HL Deb 10 October 2003 vol 653 cc545-7

11.6 a.m.

Read a third time.

Lord Roper

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Roper.)

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, I stumbled across this Bill by accident, when it came to its Second Reading a week or two ago. Having come down to see what the Bill was about, I became concerned on two points. They may be thought quibbles by some, but they are not quibbles to me.

First, in the speech given by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on Second Reading, which I actually missed, although I read it in Hansard, he listed a considerable number of items that had been looted from the museum in Baghdad. However, the Bill does not really deal with museums; it deals with other monuments. That worried me a little bit, as museums are a very likely place in which to look for objects of the sort with which the Bill is mainly concerned.

Normally, I would have tabled amendments that we could have discussed in Committee, thereby clearing the whole thing up and perhaps satisfying me that I was mistaken—which is sometimes likely. However, on Second Reading, my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey reminded us that the Bill was faced with a very short timetable, and that to table amendments that changed the Bill might well have the effect of killing it. 1 did not want that to happen, because the Bill, despite my misgivings, is worthy and should pass in the fullness of time.

That was my first quibble. My second quibble is one close to my heart. It refers to the definition of objects in the Bill, which reads: 'Cultural object' means an object of historical, architectural or archaeological interest". That form of words has been used for a long time in Bills of this nature. However, as the House will be well aware, I have a longstanding interest in engineering. Oddly enough—

Baroness Buscombe

My Lords, would the noble Lord mind if I intervened briefly on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition? We actually had a very good debate on all the issues at Second Reading. A number of noble Lords spoke and a number of issues were aired, to which I believe the Government responded fully. That is why no noble Lords have tabled amendments. I wonder if that helps to satisfy the noble Lord.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, I am always delighted to be rebuked by the noble Baroness. It puts me in my place, but I shall continue none the less, as briefly as possible.

Lord Davies of Oldham

My Lords, my noble friend will recognise that the Bill has been thoroughly debated with the appropriate Minister present—my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey. He replied to the debate when the issues were raised and put the government position, which is that we wish the Bill well. As the noble Baroness said, all the issues were discussed at the proper time, at Second Reading—and some of the points that my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon is putting forward are clearly Second Reading points. There was also a Committee stage.

We had no inkling that what is normally a straightforward Motion with a Private Member's Bill, that the Bill do now pass, would be the subject of a Second Reading debate, with quite fundamental issues re-emerging. Although we are always delighted to hear any contribution that my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon makes at any stage, he will recognise that there is no way in which the mover of the Bill, the Government or the Opposition intend to respond to any of his points at this ridiculously late stage.

Lord Howie of Troon

My Lords, I should like to get on with this and get it over and done with. It will not take long at all.

I wrote to my noble friend Lord McIntosh and explained my worries, and I am told that I shall receive a reply in due course, though not in time for this debate. I discussed the matter with my noble friend and with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, verbally, and informed my noble friend that I intended to raise the matter as briefly as possible, with the help of the House, at this stage of the Bill. I shall take only a minute, and patience is always a virtue.

I drew attention to the fact that there have been precedents for the definition, which noble Lords, have no doubt forgotten because of all the interruptions. I reminded my noble friend that the definition had been changed in the British Waterways Act in the 1990s, in the Environment Act in the 1990s, and in the National Heritage Act, also in the 1990s. The changes were at my instigation, I am happy to say. My noble friend Lord McIntosh reminded me of something I had forgotten—that he had accepted an amendment from me that changed the definition in much later legislation.

The precedents which I just quoted define these objects as objects of historical, architectural, engineering or archaeological interest. All I hope to do today is to remind the department that that precedent should be followed in future, so that I will not be obliged to raise this issue again. It may not bore the House when I raise it, as I have been doing for about 15 years, but it certainly bores me.

On Question, Bill passed.