HC Deb 07 July 1992 vol 211 cc200-33

`The following section shall be inserted after section 230 (acceptance of property in satisfaction of tax) of the Inheritance Tax Act 1984

"230A.—(1) The provisions listed in subsections (2) and (3) below shall not apply unless the conditions set out in subsection (4) below are met.

(2) The provisions referred to in subsection (1) above comprise the following sections of this Act—

  1. (a) section 230 (acceptance of property in satisfaction of tax)
  2. (b) section 231 (powers to transfer property in satisfaction).

(3) The provisions referred to in subsection (1) above also comprise section 26A (potentially exempt transfer of property subsequently held for national purposes, etc.) of this Act if any transfer is an exempt transfer under section 26A only by virtue of the phrase '(b) has been disposed of in pursuance of section 230 below'.

(4) The conditions referred to in subsection (1) above are that any property that would, apart from this section, be dealt with under the provisions listed in subsections (2) and (3) above must

  1. (a) if consisting of property other than land, be available for public viewing free of charge at regular intervals and for periods of reasonable duration throughout the whole of the year;
  2. (b) if consisting of land, be available for reasonable public access free of charge on clearly defined access routes or rights of way throughout the whole year.

(5) Without prejudice to the generality of the words in subsection (4) above, property other than land shall not be regarded as available for public viewing at regular intervals and periods of reasonable duration throughout the whole year unless these periods total at least 52 days in each and every continuous twelve month period, commencing the first twelve month period for these purposes no later than a date fifteen months after the date of the Board first accepting property in satisfaction of tax in anticipation that the conditions referred to in subsection (4) above will be met.

(6) Property shall not be regarded as meeting the conditions set out in subsection (4) above unless full details of the public access are readily available, and the Board is empowered by this subsection to set out such criteria as it sees fit for this test to be met.

(7) This section shall apply in relation to all acceptance and transfers of property after 30th June 1992.".'.—[Mr. Chris Smith.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Chris Smith (Islington, South and Finsbury)

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause deals with what are known as conditionally exempt transfers. They represent a procedure under the Inheritance Tax Act 1984, which originated in the Finance Act 1976, where relief, originally from capital transfer tax but subsequently from inheritance tax, is given where works of art or areas of land of special quality remain in the ownership of the original owners in return for their agreeing to maintain the land properly and provide public access to either the land or the works of art.

Substantial sums of money are involved. In relation to land, the latest information that we have been able to obtain from the Treasury is that there has been a total of 149 cases since 1983 of access agreements over land being made to escape inheritance tax or capital transfer tax, and that the cost to the Exchequer has been between £5 million and £10 million in each year. So we are talking about something like £100 million in a 10-year period.

Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish)

Can my hon. Friend give one or two examples of where this has occurred throughout the country? These figures sound impressive and I should like to know where I can walk now, as a result of this measure, where I could not walk before.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend, who is well known in the House for his support for the work of the Ramblers Association and for issues of access to the countryside, puts his finger precisely on the problem.

We know of one specific instance, which has been publicised, and I will come to that in a moment. But, apart from that, there is no public information about where the access has been provided. Indeed, in the parliamentary answer that I obtained from the Treasury on 2 June, which told me that there had been 149 cases of access granted and that this had cost £5 million to £10 million a year over the 10-year period, when I asked as part of my question where this access had been made available, the answer from the Financial Secretary was: I regret that statistics of new public footpaths and permissive paths, or of land over which there is a right to roam, resulting from conditional exemption are not available."—[Official Report, 2 June 1992; Vol. 208, c. 399.] We are talking about public money forgone—£100 million over a 10-year period—yet, even from the Treasury, which has granted the relief from inheritance tax, or from any other Government Department, information about where the public access is available is simply not available.

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The situation with regard to works of art is similar, although the amounts of money involved are even greater. My hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) has been pressing this matter for some time. He was told, in a parliamentary answer just a few days ago, that the average amount of inheritance tax relief in return for supposed access to works of art has been £70 million per year over the past 10 years.

In all, therefore, we are facing expenditure from the public purse, effectively, of some £800 million over 10 years, in return for supposed access to areas of landscape quality and superlative works of art.

I have no objection to the principle of relieving inheritance tax in return for gaining public access to important parts of our countryside and important works of art, but the additional access that is given in return for inheritance tax relief must be clearly available and information about it must be readily to hand.

I believe that even the Economic Secretary realises this, because, in Committee a week or two ago, in the debate on some of the changes to inheritance tax which the Government are bringing in in rejecting our argument that the Government were being foolish with regard to areas of high-quality landscape, in going for 100 per cent. agricultural inheritance tax relief, thereby skirting round the present system of 50 per cent. tax relief with the possibility of 100 per cent. relief in return for conditions, the Economic Secretary said: It is a more profitable line of inquiry to consider whether conditional exemption agreements are working properly in relation to signposting and so on than it is to explore whether sufficient land is being entered into such arrangements." [Official Report, Standing Committee B, 30 June 1992; c. 419.] Those are the words of the Economic Secretary himself.

It seems to us that the agreements are not working properly. Our new clause seeks to set very clearly on the statute book the requirement that agreements must work properly if inheritance tax relief is to be gained. The new clause provides that information about the rights of access that exist must be made readily available to the public, and it requires that access be free of charge. In relation to land it requires that access must be available throughout the year, and in relation to works of art it requires that reasonable access must be available at least 52 days in every year, on a regular basis such as a day a week.

I want to discuss access to land. Perhaps I should own up to a keen personal interest, as I have roamed the wild and remote parts of our country and hope to be able to do so for many years to come. Public access to land is extremely important. If access is available to the public but no one knows where it is, what is the purpose in having it? There is only one publicly documented case, to which I shall refer in detail in a moment. For the past few years details are supposed to have been lodged with the Central Council of Physical Recreation. On being asked about the matter, the council told us that no details of any arrangements had been lodged in the past few years. We know that in 1990–91 there were 17 cases of the granting of access, and that in 1991–92 there were 16, yet these were not recorded with the CCPR as they should have been.

I appreciate that there is an Inland Revenue rule about the secrecy of the affairs of individual taxpayers. But we are not asking how much relief, in terms of money, has been granted in individual cases; we are asking simply where access has been granted in return for relief.

Mr. Bennett

I understand the taxation principle, but does my hon. Friend accept that if, for example, a farmer in the Peak district enters into an access agreement with the national park, people can find out how much money is involved and can judge whether it represents value for those being provided with extra access? Surely there ought to be some relationship between the sums of money forgone in tax—the amounts appear to be huge—and the number of acres of land or miles of footpath secured. I understand the argument for confidentiality in respect of individual cases, but the House ought to know whether the Government are getting value for money.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A few weeks ago I asked a question about the number of acres that had been made available for the right to roam, the number of additional miles of footpath had been made available, and the overall cost in each year. The answer was that no information was available. But the provision of that information would not contravene the Inland Revenue's secrecy rules.

There is an additional problem. The Government seem to believe that where access is made available some sort of additional right is granted if the access is by rights of way or what are called permissive paths. But rights of way are precisely what their name suggests. They are rights of way, and whether or not a conditionally exempt transfer agreement is entered into, they will remain so for time immemorial. That must be so. No additional right of access can be granted in the case of a right of way. What about permissive paths? Suppose a permissive path is made available so that people may walk in the countryside. In view of the way in which permissive paths work, I fear that the permission could be withdrawn at any time. Therefore, it is simply not good enough to say that access in return for inheritance tax relief shall be over rights of way and over permissive paths. In terms of additional rights for the public, that does not add up to very much.

I said that I would come to the one specific instance about which we know. I refer to the Bransdale Moor estate in the North York moors. It is known also as the Nawton Tower estate. It is a remote area of moorland of about 15,400 acres and was the subject of a conditionally exempt transfer in 1978. The land in question is owned by Lady Clarissa Collin, who is the granddaughter of the late Earl of Halifax, the Conservative Foreign Secretary from 1938 to 1941. Lady Clarissa Collin entered into a conditionally exempt transfer in 1978. As that took place under a Labour Government, the information was made public. The North York Moors national park, in its information bulletin of the winter of 1978–79, told us exactly what had happened in return for inheritance tax relief for the Bransdale Moor estate. There was an agreement for the maintenance of landscape character; there was a provision that any proposals involving ploughing and reclamation of moorland had to be agreed; there was agreement that there would be a management programme of moor burning; and there was agreement that scientific interest would be looked after. All of that is good conservation management. But, in addition, the undertaking provided that The Trust"— that is, the trust of the estate— would agree to ensure that within the context of good estate management and the securing of farming and sporting objectives, there will be reasonable access to members of the public for walking and horseriding. The undertaking went on: Public access shall be normally along existing rights of way. The Trust would accept the principle that access off these routes would be permissible". There are set out a few conditions about walkers being asked not to leave rights of way during the nesting time in April and May and during grouse shooting in August and September, but otherwise the undertaking says very clearly that access off the existing rights of way shall be permissible. That agreement was signed by Lady Clarissa Collin in 1978 in return for relief from capital transfer tax.

But what happened in March 1990? Twelve land owners in the North York moors wrote to the national park officer, saying: Access to the highly important and vulnerable upland heather moors must be restricted to an improved footpath system where that is appropriate. The signatories included Lady Clarissa Collin. So in 1978 Lady Clarissa Collin entered into an agreement in return for relief from inheritance tax—and the agreement provided that access would be available off rights of way —yet in 1990 she joined other land owners to write to the national park officer saying that access should not be available off the rights of way.

What is happening on the ground follows that letter. There is a notice saying that walkers must keep to the established footpaths and there are gamekeepers wandering around to reinforce the message. In other words, in return for being relieved of inheritance tax, Lady Clarissa Collin has given the public nothing. In her letter of 1990, along with others, she was clearly showing her intention to renege on the agreement that she had made in 1978. Our new clause challenges such practices.

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One might ask why this is important. Access to the countryside and enjoyment of the open air are extremely important to millions of our fellow citizens. Back in 1934, G. H. B. Ward, founder of the Sheffield Clarion Ramblers and a fighter, throughout his life, for public access to open country, wrote about this matter, putting it better than any of us ever could. He said: Rambling is also a culture and a craft … an intense love for one's own country, the innermost and the most remote parts of it, the sweetest as well as the wildest, a love for the wind and the rain, the snow and the frost, the hill and the vale, the widest open spaces and the choicest pastoral and arboreal retreats. That is what the new clause is all about.

In 1884, James Bryce, then Member of Parliament for Aberdeen, South, introduced a Bill to provide unrestricted public access to uncultivated mountain or moorland. We have been waiting 108 years for such a measure to pass through the House. I long to see the day when we legislate to ensure that ordinary people can have access to the wide open spaces as of right rather than having to beg and scrape for it. While such a system exists and while we rely on arrangements such as inheritance tax relief to ensure it, we must make sure that those arrangements work properly.

Let us deal with works of art. If one owns a valuable painting or a piece of sculpture, one can record it as being in one's ownership and, in return for saying that one will grant public access to view the work of art, one can gain relief from inheritance tax. Although there is no list of access to land, there is a list of access to works of art. Held in the Victoria and Albert museum, it runs to 13 files, some of which are an inch thick. There are 10 items on each page and there are probably, although I have not counted them personally, 30,000 to 40,000 items in all. They include paintings, sculpture, furniture and jewellery.

Last year, three members of the public, one of whom was an Inland Revenue inspector, inspected the list. For each item, there is a rough description, an approximate location and a contact name. Normally, the contact name is a local solicitor or someone of the kind. The Observer, which has been running an admirable campaign on this issue in recent weeks, noted names and tried to contact five of them. Two of the names were no longer the correct contact names and those people could not say who the right person was. One of the names was the correct contact, but had no idea of the procedure to view the item. One other asked for a request in writing and the fifth, who was the owner of the painting in question, said, "Viewing is difficult."

This is hardly "readily available public access". I understand that some of the owners charge for viewing, and that should not happen. Not only are many of the contacts out of date, but much of the information about the contents of the list is as well. For example, a painting by Miro that is recorded as being in private ownership in Sussex is in the Scottish National Gallery for Modern Art and has been there for some years. These are not minor paintings. They range from paintings by Leonardo to paintings by Picasso, from Turner to Canaletto. They are part of our vital artistic heritage. We should know where they are and how we can go about seeing them because we, the taxpayers, have effectively paid for doing so.

Arcane and archaic viewing arrangements, inadequate and out-of-date information and no public knowledge at all of land is not good enough. It is high time that we ensured that, where public money is yielded up, proper public access is made available in return. The superb works of art and the finest and most remote of landscapes should be there for the ordinary citizen to enjoy. At heart, that is what the new clause is all about.

Mr. Paul Tyler (North Cornwall)

Before most major changes in legislation, we have the most elaborate consultations within and outside the House with national and local organisations. There are Green Papers and White Papers and so on. One of the curious anomalies of the Budget process is that, as soon as the Chancellor goes into Budget purdah, there is no such dialogue. Therefore, it is fair to say that the new inheritance tax exemptions have not been digested anything like as thoroughly as, for example, new legislation setting the framework for agricultural and environmental law or that on recreation.

Therefore, we find ourselves in the curious situation that the exemptions that we have had since 1976 in several formats have been assumed to continue until the Budget. As soon as the Budget proposed changes, organisations of the stature of the Countryside Commission, English Nature, the Ramblers Association, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, farmers and landowners and their respective bodies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all wondered what the impact would be on the work that they do on behalf of the Government and the nation.

It may be that the other Departments that have responsibility in this subject were caught napping as well. When I tabled a question to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food last week, his answer was at best a holding one and at worst a neat passing of the buck. He seems to have no view of what the impact of these changes will be either in financial and environmental terms or on farming practice.

In Committee, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury reassured us. He said that he did not wish to undo all the good work done by successive Governments by the use of exemptions. By inference, we have to take it that he believes that the success of past policies and the continuing success for whole categories of land that will not otherwise be exempt is such that they will want to boast of their success. One wonders how one can boast of success if everything is kept secret.

It is surely a maxim of Thatcherite economics—if we dare still mention them in this place—that one should know what one is paying for. It is surely a matter for open government that the public, having effectively subsidised a particular asset, should know what they are getting for their money. As the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) said, there are already some curious anomalies. It is possible to obtain some information about works of art that have been subject to the concessions. Today's Hansard contains written answers which include much detailed information about works of art. The information includes reference to: A drawing, 'A wild boar at bay', Frans Snyders (1579–1647)".—[Official Report, 6 July 1992; Vol. 211, c. 21.] The written answers contain much detail and a long list. However, there is no schedule showing what areas of the country and great heritage items of landscape and recreational access have been bought with our money. There is obviously a curious anomaly.

The new clause is obviously very well intentioned and we support it. However, as worded, it avoids the curious problem which we always have to overcome of the criteria by which a judgment should be made—in this case, for reasonable public access. I am not sure that empowering the board of the Inland Revenue is the best way to ensure that the sharpest minds on that particular issue will be used to produce the right criteria.

The crucial issue in the new clause is the criteria. If the criteria are very detailed, there will be considerable confusion. The issue will be very complex, bureaucratic and possibly litigious because large sums of money will be involved. Whether or not a farmer will receive relief will be of considerable concern to him, his family, his tax advisers and his lawyers.

For example, over what period would the farmer need to have cared for the land in question and ensured that there was public access before the death that triggers inheritance tax liability? What will be taken as proof? Who is to be judge and jury in the matter? Conversely, if the criteria are very scanty, they could surely be met so easily that the new clause would be worthless.

We hope that the proposal can be made to work because it is of considerable interest to landowners, to farmers and to the public. In many areas of tax legislation and administrative criteria, there is already a balance which must be struck. We can only hope that the board or professional advisers from the appropriate national statutory bodies can find the right balance.

We support the new clause and hope that the Government mean what they said in Committee upstairs and in their manifesto about the public interest in future policy for the countryside. We hope that that wider Government interest will prevail against the narrow interests of the Treasury.

Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

I wish to address my comments to tax relief on land. It might seem slightly strange to people with a false impression of the city from which I come and which I have the privilege to represent to learn that, contrary to some opinions, Sheffield contains a great deal of moorland and open countryside of considerable beauty. One third of the city lies within the Peak district national park and rambling is an extremely important local hobby for many people in the city. Much of the land lies within the Sheffield constituencies of Hallam and Hillsborough. As well as having older industrial areas, my constituency contains important areas like the Moss valley which are important to my constituents, as is the whole issue of access to the open countryside.

The Government might argue that the current arrangements for tax relief on land are not working. They might argue that the expenditure of £5 million to £10 million a year of public money over 10 years, when the public have no details about what land that expenditure refers to and when the supposed benefits of access to the countryside cannot be realised because the public are unaware of that access and to which land it applies, is a waste of public money and cannot be justified.

It is difficult to understand precisely what benefit the public are receiving. The Government could argue that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) explained, because some of the agreements apply to permissive paths as well as to public rights of way, the public are not getting a very good deal. The Government could argue that, because the management agreements often relate to the maintenance of land in its existing state rather than to the addition and enhancement of new land and improvements to management services, the public are not getting a very good deal.

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The Government may even argue strongly that the whole scheme has been a sham, abuse and waste of taxpayers' money since its inception. Those are reasons not for the Government to change the law as they propose, but for the Government to begin to enforce the provisions properly and to make the information about the agreements open so that the public can receive the benefit of the money that has been expended on their behalf.

In Committee, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury said that the Government's proposed changes applied only to 25 per cent. of the land in question. Only 25 per cent. of the land would receive 100 per cent. tax relief automatically. For the remaining 75 per cent. to receive 100 per cent. tax relief, the current agreements on access and management would have to apply.

We must ask whether the Government's proposals will provide equality in respect of that land. I believe that the new clause provides a much better arrangement. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury accepted that there would have been instances in the past when agreements had been reached on access and management of land to obtain the 100 per cent. tax relief. However, according to the Government's proposals, in exactly the same circumstances the tax relief in future will be available automatically without the need for agreements. In other words, because of the timing of the death of the landowner, similar land would be treated in very different ways. There was no proposal to terminate the previous agreements on land even though similar land will be treated differently in future.

It was accepted that in respect of the 75 per cent. of land for which agreements would still be needed for owners to claim 100 per cent. benefit of tax relief, that land in respect of scientific interest, beauty and benefits of walking over it, would be no different from other land which, in future, will gain 100 per cent. tax relief without the need for agreement.

There seems to be an inequality of treatment there and between the 25 per cent. of land for which 100 per cent. of tax relief will be available automatically and the 75 per cent. of land for which agreements on management and access will still be required to secure such relief even though there is no difference in scientific interest, beauty and access between those two cases.

There is a problem. Either the Government are claiming that access and management are not important because tax relief will now be given automatically on some land or, if they are important—and they must be because the agreements are to be maintained for 75 per cent. of the land—how will the Government secure access and proper managment for the 25 per cent. of land unless other inducements and tax reliefs are to be introduced in future at further cost to the Treasury? We pushed that question hard in Committee but we did not receive an answer from the Minister. The matter continues to worry me, and I hope that the Minister will explain why his arrangements are better than the new clause, which would resolve the problem.

The kernel of the argument is that the Government have not thought through the implications of their proposals. One can understand that some arguments about the need for agricultural holdings to be kept together on the death of an owner are relevant, and why the Government have put them forward. However, they have pushed the arguments without considering the important implications for management and access.

Whatever happens when we vote on the new clause, the Government must accept that, in respect of agreements that have previously been reached and new agreements that are reached in future, there will still need to be agreements on management, and access information must be made public so that taxpayers will benefit from the considerable sums that they are forgoing.

Mr. Bennett

I support the new clause. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) on the new clause, and I congratulate The Observer on its campaign in respect of the issue. I also congratulate the Ramblers Association on its work, particularly its document on public access to the countryside and the inheritance tax. I am not quite so sure whether I should congratulate it on its rather corny title, "Give us Some Quo for Our Quid", but the association still produced a worthwhile document.

It is absolutely amazing that the Government have not come up with any information about benefits to the public as a result of the tax concession. I hope that the Minister will set out some good examples of areas in which access is working and where people benefit from the provision, otherwise hon. Members will feel that there has been a gross fraud such as that which my hon. Friend described. People were given tax benefits, but they appear not to have given the public any access.

I am not one of those who believe that we should pay for access. There should be a right to roam on all mountain land, moorland and open land, and there should be no attempt to charge for that. I do not believe that people walking on land cause any problem, therefore there is no justification for a charge. The only reason for making a charge would be to provide extra stiles or, in a few popular areas, to stop erosion. People should be able to roam freely. If we are to pay from the public purse, it is important to produce fairness across the board.

In large areas of the Lake district and of north Wales, some tenant farmers and owners have always allowed free access. I fear that if those farmers discover that large landowners have been paid to provide what they already provide freely, there will be restrictions on many areas where access is already available. I plead with the Government at least to demonstrate that by making those tax concessions we will have something of outstanding value in return. So far, I can see no evidence of that at all.

Instead of improving access, it will be more difficult to achieve in areas in which no one has thought of making charges.

I press the Minister, if there are to be access agreements and conservation, particularly in areas such as the north Yorkshire moors, to consider the argument that it is far better to let people roam freely rather than encourage them to stay on footpaths. Inevitably, if people must follow footpaths, those footpaths become worn and it becomes difficult for small animals and insects to cross from one side to the other. That does far more damage than allowing people freely to roam across the land. Some landowners represent shooting interests and have fought very hard against the right to roam, but, on conservation grounds, it is far better to let people have open access rather than restrict them to footpaths. In areas in which access agreements have been negotiated, particularly in the Peak district, and where people have roamed freely, there are far fewer problems than in areas where they have been restricted to footpaths, some of which are eroded.

I strongly support the new clause. I was pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury referred to G.H.B. Ward. I was able to go with the ramblers when they dedicated a memorial to Mr. Ward. Admittedly, it was one of those occasions when there was a chance to harangue a large assembly of ramblers. The only aspect that was disappointing was that it was pouring with rain and, in the circumstances, extremely difficult to make a speech. However, Mr. Ward, who was from Sheffield, was a very important fighter for the rights of access.

I hope that the Minister will assure us that we will have a public statement on what new access is to be created as a result of what payments.

Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle)

We are talking about a scandal—giving £800 million of taxpayers' money to some of the wealthiest people in the country. Although I support new clause 2, it is rather generous. History over the centuries has proved that those who have received tax relief have managed to keep all their wealth anyhow. There is a feeling that £800 million could have been better spent. That is the exact amount that is needed to upgrade the west coast main line railway from Carlisle to Glasgow, which would ensure that my constituents had an effective railway service. That might not happen because the money will not be available.

The scandal is that landowners have received money for very little. I was told in a parliamentary answer that there are six such landowners in Cumbria. Shortly after that, the Government stopped naming counties in which such landowners live. I cannot understand the reason. However, there are six such landowners in the county of Cumbria. We are refused information on who they are, what access is available and how much it costs. We are told that that is because of confidentiality. That is nonsense.

If those landowners wished to remain anonymous and not have their tax matters discussed, they should not have opted for the tax exemption. They decided that they wanted hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions; we are not to be told—in tax relief from the Exchequer. Surely, by doing that, they forfeited the right to confidentiality. They should have told my constituents, "We have made a deal" —we do not need to know how much it has cost—"for this piece of land, and there is now open access to that land", but that is not the case. It is even worse than that. Not only are the people of the county not told, but representatives of local planning committees and the Lake District planning board—elected representatives—are not told. I recently spoke to the former chairman of the Lake District planning board, Councillor Phizackerley. He had no knowledge that that was happening in the Lake district, even though Lake District national park officers were acting as agents of the Countryside Commission to monitor what was going on. The members of the authority were not told.

I tabled another parliamentary question on the matter and received an ambiguous answer from the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. He was not telling us anything. The scandal of money for access to land is nothing compared to the scandal of money for access to works of art. Some £700 million has been given in the past decade to various people in return for making their works of art available to the general public. Of course, that is if people can find those works of art. That is not so easy.

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I went to the House of Commons Library as my first port of call. The Library rang the national art library at the Victoria and Albert museum and was told that information was not available and photocopies could not be made of the records at the national art library. That is nonsensical, because public money is involved and Parliament passed the legislation.

Then I tried to find the information personally. Last Friday I rang the V and A and was told that, due to staff shortages, unfortunately the library was closed. So I rang on Saturday and was told that, due to staff shortages, unfortunately the library had an extended lunch break and was closed from 12 to 2 pm. As I had tabled a parliamentary question asking the Minister to put a copy of the document in the Library, I decided to sit back and wait until it arrived. Surprise, surprise, I received an answer from the Minister that he would not place the document in the Library on the ground that it was a big book. As it cost £700 million to compile the book, it is no wonder that it is a big book.

Undaunted, my research assistant went to the V and A today to have a look at the document. She is a former librarian and she was appalled at the state of the document. It is not even indexed. Unless one knows what one is looking for, there is no point in looking at the document.

Perhaps the position is simply part of a muddle. Perhaps the Government have not taken the matter seriously. But I believe that the Government did not want people to know where to go to see the art treasures. Comments have been made that some well-known parliamentary names from the past appeared in the document. I will not go into those names. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] Hon. Members will have to go and look for themselves. Obviously, names of noble Lords from another place appear in the document.

Perhaps we have now come to the crux of the matter. The Government have dealt with public access in this way. It is a way of maintaining wealth and power in Britain. We see it in the Chamber and in the other place. But how does that compare with the open government and classless society of the Prime Minister?

Mr. Geoffrey Hoon (Ashtield)

The application of inheritance tax legislation to allow conditionally exempt transfers to attract substantial tax relief is a Kafkaesque exercise in secrecy and obfuscation. Property, land and works of art can be exempted from inheritance tax where undertakings are given which purport to guarantee public access to the property, such as that land should be managed for the benefit of the public and works of art should be available for public view and inspection.

New clause 2 sets out to define the circumstances in which public access should be made available. It defines what in practice public access should mean. It states, first, that details of access rights should be available to members of the public; secondly, that access should be available on a regular basis; and thirdly, that access should be free of charge.

New clause 2 will therefore provide a practical guarantee of public access rights. That is not unreasonable because members of the public pay for those rights through the tax system in the form of tax relief and tax forgone. So why should new clause 2 be necessary? As has already been said, substantial sums of public money are involved and between £5 million and £10 million per year are relieved in return for access to land alone. That is about £100 million in the past 10 years. That raises some basic questions about the land. Where is the land? What public access rights have been granted over it? Are they new rights or have existing rights of access been confirmed? Moreover, what is the point of granting rights of public access if no one knows precisely where the land is and which land is being considered?

Exempt transfers are important because the landowner is required not only to guarantee public access but to keep the land in proper condition. He is required to maintain the land and preserve its character. That is crucial because many of the transfers involve land in areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks or cover sites of special scientific interest. Again, if no one knows precisely what land is covered, or the nature of the access granted to the public, how is it possible to determine whether the land has been properly maintained or its character properly preserved? It is possible for the landowner to take his tax relief and his money and run to the safety of the badly maintained hills.

The same principles apply to works of art. To qualify for inheritance tax relief it is necessary to lodge with the Victoria and Albert museum details of the nature of the work of art—whether it is a painting, sculpture or piece of furniture—together with information on how the public can exercise their right of access. Unfortunately, as my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) graphically demonstrated, the practical exercise of that right is frustrated by the administrative nature of the system operated at the museum.

Even though a rough description is required for each work of art, together with its location by county, in practice it is impossible for the public to gain access to a remarkable range of public assets. They include paintings and drawings by Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian and Hogarth; sculptures by Rodin, Degas and Henry Moore; and thousands of antique rugs, tapestries and items of jewellery and furniture.

As the Government have made train-spotting so difficult by running down our railways, perhaps I could recommend a new public pastime of public access art-spotting. Treasure hunts are popular at weekends. This would be a real treasure hunt. People would be able to draw up lists of property that they had spotted. I am sure that enterprising publishers could publish helpful guides such as "I Spy a Masterpiece".

Mr. Ken Purchase (Wolverhampton, North-East)

Would not we need to know which land we could cross on the treasure hunt before we could find the works of art?

Mr. Hoon

That would be part of the challenge. Indeed, it would require only a modest addition to new clause 2 to make the treasure hunt competitive. if we knew how much tax had been forgone, points could be awarded according to the value of the pieces of art spotted by enterprising members of the public. The more valuable the item, the more tax relief, and the more points would be awarded. I am confident that the Secretary of State for National Heritage will seize on that modest suggestion and that the ministry of fun will encourage it as part of its attempt to encourage public access to our national heritage.

It follows from what I have said about both land and works of art that land and property owners are technically in breach of the law. They are certainly in breach of the spirit, if not of the letter, of the law. Given that, under the rules, a property owner forfeits the right to tax relief if the land or property is no longer available to the public, clearly he or she should, in such circumstances, be liable to repay the tax forgone.

Perhaps the Government might like to tell us precisely how many tax inspectors are deployed to ensure public access to the works of art or pieces of land in question. I suspect that the Government might be embarrassed by the modesty of their answer to that question. Yet, taxpayers are carefully followed up by tax inspectors, and small businesses face questioning by tax inspectors. I wonder whether the Treasury, which oversees the deals, is allowing substantial amounts of money to escape the Revenue, without a proper investigation into the right of public access.

I recommend new clause 2 to the House. Is it so unreasonable to ask the Government to ensure in practice the largely theoretical rights of public access, enshrined in the tax legislation? That is the purpose of new clause 2. and it is difficult to understand why the Government should resist it.

Mr. Alan Milburn (Darlington)

The new clause seeks to put to rights a clear abuse of the tax system. The lax operation of the law puts the interests of the very wealthy —landowners and owners of great national treasures—above those of the public. It confers privileges on the owners of land and art treasures, without any payback for the taxpayer—the people who financed the privileges out of their pockets in the first place. To coin a phrase from The Ramblers, the law is supposed to give the taxpayer Some quo for its quids. In return for offering public access to land or works of art, an owner can keep it and be relieved of inheritance tax. All that costs a pretty penny. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) said that it is costing the taxpayer and the Exchequer about £10 million per year for land, and my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) said that costs for art treasures are way in excess of that figure, at about £70 million per annum.

Normally, we are not privy to the deals negotiated between the Exchequer and owners of land or art treasures. The Observer has managed to track down the only case where a known sum of money has been attached to access to land. The land is owned by the Duke of Devonshire—a man who is not known to be short of a bob or two. He owns the Bolton abbey estate in the Yorkshire dales. According to The Observer, negotiations are under way at this moment with the Treasury and with the Countryside Commission. It is understood that the Duke of Devonshire is demanding about £12 million in return for keeping open existing public rights of way—they are not new rights of way. The taxpayer and the Exchequer are expected to pay £12 million for the privilege. The Economic Secretary has an opportunity to confirm whether that is the case and how the negotiations are progressing.

It is as well to remember that the Government are anxious to damp down public expenditure, to ensure that we get good value for money and that the taxpayer gets a good deal. I wonder whether the Economic Secretary will confirm that he thinks that the deal being concluded with the Duke of Devonshire fits all those criteria. I think that it probably does not.

In the past decade, handouts from the Exchequer have cost approximately £800 million. Before too long we shall hit the magic figure of £1 billion. As my hon. Friends know only too well, £1 billion is equivalent to ½p on the standard rate of income tax. We are paying through the nose to maintain the privileges of wealthy landowners and the owners of art treasures. Perhaps that would not be so bad if the public were getting some value for money, or at least some knowledge of value for money, but clearly they are not.

5.45 pm

The law states that when inheritance tax relief is given, full details of access rights must be readily available to the public. We know, from contributions from the Opposition Front Bench and from my other hon. Friends, that those details are simply not forthcoming. We know that a substantial amount of land—about 315,000 acres—is covered by such arrangements, including many sites of outstanding beauty or of special scientific interest. They are the jewels in the crown of this country. and the lax operation of the present tax laws means that those 315,000 acres are being subsidised out of the public purse for the private use of the wealthy.

The public, who are supposed to be the direct beneficiaries of deals concluded between the Exchequer and landowners and owners of art treasures, arc being kept in the dark about where they can exercise the rights being bought on their behalf. Worse still, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury said, there is clear evidence that there has been direct infringement of some deals. If anything, the situation is even worse as regards art treasures. When The Observer contacted the National Art-Collections Fund, which helps museums to buy works of art, and the Museums Association, the umbrella body dealing with museums, neither knew of the existence of the register of works of art kept at the Victoria and Albert museum.

As we have heard from some of my hon. Friends, the works concerned are treasures indeed. One such work, Canaletto's view of Old Horseguards, was recently bought for the nation for £10 million. It was previously on the register, although few people have seen it. The owner, Viscount FitzHarris, had avoided paying inheritance tax on it amounting to about £4 million at today's prices. The public got a raw deal and I suspect that Viscount FitzHarris got a good deal.

Who does all that benefit? It certainly does not benefit the taxpayer or the Exchequer, the rambler or the art lover. Their rights of access are denied to them, yet we are talking of national treasures which the public have effectively funded. The sole beneficiaries are the very wealthy.

If the Government fail to accept the new clause, which brings public rights out into the open, and defines access in precise terms, we shall be left with the impression that Ministers are more concerned to protect the interests of the very rich than those of the public or the taxpayer. However, that should come as no surprise to my hon. Friends. After all, for about 13 years it has been Conservative party policy to defend the interests of the very wealthy against those of the public in general. I do not say that from any party political or prejudiced point of view, as my hon. Friends will know.

The Financial Secretary, who sadly is absent, told one of my hon. Friends on 29 June that the principal beneficiaries of income tax reductions from 1979 have been those earning more than £80,000 a year. That small group of just 150,000 people gained some £7,200 million in income tax cuts—an average of some £46,000 each per annum. By contrast, the 3 million people who earned less than £5,000 per annum received a total reduction, thanks to income tax cuts, of just some £500 million—a paltry £150 a year each. As always happens under the Conservative party, the gainers have been the most privileged in our society and the losers have been the least privileged.

It is time that the Government accepted that they should govern in the interests of everyone, not just a tiny few. After all, in recent months we have heard many claims by Conservative Members about the need for a classless society and open government. The Government have an opportunity to demonstrate both their commitment to a classless society and to open government by ending what has become a racket in inheritance tax exemptions and by accepting new clause 2.

Mr. Peter Mandelson (Hartlepool)

It is difficult to understand why the Government might resist the new clause, because it does not alter, but, rather, strengthens the principle that underpins inheritance legislation and assists in enforcing the conditions that the Inland Revenue seeks to oppose. Moreover, the Government should not resist the new clause on grounds of effectiveness and efficiency. It is obviously of wide benefit to the people whom we represent and would not cost the Treasury a penny to implement.

If the new Secretary of State for National Heritage were present, he would probably embrace the new clause enthusiastically because it goes to the heart of the role that the Prime Minister has given him. In one deft move, its acceptance would help to tear away the dust sheet from significant parts of our national heritage and allow the padlocks to be removed from areas of scenic beauty and hitherto unexplored delights in our countryside. The acceptance of the new clause and the more efficient operation of that part of inheritance tax would lift the Heritage Secretary's horizons considerably. Rather than seeking new photo opportunities for himself, which seems to be what his new post has consisted of so far, it would enable him to create new opportunities for the people of this country to enjoy the national heritage, which the Minister has been appointed to serve.

There has never been disagreement about the objectives and virtues of the relief from inheritance tax. Those objectives are to open up what has hitherto been hidden and provide access to what has been closed or at least unknown or undiscovered in the past. The objectives have never been questioned by Labour or Conservative Governments. The new clause deals with the lack of diligence in the operation and application of the provisions and the lack of thoroughness in extending the benefits of the inheritance tax relief provisions to the public at large. Because of that lack of diligence and thoroughness in the provisions' implementation and operation, a good and fair system has gone badly wrong. Indeed, that fair and reasonable system to defray inheritance tax, which was meant to operate in the public interest, has instead turned into a racket and a rip-off.

The lack of diligence and thoroughness with which the provisions have been implemented has resulted in such abuse of the system and generated such contempt for the authorities that, were it present in the operation of the social security system of welfare benefits, it would produce howls of outrage and demands for a crackdown from Conservative Members.

Recently I was subjected to an intervention by the hon. Member for Welwyn, Hatfield (Mr. Evans), who asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether she planned to act against what he termed "social security scroungers". He said in his characteristically unattractive—some would say obnoxious—way: Is she aware that many of the long-term unemployed are layabouts? They should have to do community work before receiving benefit. The taxpayers are sick and tired of financing these layabouts."—[Official Report, 9 June 1992; Vol. 209, c. 139.] Why should not the same standards that apply to those who enjoy benefits from the social security system also apply to those who are considerably better off and enjoy similar benefits from relief in the operation of inheritance tax?

I am reminded of a story that appeared a couple of weeks ago in The Sunday Times by Mr. Andrew Grice, political correspondent and respected member of the reporting staff in the House. He said that the Secretary of State for Social Security was going to order a crackdown on dole fleecers.

Why do the Government operate double standards? If the report is accurate and the Social Security Secretary is preparing to order a crackdown on dole fleecers, why should not the same standards be applied to those getting away with an abuse of the inheritance tax system? They are enjoying the benefits and relief to which they are entitled under the legislation to which the new clause refers, but are not giving back what they are obliged to return under the agreement that they have reached. What is the difference? What is regarded as an abuse of the social security system is treated with a benign shrug in the case of inheritance tax and the relief that is offered to people to defray it.

The harsh punishment that many would like to see given for what they call "scroungers" should not be blindly ignored in the case of rich landowners and art collectors who are taking advantage of the relief under inheritance tax law. Is that not a clear example of double standards'? Are not the Government saying that the rich should be given more while the poor should have it taken away?

Abuse of the system allows the well-off, with land and priceless artefacts, to hold on to their wealth without subsequently meeting the obligations into which they have freely entered.

However, for those without such land and artefacts. the abuse of the system denies them access to what it is their right to view, to walk upon or otherwise to enjoy. It is not hard to understand why the system is going wrong and why it is open to such abuse when, upon the death of an enormously rich person, his heirs seek to defray tax payable on the estate by exploiting the available relief.

6 pm

Let us consider the interesting and purely theoretical case of Princess Diana and the Spencer family treasures. What alternative is there to those treasures coming under the hammer to pay the huge death duties that arose upon the tragic death of Princess Diana's father, Earl Spencer'? The new Lord Spencer inherited not just an earldom, but the need to find £4 million out of the estate to pay the death duties. The new lord inevitably wants to retain as much of his inheritance as possible. Some people might argue that those magnificent treasures should instead pass in their entirety into public ownership for the benefit of the nation.

To defray those death duties, it is open to the new earl to negotiate a conditionally exempt transfer. That would enable him to keep the treasures in his ownership—his exclusive private ownership—but in exchange he would have to provide assured public access so that those treasures could be viewed by members of the general public. That is the principle at the heart of the provision that is addressed by the new clause.

In the words of the Ramblers Association, there must be a public quo in return for the earl's quid. Instead, we have what my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) described as a treasure trail, but with almost no clues available to enable members of the public to embark on the treasure hunt with any reasonable expectation of success, so that they might view and enjoy treasures that remain in private ownership but which, under the operation of the legislation, are meant to be available for the enjoyment and satisfaction of ordinary members of the public.

I do not doubt the earl's good intentions, but just consider the hoops through which members of the public must go to view the pictures, the furniture and the artefacts —the priceless, stupendous treasures—in the great Spencer collection. My hon. Friends the Members for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) have already referred to the hoops, hurdles and obstacles that any member of the public might have to go through, over or under to have sight of treasures that are available for public viewing.

Mindful of the fact that the Bill and its prolonged proceedings—in which I have been pleased to play some little part over the past almost incalculable number of weeks—are coming to an end, I thought that I might spend my weekend near my constituency walking through scenes of great beauty near Hartlepool in the county of Cleveland.

As has already been said, there is no point going to the Countryside Commission, to the Central Council of Physical Recreation or to the Ramblers Association because none of them can tell me what rights of way, what sights of scenic beauty or what natural landscapes I can enjoy under the provisions of our legislation near to my home in my constituency of Hartlepool—because there is no land, there are no walkways and there are no scenes of beauty recorded by any of those organisations that would enable me to make my choice.

In the absence of a nice walk, I thought that I might instead use the time available to me, after we have completed a successful constituency barbecue that is to be held this weekend, looking at some nice pictures—

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Are there any spare tickets?

Mr. Mandelson

Yes, there are spare tickets.

I thought that I would look at some nice pictures and some nice furniture. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle, I asked my office to contact the Victoria and Albert museum and the national arts library. However, the problem is not that there is any dearth of pictures, artefacts or fine pieces of furniture listed in the locality —on the contrary, as my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury said, there are between 30,000 and 40,000 such objects, pictures and items of fine furniture from which I could select; the problem is that they are not broken down geographically. I would have to pore through thick books listing between 30,000 and 40.000 items before I could come upon that picture, that fine piece of furniture, that treasure located near Hartlepool that I might visit this weekend after the completion of my constituency barbecue.

The practical problem is that what is available is not accessible; what is listed is impossible to divine in any simple, practical way that would allow ordinary members of the public, or even ordinary Members of Parliament celebrating the conclusion of the Finance Bill, to benefit from the sight and enjoyment of those items that are listed by the Victoria and Albert museum.

I hope that, in responding to the debate, the Economic Secretary will reflect on the strength of argument that has supported the promotion of the new clause. It is needed to ensure that full details of art and land are readily available to the public, that access to them is free, and that such access is either regularly available during the year in the case of art, or permanently available in the case of land. The new clause is a practical, sensible proposal and I hope that, on reflection, the Economic Secretary will be minded to accept it.

Mr. Tony Banks

I hope that the constituency barbecue of my hon. Friend the Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) is enormously successful. The only thing that he did not tell us was the price of the tickets.

Mr. Mandelson

They are £4 each.

Mr. Banks

That is an excellent bargain. I hope that anyone within a coach ride of Hartlepool will find his way to the barbecue.

My hon. Friend is lucky to have rural idiocies to enjoy in his constituency at a weekend. I do not have very much in the London borough of Newham. Last Sunday we had a walk along the northern sewer outfall—[Laughter.] I knew that hon. Members would laugh, but it is quite beautiful if one likes sewers. It is a grassed-over embankment and it is pleasant to walk along it. When I think of all the wealth and opportunity that some have in our society and then see the deprivation that so many of my constituents have to endure, it is easy to become angry. I could never believe that a scheme that allows people to set aside their tax liability by pledging paintings and land while continuing to enjoy them is anything but a total con. It is an absolute rip-off. The obstacles that are placed in the way of the public when they want to see such treasures make it an absolute sham.

I am deeply grateful to my hon. Friends the Members for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) and for Islington. South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) for bringing that abuse to the public's attention. It has been going on for years, but until someone tells us about it, we remain ignorant.

Few people in Newham have hereditary land and artefacts of great beauty that they can pledge to the nation to avoid taxation. They have nicked a few in their time, but have never been able to offset them against tax because the Inland Revenue is not too enthusiastic about the acquisition of property in that manner. The people of Newham cannot take advantage of the scheme, so it makes them feel that much more cheated.

The more that I think of the scheme, the more monstrous it becomes—the idea that people can say, "I will set these paintings against my tax liability, but continue to keep them." What if I were to tell the Inland Revenue," I know that I owe you some money. I will leave it in the bank so that you know that it is there—but you cannot have it." That would never be allowed. It might be a nice try, but one would not be permitted to get away with it.

Artefacts represent accumulated wealth that should be taxed. Many of those wonderful items and much of the land were originally stolen—given away by kings and queens to acolytes who had done them a favour. We all know the favours that used to be done for kings and queens.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South)

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the 1970s, when the now Lord Healey proposed a wealth tax, there was an outcry in all parts of the House? It was realised that it would lead to treasures leaving the country, and the opposition was such that Lord Graham of Edmonton, as he now is, presented to this House an all-party petition signed by more than 1 million people. The all-party arts and heritage group was formed at that time, and claimed the allegiance of right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House—as it still does. For once, the hon. Gentleman has got it wrong.

Mr. Banks

Well, there you go. I remember Denis Healey, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, saying that he would squeeze the rich "until the pips squeak". That is one of my favourite political sayings. I looked forward to that, but unfortunately it did not happen. I ask the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), for whom I have great respect, how anyone could take land out of the country. One cannot pick up 3.000 prime acres and ship them abroad. Not even the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South, for all his ingenuity, could do that.

Mr. Cormack

I remind the hon. Gentleman that a country house, with its parklands and treasures, must be sustained by income from some source—and in many cases the income comes from the land.

Mr. Banks

I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but he was saying that valuables should not be shipped out of the country. I merely mentioned land as an example. However, the hon. Gentleman is on to something. To answer his point, I would like to be set up a national register of all items of heritage of great value that belonged to the nation. An export embargo should be placed on them so that people would not be allowed to ship them out of the country. Export licences are required in respect of some items designated as being of considerable artistic merit. A national register would prevent items from being disposed of by an individual, who may often have acquired them by some nefarious means in the first place.

I support the new clause, but I would like a Labour Government to commit themselves to getting rid of a tax loophole which is available to only a few privileged people, and which is obviously abused. The new clause attempts to end that abuse, and I hope that the Minister will see his way clear to accepting it.

6.15 pm
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Anthony Nelson)

It has been an interesting debate, and I have taken in a positive spirit many of the contributions made by Opposition Members on the subject of conditional exemption, which I will address later. I am, however. presented with a genuine dilemma. I do not mean to criticise the Opposition, because I am sure that their new clause was intended to do as they said, but in fact it has nothing to do with conditional exemption; it concerns gifts in lieu. I will try to respond, but as a matter of form perhaps the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) will agree that it would be more appropriate for me to answer specific points about the new clause, which is interesting in itself.

The only relevant comments on new clause 2 were made by my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack) in his short intervention, when he gave the background to the in-lieu provisions. If the House is agreeable, I will make an initial reply to the points raised by the new clause, and then deal with conditional exemption.

The clause seeks to restrict the provisions for the acceptance of works of art and land in lieu of inheritance tax to qualifying property to which the public will be given access free of charge. In the case of land, free public access would he required throughout the year. In the case of other property—mainly works of art—free public access would be required for at least 52 days in each 12-month period.

The acceptance-in-lieu scheme provides an effective means for museums and galleries throughout the country to acquire pre-eminent works of art and other objects. The special price paid for acceptances in lieu on behalf of museums or galleries will be less than the market value of the object, and the funds that are available for acquisitions by those bodies can therefore be used to buy more objects than in the open market. The scheme helps to protect our national heritage and to retain important works of art in the United Kingdom, as my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South said. It has enjoyed broad cross-party support. All acceptances in lieu are announced in reply to parliamentary questions.

The majority of acceptances in lieu are allocated to museums and galleries. Over the past five years, the amount of inheritance tax satisfied by acceptance in lieu of works of art and other objects was £31.9 million. About 96 per cent.—some £30.5 million of that—related to items that were allocated to museums and galleries open to the public. Many are open all year round, and all of them are open for more than the 52-day minimum referred to in the new clause.

Some—but not all—of those museums and galleries charge for admission. The decision on charging is for the board of the trustees of the individual institution, and the Government neither impose nor prohibit the introduction of admission charges. It would not be practicable for a museum or gallery that charges for admission to allow free access to one or two items that had been accepted in lieu of tax.

The reason for allocating an item accepted to a particular museum or gallery will sometimes be that it will augment an existing collection of similar items. It would therefore not be desirable to display the accepted item in some free-access room separate from the rest of the collection.

The Government are committed to maintaining their support for national museums and galleries while at the same time encouraging them to develop greater independence and self-reliance. It would he wrong to force a museum or gallery that received a work of art under the acceptance-in-lieu scheme to change its charging policy in the way that new clause 2 suggests.

Mr. Cormack

Will my hon. Friend confirm that some in-lieu items are in National Trust properties or even in private properties which are open to the public?

Mr. Nelson

That is certainly the case, but they are always well known cases and, as I said, they are subject to a parliamentary reply. Such matters are in the public domain.

A small number of acceptances of works of art and other objects are left on display in situ in their previous location. Public access is available to these items for not less than 30 days a year. Since 1980, 20 items have been accepted in situ, 15 in privately owned houses open to the public. The average opening period of these properties is 130 days a year, far in excess of the minimum requirement of 52 days proposed in this clause. In addition, a number of in-situ items historically associated with a property are in National Trust hands. These houses usually open from April to October, and a small number throughout the year. The owners of these properties will generally charge a reasonable entry fee which, in most cases, will be used to meet costs of public access and help towards the maintenance and preservation of the property. It would be unrealistic to suggest that these charges should be waived for at least 52 days of the year where an acceptance was made after 30 June 1992.

The acceptance-in-lieu scheme has mainly been used for works of art and other objects in recent years and little land has been accepted in lieu. Where land is accepted, it would be wrong to prescribe, as suggested in this new clause, a simple and all-embracing rule for all categories of land. The degree of access must depend on the property in question: what might be appropriate for open land will not be reasonable, for example, in the case of land immediately surrounding a house where access at night might have to be restricted. Even where land is open, it is accepted only if it has some special quality—in particualr, that includes land which is important for nature conservation. Access to such land has to be managed, which means balancing the access objective and the benefits of preserving its special characteristics. We aim to ensure the widest possible enjoyment of properties accepted in lieu of tax, but we will not achieve this by imposing an across-the-board condition to all land accepted.

Buildings and land do not maintain themselves. It has long been the practice to make a reasonable charge for admission to some buildings and land to help to meet the costs of maintenance. This is true whether the land is publicly or privately owned or placed with a charitable trust.

For the reasons that I have set out, I consider that there is already a high level of public access to items which have been accepted in lieu and that this new clause would be unlikely to add to the availability of public access to future acceptances in lieu. In the case of land which is protected for nature conservation purposes, the unrestricted access proposed could be positively damaging.

If you will permit me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall comment on what I readily acknowledge to be the related issue of conditionally exempt lands and items. The issue was raised in a different way in Committee and has been commented on more widely this afternoon. In his advocacy of public rights of access, the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury was prosaic, a virtue which accords not only to his colleagues. There is a general welcome for the maintenance, improvement and increase of public rights of access where that is feasible and desirable.

However, it is important to answer the hon. Gentleman's question about the cost of conditional exemption since it has been in existence. The annual cost of conditional exemption from inheritance tax and capital transfer tax of works of art alone is estimated to have averaged about £70 million from 1983–84 to 1991–92. There are sometimes significant fluctuations in the estimated cost from year to year.

The 1991–92 cost was £20 million, but the 1990–91 cost was £160 million. The annual cost of conditional exemption for land and buildings is estimated to have averaged £5 million to £10 million from 1984 to 1992. If one adds the two figures together and multiplies them by eight, one arrives at the figure of £800 million which has been mentioned and in a further two years—bringing the period to 10 years—the figure would be pressing the £1 billion mark.

At least one hon. Member—it may have been the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn)—referred to the equivalent cost of income tax. He said that it amounted to the equivalent of ½p on the rate of income tax. Of course, numerically that is correct in any one year, but we are talking about relief over a 10-year period, whereas ½p would raise £1 billion a year, so the two are not strictly comparable.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) asked how the criteria for relief would be determined. I acknowledge that that is an important issue. The hon. Member was referring not specifically to conditional exemption, but, I think, to the enhanced reliefs for inheritance tax purposes provided in the Bill.

The tax authorities already have to make a judgment about what properties fall into the various categories for the higher and lower rates of inheritance tax relief, and, of course, that will not change. In future it will, as before, be a matter of fact as to what amounts to an agricultural holding in possession and whether it attracts the full 100 per cent. rate of inheritance tax relief to be passed on as a family farming business from one generation to another. There may be problems and there may be contested assessments of whether such relief applies, but there will be no new problems because the existing definitions will continue to obtain.

The hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) also raised that issue today and in Committee. He asked, among other things, what incentives there were for access to the prospective 25 per cent. of lands which it is estimated is not now likely to claim conditional exemption but which will instead claim the full 100 per cent. relief. It is acknowledged that in granting that enhanced relief for certain businesses there will be a disincentive—or less of an incentive—for some landowners to enter into conditional exemption agreements. Yes, that is the case, but the original fear was that it would be such a disincentive that there would be virtually no new conditional exemption agreements.

I hope that in Committee and in the House we have been able to reassure people that a substantial amount of lands will still have a very positive incentive to go into conditional exemption agreements because they will effectively obtain 100 per cent. relief from inheritance tax, whereas if they did not go into conditional exemption agreements they would be liable for a lower rate of only 50 per cent. relief, or for none at all.

The hon. Member for Attercliffe was right to say that there is still a proportion of land—prospectively 25 per cent., and I stress that it is only prospectively—which will not now go into conditional exemption and will not be available for public access as it might otherwise have been. In terms of quantity, that will not be as material as the benefits which will accrue to the businesses and farming businesses of lands which are, after all, handed on.

Much of the land that we are discussing, which will qualify for 100 per cent. relief, will be family-owned farming businesses where a large part of the land is, by its nature, farmed and therefore cannot be roamed across. Where there are rights of access to it, there are likely to be public rights of way which will continue to exist. While conditional exemption was in the past a valuable relief, the new 100 per cent. relief from inheritance tax will also be substantial. In many cases—probably the overwhelming majority of cases—there will still be public rights of way over such lands. They cannot be regarded in the same way as unfarmed heritage lands which simply would not be open to inspection by the public.

Mr. Betts

Has the Minister considered the possibility of treating differently different types of land which, under the proposals, will automatically get 100 per cent. exemption? Ordinary farming land may acquire exemption and automatically gain 100 per cent. relief. Would it be possible for SSI land to be treated in such a way that 100 per cent. exemption from tax would apply only if some form of agreement were reached?

6.30 pm
Mr. Nelson

That possibility was raised in Committee. We resist the idea because it would draw an arbitrary and improper distinction between certain lands which could qualify for the same amount of relief. It would mean, in effect, that a hill farm which had no special heritage value might, as a going family concern, be entitled to the full 100 per cent. inheritance tax relief, while another farm which had heritage features would not obtain that status without a condition being placed on it.

The hon. Gentleman may be in favour of that—indeed. other Opposition Members have spoken, some passionately, in favour of linking access to relief—but we have not sought to do that, and to the extent that it exists, it is provided through the conditional exemption and the in-lieu provisions. They are substantial and, as has been acknowledged. they have brought much land, chattels and items of heritage to the public for inspection.

We believe that it would be wrong to create such a distinction through conditionality on certain pieces of farming land and not on others. They are both farming, going concerns— businesses—to which we are trying to give relief. It would be wrong to give it in one case with substantial conditions attached and not to do so in the other.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) challenged me to give examples of conditional exemption. He knows well that I cannot do that, not because I do not wish to do so, but because I am not allowed to do so. The principle of confidentiality in Inland Revenue matters is absolute. It is an extremely important principle for the protection of the public that they should know that their affairs with the Inland Revenue are confidential.

I shall explain why, in respect of items that are made conditionally exempt, that is known and is public. The crucial difference is that it can be at the choice of the individual, because other options are open to him to obtain conditional exemption for a work of art, other than it being placed on the list. There are other ways by which he can continue to make it available, in a conditionally exempt property, for inspection to which the public already have access. It is important to maintain the fundamental principle that there should continue to be confidentiality in Inland Revenue matters.

Mr. Bennett

I question whether the Minister's logic stands up. Is there a difference between a piece of landscape and a picture? I accept that the person with a picture has a choice; he can go for exemption, after which conditions apply. Similarly, the person with a landscape has a choice. He can sell the piece of countryside to raise money to pay the tax. It seems ridiculous to have what is an obscure list of pictures, yet it is claimed that there cannot be a list of pieces of land to which the general public are supposed to have access. How on earth can the general public benefit if they do not have the access details?

Mr. Nelson

The hon. Gentleman is right in his final point, and I concur with the sentiments that he expresses, but I invite the House to draw a distinction between the issue of access—on which we can have a positive discussion about what improvements might be sought—and the separate issue of the confidentiality of dealings with the Inland Revenue. It is not necessary to break that relationship of confidentiality to have, and improve, access. They are separate matters.

One is sometimes driven to the suspicion, as Opposition Members press the matter, that they are really talking about the identification of accumulated wealth and the circumstances of individuals—[Interruption.] I am pleased if their reception of that statement means that I am wrong. Opposition Members—the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson) was vitriolic about it—do not like accumulations of wealth. They want all such matters to be exposed.

The question of access is a different matter, and if we want to improve access for the public to heritage lands, buildings and works of art, let us try to improve the mechanisms to make that possible. But that does not require breaking confidentiality with the Inland Revenue.

Mr. Mandelson

I assure the Minister that I am not motivated by greed. I am motivated by a desire to see everyone, no matter how big or lowly, not given opportunities to cheat the public purse or wider public interest in disreputable and unlawful ways.

I ask the Minister the question that I had intended to put to him: how would he square his commitment to increase information to facilitate the access that he believes is so important with maintaining the principle of confidentiality which he believes must be upheld?

Mr. Nelson

I shall suggest some ways in which access can be improved, and discussions are taking place about that. But we need not disrupt the basic principle to which I referred—[interruption.] I shall return to the subject, but I am anxious to comment on other important matters to which hon. Members have referred.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish asked where the public benefit was in the relief. The public benefit in the inheritance tax relief in the Bill is not directed principally to the access of the public. It is directed mainly to the integrity and prosperity of family businesses and agricultural farming units. The judgment of the Government—opposed by Opposition Members, who voted against the clause—is that there is economic and employment benefit to be derived from the integrity of passing on from one generation to another the aggregation of businesses and of working family farming units.

The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish also asked about the ability to roam freely, and I appreciate the sentiments that drove him to ask that type of question. The Inland Revenue takes expert advice from amenity bodies, local authorities and others concerned in setting up management agreements for such land with a view to ensuring that environmental management and access schemes have the proper balance of access for the public, with the right to see and roam but also to conserve the environment. I contest whether it is always better to allow people freely to roam rather than to keep to footpaths.

The hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew) referred to the Lake district and the identity of landowners there. I do not know which of us has walked more miles in the paths of Wainwright throughout the Lake district, but I have never found much difficulty there in gaining access to outstanding lands, though that is due more to the national parks than to conditionally exempt arrangements. For the same reasons that I gave to the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish, we must bear in mind the issue of confidentiality.

The hon. Member for Carlisle asked why his local councillors did not know about such matters. In the overwhelming majority, if not all, of cases, local authorities would be taken into consultation with the Countryside Commission and others on the management agreements that are set up to provide access. The planning committee ought to know about that. It is for the committee to determine the way in which the information is treated. It is unlikely, however, that all council members will know such confidential details.

Mr. Martlew

The information given by the Countryside Commission to the Lake District special planning board was so vague that the officers of the board believed—correctly or otherwise—that they could not pass it on to members. I tabled a question on the matter to the Financial Secretary, who answered it in a very ambiguous fashion. Is the Economic Secretary telling us that members of local councils' planning committees and national park authorities can be told the details of such agreements?

Mr. Nelson

I am saying that local authorities are involved, and have information about land that will be subject to management agreements. I cannot speak in detail about the specific constituency points raised by the hon. Gentleman, but, if he would care to write to my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary or to me, we should be delighted to follow up his comments.

The hon. Gentleman complained about not being able to obtain information from the Victoria and Albert museum list. He complained about the state of documents, and about the lack of an index. I have taken his complaints on board, and I shall deal with the V and A list in more detail shortly.

The hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Hoon) asked how many tax inspectors were employed to ensure compliance. As I have already made clear, others are responsible for compliance with the management and access agreements, but the Inland Revenue must ensure that those arrangements are monitored effectively. We are satisfied that they are being examined as they should be, but it is not the Revenue's direct responsibility to ensure compliance with such argeements, except in the case of works of art.

The hon. Member for Darlington complained that relief was being granted to the rich, while others were receiving no privileges. He described the position as a racket, and raised questions about the Duke of Devonshire and his estates. I cannot comment on such matters, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that public rights of way cannot be removed under the agreements with which we are dealing.

As I said earlier, the hon. Gentleman's comments raised doubt about his motivation. It was not clear to me whether he was in favour of extending or of curtailing such reliefs. He seemed to have grave misgivings about the whole basis of conditional exemption. He nods, suggesting that he does not like conditional exemption—unlike most hon. Members, who have called for its extension and the provision of access in other ways. The hon. Gentleman will have to resolve that problem with his hon. Friends.

In a characteristically colourful intervention towards the end of the debate, the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) talked of wealth and plunder. Perhaps he, like his hon. Friend the Member for Darlington, feels that no relief should be provided for such purposes. Presumably he would have applied the same principle to the GLC silver: banning exports of all such objects would be right up his street.

I promised to mention the conditional exemption arrangements relating to the Victoria and Albert museum list. Let me make it clear that works of art that are granted conditional exemption must be made available for viewing by the public. That can be done by displaying them either in a privately owned house or in a room that is open to the public. Publicity about the object may then be included in any general publicity. Alternatively, the owner can arrange for the object concerned to be on long-term loan to a public collection—again, publicity may be included. A third option is to allow public viewing by appointment, and to lend the object to a public collection on request.

Availability for viewing is publicised by means of an entry in the register of conditionally exempt property, which is held by the national art library in the Victoria and Albert museum—the V and A list. Copies of the list are also available in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. The register is available for inspection by members of the public. Entries in it describe the object, and provide information about the county in which it is located; they also give the name and address of a contact who can arrange viewing. In many cases, the contact will be an agent. That is an important way of providing the owners of the property with some security: the inclusion of a name other than theirs is entirely for security reasons.

The existence of the V and A list is known to art scholars and researchers, but other members of the public may well be unaware of it. Recent articles in The Observer will have helped to increase awareness, and I welcome that; but I reject the criticism in the articles, which suggest that the system of allowing public access to conditionally exempt items is deeply flawed. The V and A list allows interested members of the public to arrange appointments to view such works of art, thus providing reasonable public access. I urge any member of the public who consults the register and encounters difficulty in contacting the person whose name is shown on the register, or who considers that unreasonable conditions are being placed on any appointment to view, to write to the Inland Revenue's capital taxes office with details. If reasonable public access is being denied, the capital taxes office will attempt to correct the position. If that is not feasible, a deferred inheritance tax charge will be raised on the owner, based on the current value of the object. That is a considerable penalty for those who fail to comply with the conditions.

6.45 pm

Let me tell the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury that the Government feel that there is scope for improving publicity for the V and A list and some of the more important items on it. The Inland Revenue, with the Department of National Heritage, is considering what can be done in that regard. In particular, they are examining the scope for regular press releases about additions to the list, and increasing awareness of the list among museum and gallery curators. The latter option could lead to feature articles about some items, with wider circulation.

The review is at an early stage, and I cannot announce any decisions now; but I am sure that the House will welcome that intitiative.

I assure the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury that, in discussions with officials, I have posed many of the questions that he and his hon. Friends have raised about the working of the arrangements. I, too, believe that improvements can be made, but the way in which to achieve that is to consult the parties and authorities concerned. In that way, it will be possible to make improvements that will match the mood of the House.

Mr. Martlew

How does the existence of the list in the Victoria and Albert museum help my constituents., who live more than 300 miles away? Consulting it involves a round trip of 600 miles, and then the place may turn out to be closed, as it was last week. When will there be real public access for people all over the country? After all, the vast majority of people do not live in London. Why have the Government refused to place a copy of the list in the House of Commons Library? That is disgraceful. Why can it not be photocopied?

Mr. Nelson

I am not at all sure that the V and A list would be a best seller in the House of Commons Library. As I told the hon. Gentleman earlier, however, copies exist elsewhere—in Edinburgh and Cardiff, for instance. It is not intended to be a secret document, and, if there is a better way of promulgating the informaiton, we shall try to adopt it.

For all the reasons that I have given, I do not believe that even Opposition Members will wish to support the new clause, which refers to an entirely different matter. I believe that a warm and general welcome should be given to the assurances that I have provided, and to our genuine intention to improve access arrangements.

Mr. Chris Smith

We have got something out of the Government: they have acknowledged that the viewing arrangements at the Victoria and Albert museum are inadequate and need to be examined, and that awareness of the availability of access to works of art needs to be increased.

We have heard of the potentially tough penalties that will be imposed on someone who has claimed relief but who does not provide for public access. All that is welcome. The fact that the Minister said that he was approaching the matter in a positive spirit is also welcome. However, I am afraid that the spirit was not positive enough.

The Minister was wrong on one or two points. He was wrong when he claimed that our new clause simply addresses the question of in—lieu gifts. He has obviously not looked carefully enough at subsection (3). The new clause clearly applies to conditionally exempt transfers. That has been the nub of our debate. The Minister was also wrong when he said that Opposition Members were —I think I quote him correctly—calling for an extension of conditional relief. None of us is calling for that. What we want is to get something for conditional relief, and the "something" that we want is public access.

Mr. Cormack

There is public access. Will the hon. Gentleman be a little careful about what he is doing? The policy for preserving the heritage of this country has been evolved with the help of Members in all parts of the House.

Many members of the hon. Gentleman's own party have played a distinguished and constructive part in evolving that policy. The right hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Sheldon), a former Treasury Minister, is in the Chamber. He was immensely helpful when we had a Labour Government in the 1970s. We have a bipartisan policy. The National Heritage Memorial Fund and all the strands in that policy have been built on all-party support. I implore the hon. Gentleman not to wreck it for the sake of a cheap laugh.

Mr. Smith

I am afraid that that remark was unworthy of the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have considerable respect on many of these matters. I do not demur from what he says about the importance of ensuring that works of art of great quality are kept in this country and about the need to ensure that our tax provisions and our public policy are framed accordingly. However, where inheritance tax relief is made available in return for ensuring that works of art are kept in this country, we believe that there should be reasonable and genuine public access to view those works of art. It is a simple point. In no way does it destroy the consensus to which the hon. Gentleman referred.

The Minister acknowledged the disincentive effect of the new 100 per cent. agricultural relief, for which provision is made in the Finance Bill. He said, however, as though it were a great concession, that there would still he public rights of way across that agricultural land. But there would still be public rights of way whether or not relief was given, whether or not the Finance Bill goes through, whether or not the provisions of the new clause are put into effect. There is no great Government concession. A public right of way is a public right of way, and ever shall it be so.

The Minister also referred to the register in the Victoria and Albert museum. We welcome the fact that there are copies of the register in Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. Why, then, is it impossible to place a copy in the Library of the House of Commons? If it is possible to make copies available for three other locations, why is it impossible to make a fourth copy available for the Library?

Mr. Tony Banks

Can my hon. Friend give the House a clue as to where these additional copies are in Edinburgh and Belfast? They are big cities. We should be able to narrow it down a bit.

Mr. Smith

I should have to yield to the Minister in order to provide my hon. Friend with that information, but the Minister does not appear to be leaping to his feet to tell us. Perhaps we shall be able to pursue the matter further in the next few days by means of a parliamentary question.

Apart from the fact that there ought to be a copy of the register in the House of Commons Library, why are we unable to go to the Victoria and Albert museum and make photocopies from the register? Why do we have to sit there and write down anything that we wish to copy from it? Why is the register not regularly updated? Why are half the contact names in the register out of date? Why is the register not properly indexed, which would enable us to look up what works of art are to be found in Cumbria or in the vicinity of Hartlepool? All those questions need to be addressed in the Minister's review.

The heart of the debate is about public information and proper public access. When pressed, the Minister said that he could not give examples of areas of land where access had been made available. He said that he was not allowed to do so because of the principle of confidentiality. Breathtakingly, he went on to say that this was for the protection of the public. No person who enters into a conditionally exempt transfer is forced to do so. It is his or her choice to take up that opportunity. In return for taking it up, that person commits himself or herself to make access available.

None of us asks for details of the inheritance tax relief that any individual has secured in return for a specific agreement. All that we are asking for is information about where the access is available. That does not breach any tax confidentiality. All it does is to tell us what the benefit is to the public.

Welcome though some of the Minister's points may be, I am afraid that the concessions that he has given are far too few. Unless the new clause is passed, we shall still forgo £110 million or more every year in Exchequer income, in return for very little. There will be no information on what areas of land have been made available for public access. Inadequate and out-of-date catalogues of access to works of art will remain. Lady Clarissa Collin will continue to tell people that they cannot roam freely on her land on the North Yorkshire moors. The new clause is about public access to our heritage and our landscape. That access is not properly available at the moment. I commend the new

clause to the House.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 263, Noes 308.

Divsion No. 53 [6.57 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Campbell, Ronald (Blyth V)
Adams, Mrs Irene Campbell-Savours, D. N.
Ainger, Nick Cann, James
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE) Chisholm, Malcolm
Allen, Graham Clapham, Michael
Alton, David Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E) Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale) Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Armstrong, Hilary Clelland, David
Ashton, Joe Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Austin-Walker, John Coffey, Ms Ann
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Cohen, Harry
Barron, Kevin Connarty, Michael
Battle, John Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Bayley, Hugh Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Beckett, Margaret Corbett, Robin
Beith, Rt Hon A. J. Cousins, Jim
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Cox, Tom
Bennett, Andrew F. Cryer, Bob
Benton, Joe Cummings, John
Bermingham, Gerald Cunliffe, Lawrence
Berry, Roger Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Betts, Clive Cunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd)
Blair, Tony Darling, Alistair
Blunkett, David Davidson, Ian
Boateng, Paul Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Boyce, Jimmy Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Boyes, Roland Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Bradley, Keith Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E) Denham, John
Brown, N. (N'c'tle upon Tyne E) Dewar, Donald
Burden, Richard Dixon, Don
Byers, Stephen Dobson, Frank
Caborn, Richard Donohoe, Brian
Callaghan, Jim Dowd, Jim
Campbell, Ms Anne (C'bridge) Dunnachie, Jimmy
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Ms Angela Lynne, Ms Liz
Eastham, Ken McAllion, John
Enright, Derek MacDonald, Calum
Etherington, William McGrady, Eddie
Evans, John (St Helens N) McKelvey, William
Ewing, Mrs Margaret Mackinlay, Andrew
Fatchett, Derek McLeish, Henry
Faulds, Andrew McMaster, Gordon
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Madden, Max
Fisher, Mark Mahon, Alice
Flynn, Paul Mallon, Seamus
Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland) Mandelson, Peter
Foster, Donald (Bath) Marek, Dr John
Foulkes, George Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Fraser, John Marshall, Jim (Leicester, S)
Fyfe, Maria Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Galbraith, Sam Martlew, Eric
Galloway, George Maxton, John
Gapes, Mike Meacher, Michael
Garrett, John Meale, Alan
George, Bruce Michael, Alun
Gerrard, Neil Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Godman, Dr Norman A. Milburn, Alan
Godsiff, Roger Miller, Andrew
Golding, Mrs Llin Mitchell, Austin (Gf Grimsby)
Gordon, Mildred Moonie, Dr Lewis
Graham, Thomas Morgan, Rhodri
Grant, Bernie (Tottenham) Morley, Elliot
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Morris, Rt Hon A. (Wy'nshawe)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Morris, Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Grocott, Bruce Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Gunnell, John Mudie, George
Hain, Peter Mullin, Chris
Hall, Mike Murphy, Paul
Hanson, David Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Hardy. Peter O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
Harman, Ms Harriet O'Brien, William (Normanton)
Harvey, Nick O'Hara, Edward
Henderson, Doug Olner, William
Hendron, Dr Joe Orme. Rt Hon Stanley
Heppell, John Patchett, Terry
Hill, Keith (Streatham) Pendry, Tom
Hinchliffe, David Pickthall, Colin
Hoey, Kate Pike, Peter L.
Home Robertson, John Pope, Greg
Hood, Jimmy Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Hoon, Geoff Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Prescott, John
Hoyle. Doug Primarolo, Dawn
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N) Purchase, Ken
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Quin, Ms Joyce
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Radice, Giles
Hughes, Simon (Southwark) Randall, Stuart
Hutton, John Raynsford, Nick
Jackson, Ms Glenda (H'stead) Redmond, Martin
Jackson, Ms Helen (Shef'ld, H) Reid, Dr John
Jamieson, David Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Janner, Greville Robinson, Geoffrey (Co'try NW)
Johnston, Sir Russell Roche, Ms Barbara
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side) Rogers, Allan
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C) Rooker, Jeff
Jones, Ms Lynne (B'ham S O) Rooney, Terry
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW) Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham) Rowlands, Ted
Jowell, Ms Tessa Ruddock, Joan
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Salmond, Alex
Keen, Alan Sedgemore, Brian
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C & S) Sheerman, Barry
Kennedy, Ms Jane (L'p'l Br'g'n) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Khabra, Piara Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Kilfoyle, Peter Short, Clare
Leighton, Ron Simpson, Alan
Lestor, Joan (Eccles) Skinner, Dennis
Litherland, Robert Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Livingstone, Ken Smith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford) Smith, Rt Hon John (M'kl'ds E)
Llwyd, Elfyn Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Loyden, Eddie Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive Wardell, Gareth (Gower)
Spearing, Nigel Wareing, Robert N
Spellar, John Welsh, Andrew
Squire, Rachel (Dunfermline W) Wicks, Malcolm
Steinberg, Gerry Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Sw'n W)
Stevenson, George Williams, Alan W (Carmarthen)
Strang, Gavin Wilson, Brian
Straw, Jack Wise, Audrey
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury) Worthington, Tony
Taylor, Rt Hon John D. (Str'gf'd) Wray, Jimmy
Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck) Wright, Tony
Tipping, Paddy Young, David (Bolton SE)
Trimble, David
Turner, Dennis Tellers for the Ayes:
Tyler, Paul Mr. Eric Illsley and
Wallace, James Mr. Thomas McAvoy.
Walley, Joan
Adley, Robert Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey) Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Aitken, Jonathan Cormack, Patrick
Alexander, Richard Cran, James
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Setby) Currie, Mrs Edwina (S D'by'ire)
Allason, Rupert (Torbay) Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Amess, David Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Ancram, Michael Davis, David (Boothferry)
Arbuthnot, James Day, Stephen
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Deva, Nirj Joseph
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv) Devlin, Tim
Ashby, David Dickens, Geoffrey
Aspinwall, Jack Dicks, Terry
Atkinson, David (Bour'mouth E) Dorrell, Stephen
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham) Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley) Dover, Den
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North) Duncan, Alan
Baldry, Tony Duncan-Smith, Iain
Banks, Matthew (Southport) Dunn, Bob
Banks, Robert (Harrogate) Durant, Sir Anthony
Bates, Michael Eggar, Tim
Batiste, Spencer Elletson, Harold
Beggs, Roy Emery, Sir Peter
Bendall, Vivian Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Beresford, Sir Paul Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Bitten, Rt Hon John Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Evennett, David
Booth, Hartley Faber, David
Bottomley. Peter (Eltham) Fabricant, Michael
Bottomley, Rt Hon Virginia Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Bowden, Andrew Fenner, Dame Peggy
Bowis, John Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Boyson, Rt Hon Sir Rhodes Fishburn, John Dudley
Brandreth, Gyles Forman, Nigel
Brazier, Julian Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Bright, Graham Forth, Eric
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Browning, Mrs. Angela Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset) Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Budgen, Nicholas Freeman, Roger
Burns, Simon French, Douglas
Burt, Alistair Fry, Peter
Butcher, John Gale, Roger
Butler, Peter Gallie, Phil
Butterfill, John Gardiner, Sir George
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Garel-Jones, Rt Hon Tristan
Carrington, Matthew Garnier, Edward
Carttiss, Michael Gill, Christopher
Cash, William Gillan, Ms Cheryl
Chaplin, Mrs Judith Goodlad, Rt Hon Alastair
Churchill, Mr Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Clappison, James Gorst, John
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Grant, Sir Anthony (Cambs SW)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif) Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Coe, Sebastian Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)
Colvin, Michael Grylls, Sir Michael
Congdon, David Hague, William
Conway, Derek Hamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st) Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Hampson, Dr Keith Monro. Sir Hector
Hannam, Sir John Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Hargreaves, Andrew Moss, Malcolm
Harris, David Needham, Richard
Haselhurst, Alan Nelson. Anthony
Hawkins, Nicholas Neubert, Sir Michael
Hayes, Jerry Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Heald, Oliver Nicholls, Patrick
Heathcoat-Amory, David Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hendry, Charles Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Norris, Steve
Hicks, Robert Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Oppenheim, Phillip
Hill, James (Southampton Test) Ottaway, Richard
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham) Page, Richard
Horam, John Paice, James
Hordern, Sir Peter Patnick, Irvine
Howarth, Alan (Strat'rd-on-A) Patten, Rt Hon John
Howell, Rt Hon David (G'dford) Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Pawsey, James
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W) Pickles, Eric
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hunter, Andrew Portillo, Rt Hon Michael
Jack, Michael Powell, William (Corby)
Jackson, Robert (Wantage) Rathbone, Tim
Jenkin, Bernard Redwood, John
Jessel, Toby Renton, Rt Hon Tim
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Richards, Rod
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Riddick, Graham
Jones, Robert B. (W H'f'rdshire) Rifkind, Rt Hon. Malcolm
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Robathan, Andrew
Kellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine Roberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Key, Robert Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Kilfedder, Sir James Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Kirkhope, Timothy Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Knapman, Roger Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash) Rumbold, Rt Hon Dame Angela
Knight, Greg (Derby N) Ryder, Rt Hon Richard
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n) Sackville, Tom
Knox, David Sainsbury, Rt Hon Tim
Kynoch, George (Kincardine) Scott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Lait, Mrs Jacqui Shaw, David (Dover)
Lang, Rt Hon Ian Shephard, Rt Hon Gillian
Lawrence, Sir Ivan Shepherd. Colin (Hereford)
Legg, Barry Shepherd. Richard (Aldridge)
Leigh, Edward Sims, Roger
Lennox-Boyd, Mark Skeet, Sir Trevor
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe) Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Lidington, David Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Lightbown, David Soames, Nicholas
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter Speed, Sir Keith
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Spencer, Sir Derek
Lord, Michael Spicer. Sir James (W Dorset)
Luff, Peter Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas Spink, Dr Robert
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Spring, Richard
MacKay, Andrew Sproat, Iain
Maclean, David Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)
McLoughlin, Patrick Stanley. Rt Hon Sir John
McNair-Wilson, Sir Patrick Steen, Anthony
Madel, David Stephen, Michael
Maitland, Lady Olga Stern, Michael
Malone, Gerald Stewart, Allan
Mans, Keith Streeter, Gary
Marland, Paul Sumberg, David
Marlow, Tony Sweeney, Walter
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Tapsell, Sir Peter
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S) Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Mates, Michael Taylor, Sir Teddy (Southend, E)
Mawhinney, Dr Brian Thomason, Roy
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mellor, Rt Hon David Thornton, Sir Malcolm
Merchant, Piers Thurnham, Peter
Milligan, Stephen Townend, John (Bridlington)
Mills, Iain Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexl'yh'th)
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Tracey, Richard
Moate, Roger Tredinnick, David
Molyneaux, Rt Hon James Trend, Michael
Trotter, Neville Whittingdale. John
Twinn, Dr Ian Widdecombe, Ann
Vaughan, Sir Gerard Wiggin, Jerry
Viggers, Peter Wilkinson, John
Waldegrave, Rt Hon William Willetts, David
Walden, George Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Walker, Bill (N Tayside) Winterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Waller, Gary Wolfson, Mark
Ward, John Wood, Timothy
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill) Yeo, Tim
Waterson, Nigel Young, Sir George (Acton)
Watts, John
Wells, Bowen Tellers for the Noes:
Wheeler, Sir John Mr. Tim Boswell and
Whitney, Ray Mr. Sydney Chapman.

Question accordingly negatived.

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