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Sir Sydney Chapman: I am grateful to the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) for introducing the amendment. It gives us a chance to discuss a serious issue. We are discussing it in the context of the Bill being able to allow English Heritage to
Mr. Knight: Is there not another consideration? If the amendment were accepted, the process would prove so cumbersome for the commission that it would wipe out any profit that it made from selling items.
I rest my case, subject to what the Minister says, on the amendment being unnecessary. English Heritage justifies its reputation, given the way it has gone about things. It would consult where it was obviously necessary to do so.
I hope that the Minister will assure the House that the Government will not support the amendments. Amendment No. 22 would pose quite an obstacle and raise an unnecessary hurdle. Foreign Governments have to be approached for picture copyright, for example, but there are other circumstances where it would not be appropriate for them to be approached.
In congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) on taking the Bill through its consideration, we should be mindful that it emanated from another place. It has been on the table, so to speak, since 21 July 2001. The amendment comes late in the day, and we should be mindful of the reassurance of my noble Friend Baroness Anelay of St. Johns, to which the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) referred. It would be entirely inappropriate to use any opportunity today to revisit the issue of who owns the Parthenon sculptures, which are rightfully the property of the British museum.
Dr. Howells: As the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman) made clear, English Heritage always takes great care to understand and respect the cultural sensitivities that apply to any ancient monument, historic building or artefact. I have every confidence in asserting that it will continue to do so. We shall have something to say if it does not. It will not be in competition with the heritage authorities in any other country. I am confident that English Heritage would automatically extend the care that it already shows to any foreign monument or historic building on which it was working. However, it would be an unacceptable burden to expect English Heritage to consult, for example, with the Egyptian Government before publishing a book in England about the pyramids.
The amendment is unnecessary and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) will show some faith in English Heritage as a fine organisation that displays a great sense of taste. I am sure that it will continue to do so, not only within the bounds of England and 12-mile territorial waters, but wherever in the world it operates.
Mr. Dismore: I have two short points to make. First, in response to the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh), this is the first opportunity that I have had to table amendments, as I did not have the good fortune to serve on the Standing Committee, so I cannot be criticised for that.
Secondly, the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) asked why the amendment was necessary. I answer by referring once more, with trepidation, to the Parthenon. I recently visited the Parthenon and met the director of the site, Professor Pantermalis, with whom I had a long discussion. He gave me a copy of a catalogue from an exhibition at the Berlin museum which the Greeks are mounting jointly with the German museum
Through the amendment, I am trying to avoid offending other Governments so that, wittingly or unwittingly, we do not end up in dispute with them. The cultural world is international, with exhibitions travelling from country to country. Because of that, we run the risk of causing offence. The net result would be that we cut off our nose to spite our face. That is my answer to the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire: the amendment was intended to ensure that we work in co-operation with other countries, rather than in competition with them.
Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham): Although I served on the Standing Committee, I had not intended to speak in the debate, as I hoped that the Bill would go through without hindrance. When the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) was fortunate enough to see the Parthenon, was he subjected to the admission charges? I gather that they have just been raised by 50 per cent., making a visit to the Parthenon a rather more expensive exercise than going to see the Elgin marbles in the British museum for free.
Mr. Dismore: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. On more than one occasion I have stressed to the Greek Government and all those involved with the Parthenon that when the Parthenon sculptures return to Athens, people must have access to them free, so that they can see them on the same basis as they can see them in their temporary home in the British museum.
I shall not prolong the proceedings. I see that the House is not with me on the amendment. However, I have made the point about the need to work with foreign Governments, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
It is with pride that I introduce the Third Reading of the Bill, which I know commands support from all parts of the House, as it did in the other place. Of course, it derived from the other place, where it was introduced by the noble Baroness Anelay of St. Johns. If the House is minded to give the Bill a Third Reading, the credit goes principally to her and all the endeavours that she put into this important measure.
I claim that the Bill has all-party support, simply because it derives from a 1996 White Paper entitled "Protecting our Heritage", which was introduced by a previous Conservative Government. Many of the provisions in the Bill were to be found in the Culture and Recreation Bill which was introduced in the last Session of the last Parliament but did not proceed because the general election was called.
The Bill transfers responsibility for underwater archaeology from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to English Heritage. As hon. Members will know, English Heritage presently has responsibility only for archaeology on land sites.
As far as I am aware, all the relevant organisations and institutions support that principal provision of the Bill: not only English Heritage, but the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites, the Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee and even the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
Two other provisions in the Bill give English Heritage the right to produce souvenirs, about which we have just spoken, not only in England but in relation to monuments or buildings in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and rightly so.
The Bill also deals with an anomaly whereby English Heritage may offer its services and expertise in England, but not outwith the United Kingdom. There is certainly a demand for English Heritage's expertise, goods and services outside the UK and the Bill gives English Heritage the powers to meet that demand. English Heritage will be able to charge for such services and so generate additional income.
It is worth pointing out that the Bill gives English Heritage the power to delegate its functions to another person if the finance is available to do the work that is within its remit but it simply does not have available the personnel or the time. That is a purely practical solution to a problem that can arise.
It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to thank all those hon. Members who have been involved with the Bill, not only those in the House of Lords, but those who served on the Committee, which was fruitful. I am particularly grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Mr. Knight) and the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) for introducing the amendments that have been withdrawn but which brought important matters to the attention of the House.
I also thank the Minister who showed me great courtesy and consideration as I attempted to pilot the measure through the House. His advice has been totally co-operative and I should like that to be put on the record, as also the great help that I was given on Second Reading by my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) and, more recently, not only on Report but in Committee, by my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh). I am most grateful to them and I commend the Bill to the House.