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Clause 3

Volume 977: debated on Wednesday 30 January 1980

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 26, leave out 'or building' and insert', building or structure'.

No. 4, in page 2, line 34, leave out 'land or object' and insert 'property'.

Government amendment No. 7.

No. 8, in page 2, line 37, leave out 'a building' and insert 'any property'.

No. 9, in page 2, line 42, leave out 'land or an object' and insert 'any property'.

Government amendment No. 10.

There was doubt among Committee members about the definition of "building" and whether it covered everything that we wished. The amendment changes "building" and inserts "building or structure". That may seem a humble amendment, but I hope that it will meet with the agreement of Committee members. Every point that was raised about the definition of "building" has now been adequately covered. Iron bridges were mentioned as examples of structures that might not have been covered by "building", although we thought that they would be.

My hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Bulmer) raised several points relating to amendment No. 5. I shall deal with that later, although it concerns car parks and we had thought that car parks might have been excluded. Government amendments Nos. 2, 7 and 10 clarify that point.

I have tabled amendments Nos. 4, 8 and 9. I am glad that the Government have responded by tabling amendment No. 2. The Minister called it a humble amendment, but I am all in favour of humble amendments as long as they are effective. This amendment is effective. It clears up any doubts about structures on land. Although in Committee the Minister did not refer to land—including trees and growing things—I understand that the definition in the Interpretation Act goes that far. I have therefore withdrawn an amendment that was tabled last Thursday. I hope that that will satisfy the Council for the Preservation of Rural England as it has written to several hon. Members.

Amendment No. 4 refers to clause 3(1)(d). I do not understand why there has to be a restriction on "land or object". Surely, anything that should be accepted by reason of its association with property—covered by paragraphs (a), (b) or (c)—should be eligible. Hence my amendment to substitute "property" and so avoid the exclusion of buildings and structures.

Indeed, why should association be restricted to being with an eligible building, or even with
"land or a building or structure"
as it will be under Government amendment No. 7? This, as distinct from eligible property of any type, falls within subsection (1)(a) as my amendment No. 8 proposes. Certainly, land should be included here, and I am glad that the Government have included it.

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My amendment No. 9 amends the phrase in brackets in clause 3(2). This is consequential on the first amendment. Clearly there has been some advance in the Government amendments, but none; the less I cannot quite see why these cannot be made a good deal simpler by referring to "property" in a wider sense. Do we need to inhibit the activities of the trustees with such narrow and possibly confusing definitions? Has the Minister grasped this point? Would he like me to repeat it?

My first amendment, No, 4, is to paragraph (d) in clause 3(1). It is not at all clear why there should be a restriction to "land or object" in the first line of the paragraph. Surely, anything that should be excepted by reason of its association with property covered by paragraph (a), (b) or (c) should be eligible. Hence my amendment to substitute "property" and so avoid the exclusion of buildings and structures. Indeed, why should association be restricted to being with an eligible building or even with

"land or a building or structure?"
This will be the case under Government amendment No. 7. This is distinct from the eligible property of any kind that falls within paragraph (a), as my amendment No. 8 proposes. Perhaps the Minister would like some comment from his advisers. That is understandable.

The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has asked me some detailed questions which I may not be able to answer completely. As I said earlier, we tabled our amendments to cover the word "structure" after "land or building" because we felt that it made the context that much clearer. It clarified the position of monuments, piers and chimneys, and so on, which might have been doubtful had we stuck to the terminology of "building".

On the meaning of the word "land", the definition that I gave the Committee was inclusive. It did not cover everything that the word denotes in law. The legal maxim is that whatever is attached to the land is land. All the King's College scholars who were on the Committee knew of "quid quid adherat soli solum est", whatever that stands for. Therefore, any trees, plants or any kind of object attached to the land are all covered by the term "land". There is no doubt that everything that we have wished to include in the Bill is now satis- factorily covered by the definition, particularly after the Government amendments are accepted.

I think that the Minister has met very well the arguments made in Committee about the need to add the word "structure". His explanations about the addition of the word "land" are perfectly acceptable. I am delighted that the Government have so wisely moved in the spirit of the Committee.

I thank the hon. Member. The hon. Member for West Lothian raised a point about the word "property". The feeling is that it would be more restrictive to have that word than the wording that is in the Bill. On reflection, and when he has also had expert advice, I think that he will feel that our wording is the better.

I appreciate that I might not have given him a detailed answer on one particular point that he raised, but I shall do so as soon as possible. I hope that he will accept what I have said.

Am I to understand that the Government will bring forward an amendment in the House of Lords if their lawyers and advisers think that that is necessary? Am I right in thinking that, if this is at all necessary after legal advice has been sought, the Government will do something at the appropriate stage?

Yes, of course I shall give that assurance. If anything needs further explanation in the legal sense on the definition of "land", "structure" or "building", it will be done. It is the Government's wish that this legislation should become an Act of Parliament in the clearest possible terms. There is no point in approving a Bill that has a drafting flaw. I have no reason to think that it has, but I shall look at it carefully.

I should like to associate myself with the remarks of the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds). The Government have met the points made in Committee and the Government amendment goes all the way. I am glad that my hon. Friend has given an assurance to the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) that should there be any second thoughts about the clarity of this matter, the Bill will be amended in another place. Therefore, I welcome and endorse the Government amendments.

Amendment agreed to.

I beg to move amendment No. 5, in page 2, line 35, leave out from 'above' to 'by' in line 36 and insert

'the acquisition, maintenance or preservation of which is in their opinion desirable'.

:With this we may take amendment No. 6, in page 2, line 35, after 'opinion', insert 'should be acquired, or'.

:This is another clarification that was requested in Committee, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Bulmer), who was worried about land that would or would not be included in the pre-eminent status, such as land for a car park, which would be extremely valuable if the property were open to the public. This amendment makes the position abundantly clear.

In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Bulmer), who much regrets not being able to attend today, I should make it clear that he is very grateful to the Government.

My amendment No. 6 was brought forward in order to highlight the problem raised by the hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Bulmer). In Committee he posed the possibility that a piece of land just next door to outstanding land, but not itself outstanding, might be central to the enjoyment of the outstanding land and that its purchase should therefore be grant-aided.

Alternatively, it might be that that land was needed for access, car parking facilities or other visitors' facilities, as was suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Hudson Davies). At present, clause 3(1)(d) stipulates that associated land must be
"worthy of acquisition, maintenance or preservation by reason of its association with a building."
It is difficult to conceive of a patch of land which is to be covered up with tarmac and public lavatories as being worthy of acquisition, whereas obviously it should be acquired. The Minister was clearly interested in the debate in Committee which centred on the addition of the words "structure or other thing thereon" and he undertook to look at the problems raised. It is a pleasure to see that the Government have taken the point and brought forward amendment No. 5, which does the same job. Clearly, that amendment is acceptable, and in those circumstances I shall not seek to press my amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 7 in page 2, line 37, leave out 'a building' and insert

'land or a building or structure'.

No. 10, in page 3, line 1, leave out 'building mentioned in that paragraph' and insert

'land, building or structure with which it is associated'.—[Mr. Monro.]

I beg to move amendment No. 11, in page 3, line 5, leave out from 'securing' to end of line 6 and insert:

'improving, limiting or preventing public access to, or the public display of, the property for the public benefit such that reasonable public access is provided in the circumstances of the case'.
We touched on this matter in Committee. We are all concerned with public access, and obviously, where public funds are involved, it is important that public benefit should accrue. At the same time, it is recognised that there are occasions when too much public access can destroy the very gem we are seeking to preserve.

In Committee we referred particularly to nature reserves and the Government met us with an amendment of their own. One seeks to highlight the fact that reasonable public access need not always mean a great degree of public access. I am thinking in particular of the smaller country house. A vast number of visitors, lured there as bees to a honey-pot, can destroy the very thing which the fund would have preserved. This is in the nature of a probing amendment, and I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would give us his latest reflections. It is a matter that causes concern to many people in the National Trust and elsewhere.

We have a double-barrelled problem here. There was some discussion in Committee of arguments put to us by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The society was naturally concerned about sanctuaries. It may well be that access to a sanctuary—or more than limited access—is highly undesirable.

On the other hand, there is a problem with certain properties. Leeds Castle is an example. I understand that it is now given over to conferences following the gift of the widow of the last Conservative Member of Parliament for West Lothian, Lady Bailey, who has spent her life refurbishing Leeds Castle. Through the work of Lord Geoffrey-Lloyd, it has become a remarkable place.

I had the good fortune to be shown over the castle by Lord Geoffrey-Lloyd and his colleagues. There are rooms there in which it would be highly undesirable to have more than a certain number of visitors per year. This amendment is relevant to such a building as Leeds Castle. Possibly it does not have general relevance, but it has a specialised relevance and I look forward to hearing the views of the Government.

I share the views of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack). There is total unanimity on this point. As one who has also been to Leeds Castle and who appreciates the immense amount of work done by Lord Geoffrey-Lloyd and his colleagues, I believe it is right for us to say that it would be wrong for queues of people to trail through those magnificent but small rooms. Such numbers of visitors would damage the delightful atmosphere at Leeds Castle, and to an extent some of the fittings, furniture and draperies might also be destroyed by large numbers of visitors.

We are lucky that Leeds Castle was provided for us by Lady Bailey and her trustees and that it is so admirably used for good causes. It is a part of our heritage which is highly commendable. There are circumstances where restriction of access is as important as the welcoming of visitors, but that restriction applies mainly to wildlife habitat rather than to historic buildings.

I am keen on birds and wildlife and I know how important quietness is during the nesting season. It would be wrong for large numbers of visitors—albeit with the best of intentions—to walk through a bird sanctuary and do immense harm through ignorance. It is, therefore, right that the Bill should ensure that access must not be overdone.

6.15 pm

I said in Committee that the Bill adequately covered the proposition that I now put forward. It gives the trustees, or whoever is in charge of property, total authority to exclude as well as to include. Naturally, inclusion will be more important to them. We must make certain that when substantial sums of Government money have been made available there will be a right for the public, within reason, to see the treasures and historic buildings that have been provided for under the provisions of the Bill.

There is nothing between us. I am glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West tabled this probing amendment. It has given us a chance to ventilate this important issue, and I assure my hon. Friend that all is well as far as general and restrictive access is concerned under the provisions of the Bill.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I am pleased that he has made these points. The hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) raised the question of Leeds Castle. The hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) and I have been exercised about Baddesley Clinton, which we hope will soon become part of our national heritage. It is another perfect example of a small property that would be destroyed if vast numbers of people went round it. My hon. Friend has made it plain that these points have been taken by the Government and we are very grateful to him.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move amendment No. 12, in page 3, line 29, leave out from 'institution' to 'a' in line 31 and insert—

'one of the principal purposes of which is the preservation for the public benefit of'.

Government amendment No. 46.

No. 14 in page 3, line 43, leave out 'and'.

No. 15, in page 4, line 7, at end insert—

'(f) any body or institution approved by the Ministers under this paragraph as an eligible recipient with respect to a specfic case'.

Government amendments Nos. 16 and 47.

No. 25, in clause 9, page 6, line 28, leave out section 3(7)( a)( b) or ( c)' and insert

'section 3(7)(a), (b), (c), or (f).

No. 26, in page 6, line 28, leave out '( a)'.

Government amendment No. 48.

No. 38, in clause 16, page 10, line 19, leave out from 'section' to first 'to' in line 21.

No. 41, in page 11, line 7, at end insert—

' "university" includes a university college and a college, school or ball of a university.'

Here we return to a point that was touched on a number of times in Committee. It concerns an

"institution which exists wholly or mainly for the purpose of preserving for the public benefit a collection of historic, artistic or scientific interest."
A number of us, including the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds), were concerned about the restrictive nature of that clause. I look forward with interest to what my hon. Friend will say about the Government amendments. I would like to add to the example that I gave the Committee when I referred to such places as the Royal hospital at Chelsea with its fine collection of guns, cathedral treasuries and museums.

I received a letter from Miss Judith Scott, who for many years was the Secretary to the Council for the Care of Churches, which is now the Council for Places of Worship. I am concerned as a trustee of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, as she is, that cathedral treasuries and museums should be included. One could not argue that cathedrals exist wholly or mainly to preserve a collection. Yet at a number of our great cathedrals—one thinks of Lincoln, York and Durham—wonderful treasuries have been created with the help of splendid gifts from the Goldsmiths' Company. In those cathedrals one can see collections of ecclesiastical plate, beautifully displayed and more than adequately protected, which has come from the whole diocese. The are often changing exhibitions. As a rule, parishes lend their chalices and patens and other pieces of plate for a period. It is very important, if the Bill is to be all embracing, that institutions such as the cathedral treasuries at Lincoln, York and Durham, or the musuems at York and Durham, should be able to benefit. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to give a reassuring reply. If he has any doubt on this minor but important point, I hope that he will be able to promise that in another place the Government will think seriously about introducing an amendment so that institutions of this nature will be included.

The example of Christ Church was mentioned in Committee, and we had an assurance that the Christ Church library and collection would be included. But one cannot separate a cathedral treasury, museum, or perhaps even library, in the way that separation has been carried out at Christ Church.

:I do not want to be dragged into irrelevancies, but I must express concern about the proposals of the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) on this point. If we include all that he wants, we should be in danger of creating a watering can effect while knowing that the sums available were finite. The expense that could be incurred at Lincoln alone—I have no recent knowledge of Durham—could be considerable. Some of us might argue that the major ecclesiastical work has to be financed elsewhere.

I think that the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) has misunderstood me. If I was not clear, I apologise. I merely say that there could be occasions when the sort of institution that I have described might wish to acquire a valuable piece of church plate, and that that institution might be the right place in which it should repose. During the period of the Commonwealth and since, there have been occasions when churches and cathedrals have lost their valuables. I am suggesting that only where there is a treasury should the opportunity arise to restore some piece of plate to it, that that would be a legitimate concern of the trustees and that it should be within their province so to do.

I gather from glancing at my hon. Friend the Member for Neath (Mr. Coleman), who is the Whip, that he thinks that I may be embarking upon an esoteric argument and that that would not do the Bill any service.

Amendment No. 14 is a paving amendment leading to the main amendment, amendment No. 15. Amendment No. 25 is consequential.

By amendment No. 15 a new class of eligible recipients is inserted into the list of classes in clause 3(7). In Committee a similar amendment was tabled, but it was starred and not selected. Nevertheless, it was referred to in the debate on amendments to clause 9(2), though the Minister did not respond.

Clause 9(2) contains a reference back to some of the paragraphs in clause 3(7) and, accordingly, the various institutions and bodies listed in clause 3(7)(a), (b) and (c) are identified as institutions and bodies which can receive property accepted in satisfaction of tax under such conditions as may be laid down under clause 9(2).

So, if my main amendment is made—together with the consequential amendment—Ministers will be able to approve any body or institution they like not only as an eligible recipient in a specific case with respect to grant or loan from the trustees but as a recipient of property accepted in lieu of tax under the procedure in clause 9(2).

The Minister said—col. 202 of the Committee report—that there could be circumstances where an individual specifically requested the property accepted in lieu of tax to be given to the National Art-Collections Fund, and he pointed out that such a situation could be coped with under the power to direct disposal in any manner as either of the Ministers may direct, under clause 9(1). But it is submitted that it would be better to be able to make such directions under clause9(2).

Reverting to the situation of the trustees, there is no power equivalent to clause 9(1) to give grant or loan aid except to the bodies that fall within the classes set out in clause 3(7). Para- doxically, the trustees can give away property that they have acquired, with the approval of Ministers, to whoever they think appropriate.

Here again, the National Art-Collections Fund might be involved. Who knows, it may have funds and wish to make a purchase by private treaty yet need to obtain a small grant or loan from the fund to complete the transaction, a grant which might be best made direct to ensure the application of conditions.

There may be other bodies which should be approved as eligible recipients that do not fall into the classes already set out in clause 3(7). Mention was made of the Friends of the National Libraries.

So it is submitted that there is a case for a catch-all paragraph in clause 3(7), in spite of the applications that such a clause might draw and the decisions, probably rejections, that might result. Here, flexibility should be the order of the day, and the Bill as it stands is a little inflexible. If no such catch-all paragraph is provided, time may have to be found for legislation in the future—and parliamentary time is always in short supply.

As to the other amendments in the group, the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West has a good point in amendment No. 12. In the debate in Committee, the words "wholly or mainly" gave rise to quite a lot of discussion—and I am sorry that the Government have not seen fit to table an amendment on the lines of amendment No. 12.

I would accept amendments Nos. 16, 38 and 41. Amendment No. 16 makes good sense.

This is a large series of amendments which basically seek to widen the category of museums and other institutions that can be covered by the Bill. In replying to the debate, and particularly to the speech of the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell), I have to say that I can go so far but no further, and that perhaps the catch-all amendment of which he speaks would broaden the provision rather too much. I welcome the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack), particularly in relation to cathedral treasures. I assure him that they are covered by clause 3(7)(a) as it stands. I am sure that that will be good news to him and to those whose case he has so eloquently advanced.

There are six Government amendments in the selection which I shall move at the appropriate time. These are all designed to clarify the point that national university and local authority libraries are eligible for assistance through the fund. I can also give an assurance that I gave in Committee, namely, that record and archive offices are within the scope of subsection (7)(a).

6.30 pm

:When the Minister speaks of archives, does that include local Conservative Party or Labour Party records, local mining institute records and other records as unimportant in passing as those?

This has been a congenial debate. There is an immense difference between Conservative Party records and those that we see in The Sunday Times from distinguished members of the Labour Party.

The hon. Gentleman must not be naughty. Those are not records but bits of chit-chat and gossip spread around to damage colleagues in the party. I am speaking of official records, responsibly kept by secretaries of local parties. The hon. Gentleman knows that.

Does the Minister accept my assurance that we are not speaking of Mrs. Jenkins's dinner? We are speaking of items such as the Warnlockhead Lead Miners' Library, where the HBC gave a grant. It is a matter of some substance. It is highly desirable that such places should be preserved.

We must return to a level plane. I thank the hon. Gentleman for mentioning that distinguished library at Warnlockhead, which I know well and visit from time to time. The library is grateful for the support that it has received to continue its good work.

We must keep in mind that we are speaking of matters that are pre-eminent. We are not speaking of records that are of little consequence, though it is often difficult to decide at an early stage whether such records will be valuable in 100 years. The work of the record and archives offices is within the scope of clause 3(7)(a).

I apologise for not being in the Chamber earlier. We are discussing valuable records. Will the Minister take the opportunity to reassure the historians concerned with the decision to move the valuable records in Chancery Lane to Kew that that will not now take place?

That is rather outside the terms of the Bill. It is a matter for internal decision by those involved with the transfer of treasures. I should need to have more knowledge of the subject before I could reply. I do not know which Department is involved or the ownership of the papers. I shall find out and write to the hon. Gentleman. I could not give him any indication from the Dispatch Box on a matter about which I have no knowledge.

The hon. Member for West Lothian has tabled an important amendment, designed to add a residual catch-all category to the set of eligible recipients. It is an attractive amendment. It places considerable power in the hands of Ministers to rule that certain bodies and institutions which would not otherwise have been eligible shall be eligible. The cases which the hon. Gentleman has in mind are similar to those mentioned in Committee and are, inevitably, border-line cases. No doubt it will be administratively convenient to allow these to be covered by the trustees and for them to consider granting help.

My objection is twofold. First, in principle it is wrong to provide specific powers in the Bill for the trustees to assist the categories in clause 3(7) and then to enable Ministers to drive a coach and horses through the subsection by empowering them to approve any other body or institution, subject to the limitations of subsection 3(a). It gives Ministers too much discretion.

Secondly, it places Ministers in an awkward position. As I explained in Committee in relation to other amendments, it tends to water down subsection 1(a). Ministers, and the trustee, will be bombarded with applications that are non-starters. The trustees will have to consult Ministers on whether certain applicants could be considered under the residual category. It will broaden the clause too much, will leave too much discretion on the whim of Ministers, and will not make life easier for the trustees.

I have given my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West an assurance on his original amendment. I listened to his remarks with interest. In principle, I should have been happy to accept the amendment, but we believe that it would restrict rather than broaden the relevant passage in the Bill. With those remarks, especially with the assurance that I have given on cathedral treasures, I hope that my hon. Friend will withdraw his amendment and let the Government amendment proceed.

:It is not often that we hear Ministers at the Dispatch Box saying that Ministers should not be allowed too much discretion. However, the Government are probably right. I am against ministerial discretion being used too widely. We are building up the decision-making process of the trustees. My instinct is to accept that in this instance the Government are probably right.

I have listened with great interest to my hon. Friend. I am grateful for his assurance about cathedral treasures. Up and down the country, archivists will be reassured by his reiteration that archives, such as the William Salt Library, will fall within the scope of the Bill. My hon. Friend has given a considered and reasonable reply, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: No. 46, in page 3, line 32, at end insert—

'(aa) any library which is maintained—
  • (i) wholly or mainly out of moneys provided by Parliament or out of moneys appropriated by Measure; or
  • (ii) by a library authority;
  • or the main function of which is to serve the needs of teaching and research at a university in the United Kingdom;'.

    No. 16, in page 4, line 11, after '( b)', insert 'or ( c)'.

    No. 47, in page 4, line 13, at end insert—

    '(9) In subsection 7(aa)(ii) above "library authority" means a library authority within the meaning of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, a statutory library authority within the meaning of the Public Libraries (Scotland) Act 1955 or an Education and Library Board within the meaning of the Education and Libraries (Northern Ireland) Order 1972.'.—[Mr. Monro.]