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I am grateful for this opportunity to debate the historic heritage. North of the border--if I may mention that place--we have a strong and "in your face" historic and cultural heritage. We also have that perverse phenomenon of the indigenous population
What does need to be raised is the subject of endowments and the raising of funds for endowments. Before going any further, I need to declare three interests: first, I am the chairman of the Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust which owns Alloa Tower; secondly, I am an elected member of the Council of the National Trust for Scotland, which leases Alloa Tower, and, thirdly, I have made an informal loan of family portraits and furniture to Alloa Tower.
To get back to the subject of endowments, I recall a recent discussion about the creation of new public footpaths. The situation is that while funds are available for footpath creation, there are no funds available for footpath maintenance and repair. The conclusion has to be that footpath creation is irresponsible, for the initial asset will quickly become a disreputable burden and a liability.
In a substantial way the same seems to be happening with the historic built heritage. It is inevitable that funds will become available for the repair of historic fabric, provided that there is something that looks like a business plan attached to the project. The projections may well be optimistic and will usually take time to achieve. At the same time, it is usually undesirable to push too many visitors through the property, both for the sake of the visitors and staff and for the sake of the historic fabric itself. The usual conclusion is that some form of revenue support is necessary. This can be achieved from a number of sources: retailing, catering, and public authority economic grant. Revenue support, because it supports employment, is attractive. Since 1996 the National Trust of Scotland has leased Alloa Tower from Clackmannanshire Council for 25 years with guaranteed fixed revenue support.
When it comes to finding funds for an endowment, the situation becomes difficult. Endowments are not sexy; they are boringly responsible. One cannot open an endowment in front of the press or stick a brass plaque on it. Yet without an endowment the heritage project will fall apart. Like the footpaths mentioned earlier, the new cultural and tourism assets will become a liability and ultimately a waste of resources. For Alloa Tower, the first anticipated call on an endowment will be the repainting of all the external woodwork and then the upgrading of the display material.
The reluctance to finish off the project--for that is what the endowment is--seems to be widespread. I had better declare a further interest. The Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust has applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund to help with an endowment. At present that application is neither accepted nor rejected. However, the Heritage Lottery Fund commissioners seem to have a "no endowments" policy; and they are not the only ones.
We all have a responsibility for the maintenance of and accessibility to our respective heritages. My contention is that endowment funding is central to every heritage repair and accessibility project. We must bequeath a strong heritage to all our successors--a heritage that they can enjoy, be interested in and proud of, and which is secure and not a huge and embarrassing liability. Endowment funding must become a mainstream and laudable heritage activity.
Lord Patten: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Mar and Kellie, for purporting to be him for a moment or two. I am pleased to have the opportunity now to follow rather than precede his excellent speech on which I congratulate him. I also congratulate my noble friend Lord Palumbo on his far-reaching idea.
The report has been subject to some far-reaching and in-depth criticism from those more expert than myself. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, examined it very closely indeed. It was later held up to the light by my noble friend Lord Renfrew. Having heard his critique of the report's failure to address critical parts of not just the built heritage but also the historic landscapes of the United Kingdom makes me glad that I never had to show my noble friend an inadequate essay at a supervision held by him at Jesus College, Cambridge. I do not think that I would have enjoyed that experience.
I shall not repeat those well-made criticisms. The authors of the report had a difficult task. As my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu pointed out in his excellent introductory speech, it is difficult to satisfy everyone. However, substantial lacunae in the report need to be addressed. I hope that we shall have a further report in two or three years' time, putting right some of the criticisms levelled at it, and updating us on the progress made. If that were to occur, I hope that the steering group will contain a wider range of people. I thank the members for their hard work in producing the report. However, I hope that the group will include also university teachers, archaeologists and one or two independent expert voices from outside the heritage industry who would subject some of the arguments to rigorous analysis.
Not only are there gaps in the report but there is an unfair concentration on what the Government should do. I shall attempt to bring a pre-Christmas smile to the face of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey. He need not be alarmed; I am not about to
I take one example. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, as a distinguished ex-chairman of the National Trust, will forgive me if I take the National Trust as an example and raise a question mark or two about its role in heritage matters. To do so may be thought by some to be somewhat impolite--rather like questioning the purposes of the monarchy or doubting the holiness of His Holiness the Pope, neither of which I do. However, I think that the National Trust needs to consider whether its contribution to the heritage can be further refined.
I shall not attempt to use the National Trust as a peg on which to hang criticisms of that body. Today there are demonstrations about field sports outside this House. If my noble friend Lord Kimball were present, I am sure that he would encourage me to debate that. I shall not do so. I shall not talk about the criticisms in the national press of the National Trust and its treatment of tenant farmers or the alleged elitism of its governing council. It is true that there are not many minority players in the higher reaches of the National Trust. That is probably a pity. However, the National Trust is the largest landowner in the United Kingdom with 612,000 acres, 600 miles of coastline, 1,100 tenants and heaven knows how many houses and monuments to look after. There is a severe danger that such a body is now too big to fulfil the historic purpose for which it was set up in 1907. I do not think that any of your Lordships' predecessors in 1907 would have dreamt that the National Trust would become so large and sometimes so distant from London--any more than an 18th century Whig magnate would have dreamt of having an estate of 612,000 acres. Across the country, that has led--alas!--on occasion to a certain cultural and historic homogeneity in the way in which the National Trust has treated its properties. There is sometimes a politically correct interpretation in the way in which it sets out its houses and landscape properties.
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, I, too, welcome the report, with its five main messages. I thank my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu for providing us with the opportunity to debate it, as well as for all his work in the past and present and, in anticipation, all his work to come on this important aspect of our heritage.
I regret the absence of Lord Chorley, who would have spoken with great authority about the National Trust, and many others, including the Earl of Clancarty, who always took a great interest in these matters.
I do not intend to enter into the separate debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on the provenance of the report or its balance. Whether it is an English Heritage report is irrelevant. The important thing is that we have had consultation on the issues and we now have a practical analysis of action that can be taken, following hard on the heels of the Government's White Paper, Our Towns and Cities: The Future. The report is valuable in that it raises awareness and spurs us on to necessary action.
For anybody who is not aware, my interest in the subject stems from the fact that I am a trustee of the National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside. Liverpool has a splendid new conservation centre with training facilities, as well as an emphasis on minority cultures. We have this country's only museum of Atlantic slavery, as part of the Merseyside Maritime Museum, and the newly refurbished Museum of Liverpool Life has a section that concentrates on the ethnic minority groups in Liverpool. Many may be surprised to learn that Liverpool has the oldest Chinese community in the country. That is proudly manifested in the museum.
I am also president of the European Foundation for Heritage Skills, which, under the umbrella of the Council of Europe, seeks to carry on the work of the Pro Venezia Viva Centre, which was started by my late noble friend Lord Duncan-Sandys and aimed at ensuring that there are adequate centres in Europe for training in such skills. The noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, who, I am sorry to say, is not now in his place, is familiar with the project. It ties in with the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Palumbo for a European initiative.
The foundation has created a database of all the centres of conservation and training in conservation skills throughout Europe. It also works on other ways of raising awareness by means of seminars and conferences.
I shall focus on paragraph 2.3 of the report and recommendation 7, emphasising the importance of opportunities for training, particularly craft apprenticeships, which are needed to meet future demand. Employers, particularly in construction and landscape management contractors, need to be given
That ties in to an extent with the Government's White Paper, Our Towns and Cities. I hope that the newly formed urban regeneration companies will take the recommendations into account when moving forward to projects.
The Minister will not be surprised that I have one or two questions for him. Does he expect these issues to be part of the Bill that is to be laid before us in the new year? It will cover a wide variety of subjects, including cultural heritage. What financial underpinning does he envisage to carry forward the recommendations? How does he think that more interest in heritage can be stimulated among young people and our ethnic minority communities?
Those are the main issues that I wish to focus on, but I should like to make a passing reference to VAT, which is a problem, as my noble friend Lord Montagu said, because the present system discourages maintenance. The report's emphasis on prevention rather than cure is very important. I remind the Minister of the anomaly under which regional museums are exempt from VAT, but national museums are not, hence the dilemma for national museums with regard to charging entry fees, without which no VAT can be reclaimed.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, is the most appropriate person to introduce the debate, having done so much over many years to reinterpret our heritage to the public. I declare an interest, as my wife is, inter alia, actively concerned with the preservation of our historic landscape. I acknowledge her advice.
Like my noble friend Lord Gibson, I am sure that the Government, having made a welcome start on reducing VAT in this sector, have understood that it is essential to equalise VAT at 5 per cent for all building work. I believe that the Government see the force of the argument, not to mention the injustice, that improvements to a window, for example, are VAT-free, while repairs still attract 17.5 per cent. I trust that the Minister, who will be going to Brussels on behalf of us all for our places of worship, can say something equally encouraging today about repairs to all listed historic buildings.
The report is about the involvement of people in their historic environment. An encouraging finding of a MORI survey is that the vast majority of the population recognise that our historic environment
However, we cannot be complacent because many people still feel excluded from it. Leaving aside the lottery, the Government have not yet had an opportunity to support the heritage as much as it requires. The programme extends for many years, even possibly beyond the life of new Labour. The authors of the report should be congratulated on looking so far ahead.
The sense of ownership of our heritage must be extended to all groups in society. I say that with sincerity as someone who believes in citizenship and as an owner who has supported the extension of public access in recent years. Someone who is "lucky" enough to inherit property soon becomes aware of the duty laid upon them. I have a personal debt to my uncle, the late Sir Michael Culme-Seymour, who had a remarkable intuitive sense of the privilege of public stewardship that is conferred on private owners.
However, there is a balance to be drawn. Like the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, I do not think that the report has got it quite right. Although Recommendation 6, which introduces a statutory duty of care on owners of listed buildings, is attractive, it concerns the owners particularly of smaller houses and listed buildings and registered parks and gardens, who are already struggling with a maze of national and local regulations. It is not enough to be offered fiscal incentives and grants if more and more strings are to be attached. Of course, there must be planned maintenance and surveys according to the accepted criteria, and I commend this Government's emphasis on providing advice and strengthening partnership between owners and statutory bodies.
I also agree with Recommendation 10, which asks the Government to improve their consultation and participation procedures. We must enable more people to take part in the planning process. I applaud the recommendation that local authority planning proposals should be less opaque. That ties in not only with the evident and required accountability of local authorities to the general public but also with the training of local authority officers and their councillors.
I turn now to the training of conservation officers. Although English Heritage has built up a cadre of trained inspectors in the built heritage, it is only in the past few years that it has addressed the importance of training in historic gardens, parks and landscape. English Heritage is to be congratulated on its new policy of having a landscape architect in each region. However, that policy is not yet complete--not all the regions have a landscape architect, and further training of its building inspectors would be welcome.
With regard to training, it is equally important that local authorities increase their level of awareness of the historic environment. This wide term means more narrowly focused training, in particular in the interdependence of historic landscape, parks and
English Heritage has since changed its guidelines to a presumption against enabling development. However, a wider appreciation of, and education in, the historic environment should ensure, first, that planning mistakes such as Downe Hall should not recur, and, secondly, that local authorities should be able to respond to the evident and close public interest in the preservation of heritage.
I applaud as an immediate priority the recommendation that targets should be set for English Heritage and local authorities to clear the backlog of repairs to buildings, monuments, parks and gardens which are at risk, and to make public bodies more accountable for their performance in maintaining their historic estate. It is often too easy for public bodies to pursue new and fashionable policies at the expense of the less glamorous but essential maintenance and repair of the old.
I welcome new policies that seek to protect, for example, our natural environment or that permit planning proposals which enhance job creation and urban regeneration. But in the Pantheon in Rome is a famous injunction against disrespect for the historic environment:
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