I think we are indebted to my hon. Friend who has put down this Amendment for raising a matter of very great importance which I am sure is near to the heart of the Minister. If he is not able to accept this particular Amendment, I hope we may be clear that the object of the Amendment is one which he has very much in view. We are far behind France in our arrangements for the preservation of ancient and historical buildings. The classification in French law of first, second or third class monuments of historic importance, with corresponding obligations for the State, the Department, and the minor local authority for their maintenance and repair, is one I should gladly see adopted in this country. This Amendment does not go more than a very little way in the direction of preserving buildings of architectural value and historic interest.
I feel sure that the danger my hon. and learned Friend opposite anticipates is hardly likely to arise. There has not come about a general destruction in France of buildings which are not classified, while there is a careful preservation even of buildings of comparatively minor interest, and an obligation is put upon the local authority to do it. That may come in this country later, but I think we need at this particular stage provision made for a survey of those buildings, whether in the form of this Amendment or in some other way. In many cases quite a small building could be preserved which would otherwise go, the ancient cottage, for example, dating back perhaps to the 15th century or earlier. I can think of one such falling into decay with no one taking an interest in it, and actually disappearing little by little. If we had a classification of this kind, the attention of local antiquaries would in some cases be called to small buildings which have escaped their notice, and you would have the county architectural and archaeological societies interesting themselves in the preservation of such buildings. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will see his way to meet the object which the Mover of this Amendment had in view in putting down these words on the Order Paper.