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Lord Judd: My Lords, it is very honest of the Minister to say that he has not yet seen the paper. Others have. I commend it to the noble Earl because it is absolutely uncompromising on the failure of the system and, as I think the Minister will agree when he has read it, rather takes the carpet from under his feet on the issue.

We commend the commitment of Ministers, the Ministry of Defence and the leaders of the armed services to this issue. We do not doubt that commitment at all. The Minister will recall that in Committee I quoted an admirable booklet produced by the Army, with its excellent uncompromising foreword by the Adjutant General, General Rose. We have no doubt that there is real endeavour to move forward in this area. Indeed, we hear that from the Commission for Racial Equality and from the Equal Opportunities Commission which want to help in every way. However, the view that remains--it is deeply held on this side of the House also--is that the Armed Forces are kicking into their own goal by resisting an opportunity of direct access to the outside tribunal. If the system were working really effectively but with that safety valve, people would be confident about using the internal system. They would know that such a system must be good because the external system was readily available as an alternative.

I urge the Minister to consider carefully what we have said tonight. I also encourage him to read Lieutenant-Colonel Crawford's report carefully. Having done so, I hope that he will be able to come back, albeit at the eleventh hour on Third Reading, with more helpful observations. Pending that moment, however, I think it sensible for me to beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 4 and 5 not moved.]

Clause 22 [Sex discrimination: Northern Ireland]:

[Amendments Nos. 6 to 8 not moved.]

Clause 23 [Racial discrimination]:

[Amendments Nos. 9 to 11 not moved.]

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Clause 24 [Equal treatment: Great Britain]:

[Amendments Nos. 12 to 14 not moved.]

Clause 25 [Equal treatment: Northern Ireland]:

[Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 not moved.]

Clause 26 [Other complaints: Great Britain]:

[Amendment No. 17 not moved.]

Clause 27 [Other complaints: Northern Ireland]:

[Amendment No. 18 not moved.]

Clause 30 [Greenwich Hospital]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 19:

Page 25, line 28, at beginning insert--
("Where he is satisfied that the purposes set out in paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsection (2) will be fulfilled.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to ensure that the Secretary of State--indeed, any Secretary of State way into the future--will have to take wider considerations than price alone into account in granting a lease of any of the land at the historic site of Greenwich.

Perhaps I may say at the outset that the latest developments with regard to Greenwich are breathtaking. We now understand that the Government are nominating Greenwich as a UNESCO world heritage site. I find a certain irony in that situation. The Government are nominating Greenwich to UNESCO as a world heritage site. Yet the Government refuse to be a member of UNESCO because of their reservations about its adequacy. I therefore find the remarks of the Secretary of State for National Heritage delightful when she says,

    "The area we have nominated focuses on the outstanding buildings associated with the town's royal and maritime history. I believe Greenwich meets the stringent criteria laid down by UNESCO and fully merits the national and international prestige it would bring in time for the millennium".
Those are strong words of commendation for UNESCO's status. I hope that the Secretary of State's colleagues in the Foreign Office and the ODA have read them and that they will take the logical action in terms of rejoining UNESCO as soon as possible. However, that is another debate.

Tonight we are concerned with Clause 30 in which we find the encouraging commitment on the part of the Government that, in deciding on a lease, the Secretary of State shall have regard to,

    "(a) the importance of preserving for the benefit of the nation the historic buildings and monuments on the land and of maintaining the architectural integrity of the Royal Naval College site;

    (b) the desirability of securing reasonable public access to the land (and in particular to the historic buildings and monuments on the land); and

    (c) the desirability of preventing any use of the land appearing to him to be out of keeping with its unique character and history.

    (3) It shall be lawful for the Secretary of State to grant a lease of any of the land to which this section applies, with its appurtenances, to any person appearing to him to be suitable for a term not exceeding 150 years".

All of the ideals are spelt out but there is absolutely no obligation on the Secretary of State to act in accordance with those ideals. If anything was a load of rhetoric this drafting of the Bill would be exactly that.

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The amendment is designed to help the Government by guaranteeing that the action which the Secretary of State takes fulfils the good intentions spelt out in the Bill. There have been arguments about the precise wording. The Minister took us to task in Committee by suggesting that the wording was not ideal. We said that we would not die in a ditch for wording and we wanted to get the mechanism right. We have tried to find wording which we hope moves nearer to meeting the anxieties of the Minister. No doubt he will tell us that it is still not perfect. If that is so we will look at it again. But we want to ensure that the action taken by the Secretary of State is based upon the good intentions spelt out in the preceding part of the Bill. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: My Lords, Clause 30 is designed to allow the Secretary of State to grant a lease in respect of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, to a non-government body. The House will be aware that Section 7 of the Greenwich Hospital Act 1869 restricts use of the college buildings to occupation by the Royal Navy, government departments or organisations associated with seafaring.

I stress that the Government always have been and remain committed to securing the best possible future for these historic buildings. Your Lordships will be aware that on 28th March my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced that he had accepted the central recommendation of the advisory group set up to advise him on the future of the Royal Naval College that, in the event of non-defence occupancy, an independent trust should be established to manage the site for the nation.

As a result of concerns expressed in the other place, the Government sought to emphasise its commitment to the buildings by tabling extensive amendments to the clause, including what is now subsection (2). These amendments were designed to ensure that in choosing a future occupant due regard would be had to a wide range of heritage concerns. These heritage concerns included the architectural integrity of the site and the desire to prevent occupation out of keeping with the character and history of the site. The Government's clear commitment to preserve the heritage of this site is fully reflected by this clause.

I recognise that noble Lords opposite have revised the wording of the previous amendment to Clause 30. I acknowledge their constructive approach to these matters. I regret to say that the new form of words does not overcome the concerns that I highlighted at Committee stage; nor do I consider it to be necessary in view of the earlier extensive amendments moved by the Government.

The clause is currently designed to permit a proper balance to be struck between the "private" interests of the charity and wider public interests. The new form of words seeks to turn the public interest considerations in subsection (2) into conditions which the Defence Secretary as trustee of Greenwich Hospital would have to see fulfilled. This could have the effect of requiring him to make a decision which disregarded the "private"

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interests of the charity. It might require him, unintentionally no doubt, to exclude other factors which may be relevant now, or become so in the future.

In considering the most appropriate form of words--I can assure your Lordships that that was a long and very involved process--our object was to ensure that the wider interests of heritage and access were properly taken into account in decisions on the future of these magnificent buildings, and not improperly to circumscribe the trustee's powers and responsibilities. The wording of the clause reflects the objectives shared by all sides of the House. The absence of an amendment to subsection (3), as suggested by this amendment, does not isolate the subsection from the other considerations of the clause. As I said in Committee, the Defence Secretary must have regard to the matters in subsection (2) before exercising his powers to grant a lease under subsection (3), and he would be in breach of his statutory duties if he failed to do so.

The new form of the amendment remains technically incompatible with the present subsection (2). Subsection (2) identifies various matters to which the Secretary of State must have regard. It does not contain any "purposes" which could be fulfilled. From the clause as currently drafted, it is clear that the Secretary of State will be required to carry out a balancing exercise, as I have said. We are legislating for generations to come. In certain circumstances the various considerations specified in subsection (2) might not be wholly consistent. To seek, as the amendment does, to make these considerations "purposes", each of which is to be fulfilled, could mean that in such circumstances the clause was not in practice capable of being applied, and whatever decision may be reached by the Secretary of State would be vulnerable to challenge.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, rightly stressed in Committee that it was not the matter of drafting, but the objectives behind them which mattered. He made that point again today. He asked that the Government look at the matter further in that light. We have looked at his suggestions with care. We remain of the view that the amendment would tilt the balance away from Greenwich Hospital since it would risk a Defence Secretary being obliged to disregard the interests of the charity. Furthermore, the amendment would in practice be unworkable for the reasons I have already stated. For those reasons I hope the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Judd: My Lords, the Government cannot have it both ways on Clause 30. On the one hand, they argue that the way in which the Bill is drafted will mean that the Secretary of State has, in effect, to act in accordance with subsection (2). When we argue that that should be belt and braces underlined by appropriate wording in subsection (3), the Government argue that it is not an obligation in Clause 2, it is just something of which the Secretary of State has to take account. That does not add up, because the Government are arguing both ways at the same time. I suspect that the Minister, with his insight and objectivity and considerable intellect, which

2 Jul 1996 : Column 1402

we all respect, knows that perfectly well. I am sure that the Government knew that perfectly well when they drafted the Bill.

If the Government are sincere that the Minister should act in accordance with the ideas--let us put it no more strongly than "the ideas"--expressed in subsection (2), I give this undertaking to the Minister. If between now and Third Reading the Government and the Opposition can get together and produce, for Clauses 2 and 3, some wording that makes it absolutely clear that the action has to be in line with ideas what would be the right thing to do--what is important, perhaps, in this situation--we on this side will fully co-operate with that process. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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