Orders of the Day — Clause 1. — (Power of Local Authority to Contribute to Preservation of Historic Buildings.)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 1st June 1962.

Alert me about debates like this

11.7 a.m.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I beg to move, in page 1, line 14, to leave out from the beginning to "contribute" in line 15.

The Amendment raises the issue whether, in conferring upon local authorities the powers under the Bill, it should be necessary to place them further under the surveillance of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. As one who was first elected to a local authority in 1908 and has had a close connection with local authorities of various standings since, I have always hoped to see the beginning of what all parties, in my recollection, have proclaimed, namely, that they wish to trust local authorities.

That is the sole issue raised by the Amendment. If, under the Bill, a local authority desires to do something to preserve a building which it regards as being of historic interest to the locality it should be allowed to do it. The ratepayers will see that it does not spend too much money on it. I want to see local authorities given an opportunity to show their good will in the matter.

I cannot think that there is so much spare time in the various Departments of the Ministry that the Minister is anxious to justify his establishment by arranging for petty things of this description to come in front of one of those Departments.

I believe in local government. I have often known it to be hampered through not having the power of initiative, and this seems to be to be one of those harmless sort of things concerning which those elected to local authorities might very well be allowed to do what they want to do without being under the surveillance of a Government Department.

Photo of Mr William Worsley Mr William Worsley , Keighley

I have sat on a local authority for a very much shorter time than the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I can only claim to have done so since 1955. I am bound to say that I take a different view from that taken by the right hon. Gentleman about this matter, not because I do not trust local authorities but because it seems to me that this is a Bill dealing specifically with the repair and maintenance of buildings of historic or architectural interest.

The list of historic buildings at my hon. Friend's Ministry is a very comprehensive one. Not every county has yet finalised its list, but from the lists already prepared it is clear that it will be the exceptional case where a building not on those lists is regarded as important. I suppose there is the possibility—this is an old hobby-horse of mine—that a Victorian building might be regarded by my hon. Friend's Ministry as one of importance. However, I suspect that the right test in all this is the list. Therefore, I think it right, prima facie—to use a phrase that has been much under discussion in Committee upstairs—that, unless there are really special reasons, the matter should be referred to the Minister in order to get the additional powers.

Personally, I am inclined to advise the Committee to resist the Amendment. I think that the words of the Bill as it stands are reasonable and give just that degree of restraint necessary. After all, the real purpose of the Bill and the desire of Parliament is to give help only for buildings of historic or architectural interest. It is necessary to see that it does not provide a general power to assist buildings of any sort.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I am afraid that, on balance, I am against the Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), although I think I see what he has in mind. There are, of course, buildings which are of particular local interest about which there might very well be a different attitude locally from what there is in Whitehall. I know that the right hon. Member for South Shields was a member of the Government who claimed that the gentleman in Whitehall knew best.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I did not say that.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

The right hon. Gentleman was silent on that occasion.

While sympathising with that point of view, I believe that the Amendment opens a rather wide door. The right hon. Gentleman wants to leave out all the words before "contribute", which means that the consent of the Minister goes out all together.

I am a little rusty concerning the lists under Section 30, but my belief is that there are three lists. Lists I and II have statutory effect and have been approved by the Minister. I believe that they include about 100,000 properties. There is also, I believe, a provisional list of about the same size which has not yet been approved by the Minister. I wonder whether, possibly, some sort of compromise could be arrived at if List III were to be included in the provisions of the Bill. Of course, I see the difficulty about that.

As I say, I am not entirely sure about these three lists, but I believe that, possibly, local authorities can add to List III if they wish. Certainly List III has not yet had the scrutiny and approval of the Ministry. Therefore, it may be that the suggestion which I am making is not very much different from what the right hon. Gentleman proposes in his Amendment, but I think that there may be a difference. It is quite possible that there is and that List III, by adding another 100,000 properties, more or less, to the discretion of local authorities under the Bill, might be a way of meeting the points which the right hon. Gentleman had in mind when putting down his Amendment.

11.15 a.m.

I believe that proper scrutiny is necessary because quite a lot of public money can be spent on these buildings. There is no other check on the local authorities under the Bill except the limitation of the properties in respect of which they can exercise their discretion. While we are all in favour of history and architectural merit, just as Hall Caine was against sin, it is, nevertheless, possible to slip into rather a generalised approach to the matter and to find that public money is running out like water in respect of, perhaps, a lot of unimportant relics from the past. I think that we must be discriminating in our approach, more especially as each thing which we do by Statute is cumulative. There are quite a lot of ways and methods of preserving these things. The matter is getting a little like aid to the underdeveloped territories of the world. The methods of granting that aid are becoming perplexing, and they are, of course, cumulative.

I assure the right hon. Member for South Shields that what I and my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) have said on the subject does not argue any lack of sympathy on our part with the aesthetic and historic considerations at stake, still less any general lack of confidence in the wisdom of the local authorities which are to exercise the discretion. But it can be rather difficult for a local authority to resist local pressures for spending money on these worthy causes. I have seen those pressures at work. When all one has to decide is whether £10,000—which does not sound very much in relation to the finances of a local authority—shall be spent for the preservation of such and such a house, it seems rather mean and almost disloyal to the neighbourhood to say "No". But these things can get out of hand and there must be a reasonable limitation to them. Therefore, I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment should be accepted as it stands.

If I am right in thinking—I may be wrong—that List III offers a half-way house between what the right hon. Gentleman is asking for and what the Bill at present does, then I should be favourably disposed to an Amendment at a later stage. I appreciate that Lords Amendments to Private Members' Bills are not highly prized. I have in mind that my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) is worrying about that, but the Government must have provided a Financial Resolution for the Bill to have got so far, and I should rather doubt whether, having provided such a Resolution, they would allow the Bill to go into the limbo of forgotten causes on Prorogation. Therefore, I do not think we need be too worried about Lords Amendments. I cannot commit the Government, hon. Members will understand, nor the Lords.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I do not know what my hon. Friend means by saying that he cannot commit the Government.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Norwich South

We cannot commit the Lords.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

An Amendment moved in another place on these lines might be reasonable, but failing that, I must oppose this Amendment.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

I support the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in his Amendment. I am not so scared of the consequences as my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) seems to be.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

"Seems to have been," I beg his pardon. My experience of local authority work does not go back so as that of the right hon. Member for South Shields, but it goes back somewhat further than that of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) for it was in 1954 that I joined a local authority.

My experience has been that on the whole there is a certain disinclination to spend money on things mentioned in this Bill. This Amendment might cause a little more money to be spent on worthy buildings and other local features. If the decision is left in the hands of the local authority and the Minister's approval is not to be required, that possibly will arouse much greater local interest in these matters. There will be much more local debate. If a particular building does not get a grant or assistance, at least the public will become more interested in these things and that is what I should like to see.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

My hon. Friend has not considered the hypothesis that possibly a certain building might get a grant when it ought not to get it.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

I should rather see the danger of certain unworthy buildings receiving grants than that any worthy one should not get the grant, which is what I feel might happen if the Bill went through unamended.

We have heard about lists and the suggestion that all the worthy buildings would be included in those lists, but that is by no means the case. On the hill overlooking my constituency there is a house called Rownham House. The people who have inherited it want to take it down and put up a block of flats on the site. Because the house is not listed, the Somerset County Council is allowing that to happen. If this Amendment were operating they might have thought more carefully about the case. That house might have been saved and the whole surroundings improved thereby.

There are parts of the constituency of any hon. Member who represents an ancient and historic city where there are unlisted buildings which are worthy of protection as groups. By his Amendment the right hon. Member for South Shields is trying to make local authorities spend more in a worthy cause. It would not worry me, even as a strong opponent of lavish public expenditure, if a few questionable buildings were saved, provided that more of the worth-while ones were preserved. As one of the youngest Members interested in this matter, I wish to join myself as an ally with one of our older colleagues and hope that his Amendment will be accepted.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

I listened, I confess, with some stupefaction to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell). I thought that the Tory Party as a whole was in favour of giving local authorities such responsibility as they could safely exercise.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

I should have thought this was an instance in which that could be safely exercised. It is not as if the hand of the Ministry would be unduly absent from this matter, even if the Amendment were accepted. As we know, every local authority operates under financial conditions which are fairly closely circumscribed from Whitehall. We may be quite certain that if they showed themselves wildly lavish in respect of this Clause they would find they would not get so much in the general grant or by some other means.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. R. Cooke) mentioned, there are a good many buildings in remoter parts of the country—further away from Whitehall, if that is any definition of remoteness—which are worthy of preservation but which themselves do not compare with some of the great houses with which the Historic Buildings Council normally occupies itself. They are worthy of preservation and local people believe that they add to the character of their town or countryside.

In my part of the country, in Gloucestershire, there are, strangely enough, ancient factories. They have been there since the Middle Ages. They have a peculiar charm and fitness for purpose. It would be rather unlikely that the Historic Buildings Council would interest itself in them. They have never been the scene of the death of a Queen nor had Sir Walter Raleigh walking through corridors in them, but they are matters of interest. For centuries they have given a peculiar character to the valleys in which they stand. They are landmarks which the local people would wish to preserve.

I see no reason why the gentleman in Whitehall should say whether the local council is right in this matter or not. I also ask who the gentleman in Whitehall will actually be. I do not know enough about this kind of administration to know who would come wearing a bowler hat, or whether he would come from Whitehall or from the local planning office. He may come from that office and put on a different bowler hat from the one which he normally wears. Probably he would be working in the locality in any case.

The argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South, that as there is a List III to which the council can add without let or hindrance this Amendment to that extent is unnecessary, does not stand up.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

That argument would not stand up and that is why I did not use it. I was suggesting the possibility that List III—

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

If the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) would address the Chair it would be easier for the whole Committee to hear what he has to say.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I apologise, Sir William. I was in some doubt whether to turn this way to my hon. Friend, or the other way, and I chose the wrong way. My point was that List III—and this is the point I am not sure about—may have some fixed status so that the local authority cannot add to it as it wants. If that is the position there is little ground for the Amendment, but if the local authority can add to it as it wishes there is no difference between that and what the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has proposed.

While I am on my feet, may I make another correction? I referred to Hall Caine being against sin. I should have said Mark Twain.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

Let us go on the second supposition of my hon. Friend, that the local authority is entitled to add to the list of buildings. That would not help it if the inspector from Whitehall were to come and decide whether a loan was or was not to be granted. I do not think that meets the point put forward in the Amendment. However, as I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South and myself agree upon one thing, which is that we do not know whether List III exists or what it is for, perhaps I had better abandon that part of the argument and turn to another point.

It may be thought that the control that local authorities are likely to exert over this sort of grant may be something less than would be exerted if they also had the assistance of the gentleman from Whitehall, but I rather doubt it. It may be, as the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) said during the Committee stage, that at one time the Duke of Omnium could summon the chairman of the rural district council to his castle and tell him that the council should contribute to the upkeep of the castle roof. Those days may have existed at one time, but I rather doubt whether the Duke of Omnium could do that now He probably does not live in his castle, in any case.

I therefore do not think that undue pressure would be put on local authorities in that way. If pressure there were, I think it far more likely that it would be put on councils in such a way that they did not realise it, with the result that the building might be disposed of more favourably because of the improvements that had been made—but another Clause takes care of that possibility.

In principle, I am certain that, where-ever possible, we should allow local authorities the greatest discretion to carry out their duties as they please. I believe that this is a case in which they can very properly do so, and in which their view might be very much better than the view of the gentleman from Whitehall. I therefore support the Amendment.

11.30 a.m.

Photo of Mr Edward Gardner Mr Edward Gardner , Billericay

The Committee ought to be grateful to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), because his Amendment directs, as I think it properly should, the attention of the Committee to the question of whether or not Whitehall should, or need, come to the assistance of the local authority. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the trust that he is prepared to give—and which I apprehend most hon. Members will be pre- pared to give—to local authorities, he struck a very responsible chord, but one has to look at the reasons for the Clause as it now is worded in giving the local authorities the additional safeguard—because that is what I believe it to be—of the consent that the Minister would have to give before any contribution could be made.

I believe that the consent of the Minister would be a healthy and a necessary condition to any grant given by local authorities because, when one talks of the "consent of the Minister" what one is really saying is that the Minister should have the opportunity of considering the reports of his experts. And I would hope that the experts who undertook the duty of advising the Minister would not be wearing the mythical bowler that my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) anticipated, but would more likely be people wearing beards, and having some taste in architecture—

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

Is my hon. and learned Friend seriously suggesting that we should hand over the administration of the country to people with beards?

Photo of Mr Edward Gardner Mr Edward Gardner , Billericay

No, that is the last thing I should urge on the Committee—nor do I hope that my hon. Friend is urging upon the Committee that it should be handed over to people who wear bowler hats.

In all seriousness, I suggest that the Committee should bear in mind the very valuable assistance that experts could give in their advice to the Minister before the Minister exercises his discretion in giving his consent before any grant is made. All these matters are for people who are best able to exercise that somewhat nebulous and difficult quality of taste. If, for example, a local council had a contemporary affection for some old but somewhat ungainly piece of architecture, the giving of a grant to preserve that building might mean that a more meritorious house or building in the neighbourhood would have to fall into neglect. No doubt all the town halls in Yorkshire, built in the reign of Victoria, have an attraction for my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley).

There is no doubt that when the plans for the rebuilding of this Palace of Westminster were put forward by Barry they were approved by the majority of people, who saw in them a splendid house far the exercise of the duties that we in this Palace of Westminster still undertake. A couple of generations later, the attitude of people towards such merits as there might be in the architecture of some parts of this Palace changed. Again, taste has changed, and when people now come here they look at some of the architecture, some with curiosity, some with admiration, and others with astonishment.

These are all matters of taste, and in deciding what should qualify on the basis of good taste, on the basis of virtue in architectural design and appeal, something that will last, and appeal not only to this generation but to generations to come, I would suggest in all earnestness that the need for the advice of experts is obvious.

Local authorities have planning officers and other experts who are fully qualified to assist in some of the problems that crop up, but I submit that in a matter that depends essentially on personal tastes, and where one has to judge for generations ahead, it is necessary that the best experts, and those with the highest qualifications, should be engaged in resolving the problems that will lie ahead, not only of the Minister but of the local councils which will have to give these grants.

I am all against the effect of the dead hand of the Civil Service upon enterprises that require zeal and initiative, but there is another side to the picture. There can be, and I believe that, for the purposes of this Bill, there ought to be, a beneficial rein upon the over-zealous. There should be an opportunity to see that a proper caution and prudence is brought to bear in the solution of these problems.

For those reasons, I regret that I cannot support this Amendment.

Photo of Dr Alan Glyn Dr Alan Glyn , Wandsworth Clapham

All hon. Members will agree that the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has much greater experience of local authority affairs than most hon. Members and no one would dispute his authority on many aspects of these affairs. But I must say that on this one he does not carry me with him, for it seems that we are seeking to open the gate to a wide extent to local authorities to give grants which might, in the national interest, not be to our advantage.

I am sure that none of my hon. Members would wish to take away the authority and power of local authorities. Indeed, we are now seeking to increase those powers, certainly in the Metropolis. But in this case we are looking at it from a national point of view. We are considering buildings throughout the country which we wish to see preserved for all time. It may be that a local authority will consider that a particular building is of interest within the scope of that local authority, but, taken from a national point of view, it might possibly seem that the building does not merit money being spent on it from public and local funds.

It has been suggested that if local authorities did, or attempted to, spend money on buildings which had insufficient architectural merit to warrant the expenditure there was a method in Whitehall of cutting the general grant. I do not think that that is a practical solution, or that it comes within the scope of this excellent Bill.

We must, after all, balance local and national interest. No one would dispute that a small building somewhere near Stratford which might have connections with an author might also be of considerable interest to that area. I have no hesitation in saying that if such an application went to the Ministry these factors would be taken into consideration. The Ministry would consider not only the importance of it to the nation, but also its importance to the area, and while the authority concerned might have a specific desire to preserve a building which it considered to be of local interest, it may also be of national interest.

Mention has been made of the gentleman in Whitehall and his bowler hat and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) thought that a bearded gentleman might do even better. In this case I think that neither solution is correct. I would prefer to see a different type of gentleman, perhaps one in a tweed suit or in plus-fours who knows the local area, the importance of the building concerned and who is qualified to give an opinion on whether or not it is of sufficient interest.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

Would the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. A. Glyn) consider whether the man in the Clapham omnibus might be the best person?

Photo of Dr Alan Glyn Dr Alan Glyn , Wandsworth Clapham

I entirely agree, and I wish we had a building of this nature in Clapham which we could preserve as a national heritage.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I would think that omnibuses are covered by the terms of the Bill.

Photo of Dr Alan Glyn Dr Alan Glyn , Wandsworth Clapham

In that case, we have in my constituency the Ministry of Transport museum in which are preserved a number of omnibuses and other items.

When the Minister replies I hope that he will deal with two points. The first is the question of List III and I would be grateful if he would tell us how this will operate. Secondly, if a local authority puts up a good case for a building showing that it has not so much an architectural interest but is of great interest to the local community and has some historical association, possibly with some celebrity, author or actor who lived in the area, would that building qualify under the Bill as it stands without the Amendment?

If I could have those two assurrances, principally that the local authorities will be able to give their expert evidence so that real notice will be taken of it, I would be much happier. I am sure that the Minister will be influenced not only by the opinions of the gentleman in Whitehall, but also by the evidence of the local authorities which is given to him. After all, they can produce all the facts, the historical background and everything else which is necessary when assessing the importance of a building. When he is armed with all those facts I would like my right hon. Friend to say that if, on balance, it is a building considered to be of merit, it will get the grant.

We are, in all fairness to the ratepayers, considering a matter which is of vital importance to them. We are also dealing with our national heritage and the overriding power of the Ministry to be able to say that it does not think that the local ratepayers' money is warranted being spent on a particular project.

11.45 a.m.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

I approach the Amendment with great embarrassment because to find myself in a situation where I agree with the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) and disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) is something I never thought to reach and it makes me think that I must be wrong.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

Perhaps it is because the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and I served together on the same local authority for so long.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

That is really a double-edged remark after what the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South said about the extravagance of some local authorities. I do not think that in Paddington there would be found any particular desire to spend money on preserving historic buildings.

The right hon. Member for South Shields speaks on this matter with tremendous authority, not only because he has long experience of local government. I am not sure whether he can claim to have been on a local authority before I was born. If he joined a county council in March, 1908, he was, although if he joined the Mitcham Council in November, he probably was not. It is a near thing, either way.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I do not want my hon. Friend to get my biography wrong. I was first elected to a local council in April, 1908, and I understand, therefore, that my hon. Friend was alive at that time. I have never served on any council in Mitcham.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

Then my right hon. Friend was a member of his local authority before I was born—by two months. Thus on that score alone one must regard my right hon. Friend with very great respect. My right hon. Friend also speaks on this subject with an unrivalled authority since he has worked for many years on the Historic Buildings Council and he probably knows more about the problems involved in grant-aiding historic buildings than anyone. For those two reasons I find it difficult to disagree with him However, on the matter under discussion there are a number of reasons why it is wise to keep in this safeguard. I understand that under the Bill there will be no difficulty for buildings listed on the Ministry list and that local authorities may grant-aid them if they wish. Presumably, if local authorities need to borrow money to pay for loans, they would probably have to obtain loan sanction and, of course, if they obtained that then everything would be at large and they would have to justify their cases. But otherwise, as I understand it, in the case of a listed building, there would be no trouble or hold-up and a local authority could move.

An important question is in what circumstances an authority would wish to help a building that is not listed. There would seem to be two factors here involved; first, that there may be buildings which are not of sufficient importance to be listed, and, secondly, that the list may be not complete or not efficient. That is a problem with which the Parliamentary Secretary might care to deal when he replies to the debate.

The Estimates Committee, when going into this matter two Sessions ago, was told that the Ministry list was only two-thirds completed for England and not completed for Wales and that it would be about another seven years before it would be completed. I do not know what the position is today and whether, in fact, the listing covers the whole country.

It seems desirable, therefore, that a local authority should have the power, which the Bill gives, of being able to point to a building and to say, "We think that this is worthy and should be helped." Then there would be an obligation on the Minister to have it adequately inspected to see whether it was suitable for listing or whether for some other reason it ought to be assisted.

It seems to me that it is a very skilled and specialist kind of jab to look at an old building and decide how much it will cost to put it into repair. To guess what kind of problems will arise is something which an ordinary architect is not likely to be able to do. It is a job for the historical architect who has a special knowledge of the structure of old buildings. Not only that, but I think it is fair to say that in many cases there are specialists within the specialist field. There are certain people who are experts on a particular period or on a particular type of building.

Indeed, the Estimates Committee was told by the National Trust that it not infrequently got in touch with the Ministry saying that there was a certain type of building on which it would like advice and asking who is the best person to inspect the building and to give advice. If that sort of problem faces a body like the National Trust, if that is a matter on which the Historic Buildings Council has to seek advice from a specialist architect, it seems to me that the position of the local authority is extremely difficult. Many local authorities have a very experienced and efficient architect's department, but not every local authority has even a full-time architect. Therefore, when the Barsetshire Rural District Council receives an application from, say, the Duke of Omnium, the council wants to know what sort of questions it ought to ask before deciding whether to make a contribution. It will want to know the kind of problems which are likely to arise and it will need to seek advice from somebody.

I should have thought that the effect of the limitation on the powers of local authorities was really to give them the Minister's telephone number and to say, "Before you go any further, get in touch with the Minister and obtain his advice as to the sort of person who should inspect the building in order to say whether the work is worth doing." There ought to be two qualifications. One is that the building is on the list and the local authority can help it; the other is that it is not on the list, in which case the local authority needs specialist advice before deciding whether to sink public money in the building.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

The hon. Member refers to the necessity to get advice from the Ministry, and I agree that expert advice should be obtained, but the Clause does not say "advice." It says "consent." That is a point on which I should like to hear the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. MaeColl:

I think a possible way of doing it would be similar to the matter of superannuation funds. A local authority may invest its money in equity shares but financial advice is first required from an expert before this is done. We might limit the discretion in that way so that advice is obtained from a recognised authority before the work is commenced. One has to expect the Minister to behave reasonably and helpfully and to be interested in guiding local authorities. I should not have thought that the limitation of consent, subject as it is to Parliamentary criticism and deputations from local Members and all the other horrors which bother a Minister, was an unduly repressive restriction.

As the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South said, a local authority can burn its fingers. It can become involved in what looks like a simple job but by the time one has discovered all the dry rot, death watch beetle and so on, the commitment is very considerable. The Ministry has been criticised by the Public Accounts Committee for having undertaken work which eventually cost much more than it was expected to cost. If that is the position which confronts the Historic Buildings Council and the Ministry, it is going to be much more difficult for the Barsetshire Rural District Council to limit its responsibilities.

It would be an awful tragedy if this led to a lot of public money being wasted, so that people said, "This is local authority irresponsibility and profligacy. This is work which should not be done by local authorities. They should stick to their graves and lavatories, and leave art and culture to other bodies." This is a view which is sometimes expressed, and it is not one which ought to be encouraged. The best way to discourage it is to take steps to avoid costly mistakes. I therefore think it is wise to keep in the Bill the words which the Amendment seeks to delete.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

It is peculiarly ill-fitting that I should have to resist an Amendment moved by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) has said that the right hon. Gentleman was serving on a local authority before he was born. The right hon. Gentleman was serving on a local authority before my mother was born. Therefore, I certainly bow to him in his knowledge of this subject. I must say that, on balance, I agree with the views expressed by the hon. Member for Widnes.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

May I point out to the hon. Member that the Government Department which was eulogised by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) for its advice was not the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, but the Ministry of Works?

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

That may well be so.

I was going on to say, that should this Committee, in its wisdom, decide not to accept the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment, we ought to have a categorical undertaking from my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary on how the Ministry of Housing and Local Government will interpret its duties under this Measure should a local authority ask permission in respect of a building not on the statutory list.

As the Committee will appreciate, the right hon. Gentleman's Amendment is one on which he spoke on Second Reading and I think that he would have moved such an Amendment in Standing Committee had it not been for some misunderstanding. He has on many occasions explained why he wants local authorities to have discretion in this matter. But I think hon. Members on both sides of the Committee have taken the point that local authorities will be subject to pressures from enthusiasts many of whom have very little experience in a very specialised field.

Nothing would do greater damage to the cause that we all have in mind, namely, the continued protection of fine, historic buildings than if local authorities were to get themselves in a position where they made a grant in respect of a building which afterwards turned out to be of little or no value so that the ratepayers felt they had been cheated. It would be a great disincentive to other local authorities, and certainly to the local authority directly involved, to take the risk of making another grant towards the upkeep of a building.

I am advised that, generally speaking, local authorities themselves, recognising the importance of establishing that any building which they are required to help preserve is of real architectural or historical interest, are reassured if the building is on the list, for then it must be of special architectural or historical interest. But there will be occasions when buildings are not of sufficient importance to be on the list, or are in an area where the lists have not yet been completed. Incidentally, I should like to hear from by hon. Friend how the lists are progressing. There will be occasions when it would be right for local authorities to contribute towards grants for the upkeep of such buildings, perhaps where there are group of buildings, none of which on its own is worthy of being Listed but where the whole group taken together is of historic or architectural interest.

I remember my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Du Cann), who, I know, was hoping to be with us but, unfortunately, is not here yet, speaking on this point on Second Reading, when he referred to cottages in Devon. There will be occasions when it will be right for local authorities to preserve such buildings, but I feel that it is much better that in these rather exceptional circumstances they should be obliged to obtain the consent of the Minister.

12 noon.

The ninth Annual Report of the Historic Buildings Council for England, issued on 16th May, and no doubt written by the right hon. Gentleman, discusses in paragraphs 8 and 9, the un-co-operative attitude of local authorities. I think that the sanction of obtaining the Minister's consent in these cases will protect them against any possible challenge to their actions.

My hon. Friend has the advantage of being able to take the advice of his advisory committee and, therefore, he may be able to gauge what estimates informed opinion might make. I think that this will not make it more difficult for local authorities to give grants for unlisted buildings, but will make it easier for them; otherwise, there may be many occasions when a local authority, although it finds it has a building to which it would like to contribute, will be frightened of people saying, "This building is no good at all; it is a waste of the ratepayers' money." If a local authority were able to say that it had had to obtain the consent of the Minister of Housing and Local Government and his consent had been given, it would have an answer to any charge that it had been wasting the ratepayers' money.

I have been interested to hear the debate on this subject, with hon. Members on both sides taking different views but without party political content. On both sides there has been local disarray as to what should be done. I accept the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) who, I think, put his finger on the problem when he asked how was the Ministry to interpret its powers under this Clause and what sort of view it would take if a local authority put a case for making a contribution for a building not on the statutory list. If my hon. Friend is able, as I expect, to satisfy the Committee that under no circumstances will he or his right hon. Friend be unreasonable about this matter, and that a local authority, unless it is totally unreasonable in carrying out a stupid scheme, can be assured that it will get the consent of the Minister to the amount that it wishes to contribute, and that this will be interpreted in a logical and realistic way, I think the Committee will feel inclined to reject the Amendment, even though it has been sponsored by someone for whom we have such very great respect, the right hon. Member for South Shields.

Photo of Mr Jasper More Mr Jasper More , Ludlow

I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) has said in opposing the Amendment put forward by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I do so in a spirit of deep humility, in deference to the great experience of the right hon. Member. I have a certain pride, as well as humility, in that I think I am one of the few hon. Members present who can claim to have been born just before the right hon. Gentleman was first elected to a local authority. In another respect, I am a mere chicken, because it is only since 1958 that I have been on a local authority myself.

The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) stressed, very rightly, the difficulties which will face local authorities in coming to these decisions. He instanced the difficulty of appreciating the state of repair and the possible liabilities in which they might be involved and practical considerations of that kind. There is, I think, another difficulty which faces local authorities. That is in the matter of specialised knowledge. There are nowadays many different types of building which may or may not need preservation, and a lot of specialist knowledge is involved. In my own local authority, on whose planning committee I serve, we were faced not long ago with the case of an ancient ruin in our county and we decided, perhaps wrongly, that we would not do anything about it. When the Ministry of Works came to look at it, it turned out to be a special type of castellar construction on the Welsh border, and the Ministry itself paid for it. That is an instance of the difficulty which local authorities may have in coming to their decisions.

I am glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West referring again to the subject of groups of buildings. That is a matter that affects us very much in some of our smaller and more ancient towns, and I should like to say to the Parliamentary Secretary how impressed I have been on a number of occasions by the interest taken by officials of his Department in dealing with this very difficult topic.

I was glad to hear the intervention of the right hon. Member for South Shields about the Ministry of Works. We need some explanation from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary of the way in which his Ministry works with the Ministry of Works in these matters. Referring again to the case that I have mentioned, I would say that it was, in the upshot, the Ministry of Works which intervened and which did the work. If the Parliamentary Secretary would say a little about the relationship of his Ministry with the Ministry of Works, it might reassure us in the feeling that we would have as to the interpretation that may be put upon this Clause.

On the main issue raised by the Amendment, I should like to see, having served on a local authority myself, this safeguard written into the Bill. There could be a great temptation for a local authority to be swayed by local pressure or sentiment to do things which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West has said, might in the long run be damaging or destructive to the main cause that we all support. I say, with regret to the right hon. Member for South Shields, that I shall be opposing the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Norwich South

We have had a fairly wide-ranging debate on this suggestion of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede). I thought that we were going to start and continue rather like a newspaper correspondent, "Who is the youngest inhabitant? Who is the oldest inhabitant? Who has served longest on the council? Is this a record?" I do not think that any of us will challenge the record of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields in local government. He is an historic councillor of special interest who ought to be preserved. One day he may be of such outstanding historic interest as to become the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, who will, no doubt, erect and preserve a suitable monument; but we hope that that day will not came for many, many years.

This, perhaps, is the explanation which I ought to give to my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow (Mr. More) about the division of responsibility between my right hon. Friend and the Minister of Works. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Works is responsible, as was explained on Second Reading, in accordance with the powers under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act, 1953, for buildings of outstanding historic interest. The purpose of the Bill is to enable the local authority to supplement those powers.

The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacCall), dealing with this matter in Committee, said that he found himself in a position of considerable embarrassment because there was a conflict between the two father figures to whom he looked for advice, the right hon. Member for South Shields and the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), who made a great contribution to our discussions in Committee. On balance, the hon. and learned Member for Kettering came down on the lines suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon). I think that the hon. Member for Widnes then thought that he would look to my hon. Friend as a father-substitute. I hope that he will maintain that attitude throughout our proceedings today.

I have been associated with local government since 1945, when I first became a member of a local authority—if I may add my own reminiscences to those which have been passed about the Chamber this morning—and throughout that time I have taken a view very similar to that of the right hon. Member for South Shields. My whole instinct, like hits, is to give local authorities the fullest possible responsibility. I newt have believed, and I do not believe, that the gentleman in Whitehall knows best in all these matters which are essentially of local importance. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman was never associated with that observation, although I have never seen any report that he denied its truth at what would have been an appropriate time.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West said, local authorities need assurances about whether or not they should make grants where they are considering buildings which are not on the statutory list. I am glad that my hon. Friend referred to the ninth Annual Report of the Historic Buildings Council for England. In paragraph 8, it is said: The attitude of local authorities can closely affect the future of historic buildings which some other person or body is struggling to preserve … We urge local authorities, where it is open to them to do so, to use their discretion in favour of, and not against, preservation of those buildings which genuinely deserve the most sympathetic treatment on architectural or historic grounds. This is particularly the case when the need for preservation arises from the value of the buildings as a group. We all agree with that, I am sure, and I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Ludlow that we are anxious that the powers in the Bill, if it becomes law, shall be used for preserving groups of buildings.

The Report goes on to explain some of the difficulties which local authorities face in these matters: Where an individual or voluntary organisation is struggling to raise sufficient funds to restore a building, it is doubly difficult for them if the local authority is unenthusiastic, or even—as sometimes happens—hostile to its preservation. There is, of course, no question of 'sabotage', either figurative or actual; but in these days it is hard for any private person to repair a building, and most of all to restore it to a place in the life of the community, without the sympathy and, if possible, financial help of a local authority. We note with particular regret cases where preservation is hampered by lack of such cooperation, since so many buildings owe their survival to the help of an enlightened local authority. That is an accurate statement of the position. We are anxious that local authorities shall feel encouraged by the Bill to make this contribution.

I do not think that local authorities are unsympathetic, but they are often afraid that they will make a payment of public money which will turn out to be an error of judgment in some way and then they will be blamed. The Minister's consent in those cases covered by Clause 1 (1, b) will protect them against challenge, and the fact that they have consent or know that they can get it will enable those councillors who are enthusiastic to press upon their more reluctant colleagues the importance of the work which can be done.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) asked what advice we should give to these local authorities, and other hon. Members took up the same point. I give an assurance that in the Ministry we are concerned to see the Bill effective. We want to give sympathetic advice. We want it interpreted as liberally as possible. I assure my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) that we should weigh very carefully the advice given by the local authority itself. It may not have expert advisers; it may not have surveyors or others who know a great deal about these matters, but it will be able to explain the historic importance for itself of buildings in its area. This will be taken into account.

12.15 p.m.

There was some question about whether this advice would be given by the bowler-hat brigade or the long-haired gentleman—whether long-bearded or long-haired, I cannot quite remember—but, of course, the Minister will not be making these judgments just on his own opinion. We shall have the benefit of the expert advice of the Advisory Committee on Buildings of Special Architectural and Historic Interest, of which Sir William Holford has been chairman. This body has done a tremendous amount of work and its advice is of the greatest value.

I have been asked about the statutory list and what progress is being made with it. On Second Reading, I gave some statistics. By 31st November last year, out of 1,474 local authority areas 998 were covered by full statutory lists. There are, a further 251 incomplete lists known as interim lists. Altogether, no less than 80,000 buildings are included in the statutory list so far, and we expect to have about 100,000 in due course.

The provisional list has no statutory force. It is really the next stage after the survey towards the compilation of the statutory list. It is possible to say at that stage that a building is of such special interest that it would deserve public money being spent on it, with an opportunity for representation and a good deal of discussion. At that stage, of course, we receive the advice of the Holford Committee as well.

I feel that the Bill as now drafted will make it a good deal easier for local authorities to offer grants for unlisted buildings. There is no doubt about the buildings which are listed. The Minister's consent is represented by the fact that they are included in the Section 30 list.

Having regard to the assurances I have given, that it is the desire of the Ministry to operate this Measure as sympathetically as possible, that we want to encourage the local authorities to use their powers, and that we have no intention of trying to prevent them giving grants where they genuinely feel the need, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will feel that he need not press the Amendment.

Photo of Mr William Worsley Mr William Worsley , Keighley

I understand that there are three grades in the list and that information regarding buildings in the third grade is in the possession only of the local authority itself. The owners are not told. Would the Clause apply to this third grade?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Norwich South

I am not quite sure of the answer to that. I think—I will tell my hon. Friend later if I am wrong—that the answer is, "No'. It is with grade I and grade II that we are concerned.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

I have listened with great care to the case put against the Amendment, and I have noted what my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has just said about the sympathy with which his Ministry will examine future applications of this sort. I have no doubt that what he says is true. Nevertheless, I am always a little suspicious about appeals, usually from members of the Government, to allow something to go through on the ground that it does not really matter because they will be sympathetic about it after it is through. Basically, the matter should be fully understood before it is passed into law, and, therefore, while I accept that the Bill will be sympathetically applied, nevertheless I should like to see the Amendment put in the Bill.

However, I bear in mind that, if the Amendment were pressed to a Division at this hour of the day on a Friday, we might lose the whole Bill. That would be a disaster, because the Bill in itself is extremely desirable. Although I should like to support the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) on one of the few occasions that I have had the opportunity of doing so, if he were to call a Division on it he might not find me in the Lobby with him.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I thank hon. Members on both sides for their kindly references to me—at least, I think that they were meant to be kindly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] However, a person reaches a stage when he does not desire to be reminded of how long he has been wandering about. I thank the Parliamentary Secretary for his explanation about the way in which the Bill will be administered.

I share the difficulty which confronts the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw). I have found the same difficulty on most Fridays. There are twenty-seven Orders of the Day on the Order Paper, all concerning private Members. I do not know which of them some hon. Members do not desire to be reached, although I have been studying the Order Paper in an endeavour to find out.

I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) on making the most eloquent speech in support of a bad cause which has been made in this Chamber since the days of Burke. However, I want to see the Bill passed into law. I am not like the people of 1832 who were concerned with the Bill, the whole Bill and nothing but the Bill. The Bill with the Amendment would be better than the Bill without it, but the Bill without the Amendment is better than no Bill at all. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I beg to move, in page 1, line 19, at the end to insert: and, at the time of making a contribution under this section towards the expenses of the repair or maintenance of a building may also, by grant or loan, contribute towards the expenses incurred or to be incurred in the upkeep of any garden occupied with the building and contiguous or adjacent thereto".

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

It will be convenient to discuss with this Amendment the hon. Member's Amendment to the Title, in line 3, after "interest," to insert: and the upkeep of gardens occupied therewith.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

On a point of order. May I ask you, Sir William, whether this Amendment is in order under the terms of the Financial Resolution, which states: That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision for contributions by local authorities towards the repair and maintenance of buildings of historic or architectural interest, it is expedient to authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament, and so on? Before we embark on a consideration of the Amendment, I think that we should know whether it is covered by the Financial Resolution, because it seems to me rather doubtful.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

Further to that point of order. I think that I must move the Amendment because I understood that it was the only way which was in order in which I could get such a provision into the Bill. But I should be most grateful, Sir William, if you would indicate whether it is covered by the Financial Resolution.

Photo of Mr Anthony Kershaw Mr Anthony Kershaw , Stroud

Further to that point of order. If the Financial Resolution has been accepted, surely the Amendment is in order.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

I have not raised the point of order in any sense of obstruction but merely so that we may keep our proceedings regular and in order. It seemed to me that there was a doubt about the matter, and, while I have no doubt that the Committee will want to approve the Amendment, I should like the Committee, or someone at any rate, to consider whether any amendment of the Financial Resolution is involved.

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

The Financial Resolution is very wide, and I think that the Amendment falls within it.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I am grateful to you, Sir William, for your Ruling.

The reason for the Amendment is that in Committee I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) an undertaking to try to do what I could to include historic gardens within the scope of the Bill largely because of the precedent in the 1953 Act which allowed contributions to be made to parks or gardens which were contiguous or adjacent to a historic building, and also in deference to the views and wisdom of my hon. Friend.

I think that we would all agree that, in common sense, it would be a pity if a grant could be made to a building while the beautiful gardens in which it stood fell into decay and ruin. I am advised that, owing to the scope of the Bill, I can only deal with the point on this recommittal Motion and I can only make it possible for local authorities to contribute to gardens adjacent to buildings which themselves are in receipt of a grant. Therefore, this is a very limited concession, not because I have no wish to help further in this matter, since I should like to see gardens helped in this way, but because for reasons of order I do not think I can enlarge the Bill further than I propose to do by the Amendment. We have had to go through this recommittal procedure for the Bill since a further, although I am sure very small, sum of money would be required.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge will not be disappointed that I cannot be of further assistance, but I assure him that I have done what I could. Gardens are a subject which is not frequently debated in the House of Commons, and, perhaps, on this glorious, if it can be so called, 1st June it is appropriate that we should spend a few moments in discussing historic gardens, even though they are of a limited type. I hope that hon. Members will support the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Albert Hunter Mr Albert Hunter , Feltham

I support the Amendment. I entirely agree with what the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) has said. It would be a great pity to take over a historic building, or a building of great merit and interest, and not be able to contribute to the maintenance of its grounds and gardens. In some circumstances, the grounds and gardens are more valuable than the house or the building. It therefore seems to me that this is a sensible and correct Amendment. Beautifully kept gardens and grounds can improve a district's amenities.

The Amendment is essential to the Bill, and I hope that the Committee will accept it.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I, also, support the Amendment. It perhaps meets the point which the hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. Fletcher) had in mind, because it is an Amendment for the avoidance of doubt. It is fairly well established that a building includes the curtilage of it and a pleasure garden enjoyed with the house, and that is why the Amendment comes within the Money Resolution.

However, when the Bill, when it is an Act, is interpreted in the courts, the fact that Parliament meant by "building" also the garden could not be mentioned. Therefore, this is a wise Amendment for the avoidance of doubt. Although I think that the garden is included by the word "building", there have been a great many cases on the meaning of the word "building". I do not want to go into them now, but the matter has been considered in relation to the planning Acts and it has often been of considerable relevance.

12.30 p.m.

I think, personally, that even without the Amendment we should probably be all right, but I think that it is a good idea to have it, and it would be a great shame if gardens were not included when we are seeking to preserve historic or beautiful houses. I am only sorry that because of the terms of the Money Resolution we cannot go a step further and include gardens even not appurtenant to a historic house, because there are such things as historic gardens. It would be out of order for me to mention them now, but it is common knowledge that in this country, as in other countries, there are gardens which, while without any appurtenance to buildings, merit support from public funds for their upkeep, if they need it.

Those are the substantial reasons why I support my hon. Friend's Amendment. I wonder whether I may just make a comment on the drafting. It appears to me to be a pity that the words "under this section" have been used in the Amendment. I should have thought that the words "under the foregoing subsection" would have been better, because if we look at the point at which the proposed words are to be inserted we see that we are to say, if we accept my hon. Friend's Amendment.

and, at the time of making a contribution under this section towards the expenses and so on, and then immediately, in the very next line of the Clause, the first line of subsection (2), A contribution by way of loan under the foregoing subsection. It is a little bit inelegant from the drafting point of view to refer to a grant or contribution "under this section" and then, in the next line, refer to a contribution under "the foregoing subsection". Even if we were able to accept all the Amendments on the Notice Paper, either in this Committee or subsequently on consideration in the House, still it would remain true, as it is now, that contributions, whether by grant or loan, would only be made under subsection (1); and all the other parts of the Bill deal with the consequences which arise.

Although we do sometimes find in Acts a reference to a grant under "the foregoing subsection" and then, later, to grants made under section so-and-so, I do not think that we have ever actually encountered an occasion when we start with the more general term "section" and then go on immediately afterwards to the more particularised reference to "the foregoing subsection".

I apologise for a purely lawyerly point of view. It is a matter of drafting. I do not know what my hon. Friend's views about it may be, or your views, Sir William, but, if it were thought appropriate, I should be happy to move a manuscript Amendment—

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

I think that it may save the hon. Member trouble if I tell him that I am not prepared to accept a manuscript Amendment in that sense.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I appreciate that at this stage of the Bill, which still has to go to another place, Sir William, and I would not, if I were in your position, accept a manuscript Amendment at this stage. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I had in mind what I referred to earlier, that private Members do not like manuscript Amendments if they can avoid them, because they do raise slight difficulties at later stages, and, like the hon. Member, I am in a benevolent mood this Friday, and am trying to help hon. Members on both sides of the Committee.

Photo of Sir Hamilton Kerr Sir Hamilton Kerr , Cambridge

May I express my gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) for this concession, although it is a limited one? During our previous debate on the Bill, my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) described me as a historic monument, though he put some balm on the wound by saying that it was a well-preserved monument. I am glad that this historic monument, even a battered battlement, has survived long enough to witness this concession.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

In contributing my support to this Amendment I should like to begin by assuring my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) that I can see hardly any cases where a historic garden as such would be outside the scope of the Bill, because surely almost any garden has some form of garden architecture attached to it, as well as plants and trees, and so on. It would be perfectly simple. If a grant or contribution is to be made to the building, the garden would come within the scope of what we are suggesting.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

It has nothing to do with flowers and lawns or azaleas and rhododendrons, as I indicated to the Committee.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

I did not enlarge on this because I thought it outside the scope of the Bill and out of order, but one example would be the Botanical Gardens at Oxford, a famous national heritage, but I would not have thought, with all respect, that the building at present inside them would have attracted a grant.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

Of course, this is where my hon. Friend and I would differ. I would think that the architectural features of almost any historical garden were as worth preserving as any of the horticultural ones, and, indeed, most gardens are enhanced by the presence of architecture.

Clearly, if we make this Amendment to the Clause, it would be possible for the local authorities to make contributions. It need not necessarily, I assume—the Committee will correct me, I am sure, if I am wrong—have to be a direct, financial contribution. I imagine that the local authority could merely assist with the maintenance of the gardens by lending its equipment and labour, which would be a most economical way of doing it, and a most harmonious one.

I should have thought also that it would be most important in preserving gardens to bear in mind that there are many other features as well as buildings and horticultural features. There are such things as garden ornaments, lead and stone vases, and so on. All too often these objects find themselves in the antique dealer's yard and end up in the most inappropriate surroundings. This Amendment would seem to do something to stop the removal of these features from their rightful places. That is why I welcome it.

In conclusion, I would say that I see little point in preserving a historic or beautiful building unless its surroundings, too, are preserved, and our legislation as it now stands does nothing like enough to help us in that respect, whereas in France the whole surroundings of a historic building are protected and cannot be built over. In this country we are not protected in that way, and this Amendment will go a little in the direction of preserving the surroundings.

I hope, also, that my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr), his surroundings as well as his fabric, will be suitably preserved by this Amendment.

Photo of Mr Jasper More Mr Jasper More , Ludlow

I also should like to support this Amendment and to add my regret to what my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) has already said, that it could not be in slightly wider terms. I always feel that in this country we do not quite do ourselves justice as regards gardens. It is not often that any nation can claim to have made one absolutely original contribution to any form of art, but I think that we can claim to have invented the landscape garden; it was William Kent, who left the fence and saw all nature as a garden.

Looking at the term of the Amendment, restricted as it is, I think we must see that there may be certain difficulties in applying it as widely as we would wish. The sort of situation which could face us is that of the historic and beautiful garden not really attached to any building. My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) will probably know the famous garden in Yorkshire where—

Photo of Sir Harry Hylton-Foster Sir Harry Hylton-Foster , Cities of London and Westminster

Order. That would clearly be outwith the scope of the Money Resolution, and, therefore, it would not be in order to discuss it now.

Photo of Mr Jasper More Mr Jasper More , Ludlow

I apologise, Sir William.

I will come directly to the question of gardens which are attached to buildings. I would instance the importance of maintaining garden's in connection with the famous gardens of Powis Castle, close to Where I live. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) so rightly said, there can be much more to a garden than the mere lawns, grass, flowers, and so on. Some gardens, even in this country, though perhaps not so much as an Italy, are great works of architecture. Anybody who has been to Powis Castle will remember the great terraces at different levels, all of which are themselves great works of building, and if anything went wrong very large sums would be needed to keep them in their proper state. I am therefore very glad to add my support to the Amendment, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West has rightly said, a building cannot be seen in its true character unless it also has its true setting. I am sure that that is what all of us here would like to preserve.

Photo of Mr Edward Gardner Mr Edward Gardner , Billericay

I support the Amendment, for two reasons. The first reason is a very obvious one, namely that a garden is an integral and delightful part of any house that it graces. Some of these old buildings are priceless jewels of architecture. Any jewel needs a proper setting. Many people think that the wonderful gardens which go with some of these houses are as much a joy to visit as the houses themselves.

The second reason why I support the Amendment is that, without desiring for a moment to start What my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinham, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) has called a lawyer's quibble, I very much doubt whether he is right in his optimism in thinking that the courts would interpret "building" in the context of the Bill as including the garden. Therefore, not only do I think that there as a doubt, but I think that there is a very grave doubt. It is right that the Committee should remove the doubt finally, so far as it can, by the Amendment.

Finally, on Second Reading we heard much about the expense of keeping these old buildings in repair. Anyone who has the smallest garden and who is unable for one reason or another to attend to all the needs of his garden himself, will readily appreciate the growing and, if it is a large garden, the sometimes serious expense of keeping it going. The people who have these large houses and who are unable out of their own pockets to keep the structure in proper repair might well find equal difficulty in keeping the garden in a proper state of cultivation. Because of the way in which the garden is a partner of the house, one resting and leaning for its effect on the other, I ask the Committee to give full support to the Amendment.

12.45 p.m.

Photo of Dr Alan Glyn Dr Alan Glyn , Wandsworth Clapham

I am sure that we are all grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) for raising this matter in Standing Committee and thereby doing a great service to the Bill and improving it. The Bill without the Amendment would apply to the fixtures and fittings of a garden— that is to say, the houses and architectural things—but I agree with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) that it would not have included gardens attached to the curtilage of the property.

I am rather concerned about one point. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to clear this up. The Amendment says that a local authority at the time of making a contribution towards the expenses of the repair or maintenance of a building may also … contribute towards the expenses incurred or to be incurred in the upkeep of any garden…. If a local authority makes a grant for a house at one period, could it at a later date make an extra grant for the garden? There are many reasons why the owner might require a grant to enable the building to be preserved, although he might be able to afford to keep up the garden for a number of years. Ten years later he might find that he required some economic support to repair or maintain the garden. I hope that this drafting would not exclude that possibility.

Further, there seems to be no tie-up. As long as the building is a historic building, a very small sum of money could be spent on the building and a very large sum spent on the garden. By that method it would be possible to bring within the compass of the Bill a house which was in reasonably good state of repair but which had a garden which needed maintaining. I believe that under the Amendment a local authority could say to the owner of a very large and beautiful house which he was quite capable of maintaining, "We will give you a token grant for the upkeep of the house but a very large grant for the upkeep of the garden attached to your house".

I want to take up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), who asked whether this would include lending equipment and possibly labour. If a local authority already had a large number of gardens to maintain, it might be more economical for it to say to an owner, "Rather than give you £20,000 to maintain your garden, we will be very pleased to lend you the labour and the equipment," and perhaps the bulbs, etc., to be put into the garden. This would reduce the cost of the work to the ratepayer. I should be grateful if my hon. Friend would clear up these small points.

Photo of Sir Ronald Bell Sir Ronald Bell , Buckinghamshire South

Before my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary answers the various points put to him, I should like to add one question to which I hope he knows the answer. I have not given him any notice of it. What is the position under Section 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, which is referred to in Clause 1? Does the list include gardens which are appurtenant to houses? This is rather relevant to the point we are considering. My impression is that it does. What we are doing is in the nature of a tidying up operation. If we did not do it, it would lead to much complication and difficulty. I apologise for not giving my hon. Friend notice of this horribly specific question. I can but hope that he will be able to give me some indication of what the answer to it is.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

I am quite sure that every member of the Committee would desire to express their thanks to the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) for the legal advice he has given us this morning. I notice that the Parliamentary Secretary is in touch with the representative of the Whip's Department. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary has suggested to that gentleman that the next time there is a vacancy in one of the Law Offices of the Crown the service rendered to the Committee this morning by the hon. Member should be remembered in his favour. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."

I have been a little perturbed by the line adopted on the Amendment by some bon. Members. One of the things which I have had to meet from time to time is the suggestion that this kind of thing is a form of outdoor relief to the nobility, and some of the less wealthy members of what used to be the aristocracy. We must make it quite clear. This is not a Bill to supplement the incomes of land owners. The Bill is concerned with the preservation of buildings and, if the Amendment is inserted, gardens of historic or architectural interest. That will be the consideration in the mind of the local authority when considering whether a grant should be made.

This is not a way of helping out the proprietor of a big house when he has fallen on bad times when there has been a run on the Stock Exchange and he has not managed to capture those things that rise spectacularly in value the day after. If it is once suspected that this is a means of providing outdoor relief for people in the classes which I have indicated, the Committee can rest assured that popular enthusiasm for this form of public activity will wane rapidly.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Norwich South

Again, we have had an interesting discussion. I do not think that grave difficulties will arise about the implementation of this provision. In Committee, I made somewhat discouraging noises to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) about extending the scope of the Bill, but I must get myself quickly on-side and say that I, like everyone else, capitulated to his eloquence and the strength of his argument.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) did not do justice to his Amendment when he said that it had very limited scope. The Amendment will enable local authorities to give assistance in the vast majority of cases with which we are concerned. There is the difficulty that the scope of the Bill makes it impossible to provide grant towards the cost of a garden as such unless a contribution is also made for the building.

As we pointed out on Second Reading, however, the definition of "building" in Clause 1 (3) is very wide, as follows: building' includes any structure or erection and any part of a building as so defined". It has been clear from the outset, therefore, that there was a power to contribute to the repair of ornamental features, statues and even boundary walls.

I should not like to enter into too detailed a discussion about the legal interpretation that might be given by the courts if ever these matters came before them, but it may be that my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) is right in saying that if a contribution could be made for the boundary which will be a building for the purposes of the Act, a contribution could then be made to the garden.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) raised two interesting points of interpretation. I think that the contribution must be made at the time of the making of the contribution for the building. This is not, in practice, likely to cause difficulty, because a nominal contribution of, say, £1 could be made for the building and whatever was necessary could be given as a contribution for the upkeep of the garden. There is no reason why there should not be a small contribution for the building and a large contribution for the garden. All that was ever out of the Bill was the upkeep of the gardens as such. Now, of course, provision will be able to be made for this.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West, asked whether the local authority, instead of giving a grant or loan, could provide labour or bulbs. There might be difficulty about that. The local authority could, of course, give the occupier the money to hire the bulbs or arrange for the hire of the local authority's equipment. It may be that this could be dealt with in appropriate cases by a suitable arrangement of that kind. I think, therefore, that this will be a useful Amendment to the Bill and will go a long way towards meeting the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge.

Photo of Dr Alan Glyn Dr Alan Glyn , Wandsworth Clapham

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's answer. Would I be correct in saying that in the case of an historic building and a garden, it will be possible under the Amendment, by fiction of law, to maintain the garden by giving a. very small payment for the building?

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Norwich South

If I can avoid it, I never like to refer to a fiction of the law. Under the law as I hope it will be operative when the Bill is passed, it will be quite possible for a local authority to make a contribution to the garden in the way I have suggested.

1 p.m.

My hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) asked a question about the provisions of Section 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, which refers to lists of buildings of special architectural or historic interest. It does not specifically refer to gardens. I should have thought that in that context my hon. Friend was right in what he said about a garden normally being included in the building. The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) paid a proper tribute to my hon. Friend for his expertise in drafting. We cam, no doubt, make sure about these matters before the Bill finally goes on to the Statute Book.

The real distinction is between the provision that was originally in the Bill and the provision in Section 4 of the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act, 1953, which made specific provision for grants for the preservation of historic buildings, their contents and adjoining land. That was the object of the Amendment by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge in Committee, that we should bring the Bill into line with the provisions of the earlier Act.

Amendment agreed to.

Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.