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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the noble Baroness is raising extremely esoteric issues that require expert advice. Experts have been consulted on the matter. I thought that all that I said provided her with adequate reassurance, but I am entirely to happy to write to her on the matters that she raises.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. It would be worth doing that, because both questions are important from the Scottish perspective--I know that she appreciates that sea boundaries are slightly more sensitive than they are south of the Border.

8.24 p.m.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: My Lords, it seems strange that the first national heritage Bill to emerge under the present Administration should be a Private Member's Bill proposed by an Opposition Member. I congratulate my noble friend Lady Anelay of St Johns on her welcome initiative.

It is stranger still that this Bill should be salvaging part of the wreckage--to use a nautical metaphor--of the Government's Culture and Recreation Bill, which sank without trace in the weeks and months before the general election. I remind your Lordships that that Bill received a Second Reading on 18th January--long before the general election. I hoped that the Bill would proceed through the House during the many weeks and months between January and the election. The present Bill comprises, almost verbatim, Clauses 19 to 24 of that sunken Culture and Recreation Bill.

I take this opportunity--my first--to welcome the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, to her new position as Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport, responsible for national heritage. With her much respected clarity of mind, she will be able to give us clear answers to heritage questions.

I also pay tribute to her noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey, who has dealt so effectively and sympathetically with heritage matters in this House. Indeed, only this week he successfully managed to get the Treasury off the hook with its strange proposal to sell off the Privy Council silver collection by recognising its evident heritage importance. I also recognise the progress made by the predecessor of the noble Baroness as a culture Minister, Alan Howarth, who has supported the portable antiquities voluntary recording scheme, and who announced the Government's intention to accede to the 1970 UNESCO convention--something that many of us warmly welcome.

The Bill is especially timely because it is now clear that historic wrecks in our waters are increasingly subject to systematic looting, such as has become familiar off the east coast of the United States where historic wrecks are commonly plundered for their cargoes, which are then offered for sale. Naturally,

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such recovery is not conducted to the high standards of underwater archaeology, nor are the results properly published nor the finds lodged in a publicly owned museum. On sea, as on land, the problem is the loss of context, and of the historic information that accompanies such loss. It is vital that we strengthen the procedures by which ancient wrecks are preserved and opened to systematic investigation by competent workers who will publish the data professionally. The Bill goes a long way in that direction.

Just last week, I received a circular from,

    "a British based salvage company with an interest in recovering historical as well as commercial shipwrecks. In addition one of the company's aims is to establish a commercial shipwreck Heritage Centre.

The circular offers shares in the company, and states:

    "The Directors hope to raise ... £750,000 in share capital".

I deplore those who seek to commercialise our heritage in that way and to sell off the evidence of our past. The company announces that it has relocated to the south-east of England on the grounds that,

    "there are a number of relatively untouched wrecks off Kent particularly on and around the Goodwin sands".

The circular concludes:

    "You should note that an investment ... should qualify under the Enterprise Investment Scheme: conferring EIS capital gains tax deferral and EIS income relief."

Something is seriously wrong there, and I hope that the Bill will make it more difficult for the heritage of Britain--with respect to my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour--to be exploited inappropriately in such a way.

We need a competent national organisation to deal properly with our historic wrecks and the Bill, which brings such matters within the remit of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England--that is, English Heritage--will be a significant step forward.

To broaden our perspective a little, as the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale has done, some may feel that national heritage has had a rather low profile under the Labour Government. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has replaced the former Department of National Heritage, and has not produced a single piece of legislation in the field of heritage, other than the ill-starred assortment of items proposed but not passed in the Culture and Recreation Bill.

In the Green Paper, Protecting our Heritage, published in 1996 when we still had a Department of National Heritage, a whole series of recommendations were put forward. Furthermore, the recommendation for statutory sites and monuments records was put forward in the document, Power of Place, which we debated 12 months ago in a debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. But where are those proposals? And, indeed, where is the Government's response to Power of Place? In another context, I have heard the Minister say that the Government plan to respond soon and that is welcome. But where are the provisions for sites and

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monuments records about which there seems to be virtual unanimity in the heritage world and in local government?

I am a little perplexed that the noble Baroness is not expected to reply at the end of the debate because I had a series of further questions. I should be happy to have my questions answered and having asked them would defer at once if she felt inclined to do so. However, I am a little puzzled to know what are the Government's plans in relation to the other provisions of the Culture and Recreation Bill. I have the Explanatory Notes for that Bill before me and note that the structural changes laid out include the establishment of a single body, the Arts Council, to bring together support for arts and crafts; the creation of the commission for architecture and the built environment to promote architecture on a wider basis than the Royal Fine Arts Commission; the establishment of a film council to prepare and implement a strategy to improve access to the moving image; the creation of Resource, the council for museums, archives and libraries, as a new national strategic body for museums; the transformation of the English Tourist Board; and the reconstitution of the Football Licensing Authority as the sports grounds safety authority. The matter of safety on sports grounds is no trivial one.

I was interested to learn from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that the Government have other proposals for Culture Online, but I am not aware of an announcement to that effect. I had hoped that a debate on the National Heritage Bill today would afford the noble Baroness the opportunity of indicating the Government's proposals. I am not sure that I have the opportunity to ask those questions and, more exactly, I am not sure that the noble Baroness has the opportunity of replying. That is a matter for disappointment but I await the announcement of the Government's intentions on these matters as soon as conveniently possible.

In conclusion, I want not only to congratulate my noble friend Lady Anelay but also to welcome the constructive response which the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, has given to the proposals. It sounds a fruitful debate and it is satisfactory that the Government have responded in such a constructive and graceful way to the proposals which have been made. From what I have heard I am hopeful that the Bill will have a smooth passage through your Lordships' House and I hope that the same may be said of its passage in another place.

8.33 p.m.

Lord Luke: My Lords, most of what I wanted to say has already been said, so I shall not keep your Lordships very long. First, I want to reiterate everything said by my noble friend Lady Anelay in introducing the Bill. As she said, she has two main objectives: first, to remove some anomalies in the powers and functions of English Heritage; and, secondly, to implement some of the uncontroversial proposals from the 1996 Green Paper, Protecting our Heritage, published by the previous Conservative government.

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Among other things, she has made a very strong case for the inclusion of underwater archaeology into the remit of English Heritage. As she said, that problem is not evident in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland. Historic Scotland and CADW can of course declare wrecks and ancient monuments and where appropriate fully support their management and funding. For instance, in Scapa Flow anchorage lie the seven remaining vessels of the Imperial German High Seas Fleet (four light cruisers and three battleships). Those have been scheduled as ancient monuments. The other vessels of the fleet, which sank in shallower water after scuttling in 1919, have long since been retrieved and broken up. The protection now available in Scotland makes removal of items without permission from a wreck illegal, but allows access by divers as a tourist attraction under the Ancient Monuments Act 1982.

Again, under the 1973 Act, which requires divers on specified wrecks to be licensed, in the Sound of Mull Historic Scotland allows an archaeologist to run a wreck visiting scheme to two wrecks under his supervision due to their precarious position. So both those Acts can be usefully employed to protect heritage as well as allowing and indeed encouraging public access. As has been said by several speakers, there is no reason why English Heritage cannot operate similarly.

It is important to keep in mind war graves. What is a war grave and what is not? For instance, the ships in Scapa Flow, to which I referred, sank without loss of life, in contrast to the battleship "Royal Oak", which was sunk by a German submarine in Scapa Flow in 1939 and is a designated war grave, rightly reflecting that it is the final resting place of more than 1,000 sailors.

Another matter has been drawn to my attention by a Mr Annis concerning the status of historic vessels. Apparently, there is no proper mechanism by which these very important relics of our past can be properly maintained, except by public subscription and occasional and entirely inadequate grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund. I hope to take up that matter with English Heritage, which apparently relinquished its responsibilities for historic ships in 1992, and hope that the best way of resolving the issue may emerge in due course--and, it is to be hoped, before some of the historic ships, which are fast deteriorating, completely disappear.

My noble friend Lady Carnegy is unhappy with boundary designations. I hope it will be possible to resolve that before the Committee stage and I am pleased that the Minister will investigate the matter. My noble friend Lord Renfrew also spoke in support of the Bill and of what should be done to preserve underwater archaeology. He also wondered about other matters lost in the Culture and Recreation Bill earlier this year. I do not know what, if anything, can be done about those.

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This is a small Bill but a worthwhile one. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said, there should be no need for controversy as both its aims and suggested changes are supported on all sides. Let us give it a fair wind.

8.39 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken this evening and for the general welcome for the Bill. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lady Carnegy of Lour, who has brought her experience of parliamentary scrutiny so carefully to bear on the Bill. I know that she bears the battle scars of the Scotland Act and other debates on devolution, and I very much appreciate the care and attention with which she always alerts me in advance to the concerns that she has on these matters.

I am grateful to the Minister for the assurances that she has given tonight with regard to the order that may be made under the Bill by the Secretary of State. I assure my noble friend Lady Carnegy that after, as I hope, Second Reading has been granted. I shall take up expeditiously the issues that she raised before we reach Committee stage. I want to ensure that my noble friend is content with the reassurances that have been given, and if not, that they may be addressed by amendment. I shall discuss these matters with my noble friend.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for saying that I have not been ambitious enough in the Bill. In the past two or three months there have been times when I have felt that I had over-reached myself. I sympathise with the views expressed by the noble Lord about having an archaeology Bill. He produced an impressive shopping list of his own, which I am sure appealed to your Lordships.

My noble friend Lord Renfrew is concerned about the possibility of commercial exploitation of our heritage. I am sure that all noble Lords present are concerned that no such exploitation should be allowed to imperil what is so important to our country.

The Bill gives us the opportunity to ensure that English Heritage's responsibility will run seamlessly from the land to the seabed within the limits of our territorial waters. I appreciate that we shall have to consider carefully those definitions before Committee stage. If the Bill is passed, it will send a message to those inclined towards salvage rather than research and preservation that England places a proper archaeological value on her underwater heritage.

I ask the House to give this Bill a Second Reading.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

        House adjourned at nineteen minutes before nine o'clock.

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