|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Viscount Astor: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said that he was not being overprescriptive. In that case, he will not have much of a problem in accepting my amendment. But, of course, that will not be the case. He said that there would be
24 Apr 2006 : Column 21
no new arguments from the Government: I think that the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and I can agree that we did not hear any new arguments.
During the passage of this Bill, we on this side of the House have been grateful to the Minister for providing draft directions and draft orders. It has been enormously helpful for us to understand the Government's thinking. If we could have more of them, more Bills would have a smoother transition through your Lordships' House. However, I am still trying to get myself around the interpretation of a "transformational grant", as outlined in the directions, but I am sure that I will finally understand it.
The Minister's defence against my amendment is simple: namely, that the Secretary of State's powers will set out at the highest level how expenditure will be made by the distributing bodies. The answer is that Clause 7 already does that. It sets out expenditure at the highest level. My amendment does not change that. It would delete "prescribed". It leaves in,
The Minister said that this would not allow the Secretary of State to prescribe expenditure as it related to the devolved assembliesScotland and Wales. The argument works both ways. Perhaps we should have an amendment to say how the Big Lottery Fund should hand out the money to devolved areas. Under this amendment, the Secretary of State would be allowed to say to Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland or wherever, "Well, I am very sorry. You have had too much. We will not give you so much this year". I do not think that the Minister's argument can work for and against him. It works equally both ways. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, and I will discuss the issue before Third Reading.
Whatever the arguments, the Minister cannot claim with any validity that this Bill does not give the Government greater powers. It is a matter on which we disagree. I must ask the opinion of the House.
The noble Viscount said: My Lords, this amendment concerns the possibility of a fund to support national acquisitions. Your Lordships will remember that in Committee I moved an unsuccessful amendment to return the lottery to supporting the original four good causes, which would have increased the amount of money going to the National Heritage Memorial Lottery Fund to 25 per cent. I also moved an amendment which would have enabled a fund to be set up for national acquisitions. That is a problem that the Government occasionally make noises about but have failed to come up with any form of policy on. This is my attempt to tease out of them some form of commitment that they will do something either now or in the future.
The problem is that over time the government grant to the National Heritage Memorial Fundnot the lottery part of it, but the memorial fundhas declined from its highest level of £20 million to £5 million a year. That is the fund that enables the National Gallery, or institutions like that, to get a grant to fund or part-fund when objects may go abroad which the Export Reviewing Committee, which was set up by the Government, has recommended should stay in this
24 Apr 2006 : Column 24
country. That happens more and more. Just last week the Culture Minister, Mr Lammy, placed a two-month export ban on a large silver plateau marking a British victory in the Anglo-American war of 1812. The ban provides the last chance to raise £696,000 required to save that important antique. However, two months is a very short time to save that object or, indeed, any object. There is a problem.
The lottery part of the National Heritage Memorial Lottery Fund is not able easily to fund acquisitions. It has already been criticised by the Government for having too much unspent capital. The Government say that lottery distributors should cut unspent funds. In many cases that is a good thing, but if you are trying to build up a reserve or an emergency fund, it is not terribly helpful.
My proposal is simple: to allow money to be allocated from the Big Lottery Fundwhich, after all, is now taking the majority, the 50 per centfor the purposes of national acquisitions, as defined by the rules of the National Heritage Memorial Fund. The matter would be managed by the National Heritage Memorial Fund, so there would be no question of involving the Big Lottery Fund on a project-by-project basis in deciding who should get a grant. Under the rules of the National Heritage Memorial Fund it is clear that the measure would be applied only for objects of outstanding national importance, as defined by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, which is a government committee. My amendment seeks to set up a fund that is, in effect, ring-fenced for that purpose. Under the amendment, balances could be built up to enable the fund to be prepared to make acquisitions as we all know that certain collections in this country will be in danger in the future. The Treasury accepts works of art in lieu of taxes, but that measure is also cash-limited. Should a large number of objects come on to the market in any one year, either due to owners' deaths or owners who wish to sell, the low ceiling of the Treasury's measure would be gone through very quickly.
I hope that the Government will be sympathetic to the amendment in principle and will tell us how they seek to solve the problem. I accept that my amendment might not be the right way to do so or that it might not be well drafted. However, I hope that the Government will address the principles of the concerns that I have outlined. I beg to move.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|