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Viscount Astor: My Lords, we recently had a debate on VAT and historic houses. I only wish to add that the National Heritage Memorial Fund gives a grant for the total amount of expenditure which includes VAT and professional fees.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that churches and cathedrals qualify under the heading of "charitable"? If that is so, on what principle will be the division of the funds available between church and lay buildings respectively?
Viscount Astor: My Lords, the position is clear as regards churches. They are in charitable ownership for the public benefit. I know that the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund have had many applications concerning churches.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, that the private sector does a lot for heritage. It plays an extremely important part in repairing and looking after our heritage. It was the clear intention of Parliament that lottery funding for good causes should be for the public good. There are other issues here; for example, the National Heritage Memorial Fund trustees may consider applications for in situ purchases if they are convinced of the public benefit and if the proceeds of the sale are to be applied to the preservation of the building.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it would be very delicate and difficult to provide public money which would add to the equity value of private houses for their private owners? I believe that that was one of the reasons behind our approach to the Lottery Bill and earlier. In that context, will the Minister also restate that our common aim is to secure the maximum aid to heritage? Will he agree to look again to see whether it is possible to introduce any further flexibility into this matter?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we keep membership of UNESCO under close review, taking into account several factors including the progress made by UNESCO on reform, existing financial pressures and other priority demands for scarce resources.
Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that rather familiar Answer. Will he confirm that the financial issue amounts, as we have heard in the past, to an annual subscription, if that is the term, of about £10 million per year? Does my noble friend recall that it was as a result of a conference held in London in 1945 that UNESCO was founded, that its first director general was an Englishman and that this country has played a major role in its development? Will my noble friend confirm that the two criteria which caused us to leave UNESCOmaladministration and questions relating to the freedom of the presshave been dealt with? I believe that my noble friend Lady Chalker referred to a "dead duck" in relation to those two themes. Does my noble friend agree that it is sad that we left the club on ethical grounds and that we are unable to rejoin because we cannot afford the subscription?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, my noble friend is right in his estimate of the order of magnitude of the subscription to UNESCO which, depending on whether the United States is a member, would be either £11 million or £8 million per year. My noble friend is right to point out the distinguished contribution which British citizens have made to UNESCO over the years. He is also correct in regard to his two points about our reasons for leaving UNESCO in 1985. The matter relating to the freedom of the press has now been resolved, and reforms have been put in place to deal with many of the outstanding internal deficiencies. Having said that,
The position now is that if we were to return to UNESCO, we would have to find the subscription which, in turn, would have to come from some other part of our budget. The savings made through not subscribing to UNESCO meant increased contributions to other similar activities which fell within the general competence of UNESCO. Since there are more ways than one of skinning a dead catif I may use a vulgar phrasewe feel that we can contribute most effectively through bilateral means.
Lord Ennals: My Lords, we are not talking about a dead cat but about a very important international organisation in the formation of which, as the noble Lord said, we played an important part. Will the noble Lord confirm that, except for paying that modest affiliation fee, there are no other policy reasons why we should not rejoin UNESCO? Will the noble Lord also confirm that as a result of not being a member of UNESCO, we have already lost (in terms of contracts which would be beneficial to the British economy) more than we would lose by paying our affiliation fee? In view of all that has been said, why do not the British Government show some courage and decide to rejoin UNESCO?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord suggests that by not being in UNESCO we have lost a large number of contracts we might otherwise have had. It is not the view of Her Majesty's Government that that is the case. We see no evidence to support that proposition. As I said, we believe that the most effective way in which we can contribute to the common good along the lines of the principles of Article I of UNESCO's charter is through bilateral means. For as long as we consider that that is the most effective way of contributing, we shall no doubt continue as at present.
Baroness Seear: My Lords, whatever the attitude to bilateral means, surely our failure to support UNESCO suggests that we are lukewarm in our support of the United Nations. Is not that particularly inappropriate in the 50th year of the United Nations?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, no. If I may say so, I do not think that the inference drawn by the noble Baroness is either logical or based on the facts and the way in which we contribute to the United Nations in general.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that although there may have been improvements in the way UNESCO is run it is far from being regarded as a cost-effective organisation, given its overmanning at the centre? Is it not the case that many Members of your Lordships' House could suggest better ways in which the cause of international cultural co-operation can be forwarded than by clinging to an organisation which, whatever the high hopes of 1945, when there were many other high hopes around, has not fulfilled them?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, can it really be the case that the Government cannot afford the subscription? It is not a huge amount of money in terms of Britain's total public expenditure or in terms of our aid budget. Is the noble Lord aware that the Government have just taken a decision to cut £11 million from our contribution to the European Development Fund? Could that saving be used to support UNESCO and so allow us to become involved in its work at a time when all UN agencies need our support and involvement?
Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Baroness is not accurate about the European Development Fund as no decision has been taken on our contribution to EDFVIII. As to the total cost of contributing to UNESCO, the Government could find £11 million per year if they deemed it an appropriate way of spending public money. I hope I made clear in an earlier answer that we do not believe that that is a priority on which we should spend money at present.
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