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As part of the regular meetings with the chair of English Heritage, we have discussed progress on the current heritage protection review. Some of those discussions have referred to the changes to the listed building regime, which is due to be implemented next month.
Sir Sydney Chapman: I am delighted to hear the right hon. Lady's response to my question, because she knows that, in certain parts of the fourth estate recently, there was speculation that her Department would not hand over the powers of the listed building system to English Heritage next month. Now that she has confirmed that she will be doing so, may I congratulate her and say that I have such confidence in English Heritage that even if she handed over the designation orders as well, I would be pleased?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, a number of administrative transfers will take place next month, but, as part of upgrading and modernising the designation system, which is rather dense and impenetrable for many local residents, we intend to go further. We hope to publish those proposals in a White
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Paper later this year or early next, and they would have to be followed by legislation, but we consider the administrative changes that will take place next month a first step.
Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): This year is the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar. As we have such a rich maritime history, can I persuade my right hon. Friend to ask English Heritage to list not just buildings, but our great ships, as it used to, so that they do not sink?
Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings) (Con): Has the Secretary of State calculated how many listed buildings will be affected and how many lost due to the Deputy Prime Minister's plans to bulldoze the north and concrete over the south? She is aware that those plans will do a great deal of damage to a number of historic settlements, including a number of listed buildings. Will she make such an assessment and bring it to the House, and will she give the House a chance to debate and overturn these disastrous plans?
Tessa Jowell: We have just heard from the Oppositionit is not surprisinganother myth that has no basis in fact. We have a strong and robust heritage protection system, which I intend should become more flexible and more susceptible to public involvement. There is no question of the need for new homes, which are desperately needed in the south of England, being compromised in the way the hon. Gentleman suggests. He is simply making a rather cheap, party political point.
Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): I am extremely grateful for the work that English Heritage is doing in the north-west, particularly in supporting work in my constituency to look after the grade II* listed buildings on the Hooton aerodrome? One of the problems that has emerged is the shortage of money to repair buildings, and the resultant tendency for preference to be given to grand mansions rather than our industrial heritage. Can my right hon. Friend use her Department's offices to work with English Heritage to try to gear in private sector money to help buildings for which alternative uses could be found to succeed in the future?
Tessa Jowell: Yes, that is a very good proposition, and one which English Heritage has been applying in different parts of the country. Notable buildings, which fall under the auspices of English Heritage or the National Trust, can often make an important contribution to modern regeneration, which is one of the important objectives. There are many examples of that. I therefore welcome my hon. Friend's suggestion.
Peter Bottomley (Worthing, West)
(Con): If the right hon. Lady anticipates the election, in the light of her remarks to my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir Sydney Chapman), can we anticipate the
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result and say that we will bring a fresh mind to the question of whether there should be new legislation? We do not want too much modernisation of the protection of our ancient buildings.
Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): Following up the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Worthing, West (Peter Bottomley), may I say what a pleasure it is to be asking the Secretary of State a question on what might be the last occasion that she answers from the Dispatch Box? However, will she confirm that more than 1,000 grade I and grade II* listed buildings are currently on the at-risk register, and one in six of those are owned by the Government or by local authorities? How will those be helped by the £14 million cut in the budget of English Heritage announced recently by her Department, coming on top of the £19 million cut in the previous spending review? Is it any wonder that English Heritage has said that her Department has no regard for the heritage's contribution to people's quality of life or to the economy? Will she now match our pledge to guarantee the future of the heritage lottery fund, and to boost it by an extra £100 million a year?
Tessa Jowell: Let me take the hon. Gentleman's intervention point by point. First, it does not square with the many discussions that I have had with English Heritage. The figures that he quotes do not take account of the fact that this spending round saw English Heritage gain an additional £13 million. Will he welcome the increases that, in this tough spending round, we were able to establish for the museums sector, and the above-inflation increase for most of our regularly funded arts organisations? In relation to English Heritage and the heritage sector more generally, I pay tribute to the fact that it has saved money by tackling bureaucracy and inefficiency, which has now been translated into what would be described as front-line activity. I hope that that process will continue.
The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): The Government support the UK art market in a number of ways. Our policy of free admissions to national art galleries and museums has substantially increased public access to contemporary and non-contemporary art, and raised awareness and interest in the visual arts. The own art scheme, administered by the Arts Council, is directly supporting the art market by enabling the general public to buy art through interest-free loans.
Is the right hon. Lady aware of the damage that will be caused by the implementation in January next year of the directive on the artist's resale levy, which will drive art sales out of this country to centres such as New York which do not impose the levy?
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Given that the European Commission never carried out a regulatory impact assessment, given that the Government's own assessment concluded that 1,000 jobs would be lost as a result of the directive and given thatto be fairthe Government voted against the original directive, will she demand an urgent re-examination of this further example of job-destroying European regulations?
Estelle Morris: The right hon. Gentleman is correct in saying that the Government have argued vociferously in Europe about the droit de suite. We should bear in mind, however, that the art market is tremendously strong in the United Kingdom at present. It is worth £4.2 billion to the economy, so I do not think that it is vulnerable or weak.
Let us be clear about what this measure will mean. It will mean that artists orfor 70 years after their deathstheir successors will have a share of the resale value of any work of art that goes to the British art market. Given that art inflation is significantly above general inflation, I suppose there is an argument that those who produce works of art should have a fair share of the profit; but we have always felt that it would have been better for us not to be party to this measure, and have argued to that effect as vociferously as possible.
I think the right hon. Gentleman would have to admit that the art market has recognised the work that the Government have done. We will continue to defend, in a number of ways, a market which, as I have said, is incredibly strong at presentprobably far stronger than it was when the right hon. Gentleman's party was in government.
Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham) (Lab): Droit de suite may be a good idea in principle, but would it not be better for the levy thus raised to be spent on promoting the arts generally, rather than going to the families of artistssome of whom will take ages to trace, and may be incredibly wealthy themselves?
Estelle Morris: That may be so. I do not know how easy it would be, but as my hon. Friend knows, that is not part of the proposal. We are currently consulting on the details, a process led by my noble Friend the Minister for Science and Innovation. I am sure that he will read my hon. Friend's comments and reflect on them, but I do not want to give the impression that Europe will be swayed. The motive behind the proposal is to ensure that the person who produces a work of art has a share of the income when it is sold, sometimes at an immeasurably higher price in a relatively short period.
Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam) (LD): As the Minister will know, in 2003 very strict regulations were imposed on the UK art market to implement United Nations sanctions banning dealing in material that might have been looted from Iraq. The regulations have now been in force for some time. Has the Minister made, or will she make, an assessment of their effectiveness and their impact on the UK art market?
I am aware of the huge amount of work that the hon. Gentleman has done in this regard, and of his part in the enactment of the legislation. We
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have not yet made a valuation, but I will ask whether this is an appropriate time for us to do so. Once the legislation has had time to settle down, we can establish what has happened. I entirely agree that a valuation ought to be made at some point.
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