HL Deb 27 February 1997 vol 578 cc1293-5

4.21 p.m.

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

My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendment be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons amendment be now considered.—(Lord Inglewood.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


[The page and line refer to Bill (59) as first printed for the Commons.] 1 Page 3, line 20, after 'fund)—' insert— '( ) after paragraph 4 there is inserted— "Remuneration 4A. There may be paid out of the Fund to a trustee such remuneration, on such terms and conditions, as the Secretary of State may approve.",'.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their amendment. The extension of the role of the National Heritage Memorial Fund to include the distribution of lottery proceeds has inevitably resulted in a very substantial increase in the time commitment required from the chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and his fellow trustees. The powers conferred by the Bill are likely to increase the demand still further. The upshot is that we might be approaching the point at which it is no longer reasonable to expect trustees to serve on an unpaid basis as has hitherto always been the case.

The issue is partly one of fairness to those who are willing to serve as trustees, but we also need to bear in mind the possibility that it may become increasingly difficult to persuade high calibre candidates to accept appointment, especially as regards the time-intensive post of chairman, if remuneration is not available. The Government do not propose to take any immediate decisions on the matter; indeed, the current chairman of the NHMF Trustees, the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, has made it clear that he has no wish to serve other than on the existing unpaid basis. Nonetheless, the NHMF is virtually alone among lottery distributors in that its trustees are currently precluded by statute from being paid.

Under the terms of the present legislation, which of course predates the advent of the lottery, the trustees can be offered only expenses and allowances. Legal advice is that allowances must be interpreted very restrictively and that amendment to the law is needed to enable the trustees to be paid in the usual sense of the word. We have therefore concluded that we should take the opportunity of the Bill to remove the current statutory bar on remuneration. That is the purpose of the amendment made in another place. It inserts an additional provision into Clause 2 to enable remuneration to be paid to trustees out of the NHMF's own proceeds, subject to the approval of the Secretary of State as regards the amount concerned and any terms and conditions.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their amendment.—(Lord Inglewood.)

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, perhaps I may say that, in general, we are pleased that this very useful Bill is completing its course. The amendment has our support and we are delighted to hear that it will not be implemented before the general election. There is a wider problem that I should just like to mention; namely, that of compensating people in the cultural quangos, many of whom work very hard without proper compensation. The amendment would usefully correct that position in a small area.

However, there is one particular point of concern about the Bill and that is the question of clawback—the provision to recover grants which have been made should the beneficiary subsequently sell at a capital profit with the help of the amendment. Can the Minister confirm that the arrangements for clawback are indeed satisfactorily in place and that they will normally be applied?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am gratefully reassured by the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, in support of the proposed amendment. The noble Lord raised the matter of clawback which is important. I hope that it might be helpful to your Lordships to put the matter on the record. The legislation gives the NHMF Trustees a power to attach such conditions as they think fit in making a grant. Such conditions may relate, among other things, to disposal of the heritage asset concerned and repayment of that grant.

So far as concerns actual practice, the NHMF will continue to monitor all projects after payments have been made and, where appropriate, it will clawback the grant paid under the terms of the grant agreement. Clawback can include a proportionate share of any capital appreciation in value resulting from the grant, should the heritage asset concerned be sold. That applies where the NHMF permits the sale of a heritage asset or where the conditions of grant are breached. I hope that that response will reassure the noble Lord.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may ask him a question. I know that the Government will not implement the grants immediately, but can the noble Lord give me some idea as to how much the remuneration will be for the trustees? On this side of the House, we accept that the work of the trustees has increased enormously and that there was a great omission in the Bill, until now, in that they were supposed to work for nothing. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, has generously said that he will continue; but, if the Government are to attract trustees of the right calibre, it will be necessary to make it worth their while so that they are not out of pocket. Can the Minister give me some idea of the position in that respect?

There is a further point. A certain disparity has arisen between the quangos of other parts of our national life and those relating to the cultural heritage. I believe that those which relate to the cultural heritage are at a great disadvantage compared with some of the other quangos where the trustees are very handsomely rewarded. Can the Minister give me some idea as to the Government's thinking in that area?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, as I explained in my opening remarks, we have no immediate plans to implement the changes proposed. It was a matter of putting the provisions on the statute book and then deciding, in the circumstances of some future case, what the appropriate level of remuneration might be. As no decision has been taken to implement the proposals, it would be premature to assess what might be the appropriate going rate for the job at the time. I hope that that answers the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.

On Question, Motion agreed to.