Previous SectionIndexHome Page

'.--(1) This section applies to any sale of objects, properties and assets (hereinafter referred to as a "qualifying sale of art") which (i) is within Group 11 of Schedule 9 to the Value Added Tax Act 1984 and (ii) is effected by or through a recognised agent (as defined in sub-paragraph (4) below) where such recognised agent is liable to

30 Jun 1998 : Column 234

account for any amount of Corporation Tax in respect of the quarterly period during which the sale takes place (hereinafter referred to as a "qualifying tax payment").
(2) The recognised agent shall be deemed to have paid the full amount of his qualifying tax payment in respect of any quarterly period even though he deducted from that full amount a sum equivalent to 1¼ per cent. of the proceeds of the sale (the "permitted deduction") in respect of qualifying sales of art occurring in that period.
(3) The amount of the permitted deduction shall be calculated for each quarterly payment period, and the amount of the permitted deduction shall not exceed the amount of the qualifying tax payment for the quarterly payment period to which it relates. A permitted deduction may not be carried back or forward for offset in any other quarterly payment period.
(4) For the purposes of this section, a recognised agent means any auctioneer or any person carrying on a trade of dealing in any description of moveable property, or of acting as an agent or intermediary in dealings in any description of moveable property. In respect of any qualifying sale of art there shall be not more than one recognised agent for the purposes of this section within any period of six months who in the event of dispute shall be determined by the Commissioners of the Inland Revenue.
(5) This section shall come into effect on 1st October 1998.'.

Amendment No. 72, in clause 39, page 23, line 1, at beginning insert--

'(1) Save as provided in subsection (2),'.

Amendment No. 73, in page 23, line 6, at end insert--

'(2) Sections 26 and 27 of the Taxes Act 1988 shall continue to have effect in respect of the estate and maintenance funds which cover heritage properties receiving an audited number of visitors of 5,000 or more per year.'.

Mr. Woodward: New clause 9 and amendments Nos. 72 and 73, which stand in my name, are obviously about heritage, tourism, access, fairness and a fair tax regime. The Bill is unfair and will damage our tourism and heritage business very much.

Sir Richard Eyre's report for the Government, published today, states:

It is sad that, in the Bill, the Government pay no regard to the importance of our tourism industry or our heritage. At a time when we face the outcome of the comprehensive review of expenditure, Sir Richard Eyre says:

    "Whatever the structural outcome, there must be a more positive and constructive approach to delivering arts policy objectives."

The amendments attempt to make sense of a strategy for the arts and tourism that at best is muddled, and at worst--and more likely--is symbolic of the fact that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is irrelevant in the eyes of the Government, and the Secretary of State has no weight in determining Government policy. The Treasury has won on every count. The purpose of the new clauses and amendments is to ask the Government at this late stage to recognise the considerable damage that will be caused to the arts and the tourism industry.

Amendments Nos. 72 and 73 seek recognition of the importance of heritage properties that attract an audited figure of 5,000 visitors a year. Despite the fact that millions of people enjoy access to those properties, clause 39 would almost certainly deprive many of those people of access to some of the buildings of greatest historical and architectural importance in our country.

30 Jun 1998 : Column 235

This is not the place to rehearse the Government's thinking behind the clause, but I shall give the House an idea of the damage that will be done. The Historic Houses Association calculated that its 64 members who will be affected by the proposal face routine recurring repairs set off against income over the past five years of about £11.4 million. They will have major repairs set against income over the past five years of £6 million. The estimated additional tax that will be payable over the next five years, after the concession is withdrawn, is £8.7 million.

The Treasury is chasing a relatively small sum, but the damage that it will do to public access and to the tourism industry which feeds off access to those houses is considerable. The Historic Houses Association estimates that, every year, 2.7 million people visit the properties that will be affected, and an even greater number enjoy their parks and gardens. Those 2.7 million people will be disappointed so that the Treasury can meanly chase £1.7 million in taxation.

If one of those houses were handed over to the National Trust for it to look after, the cost to the public sector would be around £10 million a year. The problem with clause 39 is that it is certain that some of the 64 houses open to the public will be withdrawn from public access, because the owners will no longer be able to run the properties. The homes will go into the hands of people who may have a great deal of money and who can afford to run the houses without opening them to the public and without taking advantage of one estate election.

Although in their rhetoric the Government are committed to access, in practice they are removing it. The tourism industry, which is on the back of that business, will be brutally damaged. It is sad that, in the clause, the Government are showing that they do not care about the tourism industry. That is clearly summed up in the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee report, which pointed out that the Secretary of State does not value tourism. The report recommended that tourism should be the lead responsibility of a Minister in the Department, yet there is no sign from the Government that they recognise the importance of that. The report goes on to say:

That is the point: the Secretary of State has totally failed the heritage and tourism industries. The purpose of amendments Nos. 72 and 73 is to try, at this late stage, to put right the considerable damage that is being done.

Last night, in a token effort to acknowledge the arts industry, the Prime Minister held a seminar at No. 10 Downing street in which many of the new Labour peers and others were invited to take part. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport told us today about the significance of the "arts summit", as it has been called. He told the Evening Standard that culture would be

I am sorry, but, unless the hon. Lady shows willing and accepts the amendments and new clauses, it will expose the Prime Minister's meeting last night as mere rhetoric.

Referring to the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State told the Evening Standard:

30 Jun 1998 : Column 236

    "I think he really does care. The idea that he is uninterested in the arts is very wide of the mark."

The proof of that statement lies in the Bill's clauses and in whether the hon. Lady will accept the amendments. The magazine Country Life recently said:

    "Hidden in the Finance Bill, a Disaster for Heritage."

[Interruption.] I am sorry that Government Back Benchers are unable to acknowledge with any sense of decorum a magazine such as Country Life. That shows rather ably and fitly what callous contempt they have for rural life, for country life, for heritage and for tourism. It demonstrates also how ineffective the Secretary of State has been in making a case on behalf of the arts.

The Government intend to treat the private owner in a callous manner that runs completely counter to what the Secretary of State said last year when he addressed a meeting of the Historic Houses Association and praised the role of the individual owner. The Government will resort to type by taxing those private owners whom, in their rhetoric, they value, but, in their practice, they wish to tax. The consequences will be a forced sale of houses and unemployment for the several thousand people who are directly engaged in running those houses and for the many tens of thousands of people who are in associated tourism sectors such as hotels, shops and cafes.

It is conspicuous that Labour Members did not speak up once in Committee on behalf of their constituents and others who work in sectors related to historic houses. Not once have Labour Members spoken on behalf of the tourism industry that is related to those houses. Labour Members have failed totally to stand up and protect the interests of their constituents. It is significant also that, despite these amendments, not one member of the Heritage team is present in the Chamber. If they had been told about it, those Ministers might have liked to attend. However, I am sure that they were not told, because the Treasury team simply does not care about tourism or culture in our country.

There is no coherent policy: the left hand is taking taxes while the right hand pretends that it cares. One solution in such cases is to conduct a review. However, I am afraid that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will be rather disappointed by his latest review, the Eyre report. He will find that he will have to go to the Chancellor to ask for an extra £15 million subsidy for the Royal Opera house. From where will the money come? If that money is found, it will probably come from our heritage of historic houses and from arts sales. The Treasury is in charge of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The Treasury is vandalising our heritage, pilfering here and pilfering there; it is squandering a thousand years of history. Access will be lost.

The plundering extends not just to our houses. The purpose of new clause 9, which would result in an important change to the Bill, is to put right a bad and mean-spirited clause which will have far-reaching effects--far-reaching because 20,000 objects on the Victoria and Albert list, otherwise known as the register of conditionally exempt objects, will be affected by the clause.

Next Section

IndexHome Page