HL Deb 21 November 1996 vol 575 cc1352-80

3.33 p.m.

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

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Inglewood.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


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

Lord Howie of Troon moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 10, after ("architectural.") insert ("engineering,").

The noble Lord said: I must apologise for tabling this group of amendments but, as older Members of the Committee will know, I have raised this matter from time to time, at least since the copyright Bill in 1988. I had thought that I had clawed my way at least partly up the north face of the Eiger when a year or two ago amendments such as mine were accepted on the British Waterways Bill. I should say at this point that I speak to Amendments Nos. 1, 3, 9, 10 and 11. Amendments Nos. 1, 9, 10 and 11 are virtually the same; Amendment No. 3 is slightly different and I shall come to it later.

As I said, I thought that I had achieved something when the British Waterways legislation accepted my approach to this matter, and I was even more heartened when last year in the Environment Bill the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, accepted Amendment No. 1. I assumed that that ended the long saga and that I should not be required to return to it again. The phraseology used in the Environment Act 1995 asks the Environment Agency: to have regard to the desirability of protecting and conserving buildings, sites and objects of archaeological, architectural, engineering or historic interest".

The noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, accepted in February last year the word "engineering" and surprisingly it is left out of this National Heritage Bill, which merely mentions having regard to matters: which are of scenic, historic, archaeological, aesthetic, architectural, artistic or scientific interest, including [this, that and the other]".

The question that arises in my mind is why engineering was brought into the Environment Act but was left out in this Bill. I should have thought that exactly the same considerations that applied in the Environment Act would apply in the National Heritage Bill. It all hinges on the attitude that people have to engineering and especially to the word "engineering", which seems to be very difficult to get into Acts of Parliament either in this House or the other place.

I refer very briefly to what the noble Viscount, Lord Ullswater, said last year when dealing with the Environment Bill. He said that the noble Lord—that is me— spoke about these amendments in respect of engineering structures so eloquently at Committee stage that both I and my noble friend Lord Lindsay agreed to consider the issue further".—[Official Report, 2/3/95; col. 1663]

He then tabled amendments to the Bill (which are now included in the Act) of which he said that: objects of engineering interest are treated in the same way as those of archaeological, architectural or historic interest".

He went on to say: We were persuaded at Committee stage that the issues raised by the noble Lord were valid concerns and therefore we propose that the word 'engineering' should be included in Clause 7".

What was good enough for Clause 7 of the Environment Act in March 1995 should at least be good enough for the National Heritage Bill in 1996. I know that a year is a long time in politics but it does not mean that changes of such a vast nature should take place in that time. A happy conclusion was reached, and obviously I was pleased about it. Therefore, I tabled these amendments and informed the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, that I intended to do so. I gave an explanation of why I was pursuing this rather tedious task—tedious to others, that is. I received a reply in a very courteous and lengthy letter, which unfortunately I did not find terribly satisfactory, though I am not trying to be churlish.

In his reply the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, said that the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund were to look at things of, scenic, historic, archaeological, aesthetic, architectural, artistic or scientific interest".

That is correct. He was quoting from the Bill. He went on to say that that was sufficient to encompass objects of interest in respect of the history of engineering. The next part is the part that caught my fancy: Given that the list of adjectives specified in the provision is already rather long, I would be reluctant to add another one when there is no substantive need to do so".

I should have thought that adding another word to the Bill, even in four different places, does not lengthen the Bill unduly. It does not make an immense Bill. It is only one word longer, but four times. That is not a powerful argument and I imagine that the man who dredged that one up was at his wit's end. The Minister went on to say that the provisions of the Environment Act 1995, which I mentioned earlier, were not relevant as a precedent, since those provisions, unlike the current Bill, made no reference to scientific interest".

Incidentally, the Environment Act made no reference to an aesthetic interest either. The Minister dealt with that by merely adding the word "aesthetic" to the definition in the Bill; he could easily have added scientific in exactly the same way and we would all have been happy.

What we are dealing with is a substantial misunderstanding of science and engineering. Engineering is not science. Engineering uses science in order to make things. We had a debate a week or so ago in which my noble friend Lord Diamond went on at some length about the value of the classics, especially Latin, as an educational matter. I know very little Latin and even less Greek. I am sure that Whitehall knows all about it. But I remind the Minister of this.

The word "science" derives from a Latin word meaning "knowledge". It does not mean anything other than that. It means knowledge, and science is a body of knowledge. The word "engineering" derives from a quite different Latin word meaning "ingenious". The difference is that the scientist is involved in the pursuit of knowledge which others then use for some purpose. In the case of the engineer or the architect, that purpose is to make things. They are not interested in knowledge by itself; they apply knowledge to make things. The things an engineer makes in this case are bridges, roads, buildings and so forth. That misunderstanding is rife in Whitehall and should be rectified. I hope that that paragraph of my speech is distributed throughout Whitehall for the information of civil servants who are unaware of these matters.

What is at the back of this amendment to add a single word two or three times into the Bill? It is a simple matter of identifying engineering as a professional discipline of no less status or importance than architecture. "Architectural interest" is used in the Bill as though there were certain architectural qualities which were distinct from the other qualities—historic, aesthetic and so forth. It is assumed that the engineering qualities are subsumed in those other qualities and that, although there are architectural qualities which are distinct, there are no engineering qualities which are distinct. That is wholly wrong and shows a complete misunderstanding of what engineering is about.

I could give the Committee many examples but I am sure that they would not be welcome. I want the Committee to compare two well-known buildings which are quite close to each other. The first is St. Paul's Cathedral and the other is Tower Bridge. St. Paul's Cathedral is noted for its historical connections. It is noted for its aesthetic values and it is especially noted for its architectural qualities—though I have some doubts about that. The dome is not really a dome at all; it is a false dome. It looks like a dome but it is not a dome. But I shall not go into that. The architectural qualities of St. Paul's Cathedral are lauded everywhere.

Let me now turn to Tower Bridge. Nobody in this Chamber or elsewhere could claim that Tower Bridge has any aesthetic qualities whatever. It is a monstrosity. Every man of sensitivity realises that that is so. The only people who do not think it is a monstrosity are those who do not look at it. It is also architecturally unsound, for this reason. If we look at the quasi-Gothic towers at each side of the lifting spans, it might be imagined, if one were naive and young and not up to the mark on these matters, that they were solid structures supporting the bridge. They are not. They are mere cladding. They are supported on brackets off the main steel structure of the bridge. The reason that we quite properly nurture and preserve Tower Bridge is not for its quasi-architectural qualities, should we be misled into believing that it had any; it is because it is a bascule-bridge. We preserve it because of its engineering characteristics. That is what makes it important; not the fake cladding around it.

I can give the Committee another example. Let us consider St. Pancras Station, which we are likely to debate later today in another Bill. There are two parts to the station. First, there is the front, which is a marvellous Victorian Gothic structure by Gilbert Scott; secondly, there is the train shed, which is a wonderful engineering structure by William Burrell. We would keep the hotel, as it has been and may be again one day, for its architectural qualities and we would keep the train shed for its engineering qualities—not the architectural qualities, because it does not have any. Those are the distinctions I am trying to make. I could take other examples; for instance, the canals.

Noble Lords


Lord Howie of Troon

No, I shall continue. We have been concerned with this since 1988; we can spare another five minutes, another 10 minutes if I am provoked. Do not provoke me. We preserve canals all over the place and there is no architecture in them; they are engineering from beginning to end. And so the list continues.

Amendment No. 1 is designed to obtain parity of status and esteem between architectural and engineering qualities stated in the Bill rather than being left to be covered by other parts of the Bill.

Let me turn briefly to Amendment No. 3. The amendment seeks to add "or structures" to "buildings" on page 2, line 4 of the Bill. The Institution of Structural Engineers is a body of people who actually know about such things. They describe their profession as designing and making buildings, bridges, frameworks and other structures. They distinguish between buildings, bridges and other structures. They see a structure as something in itself. It is quite right to do so. Buildings are really a subset of structures rather than the other way about, as people sometimes seem to think.

I wish to turn to the Bill. I find one point curious. There may be a reason for it and I have no doubt that the Minister will be able to explain what the reason is, if there is one. In the schedule, "buildings" and "structures" are differentiated. They are separated out in the schedule but not in the main part of the Bill. I am merely saying that if "buildings" and "structures" are distinguished, as they ought to be, in the schedule, they should be distinguished also in the main part of the Bill.

I regret having to detain the Committee at some length on this matter. However, after our adventures on the Environment Bill which settled a point which caused me and my professional colleagues of good deal of bother over the years, I do not think the Government will step back instead of stepping forward. I beg to move.

Lord Monkswell

I rise briefly to support my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon. The Government are faced with a problem of logic. We are talking about a National Heritage Bill. Heritage is that which is inherited—something from the past. In new Section 3(1) the Government have seen fit to list, scenic, historic, archaeological, aesthetic, architectural, artistic or scientific interest". Surely it is not necessary to have that list of characteristics when the subsection contains the word "historic". Surely "historic" is all that is needed. As soon as one starts producing a list, as the Government have done here, things are almost inevitably left out. It is very unfortunate that "engineering" has been left out in this case because it suggests that the Government, or whoever has drafted the Bill, are thinking in terms of the superficial appearance of things rather than the reality of the ingenuous mechanisms and structures that are behind the façade, as my noble friend has so succinctly demonstrated.

That takes care of the Government's position regarding Amendment No. 1. As I see it, they can either accept my noble friend's amendment or take out the other different characteristics apart from "historic" listed in the subsection. However, it does not resolve the Government's problem with regard to Amendment No. 3. As my noble friend pointed out, there is a problem in that in one part of the Bill "structures" are included while in another part of the Bill they are not included. Following the contributions from this side of the Committee I hope that the Government will take steps to resolve the problems which we have pointed out. In particular, I hope that this short debate will give the Government the opportunity to demonstrate that they have some regard for engineering structures, the engineering profession and the contribution engineers have made to the heritage we currently enjoy.

Viscount Caldecote

I would not want to follow the noble Lord, Lord Howie, in his views on the looks of Tower Bridge, but I would like to make two points on the amendment. First, there is a distinction between the preservation and the interest of engineering things and scientific things. Perhaps I may give the Committee one example. The Iron Bridge Museum, about which many Members of the Committee will know, has a splendid example of an engineering structure in its bridge and also, in the other parts of the museum, of the engineering developments of the Industrial Revolution. It is a fine example of preserving items of engineering interest. On the other hand, the electron microscope has made an enormous difference in the scientific world. If there is a place where the original electron microscope is preserved—I hope there is—that is a great scientific project whose preservation should be celebrated. There should be some way of funding such a preservation. Those two things are entirely different, although in the Bill as drafted we say that we shall preserve things of scientific interest but not of engineering interest.

Secondly, next year is the Year of Engineering Success and we shall celebrate the great importance of engineering, its success and its contribution to our society today. If we are to celebrate the present and the future contribution of engineering to our society, should we not also equally preserve the engineering achievements of the past? To do one without the other seems most illogical. The argument that one cannot put one more word into a Bill of this kind in order to make it a better Bill is not a strong argument at all. I very much hope that my noble friend will accept the noble Lord's amendment to include the word "engineering".

Lord Inglewood

If there was ever any doubt that your Lordships' House was not interested in and concerned about engineering, this debate has put paid to it. The noble Lord, Lord Howie, explained fully that his intention in proposing this group of amendments is to ensure that engineering is treated as an aspect of the heritage in its own right and not simply as an adjunct to history, archaeology, architecture or science. The noble Lord has of course played a distinguished role in the world of engineering and I fully understand his reasons for raising this issue. Indeed, he is a very well-known champion of the profession. I hope that I can give him an assurance that the Bill as drafted will fully meet his concerns. We shall consider very carefully the points that have been raised in the debate because the last thing we want to do is to have a Bill on the statute book that does not properly cover engineering matters.

The Bill inserts into the National Heritage Act 1980 a new provision to define the scope of the funding powers of the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. Under the terms of that provision the trustees' powers will be exercisable in the case of things of any kind which are of scenic, historic, archaeological, aesthetic, architectural, artistic or scientific interest. The legal advice we have been given is quite clear that the provision as it stands—and in particular the reference to things of historic, aesthetic, architectural or scientific interest—is quite sufficient to encompass objects of interest in relation to engineering and its history. The noble Lord referred to the Government's acceptance of his proposal that relevant provisions of the Environment Act 1995 should refer specifically to the concept of engineering interest. I do not believe that is directly relevant to this Bill. The list in new Section 3(1) of the Bill is already wider than the definitions in the Environment Act and I am quite clear that the list fully encompasses anything which can be said to be part of our heritage.

Given that the list of heritage "interests", if I may call them that, specified in the Bill is rather long, I am reluctant to add another one when there is no substantive need to do so. If the Bill were to include a specific reference to engineering—this point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell—then an equally valid case could be made on behalf of a whole range of other specialisms; for example, medical, bibliographical, horticultural and so on.

The problem is then that if the list is extended in that way it is not that it simply becomes inherently unwieldy, but the fact that something omitted may in turn become the source of misunderstanding and concern. Neither do we favour the insertion of the word "structures", as proposed in Amendment No. 2. The projects for which the trustees will be empowered to give financial assistance include, among other things—and I emphasise that—the construction or conversion of buildings and the carrying out of other works. Moreover, the provision makes it clear that the projects specified are not themselves an exclusive list.

Again, we are fully satisfied that a project involving the repair of an engineering structure would be eligible for assistance. We are concerned that if this amendment is added to the Bill—and we consider it to be unnecessary—it could then trigger a whole cascade of amendments to add to what is already clearly an illustrative list.

In saying that I am not overlooking the current Section 3 of the National Heritage Act, which includes the phrase, "land, building or structure". But the new Section 3 inserted by the Bill formulates the National Heritage Memorial Fund's powers in an entirely different way and does not require the retention of that phrase.

In the context of this debate it may be helpful to Members of the Committee to draw attention to the existing power of the Secretary of State to list buildings of special architectural or historic interest. The terms of this provision enable engineering structures, for example, Tower Bridge, to be listed albeit that I know the noble Lord, Lord Howie, has made it quite clear that he believes it to be a monstrosity. Nevertheless, in terms of the subject that we are debating that makes the case for me.

One thing that I would like to emphasise is that I hope that no noble Lord will believe that anything I have said in response to the helpful contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Howie, indicates that the Government or the National Heritage Memorial Fund trustees underestimate the importance of our engineering heritage. After all, a number of lottery awards have already been offered for projects relating to engineering history, including one with which the noble Lord has himself been much involved. I can give an absolutely clear assurance that the trustees will continue to have power under the terms of the Bill to assist such projects.

I hope that the remarks that I have addressed to the Committee convince the noble Lord to agree with me that his amendments are unnecessary in the context of this particular Bill and that his proper concerns are met four-square. Perhaps, in a slightly perverse way, they may turn out to be unhelpful. I am reluctant to move in the direction that the noble Lord has suggested, but I can give an undertaking that we shall look very carefully at what has been said this afternoon with a view to double-checking our interpretation of the words in order to make quite sure that we are satisfied that the very important points that the noble Lord made are properly covered. Against that background I very much hope that he will not want to press his amendment this afternoon.

4 p.m.

Lord Monkswell

I am very glad to hear what the Minister has said because it sounds as though the Government are listening and are respectful of our position. Perhaps I may pose him a problem. I was going to use the example of Tower Bridge, but perhaps that has been flogged to death already this afternoon. Perhaps I may put forward an alternative scenario; namely, a windmill in East Anglia. There are two ways of looking at an old windmill: one is that it is a beautiful, aesthetic structure although when they were built they were not considered to be so. But many people think of them in that way now. It might be felt that one of these windmills should be preserved for that reason.

There is another dimension and that is the engineering within the windmill, including the ingenious mechanisms contained in their manufacture, which is so important to our heritage. We could have a situation where the internal mechanics were stripped out of a heritage facility and just the façade left. That would be a great concern. I hope that the Minister will recognise that, given the current wording of the Bill, that is the sort of risk that those of us who know about these ingenious engineering aspects of our heritage will be concerned about. The Minister may be able to give me some reassurance and I would welcome that, but I wonder whether he can.

Lord Inglewood

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell. I am no engineer which, I fear, is painfully obvious. But I am a lawyer and I hope that it may be in order to reiterate my earlier remarks that we would like to look very carefully at what has been said. One thing that I am clear about is that, in terms of the substance of the matter we are concerned with, there is no difference between any of the speakers. Perhaps I may write to those who have contributed to the debate. We shall look at it all again with a view to bringing forward any refinements if they seem necessary to us at a further stage of the proceedings on this Bill.

Lord Howie of Troon

I felt that I was possibly doomed when the Minister said that my contribution had been helpful. That is a word I have heard before. Indeed, I could have recited the Minister's speech because I have heard it six or seven times previously in the past eight or so years. We could have exchanged Hansard across the Floor of the House and saved a great deal of time.

I accept that, as the Minister says, what I want can be done under the Bill as it stands because it has been done in the past. He drew attention to a project with which I have been concerned; namely, the preservation of the oldest surviving railway bridge in the world over the River Irvine on the Kilmarnock to Troon railway, which was built in 1812. The trust of which I was chairman has restored that bridge. It was opened a fortnight ago. It is a marvellous construction. Perhaps I may say that we were greatly helped by the heritage fund, which gave us about half of the £1 million we required to restore the bridge. Therefore, we know that these things can be done under the existing legislation, but that is not really my point. That bridge was repaired because it was an historic monument of some sort. There was a railway bridge which was an engineering monument and not an historic one. That is my point.

Perhaps I may express my gratitude to the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote, who is a very distinguished engineer whom I have known for many years. I found his contribution extremely helpful although he seems to have a blind spot as regards Tower Bridge, but that is another matter. Clause 1 of the Bill refers to things which are of scenic, historic, archaeological, aesthetic, architectural, artistic or scientific interest". We find that there is only one profession involved there which is distinguished as having special qualities and that is architecture. I have no animus against architecture at all: in fact this evening I am going to the award ceremony which is being held at the RIBA. I have not had to pay so I am going.

The point I am trying to make is this: what are the specific architectural qualities which are different from these other factors? That was the point made by my noble friend Lord Monkswell. What are the specific qualities which are architectural and which relate to one specific profession and are so significant that they have to be included in the Bill whereas there appear to be no distinct qualities of an engineering nature which are worthy of inclusion? I believe that there are such factors. I agree that there are architectural qualities, but there are also engineering ones which are different.

I have no doubt that the Minister will go off and think about it and then write me a letter which I could probably draft myself at this moment. I would like to come to see him to discuss this issue with his colleagues. The noble Lord seems to be engrossed in conversation at the moment and quite rightly, of course, because there is something extremely important going on there. I would like to come and see the Minister and discuss—

Baroness Trumpington

My noble friend was not talking at all; I was talking to the Deputy Chairman of Committees. My noble friend the Minister said that he will take back the whole question. I was wondering whether the noble Lord was dissatisfied with what he said.

Lord Howie of Troon

Nothing on earth would make me dissatisfied with anything that the noble Baroness might say, as she knows from our many years' acquaintance across the Floor of your Lordships' House. Although I thought that a most unhelpful intervention, perhaps I should leave that to one side.

I am talking about the difference between architecture and engineering. I hope that the Minister will agree to see me to discuss the matter over a cup of tea or, even better, over a Lagavulin.

I turn now to Amendment No. 3, which seeks to add the words "or structures". I see that the Minister is at it again and I find it very distracting. However, the question that arises is why "buildings" and "structures" are quite properly referred to separately in the schedule to the Bill but are not separated on page 2 of the Bill which refers merely to "buildings". There must be some reason for stating "building or structure" in one part of the Bill but only "buildings" in another. There may be a good reason for that, but I should like to hear what it is. Perhaps the Minister will write to me about that important matter. In the meantime, however, and giving the noble Lord the assurance that I shall return to the matter at a later stage—and no doubt until the Millennium—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Strabolgi moved Amendment No. 2: Page 1, line 27, at end insert ("including financial assistance to prevent the imposition of admission charges at the British Museum and other national museums and galleries").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this amendment, which stands also in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, is to allow lottery funds, through the NHMF, to be used for financial assistance to prevent the imposition of admission charges at the British Museum and our other museums and galleries when they get into financial difficulties. The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, has asked me to say that he is prevented from attending your Lordships' Committee today and that he sends his apologies. I know that the noble Lord feels as strongly as I do about the difficult situation facing our museums and galleries following the recent financial cuts. The British Museum, for example, is faced with cuts in its grant amounting to 24 per cent. in real terms by the year 2000. The trustees are having to consider several options—none of them very desirable, such as the introduction of a £5 admission charge, cutting the workforce by a third or closing the museum for one day a week.

I feel that I have been through all this before. I remember in 1970 when there was the great controversy about admission charges that I played some part in the debates in your Lordships' House and outside. The Government had great difficulty in getting the measure through due to public opinion. However, they did so eventually, by the end of 1973. Charges were introduced for a very short period because in 1974, when the new Labour Government, of whom I was a member, came into office, my noble friend Lord Jenkins introduced a Bill to repeal the original Act. That was one of the first acts of the new Labour Government. I am glad to see my noble friend in his place today. Then, in the 1980s, the new Conservative Government reversed that—rather cunningly, I think—by allowing the trustees themselves to make the decision. The beauty of that, from the Government's point of view, was that they need take absolutely no responsibility at all, although the trustees were often driven to bring in admission charges if they got into financial difficulties because of the cuts.

The British Museum has always resisted an admission charge, as have the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery—and rightly so. However, other museums which have introduced charges have seen a sharp reduction in their number of visitors, sometimes amounting to as much as 50 per cent., and it is difficult to win many of them back. Is that any wonder? Even with children being admitted at half price, a family of two parents and two children would have to pay £15 on top of their fares and the cost of a meal. That is an expensive outing which is surely beyond the reach of many people. A high admission charge is also a hindrance for those specialists and others who may want to visit a museum for only a short time to see a special section. An admission charge is also a betrayal of those many people who have made bequests on the understanding that admission would be free.

I realise that the British Museum is to receive a grant of £30 million of lottery money to develop the Great Court following the British Library's move to St. Pancras. That will be an exciting and tremendously important project, judging by the plans and the architects' models that I have seen. However, we shall have the absurd situation of the museum not having sufficient resources to staff its galleries and research departments adequately.

The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and I therefore tabled the amendment to enable lottery funds to be used not only for new developments such as the Bill allows but also to enable the British Museum, our greatest museum—indeed, the greatest museum in the world—to remain free at entry as it has always been (except for a brief period during the time of the government of Sir Edward Heath) since its foundation in 1753. I beg to move.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I should like to add a word or two in support of what my noble friend Lord Strabolgi has just said. His amendment is desirable. Perhaps I may refer to a previous occasion when the government of the time—or, at any rate, the opposition of the time—accepted what the new Labour Government had proposed. That was in 1974 when, as my noble friend Lord Strabolgi has just said, charges had recently been introduced but were not altogether welcome.

When I came into office as Minister for the Arts in 1974, it was part of my remit to get rid of museum admission charges. That commitment had appeared in our manifesto. I remember Mr. Harold Wilson saying that it would probably be a fairly long job as fresh legislation would be necessary. However, after a study of the matter, in which I was considerably assisted by my civil servants, I discovered that the introduction of museum charges had never been part of any Act of Parliament. All that the Government had passed in the 1972 Act was a measure which enabled museums to impose charges if they so chose. Therefore, the idea that legislation would be needed if we were to get rid of the charges was untrue.

That was most important because, having only recently been appointed, about a week later I was able to come to the Chamber on 22nd March 1974 to say that only a week later, on 29th March, all the charges would be removed. One might say that that was done administratively because we got the leaders of the museums and galleries together and we all agreed that they did not want to charge and that where they already had charges, they would like to remove them. We agreed on a date a week ahead, 29th March, and all that we then had to do was to come to the House and announce that after 29th March there would be no admission charges. So, within a fortnight of being appointed and five days from the moment of my first measure in the House, I was able to get rid of the charges immediately.

I make that point because admission charges are not popular. However, that does not exclude our great institutions from being able to charge for special exhibitions. It is perfectly possible for the British Museum and other museums to make special charges for special exhibitions. Across the parties it is widely thought to be right that the standard exhibitions at our great institutions should be free of charge. They are part of the heritage of this country and there should be no charge. The short experience of charging last time was that the number of entrants substantially reduced and it failed to provide a useful amount of money. If one imposed charges at a level that resulted in a serious contribution, it had the effect of reducing the number of entrants. It simply did not work.

I fully support what my noble friend has said. We have worked together for a long time. At the time in question my noble friend was spokesman in this House for me as Minister for the Arts in the other place. I believe that our long friendship has arisen from that. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, will be able to accept the amendment. It merely illustrates a possibility and refers to a particular use, which I believe to be a valuable use. If he accepts that possibility, he will merely be following a step taken by his predecessor Mr. St. John Stevas, as he was then. Having been the Minister before me who introduced the charges, he had no hesitation in deciding that it was wrong that they should continue. He agreed that they should be removed. I hope that the noble Lord will follow that example.

Lord Renton

I am sure that many noble Lords would regret it if more museums had to charge the public for admission. It becomes especially regrettable if parties of schoolchildren and their teachers have to pay. Either they or the schools might not have the necessary funds. For parties of schoolchildren, visits to museums can bring to life the teaching of history, archaeology, geology, biology and other subjects. Therefore, if museums find it difficult to pay their way without making charges, surely some way must be found to try to keep them open without having to charge for admission.

It appears that at present the National Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund cannot be used for the purpose of enabling museums to pay their way because of the principle of additionality. That principle prevents those funds being used in addition to government grants, if Government grants can be used. Sometimes government grants can and have been used to help museums to stay open. One must consider whether this Bill will help in any way. I should be grateful for my noble friend's interpretation of it, because I believe that it is only a matter of interpretation.

Under the present law only specific projects can be funded. If we look at the Bill closely, Clause 1(1) amends Section 3 of the National Heritage Act 1980. Under subsection (2) it is provided: The Trustees may, for the purpose of … (b) encouraging the study and understanding of them and the compilation and dissemination of information about them". The "them" refers to the matters dealt with in subsection (1) which go beyond projects. For example, matters of zoological or botanical interest are included. Reference is made to improving access to them. That looks like admission to the public. Reference is also made to display. That is what goes on in a museum. It also refers to "encouraging enjoyment of them". Museums can provide enjoyment as well as interest. It goes on to provide: or for any purpose ancillary to those purposes [the Trustees may] give financial assistance for any project"— that appears to be a word of limitation— which appears to them to be of public benefit". Alas, the word "project" does not appear to me to include the general cost of running a museum.

Let us look, perhaps a little more hopefully, at what is said over the page. One finds that a new subsection (5) is to give financial assistance, by way of grant or loan out of the Fund, and in giving such assistance the Trustees may impose any conditions they think fit". Those conditions are set out in subsection (6). They include "means of access or display". That looks like admission to the public and what the public are to be shown.

Finally, I refer your Lordships to subsection (7): In giving any financial assistance under this section for any project for the preservation or enhancement of anything, or determining the conditions on which such assistance is to be given, 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". All of that looks very helpful, but it is a matter of interpretation in the light of the existing law which prevents additionality. It must be borne in mind that interpretation, stretched as much as anyone dare, is sometimes not enough. If one wishes to alter the previous law, one must amend it specifically. For that reason, I shall be very interested to hear what my noble friend has to say about the effect of the Bill on what is proposed. I shall be interested in whether or not he believes that the amendment is necessary to achieve that purpose. If there is any doubt about it, I hope that the amendment, or something like it, will be accepted.

Viscount Astor

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, gave a clear description of the merits of not charging for admission to the British Museum. Of course, the British Museum is not the only museum that does not charge. The National Gallery does not charge for admission. I believe that this amendment is rather dangerous for galleries. It would allow the Government—in effect the Treasury—to escape from all the assurances that had been given about additionality.

My noble friend Lord Renton said that there was a law which prevented additionality. I do not think that there is. There is simply an undertaking by the Government. One must remember that the Government do not give away lottery money. The distributing bodies give it away.

I am against the amendment because, in effect, it says that if post-settlement the Government cut the money which goes to the British Museum, lottery money will make up the difference. That would not prevent the Treasury from making cuts. I believe that it would encourage it to make cuts, because under the proposed amendment it would know that a museum could go to the Arts Council or the National Heritage Memorial Fund and say that its budget had been cut, that it might have to charge and that in the Bill it was provided that it could get lottery money. It would be very dangerous. I understand the noble Lord's concerns about charging but I do not believe that this amendment in this Bill is the right way to deal with the problem.

4.30 p.m.

Lord Renton

I thank my noble friend. If, by a slip of the tongue, I referred to the law of additionality, I was wrong; it is the principle of additionality. But it is a governing principle because it is something which the Government decided upon before giving away any money.

Lord Donoughue

I fear that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, described the reality of the current situation in this area, which is that cuts are made by the Treasury regardless. If there is any suggestion that money may be obtained from the lottery, that is used as an excuse, but if that money is not available then the cuts are made in any event.

However, I should like to say a few words in support of my noble friends Lord Strabolgi and Lord Jenkins. On this side we feel that perhaps the most important current single issue in the area of heritage is the plight of our museums and especially the British Museum, which, as has been said, is the world's greatest of its kind. I am puzzled. I believe that it is bizarre and ludicrous for the British Museum to be forced to make a charge which will exclude many of our citizens, especially our younger citizens, from its treasures. In the case of the British Museum, that will be all for the lack of £6 million per year when on another hand we see that £0.5 billion or more of lottery and other public and private money is ready to be hosed over the toxic wastes of Greenwich yielding little of permanent value.

I know that those are two slightly separate issues, but in the end, it is part of the heritage problem that we have in our society and I find it quite incomprehensible. In responding to the amendment, I should like the Minister to inform us as to whether existing legislation enables support to be given for the purposes suggested by the amendment.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

I find this a very misconceived and astounding amendment. I am sure that politics come into this more than practical matters in relation to the future of museums. I can think of many reasons, as I am sure can other Members of the Committee, why lottery money should be made available to our national museums for new purchases, enhancement of collections and so on. But why should we wish to subsidise rich American and German tourists who visit the British Museum? I believe that 80 per cent. of visitors to the British Museum come from overseas and a recent survey pointed out that 80 per cent. of those were not only able but willing to pay an admission charge, as, indeed, is charged at the Louvre, the Hermitage, the Kunsthaus in Vienna, the Uffizi in Florence and so on. There are no criticisms there.

And then there is the allegation that attendances have fallen. But I believe that the number of visitors was never counted in the first place. There cannot be a reduction from a number which was unknown in the first place. The way in which counting takes place at the museums still leaves a lot to be desired.

I believe that lottery money should be used for capital projects, and that was the main reason that it was set up. But to pour millions down the drain of an ever gaping hole is no incentive for the trustees to establish any sensible policy. It is easy to make no charge for children and old-age pensioners. Many museums do that. That is not difficult.

I want lottery money to be used to improve what people come to see. If that is done, even more people will wish to pay to see the museums. Let us keep the money for that. So much can be done but to subsidise overseas visitors seems to me to be extremely silly.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I suggest to the noble Lord that he should speak to his noble friend Lord Gowrie, who will tell him that the notion that 80 per cent. of visitors to museums are foreigners is absolute nonsense.

Lord Inglewood

We have had a heartfelt and wide-ranging debate on this amendment. I am sure that the Committee will be aware that, under Clause I of the Bill, the trustees of the NHMF will be able to provide financial assistance for projects aimed at securing, displaying or improving access to heritage items and encouraging enjoyment of them. Thus the Bill allows the NHMF to consider assisting projects which would secure reduced admissions charges, which was the point made by my noble friend Lord Renton. I believe, therefore, that the Bill as drafted covers the purposes of the noble Lord's amendment. If the trustees of the NHMF receive an application and consider it appropriate, and if the policy directions permit, they would be able to provide financial assistance in this way.

It will be for the trustees to exercise their discretion as to how they should use their new powers. However, I would envisage that they might wish to give priority to projects which would encourage members of the public who might not easily be able to afford the cost of admission charges—for example the young, the elderly and the unemployed—to visit museums and other similar venues to enjoy them.

Thus I hope your Lordships will see that the noble Lord's amendment therefore adds nothing to the powers of the NHMF beyond what the Government are proposing in the Bill as drafted. However, what it does do is actually to restrict the discretion of the NHMF in undesirable ways. The amendment would give favoured treatment to the national museums and galleries, and I do not believe it is desirable to favour some organisations in this way, as is proposed. The trustees of the NHMF should have the freedom to determine their priorities within the heritage sector as a whole. The amendment would restrict that freedom.

The noble Lord's proposal seeks to address the long-term revenue needs of the national museums and galleries. However, while this is a matter for the trustees of the NHMF, I should be surprised if they would wish to use their powers to commit lottery money towards the long-term revenue costs of the national museums in order to avoid the need for a general admission charge. Any such assistance would principally benefit those visitors, including, as my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu pointed out, the large number of visitors from overseas who are well able to afford admission charges. Those museums and galleries which already charge generally offer free entry to special groups such as the elderly, children and the unemployed. The new powers could enable the trustees of the NHMF to assist museums in offering further concessions. Furthermore, lottery funding to prevent general admission charges would raise issues about substitution for core funding and affordability. As has been mentioned, it would be difficult to reconcile such a commitment with the Government's statement on additionality.

The proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, would also raise difficulties for the NHMF in determining how much financial assistance was needed by the various museums in order to help them avoid the introduction of admission charges. On what basis could such decisions be taken? In order to maximise their bids for financial assistance, the institutions would have every incentive publicly to maintain that they intended to introduce charges and it is difficult to see how the NHMF could form a judgment on those bids without exploring in great detail the institutions' finances and the options available to them for controlling expenditure and raising alternative sources of income. Certainly it would be a significant burden on them, I would expect.

The amendment before us refers to the "imposition" of admission charges. I must emphasise—and this was a point raised by the noble Lords, Lord Strabolgi and Lord Jenkins—that there is no question of the Government imposing this on the British Museum or on the other national museums, and let us be clear, the future of the British Museum is a very important matter and of concern to everybody in this country. The decision on this is entirely a matter for the trustees of each institution, who are in the best position to make that judgment in the light of their own needs and priorities. Of the 12 national museums and galleries sponsored by my department, six have introduced an admission charge. In each case the decision was taken solely by the trustees.

The Government neither encourage nor discourage charging for admission by national museums and galleries. It is up to them, and many galleries in the world do make a charge. In the case of the British Museum, it has recently completed a fundamental expenditure review—the Edwards Report—which has pointed out that the museum must balance its books: an entirely unobjectionable proposition, I would suggest. In order to do that, necessary and prompt action needs to be taken. One—but only one—of the possibilities raised is the introduction of admission charges. It is for the trustees themselves to decide what is to be done to improve the financial condition of the museum.

Given that the Bill as drafted will enable the trustees of the NHMF to provide financial assistance to museums and galleries and other heritage venues for discrete projects which would enable them to reduce admissions charges in specific circumstances, I very much hope that the noble Lord will agree to withdraw his amendment. I am reluctant, for the reasons I have touched on, to accept his proposal because it conflicts with the principle of additionality and because of the other actual and potential practical difficulties which I mentioned.

Earl Russell

Before the Minister sits down, I hope that he will forgive me for intervening in a matter that I have just been discussing in another place. I understand perfectly that the Minister's position is correct; namely, that the decision on charging is entirely a matter for trustees. But does that not sound a little like an unsuccessful groundsman who says that a low score is entirely the responsibility of the batsman?

Lord Inglewood

No, it is not a case of Hobson's choice. Here we have a state of affairs where the British Museum, as analysed in the Edwards report, faces a series of problems. As I understand it, that report poses a series of options which either individually or together may provide the appropriate way forward for the trustees. It is for them to address the issues, looking at the options—and, indeed, any other options that may come to mind—and then to take the matter forward. I do not believe that the noble Earl is correct to say that the trustees are firmly impaled on Morton's fork.

Lord Renton

Before my noble friend sits down and before the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, replies, perhaps he would clarify one matter in his most interesting and, if I may say so, most convincing response to the debate. My understanding of what he said is that he maintains that the Bill makes an exception to the principle of additionality. However, if that is not so, how does my noble friend reconcile what he said about the effect of the Bill with that principle?

Lord Inglewood

The point I was making is that the course of action inherent in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, would in our view pose potentially serious problems about the application of the principle of additionality. The point about the principle of additionality is that money from the lottery should not be a substitute for money from the public purse. What we are talking about in the context of the specific projects which may or may not commend themselves to the trustee of the fund is the fact that they would be projects which would not otherwise have been funded by the public purse. Therefore, we are genuinely in a state of affairs where something additional is being made available.

Lord Renton

I am most grateful to my noble friend the Minister. His answer was most convincing.

Lord Strabolgi

I am grateful to all noble Lords who took part in the debate, particularly my noble friends Lord Jenkins of Putney and Lord Donoughue and, indeed, to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, for the most valid and, I think, important and discerning points that he made in interpreting the Bill. Perhaps I may point out to the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, with his great experience of tourism, that it is not just tourists who go to the British Museum. A great many scholars and other people who rely on the expertise and scholarship of the museum do so. It is a very fine service. Anyone who has been to see one of the curators behind the scenes to obtain advice will know that well.

I am most grateful to the Minister for explaining the position. However, the Government are always like this. They say, "This is nothing to do with us; it is a matter for the trustees". They hide behind such statements. As the noble Earl, Lord Russell, said, it is like the cat getting the monkey to pull the chestnuts out of the fire. It is never anything to do with them. They do this about everything. The underlying reason why the trustees might have to introduce charges is that the Government have made cuts of 25 per cent., as I said earlier. Why do the Government always treat the British Museum so badly?

I remember many years ago when I first came to this House in the 1950s being taken around the reserve rooms of the museum by the then director and being shown dozens and dozens of Greek and Roman bronzes, beautiful Greek mirror cases, and so on. Many of them were covered with verdigris. The director said, "Isn't it ghastly and tragic. It is because the Government will not give us enough money to employ people to keep them clean". That was the position in the 1950s. Of course, it is slightly better now.

However, now the Government are back at their old tricks of making big cuts. That is the trouble and that is why the trustees may be faced with bringing in charges. It is not a free choice on their part: it is just one of the very, very difficult options with which they are faced. I realise that the amendment is not the right way to improve the situation, for the reasons that the Minister explained. Nevertheless, I hope that the Government will take on board the fact that they must finance our national museums properly. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.45 p.m.

Lord Howie of Troon had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 3: Page 2, line 4, at end insert ("or structures").

The noble Lord said: I do not propose to move this amendment. I also give advance notice that I do not intend to move Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 when we come to them.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 4: Page 2, line 6, at end insert— ("( ) In giving financial assistance to projects under subsection (3) above, due priority and consideration shall be given to works of preservation and repair of existing buildings and objects.").

The noble Viscount said: The purpose of my amendment is to get a clearer understanding of the Government's view of how the built heritage will receive lottery funding and how the National Heritage Memorial Fund is going to work alongside other funding bodies to achieve this aim. A great deal of emphasis has so far been placed on lottery funded projects which are new creations. Of course, many are new creations, although they are additions to existing buildings—new wings to galleries and new galleries within existing buildings. But the emphasis has largely been on the new. In the future, the Bill will allow other parts of the heritage that have missed out to benefit also. Perhaps one might say more preservation rather than new creation. My amendment would allow the Committee to consider whether this needs to be spelt out explicitly in the Bill.

Since the inception of the lottery I have always believed that it will only really be successful and acceptable to the public at large if we are able to use lottery funding to help restore our towns and cities—to restore townscapes, streets, crescents, urban parks, historic squares and other buildings, whether they are grand or modest in scale. Until now, some of these have been excluded from lottery funding under the current rules which are proposed to be changed by this Bill. Let us take, for example, a Georgian crescent, owned perhaps by a charity. It only takes one tenant, in one flat in one house, to exercise his right to buy for the application to be excluded because under the law the National Heritage Memorial Fund cannot fund private owners.

The Bill attempts to change that and will allow private owners to benefit, subject to all the necessary conditions that they may need to go through. Those changes are most welcome. But how will they work? As I understand it, at present English Heritage advises the NHMF on the merits of built heritage applications. There is also a successful joint scheme for the funding of churches and cathedrals. One of the more important English Heritage proposed schemes to be funded in future from the NHMF is conservation area partnerships. For the want of a better phrase these are poor towns or villages. By the NHMF helping to fund those schemes, I understand that that will then free up money so that English Heritage can continue to fund grants to local authorities and private owners.

Can my noble friend the Minister explain how in practice these schemes will work? I presume that lottery funding will be additional to English Heritage grants so that there will be no problems of additionality. But how will the funding work? What will be the priorities?

Does it mean that by this somewhat backdoor way of increasing or maintaining moneys available for the funding of private owners by English Heritage the National Heritage Memorial Fund will believe that it has now done its duty to the built heritage and need not consider further applications from some of the larger houses, some of which are in desperate need of funding in the future in order to preserve their collections?

Has the Minister considered whether it may be necessary to issue guidance or directions after the Bill becomes law? Not only might those be necessary, they might be helpful in ensuring that confusion does not occur.

I am sure my noble friend will say that some of the words in my amendment are unnecessary. I do not want to include unnecessary words in the Bill. What I am looking for is the assurance, a clear statement from my noble friend, that all the bodies working together will give due priority and consideration to the funding of our existing built heritage. I beg to move.

Lord Rothschild

In relation to the amendment of the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, perhaps I may comment on one or two points that he raised.

I do not believe that on balance it is fair to say that thus far the National Heritage Memorial Fund's emphasis has been on the new. Selectively, trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund have actively encouraged the creation of some excellent new buildings in order to preserve or enhance items of our heritage which may in themselves become part of the heritage of the future. However, the trustees have always wanted to ensure that, where possible, new uses are found to preserve the stock of existing buildings of merit. Priority has been given to projects that make effective use of existing buildings which deliver additional heritage benefits. To reassure the noble Viscount, perhaps I may recommend our latest annual report in which all the projects involving the repair and preservation of existing buildings and objects are listed.

With regard to town centres, this is already an area that we are actively considering. Noble Lords may be aware that only last month we approved in principle a grant to revitalise the historic centre of Pontefract.

However, as I said during Second Reading of the Bill, once the Act is in force the lottery fund will able to consider all applications on their merits, unconstrained by ownership. Therefore, where a good project in heritage terms provides substantial public benefit but depends on the participation of private owners, that will be eligible for funding. We intend to use our funds for the widest possible public benefit. That will mean that all the areas mentioned—national parks, historic towns and conservation areas—will be priorities. I stress that we do not wish to provide a substitute for funding from government agencies although we have to recognise that the chalk line at times is difficult for us to define.

I have already made clear our views on private owners. We stress that we do not want to duplicate the work that English Heritage has done so well for many years. Our support should surely always depend on clear additional public benefit, usually in the form of increased public access. Therefore, we shall continue to work closely with English Heritage, as indeed with all the other heritage-related agencies. I should like to remind the House that the heritage fund covers much more than the built heritage of England; it covers the myriad aspects of our heritage across all four countries of the United Kingdom.

I should also add that, should the Bill become law, we shall be carrying out a nationwide public consultation exercise not only with our specialist advisers but with a range of voluntary groups and organisations to sound out heritage priorities across the country.

Finally, I should like to repeat what I said during Second Reading of the Bill: that we very much welcome the Bill and the extended canvas that it provides which will enable us to spread the benefits across an even wider range of projects.

Lord Donoughue

I speak broadly in support of the noble Viscount's amendment. Perhaps I may begin by saying how pleased I am, as I am sure we all are, to see the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, present. That is extremely helpful to us. What he said was reassuring.

I wish to pick up one point. It concerns existing private houses. The Bill is an enabling Bill. It enables help to go to those houses. However, we fear that in practice few may be helped—not for bad reasons but for perfectly understandable reasons. There is no extra money. The money cake is still the same. The Bill enables the funding to be spread more widely. Preserving the fabric of our built heritage is expensive. The houses must compete with the many other admirable projects such as gallery extensions, visitor centres, and so on. The noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, referred to that whole area. I was pleased to hear what the noble Lord said about the co-operation between the National Heritage Memorial Fund and English Heritage. It is understandable that the officers of those bodies have a most onerous and difficult task, and that they, too, will have their personal priorities.

However, as a result of all those factors we fear that while the Bill will give private historic houses a new right to be assisted in most years the money will not be available for them. On this side of the Chamber, we would be sad about that. I should like the Minister to reinforce the assurance of the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, perhaps with a slightly different emphasis, that in practice positive consideration and help will be given to applications for such capital funding.

Baroness Rawlings

I support the noble Viscount's amendment regarding works of preservation. I should like to make sure that Section 3(2)(a), which refers to, securing the preservation or enhancement of such things", includes security, to which I referred at Second Reading. I am most grateful to my noble friend Lady Trumpington who wrote to me, as she had said she would, stating that preservation could include protection against theft or damage. Security is needed for buildings, parks, town centres and open spaces. It places an astronomical cost on everyone. Crime prevention is much in the forefront of our minds, especially with regard to the very good paper which the Government produced today.

5 p.m.

Lord Inglewood

In speaking to the amendment, my noble friend Lord Astor asked about the fund's priorities for the allocation of lottery funds once the Bill becomes law.

We are now talking of the statutory powers that the National Heritage Memorial Fund trustees are given by the Bill to enable them to disburse financial assistance if they so wish. What the priorities should be is a matter for them. We have had some extremely helpful comments from the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, in saying how pleased we are to see him here this afternoon. But, ultimately, it is a matter for the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, and his fellow trustees to ensure that the lottery resources which are made available to them support projects of demonstrable heritage merit and public benefit. I do not think that anybody in this House does not believe that they will exercise those duties conscientiously, knowledgeably and effectively.

They are obviously very much aware that the fund's funding role must not duplicate or cut across the work of other heritage bodies. With that in mind the National Heritage Memorial Fund has, as I explained at Second Reading and as the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, repeated today, already embarked on constructive discussions with other heritage funding bodies on future priorities in the light of the new powers conferred by the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, explained that point in some detail. I do not see that there is any need for me to repeat his remarks.

The respective roles of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and English Heritage will be a key element in the discussions. They already work together in close co-operation and, as the noble Lord acknowledged, the fund seeks advice from English Heritage on lottery applications relating to the built heritage in England. As noble Lords will be aware, last month saw the launch of a joint National Heritage Memorial Fund/English Heritage scheme for church repair grants.

The Government are quite confident that the two bodies will continue to work together to ensure that the overall funding available, whether from the lottery or from English Heritage's own grant schemes, is applied in a way that best serves the needs of the heritage and does not lead to unnecessary duplication of expertise between them.

Perhaps I may focus on a particular point in a rather more general way than the way in which it was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue. The trustees will exercise their discretion according to their assessment of the value of the projects in front of them and the inherent value of the heritage work of the schemes themselves. In determining between one category or another category of application, or between just two individual applications if there are more applicants than there is money available (which will almost certainly be the case) I am quite confident that the decision will be reached on the heritage merits of a proposal rather than any other consideration. That should give comfort to all those who, in whatever form, are responsible for buildings of high heritage value.

My noble friend Lord Astor urged that lottery funds should be made available to help our towns and cities. As I said, I have no doubt at all that he will find the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund responsive to that view. Indeed, the point was reiterated by the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, this afternoon.

Clearly it is important in this context that the fund's role in this respect must be sensibly aligned with the other grant schemes, such as English Heritage conservation area partnership schemes. The detail of how that is done is a matter for the discussions that are under way.

My noble friend asked whether the Secretary of State will issue guidance or directions after the Bill becomes law. The Secretary of State has power under the National Lottery etc. Act to issue policy directions to the distributors. However, at this stage it is clearly too soon to consider when any such direction will be needed in respect of the powers being conferred by the Bill. The important point is that the National Heritage Memorial Fund should assess and identify funding priorities in consultation with the other relevant bodies and then develop the necessary procedures to give its ideas effect.

In conclusion, I assure the House and my noble friend that the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, and his fellow trustees are fully aware of the need to formulate proper, reasonable and thought through strategies for the exercise of their wider powers. As was explained, they are actively engaged in discussions with other bodies to do that. I am quite confident that the outcome will ensure that the overall resources available for the heritage are applied where they are most needed. Moreover, once decisions have been reached, I assure the Committee that noble Lords will be told what is intended.

Viscount Astor

I am most grateful to my noble friend for his remarks. First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, for giving the Committee an explanation of the work that he and his trustees will do. I did indeed read his annual report and thought it an impressive document. The fund is doing an extremely good job and has the admiration of all of us. I was glad to hear that it will embark on a public consultation exercise and was particularly reassured by what the noble Lord said about town centres. That is very important. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, for his support and to my noble friend Lady Rawlings.

My noble friend the Minister largely reassured me. However, he restricted much of his answer to the work of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. I attempted to draw my noble friend on how the fund will work with English Heritage. After all, English Heritage is a very different beast. It is a body that hands out government money in grants to the heritage; whereas the National Heritage Memorial Fund hands out lottery money in an independent way without breaking any rules of additionality. The question is how one puts together these two bodies which come from totally different backgrounds, one handing out government money, the other handing out lottery money, and how they work together. That is the important question. We look forward to my noble friend, once he has gone further down the road with his policy, returning to the House to say how that will happen.

I am grateful to my noble friend for his remarks and am much reassured. In that light, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 not moved.]

Lord Beloff moved Amendment No. 7: Page 2, line 43, at end insert (", or (c) to edit and publish a major work of reference dealing with all or part of the National Heritage.").

The noble Lord said: We are in a peculiar position in relation to this amendment. There is total agreement between the Minister and those whose names are appended to the amendment that they wish to enable the trustees, should they see fit, to contribute to the maintenance of the work of the editors and publishers of the Victoria County History. The amendment standing in my name and the names of other noble Lords would enable that to be done. It would, incidentally, also meet the case for the Survey of London, which is the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.

The Government have so far wanted to rest their proposal—that was the point of the amendment tabled but not moved—on an extension of the power already in the Bill to maintain archives. Our contention is that archives and major works of reference like the Victoria County History are quite different and one cannot use one word to cover the other.

I speak with some experience. I started archival work in 1935 in various county offices and have worked—or, when fortunate enough to have research grants, had other people work for me—in a multiplicity of archives both public and private. Archives consist of what is left in terms of written documents on national policy, local policy and the fortunes, up and down, of families. I remember once discovering in a wooden chest in the hall of a family living somewhere in Worcestershire a charter of Richard II which they had somehow just put among their family papers.

Those documents are archives. It is desirable that money should be found, where necessary, to maintain archives. But to compile works of reference like the Victoria County History or the Survey of London is quite a different operation. They are documents which are written on the basis no doubt of the archives, but not identical to them. I understand that some lawyers believe that the word "archive" can be made to cover them. However, there is a character in Lewis Carroll's book who said: "You can always make words mean what you want them to mean". If that is the legal advice that the Minister has received, he should search for better legal advice.

It is essential that the words be right because, after all, the trustees of the fund will have to judge the matter. It is essential that we get the words right and I find the difference almost inexplicable. I do not understand why the Minister has so far insisted on using the word "archive" to mean something that it cannot possibly mean. I beg to move.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford

I support my noble friend. I underline that we appreciate the Minister's efforts to meet us on the point, but I am afraid I must strengthen what my noble friend said. Although the Victoria County History and the Survey of London use extensive archival material, they are history not archives, analytical history. That is their value. I am afraid that the amendment proposed by the department would not cover those kinds of books. Therefore we must ask the Minister to think again. I suggest that our original amendment has a better side to it.

I wish to say a few words on the financial situation of the Victoria County History and similar local histories. As noble Lords know, the Victoria County History was begun slightly before the turn of the century and was financed largely by the founder of W. H. Smith and by the readiness of people to pay 10 guineas a copy. However, in many counties only two volumes were produced. That is still the state of affairs in many counties in the country. Between 1966 and now my home county of Somerset has produced six additional volumes of considerable worth. But it did so largely with the assistance of local government. For example, the North Somerset County Council is prepared to regard the Victoria County History as a heritage scheme.

I therefore feel that if we are to fulfil the original aims of the imaginative people who began the Victoria County History, it is crucial that we be allowed to approach the trustees for lottery money. I remind your Lordships that this is the only project in the whole of Europe, apart from a somewhat similar exercise in the Black Forest. It is a worthy effort and it is crucial that we get the wording of the amendment right so that the lawyers do not deny us the money that would help the project.

5.15 p.m.

Lord Donoughue

I support Amendment No. 7 which is in my name and the names of the noble Lords, Lord Beloff and Lord Pilkington. I also wish to support Amendment No. 8 in the name of my noble friend Lord Strabolgi. Perhaps I should declare an interest as a sometime—if only briefly—historian and Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

I find myself in some difficulty because, like other noble Lords who have spoken, my main concern is to ensure that the great Victoria County Histories are covered. I should like to see the Dictionary of National Biography assured and certainly the Survey of London. I am totally convinced that the Minister agrees with and is sincere in wishing to meet my concern. I can see that the withdrawn amendments, Amendments Nos. 5 and 6, might have contained an improvement on the Bill. But like noble Lords who have already spoken, I am not convinced that the wording of the withdrawn amendments meets what we want.

The Victoria County Histories use archives and in a way generate them, but they are not purely archives. Stubbs' charters, which I once read, are probably a published archive; some of the series of the Camden Miscellany are probably archives. The published Foreign Office documents probably are. But the Victoria County Histories include narrative and analysis and a key part of our national heritage. They are to be used as vital works of reference in relation to that heritage.

I believe that the Government's wording, which presumably reflected the best they could do at the time, was not comprehensive enough for that definition. It might be a part, but it is not the whole definition. I believe that the wording of our amendment is better and is necessary to meet what we want.

I wish to float towards the Minister the idea that we might have a classic compromise with a combination of the two. I shall now read out that combination which contains, I believe, virtually every word of the Minister's amendment and our amendment. It might say: Page 2, line 43, at end insert (", or (c) edit and publish archive material and major works of reference dealing with all or part of the National Heritage or to do any ancillary thing."). That is my first shot at it, but I have a feeling that if we have that wording, it would include whatever the Minister wanted in his proposal and what we wanted in ours. I believe that it would meet our wishes and those of my noble friend Lord Strabolgi in his amendment.

I should like the Minister in his reply to accept that the withdrawn amendments were not quite enough. I congratulate him on the flexibility with which he responded to the situation, technically before it arose. I ask the Minister to consider my suggestions for the Report stage; otherwise, we may have to come back then with our proposals and seek the support of the House. The Minister will have noted that this is a cross-party approach.

I hope that the Minister will see the strength of our arguments, will agree with our intentions and will seek simply to do what we tried to do: that is, to find wording that is copper-bottomed.

Lord Strabolgi

I should like to say a few words about my Amendment No. 8 which is to provide publishing costs for the Survey of London. As the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said, it is probable that it could be covered by his amendment or a government amendment, whichever it is. However, I hope that whatever we have, something will be done to include help for the Survey of London because it is in great difficulties. That is why I wish to speak on my amendment and to bring the difficulties to the attention of the Government.

The survey was started in 1894 as a private venture by C. R. Ashbee, who is well known as an arts and crafts architect. In 1900 the LCC joined up with Ashbee's London Survey Committee which had run into financial difficulties, and it put its much larger resources at the disposal of the project.

For the last 100 years, since its inception, the survey has compiled and published a splendid series of volumes on the London parishes, where the history of the buildings and those who built them, as well as many of the people who lived in them, is studied in considerable depth. If one is lucky, one finds that when the volumes deal with the parish in which one lives, one's own house is sometimes mentioned, with details of who lived there originally and who built it.

There have been two volumes on Chelsea and Mayfair, four volumes on Kensington, volumes on St. Anne, Soho, Covent Garden, Lincoln's Inn Fields, with thorough accounts of Spitalfields and Mile End. The two most recent volumes cover Poplar and the Isle of Dogs. The Survey of London to date has published 44 volumes on the different parishes. The current work is on Clerkenwell. At least another 12 volumes are needed, even without the City of London.

But what is the position today? When the GLC was abolished in 1985 no one knew much what to do with the survey. So it was eventually transferred under the aegis of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments of England. I understand that the only external funding that it has obtained is from the London Dockland Development Corporation, which paid a proportion of the publishing costs of the survey's work on parishes in south-east London. But that is so far as it went. The survey is actively considering seeking other forms of outside assistance. I understand that its work and future publications are in jeopardy unless further resources become available.

The survey's archive, consisting of countless drawings and photographs, is scattered between the Greater London Record Office, the National Monuments Record and the London Division of English Heritage, which is the successor to the GLC's Historic Buildings Division. It is not clear where all the drawings are today. This is the position that it is in. A lot of the responsibility, of course, rests with the Government.

Therefore, I tabled this amendment to bring the survey's difficult situation to the attention of the Government. For example, the Royal Commission will suffer cuts amounting to 18 per cent. in real terms over the period from 1997 to 1999. If the noble Lords, Lord Inglewood and Lord Beloff, and others are able to devise a satisfactory amendment and will assure me that it will include help for the Survey of London, I shall not move my amendment when the time comes.

Lord Inglewood

In my brief remarks I shall speak also to Amendment No. 8 from the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. It seems a paradoxical state of affairs when we are all in agreement and yet we disagree with each other. But I believe that we can resolve this matter satisfactorily. It is important that we get it right. That is why I withdrew the amendments tabled in my name.

As everyone is declaring an interest, I shall declare an interest in that I was a former pupil of my noble friend Lord Pilkington, though I fear that by itself that has not made me a historian. As my noble friend Lord Beloff said, the legal advice that we received was that the formulation contained in my amendment met the case. Bearing in mind the doubts that have been cast upon it, the importance of getting the matter right and the agreement between us, I am entirely happy that we look again at it. I say only to my noble friend Lord Beloff that the courts are full of people who found lawyers whose legal advice they did not like and so found someone who gave them advice that they preferred to hear. That is sometimes a rather risky course of action.

In this context we want to provide a form of words which enables the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, if they so wish, to support what I might loosely describe as the bench-mark works of historical research as they affect our country. We do not intend here to provide a means for every aspiring historian to come to the door of the trustees and try to find a subsidy to support his work of historical research. It is meant to be narrowly defined to cover work such as the Victoria County History, the Survey of London and the Dictionary of National Biography, which have been mentioned.

I said earlier this afternoon to the noble Lord, Lord Howie, that I would go away and think about his form of words. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I still think that I may be right, but I very much welcome the opportunity to think about the right form of words to meet this problem. I intend to draw in those noble Lords whose amendments are on the Marshalled List. I hope that, against that background, they will feel able to withdraw their amendments so that we can come forward at a later stage of the Bill with a form of words that meets all our collective desires and is agreed between us as being satisfactory.

Lord Beloff

In the light of the Minister's remarks, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 8 not moved.]

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?

Lord Renton

Perhaps I may make a very brief point, of which I have not given notice because I expected to be able to make it on Amendment No. 5. It does not strictly relate to Amendment No. 5 but comes within Clause 1.

At Second Reading I mentioned that it would be highly desirable to use the power to prepare archives for the purpose of collecting together the vast amount of treasure trove already collected and in museums and the further amount of treasure which will be collected under the Treasure Act 1996 introduced by the noble Earl, Lord Perth. I have his blessing on raising this point, by the way. In reply to the point I made, my noble friend Lady Trumpington said that a code of practice with regard to treasure would be introduced.

It seems to me that the archive need not await the preparation of a code of practice; nor need the code of practice refer to the desirability of having an archive of treasure. I should have thought that under the Bill as it stands that could quite well be done without further delay. It will be a very big and long continuing job but I see no reason why it should not start soon after the Bill receives Royal Assent.

Lord Inglewood

My noble friend raises an important matter which I know is close to his heart. I hear what he says. But, of course, in addition to the Bill, it is also necessary for the process that he describes to take place and for the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, and his fellow trustees to give it their blessing. I understand the point and if I may I shall clarify matters with my noble friend at a later date.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clauses 2 to 4 agreed to.

Schedule [Consequential Amendments]:

[Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 not moved.]

Schedule agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported without amendment.