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Clause 14

Volume 977: debated on Wednesday 30 January 1980

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I beg to move amendment No. 34, in page 8, line 28 after 'Heritage', insert 'Memorial'.

This is virtually a consequential amendment that should have been included at Committee stage.

I want to comment on this in order to raise the matter of a letter which I have received today from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and which I think is very important.

First, however, since elsewhere throughout the Bill the fund is now referred to as the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the omission of "Memorial" in this line should be remedied. But this insertion, which is necessary for reasons of consistency, also serves to reinforce the view of many that it would be undesirable and improper for a body with memorial connotations to be involved in any way in the administration of acceptances in satisfaction of tax, with the potentialities for controversy which could so easily arise from that. This, however, is where the implementation of clause 14 would seem to lead us, constituting a further reason for the misgivings which are widely felt regarding its apparently arbitrary insertion in the Bill.

It seems to me not to be sufficiently realised that the representatives of our public museums are most categorically opposed to the prospect, opened up by clause 14, of their having to deal with the trustees of the fund in substitution for the Ministers in matters relating to acceptances in lieu. It is, moreover, somewhat ironical that the policy of entrusting the administration of these matters to the Ministers, which is generally known to be the concept advocated by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster himself, has always received consistent and unwavering support from the museums.

In this context, I am delighted that to-day I have received a letter, sent out this day and written, I think, this day by the Minister, which I should like to read, because I think it puts on the record for the museums the important assurance which the right hon. Gentleman gives in that letter. I am sure that the Minister is aware that I have had this letter from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster today, in which he says:" I am, of course, aware of the strong feelings of the museums that acceptance in lieu should remain a ministerial responsibility. Equally, I know that others in the heritage world feel just as strongly that the responsibility should pass to the Trustees. The provisions inclause 14 in no way pre-empt any decision about the transfer of responsibility; they merely permit a change to be made without recourse to primary legislation though not, of course, without the approval of both Houses of Parliament.
Once the Bill is passed, the position will be that responsibility for acceptance in lieu rests with me and Michael Heseltine, which is the position preferred by the museums. I am sure you understand that I must take account of the views of others in the heritage world even though they are not my direct responsibility. I hope that you will agree that the statutory position after the Bill is enacted will be in line with the wishes of the museums.
I am fully aware of the importance that the museums attach to the acceptance of the in lieu provisions, and I give you my firm assurance that I will not put forward a draft order for parliamentary approval unless I have the willing consent of the museums."
I think that that is a most important statement by the Chancellor of the Duchy and I am glad that I received the letter in time—literally a few moments before I came into the Chamber. I am delighted to see that the right hon. Gentleman has come to join us now. That is a great pleasure for all of us. We have missed him this afternoon. But he has had a very good stand-in, may I tell him, so he will have to be on his best performance to keep up with him. I am delighted that I have had that letter from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I think that it puts at rest the worries of the museum world about the insertion of clause 14. I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.

:I am glad that the hon. Member for Warley, East (Mr. Faulds) took the opportunity to read my right hon. Friend's letter, which puts in much more eloquent and clear terms what I was saying in Committee. I hope that all those who are concerned with our heritage are clear where we stand on clause 14. I hope that there is no concern about the way in which it will be implemented in future.

Amendment agreed to.