§ 3.32 p.m.
§ Lord Carter
My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Culture and Recreation Bill, has consented to place 1230 her prerogative and interest, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.
I cannot claim that the Bill has a single consistent theme. It is fair to say that it is what is politely called a portfolio Bill; in other words, it is a Bill which seeks to enact all of the matters requiring primary legislation which the Department for Culture, Media and Sport considers have arisen over a number of years. To that extent it is none the worse for that. I hope, however, that it will not be treated by noble Lords or by Parliament as, to use another hallowed phrase, "a Christmas tree Bill"; in other words, that no one will seek to add to it other matters which are not covered in its admittedly rather extensive Long Title.
However, there is one theme in the Bill which I hope will be welcome in this House; namely, that it implements a proposal which arose from the Government's first comprehensive spending review of 1998. The Bill is concerned with the reform and refinancing of considerable sections of our cultural and recreational life. These matters have been debated in public for a considerable period of time. Therefore Parliament addresses the primary legislation with the advantage of substantial public debate.
The Bill simplifies and clarifies the way in which cultural and sporting quangos operate and reduces their number. It will enable us to set up a major new presence on the Internet, culture online, presenting and promoting the very best of our culture, heritage and science to the whole world.
I shall deal with the parts of the Bill not necessarily in order of importance but in the order in which they are presented. Part I concerns safety at sports grounds. It implements the conclusions of the comprehensive spending review in relation to sports ground safety. During the spending review the Government examined the current sports ground safety regime and the work of the Football Licensing Authority in particular. The Government explored all options and undertook a public consultation exercise, including sports governing bodies and all safety authorities in England and Wales.
We concluded that the Football Licensing Authority has gathered a lot of experience and expertise in sports stadium safety issues while performing its role in ensuring the implementation of the Government's all seater and safe terracing requirements on football stadia. We want that expertise to be available to other sports should they want it, but the FLA is currently prohibited from giving such advice. The Bill will correct that by reconstituting the FLA as the sports ground safety authority. These proposals have been welcomed by local authorities. At this point I should like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the work of Clive Sherling and the board and staff of the Football Licensing Authority. They have played a significant 1231 role in improving spectator safety and comfort at our football grounds which has contributed to the increased attendances at, and popularity of, football.
Implementation of the programme of major structural improvements flowing from Lord Justice Taylor's report into the Hillsborough disaster and the Government's all seater and safe terracing requirements is now almost complete—I say "the Government" because I think that it is obvious to all of us that we are talking about both this Government and the previous administration. There is nothing between us on these matters—though many clubs are undertaking or planning further developments on their own initiative. Football grounds are now significantly safer than in the past. Since 1989 there has been only one fatal incident inside a ground. Structural changes have been accompanied by safety management improvements.
We believe that the additional licensing regime the FLA currently operates is no longer needed. Instead, local authority safety certificates will take account of such requirements and we shall retain the FLA's important statutory duty to keep under review the discharge by local authorities of their safety certification duties in relation to Premier and Football League grounds.
I turn to parks regulations. Despite the best efforts of the Royal Parks Police, some of the Royal Parks and Other Open Spaces Regulations 1997 are widely flouted, for example, cycling in areas where it is not allowed, dog fouling and dropping litter. This causes concern and annoyance to those who use the Royal Parks.
At present the courts may impose a fine of up to £200 after conviction for such an offence but, although many warnings are issued, pressure on the court services means that few cases reported for prosecution result in the offender being summonsed. Those that do frequently attract only a small fine. The current system does not deter nuisance offenders.
The Secretary of State currently intends to designate the following as fixed penalty regulations: dropping litter; cycling other than in designated areas; control of animals; animal fouling; using vehicles or cycles without appropriate lighting; and driving vehicles off park roads. The Bill allows the Secretary of State to specify by order the level of the fixed penalty, which may be different for different offences up to half the maximum fine; that is, £100. It also provides for payment of a fixed penalty by post. These provisions are comparable to those which local authorities have in their own parks. It seems evident that a rationalisation of the regime is valuable. The provisions may be applied to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, which the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food manages.
In addition, the Bill provides a change to the laying time for regulations made under the Parks Regulation (Amendment) Act 1926. At present they must be laid in draft for 40 sitting days before they can be made. The Bill brings the procedure into line with other statutory instruments which are first made and then laid for 40 days subject to a resolution to annul them.
1232 Part III of the Bill gives English Heritage the power to act or incur expenditure below the mean low water mark in waters adjacent to England up to the 12 mile limit of UK territorial waters, which brings England into line with the rest of the United Kingdom. It also allows for archaeological investigation, preservation and maintenance of marine heritage sites and puts underwater archaeology on the same footing as land archaeology.
It enables English Heritage to take over from the DCMS the running of the secretariat for the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites, the management of the contract on the provision of archaeological diving services and technical advice on designated wreck sites throughout the UK. The devolved administrations agree with us that these functions would be best carried out on a United Kingdom-wide basis in consultation with the heritage bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Along with pension provisions featuring later in the Bill, this will complete the process of merging English Heritage and the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.
In addition, the functions of English Heritage will be expanded by giving it the power to sell goods and services outside the United Kingdom for the first time. It will also be given the power to produce souvenirs and exploit its intellectual property.
Part IV establishes a new public body, culture online, to use digital media to allow an ever-widening audience to engage in arts and culture in all its forms. Digital technology, used imaginatively, can overcome traditional barriers to involvement in arts and culture caused by geography and cost. It can also attract new audiences to arts and culture as it enables people to take a first step in their own way and at their own pace in a familiar environment, with no commitment required and with materials especially tailored to their own interests. Moreover, digital technologies can give access to a much richer stock of resources to which the public rarely has access, such as the expertise of curators, theatre directors or leading musicians.
Our new non-departmental public body, culture online, will make a step change in access to arts and culture by bridging the digital and culture divides. It will not simply be a new website. It will fund culture as an activity rather than as a set of artefacts. Its main aims will be to get people online to access, use, experience, learn from, shape and contribute to and participate in culture broadly defined. Culture online's initial focus will be on education, particularly on enriching the school curriculum, but also on the needs of lifelong learners, both individuals and communities. At its heart will be highly interactive, participative materials. A measure of its success will be its ability to draw in individuals and communities to use these technologies to pursue their own interests, as the Open University has done, for higher education.
It will also aim to provide a showcase for the best of art and culture, particularly at the cutting edge. In order to meet these objectives, culture online will have the following key characteristics. It will take a strategic 1233 approach. Its contents should match the resources of the arts and cultural sector to identify and prioritise audience needs. It will integrate material from different sectors, including museums, galleries, libraries, heritage sites, archives of written, broadcast and film materials, the performing arts and the new digital arts. It will provide free access for users. It will use the latest technology. Initially, culture online will be producing material for use on the Internet. In time, however, culture online may wish to use other media to meet its objectives.
It will provide quality assurance for users about other related materials on the Net. It will be comprehensive, based on detailed analysis of audience need. Culture online will aim to bring both breadth and depth of coverage over time to engage all interests, including minority groups.
Finally, it will make full use of the unique selling propositions of digital technology—for example, interactive presentations building on games technology—to draw in new audiences, to produce tool kits for communities to create their own materials such as virtual exhibitions and to provide facilities for online purchasing, including tickets to real performances and exhibitions.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has secured £5 million start-up funding to research and develop materials. Culture online will be driven by the public policy goals I have outlined. The department has commissioned a full economic options appraisal to assess the most appropriate business model for culture online to deliver these materials and services. This report will be completed by the summer.
The provisions in the Bill will enable culture online to enter into agreements with third parties through contract, grants, loans and guarantees or through joint ventures. So culture online will be ready to realise the business strategy contained in the report.
Following discussions with colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, we have agreed that culture online will produce materials and services representing arts and culture from across the world that are of interest to English users. As culture is a devolved policy matter, culture online will not produce material where the primary interest is for people in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.
I turn now to the other provisions of the Bill. Part V features a range of measures, most of which are designed to remove anomalies which hamper the efficient and effective delivery of public services. The Comprehensive Spending Review established three new bodies—the Film Council, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment and Resource, and the Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries—as strong new national bodies in their respective sectors. They were each established as companies in 1999 and are already doing excellent work. The Bill fulfils commitments we made in the spending review to reconstitute these three companies as statutory bodies and provide the Secretary of State with a statutory basis for making grants to them.
1234 The Bill also effects other small changes in relation to film and libraries. It allows the Secretary of State to delegate the task of certifying a film as a British film for purposes relating to taxation. It removes the now redundant requirement to keep a register of British and other films. It abolishes the Library Advisory Council for England, because in future Resource will be responsible for providing advice on public library matters.
I turn now to appointments to national museums and galleries. The Bill is intended to improve the process of public appointments to national museums and galleries in England beyond what could be achieved by administrative means alone. The proposals offer greater flexibility to national museums and galleries to enable them to vary the size of their boards and to make at least a quarter of their trustee appointments themselves. In addition, they enable the Secretary of State to make appointments in place of the Prime Minister and help to speed up the appointments process generally. However, the chairmen of the museums and galleries have expressed concern that the proposals as drafted could be used to threaten their independence. I can reassure the House that it has never been the Government's intention to undermine the independence of our national museums and galleries. The Government have agreed with the chairmen that the measures proposed will be subject to agreement with, rather than consultation with, the boards of trustees, as is provided for in the Bill.
The Government and the chairmen have also agreed that consultation before chairmen are elected by the boards will not be a legal requirement, although it will be normal practice—and, I hope it will be generally agreed, a desirable practice. The Government and the chairmen have agreed that there should also be a provision to make or vary any provision in relation to the appointment of chairmen as well as trustees. This would also be subject to agreement with the boards of trustees and could be used, for instance, to enable those boards whose chairman is appointed by the Secretary of State or Prime Minister to appoint the chairman themselves. We shall introduce government amendments, in good time in advance of Committee stage, to make the wording absolutely clear.
The Bill gives the British Library powers to establish trading companies. The Library's current inability to form such companies severely restricts its ability commercially to exploit its collections. The Bill will give the Library powers similar to those enjoyed by many national museums and galleries. It will enable it to make more efficient use of its collections and generate additional income.
Part V also removes other historic anomalies. It provides the Secretary of State with a statutory basis for making grants to the Arts Council of England (which has been funded until now under the annual Appropriation Acts). It ends the Secretary of State's obligation to use parts of Osborne House and grounds for the benefit of members of the Armed Forces and the Civil Service; and it removes the added burden on the promoters of new statues in Greater London, who must obtain the specific written consent of the 1235 Secretary of State under an Act of 1854 to erect a public statue in a public place. At present, such consent is needed in addition to all the usual consents required under planning legislation.
Part V also changes the name of the English Tourist Board to the English Tourism Council and varies, or gives power to vary, the membership of the English Tourism Council, the Wales Tourist Board and the British Tourist Authority. Finally, it enables the staff and former staff of various non-departmental public bodies to be transferred to the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme.
Without claiming any internal coherence for the different aspects of the Bill, I can claim that it simplifies and clarifies the delivery of cultural and recreational services to the public. It paves the way for an exciting new initiative to allow an ever-widening audience to engage in arts and culture. It has been subject to widespread consultation and I am sure that it will attract broad support. I commend the Bill to the House.
Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)
§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Baroness Anelay of St Johns
My Lords, the Bill is like a Pandora's box. It seems inoffensive enough, but take a look inside and all manner of worrying issues emerge. It provides evidence of the Government's increasingly interventionist approach to the arts. Nowhere is the dead hand of the state more chilling than when it takes a grip on cultural life. That is what the Government are attempting in some of the provisions of the Bill.
The prime example was mentioned by the Minister towards the end of his speech: the Government's desire to extend the size and power of the state as regards appointments to museums and galleries. It is ironic that at the same time as the Conservative Party is exploring ways of giving greater freedom to museums and galleries, the Government have been busy designing more shackles. The Bill as it is before us today would allow fundamental changes in the relationship between the Government and museums, enabling the politicisation of boards of trustees to a hitherto unprecedented extent.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has tried to argue over the past few weeks that the Bill is merely a tidying-up exercise, creating a single model on which museum boards throughout the country will be based. The Government say that the Secretary of State's intentions have been misunderstood. I have heard stories from behind the scenes that the blame has been placed on drafters and civil servants, who did not make the impact of the provisions clear enough to the Secretary of State. Nobody has been taken in by that argument, so the Secretary of State has had to do an about turn before the Bill has even had its Second Reading. Today, the Minister has told the House that the Government will amend Schedule 5 significantly in Committee. I am grateful for his commitment that the amendments will be tabled at a conveniently early stage for our perusal before Committee day.
1236 Will the amendments give the V&A Museum and the Science Museum the same conditions as the other bodies listed in the Bill? They are currently subject to more stringent appointment requirements than other bodies listed.
The Minister is highly respected in the House, but none the more so after his presentation of the Government's case on the Bill. He is a safe pair of hands, but it is unfortunate that, as a simple consequence of the Bill starting its life in this House, he has the job of clearing up the mess made by his Secretary of State.
I have listened carefully to the Minister and I had a chance to read the delegated powers scrutiny committee report. I am grateful to the Committee for its rapid work. My initial response is to welcome the Government's retreat from their extreme position on Schedule 5, but I shall want to scrutinise their amendments carefully in Committee. I shall particularly want to listen to all the museums and galleries affected. I shall want to be reassured that the Government mean what they say today, although I accept that the Minister believes what he says. In December, the Government were reported in the press as saying that they had dropped plans to influence appointments and the election of chairmen. However, they have promptly reneged on that by putting similar proposals in the Bill.
In the meantime, we have the Bill in its original slate. It reveals that the Secretary of State wanted to take powers to have significant control, by order, over the number and character of trustees and their powers to elect their own chairmen. It would have forced boards of trustees to consult Whitehall before electing a chairman. My concern is always that one person's consultation can be another person's coercion. The institutions concerned were constituted by Parliament as independent statutory bodies to operate at arm's length from the Government. It is vital to preserve that principle.
Other provisions in the Bill also give cause for concern. One relates to the drafting of the clause that gives life to culture online—if virtual reality can ever have life. My concerns are based on issues of principle and practice. As a matter of principle, the Bill should not give the Government the opportunity to direct what information people can— or should—gain access to. It should not create a system whereby interactive discussion groups can be monitored and directed by an organisation appointed by the state. I am worried that culture online could do that if Part IV is not amended.
The Bill would give the Secretary of State the power to create a monolith of his choosing—he appoints the members and chairman. Culture online is then given powers to do anything in pursuit of its work, set out in Clause 25. After a list of a host of powers, it is then given the power to,do such other things as it thinks necessary or expedient:".In other words, it can do anything.
1237 Parliament has a right to expect that the Government will not seek approval for those proposals on culture online unless they already have details on how it will work and what it will cost. We shall need to examine those issues in Committee.
We shall also need to ensure that the Government's plans for the financing of culture online do not damage the chances of individual cultural bodies securing sponsorship for their own websites, many of which are well advanced and developed, but others of which are still at the embryonic stage. I was reminded of that last weekend, when I was lucky enough to visit the Verdi centenary exhibition in Milan. I saw how productive co-operation between cultural institutions and private company sponsorship can be—in this case, between La Scala theatre and a private accountancy firm of international stature, which I shall not give any more publicity than it has already gained by changing its name. There were two consoles for visitors to explore the La Scala website. Of course, it worked a zillion times faster than it has ever worked when I have tried to use it on my home personal computer. The Minister talked about free access, but if he looks at his telephone bill he will see the cost of using any cultural website, in addition to the fact that they tend to crash because of the number of images that need to be downloaded.
Many issues need to be examined to ensure that individual cultural websites do not suffer as a result of the Government's activity. We shall need to examine whether a state subsidised body should provide services in direct competition with existing commercial and voluntary sites. I was astonished to see in the Explanatory Notes that culture online is expected to go into the production of games. Will there be a new Tomb Raider storyline in which Lara Croft kills off the culture vultures? We shall wait and see.
Charles Saumarez Smith got it right in his lecture to the University of East Anglia last month. He said that much of current government thinking promotes the view that,there is no point in looking at a pile of old bones if you can study them just as well, if not better, on the world wide web".The use of digital technology is a valuable resource, but nothing beats real contact with real cultural events and objects. We shall need to examine the provisions closely. As drafted, they are not acceptable.
Other parts of the Bill may not prove so troublesome, but we shall still need to examine the provisions closely, bearing in mind the old adage that the more that the Opposition and the Government agree on provisions, the more wary everybody should be and the more closely they should be examined to ensure that the policy intention is achieved and not lost on the way.
In Part I we see that the Football Licensing Authority is converted into the sports ground safety authority. I join the tribute made by the Minister to the work of the Football Licensing Authority; it has, indeed, been excellent. However, we shall need to examine the validity of the reasons which the 1238 Government give for changing the role and remit of the FLA and the drafting of the Bill in delivering that policy. Much of Part I is quite difficult to follow, but I appreciate that that is simply because of the need to draft in all the amendments to other statutes. We shall need to look carefully at some of the explanations in relation to that.
We shall also need to examine the reasons why the Secretary of State seeks the order-making power in Clause 7(2). The Government refer to it as a "reserve" power but the Bill gives it as an open-ended one. It means that the Secretary of State can give the new authority powers over every single sports ground in England and Wales. The Explanatory Notes mention cricket and rugby. However, perhaps I may ask the Minister whether athletics, race courses and major golf competitions would also be covered. Perhaps the Ryder Cup would also be included if there were a major problem at that event with regard to safety.
I am sure that all parts of the House agree that safety at sports venues is always absolutely vital. We shall need to examine whether the Bill retains the higher level of safety at football grounds which followed the publication of the Taylor report. Recently, there has been much publicity about the remarks made by the Minister for Sport on the television programme "Watchdog". She said that she was willing to consider allowing a return to "safely designed standing areas" at premiership grounds. Will the Minister clarify what current government policy is on that issue?
Part II introduces powers for fixed penalty notices to be handed out by the Royal Parks Police. Of course, we thoroughly support the work carried out by the Royal Parks Police. Like the Minister, we recognise that they face considerable difficulties in enforcing some of the regulations in the parks. I believe that one of the main issues that we shall need to examine is how fixed penalty notices will work and whether they will make it more difficult for the police to carry out their functions under the present staffing level.
On the face of it, fixed penalty notices certainly seem to be a very good idea. However, we need to examine the issues of whether they are fair and how effectively they are administered. In Committee we shall ask the Minister to undertake that the Royal Parks Police will have the right to retain all the money which they collect by way of fixed penalty notices for the better management and care of the parks.
I turn to Part III. I welcome the fact that the Government are at least implementing some of the proposals that we made in our Green Paper in 1996. However, I am disappointed that the opportunity has not been taken to take forward further reforms which were recommended in that Green Paper, specifically with regard to the introduction of a statutory duty for local authorities to maintain sites and monuments records. I am delighted that in Committee my noble friend Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn will table amendments on this and other matters—matters which he raised during the heritage debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Montagu in the week before 1239 Christmas. I shall leave my noble friend to go into detail on those matters. After all, he is certainly the expert; not me.
Finally, we come to Part V—the miscellany which,indeed, contains some of the jewels in the crown of culture. I have already referred to the proposals to take more control over appointments to our national museums and galleries. Therefore, I shall be brief in referring to the remaining proposals in Part V, not because I consider them to be unimportant—in fact, just the reverse—but because I know that my noble friend Lord Luke will cover those issues more fully at the end of our debate today.
Part V contains many more examples of the Secretary of State seeking wide-ranging powers. Under Clause 29 he can give a grant to any person for any reason, provided that he—only he, the Secretaryof State—believes that that person will use it for a purpose connected to the arts. There is no mention of conditions, guidelines or regulations—nothing. I am afraid that, repeat offender that he is, the Secretary of State takes the same unfettered powers for himself in Clauses 30 for films, 31 for architecture and 32 for museums.
In Clause 33 the Secretary of State gives himself the power to convert the film council, CABE and Resource into statutory corporations. I have no basic complaint about that, but I am a little puzzled. Why have the Government decided to avoid putting those details on to the face of the Bill? The provisions regarding culture online, defective though they are, are on the face of the Bill, but as yet we do not even know what that organisation will be. The other three bodies have already been operating. We know how they work and we know something about them. Yet, their own corporation is not on the face of the Bill. I find that puzzling.
In Clause 41 the Government intend to change the use of Osborne House. The questions which arise are: what will they do with it, will it be appropriate and what consultation have they carried out with the people of the Isle of Wight about the matter'? For good measure, in Clause 42 the Government are giving up the powers of the Secretary of State to veto or advise on the erection of new statues in London. I believe that my noble friend Lady Trumpington will have something to say about that.
I am almost at the end. Clauses 43 to 45 cover provisions relating to the British Tourist Authority and the English Tourist Board. These are technical amendments, given the changes that are taking place in those organisations. However, I look forward to tabling my own amendments which will restore to the English Tourism Council the marketing functions which it carried out so effectively until this Government took them away from it.
This House always takes very seriously its duty to scrutinise legislation. When the proposals have a measure of bipartisan support, which, as I mentioned, some will today, paradoxically sometimes we need to challenge them even more carefully. I look forward to working with all noble Lords to make that scrutiny 1240 both fair and effective. The noble Lord mentioned Christmas trees. Some people take Christmas trees seriously; I take amendments seriously if they are to deliver a better Bill to the public. I give my word that I shall approach all my amendments in that spirit of public duty.
In the meantime, I look forward to hearing the views of all noble Lords today, but in particular those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, in his maiden speech.
§ 4.7 p.m.
§ Lord Redesdale
My Lords, this is one of the first Bills put forward by the Government to include heritage—that is, the first in three-and-a-half years. It seems that we have to wait a great deal of time between heritage and culture Bills. Therefore, I find it slightly disappointing that, as the Minister said, this is a wide-ranging Bill. It seems to be a shell of a Bill with not a great deal in it. The Minister looks dubious at that remark. However, considering how long we have to wait for heritage Bills, we would have hoped for more substance in this one. Perhaps we shall consider that at a later stage. The Minister mentioned Christmas trees. At a later stage, by way of amendments, I hope quite happily to lay the fairy lights and even the star on the top of the tree of this Bill!
Although, to begin with, the Bill was seen as being slightly uncontroversial, Clause 38 (in Part V) seems to have riled many noble Lords. As the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and my noble friend Lord Russell will be dealing with that issue later, I am happy to leave it to them.
I want to focus on the area of archaeology, in which I must declare an interest. This debate almost appears to be taking a second bite at the subject of the debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, just before Christmas. That debate concentrated on the report, Power of Place—The future of the historic environment. One reason why I shall give careful consideration to amendments is the rather depressing comment made by the Minister in winding up that debate. He said:I should not want to raise hopes that the Culture and Recreation Bill will be changed as it appears before the House in order to respond to the recommendations of this report".— [Official Report, 20/12/00; col. 774.]I found that rather upsetting when one considers that many of the recommendations in that and in a number of other reports could have been added to this Bill. They would have gone some way to meeting the needs of the heritage sector.
I welcome several of the Bill's provisions, including those relating to maritime archaeology. The document Power of Place recommended that they appear in the Bill, which was published a few days later. English Heritage may have learnt a great deal from the slightly controversial manner in which it dealt with the monument known as Seahenge. I hope that it has learnt significantly from those mistakes, and especially about involving the local community. However, I know that my noble friend Lord Roper will raise that matter, so I shall move on.
1241 The Department for Culture, Media and Sport published a report in December 2000 entitled Ministerial Advisory Panel on Illicit Trade. I was slightly upset to see that its recommendations had not made it into the Bill. I hope that the Minister will forgive me when I table amendments that will probe whether some of that report's recommendations can be included in the Bill.
We on these Benches are most concerned about the issues that were not included in the Bill, such as the sites and monuments records (SMRs). That would have been a valuable entry. When I first examined the provisions relating to culture online, I thought that they might be a vehicle by which SMRs could be included in the Bill. However, the Minister's description of the aims and objectives of culture online seems to rule out that possibility. We shall therefore probably table an amendment to add the word "archaeology" to its objectives.
The Minister gave the impression that provisions relating to games will be added to culture online, which will be a very wide-ranging body. Having been involved with some Internet operations, I was interested in the fact that a start-up cost of £5 million will be provided for what appears to be a fairly monolithic organisation. That is realistic. I welcome culture online's laudable aims. Clause 25(2)(a) states that its objectives involve "culture, history and science". I hope that arts, games and ticket sales will not overshadow those objectives.
To return to SMRs, we want to establish whether maintaining such records can be made into a statutory obligation for local authorities. I believe that it is recognised in DCMS that that should happen. The history of SMRs is piecemeal. They were put together as a planning tool, and now fulfil a function far wider than that which was originally set out. However, their non-statutory status is a problem because they are under threat through under-funding. Within government, it has been noted that statutory status would be beneficial. The 1996 Green Paper, Protecting our Heritage, states:At present there is no statutory basis for these SMRs and no duty to maintain them. The re-organisation of local government, and the demise of some county councils, could pose a threat to the continued maintenance of the SMR. The RCHM E"—that is, the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments in England—which co-ordinates the work of local SMRs, has represented strongly that authorities should be placed under a duty to maintain them. The Government agrees with this view and proposes to introduce such a duty".The paper went on to state that the Government consider the cost of such a proposal to be de minimis. The responses to the consultation were uniformly in favour of the proposal, although some respondents said that local authorities would need additional resources.
Since that Green Paper was published in 1996, a guidance note was sent to local authorities by the forerunner to the DCMS; that is, the Department of National Heritage. That note set out ways in which 1242 SMRs should be run. It is a good document, but the failure of organisations without statutory protection, and, therefore, proper resourcing, is shown by the fact that many SMRs are suffering cutbacks that are hampering their functions. For example, recent research found that SMRs were performing on average at 50 per cent below acceptable standards. Less than two-thirds of SMRs have a dedicated SMR officer. The quality of data is very variable, and nearly half have problems with bespoke searches. Many also have long backlogs of new data awaiting entry on to databases. Some of the information that may be on those databases is plainly wrong, as I have found from my own researches.
I shall give some examples to show that the situation is due to lack of funding. They were published in British Archaeology, which is a magazine of the Council for British Archaeology. In March 1998, there was a crisis in the SMR of Buckinghamshire. The county museum's budget was cut by £250,000 a year, with the proposed disbandment of the SMR. In May 1998, there were threats to the Leicestershire SMR, which were caused by the creation of a unitary authority in Leicester. In May 1998, English Heritage, the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments in England and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers announced that only statutory status will save many SMRs. In March 1999, the archaeological service in Worcestershire gained a last-minute reprieve after being proposed for closure. There have been cuts in Northamptonshire, Pembrokeshire, Staffordshire and Hampshire. The list goes on.
We are talking about one of the main planks of the planning process that is associated with historic monuments. To convey the scale of the problem, we have lost one historic monument a day since the last war.
I realise that many parts of the Bill will be examined in much greater detail and that amendments will be tabled. With so many noble Lords waiting to speak, it would be unwise to go into those matters on this occasion. However, I want to raise one further issue, which should, perhaps, have been included in the Bill. I refer to the fact that many local regional museums are currently facing crisis point. Although I realise that the Government will not look on this with any great favour, purely because of its financial implications, there is an argument that those museums, too, should be given statutory status. The provision might state that they should be adequately funded by local authorities or by central Government. When I talked about that with my noble friend Lord Avebury, we discussed the fact that not funding local museums might be criticised when the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is next debated. The Government could therefore be criticised for under-funding local authorities and it might be argued that denying people access to local museums involves denying them their human rights. That, obviously, may be well outside the scope of the Bill. However, I look forward to our later debates on amendments to the Bill.
§ 4.19 p.m.
§ Lord Scott of Foscote
My Lords, I am grateful for this opportunity to discuss the Bill. Perhaps my choosing the Bill as the subject of my maiden speech needs a little explanation. I spend quite a lot of my time on recreation and not very much on culture, but that gives me at least half a qualification to speak.
The substantive parts of the Bill are five in number, as has already been pointed out, and I want to discuss two of them. Part I of the Bill deals with safety at sports grounds. It builds on the report and legislation that followed the Hillsborough disaster. Clause 5 provides a power to the Secretary of State involving accommodation for standing spectators. The power would enable the Secretary of State either to encourage or discourage the provision of standing accommodation. My understanding is that, since the Football Spectators Act 1989, which followed the report, the amount of standing accommodation for spectators in some of the major football grounds in the country has greatly diminished. In some there is no standing accommodation at all.
That reduction came about in the interests of safety, and of course safety must be the overriding factor. But there is a loss. Standing accommodation allows tickets to be sold at a lower cost than would have to be paid for seats. I am sure that a number of your Lordships fall into the category of those who have attended at football grounds and know the almost cultural effect that standing spectators provide to the enhancement of the enjoyment of everybody on those occasions.
As I said, safety must be paramount. But provided it can be done consistently with safety, it is important to ensure that provision is made for standing spectators at sports grounds and football grounds. It would be a loss if that were no longer part of the facilities in the major grounds in this country.
The second area of the Bill on which I want to comment is Part III, which deals with monuments and historic buildings. Among other things it provides for English Heritage—brought into being in the 1983 Act and charged with trying to ensure the preservation of ancient monuments and historic buildings and promoting the enjoyment of the public—to engage in a degree of trade. That comes under Clause 22 of the Bill by amendments proposed to the 1983 Act. New Sections 33A and 33B are to be introduced.
New Section 33A says that English Heritage may publish books, films, informative material and so forth. That is in the nature of a trading operation and seems eminently sensible. But new Section 33B, which no doubt is intended to be complementary to that trading function, provides in effect for English Heritage to,exploit any intellectual property, or any other intangible asset, relating to ancient monuments or historic buildings.It is the implications of that measure and the intentions behind it that I want to consider.
It seems to me that that drafting goes wider than any reasonable intention could possibly require. Ancient monuments and historic buildings are themselves the subject of wide definitions. They are not necessarily 1244 ancient at all. An ancient monument includes any structure or area which, as well as being historic, is of architectural, traditional, artistic or archaeological interest. A historic building may be any building of historic or architectural interest.
There must be many modern buildings in this country, built within this century, which are of architectural interest and therefore qualify as "historic buildings" for the purposes of this legislation. Many of those historic buildings are in private ownership and many of the intellectual property rights that relate to them will be privately owned. Indeed, there may be intellectual property rights that relate to monuments and buildings in public ownership where the rights themselves are privately owned.
For instance, someone may decide to paint a picture of Stonehenge or the Palace of Westminster. The artist brings into being a copyright which, in ordinary language, would relate to the historic building being painted, and that copyright would belong to the artist. In relation to modern buildings that qualify as "historic buildings" under the definition, architect's plans must exist in respect of which there is still subsisting copyright. I cannot believe that the intention behind new Section 33 was to enable English Heritage to exploit those privately-owned rights. I imagine the intention was simply that the exploitation would be of rights which belonged to English Heritage or were otherwise publicly owned and could be exploited by English Heritage in producing films and books.
It surely could not have been intended that the exploitation of intellectual property rights relating to ancient monuments and historic buildings should enable the expropriation of privately owned rights. Indeed, the Minister could not have made the Human Rights Act statement which appears on the facing page of the Bill if that had been the intention. So it seems to me that the drafting of the proposed Section 33B and its intention requires some clarification.
I find it difficult to contemplate that there could be a patent which related to an ancient monument or historic building. One cannot think of everything, but how that could come into being beats me. It is difficult to see how there could be a trademark in relation to ancient monuments, but there could certainly be many copyrights.
That is one aspect of the legislation which requires attention. Those are the only points I want to draw to your Lordships' attention. I am grateful for the opportunity to do so.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Baroness Rendell of Babergh
My Lords, we have just listened to a speech of great distinction, grasp and comprehensive knowledge from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote.
The noble and learned Lord has led a life of awe-inspiring diversity. He went to school in Natal, attended the universities of Cape Town and Cambridge and was Begelow Fellow at the University of Chicago. He has been Editor-in-Chief of the 1245 Supreme Court—the official guide to civil procedure—and most famously conducted the inquiry into and wrote the report on defence-related exports to Iraq, the Scott report. Now his immensely distinguished career has been crowned by his being made a Law Lord. While we realise how fully occupied he will be by his duties, we hope that he will again participate in debate in your Lordships' House when he is able.
Culture online will be a major enterprise of the Government, becoming the first website to produce comprehensive coverage of the arts. Although there are arts and cultural websites producing to a high standard, they are not numerous and there is at present a significant gap in the presentation on the Internet of serious and inspiring cultural materials.
My noble friend the Minister referred to a new audience. Young people would benefit from a diverse and expanding website that has among its specific purposes the stimulation of creativity. But an audience unfamiliar with online services might also profit by it. I refer to older and retired members of society.
The new website is designed to be,available to the greatest number".But at present too many feel that the Internet is not for them and are convinced that they would be incapable of gaining access to it. There is a prevailing sense among a large proportion of the older population that visiting the Internet is a complicated business beyond their capabilities and, moreover, that most of what is accessible there is aimed at a much younger generation, inevitably focusing on pop music, shopping and so forth. But many such people have a particular interest in culture and the arts while others, on retirement, experience an awakening or reawakening of such interest. Culture online can provide for them an introduction to Internet services as well as satisfying their search for cultural pursuits. They can always proceed to explore those independent cultural websites referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay.
I must here declare an interest as I benefit from libraries, both as a recipient of the public lending right and because they buy my books. Resource is the new body which will replace and combine the former Museums and Galleries Commission and the Library Advisory Council. Library standards in recent years have fallen, but things are improving and an audit of libraries shows that, for the first time since 1998, more library plans are recorded as good than as satisfactory. The library plans of 73 authorities have been assessed as good and a further 71 as satisfactory.
My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport says that he is determined to place our library services among the best in the world. Library plans show how local councils intend to develop their use of information technology, including plans for staff training, and improve access for all sections of the community through policy on location of libraries and their opening hours, charging policies and services for 1246 children and other groups. Overall plans of five local authorities were assessed as poor in the survey. The department will consider what guidance can be given to them to improve their position.
From April 2001 public library standards will be introduced to link library plans and performance monitoring of services and, for the first time, library authorities will be assessed on the quality of the service they provide rather than on their planning. The standards will cover key areas of service provision, among which will be location, access and book buying. Libraries too might make better use of online services. There has been too much disposal in recent years of library stocks of rare non-fiction works, which are valuable to scholars. A partial answer is for libraries to preserve such works electronically. It is to be hoped that culture online will inspire them to do that.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ Lord Baker of Dorking
My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, on his maiden speech. In one of my ministerial appointments I found that he was my personal legal adviser. I think that he had the title of being my attorney-general, which was very grand. I found his advice impeccable. I am particularly glad that he gave his maiden speech not as a Law Lord on legal matters but on the more general matters to which he referred. I hope that he will bear in mind the comment made of Lord Mansfield, the great 18th century lawyer. It was said of him that he was not a mere lawyer; he drank champagne with the wits.
At the end of the day, this is an itsy-bitsy trivial Bill. To misquote Gilbert, it is a thing of threads and patches, of pallid songs and snatches. It is the sort of Bill which is tucked in at the end of a Parliament when there is no other important legislation and every section head in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is asked to open a bottom drawer and pull out proposals which they have had for years and which have not been able to be put through.
Perhaps I may say to your Lordships that this is an enormous missed opportunity. As we draw to the end of this Parliament I had hoped that the Government and the Secretary of State would have chosen this moment to set out what they have achieved in their cultural policy over the past four years—in many areas it is considered to be nothing short of disastrous—and perhaps establish a strategy for the future. However, we do not get that from the Bill. I find that disappointing. When this Government came into office in 1997, if there was one area of public policy we felt they would get right and for which they had an instinctive feel, it was culture and the arts. After all, all the "luvvies" in the 1990s openly supported new Labour. They thought that with the election a new dawn would break, money would flow, and all those things which the Tories had cramped for 18 years would grow and flourish. However, that has not been the case.
One major problem is the fact that the cultural agenda of this Government has not been directly determined by the Department for Culture, Media and 1247 Sport, but very largely by No. 10. There has been enormous meddling from No. 10. Does the Minister recall the parties in 1997, to which pop stars were invited, to stretch out to the young, new generation? It was then found that all those pop icons had feet of clay—and, I also understand today, wandering hands—so they were quickly dropped.
Your Lordships will recall "Cool Britannia", which was to be the pulling together of all the great design efforts of our country to revolutionise, galvanise and lead. That particular kite flew for six months before it thudded to the ground. Then there was the Dome. This is not the occasion to debate the Dome, but perhaps I may say that it has been not only a financial disaster but a cultural disaster. There was a cultural agenda for the Dome. Indeed, the Prime Minister said on one occasion that the first line in his next manifesto would be about the Dome. I look forward to him fulfilling that pledge in the course of the next three months or so.
I am particularly bitter about the Dome because hundreds of millions of pounds were thrust at it when, at the very same time, a modest amount of money could not be found for the wonderful little Greenwich Theatre to keep it open. I have been there several times. The best production of "The Duchess of Malfi" I ever saw was at that theatre. It is now closed. Indeed their lack of support for regional theatres is a great stain upon this Government. A theatre in my former constituency has also had no support from them.
However, on one area of the Bill the Government did have a policy. They had a films policy, which was announced by Chris Smith in 1997. The Government wanted to establish three studios, on the pattern of the Hollywood studios. So far they have spent £119 million on the project. Each group was given about £30 million. What has been produced? After four years, one group has not produced a film. Does it take four years to make a film? We won a world war in four years. Another group has produced 11 films. Ten were not profitable. They were so awful that hardly anyone has seen them. Where is the success of the Government's films policy? They changed the direction of the policy last year by saying, "We will now support some more commercially-viable films". Why should public money support commercially-viable films? What is the public benefit here? The public has not benefited from that expenditure of £119 million. The people who have benefited are various venture capitalists and private individuals. That is another area of considerable disgrace. The Government have pandered to the cultural vanity of the film world.
The cultural policy of this Government has been hesitant, muddled, fragmentary and inconsistent. Indeed, the poor Secretary of State, Chris Smith, has reached the position where he is not quite bad enough to be sacked but not quite good enough to be reappointed, if by any mischance the Government were to win the next election.
The Government's record is not one of which they can be proud. Indeed, the greatest cultural success of the past five years has no connection with what the 1248 Government have done. That success has been the regeneration of many of our major museums and galleries due to the wise, benevolent and far-seeing leadership of Lord Rothschild when he was responsible for distributing the heritage funds from the lottery. As a result, we have that magnificent square, the courtyard of the British Museum; the revamped courtyard of the Wallace Collection; the extension to the National Portrait Gallery; the Lowry Centre at Salford, the Hermitage Rooms at Somerset House; and the wonderful display of silver in the Gilbert Collection in Somerset House. That had nothing to do with this Government. They did not initiate any of it. All those projects were started in the lifetime of the previous government.
I turn to some of the unattractive aspects of the Bill. Much has been made of Schedule 5, which should never have appeared. Before the various spin merchants say, "Well, of course, the Minister didn't really understand", the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, will know perfectly well that a Minister has to personally sign off every Bill. He must put his signature to it before it is approved. The Minister knew what he was about. Schedule 5 is a disgrace. I think that it should be dropped completely. We await the Minister's remarks in his amendments.
Schedule 5 betrays that this Government have an appetite for control. That seems extraordinary, but perhaps it is not. It is a real reversion to old Labour. They want to interfere with and control everything. They do not really like the arts very much but they want to control them. It is a disgrace that Schedule 5 should have appeared in any form. Now the Government have had to retreat as a result of a campaign. It reflects great honour on your Lordships that a retreat is under way before the Bill is debated. The campaign was led by the Government's natural supporters in the press, the Guardian and the Observer, and of course the chairmen and trustees of the museums.
That betrays the fact that this Government want to control everything. In the late lamented years of the Thatcher regime, Margaret Thatcher was often accused of being centralist, but not in the arts. We devolved power to the boards. We stood aside and did not interfere. In the area of education, again we devolved power to grant-maintained schools and city technology colleges. We made polytechnics independent. I ensured that colleges of further education would be free bodies run by their boards. The Government are trying to unravel all of that by interfering and controlling. That is the true nature of this Government.
I turn to two specific aspects of the Bill. Resource is a body which has been put together sensibly. It is run by the noble Lord, Lord Evans of Temple Guiting. We are very old friends. I believe that in his hands it will not go too far wrong. The purpose of Resource is to support the small museums and galleries. Perhaps I may here declare an interest. I am the trustee of the Museum of British Empire and Commonwealth. It has a superb collection of artefacts and archives of great 1249 historical importance right up to today. It has a wonderful sound archive of the past 100 years taken from the 54 member countries of the Commonwealth.
The museum is stranded in an historic building in Bristol which has required millions of pounds to be spent on its upkeep. It does not have sufficient money to mount a public display of its great collection. It needs £1 million but does not receive a significant amount of money from any government body. As the noble Lord, Lord Evans, is in his place, my first appeal to Resource is to listen to me when I come with my begging bowl. The museum has a great collection and it is a disgrace that it is not on view to the public. We in this country should be most proud of that history because the development from empire to Commonwealth is one of our great historic achievements.
My second point relates to culture online. Again, perhaps I may declare an interest. I have various interests in software and data management companies and in companies trading on the Internet. None of them deals with culture; they deal with other issues. I view the Bill's proposals with considerable misgivings. I can see that the Government are trying to ensure that our country's enormous cultural heritage is more widely available, but I have to tell the Minister that it is already widely available.
If Ministers and government departments use the Internet as much as the young people of our country do they will know that one can already access the data bases of the National Gallery, the Tate and the National Portrait Gallery and can download. The National Portrait Gallery has digitised all its portraits so anyone can download any of them. Indeed, schools do so. The portraits are downloaded in such a way as to allow them to be reproduced but not to a high quality. If they are of magazine and book quality, the National Portrait Gallery makes a charge but for study purposes it does not.
How can culture online help that gallery, for example? The National Portrait Gallery has not digitised its photographic collection so culture online ought to be finding the money to do so. That is a most important role. In addition, the department of prints and drawings at the British Museum has one of the world's great collections dating from the 15th and 16th centuries to the present day. I have used the collection a great deal in the books I have produced, particularly on personal and social satires. The department carries some 30,000 such personal and social satires including the great caricatures of the 18th and 19th centuries. All those records are in book form and all should be digitised. However, the museum does not have the money to do it.
Will culture online provide money for the digitisation of such records? I refer not only to those held by this country's great institutions but also by the smaller regional ones. A student studying Turner, for example, can access the Turner collection at the Tate but he may also want to access Turner's paintings held all over the country, some in private hands and in other museums. However, he cannot do so because they 1250 have not been digitised. If culture online decides to provide money for doing so and then allows the museums and galleries to exploit their data base—it is their main wealth—I would support culture online.
However, there is obviously another agenda. The Explanatory Notes indicate that culture online will support the national curriculum. Is the Minister aware that in the next three years the BBC will put the entire national curriculum online? Is he aware that all four key stages, all revision courses relating to the national curriculum and all previous examination questions will be available from the BBC? Therefore, why is it proposed that culture online will support the national curriculum? It does not need its support.
It is also proposed that culture online will create courses and lectures. Is the Minister aware of the courses and lectures on culture run by the Open University and the departments of media in our universities and colleges? Such courses and lectures are already available but they need to be made more general. If culture online will do that, I am all in favour of it. However, there is a real danger of culture online going seriously off the rails from the beginning. Culture online needs a sophisticated search engine—much more sophisticated than Yahoo, Ask Jeeves or Alta Vista—which allows students to pick up all the references to Turner or whoever is being studied.
I hope that the Minister and the department take on board some of those points about culture online. If it is to be developed in the way envisaged in the Bill, we shall be producing a digitised Dome.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ Lord Freyberg
My Lords, like the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Baker, I welcome the Minister's announcement that he plans to make crucial amendments to the appointment of museums' and galleries' boards of trustees. The events leading up to this decision have demonstrated how strong is the feeling that our national museums and galleries should be left to their very competent and largely independent selves to conduct their own business and not be subject to any form of politicisation, however well-meaning.
The intention may have been a practical one, but it none the less left the boards exposed to future attempts to control the way they are run. What concerned me and many people was that the department blithely inserted sweeping powers to change the composition of their boards, seemingly oblivious of the unease this would cause. When it was pointed out they responded that they had no intention of using them anyway. This seems a rather cavalier way of conducting affairs.
I shall come back to certain details still remaining in Clause 38 and Schedule 5 in a moment. But, first, I want to speak about the establishment of culture online. In principle, I welcome this new and innovative-sounding website. By harnessing the vast cultural and educational resources to be found in public museums, galleries, archives and libraries, it will have the power to transform the way individuals access what is happening in the arts and sciences and give them greater opportunities to participate.
1251 However, in spite of a loudly trumpeted but brief press release, there has been little information on how the site will be developed and what it will contain. The Government are not planning to publish their "Vision Report", as I understand it will be called, on the subject until the summer, which means that all we have to go on at the moment is the Bill itself.
If that is the case, a good many questions are left unanswered. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has already alluded to them; for instance, what is the Government's vision for culture online; what are the means of sustaining and operating it; and, of course, the vital question, how will it be paid for?
Without a published consultation document to go on, I would like to make one or two observations about the possible effect on museums and galleries, plus a few other matters. I anticipate that culture online could be a very useful and educational tool if the Government follow the model of, for example, the Kids Link London project which puts schools in touch with cultural institutions in the capital. The site may also be a way for people of all ages to have long-distance access to museum collections. I welcome this but, like the noble Lord, Lord Baker, I am concerned that the pressure to digitise collections will be an onerous and costly task for large and small museums alike.
I have taken soundings from several museums, both national and regional, which are worried that they will be expected to undertake the enormous extra burden of putting their collections online without additional funding. This will have the likely consequence of drawing away funds from existing services. I would therefore like to ask the Government whether they have taken that into consideration and are planning to provide additional resources.
Once set up, will culture online require large amounts of revenue funding from the DCMS at the expense of the department's existing clients? And will the DCMS be able to contain the level of funding that such an ambitious site will require?
There is also concern that culture online may hinder the money-making schemes of some museums. With regard to intellectual property, will culture online pay museums for the use of their collections? If so, how will it be evaluated? Will culture online expect to share in the proceeds from licensing museum material for use on the web? If so, it will undermine one of the major sources of self-generated revenue. It goes without saying that the new body should not duplicate existing services which are already publicly funded.
As far as concerns current government-funded art websites, I commend the Art Council's ArtsOnline.com. I declare an interest as a sculptor who looks forward to benefiting from such sites as ArtsXchange, where working artists can pass on resources and information on subjects from studio space to funding. However, that is still at the embryonic stage of its development. Is there to be a regulatory framework to govern culture online? It would be a shame if artistic creativity was unnecessarily censored. Clearly, there must be some limits but they should not be unduly restrictive.
1252 The Bill also contains wide-ranging powers for culture online to acquire or dispose of land and bodies corporate. I am concerned that we are being asked to give powers without being aware at this stage of the purpose to which they will be put. That is particularly worrying when sums of the order of tens of millions of pounds are being talked about.
I return to Clause 38 and Schedule 5. 1 am relieved that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has dropped the most contentious element. However, even now, although changes to the museum boards' constitutions have to be made with their consent (and not just in consultation with them) it will for the first time be by order; thus without the same parliamentary scrutiny as before. The 12 museums and galleries named in this Bill are extremely varied in size and content. For various historical, but still relevant, reasons each of the boards differs in composition and size from the next. In drawing up the Bill the Government appear to be concerned more by untidiness than evidence of whether the individual boards run the museums effectively. By and large, they do it extremely well.
Only last week the National Museum Directors Conference declared that no grounds for changing the constitution of the boards. The proposals in the Bill were laid before Parliament without full discussion with the boards. In September a consultation exercise was carried out in which trustees expressed strong views and were given to understand that the proposals would be consequently withdrawn. However, before that could happen they had already been introduced in the Lords in modified form. For example, it was originally proposed that the Prime Minister should appoint the chairman of each board. That was strenuously resisted and the Bill was amended so that appointment would be by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport but without consulting the boards. It is, therefore, not surprising that museums and galleries are reluctant to trust government, in spite of well-meaning legislative intentions. There is certainly room for improvement in the way that boards are constituted and chairmen and trustees selected. I shall be interested to see whether the order-making powers enable that to happen for those institutions that require it.
Perhaps I may refer to one small detail. It has been pointed out to me that in relation to the Imperial War Museum, Schedule 5 to the Bill makes no mention of the trustees appointed by seven Commonwealth countries or the Secretary of State for Defence who are much valued by the museum. I hope that that is merely an oversight and that the Government will reassure the museum on this matter.
One problem referred to by several museum directors is the length of time taken to appoint new trustees. The Government cited that as a reason for streamlining the 12 museum boards. The delays occur in part because appointments are public ones, which means that strict, sometimes long-winded, procedures must be adhered to. In some cases that leads to boards being as much as 30 per cent below their maximum number. Can the Government make any suggestions 1253 as to how that can be tackled in its own right? I have also learnt that the current system whereby three names must be submitted for each trustee appointed leads to an unsatisfactory situation in which two out of three people are rejected for an unpaid post that they were approached to apply for in the first place. That causes personal disappointment and even animosity. Is there any way that the system can be amended to avoid such a situation?
In conclusion, I offer my support to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, whose speech I look forward to hearing after me, in their quest for legislation for the maintenance of sites and monuments records. As the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, explained, at the moment these records are maintained—often they are not maintained at all—in a rather haphazard manner. Given that this Bill is the first measure for several years to deal with our important archaeological heritage, will the Government rethink the way that records are currently maintained in order to make them more useful and accessible to local people? In addition, it would be commendable if the Government saw fit to widen the current successful Portable Antiquities pilot scheme to a nation-wide network.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn
My Lords, this Bill represents the first legislative product under the present Government of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the field of what used to be called national heritage, and as such it is welcome. Culture online perhaps holds promise. The provisions on underwater archaeology and protected wrecks are long overdue, although one should note in passing that the financial provision necessary for undertaking these matters by English Heritage has not yet been secured.
The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, with his characteristic modesty referred to a certain lack of coherence in the Bill, for where is the vision? In December in a debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, to whose speech we look forward, the House considered the report of English Heritage Power of Place. Although that report had some limitations, it made a whole series of useful recommendations, some of which are obvious and long recognised by all who work in this area. Where are they? It may be argued that that report was published only a few weeks ago, but is it too much to expect the department to be abreast of the areas of responsibility of English Heritage? If so, perhaps I may direct the attention of your Lordships to the Green Paper Protecting our Heritage published in 1996, in the days when, as my noble friend Lady Anelay observed, we still had a department of national heritage, under the signature of my right honourable friends Virginia Bottomley and William Hague. That report recommended many useful things, including the provisions of the present Bill relating to maritime archaeology which date back to 1990 when the Environment White Paper noted that,archaeology on land and water should be treated on an equal footing".1254 But where are the other provisions recommended in 1996 in Protecting our Heritage? Can the Minister say when we can expect a response to English Heritage's Power of Place and last month's report of the working party chaired by Professor Palmer on the traffic in illicit cultural property? Some of us hoped for recognition of these matters in the present Bill. More particularly, why have the recommendations in Protecting our Heritage in 1996 been overlooked?
To be candid, my fear is that Ministers may not be familiar with the detail of these matters; nor are perhaps civil servants within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport precisely because they often leave them to English Heritage. But the hand of English Heritage is not seen in this Bill, unless it be in the useful single pair of clauses which deal with maritime archaeology.
English Heritage recommended years ago that the provision of sites and monuments records by local authorities should be made a statutory responsibility. That has been reiterated in the briefing to this Bill, with the emphasis that it should be done in modern format. I fully endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, in that respect.
My impression that this Bill has been pasted together by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport officials without coherent guidance from Ministers, or adequate consultation with English Heritage and other relevant bodies, is confirmed by the already notorious Schedule 5 which deals with the trustees of national museums. Having just completed a 10-year term as trustee of the British Museum, I would be willing to speak with vehemence on that theme, but the matter has been sufficiently alluded to, and no doubt will be dealt with further. But we shall certainly be scrutinising the amendments when we see them. Furthermore, I am sure that many noble lords will want to defend the integrity and autonomy of those wonderful components of our national heritage—the national museums.
The Bill, which is the only heritage fruit of the Government, is something—if your Lordships will pardon the expression—of a lemon. To call it a mouse would be to exaggerate its energetic propensities. What about value added tax on museum charges? What about value added tax on the repair of historic buildings? What about proper support on a national basis for the portable antiquities voluntary reporting scheme, which is one of the Government's admirable innovations in the heritage field? What about a proper statutory basis for local museums?
I turn to the 1996 Green Paper, Protecting our Heritage. In that there are a number of useful proposals. I do not understand why they have been omitted. My noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking was quite right, the draftsmen looked in the bottom drawer but did not rummage deep enough to produce them. Paragraph 4.2.1 states:It is proposed to make it an offence to remove finds from scheduled sites in England without the prior consent of English Heritage".1255 That is a long needed provision, albeit a minor one. Paragraph 4.2.2 has a suggestion for a similar offence in relation to thedisturbance to archaeological monuments".Paragraph 4.2.3 refers to a restriction of general authorisation for works on scheduled monuments.
These are minor but much needed amendments which one would expect to find in the first Bill in the heritage field—the only Bill it may prove to be—of the Government. But we do not see them.
Paragraph 4.4 of that Green Paper recommends increasingthe maximum tine for offences … concerning … damage to scheduled monuments".Where is that provision? Paragraph 4.6 states that there should beenforcement powers in respect of monuments".Where are these necessary provisions? Above all—here I hope we shall have comment from the Minister—as the noble Lords, Lord Redesdale and Lord Freyberg, mentioned, paragraph 4.13 states that the Government agree with the view—that is the previous government I suppose—that local authorities should be placed under a duty to maintain sites and monuments records.
If we are told that there are financial objections, the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, has already quoted the following clause in paragraph 4.14, that,the Government considers that the cost of this step would be 'de minimisThat information for minor as well as major sites and monuments is not only needed for planning and the working of PPG16, where it is important and necessary, but there are great possibilities for the use of such information; for example, in culture online if the matter moves in that direction. The sites and monuments records should not only be the statutory basis for planning decisions, but they have the potential to inform people about local sites and monuments in their own areas. They have educational, cultural and recreational possibilities which are insufficiently exploited. There will be Back-Bench amendments on these issues.
The very unfortunate situation in a number of counties—not least Buckinghamshire, Leicestershire and Worcestershire—has already been alluded to. The situation is about to collapse due to economies made by local authorities. Despite good intentions, they find this an easy issue to cut and save money on, precisely because there is no statutory provision.
The Bill is a disappointment. It gives no leadership in heritage matters. There is no vision. In particular it is extraordinary that there is no partnership with English Heritage. I do not understand why the proposals in the 1996 Green Paper have not been addressed. The Bill represents a regress on the position established in 1996; the interests of the national heritage are not sufficiently well-considered nor adequately advanced.
1256 I have one technical question. The Explanatory Notes on the Bill include the statement that it is very desirable to bring about the formal merger of English Heritage and the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England. In practice they have been successfully assimilated. But I find no mention in the Bill of that useful technical provision which is so boldly spoken of on the first page. I would welcome clarification on that point.
In conclusion, I, like other noble Lords, welcome most of the provisions in the Bill, but for all the talk of Christmas trees, Christmas is not yet here, nor indeed is the new year because little thought has gone into the drafting of the Bill. For me that is a great disappointment. My noble friend Lord Baker spoke of the expectations that we had of the Government in the culture and heritage field. I do not believe that the Bill lives up to those fully warranted expectations.
§ 5.5 p.m.
§ Earl Russell
My Lords, I must declare a non-pecuniary interest. I am a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, in which capacity, as in that as a Member of this House, I look forward to listening to my fellow trustee, the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, in a few minutes.
The National Portrait Gallery is a good ship. It is a happy ship. It is a tight ship. It is not broke, not: even financially. I do not see why anyone in Whitehall should believe it needs fixing.
I listened with great pleasure to what the Minister said earlier in the debate. The Minister has shot my fox. But shot foxes do not always die. So when I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking, proposing to put it out of its misery I could see some force in what he said. The decision as to what to do will obviously be a collective one. It is riot the sort that I would dream of taking on my own, although one might remember that one takes compromises as one takes taxis. But just for that reason one might remember the advice of Sherlock Holmes about taxis—remember to accept neither the first nor the second that may present itself.
I was a little surprised by the way this proposal emerged. I once had the pleasure of reading Mr Gladstone's letter of proposal. The second sentence included 141 words and 18 sub-clauses. The reply to that was: "Oh, Mr Gladstone, this is so sudden".
When the Bill appeared immediately before the adjournment on 21st December I was tempted to observe, "Oh, Mr Smith, this is so sudden'''. I was alerted to its existence on the telephone on the morning of 22nd December by the director of the National Portrait Gallery. I think that it is a good rule in politics to make a prima facie assumption that any news that is broken with quite that timing is likely to be had news. I do not see any occasion for abandoning that rule on this occasion.
There has been a general perplexity among those with whom I have discussed this measure about why it is being brought forward. So far as I can hear, it is not designed to meet any mischief which is perceived 1257 anywhere in the museum and gallery world. I do not think that this is a matter of party politics. Although it has been suggested by others, I do not think that this is a matter of trying to pack trusts with political cronies. I do not think it is a matter of political intervention in arts policies. Frankly, those who manage policy are not sufficiently interested in the arts to want to do that.
I tend to see the villain of the piece in the Treasury, which, like the poor, is always with us. One wonders whether those two propositions may in some way be connected. The relations between Whitehall and Westminster are those of poacher and gamekeeper. I shall not presume to say which of those two might be which. The Treasury always reminds me of the remark made by Susan Kramer, whom I am tempted to refer to as my honourable friend, although formally she is not. She said: "No self-respecting business would let its finance department have that much power".
The nightmare of Whitehall is that it always fears being accountable for public money over which it has no control. I understand that feeling. It is an honourable one. But it conflicts with other priorities which occasionally also need to be remembered. Where one has clashes of priorities, one always needs negotiation. In fact, Whitehall, and the Treasury in particular, tends to regard public money as something like a barium meal. It is not enough to make it over to the body that receives it; it must be followed in its progress through that body to see exactly what is happening to it. Every now and then that is like digging up a plant to see how it is growing. It tends to interfere.
I am not particularly afraid of political interference in the management of the National Portrait Gallery. I am afraid of something like an assessment of the unit costs of our lighting. That is the kind of priority with which the Treasury is concerned. I remember how brilliantly the Tudor portraits at the opening of the Ondaatje Wing were lit—the lighting has a great artistic significance. So interference with the lighting is necessarily an interference with artistic priorities. That is what I want to avoid. It is what I always want to avoid.
I find the formal text of the schedule rather alarming. It is what I always describe as a Cambyses clause, after Cambyses, King of Persia, who had a law saying that he could do whatever he liked. I ask myself what is the common factor between the museums and galleries listed in Schedule 5. It is fairly clear and the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, to which I owe much thanks, has confirmed what I thought was the case. The common factor is simply that they are the museums and galleries whose trustees are covered by Acts of Parliament. In the poachers and gamekeepers image, when Whitehall uses the word "flexibility", what it means is reduced parliamentary control.
We in this House have something of a vested interest in checking those requests for flexibility and not allowing them uniformly without challenge. Some of them are justified; some of them are not; and some of them need to be refined before they become law. So 1258 when I am told that we need flexibility, what I hear is that we need less parliamentary control. I might be convinced of that in some points but it must be done in detail. The common factor is the desire to increase Whitehall control.
I do not think that this is a party matter. I was looking just now at the quotation from Hugo Young in the excellent brief prepared by your Lordships' Library. He described the independence of trustees as,a typically British paradox, a cherished guarantee of the arm's-length independence successive governments have allowed to national institutions that are none the less subsidised by public money".When I read those words, I was suddenly reminded of the business of my maiden speech—the Education Reform Bill of 1988 and the abolition of the University Grants Committee. The University Grants Committee had just that degree of independence which trustee bodies have now. We still miss that very badly. If we let our opportunity to change this proposal slip, we may regret it for a very long time.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Lord Montagu of Beaulieu
My Lords, the Bill covers so many subjects that it is difficult to determine just how many interests one should declare, but for the sake of the record I am President of the Southern Tourist Board, President of the Friends of Royal Osborne and of course past Chairman of English Heritage and past President of the Museums Association.
I feel that the Bill is rather like a curate's egg, but I certainly welcome the formal merger of English Heritage with the Royal Commission on the Historic Monuments of England. I welcome this particularly because in 1983, when the National Heritage Bill was being debated in the House, I failed to persuade your Lordships to accept an amendment I had moved to create such a merger. Better late than never. However, I particularly approve of transferring underwater archaeology to English Heritage, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, said, that will need money—a minimum of £1 million a year—for the necessary equipment, boats, divers and so on.
The provisions to give English Heritage freedom in trading and general commercial activities both at home and abroad must surely be right, as long as it is allowed by the Treasury to keep its profits for investment in other heritage activities. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, that there seems to have been an apparent lack of co-ordination and consultation with English Heritage about the Bill as it could have been a marvellous opportunity to cover other requirements in the heritage field.
The Bill also includes the formalisation of the much regretted demise of the English Tourist Board and the creation of the new English tourism council. This is of course a completely different body with a different brief and is there to provide advice, carry out research and generally provide help for the industry and also for small businesses with tourist interests. The jury is out on its effectiveness so far, although some good 1259 progress has been made. The new council lacks sufficient resources and thus can do very little to create sustainability. For instance, it is not concerned with marketing, which is surely the life-blood of tourism. Observing the rather different situation in Scotland and Wales, with their national boards, the lack of a strong centre for English tourism means that the British tourist product is weakened in spite of the efforts of the British Tourist Authority. The name ofEngland is conspicuous by its absence on the world scene. I do not see how the English tourism council can do its job properly and achieve its objectives unless it has the appropriate resources devoted to it.
A bad part of the egg concerns the appointments to the boards of the national museums. I do not intend to say much more on that subject except to remind your Lordships that the prestige of our national museums is all-important, especially for their academic credibility and international reputation. Not only must they be independent but they must also be seen to be independent. The reaction of the present trustees to interference was entirely predictable. Together with the noble Lord, Lord Baker, I find it rather depressing that there does not seem to be a national institution in this country over which the Government do not seem to wish to seek more control by one means or another and extend their patronage for their friends.
I now turn to Osborne, which is certainly the better part of the egg. It seems rather apt, if not ironical, that here we are discussing the future of Osborne within two or three days of the 100th anniversary on 22nd January of the death of Queen Victoria. The new King Edward VII unfortunately hated the place because of childhood memories and could not wait to get it off his hands. As a result of an Act in 1902 the state apartments were opened to the public and the rest of the building was designated as a convalescent home for the Armed Forces. Having been in charge of Osborne for some years, I can confirm that over the years there was inevitably a clash of interests between the needs of the convalescent home and those of the public visitors. Indeed, until about 20 years ago, the house was open only on weekdays in the summer and visitors were not even allowed to go out on the terrace to enjoy the gardens. Although run by the relevant government department, it was the governor of the convalescence home who called the tune. Of course, over the years, since all the contents remain, as they do today, the property of the monarch, various items were removed for use in other royal residences, led by the redoubtable Queen Mary, and alterations were made, such as creating a flat for the governor.
English Heritage was charged with responsibility for Osborne in the mid-1980s and, under my chairmanship, it was resolved that we should be determined to return the House as near as possible to how it was when Queen Victoria lived there. It cannot be said too often that Osborne is not and never was a royal palace. It was created and used as a private family home, a principle which Her late Majesty Queen Victoria defended with great vigour.
1260 Careful restoration has continued ever since 1986. I was especially proud of recreating the night nursery, strictly following a contemporary photograph, from the state in which it had been converted into a flat for the governor. Recently, the original layout of the garden beds and the restoration of the kitchen garden has been achieved. Furthermore, as soon as I arrived, I improved the circulation for the public better to tell the story of the House.
While the convalescent home was in situ, what Osborne lacked was anything to show what went on beyond the green baize door, in particular showing how "below stairs" worked and the contribution that had to be made to such a house by the domestic staff. There is now a great opportunity to show where the shoes and silver were cleaned, the servants hall and how the Court officials lived and to open this part of the building which, if properly displayed, will certainly enhance the visit and give a far more complete picture of life at Osborne. I can confirm that the general public are often much more interested in the kitchens than they are in grand pictures.
Other ideas spring to mind. For instance, would there be an opportunity to have some rooms restored for residential use, either temporary or permanent? I suspect, however, that the idea of a hotel, which appealed to me initially, might fail owing to the seasonal nature of the tourist trade in the Isle of Wight. I have no doubt that the local people on the island would welcome opportunities to use the building for various functions, which surely can be accommodated not only in the public areas but also in the convalescent home wing. In view of the growing interest in Victorian matters, perhaps the Victorian Society could be invited to establish a centre for Victorian studies and make it the world headquarters for research and information. Surely that would be an extremely worthy project for English Heritage support.
Early on this year concern was expressed by local people over changes proposed for the Durbar Room but now that what is intended has been explained to me, I am content. I believe that it will work well. There is also enormous potential in the restoration of the stable block as an information centre and area for special exhibitions and so forth.
It must be remembered at all times that, since the contents belong to Her Majesty and the Royal Collections, great care must be taken in any restoration plan. However, I am sure that noble Lords will agree with me that there can be no doubt that Osborne is the jewel in the Victorian crown of life—the fountainhead of Victorian style and fashion. It is paramount that it should never be forgotten that the house was built as a home and should he presented as such. Let it echo with the voices of all those royal children and their beloved father who, with Thomas Cubitt, designed and—as far as Prince Albert was concerned—built parts of it with his own hands. I trust that English Heritage will be given the freedom to make it all come alive again. Queen Victoria's attachment to Osborne, where she died 100 years ago, deserves the fullest and best recognition of its value to the national heritage.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Lord Morris of Castle Morris
My Lords, long ago, a Bishop sacked his butler for the crime of purloining the episcopal port and drinking it. The Bishop was merciful and the butler was penitent. He asked for a reference. The Bishop wrote:To whom it may concern: This man has much in him which is very good".So does this Bill. I hope that my noble friend will be merciful to me if I now concentrate on the one thing which is very bad; to wit, Clause 38 and the troublesome Schedule 5.
I must first declare a longstanding interest in museums as a former chairman of the Museums and Galleries Commission and as a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery since 1979—much longer than current government policy would permit. But one of the benefits of long service is that I have been able to witness at first hand the hugely beneficial changes in the system of trustee governance that have taken place. It is those achievements which are potentially jeopardised by Schedule 5. It was good to hear today from my noble friend that concessions have been agreed to the original form of the schedule, These have been leaked and trailed in the newspapers, but not everything so published can be relied on as the gospel truth. One honourable Member of another place shouted at the late Mr Speaker Thomas, Viscount Tonypandy, "It must be true, Mr Speaker. It's in the newspaper this morning". "So's my horoscope!" cried the Speaker, and we all know what he meant.
In its original printed form, Schedule 5 reads like an attack on the whole trustee system in the national museums. One wonders why. The object of all the changes seems to be to get the trustees more firmly under DCMS control. Why? They have done nothing wrong. Indeed, they have been a triumph and success in recent years. Twenty years ago, there might have been a need to spur them into action, but when I joined the National Portrait Gallery in 1979, everything was on the move.
In 1979, the gallery was recovering from the shock of being brought kicking and screaming into the 20th century under the dynamic leadership of Dr Roy Strong. During the 1980s, under Dr John Hayes, responsibilities were devolved by central government on to the board of trustees, in particular for fundraising and the management of the gallery's buildings after the demise of the Property Services Agency. In 1993, we opened new ground floor galleries and a new archive and library funded by Drue Heinz. Last year, the Queen opened our new Ondaatje Wing, in which that philanthropist took both a financial and a deep personal interest. Government and the National Heritage Lottery Fund added their support, but none of this would have happened without the energies and the commitment of the board of trustees and, in particular, of the two elected chairmen, who applied themselves to the task of fundraising. We now have well over a million visitors a year.
The National Portrait Gallery is not unique; it is typical. Much the same story could be told of the other 11 organisations targeted for hamstringing in Schedule 1262 5. The vast Great Court project at the British Museum and the stupendous achievement of the Tate Modern on Bankside are just leading examples of what has been done by the trustees of those bodies. The old cry of, "Trust the Trustees!" could hardly be more triumphantly vindicated.
As I read through Schedule 5 earlier this week, I asked myself why I found its proposals so dismally discouraging and wrongheaded. I had no difficulty whatever in establishing eight brief reasons. First, the record of the individual trustee museums has been so spectacularly good that the public is very pleased with us. There has been no public outcry for change or improvement in any of the national museums and galleries.
Secondly, no evidence has been put forward to suggest that the changes proposed in Schedule 5 would improve anything. Thirdly, the only body which might find its work a little easier or a little more congenial would be the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Fourthly, such would be the hiring and firing power of the Secretary of State that good new trustees would be harder to find. All trustees work for nothing and sometimes end up out of pocket. As W.H. Auden once wrote:Why spit on your luck?".Fifthly, the power of the Secretary of State's veto would greatly discourage existing trustees, especially when suggesting their chairman. As that wise and perceptive journalist, Hugo Young, wrote recently,what body of trustees, dependent on public funds, will ignore the furrowing of the ministerial brow at their proffered name? Consultation equals veto … The present system keeps chairmen independent, and binds them to their trustees. All speak with one voice in the interests of the museum. Typically, they did so in many institutions to preserve the principle of free entry. A chairman dependent on government approval is a different animal".Sixthly, Schedule 5 does not devolve power to the people who must make and be responsible for decisions. It centralises power in Cockspur Street. I need hardly remind my noble friends on this side of the House that when we were in opposition that is precisely what we condemned the party opposite for doing.
Seventhly, it also holds out the enticing possibility that the Secretary of State may,confer on the Board the function of appointing one or more members of the Board".Few of those deemed suitable to be trustees are likely to be attracted or retained by the exciting opportunity to exercise such earth-shaking and unfettered power.
Finally, eighthly, Schedule 5 holds forth the shining prospect that, after such reforms, all these museums and galleries will be governed and ordered by the same rules and regulations. There will be, we are promised, "consistency", as if that abstract concept were, beyond all question or debate, a good thing devoutly to be wished. Not so. To quote Hugo Young again, on the subject of museum chairpersons:At present. these chairmen's posts are usefully untidy, but mostly united by the single thread of independent appointment".1263 "Usefully untidy". Quite so. Noble Lords should think of the old naval proverb "different ships, different long splices", and it is immediately clear that the V&A cannot and should not be governed or managed in precisely the same way as the National Gallery. Consistency in this is not a virtue, it is a straitjacket.
So much for what lies before us, in print, in the Bill as published. What continues to puzzle me is why the DCMS did not foresee the total opposition, or even furore, that this schedule would provoke. Or maybe it did foresee it but resolved to "tough it out", insisting on what it originally wanted. Or was it meant as an extreme position from which it could negotiate its way to a compromise, which would give it all it really wanted in the first place? Why was the schedule not discussed in detail with the chairpersons, and even perhaps with the directors, before it was finalised?
The concessions announced today seem to have been the result of a hastily-convened, late evening meeting with as many of the chairpersons as could be assembled at very short notice, and the question must be asked: are they enough? Will those concessions restore the trust between the museums and the department, which has been shaken by the protests and rumours of the past week? If they got together again the department might say "Right. That is all you are getting. Not another inch. No surrender". The museums might demand the total withdrawal of Schedule 5, root and branch, hook, line and sinker, horse, foot and guns, and its replacement with only such changes as have the full consent of all the trustees concerned.
I shall await eagerly my noble friend's reactions to my worries and concerns and hope that, in his usual clear-headed and fair-minded way, he can propose a solution which will give us "a happy issue out of all our afflictions". Until then, I can only advise all of your Lordships who care about these things to adopt the position recommended by T.S. Eliot—I have mentioned this before; I make no apology for mentioning it again—in those lines from one of the choruses in The Rock, remembering the words of Nehemiah the Prophet,The trowel in the hand. and the gun rather loose in the holster".
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Baroness Trumpington
My Lords, the Bill contains some good innovations and some big omissions, about which we have already heard. For my part, there are some questions I should like to put to the Minister.
My first question concerns Part II, Clauses 16 and 17. Clause 16(9) concerns the word "constable", which includes a park constable. I understand that the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and certain other open spaces are included in this measure. The section states that,a person is authorised to accept payment of a fixed penalty if he is authorised in writing by the relevant Minister for that purpose or he is an employee of such a person".I am not aware of constables patrolling Kew Gardens. Perhaps the Minister can tell me if I am wrong.
1264 How is a member of the public to know who is entitled to tell them that they are offending and must be fined? Surely a nice little racket could easily be set up unless authorised enforcers are easily identifiable. Equally, if the fixed penalty is to be paid through the post, how would a constable know that he had been given a bona fide name and address?
Turning to Part III, I very much welcome the new functions relating to underwater archaeology. I should like to know whether it would be possible to amalgamate the separate bodies in UK territorial waters adjacent to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so that an umbrella organisation—if that is the right word when one is talking about underwater matters—could cover this very important and interesting work. As things stand, I am not quite sure how it will be decided where the boundaries lie. En passant, I very much welcome the proposed new trading functions of the commission.
I turn now to Clause 41, which, quite frankly, puzzles me. I should like the Minister to explain what is meant by the ending of the Secretary of State's obligation to use parts of Osborne House and grounds for the benefit of members of the Armed Forces and the Civil Service. During the time that I was Lords' spokesman for the then Department of Heritage, I spent a day at Osborne House and I visited the royal apartments—which are, of course, as my noble friend Lord Montagu said, an amazing insight into the life of Queen Victoria, especially this year which is the centenary year of her death in that House. As my noble friend said, this is such an important place that one has to be terribly careful as to what one does with it in the future.
I also visited the other side, where civil servants and members of the Armed Forces can convalesce after an illness or an operation. It seemed to me to be a really well run establishment. I may be out of date on this. Am I wrong in thinking that it still exists in this shape? Are people still being well looked after in lovely surroundings? If it is still being used as a convalescent home, it would be a tragedy if its future is threatened. I should be grateful if the Minister could enlighten me.
Finally, I turn to Clause 42, which concerns the removal of the requirement for the Secretary of State to give written consent for the erection of a public statue in a public place in Greater London. The clause says nothing about the removal of statues from public places. Your Lordships will recall that there has been much talk recently about the Mayor of London's wish to remove some of the lesser known ones. I am deeply concerned that the erection of new statues should be in the gift of the Mayor. Unless the Minister can reassure me, I shall table an amendment to make sure that future and present statues are not liable to one man's whim.
Incidentally, where do individual London councils stand with regard to the siting of statues? I have in mind, of course, the saga of the statue of Sir Walter Raleigh.
1265 I remember being told that Lee Kwan Yew had been asked when he first came to power whether he intended changing Singapore's street names and removing the statues of Queen Victoria. His reply was:Certainly not. Without the British we should still be a marsh".The existing statues in London all commemorate those who rendered great service to this country in the past and who should not be forgotten. There is masses of room for more statues in Greater London, perhaps even one of the first mayor of London—although, please God, not in Trafalgar Square! But then, who knows? In 50 years' time, one of his successors might say, "Ken who? Off with his head!".
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Lord Bramall
My Lords, I must declare an interest. For 15 years I was a trustee and, for nine of those years, until 1997, the chairman of the trustees of the Imperial War Museum—although I stress that I speak now in an entirely private capacity. Incidentally, the museum—I must keep my end up with the National Portrait Gallery—as a result of good co-operation with, but hitherto not excessive interference from, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, has gone from strength to strength in terms of public interest, wider accessibility, greater visitor attendance and improvement in the revenue generated.
Now, without any prior warning, and with a minimum of consultation with the museums and galleries, this House is asked to approve a Bill which seems principally designed to give the department a greater role in the affairs of museums and galleries. Moreover, in the terms in which the Bill is currently couched—although I take note of the fact that the Minister proposes amendments which may go some way to correct that—the Bill opens up the possibility that at a later date it could be used, free from parliamentary control, to effect changes of a sweeping and in some instances unacceptable nature.
It is true that, as presently worded, the Bill has a number of positive aspects to it. For instance, the proposal to give boards of trustees greater freedom to appoint some of their own number is to be welcomed, as is the Secretary of State's indicated intention to speed up the present excessively time-consuming process of appointing trustees, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Freyberg, including, perhaps, handling the present prime ministerial approval at Secretary of State level. Museums and galleries boards which have a constitutional right to elect their own chairman will be pleased that the Secretary of State has decided that this procedure should continue—now, it seems, without any reservation or any veto by the Secretary of State.
There are, however, certain aspects of the proposals in Schedule 5 as it is presently drafted relating to the power to vary a particular board's constitution which could raise matters of considerable concern. The provision will have to be examined carefully when the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, tables his proposed amendments—which, as I understand it, will 1266 require a board's consent before any changes can be made. I very much hope that in every way such consent will be uncoerced. Certainly, the powers in the Bill as originally drafted seem both excessive and potentially limitless—including the power to "amend any enactment".
Perhaps I may elaborate a little in relation to the museum that I know well. The Imperial War Museum was established in 1917 to commemorate and keep alive the memory of the sacrifices made by the British Empire as a whole in the First World War. The museum, which has its own Act of Parliament, was established in consultation with the then dominions of the Empire, and today it has a mandate to record the participation of all the Commonwealth countries in the many wars and engagements that have been fought since 1918. Thus, in its exhibits it has always embodied materials and artefacts from all those countries, as well as from the United Kingdom; and in its governance it has always been essentially a Commonwealth rather than a purely British national institution, with direct and active participation on the board of trustees by senior representatives of the major Commonwealth countries in London. These are currently the High Commissioners of Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka. Although these High Commissioners are essential to the museum's constitution and purpose, and although they attend regularly, they are, unbelievably, not even mentioned in Schedule 5, which refers to the Imperial War Museum. My noble friend Lord Freyberg has already mentioned this. It seems a glaring omission. It could easily have been put right by a minimum amount of consultation.
There are, therefore, important reasons why the board of trustees of the Imperial War Museum was established as an independent statutory body under its own Act of Parliament and given its current structure; why it is a creature of Parliament, not an agency of government; and why any issues fundamental to its constitution and role should be determined by Parliament only after consultation with the other seven Commonwealth countries represented on the board—which, so far as I am aware, has not taken place—and indeed with the board itself.
The interests and influence of the Commonwealth countries which have supported the Imperial War Museum from the outset and have played a major role in its governance and development, and whose citizens visit the museum in their thousands each year, must be protected. Therefore, I suggest to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, that it would have been quite wrong for the Bill to obtain order-making powers without the board's consent which would place the Imperial War Museum on exactly the same footing as other purely national institutions.
Moreover, Section 1(2) of the Imperial War Museum Act 1955—the means by which Her Majesty the Queen, in Council, amends the membership of the board, and which the Bill proposes to repeal—would seem to be, as it stands, a sufficient and proper constitutional mechanism for seeing that the trustee membership reflects any changes in the membership of 1267 the Commonwealth that occur from time to time. Any repeal of that Act would suggest an assault on the museum's essentially Commonwealth status. Will the noble Lord give me an assurance also that such repeal cannot take place without the board's consent?
Does the omission of any reference to the two trustees currently appointed by the Foreign Secretary and the one appointed by the Secretary of State for Defence indicate some intention to remove their power so to nominate? I know from experience that the museum greatly values the direct linkage that these appointments give it with the two departments of state which are so highly relevant to the museum's life and work. Perhaps the Minister might like to comment on that point.
In conclusion, speaking purely personally, when I read the Bill I felt that, at least so far as museums and galleries were concerned, it savoured of empire building, tidiness for tidiness' sake, and over-government—all in a field in which direct government intervention, diminishing editorial independence for these institutions, would not serve the interest of the nation. Your Lordships have a deep obligation to study the Bill carefully, now and in Committee, to ensure that the changes to Schedule 5 proposed by the Government, at the 11th hour or after midnight, really do put the responsibility back where it belongs, at board or trustee level. We must also ensure that no financial pressures will be applied to try to influence the judgment of those boards.
§ 5.50 p.m
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I declare my interest as a trustee of the Royal Air Force Museum, a trustee of the Dorman Museum up in the North East and someone who is involved with many charitable interests, including the Royal Air Forces Association, to which I shall refer presently. With marine archaeology in mind, and as a past Minister for heritage, I had the privilege of listing the first wreck under the sea in the Solent between Southampton and the Isle of Wight.
The change of heart by the Secretary of State over Schedule 5 recorded today by the Minister is welcome. However, like many others, until we see the amendments to the schedule— and, indeed, to Clause 38—I shall reserve my judgment. It is the case that the Bill, as drafted, gives extensive and open-ended powers to Ministers, even to change the constitutions of statutory bodies without any parliamentary consent. There is also concern about the degree of ministerial control over the boards' choice of chairman. On the basis of, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", can the Minister say what are the perceived problems with the boards? In other words, what problem does the Secretary of State believe that he is attempting to resolve by Schedule 5?
Independent boards have worked exceptionally well. They have not abused their independence; indeed, their independence has been used exclusively to further the aims and objectives of their institutions. As the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, just said, 1268 they are not agents of government; nor should they be. The arm's length principle is very important. When he concludes the debate, I look to the Minister to reassure me that the principle will not be compromised in any way. It would also be helpful if the noble Lord could confirm that the Government could not use powers to dictate the chairmanship or composition of a board or to remove at will any trustee for any political or other reason.
I turn now to the procedures for making appointments of trustees. I do so agree with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. I especially agree with the point that they made about the need to submit three names only to reject two, who will almost certainly have been persuaded to put forward their names in the first place. No one would argue with the need to have a system that ensures the suitability of candidates to serve as trustees. However, the Nolan procedures that are laid down are wholly inflexible and, frankly, are absurd in particular situations.
First, the delays experienced are unacceptable. In the case of the RAF Museum, in respect of which I serve as a trustee, it is not uncommon for the process to take many months, sometimes even more than a year, to replace a trustee. Secondly, when a candidate is known professionally and personally to the Government—for example, senior military personnel or former Permanent Secretaries—what can possibly be the rationale for it to take months to clear the way for such people to be considered for appointment?
Trustees—certainly in the case of the RAF Museum—give their time and expertise willingly, voluntarily and without any financial returns, not even expenses. I believe that there is a danger of applying the Nolan procedures so inflexibly that we shall not attract the people with the necessary experience, enthusiasm and commitment to serve on our great institutions. We have been promised flexibility; but, as yet, I see no signs of progress.
I wish also to refer to the rules under which the National Lottery Charities Board operates. I know that this issue is not covered by the legislation now before us, but the Bill has a Long Title and I know that it allows for amendments. In order to raise my particular points of concern, I shall refer to a specific bid and the handling of the application for funds. Briefly, the Royal Air Forces Association, among other things, raises funds to make provision for former service personnel in order to alleviate disadvantage and personal care needs, both social and sometimes medical.
The association runs a nursing home in the Sussex Downs. Its latest project is to raise funds to provide an elderly mentally ill unit (EMI) for sufferers from Alzheimer's Disease and associated dementias. The project costs were £1.85 million, with the RAFA paying £500,000 from a fund raising campaign, together with a grant from the RAF Benevolent Fund of £950,000 and—it was hoped—a grant of a possible£400,000 from the Lottery.
1269 Perhaps I may say at the outset that I do not raise this issue because of the application being rejected. I accept, as does the Royal Air Forces Association, that some applications are successful, while others are not. I raise the issue to highlight a number of concerns that have arisen as a result of the way in which this bid was handled, as well as some general policies that affect government. The application was accepted for the first stage of the process—a stage which, as noble Lords know, incurs expenditure by the applicant. Part way through the second stage of assessment the bid was rejected. The rejection letter was hardly illuminating as it included a number of computerised paragraphs and only a very cursory reference to the specific bid.
The application was rejected on three grounds. First, that the project was outside the NLCB's funding policy; secondly, that the project could go ahead without lottery funds and that, therefore, it lacked a real need for NLCB funds in the first place; and, thirdly, because building work was due to start in October (of last year).
If the project did not meet the criteria, why was it accepted for stage one approval in the first place, and then passed on to stage two? This resulted in an unnecessary waste of time, effort and money on the part of the RAF Association—funds that can ill be afforded by any charity.
The second point of rejection—namely, that the project could go ahead without lottery funds—is a speculative point, and one that could be made about any fund-raising body if it were given enough time. The project could only continue if the Royal Air Forces Association found ways and means of raising the £400,000 needed. Building work had not started; indeed, it was not intended to start. It would be very unwise for work to begin on any project for which funds had not been secured. Apart from the time wasting, the speculation and the inaccurate accusation made by the NLCB that the project had started, there are other concerns.
The Government changed the lottery rules in 1998. I shall not bore the House with an endless list of grants that have been made to organisations that could be said to be providing a service to people which could have been, or perhaps ought to have been, provided by statutory authorities. Lottery monies have been provided for services to people with cancer, AIDS, alcohol problems, various phobias and for educational projects, for teachers and for nurses, in addition to many other good causes.
In the West Sussex area there is a serious shortage of provision for dementia sufferers and their carers. The voluntary sector was prepared to fund over two-thirds of the capital costs and to run the EMI unit—a truly supplementary service in what is, frankly, a black hole in provision in that area.
Can the Minister tell me what is less worthy about a project developed and managed by a charity providing for former servicemen and women, many of whom are veterans of the Second World War and suffering from dementia, when compared with projects providing 1270 services to sufferers from AIDS and/or cancer or those with alcohol problems, or education projects that have been accepted under the criteria?
Rejection of a lottery bid is always disappointing. However, when rejection is born out of a baffling interpretation of the criteria, and inaccurate information, it causes anger. We have only to contrast this sorry saga with the ease with which the Dome extracted lottery funds throughout the year almost without question. The long-drawn-out experience of this lottery application has caused much distress among some extremely hard-working volunteers and staff of a great charitable organisation, which is serving the needs of former service people. I hope that it will be possible for the president of the Royal Air Forces Association to meet the Secretary of State to discuss the way in which the 1998 Act is actually working and being applied; and to seek clarification of the definition of the criteria used for grant eligibility.
Finally, I turn to a point that I have raised previously about national museums which do not fall under the DCMS; namely, the free admission for children, for old-age pensioners and, over time, for all people. Not all government departments necessarily implement those concessions. Therefore, can the Minister tell the House what plans the Government have for consistency of policy across all national museums, irrespective of the sponsoring government department?
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Baroness Billingham
My Lords, when I signed up to speak in this debate last week there were a handful of names above mine on the list. Today there are 30. So someone must have commented that, "Size matters". As a result, instead of the unhurried support of this Bill that I had intended to make, I shall offer an abridged version and address just three facets of the Bill.
The first is the most welcome innovation of culture online. It is absolutely right that the best of our cultural heritage in future should be available to the widest number of people, be they students young or old, professionals in the field or individuals finding new treasures. It is a bargain as it is to be given free. I hope that culture online will offer the widest possible window on all art forms and that it will be constantly updated and expanded. It will open doors previously closed to all but a privileged few.
Secondly, I commend the proposal to merge the Arts Council and the Crafts Council. In line with other government proposals to modernise organisations, this streamlining is long overdue. The existing structures have evolved and grown in separate moulds. Now is the time to combine their strengths to make the structure simpler and more accessible. Many in this House will recognise that through their experience in national and local government or voluntary organisations or through being active participants. Those who have sought support and direction from the existing bodies will find a better service available as a result of this sensible merger.
1271 Thirdly, I applaud the replacing of the Football Licensing Authority with the sports ground safety authority(SGSA). We all appreciate the immense improvements made to our football grounds following the Taylor report. Indeed, our grounds are now offered as models of safety management the world over. However, spectator sports do not stop at football. The high standards applied to that sport will now be spread across the full range of spectator sports. That area is expanding and changing rapidly in today's vibrant sporting climate.
In creating the SGSA the Bill recognises the expertise of the Football Licensing Authority with regard to local authorities. In utilising those strengths the SGSA will be able to provide a safer environment for all spectators.
One factor links all three areas that I have mentioned; namely, the anxiety of the many individuals and organisations involved as regards the need for adequate resources and funding for these much needed changes. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will reassure us that the proposals are not only based on sound good sense but also on sound financial backing.
In conclusion, I hope that my much truncated support for the Bill has been adequately expressed. I should like to describe myself as sharper and thinner, but no such luck! However, the term "sharper and slimmer" is a fair assessment of a Bill that is better able to deliver the excellent objectives of the legislation and act as a vehicle for further developments in this exciting field.
§ 6.3 p.m.
My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, because I happen to agree with what she has said. As to culture online, I have a confession to make. I had never heard of it until I saw it in the Bill. When I read it in the Bill I was worried as I found no way of understanding what it meant. I am glad to see that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, nods his head. The Bill would be improved if a definition of culture online were to be inserted.
Although the Bill certainly deserves a Second Reading, it will require a tremendous amount of work to polish it up in Committee and later stages. I must confess that I am not an artist or anything like that, I am just a rusty old lawyer. But all my long life I have been inspired by conventional art, music and culture since a very early age. And so, 25 years ago, I became a founder member of the All-Party Arts and Heritage Group of both Houses of Parliament. I regard that as a useful parliamentary pressure group. I am glad to say that I have in recent years been president of it. That is, I suppose, the main reason why I felt obliged to say something in this debate.
As has been pointed out, in Part I of the Bill the Government are obviously right in trying to take further steps to improve the safety of football grounds. I am no authority on this and I shall have to consult my right honourable friend John Major, who succeeded me after I had been MP for Huntingdonshire for 34 years. I confess that I hunted until I was 70, but that was a long time ago!
1272 Royal parks are owned by the Sovereign and in my opinion have been most wonderfully maintained for the benefit of all the people. Since 1851, under the Crown Lands Act of that year, they have, however, been a ministerial responsibility, which in my opinion has so far been well upheld. I think that the Government are justified in what they are providing by way of fixed penalty notices. I hope that they will be used for punishing, among other things, litter offences. Creating rubbish in the parks is the most terrible thing anyone can do.
As to Part III, which concerns historic buildings and monuments, we have all over the United Kingdom the most wonderful archaeological remains. English Heritage does great work in preserving them and enabling people to enjoy visiting them, including tourists from overseas. I am glad to say that the Bill extends those powers to underwater archaeology. That is a good proposal.
Part IV introduces the new body, culture online. As I said, the Government should clarify that matter. Part V contains a wide range of miscellaneous provisions which we shall have to consider carefully in Committee. Much reference has already been made to Clause 38 and the fifth schedule. We do not know exactly what modifications the Government will make to the fifth schedule. The Government were wise to notice—after being provoked on that point—that they could not let it stand. We must avoid Henry VIII clauses in the fifth schedule. I believe that that also applies to the second schedule. These are important matters on which Parliament must have a say. If Ministers are to be given the vast powers that they would derive from the fifth schedule as it stands, or even only a slight modification to those powers, that would be most unfortunate. Our Select Committee on Delegated Powers has yet again produced the most valuable and necessary criticism.
In conclusion, museums, galleries, monuments and ancient buildings help rising generations of our people to understand and appreciate our history, to be proud of our present and to build for the future. But although visits to museums and so on help them and are valuable, I think that in the education system we should revert to teaching history to a much greater extent than it is now taught in our schools. I know that that is nothing to do with the Bill,but it is something that the Government could put forward to the Secretary of State for Education as a way of improving our culture and our heritage.
I have said more than enough. The expertise of the large number of noble Lords who have spoken in the debate guarantees a thorough Commit tee stage, which will improve the Bill greatly.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Baroness Crawley
My Lords, I very much welcome this portfolio Bill, as the Minister described it. For although it has been described as a nip-and-tuck, sort-out-and-tidy-up, spring cleaning Bill, its role of regularising the statutory basis and powers of the Secretary of State in his relationship with DCMS bodies is important.
1273 As chair of West Midlands Life, one of the recently created regional cultural consortiums, I am particularly pleased to see English Heritage being given the last power necessary to make it the all-encompassing heritage body in the country. I welcome the fact that the Bill provides a statutory basis for grants to the Arts Council. I share the Arts Council's enthusiasm for its ability now to extend its work in arts education and IT as a result of its increased funding.
The Bill also brings about the formal establishment of culture online to which many noble Lords have referred. This will be the first website to bring together art, culture, history and science information in a coordinated, comprehensive and accessible way. By providing this exciting new resource, people not currently attracted to conventional building-centred cultural experiences will be encouraged to participate in the cultural life of the country.
The site will contain digitised moving images, sounds and stills gleaned from our museums, galleries, libraries and theatres. One will be able to tap into events and performances in one's own area and take part in interactive discussion groups and complete an online master class in a subject of one's choice. It is also envisaged that culture online will greatly benefit school pupils by supporting the national curriculum and will act as a gateway to many other related sites of interest. I, too, very much welcome the establishment of this unique resource, as have other noble Lords. This resource will be accessible to people not only in this country but all over the world through the Internet.
The vexed issue in the House today relates to appointments to boards and trusts. I simply add a plea that those appointed because of their expertise, talents and skills also reflect the population of the country in terms of gender, race and disability.
The Bill will strengthen the work of the DCMS even further not only at national level but in the regions and locally. Already we are seeing a renaissance in people's involvement in sport and culture with more agencies working together across sectors to open up access: tourism working with museums, sport working with education, performing arts working with mental health hoards and library partnerships wiring up across the region for Internet learning and access. These are exciting times to be involved in culture in its widest sense under a Government which are committed to the greatest number of people being able to enjoy the best we have to offer.
The noble Lord, Lord Baker, is an amusing and powerful speaker. However I have to take him up on his inaccurate contribution with regard to the achievements of the DCMS. I give him a few facts. Funding has doubled in sport under this Government. There has been an opening up of museums and public buildings as never before to a far wider cohort of our population. Regional theatres are enjoying a new flowering. Millions of pounds are spent every year in the regions by labour local authorities on cultural activities. In real terms the increase in the arts over five 1274 years is 60 per cent. I put it to the noble Lord that the draft manifesto, Believing in Britain, produced by the Conservatives makes no commitment to maintaining the extra —100 million of spending on the arts. I hope that that is just an oversight.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Baroness Hooper
My Lords, I welcome the fact that a number of issues which have been the subject of debate over a number of years have been brought together in the Bill, although we had no intimation of it in the Queen's Speech and little warning or consultation. However, it is interesting that the contributors to the debate have shown a representative knowledge of the various disparate aspects of the portfolio Bill. I have no doubt that it will leave your Lordships' House a better Bill. The briefing provided at short notice by numerous outside organisations and bodies has been most helpful and will be most useful in the later stages of the Bill.
As a matter of form, I declare an interest as a trustee of the National Museums and Galleries of Merseyside and as President of the European Foundation for Heritage Skills. My decision to participate in this Second Reading debate arose from concern over the impact of the provisions of Section 38 and Schedule 5. We now know that those provisions are to be amended. Those provisions gave rise today to more concern than any other issue. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Castle Morris, is no longer in his place. However, his contribution said it all. I look forward to hearing the answers to his questions.
As independent statutory bodies, the national museums and galleries have a most important remit. They were established primarily to care for, preserve and add to collections of national importance that are held in trust for the nation, not just the government of the day. Increasingly, however, through the funding agreement process they are being tethered to delivering government policies almost as though they were executive agencies. For example, in the areas of access and education—I am familiar with them in the Merseyside context—we have been strongly influenced by Ministers to take up the Quids In offer, retain our low-priced NMGM Eight Pass, and allow more and more categories of free admission. On education, the funding agreement ties us to delivering a 33.3 per cent increase in educational visits by 2004 in line with the Secretary of State's own commitment under the public service agreement. That is an approach that we welcome. However, we are left to find the resources ourselves. There is no additional ring-fenced moneys as in the case of capital repairs.
The fact that the National Museums and Galleries of Merseyside, the only national museum outside London, is not listed in Schedule 5 gave me cause to wonder. However, I am happy to acknowledge that, clearly stimulated by my interest and involvement in that body, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was kind enough to write to me yesterday saying that he intends to introduce a government amendment which, if I understood him correctly, will put NMGM on the same footing as the national London museums listed 1275 in Schedule 5. I venture to assume, as others have, that the amendment will also take into account the recent agreement with the chairmen and directors of the national museums, to which the Minister referred.
It is vital that institutions such as museums and galleries should have a certain independence and uniqueness. Current or potential trustees and chairmen, who voluntarily give their time and expertise, should not see the heavy hand of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport overshadowing the deliberations and decisions that they are qualified to make. The guiding principle should be that trustees are recognised as trusted people who are prepared and competent to do their duty without interference.
The corporate governance of museums, in the light of the Nolan requirements, makes appointments of trustees difficult and much more complicated. My noble friend Lady Blatch summed that up well. I join others in warning the Minister that the amendments that he intends to table, of which he has given us notice today, will be scrutinised thoroughly. I hope that the text will be available at an early date before our Committee proceedings so that we can consider and consult on them.
I should also like to take this opportunity to contribute to the Christmas tree, by suggesting an issue that does not appear in the Bill and on which many of us involved in museum management are exercised. It is an issue that needs policy decisions at a national level and was raised in the Select Committee report on cultural property. It is the repatriation of human remains. There is a problem in Liverpool at the moment, with the New Zealand Government demanding the repatriation of the skulls of some Maori people. That would create a precedent. We need a general consensus and a ruling to resolve the dilemma. Why was that not included, when the Bill covers so many other issues? What is the Government's thinking?
I am no expert on sport, as many others are, but anything that leads to increased safety in sport is welcome. I also welcome any provisions that are likely to control the antics of cyclists in the Royal Parks. I do not know why there are not far more reported accidents as a result of cyclists going where only walkers are supposed to go and riding without lights at night time. Also, anything that can improve the litter situation, be it more bins or more frequent collections, and any attempt to enforce existing by-laws must be welcomed. At least we can be thankful that we have outlawed the vendors of hot dogs.
I remember Osborne House well from many childhood visits. I strongly support the comments of my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and hope for a more secure future for Osborne House.
Funding is not covered by the Bill, but it was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, who seemed to think that statutory status led to adequate funding. He is gravely mistaken. Apart from the fact that our regular funding is being squeezed, the regional 1276 museums have some advantages, as they are exempt from the VAT requirements that impose such a heavy burden on the national museums.
I repeat that I await with great interest the Minister's responses to the questions that have been raised during the debate.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Lord Roper
My Lords, I am able to welcome the Bill because I am primarily concerned with Part III, which has hardly been questioned so far in the debate. However, having listened to the debate, I realise that I should have perused other parts of the Bill more carefully because they have been more controversial.
My remarks will be limited to Part III, and in particular to Clauses 19, 20, 21 and 24, which transfer to English Heritage responsibility for underwater archaeology. I should declare a non-pecuniary interest, as, nearly a quarter of a century ago, when I was in another place and serving on the culture and education committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, I prepared a report on The Underwater Cultural Heritage. That started an interest in the subject, particularly the statutory protection of our underwater cultural heritage. I was pleased to see that only last November the Parliamentary Assembly adopted a further report on the same subject.
It is appropriate that underwater archaeology is dealt with in the Culture and Recreation Bill because it touches on both those subjects. It is clearly cultural because cultural objects are found as a result of underwater archaeology, but sports divers have also played a lively and usually useful role in underwater archaeology.
The Joint Nautical Archaeology Policy Committee, which brings together a wide variety of bodies with an interest in the underwater cultural heritage, includes those from the archaeological side and sports divers. They have worked together for a number of years and have had consultations with the department about the Bill. They generally welcome the provisions for underwater archaeology, although, as others have said, they are concerned about the resources. I shall return to that point.
In the past, the United Kingdom has relied on the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, even though it was intended as only an interim measure. It was intended to cover sites of special historical or archaeological importance from uncontrolled interference, looting or destruction. Of the 46 designated sites around the UK, only a limited number are in England. The others are already taken care of by the three other cultural authorities. The excellent archaeological diving unit at St. Andrews University provides a service for all those sites, covering the whole of the United Kingdom. I am pleased that that will continue as a unitary service for all four bodies that will deal with the underwater heritage. It provides archaeological advice and expertise to the DCMS, and I hope that it will continue to be able to do so with English Heritage.
Although it does not come directly within the provisions of the Bill, we are not properly served by the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. Recent comparative 1277 studies have suggested that the legislative framework for the protection of wrecks, and therefore the underwater cultural heritage in the UK, is inferior to that in France, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, to give four examples. At some stage it will be necessary to revise it, although I do not think that we can do so within even the rather large Long Title of the Bill.
The Protection of Wrecks Act suffers from the fact that it was introduced in another place as a Private Member's Bill, so it makes no provision for public expenditure. It was described in a recent academic study as,very much a poor relation to the legislation for the protection of monuments on land".Clause 24 goes some way to rectifying that, but archaeologists are naturally concerned about how much funding will be available and whether there will be some prospect of an increase. Like the noble Lords, Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn and Lord Montagu, I hope that the Minister can tell us what provision is likely to be made available to English Heritage for that.
Funding for the work in relation to underwater heritage is important and, of course, people are concerned about it. Paragraph 147 of the Explanatory Notes asserts that, apart from culture online—I shall not become involved in that debate—the Bill will not entail any net additional public expenditure. The word "net" is in italics, and perhaps that suggests that some virement may occur between the different areas of expenditure covered by the Bill. Does that mean that more money could be made available for underwater archaeology?
The Bill is welcome because it will bring together the underwater cultural heritage and the other ancient monuments which are already under the care of English Heritage. Clause 52 indicates that Part III will come into effect two months after Royal Assent. However, when the Minister replies, I should be grateful if he could confirm that English Heritage will assume responsibility then, or is it merely the case that two months after Royal Assent the department will have the authority to make the transfer? And when is it envisaged that the transfer to English Heritage will take place? Those matters are not clear to those involved.
The Bill provides protection for underwater cultural heritage only up to a 12-mile limit. Indeed, that is common among most European countries which work in this field. I wish that we were at least prepared to look at a European approach to a 24-mile limit to cover underwater cultural heritage. Beyond that, it becomes an international matter.
In 1978 I was able to persuade the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to accept that national cultural protection zones should extend to a 200-mile limit, wherever that was in keeping with the geographical realities. That was probably too ambitious; certainly, it has not been accepted. However, since 1978 technical developments have 1278 occurred which increase the vulnerability of many well-preserved wrecks in international waters which previously were inaccessible.
It is worth noting the dramatic technological developments which we have seen in this field over the past 15 years. When Cousteau invented the scuba technique in 1943, he could descend only to 45 metres. As noble Lords will remember, in 1989 the "Titanic" was explored at 4,760 metres. Now, remotely-operated vehicles, mainly operated by the Americans, can descend to 6,000 metres. Therefore, 98 per cent of the deep seabed is now available for exploration and a great deal of the global cultural heritage is at risk.
Fortunately, since 1994 work has been carried out internationally on a UNESCO convention as an international instrument for protecting underwater cultural heritage. I must say that UNESCO grinds even more slowly than the DCMS in processing its legislation. I understand that there is a chance of progress in the coming year, and I hope that Ministers in the DCMS will be able to act to encourage early agreement on that—if possible, this year.
The Bill was referred to somewhat sarcastically by the Minister as a "Christmas tree".
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, on the contrary, I expressed the hope that no one else would treat it as a Christmas tree and hang extra decorations on it.
§ Lord Roper
My Lords, I mistook the tone of the Minister's remarks. Others, of course, have been rather less friendly. However, one must remember that after Twelfth Night Christmas trees begin to look rather sad. After it completes its passage through the House, I hope that at least this particular Bill will look rather more like a Christmas tree on Christmas Day rather than one of those sad orphans which one sees on January 7th or 8th.
§ 6.34 p.m.
§ Baroness Flather
My Lords, I am sorry to say to the Minister that I, too, shall mention a Christmas tree, but I believe that it may be one that has no presents beneath it. There may have been an opportunity to put some presents underneath this over-decorated Christmas tree, and I believe that the opportunity could have been taken to consider some of the areas which are in much need of examination.
The whole issue of the appointments system requires careful consideration. A huge number of appointments—I am told approximately 36,000—are made to various bodies. Only one-third of those come within the remit of the Commissioner for Public Appointments. I am sure that a good and logical reason exists as to how the system works and that everything is done as well as it can be.
However, I have been on both sides. I have applied for jobs and I have also interviewed several people for posts within a body which I chair. I do not believe that there is a great deal of consistency in the way that interviews are conducted. If we are to follow the Nolan 1279 Procedures, it is extremely important that we conduct interviews properly and that guidance on good practice should apply across the whole field.
One of my interviews—I shall not give the details—was conducted entirely by the board and the chairman. No independent person or anyone from a department was present. I do not believe that that would come under the title of "good practice". In an interview situation, at least one person should be independent of the body in question.
The matter of appointments is important from another point of view—that is, in relation to ethnic minorities. I once submitted a Question for Written Answer to the Minister. So far as I am able to find out, no figures exist as yet to show how matters are progressing in that area.
It is difficult for many people from ethnic minorities to take the first step towards answering an advertisement. Very often they do not have a relevant CV or they do not believe that the job is for them. In the bad old days, we used to employ people through word of mouth. Then, if they were good enough, they went on to other appointments. If they were not good enough, that was it. I do not want noble Lords to consider that I am advocating a return to that system because that would not be correct. However, I believe that procedures should be put in place to encourage people to apply for jobs and to make them feel that a job is as much open to them as it is to anyone else. To a great extent, that applies also to women and to those with disabilities. Often people do not consider that they are suitable for certain jobs.
Many high profile jobs still come under the patronage of Ministers. They are not advertised and do not receive full exposure in the public domain. Although that situation may continue to exist, I believe that it should be made clear which jobs will remain under ministerial patronage so that we all know how things stand. It is a matter of openness. This Government have always stated that they want to be transparent and open. I believe that that is extremely important as regards the appointments procedure. As we all know, Dame Rennie has found that there is still a large bias in the health service in favour of what she calls "Labour cronies". She may not have used the word "cronies" and I do not want to put words into her mouth. However, there certainly seems to be a bias in that direction.
The Minister should think about this whole area. Legislation may or may not be needed, but the area certainly needs a good review. Perhaps a provision should be added to the Bill to secure that.
I turn to the Millennium Commission, which, I know, no longer exists—it ended its life at the end of 2000. As someone who has applied for a grant from the Millennium Commission, I want to point out some of the problems that have arisen. I also stress that very little money went to ethnic minorities. I did a quick calculation and put together all the ethnic minority grants. About £15 million was given to ethnic minority projects. Ethnic minorities probably form only about 6 or 6.5 per cent of the total population. Obviously, 1280 therefore, the pool for collecting matching funds reduces hugely. We should have established at an early stage whether ethnic minorities were in a position to find matching funds of 50 per cent, which can involve a large amount of money.
The Memorial Gates Trust will provide a memorial—a long-overdue memorial—to the people from undivided India, Africa and the Caribbean who volunteered to fight for Britain in two world wars. We have gone through every imaginable scrutiny procedure at every imaginable stage. It has cost a great deal of money to satisfy the Millennium Commission at each stage. We completed a feasibility study at a stage when it was difficult to obtain details. We could have done a broad feasibility study, but we had to complete a detailed one. We also had to complete a detailed fundraising strategy and have a design competition. We had to do so many things that cost us money. We were also promised money in tranches, but we have still to receive any, although it is now three years since we applied and our grant has been confirmed.
Did the Millennium Commission apply any of those rules to the Dome? I asked that question and the simple answer is, no. At no stage were accounts asked for and at no stage did it ask for anybody to satisfy it that the project was proceeding according to plan. That is absolutely criminal. All right, money has been spent on the Dome; that is not my point. Why are there very onerous and difficult rules for small charities. but no rules for a major project? Perhaps because the project was supported by the Government. Surely, the rules that apply to every other project that the Millennium Commission funded should also have applied to the Dome.
I appreciate that the commission no longer exists, but I hope that some lessons will be learnt. because there are successors. The money is still around, and lottery money will be given to others.
I am pleased about the arts line, but should the Government be taking such action? I always feel that private enterprise does such projects better than do governments. We should consider whether another body should provide the arts line. The second point that I want to make at this stage is that if there is to be an arts line, I hope that it will include a sufficient amount of minority arts. Minority arts are not just for minorities. They have revitalised the culture and general feeling in this country—its colour—and they are in serious need of support.
I have left my last words for English Heritage. I am sorry that, once again, my experience with English Heritage has not been very edifying. I mentioned the memorial on which we have been working. Staff from English Heritage worked with us from the beginning. They knew what the design would be and everything about our project. Just before we were going to launch the design, the chairman of English Heritage told us that he would not be able to support our project. We said that it was too late for us to withdraw the design. The next day the newspapers carried a story in which the chairman said that the design was a world-class 1281 joke. In the whole of my time in this country, I have never known a chairman of a public body behave like that towards a charity.
English Heritage decided that we should have no gates at all. That was the position from which we started. It wanted to refurbish Wellington Arch, which it did not want to be obscured by our gate. We now have a new design, which cost us money and an additional six months, but everybody is happy. However, English Heritage could have told us more. We like the design; we do not complain about that. However, we complain about the fact that English Heritage did not see fit to inform us in good time. That is a gross misuse of its powers. When its remit is extended, I hope that its structures will be examined, so that it does not behave in that high-handed manner to other organisations.
§ 6.47 p.m.
§ Lord Faulkner of Worcester
My Lords, this is a wide-ranging Bill that covers many aspects of life as seen through the eyes of the DCMS. I am tempted by Parts II to VI, but today I shall speak only about Part I, which will reconstitute the Football Licensing Authority as the sports ground safety authority.
In my previous life, before I joined your Lordships' House, I spent nearly 25 years involved in the areas of activity that relate directly to this part of the Bill. For 19 of those years, I had the great good fortune and pleasure of working with the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, in the Football Trust, latterly as his deputy chairman.
The trust came into being as a response to a series of tragic events at football matches in the 1970s and 1980s, which in turn led to the passage of various pieces of legislation through Parliament, and from which this Bill is a direct descendent.
The first of those tragedies occurred 30 years ago, almost to the day, when 66 football fans lost their lives at the new year fixture between Rangers and Celtic on 2nd January 1971. The Ibrox disaster was the subject of an inquiry by Lord Justice Wheatley and led to the passage of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975. That provided for a system of safety certification by local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland at grounds where designated football matches were played.
There were three further awful tragedies in the 1980s: two in this country and one abroad. The first was the fire at Bradford City on the last day of the season in 1985, which killed 56 people. That led to the passage of the Fire Safety and Safety of Places of Sport Act 1987, which extended safety certification to stands accommodating 500 or more people at grounds that were not designated under the 1975 Act.
The next disaster took place at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels at the European cup final in May 1985, when 39 Juventus fans were killed after incidents of crowd disorder, largely involving Liverpool fans. That was followed by, and coincided with, one of the worst periods of football violence in the domestic game, and 1282 led to the introduction of the Football Spectators Bill, which I suppose marked the lowest point in the relationship between the then government, led by the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, and the football authorities. Indeed, I recall one memorable occasion when the then secretary of the Football Association was unwise enough to suggest to the noble Baroness that she should get her hooligans out of his game.
The principal measure in the Football Spectators Bill was a new system of licensing, which involved the introduction of a compulsory membership card system for all fans attending designated matches. That was seen by Ministers as the only way in which crowd disorder could be tackled, as they hoped that it would drive hooligans away from the game altogether. A new body would be created and given the responsibility of overseeing the introduction of the membership scheme and for issuing licences to clubs—the Football Licensing Authority. The licences would be in addition to the safety certificates issued by local authorities under the Safety of Sports Grounds Act 1975.
The membership scheme would almost certainly have come about in the teeth of fierce opposition from the game itself had it not been for the third disaster of the 1980s, that of Hillsborough on 15th April 1989—a day which those of us who were there (I was) and saw the bodies of the 96 victims laid out on the pitch will never forget.
That tragedy was investigated by Lord Justice Taylor, as he then was. He issued an interim report on the causes and concluded that, had the membership scheme been in place, the scale of the disaster would have been compounded. Very sensibly, Ministers dropped their plans for that scheme and the powers contained in the Football Spectators Act to insist on it have never been used. Instead, they charged the Football Licensing Authority with responsibility for overseeing, again by way of a licence, the main recommendations in Taylor's final report, which included a requirement that standing accommodation be replaced by seating at all grounds of clubs in the Football League. That was modified later to exclude clubs in the two lower divisions, which had to ensure that their standing accommodation complied with the most stringent safety standards.
Section 11 of the Football Spectators Act gives the Secretary of State the power to direct the FLA to include in its licence, granted under Section 10, a requirement that at designated matches grounds should admit spectators to seated accommodation only. A 10-year timescale was applied for the whole Taylor report recommendations to be implemented, and extra funding was given to the Football Trust through a reduction in pool betting duty to help pay for it.
The consequence has been that virtually all league grounds in Great Britain have been improved out of all recognition, as my noble friend Lady Billingham said in her speech earlier. The Football Licensing Authority has played an important part in driving up those standards which in turn have led to the general improvement in football crowd behaviour inside 1283 grounds at domestic games. That is why I am sure it is now safe to remove the licensing regime and to rely on the local authority certification structure with the new body taking an overseeing role.
The behaviour of English fans abroad is a different matter and will, I suspect, be the subject of a separate debate when the Home Office working party, chaired by my noble friend Lord Bassam—and on which I serve—reports later in the spring.
There has also been a general, but not so dramatic, improvement in spectator facilities in sports other than professional football. Some of that has been due to the general raising of standards which has taken place in other parts of the entertainment industry or as a consequence of tighter fire and other safety regulations. Those other non-football sports have tried hard not to have what they see as unreasonable football-type burdens imposed on them for, as they rightly point out, they do not, in the main, suffer from the same problems of crowd violence as football. But they must not be complacent. Crowd trouble can occur almost anywhere, especially in situations where lots of alcohol is available.
Would those sports benefit from the services of a body such as the Football Licensing Authority? The Government clearly decided that they would, but do not want to impose unnecessary new licensing burdens on those sports. So the reconstitution of the FLA as the Sports Ground Safety Authority with a remit to help with guidance on good practice seems to me an entirely sensible step. Whether the SGSA should have a statutory responsibility for overseeing the safety certification regime of local authorities as it applies to other sports, is perhaps something we could consider in Committee.
It is essential that the FLA and, in its new guise, the SGSA retain an interventionist role with league football, overseeing the certification system but no longer issuing licences. Lord Justice Taylor rightly drew attention to how short-lived the impact of earlier disaster reports had been and how tragedy can all too easily follow complacency.
In conclusion, I shall mention two other issues briefly. I shall not involve myself—though I am tempted—in the standing versus sitting controversy and the interesting comments of the Minister for Sport on that issue, and those of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, in his remarkable maiden speech earlier this afternoon. I suspect we will return to that subject later.
First, I am concerned about whether the definition of a sports ground needs to be changed, as that contained in Section 17(1) of the Safety of Sports Grounds Act does not appear to cover indoor arenas. As a consequence, local authorities cannot use that Act to certify them and it seems that under this Bill the SGSA will not be able to provide an input to them. Can my noble friend say whether or not that is so and whether he will consider amending the Bill in Committee to cover indoor arenas to which large numbers of people go to watch events such as ice hockey, basketball and swimming?
1284 Secondly, there seems to be some confusion about the safety regime which will cover temporary stands. Again, perhaps my noble friend will look at the definition of a stand contained in Section 26(11) o f the Act. Perhaps we should add something which better defines a temporary stand, and no doubt we can do that in Committee.
Apart from those points, which I am sure can be easily resolved, I am happy to support the principles underlying Part I of the Bill and wish the Government well with it.
§ 6.57 p.m.
§ Baroness Noakes
My Lords, as number 22 in the batting order I wondered whether I would have anything new to say this afternoon. But I should like to cover three topics which perhaps say something about the unsatisfactory nature of the Bill with which we will have to grapple as it progresses through your Lordships' House. I see this as a rag-bag of a Bill rather than as the Minister saw it—as a portfolio Bill.
There is no doubt that the tax reliefs available for British films are crucial to the viability of our film industry. Without those tax reliefs the film industry would find it extremely difficult to obtain finance. The procedure involves the completion of a 20-page form, complete with an accountant's report and a statutory declaration by the applicant. That is submitted to the DCMS, which certifies the film and triggers the essential eligibility for 100 per cent tax relief.
I can understand why DCMS officials want to use this Bill to get rid of the certification process, though I believe it is not particularly onerous. I understand also why the Explanatory Notes tell us that the Government consider the Film Council to be the right body to do the job. What I find difficult to understand is why the Government are reluctant to come out and say firmly in the Bill that the Film Council will definitely be designated. That would give certainty to the film industry and, importantly, to the financiers.
This may not appear to be an important issue, but let me say how I arrived at it. I asked a former colleague of mine, who is an expert on film finance and film tax, to look at the Bill. I omitted to give him the Explanatory Notes. His immediate reaction was that the Bill was creating a power for the DCMS to transfer the certification responsibility to the Inland Reven ue. It might be asked why that is a problem. It would make the Inland Revenue both judge and jury of whether a film is eligible for the tax reliefs which are crucial to the film industry in this country.
As a former non-executive member of the Inland Revenue's Management Board, I have the highest regard for the Inland Revenue and wish nothing that I say to be taken as a slur on that organisation. But there is a crucial difference between a body which facilitates and supports an industry, like the Film Council, and a body which administers and collects the Government's taxes, like the Inland Revenue.
I have two questions for the Minister. First, why is it that the Film Council is not specifically mentioned in the schedule to the Bill? Secondly, in what 1285 circumstances would a body other than the Film Council be designated under that schedule? Can the Minister state categorically that the Inland Revenue would not be an appointee under Schedule 4?
Like several other noble Lords who have spoken, my second area of concern is culture online. Like my noble friend Lord Renton, I have almost no idea what it is meant to be. I have heard several Lords say what they would like it to be but I still have no clear idea of what it is about or, indeed, why it needs a new government body to carry it out.
Paragraph 148 of the Explanatory Notes states that significant—it is unquantified—public investment will be involved. However, it goes on to state that that will be subject to a full business case. I believe that your Lordships' House should have a business case as the case for culture online. What evidence is there of a demand for whatever it is that culture online is intended to do? What resources, at least in ball-park terms, will we be invited, in effect, to approve in setting up that body? What alternative courses of action to achieve the aims of culture online have been considered, and, if rejected, why so rejected?
The powers being set up for that body are considerable: to acquire assets, to set up companies, to borrow and to charge its assets. We are told that somehow that is to be controlled by a financial memorandum between the Secretary of State and the new body. There is not even a requirement for the Secretary of State to lay the financial memorandum before Parliament. There is not even a borrowing limit set for culture online in the Bill.
I have an uncomfortable feeling of déjà vu. As my noble friend Lord Baker stated, the Dome comes to mind. That was another grand idea with relatively few constraints other than the ad hoc judgments of Ministers. It will be hard for your Lordships to approve the provisions to create culture online without very much better information about the plans for it, why it is needed and the controls which will be in place to oversee its existence.
My third area of concern is accountability, which is a rather dry area in a Bill full of exciting and interesting topics relating to culture and recreation. I shall start with the three companies set out in Clause 33 which can by order be converted into statutory corporations. I have no problem with their being so converted because I believe that in most instances the use of a statutory corporation rather than a Companies Act company aids the accountability of such bodies when they are set up to carry out purposes on behalf of the Government.
Schedule 3 sets out the items which the Secretary of State may—not must—include in one of those orders. At paragraph 10, that includes the provision of reports to the Secretary of State. My concern is that those bodies should be accountable to Parliament and that their reports should be available to both Houses. The usual formulation is for an annual report to be submitted to the Secretary of State and, in turn, there is an obligation on the Secretary of State to lay those reports before both Houses of Parliament.
1286 An example of that appears in the Bill. Schedule 2, in relation to culture online, has just such a provision. However, we do not find that for the three bodies that are covered by Clause 33. Indeed, I could not find a single reference in Part I or Schedule 1 to that being dealt with by the new safety authority, either to produce a report to the Secretary of State or for a report to be laid before the Houses of Parliament. I believe that the Bill should make it clear that all such bodies should make annual reports both to the Secretary of State and to both Houses of Parliament. I hope that the Government will look again at those parts of the Bill to ensure that accountability is dealt with clearly, unambiguously and, I hesitate to suggest, consistently between the various bodies in the Bill.
My final point also relates to the new safety authority and, more particularly, to the audit arrangements. There are basically two models of audit for public corporations, quangos. Either the audit is carried out by the Comptroller and Auditor General or by commercial auditors, with inspection rights for the Comptroller and Auditor General. Most of the Bill follows the first option but for the safety authority it follows the second. I do not want to pursue the differences between the two options here. If I did I should have to declare several sorts of interest to your Lordships' House. I am keen to ensure that a high quality audit is prescribed by the Bill.
Under paragraph 26 of Schedule 1 the auditor to be appointed must be qualified to do Companies Act audits—I paraphrase—or (the word "or" is important) be a member of a body of accountants in the UK or elsewhere in the EC. As drafted, I could be appointed as the auditor to the safety authority, notwithstanding that I am not personally able to be appointed as a Companies Act auditor. That might not be so bad because I have done the odd audit in the past and, indeed, for many years was a partner in a firm which was authorised to carry out audits. But a very large number of people qualify as accountants in this country who have no audit knowledge or experience and who under the terms of the Bill as I read it, would be eligible for appointment. Indeed, if we look to the EC there are large numbers of bodies of accountants which are quite unlike the bodies of accountants to be found in this country, certainly in relation to their ability to carry out audits.
I hope that the Government will look again at the clause to ensure that it achieves what I hope is their aim; that is, the highest quality of audit coverage to ensure that the accountability of this body is reinforced. I look forward to seeing the Bill go through its Committee stage. I am sure that there are many aspects at which we need to look in detail.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Lord Evans of Temple Guiting
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to speak briefly on the Bill, which tidies up in many areas and will soon give legitimacy to the body I chair, the Council for Museums, Libraries and Archives.
1287 Perhaps I may say a few words about the controversy surrounding the appointment of museum chairs and trustees. That has been widely written about in the newspapers and was the subject of a positive meeting on Monday between the Secretary of State, the Minister and the museum chairs. As your Lordships will know, the meeting resulted in a large number of changes to the Bill.
There is a matter of principle that should be firmly put on the record; that is, if an organisation receives large sums of taxpayers' money, the Minister—any Minister—has the right and duty to have some influence over senior board appointments to that organisation. But there should be no dispute about the museum's ultimate power and right to make trustee appointments. I believe that it is a question of co-operation, consultation and harmony. What is important is the process used to exert that legitimate influence as the appointments are made. Here, I wish to draw attention to the way in which this Government have embraced Nolan principles and good practice in making appointments to public bodies.
Perhaps I may give an example from my own experience. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, I have been both an interviewee and an interviewer. A number of years ago I received a letter from somebody who was briefly Secretary of State at the Department of National Heritage, as it then was, under a previous administration. He asked me if I wished to be chairman of the Library and Information Commission. I had a 20 minute talk with him in his office. I asked him four questions, two of which he could not answer, and the following day I received a letter from him offering me the job.
Compare and contrast that with the selection process for my present job as chair of resource. I answered an advertisement in the newspaper. I was sent a five-page form to complete which asked me, among other things, about my political activity. I attended an interview with a panel comprising two independent assessors and with the permanent secretary in the chair. Obviously, I got the job.
Furthermore, I was a member of the selection panel for the chair of one of our large museums. The post was advertised and 14 candidates were shortlisted. We interviewed them over two days. Again, the permanent secretary chaired the selection panel which comprised three independent assessors, the head of an Oxford college, a distinguished, now retired, civil servant from the Cabinet Office and myself. We chose the person we thought was the best candidate and the Secretary of State made the appointment. Last week, one newspaper described the appointment as "political". That is utter nonsense!
It is to be hoped that in future all appointments will be handled in the way I have described—many of the issues about which we have been worried today will then disappear—and that we shall never see a return to the pre-1997 method of parachuting people into major positions.
The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, spoke of the crisis in regional museums. It may be helpful to him and other noble Lords to know that the Secretary of State 1288 has asked me to chair a group to report on the situation in regional museums. The group, with a wide-ranging brief, will include senior figures from regional museums as well as Sir Nicholas Serot a from the Tate and Neil MacGregor from the National Gallery. It will report by the end of June and, among many other issues, we will examine that of statutory responsibility, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale.
Before sitting down, perhaps I may address a few words to my old friend, the noble Lord, Lord Baker of Dorking. I am afraid that his fine political judgment has been seriously damaged by the fact that he, too, has become a "luvvie". He is now an author, not a political figure, and at this time of night I have no intention of spending your Lordships' time refuting all the allegations he made about the Government's arts policy. I shall leave that to my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey. However, I plan to take the noble Lord to his club—which these days is almost certain to be the Groucho Club—buy him a couple of beers and put him right.
§ 7.13 p.m.
My Lords, I, too, welcome the Bill and I do not intend to add any decorations to my noble friend's Christmas tree. I shall spend a few minutes discussing Parts II and V. I welcome the proposed changes in respect of the Royal Parks, which are places for quiet enjoyment. They leave one free, it is hoped, from the risk of being run over by cars, cycles or whatever and one can partake in appropriate sports, games and other activities.
Although there are still too many roads for cars, some parks have improved. I am pleased to see that the Government have got rid of the "deathburger" sellers outside Buckingham Palace. That is a major environmental improvement. I also welcome the fixed penalty notice for dropping litter, animal fouling and cycling on footpaths. However, I wonder whether anything else can be added to the list. I believe, for instance, that it is illegal to take a photograph in the park if one's camera is on a tripod; one must then obtain a licence. Perhaps the deregulation unit might like to examine that.
I am a regular user of the parks, cycling with lights. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, that cyclists should stay in cycle lanes, but it is nice to have a few lights in the lanes so that one can not only see "n the dark but be seen, if only by those who are cycling without lights. It would also be nice if the gates were not locked before midnight. After leaving your Lordships' House I try to get to Paddington Station and it is not always easy.
The worst aspect of the parks is the animal fouling. Horses use cycle tracks but no one clears up the mess afterwards. This morning in the park I saw a troop of horses being followed by a mechanical sweeper. I t was on the road and so were the horses but the cycle track s are never cleaned. I assure your Lordships that horse droppings mixed with rain is a nasty mess which does no one's shoes and trousers any good.
1289 I question whether the regulations mean that the services and the police forces will receive fixed penalties of they make messes on the footpaths and the roads. How will they be stopped from doing so? Will the parks be cleaned up more or less?
I hope that enforcement of the regulations is done with fairness and discretion and in an appropriate manner. Could not the police occasionally use cycles or foot patrols? I have seen a park patrol driving in a smelly police van down a footpath chasing a cyclist who was cycling on it. A cyclist is dangerous on a footpath but not half as dangerous as a smelly police van. I suggest that the patrols stick to the roads but if they want to chase people on the footpaths they should do so on foot or on cycles. Finally, I welcome the regulations and hope that the fixed penalty for those offences will be retained and used for improving the facilities in the parks.
I had intended to speak at length about Schedule 5 because for a number of years I have been involved with the Science Museum and the Railway Museum. I have a high regard for their scholarship, management and the accessibility of their displays. The experience of their boards' members, some of whom have spoken tonight, is legendary. Therefore, I read Schedule 5 with dismay and thought that it was a good Henry VIII clause—more government meddling for no particular benefit. But since reading it and hearing my noble friend's explanation and the interesting comments from my noble friend Lord Evans, I have confidence that things will be taken forward in the correct manner. I shall read with great interest the Government's amendments and the report of today's proceedings.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
My Lords, other noble Lords have declared an interest but I have none to declare, apart from being a user and lover of our London parks. They are what I shall talk about. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and I could have a long debate on the subject but the terms of the Bill and the time of night do not permit it.
As the Minister said, the Bill enables the Royal Parks Police to issue fixed-penalty notices to a person who has committed an offence as defined in Part III of the Royal Parks and other Open Spaces Regulations 1997. This is a measure the RPC and the agency have been wanting for some time.
Until last year there had been no real procedure to deal with this. A police constable in one of the Royal Parks would warn the offender that he was committing an offence but until last year such a warning was never recorded centrally—except perhaps in the PC's notebook or in a file.
It was only last year that all such effective warnings were kept centrally, thereby enabling the officer in charge to see how many warnings an individual had received. On a first offence the force would send a letter of warning to that person. The courts and the Crown Prosecution Service have not been receptive to 1290 first time offenders who usually get off with a caution. It is only when a second or third offence has been committed that a summons signed by the court is issued, with a date for the offender to appear in court. That could take up to six months, if not more. The CPS would deal with the case if it was heard at Bow Street court. However, if the case was heard at Marylebone magistrates' court, an officer of the RPC would have to deal with it. All this costs time and money.
When this part of the Bill becomes an Act an officer will have power, after a warning, to issue a fixed penalty notice there and then, saving time and money. As my noble friend on the Front Bench said, we hope that that will be done fairly. I am a little concerned as to whether a person who is riding a bicycle and dropping litter is able to be identified.
This is all well and good but to do it you need manpower. Here the RPC has a problem. In a review in 1996 Commander Sally Hubbard recommended that there should be 143 PCs with four part-timers in the summer months and the recommended equivalent number of sergeants and inspectors. The latter level has been maintained but not the number of PCs. When I visited the RPC in September to see how it would cope with the Royal Parks Trading Act, which came into operation in November—your Lordships will be glad to hear that it has been a total success—there were 117 PCs. As of 12th January of this year there were only 107, with more likely to leave the force.
Taking into account shift work, holidays and sick leave, out of a total of 107 the manpower available at any one time would be less than 50 PCs to oversee all the royal parks. In the summer there is the daily changing of the guard which occurs every other day in the winter. That is a considerable drain on manpower. That is in addition to all the other duties that they must perform, such as putting up warning signs if there is ice on the lakes, as has happened recently, and other duties.
The reason for the exodus is the level of pay. A PC in the RPC gets 15 to 20 per cent less than an equivalent officer in the Metropolitan Police or even the Transport Police. I am told that the latter gives officers free travel. All these officers have been trained to the same standard yet receive different pay. I think of another problem of which we are all aware. Most, if not all, have to live outside London and travel to work, which costs them money. Therefore, they leave the RPC and join their local forces. Not only PCs but other ranks are paid less. I know of one inspector who receives£10,000 less than an officer of the same rank in the Metropolitan Police. All this leads to low morale.
Since November, if not before, a review has been taking place involving the parks agency and the DCMS. That is causing low morale in the force. It was told that an announcement was due before Christmas but still no agreement has been reached. Unless an agreement can be reached soon I fear that police numbers will continue to decline. We must stop this haemorrhageing very soon.
The royal parks need a dedicated police force to protect the fabric of the parks and ensure that the public can enjoy themselves knowing that they are 1291 safe. I fear that if the RPC merged with the Metropolitan Police officers would be moved to cover other duties, allowing crime of all types to increase. Currently, the parks are clean and fairly free of reported or recorded crime. Sadly, there is crime, such as cycling which is not reported or recorded due to lack of staff.
Part II of the Bill does not specify to which offences fixed penalties will apply. I know that they are listed in paragraph 57 of the Explanatory Notes, but should they not be included on the face of the Bill? Paragraph 57 makes no mention of roller skates, roller blades and so on, as defined in Regulation 3(4)(b) of the Royal Parks and other Open Spaces Regulations 1997. Those can be just as dangerous as bicycles. Likewise, I see no reference to loud radios or other musical items. Perhaps they are covered elsewhere.
In conclusion, I should like to ask: who is to pocket the money when the fines are paid? No mention is made of this in the Bill. I strongly believe that the money should go to the police force to offset its costs. Failing that, the money should go to the agency, not the Treasury. I urge the Government to finalise the review submitted by the Royal Parks Agency which I hope will give peace of mind to the police and put a stop to the haemorrhageing of its manpower.
§ 7.26 p.m.
§ Viscount Falkland
My Lords, this is not an easy debate in which to make a Second Reading speech because I cannot identify any underlying philosophy or theme. I accept the Minister's description of this measure as a "portfolio Bill"; others have described it in less complimentary terms. The House will forgive me if I leave out a number of areas in respect of which excellent speeches have been made. The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, dealt with archaeology and my noble friends Lord Redesdale and Lord Roper dealt with underwater archaeology. The changes in the name of the body concerned with tourism and English Heritage are fairly innocuous and reasonable.
I should like to address one or two points of interest to me where perhaps some amplification may be provided by the Minister in his summing up. The Minister spoke earlier about the parks. We had an amusing speech by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, which conjured up visions of the Keystone Cops, with police chasing other police in the parks and people with wheelbarrows or whatever. I shall read the noble Lord's speech.
All noble Lords who have spoken are great admirers of the parks and much value the ability to go into a beautifully kept area where there is comparative calm. If people riding bicycles without lights, which is viewed as a serious crime, are to be stopped and measures taken to make it impossible for traders in evil-smelling sausages to ply their wares illegally, that is to the good. As to photography, I should have thought that it depended on what was being photographed with a tripod.
However, if powers are to be given either to the RPC or the Metropolitan Police—one hopes that they will not merge—it should not lead to a situation where the 1292 law is not enforced because it is viewed as difficult to do so or it is enforced like some of the parking legislation; namely, it is more a question of raising revenue than dealing with the problems themselves. I hope that a sensible result will ensue.
As a cyclist in London, one matter that strikes me is the large number of people who ride bicycles without lights, particularly outside your Lordships' House. From time to time perhaps one might expect people to ride bicycles without lights in the parks. I would rather meet a cyclist without lights in a park than outside your Lordships' House where before long someone will be killed. It will be interesting to see how the matter develops. By and large, these provisions are sensible.
I very much enjoyed the ebullient and attractive speech of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, in a number of respects. Not being a professional politician, I do not endeavour to make a swingeing criticism of the Government's proposed legislation. However, the noble Lord made some interesting points which touched on his particular expertise in culture online. I take his point. I share his view that there is a great deal in the collection of the museums which is below stairs and not available to be seen. It will be an enormous advance to give people the opportunity of knowing what is there. I look forward to that happening.
I am not clever with new technology, although all members of my family, of all ages, appear to be. Therefore, I am able to sit back and be provided with endless printouts about anything that I mention at any time of day or night. That is extremely useful. But I have become lazy about it myself. II agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that, if one wants to look at old bones, it is better to look at real old bones than old bones in a picture on the Internet. The same applies to anything else. My wife describes the joys of using the Internet as much like that of being addicted to encyclopaedias; one opens these books and starts to look things up at random and it becomes a kind of obsession. I should not like to think that those going down the cultural road would stop at the Internet. I hope that it encourages people to go beyond the images they see on their screens and into libraries and galleries.
I move on to another area of particular interest to me dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, which is film. I shall not criticise the Government on their actions over film. We know that not all of them have been successful. Most people do not realise that it is extremely difficult to get a successful film; that is, a film which a great many people pay money to see. It has always been a problem in this country.
I make this next remark diffidently. I notice that the noble Lord, Puttnam, is in his place, so I shall be careful what I say. The Government in their keenness to do something about film and with the arrival of lottery funds, sought to create a fair disbursement which would not be seen as embarrassing to film producers, who could not do it themselves. They put the Arts Council in charge. That was not a successful exercise. One could have foreseen that from the start. 1293 But who else was there to do the job? It is an irony that just as the functions of the Arts Council were taken over by the new Film Council it had its one success—just under —1 million was put into a film called Billy Elliott. It would appear that it had just got the hang of the business when everything was taken from it and given to the film consortium, the Film Council. But that is the way of the world.
It has to be said that the Government have tried. The Film Council is the right body to carry on the functions which have now been passed over to it. The defining of British films is a complicated business. We have discussed this matter in the House before. The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, made the point that the reason for transferring the functions to the Film Council is that it is perceived as having the expertise to do things quickly. One of the problems in trying to get packages together which result in films being made is producing them as quickly as one possibly can. Obviously the Film Council is better qualified to do that than the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The same applies to keeping the registers and so on.
I do not share noble Lords' criticisms of the Government. They have done their best. That seems faint praise indeed. Little was done before the Government came into power. We were always badgering the Conservative administration to do more for film. Another difficulty about film is that in this country it is viewed as entertainment. It is not viewed as culture. Entertainment films are expensive to make. Therefore, we tend to try to make cultural films. Cultural films have done very well on television and the big screen. The film industry has been kept alive over the lean years by the BBC and Channel 4 who created interesting hybrid films which can be seen on television and big screens. We cannot compete with the United States because of economies of scale and their expertise. We are a niche industry. The Government have the matter about right with the Film Council.
However, I was dismayed—I was surprised that this was not mentioned—to see that two film consortia have been the subject of takeovers. That matter was kept quiet by the press. They were given public moneys but were taken over by other operations. One was Pathé, which is a French company; the other was a company which is based on butchery, if I remember correctly. The other one has not yet produced a film. It is run by that well-known producer, Mr Duncan Kenworthy, who was responsible for Four Weddings and a Funeral. We look forward to seeing what comes out of that company.
I should like to ask the Minister a question on museums. It concerns a matter that has worried us all and is perhaps the aspect of the Bill which has received the most attention. It seems that the Government, for whatever reason, are seeking to have more control. We have heard a good deal about shooting foxes. In his remarks he said that the Government would be introducing amendments which would make their proposals clearer. It does not appear that there has been any change from the discussions which took 1294 place. The noble Lord, Lord Evans, intimated that there had been some successful talks on the subject. Perhaps the Minister could enlighten me on that matter.
There is nothing in the Bill which tells us about the cultural state of the nation. Nor should there be. That is not its purpose. There is splendid provision, plenty of innovation and plenty of talent in the country for the arts. There are wonderful museums and galleries, some more wonderful than others. The Government rightly are taking this issue forward with energy and enthusiasm in seeking to improve this promising situation. Therefore, one has the necessary provision. But there is a large section of the British public who do not take advantage of it. That is against a background of appalling child poverty, depravation in urban areas and exclusion, particularly of ethnic minorities who see culture and the arts as the domain of the educated and successful and steer away from it if they possibly can. That is not a situation which pertains in many other countries in Europe. I hope that the Government will address that matter. So many young people born in deprived circumstances do not easily see the arts and culture as a way of giving them new perspectives and quality to their lives. It is the job of government, together with other departments of state, the voluntary agencies and local government, to see that the situation is improved.
I commend the Government for creating so much which is available. But it is rather like going into the National Gallery, which I have several times over the past few weeks. One hardly ever hears English spoken there. Visitors love it. Foreign visitors go there in droves. I should like to have from the Government—the Minister shakes his head. He is frowning. I have been there many times and can assure him that that is so. Many visitors are Japanese. They walk in large crocodile formation between me and the pictures which is rather irritating. Our museums and galleries in the centre of London are an enormous attraction to visitors. However, one wonders whether more of our own people could be encouraged to visit them, especially as we hope that they will be free. I hope that this ridiculous —1 fee will be sorted out. I look forward to the Minister's reply.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Lord Luke
My Lords, this has been a most interesting debate. We have ranged from old bones to IT, from Royal Parks to Queen Victoria, and the Bill has been described as a rag-bag, a hotchpotch, an omnium gatherum, a portfolio and to an extent, as my noble friend Lady Anelay said, a Pandora's box; but then so is the department and so also, inevitably, my speech. I apologise in advance to noble Lords if that is the case.
There are good things in the Bill and there are others about which people have had doubts, as many noble Lords have made clear. I think that this debate has been an example of the House of Lords at its best. Experts from many fields have spoken with relish on their individual subjects, and the Government would do well to listen most carefully.
1295 I must first mention the maiden speech of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote. I have known him on and off for very many years and it is no surprise to me that his speech was so good. We look forward to hearing him on many future occasions.
In a typically robust and eloquent speech my noble friend Lord Baker queried the need for culture online. I am one of those ignoramuses who is not at all good on such matters. We will be exploring this proposal in Committee. My noble friend Lord Renfrew was worried about VAT on historic buildings and the statutory basis for regional museums. He was disappointed—I hope that the Government will take due note of his point—that the proposals in the Green Paper, Protecting Our Heritage, hardly figure in the Bill. He was disappointed by the Government's lack of vision. I think that all noble Lords on this side of the House would agree with that. It is a rather boring Bill.
My noble friend Lady Trumpington queried among other things the boundaries of underwater archaeology. My noble friend Lady Blatch queried the need to reorganise museum trusteeships and criticised the time now taken to appoint trustees. She also referred to a problem with regard to a home for ex-service personnel with Alzheimer's Disease and the difficulty of raising money. She said that, having raised a considerable amount of money and fulfilled the criteria set by the lottery fund distributors, the fundraisers found that the offer of lottery money was suddenly withdrawn. The same thing happened in Bedfordshire to a rowing group. It fulfilled all the criteria of finding land, getting the approval of local authorities and the Amateur Rowing Association, and so on. It was told that everything it had done was right but then the plug was suddenly pulled. I shall perhaps come back to that matter at a later date, but it is extraordinary that what I have just outlined mirrors exactly the experience of my noble friend Lady Blatch.
My noble friend Lady Noakes made a most interesting speech on the taxation aspects of the film industry. I was pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Renton say that he wants more teaching of history in our schools. Some noble Lords may remember that around six months ago I initiated a short debate on precisely that subject. My noble friend Lady Hooper referred to national museums situated outside London and in particular to those on Merseyside. I understand that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has taken that point on board. My noble friend Lady Flather wanted more openness in appointment procedures and my noble friend Lord Brougham made a most interesting speech about Royal Parks and said how important it is that appropriate manpower is available to enforce the new regulations and arrangements.
Many noble Lords referred to the setting up of the Film Council on 3rd May last year and to the fact that it is now responsible for all public funding of film. There was reference to the rather unfortunate experience over the past three years of funding organised by the Arts Council. Let us hope that the Film Council's promise to take a more commercially minded approach to investing in British film is borne out by results. The noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, 1296 suggested that we cannot compete with American films. I do not altogether understand that. I am sure noble Lords are aware that a great number of successful American films are made in Britain because of the technical expertise that is available over here. If the Film Council is successful in its endeavours—we all hope that it will be—is it the Government's eventual intention to float it as a private company? With regard to the register of films, the Film Council says that the register is an archive of only those films made up until 1985 and therefore it does not matter that it is being abolished. Should not an up-to-date register at least of British films be kept? It seems to be a little draconian to abolish the register altogether.
English Heritage hopes to trade under the new arrangements and exploit its tangible and intangible assets both in England and abroad. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, was concerned about the drafting of the Bill. He thought that it might be possible for English Heritage to exploit privately owned intellectual property rights. No doubt the Minister will answer that question.
It is stated that English Heritage will be encouraged to consult with equivalent heritage bodies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Is it the Government's intention to persuade Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to enact similar legislation; and if not, why not? It is essential that any profits made by English Heritage from this trading should be seen as an extra income to English Heritage and not as a convenient way of replacing grants. My noble friend Lord Montagu made that point.
The ability to trade abroad—in particular, selling its expertise to countries where there is no expertise—will be welcomed by English Heritage. But does English Heritage mean to say, as it seems to say in its brief to me, that it has no intention of competing with the private sector? Surely, to trade profitably—we wish it to trade profitably—it must be in the appropriate market. Even if it finds a new market, the private sector will rapidly move in and compete.
The part of the Bill dealing with statues seems to be a measure designed to give the Mayor of London the green light to erect "red" statues. If noble Lords think that I am joking, I suggest that they read reports of the mayor's comments on the statues in Trafalgar Square and his plans. Planning authorities may be able to draw the line, but surely there is a strong case in this instance for retaining the Secretary of State's right'; to supervise new statues, particularly in London. We on these Benches do not like this part of the Bill. Unless the Government produce really compelling reasons to retain it, we shall endeavour to remove Clause 42. My noble friend Lady Trumpington expressed her views on the matter most effectively.
The provisions on Osborne are for me the most interesting part of the Bill. I first visited Osborne House, which is sometimes described as Queen Victoria's seaside villa, in 1953, soon after the private apartments had been opened by direction of the Queen, having not been touched except for dusting—I believe that this is right—since 1901. I listened with 1297 great interest to what my noble friends Lord Montagu of Beaulieu and Lady Trumpington had to say on the subject.
Recently we have seen articles, television programmes, the re-showing of the "Mrs Brown" film (although that is hardly history) and a general reawakening of public interest in the life and times of one of our most revered and successful monarchs, who, as my noble friend Lord Montagu reminded noble Lords, died exactly 100 years ago next Monday. So what do our Government do to mark the occasion? They have illegally shut down part of Osborne House, which since 1904 has been a convalescent home helping to restore to health thousands of military and Civil Service personnel. Have the Government no shame? Is it not somewhat contemptible to ignore the wish of King Edward to provide, as described in the Osborne Estate Act 1902, as a memorial to the late Queen Victoria, for part of Osborne House to be used for the benefit of His Majesty's,naval and military forces, their wives, widows or family".Later this was enlarged to provide similar care for Air Force and Civil Service convalescents.
If the Government will not pay any attention to history, are they aware that, last winter, the Osborne House convalescent home provided invaluable backup to the sorely tried NHS hospitals in the area? Where will that back-up come from this winter, in particular if there is an epidemic of 'flu? Surely there should be increased provision for convalescent patients rather than less. The Government make great play of their desire to do all they can to relieve the burdens on the NHS. Is not this action rather strange in those circumstances?
I have said already that I am most grateful to English Heritage for its briefing material, which includes its intentions for that part of Osborne House which is given over to the convalescent home. I have to say that the plans appear imprecise, especially as I understand that English Heritage was asked for its suggestions some months ago. I hope that we shall learn much more about those plans later. I should say that I was personally impressed with the idea put forward by my noble friend Lord Montagu; namely, that part of the premises could be used as a workshop for the Victorian Society. I am sure that other bodies could also be provided for.
As always, I look forward to the reply of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, to the debate, as well as to our debates in Committee when we shall probe deeper into some of these matters.
§ 7.53 p.m.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this wide-ranging debate. I do not apologise any more than any other noble Lord for the fact that we have covered a wide range of subjects. I have a special page attached to the back of my briefing entitled "Omissions" which addresses the attempts of noble Lords to turn the Bill into a Christmas tree by adding new provisions to it. 1298 However, I think it would be best if, as far as possible, I restrict myself to the provisions of the Bill and continue to discourage noble Lords from seeking to add items which would require amendments to the Long Title of the Bill. Perhaps I may address the Bill in the same order that I used in opening and, indeed, in the same order in which the Bill is written.
I shall start with sports grounds. I think that I detected general support for these provisions in the Bill. Noble Lords appeared to support the notion that, although the work of the Football Licensing Authority in the past was very much to be appreciated, it should continue under a different name and its provisions made available to other sports. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, appeared to think that the order-making power in Clause 7(2) was extremely general. I remind the noble Baroness that the subsection is limited to the power to review the discharge of local authority functions. It is a limited power and not one which will cause a great deal of difficulty.
As regards the coverage of this part of the Bill, it is not our intention that the coverage should be universal, embracing all sports grounds. We have set a limit, as did the FLA, of sports grounds with a capacity for more than 10,000 spectators in total and/or a capacity for more than 500 spectators under cover. That should severely restrict the safety provisions of the new sports ground safety authority to those grounds for which it is really necessary.
I can confirm to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that temporary structures such as those erected for the Ryder Cup would not be covered. Furthermore, I can confirm to my noble friend Lord Faulkner—although I think that he will be less pleased with this response—that indoor arenas are not covered by the Bill as drafted.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, in an excellent maiden speech, raised the issue of standing accommodation and the problem—which I fully recognise—that standing positions provide the cheapest admittance and that some people will be priced out of the market if standing accommodation is removed altogether. We reviewed this issue in 1997. At the time we came to the conclusion that we should continue with the implementation of the Taylor recommendation that premier league and first division clubs should have all-seated accommodation. That is still our view. Evidence presented to Taylor stressed that this is the safest form of accommodation. However, we recognise that other views are held on this point. The Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey, is currently holding talks with the FLA as regards whether any possible amendments would be appropriate. They are discussing in particular the experience in Germany where I understand that they are able to combine standing accommodation with a good accident record. The issue is not entirely closed and, of course, it will not be closed by the formulation in this Bill. On the whole, I am grateful for the support of all noble Lords who have spoken on this subject, in particular my noble friend Lord Faulkner, who has such a distinguished record in support of football.
1299 The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, asked why the sports ground safety authority should be the only one in the Bill which will have a private audit rather than audit by the National Audit Office. The answer is that the sports ground safety authority is simply the continuing authority to the Football Licensing Authority. No changes to its procedures will be adopted. As the noble Baroness knows, since this Government were formed, we have taken the view that new public bodies should be audited by the National Audit Office.
I turn now to the question of parks. Again, I believe that I can detect a general agreement with the provisions of the Bill, although some legitimate questions about the detail have been put. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, asked how the fixed penalty notices are to work. The answer is set out in some detail on page 14 of the Explanatory Notes, but my further answer is that fixed penalty notices do work. Local authorities apply them. I do not think that we need to be afraid of any undue novelty in introducing such a scheme.
The noble Baroness also asked whether the Royal Parks Agency would be able to retain the proceeds of the fines. The noble Lord,'Lord Brougham, asked the same question. The present position is that income from the fines will go into the Consolidated Fund, but we are seeking agreement to keep back at least sufficient to cover the costs of collecting the fixed penalties. If it is appropriate and possible I shall seek to report back to the House on this matter at a later date.
The noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, asked me how we would be able to ensure that bona fide addresses are given. Again, this problem is encountered far more generally than in the royal parks. The constable will be able to ask for a form of identification. As in all other cases, he will be able to give a warning that giving a false name and address is an offence under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.
I was grateful for the support of a number of Peers—including the noble Lords, Lord Berkeley, Lord Brougham and Lord Renton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hooperfor— the recognition in the Bill that particular problems in Royal Parks, notably litter, unauthorised cycling and fouling by dogs, are offences on which we ought to crack down. I understand the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Brougham, about the Royal Parks Constabulary. We have been in discussions on this matter and as soon as they come to a conclusion I shall seek an opportunity to make a Statement to Parliament, possibly in the form of a Written Answer.
§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
My Lords, can the Minister give the House any idea of how long that will take?
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, no. There are issues still to be resolved and it would be unwise for me to guess the time it will take. We have recorded the noble Lord's concerns on this and other occasions.
1300 The noble Lord asked that the list of fixed penalties given in the Explanatory Notes be included on the face of the Bill. He gave the answer to that issue himself by suggesting that we would have to cover items such as rollerblades. If we were to put such items on the face of the Bill we would not be able to amend the list of offences by order at a later date. We have to retain some flexibility. But, on the whole, as I said, I detected considerable support for this part of the Bill.
The English Heritage section of the Bill is complicated. The first issue concerns the sites and monuments record which local authorities maintain and which the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lords, Lord Redesdale and Lord Freyberg, think should be made statutory. If we were to adopt the recommendations of the Power of Place report, that record would be extended to an historic environment record, which would be a considerable undertaking. The best thing to do under these circumstances is to give priority to obtaining comprehensive records, rather than giving a statutory basis to what has been acknowledged in debate as being a very variable, in quantity and quality, set of records in different local authorities. I of course agree that the links with culture online are entirely appropriate for these records.
There was general support for the extension of the powers to underwater archaeology from the noble Lords, Lord Redesdale, Lord Renfrew and Lord Roper. I have noted the views about the inadequacy of the Protection of Wrecks Act, with which I do not disagree. So far as concerns funding for underwater archaeology, £305,000 is in the current budget already. English Heritage will be expected to add £200,000 funding to the extra budget which is being given to it. I believe that that is a satisfactory answer. The timing is that it will be introduced two months after Royal Assent.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott, expressed the concern that the exploitation of intellectual property rights could conflict with copyright or with privately owned rights. It is certainly not intended to do so. He has prompted me to say that I will look again at the wording of the Bill as drafted to make sure that that is the case.
The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, asked me whet her English Heritage would be able to keep the profits from the trading powers which are being given. The answer is an unequivocal yes.
The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, asked me about the phrase "formal merger" in the Explanatory Notes. He has a point. The Bill allows the existing merger to be completed. I do not think that that is properly reflected in the Explanatory Notes. We do not reprint them in this House but I shall make sure that the correction is made when the Bill goes to the House of Commons.
A more general point was made that we have not incorporated some of the recommendations of the 1996 Green Paper, which I acknowledge—it was published under a different government and we do not have to agree with everything that they did—and that we have not incorporated some of the 1301 recommendations in Power of Place. That is a little unreasonable. Power of Place was published within a few days of the publication of this Bill and I made it clear in the debate before Christmas that we did not expect to be able to incorporate those recommendations wholesale, even if there had not been substantial criticism of the report in the debate.
As to the complex issue of devolution and the powers of English Heritage, the noble Lord, Lord Luke, asked me to persuade Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to join with English Heritage. Of course, we always seek to persuade, but it is the nature of devolution that we do not always succeed.
Turning now to culture online, I think I detected more puzzlement than either support or antagonism, although I think many noble Lords were willing to give culture online the benefit of the doubt. It is difficult to explain. I had great difficulty in explaining it to myself and in getting other people to explain it to me. I had that part of my first speech rewritten and I am still not satisfied that I have got it right. Maybe we should organise a seminar on the subject.
Fundamentally, the discussion about culture online was extremely constructive and helpful. I am very grateful for that. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, thought that the Government should not have the power to give directions to culture online. I emphasise that culture online is to be an independent body. This is only an enabling Bill. I certainly could not agree that we should have a definition at this stage of what is culture online.
§ Baroness Anelay of St Johns
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Obviously I was not as clear as I should have been. When I was talking about directions, I said that culture online should not direct people to particular sites at the behest of the Government. I was not in any sense intending to speak about directions being given by the Government to culture online.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am sorry. I misunderstood. I am sure that it is my fault there was any misunderstanding.
But certainly the whole issue of what culture online should do and what it will cost—the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, referred to this—is the subject of a study by independent consultants. There is a consultation process going on. The Bill can provide some goals for culture online. It is a matter of legitimate parliamentary concern how it will work out in practice—and we should find a way of reflecting that concern—but a Bill giving enabling powers should not seek to define all of the details.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. Before he leaves this subject, will he consider that it would be an advantage, bearing in 1302 mind that the general public have got to understand this Bill, if some definition—even a broad one—of culture online could be written into the Bill?
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am very much opposed to that view. I think that writing definitions into Bills in an area where we want the definition of culture to be as broad as possible, and where technology is changing all the time, would be damaging rather than helpful. I do not know what the definition would be and I am certainly not convinced that it would help the general public to understand.
That does not mean to say that I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for example, that archaeology should be included in culture. That is fairly obvious.
I certainly agree with all noble Lords who said that access to art and culture through digital technology is no substitute for the real thing. Of course it is not. It was never intended that this should be an alternative to people going to museums and galleries, to reading books and looking at pictures, to being involved in all of the cultural activities which will be covered by culture online.
I strongly agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Rendell, about the danger of the exclusiveness of the Internet—the fact that some people are excluded, either financially or in terms of comprehension. That is why I said that, in addition, we shall be looking to other technologies and media. The Internet is merely a distribution channel for electronic data; however, it is presently the way to get hold of digitised images and text, and that is what culture online is about. I particularly welcomed the noble Baroness's emphasis on the role of libraries.
The noble Lord, Lord Baker, despite himself, made a rather helpful speech about culture online. I am sure, given his general tone, that the noble Lord did not mean to be at all helpful. I agree with much of what he said. I agree that we should concentrate on collections that are not already digitised—the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, made the same point. I agree that we must be wary of possible overlap with the BBC national curriculum, which is an enormous advance. I am sure that Ministers in the Department for Education will quote the noble Lord on what he said. But what we are proposing, as the noble Baroness, Lady Crawley, recognised, are materials to enrich the curriculum. That is an important area in which our artistic and cultural institutions can help. I agree that we need more sophisticated search engines than some of those that are currently available commercially.
The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, was worried about the effect on the funding of museums and galleries. Certainly I recognise that we must ensure that museums and galleries do not suffer from the establishment of culture online. In addition to the development funding that I quoted at the beginning, we are making application to the capital modernisation fund. That recognises the fact that for 1303 a good deal of interactive material there is a huge up-front cost. It takes literally hundreds of hours and many thousands of pounds to produce even a half-hour interactive CD-ROM.
As regards relationships with the museums and galleries, a matter which also concerned the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, all of this will be collaborative. They will not be forced to take part against their will. However, I believe that the opportunity to make their collections and the expertise of their creators better known will be greatly welcomed by all of them. Having disagreed with the noble Lord, Lord Renton, about definitions, I agree entirely about history in schools. I believe that culture online will be a great help in that regard.
I turn now to the issue of trustees of museums and galleries. I had the suspicion that a number of noble Lords had possibly decided at the weekend what they intended to say before the announcements that we have been able to make in the past couple of days. I was accused of "shooting a fox". I am no more capable of shooting a fox than I am of hunting with hounds. I am as terrified of holding a gun as I am of getting on a horse. I really do think it would be desirable for us to concentrate on the Bill as it will be rather than as it was originally presented to the House. A number of noble Lords recognised that and I am grateful to them for doing so.
The noble Lord, Lord Baker, thought that Schedule 5 should he dropped altogether. The chairmen of the museums and galleries certainly do not agree. They want the flexibility that the Bill will provide. They want the power to appoint at least 25 per cent of the members of their boards and the power to vary the size of the boards. I assure those who are worried about this matter that there is no threat to specially nominated trustees, such as those appointed by Commonwealth countries, the MoD and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to the Imperial War Museum. No changes will take place without the agreement of the boards. We do not need to mention Commonwealth or Ministry of Defence trustees in the Imperial War Museum because no change to their status is called for by the Bill. Perhaps I may say again to the noble Lord, Lord Bramall, that the new order will do exactly the same as Section 1(2) of the 1955 Act; therefore, again, no such reference is required.
It is legitimate for noble Lords to be suspicious about the amendments that we shall table. But I believe that we have done the best that we could have done in the circumstances. We set out our amendments in the memo to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee on Tuesday of this week, and they have been made available to all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. We sent the instructions to counsel on Tuesday at the same time and have not yet received a response, so I am unable to give the actual text. However, on the basis of what was presented to the chairmen of the museums and galleries on Monday, Neil MacGregor of the National Gallery, who has been by no means the most friendly critic of the Government on this issue, said: 1304This is an elegant and sensible solution which is warmly welcomed by the gallery".If the final amendments turn out to be wrong, I shall expect to stand up and be counted, but I do not believe that that is the case. I do not believe that we have done anything other than act with great speed in the past couple of days to meet the concerns that were expressed over the holiday period.
I am puzzled by the debate on the issue of the Nolan procedures and political involvement. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, wanted to be sure that we were not letting in political involvement by the backdoor by using reserve powers. That was answered in part by the noble Lord, Lord Evans. Even so, there is a conflict here; there is a difficulty which is virtually impossible to resolve. Noble Lords say on the one hand that there is a problem finding people to fill vacancies; on the other hand, they say that it is important not to have political involvement—in other words, that we should involve the Nolan procedures. When we do that, we are criticised for the inflexibility of the Nolan procedures.
We cannot have it all ways. There have been some 539 appointments to public bodies by the Department for Culture since the election. Of those, 89.2 per cent have been non-political; there was no political activity. The proportion of women appointed has risen from 27 per cent to 36 per cent; the proportion of appointments from ethnic minorities has risen from 2.9 per cent to 6.6 per cent. I am looking at the noble Baronesses, Lady Flather and Lady Crawley, as I say this. We have a good record of transparent appointments, nonpolitical appointments and appointments that reflect the diversity of this country. I really do riot see that we have anything to apologise for.
§ Baroness Blatch
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. My reference to this issue related not to the political point but to the delay in making appointments. I referred also to a past permanent secretary of two major government departments: it took months, using the Nolan procedures, to clear a person and decide whether that person was fit to take office. Perhaps I may cite another case, namely, that of the chief of staff of the air force, and the laborious procedure of considering the suitability of someone for appointment. There is an absurdity both in terms of delay and in applying procedures when all the information that needs to be known about a person is held already in government departments.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I do not deny that there are problems with the Nolan procedures. However, I do not propose that this Government should return to the practices of the previous government. When a vacancy arose under the previous government, those concerned sent round notice to the Whips' Office to see who was loyal and might do the job. I give way.
§ Baroness Flather
My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. The point I was making was for greater 1305 openness and a more uniform application of the Nolan procedures. I did not say that I was against those procedures. The Commissioner for Public Appointments has said that in the health service—indeed, this has featured in many newspaper reports—there certainly seems to be a bias in favour of Labour appointments.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I am not concerned with newspaper reports. I suggest that the noble Baronesses, Lady Flather and Lady Blatch, sort out those differences of opinion between themselves. I do not believe that the Government need be involved.
I turn now to the various other issues that were raised tonight. I shall try to deal with those that are in the Bill as quickly as I can. I shall start with films policy. I was grateful for the support expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. However, I did not fully understand the criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. After all, the Bill provides very few changes other than a statutory basis for the grants that the Film Council has been making since it was first established on a non-statutory basis.
The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, has a point when she says that it is not designated firmly in the schedule. It is our intention to designate the Film Council. It is often a trick of legislation that you do not actually name the body in case the name changes and you have to amend subsequent legislation. However, if I am wrong about that, we may have to table further amendments or make it clear in other ways that it is our intention that it should be the Film Council. I certainly do not go along with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Luke, that we might, in the end, go for a flotation of the Film Council. It is not our intention that this should be an ersatz commercial body. The experience is that we are not particularly good at running such commercial bodies. This is intended to encourage the art of film production. It is not expected that every single film that is supported should be commercially successful.
The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, believes that the jury is still out on the replacement of the English Tourist Board by the English Tourism Council. We must look at this in the light of the changes that have taken place in the relationship between the English Tourism Council and the regional tourist boards, which have been given greater independence and more money. Perhaps we should consider the funding of tourism. After all, the funding of the English Tourist Board under the previous government decreased from £25 million to £10 million a year. I agree that the figure is only creeping upwards, but it has been increased to £12 million for 2002–03 and —12.5 million for the following year. I believe that to be movement in the right direction.
1306 I take the points about regional museums, but I believe that they have been answered by my noble friend Lord Evans and the task force to which he referred. I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Luke, and the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, about London statues. It is inappropriate for a 1854 Act which gave powers to the Office of Works to approve statues in London to be continued into the 21st century. If we have regional government in London, we must give it these powers over perhaps not the most important issues facing the Mayor of London. I hope that we shall not see amendments to oppose this transfer of power, when all the other existing planning controls are still in force.
I was grateful for the debate from a number of speakers, notably the noble Lords, Lord Luke and Lord Montagu, about Osborne House, as well as the helpful suggestions that were made about its future. Reference is made to the continued use of the premises by the Armed Forces and civil servants because they are there now. There must be some recognition of their "squatters' rights", so to speak. English Heritage is working hard on alternative uses for Osborne House, and will be very interested in the suggestions that have been made. I shall encourage those concerned to report in time for the matter to be considered before the issue leaves your Lordships' House.
Among my long list of matters which were referred to in the debate but which do not find a place in the Bill, I acknowledge what was said about local museums and galleries. I also acknowledge the points about value-added tax, and the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, about the repatriation of human remains. I heard with respect and appreciation what the noble Baronesses, Lady Blatch and Lady Flather, said about problems with the National Lottery Charities Board and with the Millennium Commission. Of course, such matters are not covered by the Bill, but I have no doubt that the relevant authorities will take account of what has been said in the House this evening.
However, when I am challenged by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, to trumpet our achievements and when I am told that this is a missed opportunity for political promotion—and that is really what he was saying when he described how disappointed he was with the Bill—I have to say that I do not believe that to be the point of legislation. We shall fight this election on our artistic, cultural and sporting policies; but we shall do so at the time of the election rather than seeking to make political points of that kind when we are dealing with practical and valuable legislation such as the Bill that is before the House this evening.
On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.
House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past eight o'clock.