposal to build another bridge on its site. It is vital that the proposal be converted to a sympathetic adaptation of the existing bridge.

To conclude, I hope that the Minister can help me over my earlier concerns.

3.38 p.m.

Lord Charteris of Amisfield

My Lords, I presume to take part in the debate because I had the honour and the great pleasure of being the first chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund—a job which I inherited on April Fool's Day 1980 and gave up in 1992. I shall not keep your Lordships long as I have only two things to say, neither of which has much to do with the Bill but which concern the heritage more generally.

I am entirely in favour of the Bill, which has my full support. It would not have done, mind you, when I was chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund because we should not have had nearly enough money to satisfy the enormous demands which will arise as a result of private individuals being able to obtain money from it. I see that my noble friend and one-time colleague Lord Morris of Castle Morris, who was a trustee with me, is nodding his head. Thank you, sir.

I want to talk about two things. First I wish to talk about my successor, the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, who is sitting in front of me. I look forward to hearing him speak later in the debate. Furthermore, I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Luke, has decided to make his maiden speech on this subject.

For 12 years we in the National Heritage Memorial Fund got money out of the Government as and when we could. Towards the end we were receiving £12 million a year and working with a staff of seven. With my noble friend Lord Rothschild came a shower of money in the shape of the lottery funds and with that came a great increase in the number of demands made upon him. As a result, the fund has had to expand considerably. Such expansion is not easy but I am sure that it has been satisfactorily carried out. I spent last weekend as a dilapidated Peer suffering from a sharp bout of flu, reading with great interest the 1995–96 report of the fund. It is clear that my successors have the fund under control and I wish them good luck for the future.

My second point relates to the memorial element of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. That fund did not start on April Fools' Day 1980 but in 1946, when the socialist government then in power established the National Land Fund with £50 million, which was then a great deal of money. That money was the product of the sale of surplus equipment. The fund was established as a war memorial and it undertook some good work.

However, 10 years later, in 1950, the fund was raped and plundered. I hate to remind the Government that it was a Conservative government who did that. The original £50 million was clawed back, which, in my opinion, was a whale of a way to treat a memorial fund! However, it survived and was left with £10 million. When it came into our hands in 1980 there was £12.5 million left. According to the current rate there should have been £647 million, but that had been clawed back.

I am absolutely certain that Her Majesty's Government would never consider such rape and plunder again. However, it is possible to kill the memorial element of the fund simply by allowing it to die through lack of money. As I have said, when I retired, the fund was receiving £12 million a year. Between 1993 and 1909 that figure was £8.8 million a year and next year it will be £7.5 million. Where is it going? Every year the figure is reduced, whereas it should be increased. I am sure that the Government are well intentioned in respect of this matter but I am extremely suspicious of the Treasury, which does not like us, never did like us and would like to kill us off.

I do not know how much a memorial element matters. It probably does not matter very much to a generation which did not experience the war, but to me and my generation, and to those a little younger, it matters very much indeed. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will not forget that point.

3.44 p.m.

Lord Luke

My Lords, I am fully conscious of the privilege I enjoy today as a maiden speaker in immediately following such distinguished speakers. I thank noble Lords for their good wishes.

The Bill that we are considering today widens the criteria by which money becoming available from the National Lottery can be distributed. I am particularly pleased to learn that some of it may be made available to help and encourage children to visit museums. I hope that they will include not only museums such as the Natural History Museum in London, which already does a great deal for children, but also those devoted strictly to arts and antiques, such as the small but excellent Cecil Higgins Museum in Bedford. I remember a spectacularly successful exhibition there, when superb collections of porcelain, glass and watercolours were brought alive for the children of the surrounding area by clever presentation, close co-operation with local schools and, importantly, enthusiasm. In my opinion, any lottery money spent to promote such events will be worthwhile.

As a dealer in watercolours—I restore and frame them—I suppose that in that context I can be said to be contributing in a minuscule way to the national heritage of the future. I am an historian by inclination and find that I am frequently trying to relate current events to historic parallels. For instance, the other day as I was walking across the path from St. James's Palace to Westminster I could not help reflecting on someone who walked the same path several days running some 350 years ago. He was a small man but extremely dignified, stubborn to a degree but immensely brave. A few days later, as we all know, he again walked from St. James's Palace to Whitehall to the Banqueting House and to his death. I do not believe that it is always realised that your Lordships' House had nothing whatever to do with that foul deed; it had been abolished three weeks previously.

However, that act, by the very reason of its enormity and the profound effect it had on everyone, was the single most important factor in ensuring that in subsequent years reform and change took place relatively peacefully and our highly successful constitutional monarchy took shape. Hence, there were no bloody revolutions such as those which occurred in virtually the whole of the rest of Europe; no sacking of our cities; and no destruction of our heritage, except of course during the Second World War.

We now have a government department to look after the treasures all around us. Here we are on an island between marshes and the river and on a site which has been a palace for 1,000 years. How can we not be influenced by our surroundings and a profound sense of living history.

The national heritage is being created all the time. As an example I wish to draw your Lordships' attention to a splendid, recently published photograph composed of 12 of the most attractive ladies in public life, portrayed as the Muses of ancient legend; and how nice to see that the most attractive of those is the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, who is not in the Chamber at the moment. I am sure that that photograph will become part of our heritage.

My father once told me that if and when I arrive in this House, I should concern myself with and speak only about matters of which I have at least some knowledge. I know that he kept to that rule during the 53 years that he served in your Lordships' House. I hope to do the same, for the next 53 years of course. I thank your Lordships for your indulgence in listening to me today.

3.50 p.m.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, it is a great honour and pleasure on behalf of the whole House to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Luke, on his excellent and knowledgeable maiden speech. Earlier this year the noble Lord succeeded his father, whom he mentioned, who was a much respected Member of this House for many years. After Eton and Cambridge, the noble Lord entered the family company—Bovril—where he worked until it was taken over, I understand by Sir James Goldsmith, in 1971. I understand that he is now a picture dealer, specialising in water colours. The noble Lord did not say that they are mainly 18th and 19th century water colours which are surely the best and belong to our greatest period in that field—one which is extremely relevant and germane to the subject of today's debate.

The noble Lord has a long record of public service, having been High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1969–70 and a Conservative member of Bedfordshire County Council for five years. His services to charity have included being a commissioner and then commander of St. John Ambulance in Bedfordshire. He is also a keen churchman and an active liveryman. The noble Lord has made a notable maiden speech and I hope that we shall hear from him on many other occasions.

I am sure that we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, for explaining with such clarity the purposes and details of the Bill. As my noble friend Lord Donoghue said, it is not often that we on this side of the House are able to welcome a Bill so wholeheartedly from the present Government. Perhaps we should have general elections more often if the run-up to them results in more acceptable Bills.

This Bill is necessary to give the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund more scope to aid a host of projects which hitherto they have been unable to do, as the noble Lord explained. That should enable them to give financial support to our country houses, and in particular their gardens and splendid parks, both those in the National Trust and those which are privately owned and opened to the public.

Many of our finest houses have been lost since the war, but most people today would agree that what remains should be preserved for future generations. That is now accepted by all the main political parties. Indeed, as the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, said, the 1945 Labour Government did much to initiate help and support for that sector. As the noble Lord said, Hugh Dalton, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, resurrected a provision in Lloyd George's 1909 Finance Bill which permitted the handing over of land to the community in payment of death duties, as they were then called. Dalton set aside £50 million secured from the sale of war stores for a special National Land Fund to reimburse the Inland Revenue for land offered by executors. As the noble Lord said, that was envisaged as a memorial to those killed in the two world wars. Many houses and lands have passed to the National Trust as a consequence of Dalton's measure.

The noble Lord did not mention something else which the 1945 government did. That was the appointment by Sir Stafford Cripps in 1948, when he was Chancellor, of the Gowers Committee. That was a committee set up to look at houses of outstanding historic or architectural interest under the distinguished chairmanship of Sir Ernest Gowers. The committee reported in 1950.

Gowers recommended inter alia that designated houses with their parks should be preserved as private residences occupied preferably by the families connected with them, provided—and this was important—that the buildings were open to the public. He recommended that there should be tax relief for repairs and maintenance, and relief from inheritance tax for contents of national importance provided that those remain in the house and are not sold.

Those measures taken by the Attlee Government, which also saved the Regent's Park terraces when the Crown Estates wanted to demolish them, did a great deal to save the situation.

Sadly, though, there is another side to the picture, as the Treasury, as usual, kept a tight fist on the National Land Fund for many decades and the fund was raided from time to time by Chancellors, mostly Tory Chancellors, for quite other purposes. However, in 1980 the present Government agreed that the fund should be used for the purpose for which it had originally been created, and it became the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The Government deserve every congratulation on that decision. Since 1980 the NHMF has spent £166 million and I understand that it has rescued 15 great houses, secured thousands of acres of important landscape and saved hundreds of works of art.

Since 1994 the National Lottery has contributed important additional financial support and the whole picture is now much more encouraging. When the heritage lottery fund was first set up, the Government gave a definite undertaking, as my noble friend said, that lottery funding would be additional to government funding and that the core funding would not be reduced. I am afraid that that has not been the case: the Arts Council grant has been cut by a cumulative £18 million since 1993; the NHMF itself has suffered further Treasury raids; the level of funding in 1993–94 was £12 million; by 1995–96, that had been cut by one-third to £8.8 million; and next year a further cut is expected of around 6.5 per cent. to £7.5 million, which is a very big drop.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the land fund. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, whether the Government will mark that anniversary by restoring the grant to at least its original level. English Heritage can make grants for capital repairs such as roof repairs to historic houses. Those grants have been cut by the Government, a Government who call themselves Conservative. I assume that the intention is to replace those grants by lottery funding. I ask the Government to confirm that those Section 3 grants can continue, irrespective of lottery funding. It is expected that the NHMF will take on projects now financed by English Heritage. The Historic Houses Association wants grants for once-in-a-lifetime repairs. Will that be allowed, provided of course that the house is open to the public?

I gather that the Historic Houses Association has no objection to a means test as that would be essential to establish the present financial position of the owner but also as a guide and safeguard for the future.

Perhaps I may also ask the Government whether grants can be made for parks, as well as for the house, of special interest and importance, such as those designed, for example, by Capability Brown and, indeed, for special gardens of exceptional beauty. At present, the English Heritage grants for parks are limited. There is also the question of partnership funding. Initially the Government required that all heritage lottery funding should be matched by the applicant. Sometimes the contribution had to be as high as 50 per cent.

Charitable contributions are becoming increasingly difficult and this has meant that some grants could not be taken up. I welcome the recent more flexible attitude towards partnership funding. I hope that that continues. Applications for more than £100,000 would now require about 25 per cent. partnership funding, while, for those below, the threshold is 10 per cent. I think that that is much more attainable. It should also make it easier all round.

It is official policy, I believe, that lottery funding spent on the arts should be used for the widest public benefit. Our historic houses are visited by 11 million people a year, and they are an important contribution to tourism. Many of these remain in private ownership, which, to many visitors, is an additional attraction, as Gowers pointed out over 45 years ago. The time has come, therefore, when help to preserve this unique part of our national heritage needs to be wider and more flexible. The Bill goes a long way to meet these current difficulties and, in general, I welcome it.

4.1 p.m.

Lord Renton

My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, mentioned the important question of the financial position of historic houses towards the end of his speech. In a few moments I shall be referring to what the present chairman of the Historic Houses Association, Mr. William Proby, whose grandfather presided over the committee which chose me as a candidate in 1945, has just written to me and asked me to mention. However, before I go any further, I should also point out that Sir Richard Proby was also the grandfather of my noble friend Lord Inglewood!

We are in a very strange and unusual position in this debate because, however much we approve of a Bill, normally we ask the Government what they are going to do to implement it. We have a pretty clear idea of that but, in fact, a great deal of the responsibility for implementing the Bill will fall upon the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Today we have the great advantage of having with us the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild. He is to speak immediately after me and, for that reason, no doubt noble Lords will wish me to keep my remarks fairly short.

However, I should like to echo the tribute paid by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, to my noble friend Lord Luke. I was the Member for Huntingdonshire, which adjoins Bedfordshire, for many years. Therefore, I was conscious of the wonderful work that the father of my noble friend Lord Luke and his family have done in Bedfordshire. Indeed, its effects often crossed the border into Huntingdonshire. My noble friend referred to the long period of service that his father gave in your Lordships' House, but I should remind noble Lords that the late Lord Luke lived to be 90 years of age. I only hope that the present Lord Luke, my noble friend, will do the same so that we may hear his interventions as often as possible, though not necessarily confined in the way he suggested.

Perhaps I may deal quickly with the question of the Historic Houses Association. My noble friend Lord Inglewood said that the lottery would not replace public expenditure. That was good news because it conflicts with several of the comments which have already been made about public expenditure being reduced where National Lottery aid has been granted. I hope that in future we shall have the advantage of continuing public help where it is really needed, as well as the advantage of lottery funds.

As regards the Historic Houses Association, government cuts have greatly reduced the grant aid for historic houses in recent years. As the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said, that could mean interference with public enjoyment. As the noble Lord pointed out, 11 million visitors a year visit historic houses. Such houses are most costly to maintain and to run. However, the public are only charged rather moderate fees for visiting them. Therefore, it is most important that the Government should keep an eye on their position.

Mr. William Proby has asked me to say that the Historic Houses Association welcomes the proposed changes to the National Heritage Act and the advantage to be gained from the heritage lottery funding being placed on the same basis as other lottery distribution as, for example, is being made for sports and arts. It will not only help historic houses but it will also help their environment. It will help to improve landscapes, and other things like theatres and seaside piers. Nevertheless, there is an anxiety in the Historic Houses Association (which is a very vigorous body that had a most successful conference in London only last week) about the increasing cost of funding such houses and, indeed, as regards receiving adequate support in that way both from the Government and the lottery.

I turn now to a separate matter—principally archives. I have in mind the new Clause 3A(2) to the National Heritage Act 1980 which, under the heading "Financial assistance towards exhibitions and archives" on page 2 of the Bill, refers to the projects for which, assistance is to be given to—

  1. (a) set up and maintain a public exhibition, or
  2. (b) compile and maintain an archive".
We should try to understand our long history, to which—and I hesitate to say this because it is not a word that one is allowed to use much—various races, invaders mostly, have contributed, as well as the people we like to think were the original inhabitants of our country. With the help of those people who have metal detectors, much of that history has been discovered over recent years and, alas, dispersed. Some of those discoveries have gone to museums, but not enough.

So far as concerns England and Wales—and this does not apply to Scotland or Northern Ireland—;I should like to think that the inadequate ancient law of treasure trove will soon be brought to an end and made more sensible by the bringing into force of the Treasure Act, introduced earlier this year by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, with the help of my noble friend Lady Trumpington and, indeed, a number of us on both sides of both Houses of Parliament. Perhaps my noble friend will be able to tell us when that will happen.

I remind your Lordships that the ancient law in England and Wales meant that the only things that were protected were gold, silver and precious jewellery, and nothing much else. However, they were not protected, and did not become a matter of public concern, unless a coroner's inquest had reached a decision that the original owner—perhaps several thousand years ago—had deliberately buried the treasure with the intention of recovery. Of course in the nature of things the original owner was never known, so a coroner's inquest had an almost impossible task. That will remain the law until the Government bring the Treasure Act into force. When that Act comes into force, a much wider range of archaeological objects and historic artefacts will be protected, will have to be reported and will therefore find their way into our museums.

As I said earlier, if we wish our ancient history to become better known we need to have what have become known as portable antiquities properly recorded. A few months ago the Government published a most interesting discussion document entitled Portable Antiquities and they allowed until late June to enable people to express their views on it. I very much hope that the powers contained in that part of the Bill to which I have just referred relating to archives will be used for recording those artefacts in the years to come.

I should mention that Dr. Roger Bland, who is in charge of the coins and medals department at the British Museum, has expressed his great concern on this matter. Now that the views of the public on the proposals for recording these antiquities have been obtained by the Department of National Heritage, we would like to know what the Government think should be done about it. In the hope that it will be accepted as part of the law and of the responsibilities of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild—although I cannot expect an answer from him today as that would not be fair—to take on board the importance and the desirability (if the Government agree) of using the power contained in the Bill to record these things because that would add greatly to our knowledge of history. This is such a fascinating subject and one could go on. However, I merely say that the past and the future are often more interesting than the present. This Bill will enable us to enjoy the past much more, and we welcome it.

4.14 p.m.

Lord Rothschild

My Lords, I want to start today by putting on record my hope—shared, I should say, by all my fellow trustees at the National Heritage Memorial Fund—that this Bill gains all party support both here and in another place.

As the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, has so clearly said in introducing the Bill, the need for it arises from our experience in the past year as distributors of lottery money under the 1980 Act. Let me remind your Lordships that the 1980 Act was devised for quite different circumstances to today's. It served, and continues to serve, the "last resort" fund well—that is, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which my predecessor, the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, guided and led with such brilliance and élan. Some changes were made to the 1980 Act by the 1993 lottery Act, but experience has shown us that these did not go far enough. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, has already given your Lordships some examples of that: for example, almshouses and information technology for access to museums. Under the words of the existing Act—they are restrictive—we can only give our resources to "acquire, preserve or maintain" museum collections. Your Lordships will see that we cannot grant aid, for example, information technology databases to interpret those collections for the public to enjoy.

The noble Lord, Lord Luke, in his elegant and thoughtful maiden speech, gave this House some other excellent examples. I hope I may tell him that we have helped the Cecil Higgins Museum quite recently. In these areas we have from time to time been forced to turn down worthy projects in heritage terms because of the unforeseen consequences of the 1980 Act. The lottery largesse is far greater than any of us ever expected; but so too has been demand. We are currently receiving some £280 million a year; but we are already over five times over subscribed, as the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, drew to our attention. More than ever it will be important for us to establish and to stick to clear priorities. We intend through a process of discussion and consultation to be in a position to announce new funding guidelines by the autumn of next year.

Once the Act is in force, the lottery fund will be able to consider applications on their merits, unconstrained by ownership. That means that where a good project in heritage terms provides substantial public benefit but depends on the participation of private owners, they will in future be eligible for funding. But let me stress that we want to use our money for the widest possible public benefit.

National parks, historic towns and conservation area partnerships will surely be priorities. As regards repairs for individual houses, let me remind the House that English Heritage has a good scheme with means testing for the Grade I and Grade II star listed buildings. The Grade II listed buildings—which will be additional to what English Heritage already covers—may not be such high priorities. We do not want to duplicate the work that English Heritage has done so well for many years. But that does not mean that we cannot help in certain cases to keep heritage entities intact. For example, in the past owners have been forced to sell some important part of their collections to stop the holes in the roof, as it were, of an important historic house. If we are able to intervene, the heritage receives a double dividend. That is something we should surely seek to encourage. Let me say again, however, that our support should surely always depend on clear and additional public benefit, usually in the form of real increased public access.

Let me remind the House that the heritage lottery fund's first full year was only last year and the impact has already been dramatic. In this morning's Financial Times the distinguished commentator, Mr. Colin Amery, began his weekly article by saying, In many countries government spending on the arts is under harsh review. But in the UK the extraordinary success of the National Lottery is helping cultural life in ways that would once have seemed impossible. He ended by saying: The lottery funds are the best source of money to democratise the heritage business". With the extended canvas provided by this Bill we will be able to spread the benefits across an even wider range of projects and to make a memorable and lasting impact as a result. We therefore very much welcome the Bill.

4.20 p.m.

Lord Hindlip

My Lords, I must declare an interest in this Bill. Many of the clients that my firm advises will become, if the Bill is passed into law, clients of the national heritage lottery fund trustees.

I should like to congratulate my noble friend the Minister on his clear speech and on the clarity of the aims of the Bill. In so doing, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Luke, on his excellent maiden speech. I can assure the Minister that my colleagues in Christie's and I will urge those clients we advise to take advantage of this legislation where possible before going to auction, successful though results in the market have been recently.

But while supporting the aims of the Bill, I should like to ask my noble friend Lady Trumpington for further assurances on the points referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, my noble friend Lord Charteris and others: that this funding will be additional to and not instead of government grants. I have been connected with the heritage world now for nearly 35 years and I think that I can be excused for a certain degree of scepticism. We really need assurances that the funding is additional.

The second point on which I wish the Minister to be specific is regarding private owners. I am not a toff. My own family home is now a police station. But I know that the Bill is welcomed by the Historic House Owners Association, whose members, as has already been pointed out, own two-thirds of the built heritage in this country and, as four noble Lords have pointed out, receive 11 million of the 15 million visitors in this country to historic houses. Many of them need help, not just with running costs but with capital expenditure. I urge the Minister, and specifically the trustees of the national heritage lottery fund, to be both generous and flexible in their dealings with private owners. It is quite clear that the public benefit must be served. However, too rigorous requirements, for instance, public access, will damage-1 would go so far as to say ruin—not only the fabric but the ambience of a country house; and too restrictive an application and interpretation of rules can work against the public interest. Flexibility, not rigidity, in the long term can often serve the public interest best. Never forget, my Lords, the example of "the Three Graces". Had the rules been less rigidly applied in that case "the Three Graces" would be the property of the nation at a cost of £1.3 million, and would still be at Woburn. As it is, the poor girls have to go backwards and forwards between London and Edinburgh at a cost of £8 million.

I should like to mention a case—perhaps I may underline my interest in it—with which my firm is experiencing certain difficulties. I refer to the core of the incomparable collection of furniture of the late Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, at Houghton. It would be inappropriate to go into the details of this case, and I shall not take up your Lordships' time in doing so. The point is not strictly covered by the Bill but by surrender in lieu. However, it is worth mentioning as in general terms it highlights a particularly important aspect of public benefit from privately held works of art. I was at a prizegiving last week in Norwich for the excellent business pairing scheme. My noble friend Lady Trumpington was to have appeared at it but I believe that she was engaged in your Lordships' House. There was an exhibition at the Castle Museum of works of art from Houghton. The furniture had been borrowed from the house, with the pictures brought back from the Hermitage in St. Petersburg. The director of the Norwich Castle Museum expressed pleasure over the exhibition which we sponsored and commented how much better the furniture looked in its original surroundings.

That is certainly the view of the public. They like seeing things in their natural habitat. They look better there and they cost the Government far less. Private owners provide excellent curatorial staff. In the main they look after their works of art. They provide free security and, if you like, free museums. By their very definition, country houses spread the benefit for which governments have so often specified the need. Many of the best private houses are in the north or sometimes distant east Anglia—Houghton, Holkam and Blickling to name but three.

I hope that in her winding up speech my noble friend Lady Trumpington can assure us that the Government are behind the private owner, as the Bill sets out. In the past one has had the feeling that the party opposite was almost more committed to this cause than those on our side of the House.

In conclusion, I wish to commend my noble friend Lord Inglewood for including three times in the Bill the word "outstanding". Much has been said about the wider use of lottery money. But I believe that lasting benefits come not from political correctness and the widest possible use, but from a more focused view, from concentrating on outstanding works of art. Although I gather that we shall have Mystic Meg twice a week now, the lottery funds are not guaranteed; and they are not inexhaustible. Please do not spread the lottery too wide. Let us concentrate on the best because I am quite sure that that is the means by which this huge success can work in the long term for the future of this country's most precious and fragile assets.

4.29 p.m.

Lord Chorley

My Lords, in warmly welcoming the Bill, I declare an interest. I retired as chairman of the National Trust four months ago; however, I still retain both formal and informal connections with it.

The Bill is important to the trust directly and, perhaps more importantly, indirectly. It is mercifully short. In fact it has only one substantive clause—or perhaps I should say two, since Clause 2 is not unimportant. It is entirely appropriate that the Bill should begin its passage in this House. It is an added bonus that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, is in charge of shepherding it through the House. Not only does he have great experience in heritage matters, but I hope I do not embarrass him when I say that he is also a listening Minister—which cannot always be said of some of his colleagues in government.

The Bill is about widening the powers of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. In the 16 years since the 1980 Act, as nobody would disagree, the fund has been a tremendous success story. There were 12 years under the imaginative leadership of my noble friend Lord Charteris. He was brilliantly followed by my noble friend Lord Rothschild, who, as he mentioned, had to cope almost overnight with the huge expansion in the fund's activities which arose from the lottery. The increase in activities, which indeed took place almost overnight, must have been at least thirty-fold and perhaps nearly forty-fold. It is therefore entirely right, 16 years later, and with the expansion of funds that has taken place, to take stock, examine the powers and extend them. The words I wrote down are almost the same as those of the noble Lord the Minister; namely, it is proposed to extend the powers in two respects: first, in respect of what the trustees may support. In that respect I particularly welcome the specific references, for example, to, encouraging the study and understanding of them [the objects]", and also the specific references to assistance for education and training. The Bill goes on to include the setting up and maintaining of public exhibitions and the compiling and maintaining of archives, as already referred to. All these areas are important to those of us in the trust, and they are becoming increasingly more important. Therefore all this is very good and timely news. I shall say no more on that issue, but turn to the second point; namely, whom the trustees may support.

I believe that all would agree that there was a weakness, perhaps understandable, in the 1980 Act which has now become increasingly apparent; namely, it was restricted to heritage and conservation trusts and organisations. As we were told by the Minister and other speakers, that excluded some two-thirds of our built heritage—what I would loosely call the private sector. Not only was that unfair but it left at risk a whole vital area of heritage. Now we have the magic words in subsection (3) of the new Section 3, "for any person".

I wish to say, at the risk of being parochial, that we in the trust regard this extension as of great importance, a major step forward. That may seem strange to those who tend to see the trust as being keen to grab any stately home that comes its way. But the fact is that the trust has more than enough great houses. The burden of maintaining them is a huge drain on our resources. So a healthy private sector is of the utmost importance to the trust. It has always been—I repeat, always—the trust's policy to act only as a long-stop: to step in only when other remedies fail. That cannot be said often enough.

There are other supporting reasons: for example, plurality, the different approach that different families have to showing their houses; with that goes the sense of a house being lived in. I could expand on that but I have made my point. The matter was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue. Then there is the question of costs. Not only does private ownership, through the free input of management and labour from the owner, mean that the nation conserves its heritage relatively inexpensively—indeed in that respect the private sector is remarkably good value for money for the nation—but there is an additional factor vis-à-vis the trust in that, when we take on a house we are required to declare it inalienable; that is to say, we can never sell the house or its contents, or raise money on them. That means that we take on an open-ended liability and have no alternative but to insist on an endowment. Sadly, history shows that we have not, at any rate until the last 20 years, been very good at securing or calculating adequate endowments as the endowments on the great majority of our houses have proved totally insufficient.

So much for general principles. I should like now to turn briefly to some practical issues in regard to how the extended powers are to be applied. First, I assume that the NHMF will mainly be concerned with what I loosely describe as capital projects. Some of those may of their nature incur a net—I emphasise net—increase in running costs. I hope in those cases the trustees will in appropriate circumstances be pragmatic (perhaps "flexible" is a better word) and allow an element of endowment funding. I say that because in our general national enthusiasm for accessing lottery funding, which has tended hitherto to mean capital projects, there is a tendency on the part of applicants to underplay (underestimate) the ongoing costs. One wants to avoid such hugely worthwhile projects, as it were, ending in tears some 10 years later when the full difficulty of meeting running costs has only just become apparent. A small element of endowment can therefore make a crucial difference. Having said that, one recognises that proper strings would have to be attached. Proper conditions would need to be imposed, perhaps by way of separate charitable trusts, in the case of individuals.

I suspect, however, that the main weight of funding will be for major capital repair programmes: a new roof is the normal example, but there are others such as rewiring, security systems and so on. They are the sort of repairs that have to be done only once in a generation. Those sorts of events are real killers for the private owner. It is sometimes said that no one should be in the business of running a heritage house unless he or she can meet the ordinary running costs. That is a sensible and true statement, albeit unpalatable. But the blockbusting expense of, let us say, a new roof is an entirely different matter. Selling investments, even if sufficient are available, is unpalatable as it will usually mean a heavy capital gains tax bill, not to mention the crippling burden of VAT in addition to the building costs themselves.

One would also like to see, for major buildings, agreements with owners on long-term programmes of works. To be effective, conservation work—this applies as much to contents as it does to the fabric of the building—requires the steady application of resources over a period of years. That, incidentally, appears to be entirely consistent with the new purpose of, "encouraging the maintenance and development" of conservation skills. Such an approach will also tend to be more economical if it is run on a properly organised and planned basis.

There is one current problem with that sort of approach; namely, the inability of the NHMF trustees to make contractual commitments for more than a short period ahead. I know that my noble friend Lord Rothschild is aware of the issue, so I will leave it at that, except to remark that we believe there are possible solutions which would deal with the NHMF's difficulties in this area.

That brings me finally to the question of the future relationship—the working arrangements—between the NHMF and English Heritage. The noble Baroness who is to wind up will be relieved to hear that on this occasion I do not want to enter the fray on the question of additionality, though I agree with everything that previous speakers have said. Nevertheless, the fact is that English Heritage's ability to meet its normal responsibilities has been steadily reduced in recent years. It seems to me, therefore, that there are two key points: first, to make full use of English Heritage's expertise and not to duplicate it; secondly, for there to be clarity on who is responsible for what.

I listened with great interest to the words of the noble Lords, Lord Inglewood and Lord Rothschild. I reiterate that we must seek to avoid bureaucratic red tape, needless delays and extra cost as well as the danger of falling between two stools.

I have gone on quite long enough. I conclude by repeating my congratulations to the Government and everyone involved on introducing this simple piece of legislation which has great potential for our national heritage. I wish the Bill a speedy passage to the statute book.

4.41 p.m.

Lord Crathorne

My Lords, I too should like to congratulate the Government and my noble friend the Minister on the Front Bench on bringing forward this Bill. Today is a very good day for the heritage. I am sure that we all have great pleasure in taking part in this Second Reading debate.

I want to say a very few words, having had the experience of being a trustee of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The trustees, and particularly the chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, shoulder a quite enormous burden and workload, which is a point that has not perhaps been sufficiently expressed this afternoon. I am sure that the Bill will very significantly improve the working of the fund for the chairman and his trustees. In that context, I was pleased to see reference made to the fact that in future it will be possible under certain circumstances to remunerate trustees. That has an advantage. At the moment, there are many men and women who simply cannot give up the time required to be an NHMF trustee without remuneration of any kind. I do not know how often the system will be used but it is very satisfactory that it is in this Bill.

Another point that I was delighted to see resolved was in regard to the "eligibility jungle" which existed, where the rules were laid down initially much too tightly. It is easy to be wise after the event. But now projects in multiple ownership, such as townscapes, which are a mixture of private, commercial and public ownership, can receive grants. When I was a trustee I remember that one of the frustrations was that we often had to turn down things because there was a private element or an element which simply did not meet the eligibility test. So that provision is very good news.

Also, the general broadening of the scope to not just a "tangible heritage asset" is so good. That is now very much more broadly defined. As the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, pointed out, and I agree with him, it is nice to see it "encouraging enjoyment". That seems quite admirable.

There has been discussion about the owners of private country houses and I think it worth emphasising a couple of points in that regard. It is very much accepted—indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, made the point—that the cheapest way of looking after those lovely houses is when they are in private hands.

A second related point is that there is no question but that the public gain even more pleasure from going round houses in private ownership—perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, will not agree with me—than they do from going round those in the ownership of the National Trust or any public ownership. It is excellent that there will be ways in which, with the correct safeguards, private houses can benefit.

This is an excellent Bill which is supported on all sides of the House. I am sure it will make the job of the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, which he carries out with such great distinction, somewhat easier and perhaps even more satisfying than it is at the moment.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, in his maiden speech, which had all the desirable qualities, including brevity, the noble Lord, Lord Luke, described himself as an historian, and I welcome him to the growing numbers of your Lordships who make that claim. I learnt from his speech that they include the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue. Indeed, he presented—it is the only theme on which I wish to touch—the very considerable anxiety in the community of historians, both professional and amateur, about the future of the Victoria County History.

It was the understanding of the Institute of Historical Research of the University of London, which now looks after the Victoria County History, that when the heritage Bill was modified, as it is now in the Bill before your Lordships' House today, it would be made clear that the Victoria County History would be eligible for support from lottery funds. But examination of the text of the Bill does not make that commitment sufficiently clear. At a time when, as the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, and others reminded us, there are many claims on the lottery money, anyone who wishes to put forward a claim must at the very beginning be certain that there is nothing in the text of the Bill which would or could exclude it. Therefore, I very much hope that that omission or partial omission will be remedied during the passage of the Bill in your Lordships' House.

At present I propose to test it by putting down, together with my noble friend Lord Pilkington, an amendment—possibly a couple of amendments—of a very minor kind to clarify for instance that, where archives are spoken of, works of reference—which the Victoria County History is and for the purposes of our heritage it is perhaps the most important work of reference—could be included. Since neither I nor the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, are masters of parliamentary draftsmanship, I hope that the Government themselves will remedy the omission by proposing amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, and I, and I am sure others representing the historical community in your Lordships' House, will be glad to discuss the matter with Ministers at the appropriate time.

It is unnecessary to enlarge upon the importance of the Victoria County History. It is not only a record of our heritage. The fact that it has been in progress for a century makes it part of that heritage. Therefore, I feel that there is no need further to urge the case. I hope that the noble Baroness, when she comes to wind up, will be able to assure us that the Government will either accept a proposed amendment or, better still, propose one themselves. I must apologise to her in that, if the debate is much prolonged, I may not be present to hear her. But in that case the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, will be here and we much look forward to remedying this particular but perhaps rather dangerous verbal omission.

4.50 p.m.

Lord Cobbold

My Lords, first, I must declare an interest. I am honorary treasurer of the Historic Houses Association and also the owner of an historic house in Hertfordshire which is regularly opened to the public and has been the recipient of Section 3A grants from English Heritage in the past.

I welcome the new Bill unreservedly. It seeks to put right an—I am sure unintended—anomaly whereby National Lottery funds have not been available to support the privately owned built heritage but up until now have been available to the private sector through the Millennium Commission and in the arts and sports sectors.

As the Minister and other noble Lords said, by far the greater proportion of Britain's built heritage is in private hands. That is not just confined to large country houses. The sector covers town houses, villages, office buildings, pubs, theatres, cinemas, agricultural and industrial buildings and more. It is our landscape and our built heritage that attracts 23.7 million foreign visitors to Britain and earned for the nation last year some £12 billion, according to the recent annual report of the British Tourist Authority. It makes tourism one of our largest industries and one of the largest employers.

I do not believe that there is anyone in your Lordships' House, and hardly anyone in the country at large, who does not cherish our built heritage and who would not wish to see it preserved for future generations. I am sure therefore that we shall be unanimous in welcoming the Bill. Lottery funds are intended to support those aspects of life that we value but for which it is hard to justify the use of scarce public funds raised from taxation.

Let me turn to the specific case of historic houses, with which I am most familiar. Owners of historic properties were naturally disappointed when the private heritage was excluded in the original lotteries Act, particularly since the supply of Section 3A grants from English Heritage had slowed to a trickle. In welcoming wholeheartedly the new Bill, owners of historic houses recognise the need for an increased public benefit and for access to their houses. But they are concerned about the new procedures and as to how the new arrangements are to be administered.

I was somewhat concerned by what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, in that he was relying very much on the additionality clause—one might ask, additional to what?—in the case of Section 3A English Heritage grants. It may be that Grade I and Grade II starred houses are already adequately cared for, but I am doubtful whether that is the case. In the hope that there will be some funds available for historic houses, I should like to say that we are familiar with the workings of English Heritage and know that it has the staff, the expertise and experience to deal with the specific and specialist problems of historic houses. It is experienced in the important area of means testing and in the judgment of appropriate public access provisions.

Can the Minister say whether it is the intention of the Bill to duplicate that expertise within the National Heritage Memorial Fund? If so, and on the assumption that English Heritage would continue to be involved through the Section 3A grant procedure, that could represent a major increase in bureaucracy that could lead to duplication of the already extensive paperwork, increased bills from architects and legal advisers and an inevitable lengthening of the whole application process.

I hope that the Government will give careful consideration to the efficient operation of the new scheme. For example, it may be sensible for the National Heritage Memorial Fund to make an annual block grant for the private heritage to English Heritage to be administered using its existing procedures and expertise. I pose the question.

I wish to put in a further plea and echo what my noble friend Lord Chorley said. The lottery distributors have a propensity to support capital projects involving construction or purchase of physical assets. Little consideration is given to future running costs. I feel therefore that the endowment fund has an important part to play and nowhere is that more relevant than in the case of an historic house. The National Trust is living proof.

As my noble friend Lord Chorley said, the National Trust will not take on a new property unless it has a substantial dedicated endowment fund. Indeed, he said just now that the endowment funds that it has had in the past have rarely proved to be adequate. My noble friend himself devised a formula within the National Trust to calculate the size of such a fund for each property. The NHMF has provided funds to the National Trust for that purpose in the past and, more recently, from the heritage lottery fund it provided endowment funding for the National Trust's acquisition of Croome Park. So precedents do exist. I believe that endowment funding should be more widely and more readily provided by the lottery distributors and not just in the heritage area.

For an historic house, as the National Trust takes for granted, a dedicated endowment fund is the best possible long-term solution. An historic house endowment fund could make use of the existing legislation covering maintenance funds. Maintenance funds, as currently defined, are not quite the ideal vehicle but would not require much modification to become so.

Finally, I once again welcome the Bill and, as an historic house owner, I uncompromisingly stress my conviction (which I know is shared by the overwhelming majority of members of the Historic Houses Association) that any support from the heritage lottery fund is and must be for the benefit of the historic building and not of the owner—however historic he or she may be!

4.56 p.m.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

My Lords, my purpose in taking part in this Second Reading debate is to give a broad welcome to the Bill, although I find it difficult to say anything that does not duplicate what has already been said. I have spent most of the debate deleting sections from my speech as noble Lord after noble Lord made those valid points.

Before entering into the detail of the Bill I shall dispose of some formalities. First, I declare a three-fold interest. I am a commissioner of English Heritage which, of course, is greatly interested in this Bill and looks forward to it reaching the statute book with the minimum of delay. I take this opportunity of thanking those noble Lords who have supported, in the course of the debate, the role of English Heritage and its potential role in the future in a way which comes much better from them than it would from me.

Secondly, I am involved with a number of organisations which are actively seeking lottery funding. Although that is peripheral, I count it as an interest. Thirdly, I have a life interest in various historic properties, including listed buildings, which could become eligible for grant as a result of the Bill becoming law. For the sake of completeness I should say that, as of today, no application for lottery funding has been made in respect of any property in which I hold a personal interest, nor is any planned.

Finally, in this general section, I wish to say that one noble Lord who would have liked to be here but sadly is not is my noble friend Lord Astor who was closely involved with the National Lottery etc. Bill as it went through its various stages in your Lordships' House. My noble friend did not anticipate such an early introduction of the Bill and felt unable to cancel a long-standing engagement he had today in the United States. As he would like to take part in subsequent stages of the Bill, he asked me to say that he hoped your Lordships would accept the circumstances which have prevented him from being here today.

The Government are to be warmly congratulated on introducing this short but important Bill. I welcome in particular the provisions to extend the powers of the National Heritage Memorial Fund to allow it to distribute lottery money to private owners. Almost as soon as the National Lottery etc. Act was passed in 1993 it was plain that there was a major lacuna. In relying on the existing powers available to the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the lottery distribution provisions effectively excluded most of the built heritage from assistance, as has been identified many times during today's debate not least by my noble friend the Minister in his opening speech.

It is still argued from time to time that private owners are all rich men and women living in their castles who contribute no public benefit and who do not need public money. As Sir Jocelyn Stevens, the chairman of English Heritage, has robustly put it, this is, of course, bunkum. Most of the privately owned heritage comprises modest private houses, small shops and businesses in our towns and countryside; what the Prime Minister has described as the "people's heritage". They make up the very warp and weft of our historic landscape and townscape, and their condition is critically important if we are to conserve these assets for future generations.

I do not want to rehearse again the contribution made by the historic houses of this country to the nation's life, save to make one point which I do not think has been touched on. It is now well understood that the repair of historic buildings in conservation areas and the improvement of their setting can be a potent factor in encouraging economic regeneration.

Overall, it seems clear that it is in the interest of everyone in the country that private owners should be able to receive lottery assistance where this is essential and secures appropriate public benefits whether through the conservation of historic buildings and ancient monuments, the provision of, or improvements to, public access to them, or, more widely, through economic regeneration and the encouragement of tourism.

There is nothing new in this line of thought. Since 1953 these benefits have been the rationale underlying the existing scheme, funded by taxpayers' money and, as has been said, with the support of all political parties, for grant aiding repairs to historic buildings and operated by English Heritage since 1984 and its counterparts in the rest of the United Kingdom.

It is important that once the Bill is passed, as I hope it very soon will be, the new powers to assist private owners are deployed quickly. The chairman of the heritage lottery fund, the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, who made such an interesting contribution to the debate, has already indicated his desire to commit significant resources as soon as possible to historic town centres and other conservation areas. If I had spoken before the noble Lord I would perhaps have asked him what scale of commitment the heritage lottery fund is considering in this area. However, I do know that discussions are already taking place between English Heritage and the heritage lottery fund about how English Heritage will be involved in the task of distributing these grants.

English Heritage already provides advice and casework management services to the heritage lottery fund in respect of lottery applications within its area of competence. This co-operation has proved very effective, allowing improved focusing of both lottery and English Heritage grants, together with the reduction of bureaucracy and the provision of simplified procedures for grant applicants. The recently announced Joint Church Grants Scheme, which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Inglewood, shows how far this process can go given good will on all sides. It is obviously of particular importance that full use is made by the heritage lottery fund of the skills that English Heritage has developed in the definition of repair programmes, the financial assessment of applicants and projects and the monitoring of works.

I am sure that the House would welcome an undertaking from the heritage lottery fund that it will provide sufficient resources to allow a significant overall increase in the help available to private owners. I believe that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage has already indicated this as a possible way forward in her comments to the National Heritage Select Committee in May this year when she said: Rather than restricting Lottery spending to projects which were never funded from government funds, it was possible to allow funding for projects in sectors where government funds were insufficient". Grant aid to private owners is certainly such a sector. In the face of falling support from the Government, English Heritage has been forced to make large cuts in its individual grant schemes which have fallen particularly heavily on private owners precisely because they have not been eligible for lottery funding.

It is with some regret that I dwell a little on the diminishing support that English Heritage receives from the Government. At a conference held to mark the 10th anniversary of English Heritage in September 1994, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made the unequivocal pledge that the money raised by the lottery will not replace existing government spending. That pledge was quoted in full by my noble friend Lord Inglewood in his opening speech. But since that statement English Heritage has seen first a standstill and then a cut in cash terms. On the 1995–96 base line, English Heritage estimates that there will be £44.7 million less over this and the next three years, and further cuts in the autumn Budget are not considered impossible. As I said, English Heritage has been compelled to reduce significantly the amount that can be offered for repair grant. The casualty is, of course, the heritage.

More ominous, in a way, is the threat that now looms over English Heritage's core competencies as a consequence of those reductions. If that happens, not only will the benefits that the Bill intends to confer on the heritage be wretchedly eroded but the skills developed by English Heritage over many years will be lost to the nation. Specifically they will be lost to those who are charged with the responsibility of seeing that lottery funds are spent effectively and wisely.

This Government had the vision and courage to introduce the lottery and it has been an outstanding success. The benefits to the nation are only beginning to emerge. In bringing forward the Bill the Government demonstrate their willingness to improve upon the original model. I have always felt that we have outrageous expectations of new institutions. New institutions take time to come of age. They often experience a tricky, and sometimes unattractive, adolescence that calls for sensitive handling. I have no doubt that there will be more heritage lottery problems.

Yes, this is a good Bill and I wish it well. It corrects an injustice. But as it goes through its stages, I shall be looking for something further. I ask my noble friend to confirm that the accumulated skills and experience of English Heritage are central to the good working of the Bill. I should like to hear a new commitment by the Government and the heritage lottery fund trustees, giving confidence that the heritage will benefit from the Bill as Parliament intends it to benefit. In practical terms this means money flowing rapidly to private owners for public benefit. And finally, although the undertaking has been given—I do not mind how often I hear it—I would ask once more for confirmation from the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, that lottery money will not be used to replace existing government spending. In saying that, it will not be lost on the noble Baroness that not a single speaker believes that the Treasury is not clawing back this money. I look forward to her comments.

I am grateful for the opportunity provided by the Bill to extend lottery funding to the private owners of historic buildings whose difficulties were first identified more than 40 years ago, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. Many of them have struggled for decades to maintain their properties for the benefit of all and with the very limited public help available. If we are to avoid the loss to the nation of more of our built heritage, large and small, and if we are to take full advantage of the economic and social benefits of investment in modest properties in conservation areas, then the new resources available through the lottery as a result of the Bill must be made available to them at once. I warmly support the measure.

5.9 p.m.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on this most welcome and necessary Bill. I have no wish further to impose on your Lordships' House by repeating how necessary I think it is. Most welcome is the fact that the Bill has been so widely drawn—it certainly needed to be—and if, by any chance, the Victoria County History has been left out, I am sure that can be put right.

However, I have a certain déjà vu because when the National Lottery etc. Bill was being debated in your Lordships' House some of us knew it was flawed. Several of us put down amendments in order to correct the situation, particularly in order to get the problems of additionality and outstandingness better appreciated. Our expressed concerns were somewhat pushed aside, but we were assured that as the trustees would have complete discretion and flexibility, all would be well. The fact is that they did not have complete flexibility and all has not been well. That is unfortunate because it was not the fault of the trustees of the NHMF. When they were appointed in 1980 they were legally restricted. When the lottery money came along it just did not fit in.

Everyone from the top of the land, from Cabinet Ministers, downwards, thought that lottery money would be used for all heritage good causes regardless of ownership. When the lottery Act came into effect we found that two-thirds were not eligible. I do not believe that the Government can be accused of deliberately misleading the House on this occasion. Perhaps they too were misled. We are delighted that the Select Committee in another place has come down so strongly to get the situation changed.

What I believe compounded the situation and what has concerned the private heritage world since lottery funding started, is not so much that important conservation projects have been rejected or precluded, but that it was widely understood—perhaps wrongly—that the majority of the NHMF trustees actually disapproved in principle of allocating lottery money to the private sector on the grounds that the people would object. "Over my dead body", was a comment made to me by somebody from the fund when I suggested that this Bill was required.

I find that amazing because the fact is that since 1953, following the Gower Report, which has already been mentioned, the Historic Buildings Council was set up and millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been spent on private properties, National Trust properties and so on. It has always been carried out under strict conditions. There have been means tests, access arrangements made, and so on. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, made a great issue of that, but the fact is that what has been done over the years has been adequate. There have been very few complaints. As long as English Heritage continues to help and lay down the conditions, then all will be well. Certainly, when I was chairman of English Heritage for eight-and-a-half years there was absolutely no let up; in fact, we extended the conditions.

Let us for a moment realise that for their part private owners play a great part in being unpaid curators and in attracting tourists, and they give as much public benefit as anybody else. I have complete confidence that the NHMF and English Heritage will be able to co-operate in ensuring that there are sufficient funds and that they are given under strict conditions. Some projects may well fall into the competence of English Heritage for grants and others will be better dealt with by the National Lottery. Both will require each other and I am sure that it will work out well.

I was delighted to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, that there is no prejudice in principle and that a new chapter has begun. As past president of the Museums Association I would like to pay tribute to the fund for giving so much help already. It has been most appreciated. I believe we can say that a new era for museums has begun. Perhaps I may also say that many of the great museums of the world started as private collections. They have gone on to become local museums and then national museums. That is something that should not be forgotten.

I am delighted that the word "enjoyment" is also in the Bill. When we are dealing with things of national importance, they can also sometimes be of local importance as well. These are mostly Committee points which we can discuss later on. The most remarkable feature of the Bill is how widely drawn it is. I certainly support the provision that trustees should be remunerated. It is very hard work to assess applications; it requires the highest professional qualifications.

Finally, perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, who made some joking remarks about peers, that in today's debate 14 out of the 19 speakers are hereditary peers.

5.14 p.m.

The Earl of Sandwich

My Lords, I happened to spend the weekend in rather bleak surroundings in a Church of England parish in north Coventry. In this context and with this memory, it is difficult to see historic buildings and landscape as a deserving cause when one sees urban deprivation, poor housing and education and other desperate needs which persist in our society. Nevertheless, I do believe—and I believe the public appreciate this—that these buildings, gardens and parks can also be an environmental asset and an encouragement to those who live close to them and a source of revenue which gives them added value as our national heritage. I was pleased to hear mention of townscapes as deserving of more attention. Perhaps city landscapes could be added to those.

I warmly welcome the Government's decision in this Bill to follow up the Select Committee's recommendations on eligibility and to include private owners where there is public benefit. I declare an interest as a joint owner and administrator of a small country house and garden. This is especially important not just because of the fact that two-thirds of the built heritage is in private ownership, but because so much more property is in private hands as a result of the hiving off of sites owned by hospitals, railways, the Ministry of Defence or belonging to the so-called historic townscapes, which are now in mixed ownership.

But the key question, as has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, is the future role of the Government and of English Heritage. If heritage lottery funding is such a bonanza and is now to get to the parts which English Heritage cannot reach, who will make future decisions on the heritage? Now that English Heritage, itself a slimline version of a grand old government department, has regained its status, self-confidence and authority and the other things which the noble Lord, Lord Cavendish, has spoken about, and which has prepared an excellent four-year plan, which I have read, it will be tragic if the lottery fund is allowed to develop alternative wisdom and expertise and so undermine what English Heritage has already achieved. I know from what others have said that this is a concern not only of English Heritage, but of many other people. I am sure that the Minister will give it the fullest attention in her reply.

It is hard to convince people that English Heritage funds for historic properties, whether in public or private ownership, are still very limited and, as has already been mentioned, they have been reduced by government cuts. A sum of £2 million to £3 million for the largest historic houses is a pitiful amount measured against the annual demand and only one-tenth of that sum is additionally available for parks and gardens. Perhaps I may give a recent example: coping stone for a garden balustrade can cost £50 per metre: the replacement of one crumbling section of stone garden wall can require thousands of pounds. Not surprisingly, owners all over the country are cashing in their works of art in order to pay for the fabric of the buildings where they are housed and preserved. This hidden subsidy is too often ignored. It is the background story of our English heritage, which looks so good on the surface. The Government need to explain more fully how it is that not just the lottery but the Department of National Heritage are going to help to save our heritage. Again, I am sure that the Minister will give the fullest possible answer, although at this stage of the Government's expenditure plans it can hardly be satisfactory.

5.18 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings

My Lords, in a week of five important elections around the world, perhaps we should not forget that, after an election in this country, this Government were responsible for introducing the National Lottery etc. Act 1993. This timely Bill is rightly amending that Act. That was after much debate and controversy. It has proved an outstanding success. It is yet another government triumph. I hope that the thousands of people who have benefited will give the Government the credit that is rightly due to them.

The lottery is so successful because it is well run and highly professionally administered. The chairmen of the five funds that benefit so greatly—the arts, sport, heritage charities and the celebration of the Millennium—deserve our congratulations, especially the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, who explained the details so clearly to your Lordships.

It is tempting in a debate like this to go into specific projects for funding. I believe that this is an error. This is a short Bill, as my noble friend Lord Inglewood said, but of great significance. It seeks to make a few specific changes which are to be welcomed. Clause 1 extends the powers of the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund to give financial assistance to projects of importance to the national heritage.

As more than two-thirds of Britain's historic buildings are in private hands, it is surely a good move to allow the National Heritage Memorial Fund to distribute money to private owners for the first time. Most are owners of modest properties, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, and from my noble friend Lord Cavendish, but I repeat (because I think that it is important) that we are talking often about corner shops and terraced houses in conservation areas and not just about stately homes, as many people may think. Such properties make a major contribution to the general economy. Recent surveys have identified that the built heritage, parks and gardens of this country are important factors in persuading both visitors and investors to come here.

New Section 3 will provide for the trustees to give financial assistance in respect of, among others, items of scientific interest and botanical interest. Britain has, at Kew, one of the largest and most comprehensive botanical, taxonomic and horticultural libraries in the world. It allows open access for all bona fide research workers and visitors. I should have thought that that was the kind of project that should be supported.

The essential factor with regard to any project gaining funding must be that it is for the public benefit and that there will be greater public access. Ay, there's the rub. For in this age of open public access (sometimes even without it), what dreaded circumstances often ensue. Such ill omens will pose major problems for millions of people in the future. Public access is not possible without adequate security. Therefore, security is a must, but it has become one of the most costly items in which private individuals—or even public owners—have to invest. There is no escape; today it is an absolute necessity.

An added problem is that security systems now are not only more costly, but have to be more and more sophisticated. They need to be one jump ahead of the vandal or thief to be effective. Alas, nothing is sacred—be it a garden statue, a rare plant or tree, a picture or a piece of furniture, books or manuscripts from libraries. Nothing, if it is of interest or of value, is safe. The cost of basic and essential protection as well as of insurance is enormous. I am speaking about the protection and preservation of our national heritage. Much that is stolen goes abroad—and of one thing I am certain; the thief does not apply for an export licence. Other items are broken up and are never seen again.

The mechanics by which lottery funding could assist privately owned historic property have yet to be finalised. I wonder whether security, mentioned in the new Section 3(2)(c), could be given serious consideration. Can my noble friend Lady Trumpington and the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, as chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, take that on board?

Finally, I welcome the Bill. It is a deregulatory Bill, removing a layer of bureaucracy. That is surely a popular move. But I hope too that the Government will, despite this, keep all the excellent staff and continue to leave the administration independent of the Department of National Heritage so that the great success not only of the lottery, but also of the way in which it is run, will continue.

5.23 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I occupy a rather lonely position today after the gap in our list of speakers. Incidentally, I am told by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, that there is no significance in that and that it is one of those technical hitches to which we are all subject from time to time. I look forward to being with him after the gap in future debates.

We on these Benches follow the views that have been expressed on all sides of this House. We welcome the Bill unreservedly. It is a short and very cleverly structured Bill. I am most grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Inglewood and Lord Rothschild, for explaining it so clearly and for presenting the thinking behind it so precisely.

We must all welcome any opportunity to preserve our country's unique heritage of houses, particularly private houses with their gardens and parks. As noble Lords have said, we all know the enormous financial strain under which many owners of private houses have been struggling for many years. That is why I do not share in any expression of the view that the Bill is seeking to give "toffs"—I think that that was the expression—the opportunity to grow rich from lottery funds. I certainly have not heard that view expressed forcefully in your Lordships' House today although it may be expressed in the other place or outside.

What we hand down to our descendants is as important, if not more important, than any tourism considerations. Of course, tourism is a huge money earner for this country and we are always seeking to improve what we offer to travellers from both this country and abroad.

It may be appropriate at this point to refer to what will be new Section 3(7) which cleverly introduces the phrase, the Trustees shall bear in mind the desirability of public access". That rather guarded reference to public access is most important. I fully accept that Members of another place may say that public access must be an absolute condition of money being given to the private owners of such houses but, as we all know, there is a balance to be achieved. If it is not carefully controlled, tourism can be a great polluter. There may well be houses which fulfil the criteria of the fund and receive moneys yet which can offer only limited access because of the fear that the property may deteriorate or because the owner of the house cannot police any greater public access in the way that he feels necessary.

Incidentally, just before the debate started my noble friend Lord Avebury tapped me on the shoulder to relate a dismaying experience that he had yesterday in Berkshire when on an English Heritage sponsored walk. He came across some Saxon burial mounds, and much to my alarm, being a motorcyclist, he found a number of young motorcyclists riding over them. He raised the serious point that a lot of damage is being done to this country's heritage sites because we are not able to protect them not only against motorcyclists—I have never ridden over a Saxon burial mound and nor do I intend to; indeed, I do not even intend to go off the road—but against damage caused in other ways. Undoubtedly, it is important to ensure that those places which are not obviously regarded as part of our heritage, such as Saxon burial mounds, are properly protected against such unthinking vandalism.

I refer now to the excellent maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Luke. The noble Lord was right to refer to the importance of making museums accessible to children. I am still in the position of having a young child and I know that in the London area the museums for children are unbelievable. The Science Museum, the Natural History Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the museum at Hendon and the Victoria and Albert Museum all present what they have to offer in such a way as to make it fascinating to children. That is a great relief to me. Nowadays, all parents have to avoid the dreaded video. I do not represent my party when I say more than that, it is important to get children away from condescending and politically correct children's broadcasts. To get them into museums will bring them great benefits in later life. I agree with the noble Lord that any help to get children into museums and provide them with special conditions of access is desirable. I congratulate the noble Lord on the totality of his speech. I should also like to pursue with him the effects of the decapitation of King Charles I and whether that is the reason why we enjoy the relatively smooth democracy that we have today. It is probably more important than that, but I am only self-educated. I look forward to talking to an historian about these matters.

I am particularly interested in the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, to pay special attention to town centres. In this country, town centres, particularly cathedral cities, have not been particularly well handled in terms of preservation. I think of my own part of the world, the county of Devon, and Exeter in particular. That is one of the oldest cities in the kingdom. That has been handled with scant respect for its heritage. Perhaps there is a particular reason why our cities are not as well preserved as those of other countries in Europe. Recently, I was in a town on Lake Bracciano, to the north of Rome, which looked much as it did before the discovery of America by Columbus. It may be that in Britain the mercantile and industrial period and clearing of the decks to prepare for a new era, which has resulted in the destruction of a good deal of the medieval fabric of our towns, has not had the same effect in those countries.

On Saturday a rather condescending or flippant remark appeared in the Financial Times. By and large, it supported the new measures in the Bill. It suggested that the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, and his fund would seek in some way to prettify (to use a horrible word) or gentrify dilapidated town centres in Britain. I am sure that that is the complete opposite of what he shall be doing. I do not believe that with the formidable array of talent at his disposal he will be disposed to create any kind of theme park image in the towns which he intends to improve. Certainly, there is a good deal to be done in the towns. The ability to give private owners money from the lottery under the provisions of the Bill will make it all the easier for improvements to be made to town centres where hitherto there have been difficulties because of the inability to make such funds available.

I look forward very much to the passing of this Bill without delay. I hope that there will be no carping or cynicism about the use of lottery funds for these purposes at this early stage. Thus far, it has been handled in an excellent way. There are one or two small matters. The suggestion in the Bill that employees should have terms and remuneration entirely at the whim of the fund requires clarification. There is probably a reason why terms of employment have been framed in such a loose way in the Bill. It may be that the noble Baroness will amplify that, although I am not hopeful. Perhaps at a later stage she will let me know the position.

It is an excellent Bill. We have had an excellent debate which is difficult to sum up. All of the views have been interesting. I am sure that any contributions in the other place will be preceded by careful scrutiny of today's Hansard.

5.35 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, we have had an excellent debate. It is always a privilege to be present when your Lordships discuss matters to do with the heritage, for the subject is one on which noble Lords invariably speak with expert knowledge and deep commitment. I am delighted by the cross-party welcome for this Bill. It is a real pleasure for me to add my congratulations to those of other noble Lords on the truly elegant maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Luke. I am devastated that I do not feature as one of his ancient Muses.

As my noble friend Lord Inglewood indicates, the Bill extends the funding powers of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, principally with the aim of widening its role as a distributor of lottery proceeds. I remind your Lordships that we propose changes to the powers of the NHMF in two main respects. The first is an extension of the NHMF's funding remit to embrace a much broader range of heritage projects than is currently possible. The Government want to give people the opportunity to experience the heritage at first hand. We want everyone, especially the young, to have the chance to learn, not just what the heritage can tell us about our history, but what it signifies for our present and future. It is not enough simply to preserve historic buildings, works of art and artefacts. We need to ensure that they have meaning for us and that they come alive.

I particularly welcome the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, relating to private houses. I wrote my speech in my stately Battersea flat long before I was aware of what the noble Lord would say. I wonder whether other noble Lords have shared my experience in visiting castles and houses abroad. Of course, those buildings are among the outstanding achievements of European architecture and are a privilege to visit. Yet, I hope that no one will take it amiss if I say that many of them seem somehow lifeless, simply because they are not lived in. They demonstrate that the heritage is not just a matter of architectural or artistic accomplishment. The past means most to us when it is brought to life and speaks to us. It is therefore of the greatest importance that resources should be available not only for preserving the heritage but also for interpreting it and making it more accessible and enjoyable. It is with this end in view that we propose the extension of the remit of NHMF.

The second change that we propose involves the establishment of an entirely new approach to eligibility for NHMF funding. No longer will eligibility depend on who the applicant happens to be. Instead, the test will be whether the applicant's project is of demonstrable importance to the national heritage and whether it is of clear public benefit. The public benefit test will normally require that the public is guaranteed appropriate access to the particular heritage item with which the project is concerned. The effect of this change will be to allow the terms of reference of the NHMF to embrace the whole national heritage. It will enable priorities for lottery funding to be framed solely on the basis of heritage need and public benefit irrespective of ownership. It will ensure that no worthwhile grant application need be rejected just because of technical difficulties over eligibility.

The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, and my noble friend Lord Beloff raised the question of the Victoria County History. I am aware of the concern about that matter. There is doubt about the project's eligibility for public funding now, but it is our plan that it should fall within the eligibility of the NHMF once the Bill has become law. I believe that it would be wiser for me to look into the matter and write to both noble Lords on the subject. The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, also spoke about the funding of the British Museum being cut by £6 million since 1991–92. The noble Lord will be aware that the Government continue to support our great museums and galleries at a very substantial level. The figure for 1996–97 is £213 million, excluding the Royal Armouries. But, like all other recipients of public funds, they cannot be exempt from the need for reductions in the overall level of all public expenditure.

I understand that the British Museum trustees are currently considering a report suggesting various ways in which resources available to them in future years should be arranged to meet the museum's needs. I am sure that they are right to do so, but I cannot of course pre-empt at this time decisions about the museum's future level of government funding which are properly a matter for the Budget decisions to be announced in due course by my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, my noble friend Lord Renton, the noble Lord, Lord Hindlip, my noble friend Lord Cavendish, the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, and other noble Lords all raised that ghastly word "additionality". Various explanations are given of what the policy "the additionality of lottery funds" means. That should be clarified. Perhaps I may try. The Government have always made it clear that money raised by the lottery for good causes was and is intended to be additional to public expenditure. The Government will not reduce public spending programmes to take account of awards from the lottery. That commitment cannot, however, mean that the Government should set aside the issue of what they can afford to spend on any programme which benefits from lottery funds compared to any other public expenditure programme. The opposite view would be to give an automatic protection to lottery-supported programmes which was not available to others. Such a result would be absurd.

In consequence, where the public expenditure programme is increased or decreased, that, in itself, does not prevent, for example, the use of lottery funds to secure projects or programmes beyond the scope of foreseeable affordability but similar to those hitherto financed by public expenditure, or adding lottery funds to the level of affordable public expenditure in any particular area. That approach is not a breach of the principle but a sensible means of ensuring that, with the public funds available, of which the lottery is a part, the real objectives for support for the heritage, the arts, sport and charities are met.

The funding allocation for English Heritage for 1996–97 represented a reduction of 2.5 per cent. in previously planned provision. However, it must be remembered that the total grant to English Heritage increased by 64 per cent. between 1988–89 and 1995–96 (£65.9 million to £108.3 million), including provision for some special projects. As I said before, like all public spending programmes, that is under review and I cannot anticipate decisions which the Chancellor will announce in the Budget later this month.

The noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, and the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, asked about administrative arrangements for the future. It will of course be for the NHMF to determine the detailed arrangements that best meet the requirements of the legislation. Those will of course give full weight to public access, means testing, monitoring and clawback of grant.

Public access or display will normally be key issues in the consideration of a public benefit in any project being considered for funding. The NHMF already imposes a public access consideration on all grants where that is appropriate. The appropriate degree of access is judged in relation to individual cases. The NHMF also continues to monitor projects after all payments have been made. In the event of failure to comply with a public access requirement, or, indeed, any other conditions attached to a grant, the NHMF would, if appropriate, require repayment of the grant. The NHMF accepts that, if grants are given to private owners of heritage assets, whether land, building or objects, the safeguards will need to be even more stringent. The NHMF will apply its grant conditions rigorously, including the requirement for public access. The NHMF accepts that means testing will be necessary for private applicants.

English Heritage has of course had long experience of means testing, access requirements, clawback of grant, and so forth in respect of its own grant scheme. I understand—the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, might be interested—that, for example, during the year 1995–96 there were some 20 cases in which English Heritage had occasion to recover grant previously paid, involving the sum of £83,000. Not bad!

The noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, kindly gave me notice of one of his questions. I do not think that any of us knew the answer to it, so I shall most certainly write to him. I am afraid that my noble friend Lord Crathorne is under a misapprehension: the provision in Clause 2 which he has in mind is concerned only with the allowances payable to the trustees. That could cover, for example, payment for trustees in respect of their attendance at meetings, but it would not cover substantive remuneration for their work as trustees.

The noble Lord, Lord Charteris, to whom I pay tribute for all his work on behalf of the NHMF, commented on the reduced funding of the original Heritage Memorial Fund. The Government are very much aware of the view that there is a continued role for the memorial fund independently of the lottery. The NHMF has put to the Government its case for a restoration of grant-in-aid for the memorial fund. The Government will consider that carefully in assessing priorities during the current PES round.

The noble Lord, Lord Cobbold, asked whether the Bill would duplicate consideration given to applications from private owners currently considered by English Heritage. I agree with him that, wherever possible, duplication in bureaucratic procedures should be avoided. I am sure that the NHMF will want to make full use of the expertise already available in English Heritage, as indeed it already does in respect of applications covering the built heritage.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi—I am most grateful to him for giving me advance warning—asked whether English Heritage Section 3 grants would continue and whether the NHMF would be able to fund grants for once-in-a-lifetime repairs. English Heritage will certainly be able to continue to offer its full present range of grants alongside the awards which it will be possible for the NHMF to offer. Detailed decisions will of course continue to be for English Heritage itself to take in the light of its assessment of overall priorities for the use of the funds it has available for the repair and conservation of the built heritage in England. Likewise, I envisage that the NHMF will be able to make grants to private owners for once-in-a-lifetime repairs following the Bill's passage. Of course it will be for the NHMF trustees to consider individual applications on their merits. I expect that they will want to take advice from English Heritage and other statutory bodies in doing so.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, also asked whether grants would be available for parks. Perhaps I may remind him and the House of the broad scope of the NHMF's funding powers as they will stand after the Bill is enacted. The funding powers will apply to items of any kind which are of scenic, historic, archaeological, aesthetic, architectural, artistic or scientific interest. Therefore, parks will be included within that remit. Indeed, lottery grants have already been made for the benefit of some outstanding parks; for example, the purchase and restoration of Croome Park in Worcestershire.

My noble friend Lord Renton asked about treasure trove, which is a subject dear to both our hearts. As he knows, the Government are committed to bringing forward a code of practice in relation to treasure trove and to consulting on that before bringing the Treasure Act into force. We hope to be able to issue the code in draft to interested bodies within the next few months. I therefore anticipate that we should be able to bring the Act into force in the course of next year.

I can assure my noble friend Lord Hindlip that the Government will continue to offer help to private owners, as they do at present, through a range of schemes such as the acceptance-in-lieu scheme. I was most upset to have missed the exhibition of Houghton treasures at the Norwich Castle Museum, which I understand is a wonderful exhibition on a very interesting topic. However, it is not often that we have a vote on the Loyal Address, which prevented me from being there.

The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, asked whether the NHMF was prepared to consider revenue or endowment funding to help with the running costs involved in heritage projects, about committing lottery money on a continuing basis and about substitution for core funding. There may be cases in which time limited revenue funding is appropriate, particularly as part of a specific capital project.

I have answers to several more questions but time is passing. Perhaps I may write to my noble friends Lady Rawlings and Lord Cavendish and to the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. I apologise for not answering them now but I wish to wind up the debate.

I remind my noble friend Lord Renton that it has been said, "It is better to plan for the future rather than the present because there is so much more of it". I am confident that this short Bill will be welcomed by everyone who cares about our national heritage. It will build on the outstanding success of the National Lottery as a source of support for the heritage. It will open the door to lottery funding for a whole range of exciting new projects; projects to kindle the interest of young people in the heritage and to make the past more accessible, more understandable and—dare I say it?—more fun. I therefore invite your Lordships to agree that the Bill be read a second time.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

5.54 p.m.