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Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, can my noble friend say why the list of noble Lords selected for this committee does not include my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing, who has a knowledge of broadcasting unequalled by any Member of this House? Why has he not been included in the list?
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I seem to recall--and I have no doubt that other noble Lords will as well--the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, asking a similar question a year ago and a similar question two years ago. What I was able to tell him on those two occasions I am unable to add to today. I entirely agree with him that the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, is indeed endowed with great knowledge of broadcasting. The noble Lord will be aware that, as with other proposals before your Lordships' House for appointments to committees and other bodies, extensive consultations take place in the course of the preparation for these proposals to be put before your Lordships, through in particular--I am grateful to them--the usual channels. The names which emerged on this occasion are those of noble Lords who are eminently suitable to carry out the work which is proposed today.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am unable to confirm or deny details about any names which are discussed, not least because there is such an extensive range of ability throughout your Lordships' House.
It is just two years since the National Lottery was launched and your Lordships will be well aware of the enormous success it has already had in raising funds for good causes--a success which goes far beyond even the most optimistic commentators' expectations.
Of that money generated by the lottery for good causes one-fifth is available for the support of heritage projects throughout the United Kingdom. The term "heritage" is of course a convenient shorthand for all the tangible survivals of our past. It covers such items as historic buildings and monuments, artistic treasures, artefacts of all kinds, and landscape of scientific or ecological importance. I should say too that the concept of "national heritage" can embrace items of local and regional significance, since it is widely recognised that the quality and diversity of such items are themselves an important feature of the national heritage as a whole.
Responsibility for distributing lottery money for the heritage rests with the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund, which was established under the National Heritage Act 1980 as a successor to the National Land Fund. The National Heritage Memorial Fund's responsibilities in respect of the lottery are in addition to its original responsibilities, while its powers remain those granted it by the 1980 Act.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund has so far made over 530 lottery awards worth £328 million. I shall mention three random examples of recent awards as an indication of the range of projects involved. A grant of £95,000 has been offered for the conversion of an 18th century commercial building in Crail, Scotland, for use as a childcare centre. The sum of £975,000 has been offered for the restoration of HMS "Trincomalee", a Royal Navy sailing frigate launched in 1817 and now the second oldest ship afloat. And at the top of the scale--the largest award yet made--was announced only last Thursday; namely, that £25 million is available to secure the structure, operation and environment of the 87-mile Kennet and Avon Canal, linking the River Thames at Reading with the River Avon at Bristol, a remarkable example of canal construction and engineering.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund has also deliberately begun to develop themes for lottery awards to ensure that the money is distributed in a coherent and thought-through manner. Earlier this year it established a programme to stimulate applications for the restoration of urban parks, and last month saw the launch of a joint National Heritage Memorial Fund/English Heritage programme for church repairs, to which each side has contributed £10 million for the first year.
The chairman of the fund trustees, the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, whom I am delighted to see here today, may wish to say a little more about the way in which the National Heritage Memorial Fund has approached its task. However, it is already clear that the lottery is a very valuable source of new support for the heritage.
The Government's aim in bringing forward this Bill is to widen the powers of the trustees generally, and in particular to extend the benefits of the lottery even more widely across the heritage sector. We want to see lottery money being used to enhance opportunities for everyone--and in particular young people--to have access to the heritage, to study it and to enjoy it. We want to ensure too that lottery funding can be an option for any worthwhile heritage project, with no unnecessary barriers standing in the way.
The problem which faces the trustees now is that the existing powers of the fund, as set out in the National Heritage Act 1980 to which I have already referred, effectively confine its funding remit to projects which involve the acquisition, maintenance or preservation of tangible heritage assets. Of course, the current powers are sufficient to enable the fund to support a wide range of major heritage projects and indeed, as I have indicated, it is already taking full advantage of the opportunities.
Nonetheless, the current terms of the legislation do limit the National Heritage Memorial Fund's role as a distributor of lottery funds. It cannot make funds available for access, education and youth initiatives in the heritage field. It cannot provide assistance for information technology projects or schemes for the development of heritage-related skills. It is severely limited in its ability to fund nature conservation work.
The Government want to remove these constraints. We would like to see the National Heritage Memorial Fund undertaking a role in the heritage field analogous to that which the Arts Council and Sports Council are now successfully playing within their sectors but which is at present outside its remit for the reasons I have already explained.
We want the National Heritage Memorial Fund to have the opportunity to fund, for example, special transport schemes to enable children to visit heritage sites; reduced admission charges at sites for the young and the elderly; bursaries for training young people in conservation skills; and projects to ensure the survival of rare flora and fauna. We would like the fund to be able to support a wider range of museum projects, on the lines discussed in the Government's Treasures in Trust document published in July.
We would also like the fund to be able to offer support for two categories of project which enhance understanding of the nation's history independently of its tangible remains. The first is exhibitions relating to an historical subject area. An example might be a museum exhibition on the life and work of an important figure in history or on the ecology of a particular region. The second is the creation of an archive, in any medium, relating to a significant aspect of national history.
That then is the first theme of the Bill: extending the National Heritage Memorial Fund's funding remit to take in a much wider range of worthwhile projects in the public interest. However, we have been looking not only at the issue of what type of project the fund can support; we have also been considering the question of who is eligible for assistance.
Under the legislation as it stands, eligibility for National Heritage Memorial Fund assistance is confined to public bodies and charitable bodies established for a specific heritage purpose. Of course, this is wide enough to take in a great many important projects. But it also places many projects beyond the reach of the fund which must, by any reasonable standards, be seen as having equivalent heritage value.
Let me mention a couple of specific examples of the problems. Many almshouses are of course run by charities. But they are not normally charities established for a heritage purpose. The National Heritage Memorial Fund has therefore had to reject a number of applications for lottery funding for the restoration of outstanding historic almshouse buildings. I believe most people would see that as something of a nonsense.
Or again, one of our most distinctive forms of historic building is the seaside pier. As noble Lords may be aware, 1996 has been designated as the Year of the Pier. Sadly, many of our seaside piers are in need of major repair work. Those which are in local authority or charitable ownership are eligible for lottery funding and a number of awards have in fact already been made. But many piers are privately owned and are therefore beyond the scope of the fund's current powers. If, for example, a resort has two piers next to each other on the seafront, one of which is owned by a charitable trust and the other is privately owned, the former is at present eligible for lottery funding while the latter is not.
Over two-thirds of our historic buildings are estimated to be in private hands. Hence a substantial part of our built heritage is outside the National Heritage Memorial Fund's existing terms of reference and therefore ineligible for lottery assistance. Nor is it simply a matter of individual historic buildings. There is considerable scope for the allocation of lottery funds for heritage projects of a more strategic kind; for instance, historic townscape schemes as an element of urban regeneration or integrated conservation projects in the countryside. Yet as things stand the National Heritage Memorial Fund is often unable to help because much of the property affected is in private ownership.
The National Heritage Memorial Fund itself, English Heritage and other leading heritage bodies, all take the view that it makes no sense to limit the impact of the lottery in this way. So did the National Heritage Select Committee in another place when it issued its report on the National Lottery earlier this year.
The Government fully agree. The availability of lottery funding ought not to depend on who happens to own the property concerned. It should be determined on the basis of the actual project for which funding is sought. The key considerations are: is it a project of importance for the national heritage? Will it produce a clear benefit for the public as a whole?
So that is the second theme of the Bill: the removal of the current restrictions on eligibility for lottery support in favour of a new approach which looks at the nature of the project rather than the identity of the applicant.
I am aware that the proposed new approach to eligibility has prompted two specific concerns. The first is that it is the Government's purpose simply to enable lottery grants to be made to owners of historic houses. For the avoidance of any possible misunderstanding, I should make it clear that my own family home, Hutton-in-the-Forest, near Penrith in Cumbria, which I own and where I drafted much of this speech, is a Grade I listed building open to the public.
I hope it is clear from what I have already said that the privately owned heritage includes a great deal more than historic houses. Indeed, it goes wider than historic buildings generally. The new rules on eligibility will also apply of course to, for example, museums, land and artefacts owned by private individuals. Furthermore, it should be emphasised that eligibility to receive money is not of course the same as receiving it. Eligibility is merely an entitlement to have one's case considered on its merits. It is a matter for the trustees of the National Heritage Memorial Fund how the funds for which they are responsible are disbursed.
Moreover, there is nothing new about giving assistance from public funds to privately owned heritage property. It is a long-established element in the array of policies which we have in Britain to preserve our historic buildings and landscapes, and which command all-party support.
For many years, English Heritage and its sister agencies have been running grant schemes for historic buildings of outstanding quality, irrespective of ownership, to which tight conditions are attached and enforced, including if appropriate clawing back money already given. What is important is that the National Heritage Memorial Fund should continue to work closely with English Heritage and other heritage bodies across the whole of the United Kingdom to ensure that money is applied where it is most needed. I am pleased to be able to tell your Lordships that the National Heritage Memorial Fund has begun constructive discussions with the 21 relevant statutory bodies on future funding priorities in the light of the new powers contained in this Bill, after which it will be consulting more widely.
A separate concern is that the Government's intention is to allow lottery money to substitute for English Heritage funding and thus through a sleight of hand renege on their original undertaking that lottery funds would be additional to existing government expenditure programmes. I am glad to have this opportunity to
Nor does this prevent lottery money from complementing other funding. Within the built heritage sector, it is entirely right that projects which are beyond the scope of English Heritage's grant programmes--in terms of either eligibility or affordability--should be able to be considered for lottery funding. What matters is that there should be co-ordination and agreed strategies on the role of lottery funding in relation to other heritage programmes. As I have said, discussions are now taking place to that end.
I would now like to turn to the detailed provisions of the Bill. The main substance is in the first clause. This redefines the funding powers of the National Heritage Memorial Fund trustees as set out in Section 3 of the 1980 Act. The new provision involves three principal changes. First, it extends the fund's funding remit to encompass more than just the acquisition, maintenance or preservation of land, buildings or objects of importance to the national heritage. The fund will now also be able to fund projects to secure access to the heritage; to encourage study, understanding and enjoyment of the heritage; to develop skills relating to the heritage; and to fulfil ancillary purposes. The extended powers cover the natural as well as the cultural heritage, so that the fund will be able to support, for instance, work to preserve rare species of wildlife.
Secondly, the existing exclusive list of recipients eligible for National Heritage Memorial Fund funding disappears. Instead the fund will be able to fund any project which is of importance to the national heritage and is of public benefit. Whether a particular project satisfies these requirements is of course essentially a matter for the trustees themselves, but as regards public benefit, access to the public will obviously be a key consideration. Indeed, there will continue to be a specific requirement on the fund to have regard to the desirability of public access or display in relation to any project being considered for funding.
Thirdly, there is a new power for the National Heritage Memorial Fund to fund public exhibition and archive projects relating to an important aspect of the United Kingdom's history, natural history or landscape and which the trustees consider are of public benefit.
As I have indicated, we are proposing these changes mainly with the fund's role as a lottery distributor in mind. But the changes will also apply to the original National Heritage Memorial Fund, which, as your Lordships know, serves as a fund of last resort for the support of heritage projects in memory of those who have given their lives for the United Kingdom.
I will make only the briefest mention of Clause 2. This repeals existing provisions which require the fund to obtain departmental and Treasury approval to the payment of allowances to trustees and to certain staffing matters. This is a simple housekeeping measure and in line with our general policy of relaxing such controls
This is only a short Bill, but I believe that all those who care about our nation's history and its future will recognise it as a measure of very considerable significance. It will extend the impact of the National Lottery more widely across the whole heritage sector. It will bring a great deal more of the heritage within reach of lottery funding; and it will open up a whole host of new opportunities for people to discover it for themselves, to study and explore it in depth and to treasure it as one of our greatest national assets, and one of the pleasures of life. I commend the Bill to your Lordships.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing the Bill so clearly. I was particularly struck by the reference to seaside piers in need of repair. I should like to ask the Minister about the backwoods hereditary Peers of this House, many of whom are beyond repair and, sadly, perhaps facing demolition.
This is an intriguing Bill. Twelve days ago there was not a whisper of it in the Queen's Speech, yet here it is--small, but seemingly perfectly formed. On studying it, I can now understand why. The Bill, although modest, is very worthy in intention and makes positive, helpful contributions about the national heritage. It is not partisan, scores no party points and does not have many votes in it. As such, it was clearly disqualified from inclusion in the mish-mash of sloganising that we suffered last week.
I should make it clear at the beginning that we on this side broadly support the Bill because it helpfully gives the heritage lottery distributors more flexibility to distribute grants to a wider range of eligible beneficiaries, putting them, as the Minister said, on a similar basis to the arts and sports distributors. Under the Bill, the heritage lottery distributors will be able to support a wider range of heritage buildings, townscapes and landscapes, including the piers and theatres, and access to that heritage. The Bill will encourage study and understanding and the creation of heritage archives and intellectual property, including the science heritage, and nature conservation, including animals and plants. It helps to embrace the whole heritage mosaic of ownership, public and private, of access and preservation, and especially the improvement of our intangible, as well as tangible, heritage.
The original 1980 National Heritage Act is clearly out of date. The modifications in the 1993 National Lottery etc. Act were inadequate and too restrictive--and we are all responsible for that. The question of eligibility of candidates caused dissatisfaction, with private individuals and commercial companies being excluded. The definition of "eligible projects" was also
The whole of new Section 3A is very useful. It covers archives and includes living oral histories and exhibitions of heritage. But in the context of study and understanding of our national heritage, I ask the Minister to confirm that such great heritage projects as the Victoria county histories, which are close to my historian's heart, are clearly covered by the Bill. Speaking subject to correction, I believe that they were launched with funds from the 1851 exhibition. They have come to a virtual halt, and it would be appropriate to re-finance them now. They have made great contributions to our knowledge of local heritage.
The proposed assistance to private historic houses has aroused particular interest, even on this side of the House. It may be questioned by some who fear that toffs on wealthy estates will get away with more public subsidy, adding to the welfare state and the common agricultural policy. However, it was supported by the report of the Select Committee in another place. I shall explain why we on this side support the principle, providing strict conditions and criteria are adhered to. I gave my personal support to helping private historic houses in this House at Question Time some years ago--perhaps New Labour, old houses. One cannot understand how logically or fairly one can preserve the built heritage while defining out private historic houses which constitute two-thirds of the built house heritage and receive 11 million of the 15 million visitors to historic houses per year. Surely, it is cheaper and more efficient to have them maintained in private hands with the help of lottery funds than for them to fall into disrepair or wholly into the lap of the state and the National Trust.
The fact is that it is better to have heritage houses lived in. They are more alive and less like museums--one thinks of the noble Minister's house, which is very alive--and visitors prefer that. My right honourable friend in another place the shadow Secretary of State for National Heritage, Mr. Cunningham, also has a long record of support for this initiative. He personally intervened to help rescue Munster Castle in the north east. He has asked for confirmation from the Minister
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