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.

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Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West 12:00 am, 1st June 1962

I beg to move, in page 2, line 3 at the end to insert: (3) A local authority may require as a condition of the making by them of a contribution under this section by way of grant towards the expenses of the repair or maintenance or upkeep of any property that the person to whom the grant is made shall enter into an agreement with them for the purpose of enabling the public to have access to the property or part thereof during such period and at such times as the agreement may provide.

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

It might be convenient if we discuss with this Amendment the Amendment in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), in page 2, line 3, at the end to insert: (3) A contribution under this section may be made subject to conditions imposed by the local authority for the purpose of securing public access to the whole or part of the property to which the contribution relates and of giving public notice of such right of access.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

This Amendment, like the new Clause we have been discussing, is designed to meet a point raised in Committee by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). I hope that the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), who substitutes today for the hon. and learned Member—his father figure—will be able to treat this Amendment in the same spirit.

The hon. and learned Member thought that it would be wrong if guidance given to local authorities made them feel that they had to impose conditions of access on owners of houses. The Amendment moved in Committee, which was in similar terms to the one which you, Mr. Speaker, have said we may discuss with this Amendment, was also permissive. At an early stage of the Bill it was felt that local authorities could impose any conditions they thought fit whether we wrote something into the Bill or not. However that may be, everyone will feel that there might be public access which would be inappropriate and that is why these powers should be made permissive.

I agree with the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that we do not want to give the impression that we are dealing with some property such as Castle Howard. This is designed to deal with small buildings, sometimes with houses whose facades are their only interesting features. In such cases it would seem rather stupid that there should he public access to the inside of the house. There will be cases where it would be inappropriate to have access to the interior.

The Amendment allows a local authority to enter into an agreement enabling the authority to recover the amount of the grant in the event of a breach of that agreement. There was general agreement in the Standing Committee that it was right that public access should ordinarily be secured if a grant was made from public funds, although, as I have said, there will be exceptions.

The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering provides that a contribution may be made subject to conditions to be imposed by the local authority. That raises the difficult question of penalties and enforcements. I do not know how one could enforce such a condition, and I prefer that the owner and the authority should enter into an agreement, so that there is a clear breach of contract if the access conditions are not complied with.

Conditions of access would, if imposed, vary widely according to the type of house and the circumstances of the case. My Amendment does not compel an authority to make such a condition, nor does it lay down the sort of condition that a local authority ought to impose. I hope that hon. Members will see the Amendment as an attempt to meet what was said by the hon. and learned Gentleman in Committee, and agree that, in appropriate cases, owner and council may enter into an agreement, subject to suitable conditions.

Photo of Dr Alan Glyn Dr Alan Glyn , Wandsworth Clapham

This is another Amendment that improves the Bill. It contains what have been described as permissive powers as to access. I do not think that a local authority will often require to impose such conditions because, as the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) has said, the property concerned is much more likely to be a small property—the single house. It is right to make the imposing of access conditions permissive; if the owner does not wish to avail himself of the money he does not need to have people going through his house. The Amendment makes sure that there is no loophole for people to get money and give nothing in return.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

This rather prosaic Amendment marks the climax of a very dramatic passage in the Standing Committee, when the whole nation was thrilled at the idea of seeing the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) in his bath [HON. MEMBERS: "He's not here."] Then that may well be where he is; I do not know his habits as well as do hon. Members opposite.

The Amendment does not necessarily mean that people will have a right to burst into a person's house regardless of privacy. The practice of the Historic Buildings Council when arranging these things is to vary the degree of accessibility according to the nature of the house and the amount of public interest there is in it. It is only reasonable that if ratepayer's money is to be spent on a private house of some architectural or historic interest, the public should have the right to see what that matter of public interest is. Whether visiting is by appointment, or on certain days of the week, or at certain times of the day, is a matter for arrangement.

Again, as the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) hinted, I have been briefed on this matter. I am authorised to say that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), having produced several Amendments on this matter, is prepared to agree that this Amendment represents a praiseworthy attempt to meet him.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Norwich South

For the reasons put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon), I hope that the House will accept the Amendment. It may be that even if the Amendment were not included in the Bill, local authorities would have power to enter into an agreement of the kind suggested. I believe that the Historic Buildings Council has dealt with such matters by letter, which is by far the best way of doing it. It might not be appropriate in every case, but it is useful that the Bill should itself indicate to local authorities that, in certain cases, it will be appropriate for them to enter into this kind of agreement.

Amendment agreed to.

1.56 p.m.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

It is a fortunate private Member who has an opportunity of getting his Bill as far as the Third Reading, and I should like to thank the whole House for its sympathetic treatment of this modest Measure. My prime thanks, of course, are due to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and to his advisers for their constant help and advice. I am also very grateful to all members of the Standing Committee who gave the Bill such a thorough examination and friendly reception. We would all agree, I am sure, that the work of that Committee has resulted in the Bill being improved.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), who has told me that he is prevented from attending today because of a long-standing engagement, has worked exhaustively on this Bill, and most of our debates today have resulted from his energy in that respect. I am grateful to him. I am sure, too, that all members of the Standing Committee would wish me to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Sir H. Butcher) for the way in which he presided over our deliberations.

The primary purpose of the Bill is to remove uncertainties about the law relating to historic buildings, and to allow local authorities to make contributions towards their preservation. It is indisputable that many fine properties fall into disrepair, and there are insufficient funds in the hands of the Historic Buildings Council to do the necessary work. I should have said earlier that the Report of the Council refers to the work of local authorities in this sphere.

There will always be some local authorities with little interest in giving the grants envisaged in this Measure, but I hope that there will be others who, in happy contrast, are keen and anxious to help. I hope that some of the small authorities—urban district councils and rural district councils, far example—who have this power given to them for the first time, will prove themselves keen to save some of our buildings of architectural and historic interest in their own areas. There will always be buildings of particularly local interest, and perhaps the local authorities concerned will show anxiety to preserve them.

My own personal view is that Clause 1, as drafted, is about right—I have been through it at some length this morning—but I think that the whale House will be grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for indicating that it will be administered as liberally as possible. I hope that I express his views accurately when I say that, in the exceptional case, a local authority will have to put forward some really outrageous grant proposal before the Minister refuses to consent to it giving a grant to a house that does not appear on the statutory list, as referred to in Clause 1 (1, b). Clause 1 (1, a) provides that if the building is on the statutory list it is prima facie an indication that it is worth preserving, so that my Bill naturally covers it.

At the present moment, county and borough councils already have statutory power to deal with this problem although, as I said on Second Reading, I think that some of them do not realise that those powers exist. They in fact have powers under existing legislation to make these grants towards the maintaining and preserving of ancient monuments. Under existing legislation the provisions are complicated and obscure and give rise to difficulties because of all sorts of things, such as reference to the Ancient Monuments Board.

It has been thought, notably by the Estimates Committee, that there is great need for local authorities further to interest themselves in this matter. The Historic Buildings Council may be able to concern itself with buildings that are outstanding, but many people believe that there are places of great interest which would not qualify as being "outstanding" but which should be thought of as being of great historic interest. Therefore, up to the present, there has been a gap in our law and I hope that my modest Bill will go a small way towards bridging it.

I was pleased to see a short leader in Country Life last week indicating that people interested in this subject approved of the Bill. The Measure is a small and modest step to preserve a few more of our ancient buildings and, as the Gowers Report pointed out, it will help to save our great national heritage. I cannot pretend, even with the Amendments that have been made, that it will go all the way towards doing that, but I think the whole House, if it decides to give the Bill its Third Reading, will be taking a small but significant step along the road towards preserving the amenities of our fine buildings, and that should be the interest and care of every hon. Member.

2.2 p.m.

Photo of Sir Hamilton Kerr Sir Hamilton Kerr , Cambridge

On Second Reading, I complimented my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) and expressed the hope that, as the youngest hon. Member in the House, he would, many, many years from now, in a ripe and rubicund middle age, be able to look back at this Bill as being one of the happiest moments he spent in Parliament.

As we are reaching the completion of the Bill's Third Reading, may I now extend his expectation of life a little further? I wish to imagine him, in the autumn of the year 2,000, in a tall and panelled library, turning the pages of his scrap book which is filled with photographs and newspaper cuttings. I like to imagine my hon. Friend surrounded by a veritable hedge of grandchildren. When one of them asks "Grandfather Paul, which was the happiest time of your life in Parliament?" my hon. Friend will be able to say "1st June, 1962, when my Bill received its Third Reading."

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

May I say that, even so, I will not have served in the House for anything like as long as some hon. Members, particularly the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede).

Photo of Sir Hamilton Kerr Sir Hamilton Kerr , Cambridge

The hon. Member for Southend, West is in the living form an expression of the truth "Guinness is good for you." I was glad that my hon. Friend was able to include in his Bill the Clause dealing with gardens. All of us who prize and treasure the history and beauties of' our land realise that so often in the past the garden was placed like a frame around a picture and was very much a part of a house.

I like to think of the terraces of some of our great houses, like Brandshill, from which, on a May or June evening, come the sounds of madrigals by Byrd or Tallis, or of the dramatic arrival of an emissary arriving from London to say that Lord Burleigh's spies in Cadiz had seen a forest of masts which the Spaniards called "the enterprise of England".

I like to think of the eighteenth century types of garden which will now be preserved and of the young man back from a grand tour of the Continent and planning his garden with "Capability" Brown, with a temple dedicated to the mures, or a statue found on a Tuscan hillside. Today is the beginning of a good movement; the appreciation of the arts in England.

I would like to recall an enchanting story told about that great wit and hostess, Madame de Deffard, in the eighteenth century, having listened to a story told by the Bishop of Paris; the story told of how, after he was beheaded, St. Denis was able to put his head under his arm and walk for three miles. "Ah, Monseigneur," Madame de Deffard replied, "the first step is always the one that counts."

Today is the first step. On Second Reading, many hon. Members called attention to the unique advantages enjoyed by this country, derived from two main assets. They were, first and foremost, the fact that we have been lucky enough not to be invaded for a great period of time. Apart from the bombardments of the last war, the last time we saw war was when John Churchill and the troops of James II scattered the terrified West Country peasants at Sedgemoor. We also recall when Bonnie Prince Charlie was persuaded to turn back at the bridge at Melbourn and the long retreat began, ending in the charge of the clans at Culloden.

We have been able to maintain our treasures because we have been blessed by the presence of a great number of collectors, men of taste. One thinks of the collection of Charles I, which was dispersed by Oliver Cromwell, or the collection of the Walpole family, which caught the greedy eyes of Catherine the Great of Russia. We must confess that up to now we have not cared sufficiently for our national treasures as much as have our neighbours across the Channel in Europe.

If one goes to Germany, and takes a seat in a concert hall in Hamburg, one learns with amazement that the town of Hamburg spends as much in one year on the arts as is spent on them for the whale of Britain. France is a superb example of patronage. If one goes to France one learns that the central and local authorities contribute great sums of money to the arts—at Versailles, for instance. In French embassies one finds, sustained by the munificence of the State, perfect examples of French life and culture.

These aspects are very important. Even when France was militarily defeated, when German tanks penetrated deep into its countryside and when the German long-range guns at Cape Gris Nez pointed across the Channel at their former allies, the prestige of France always survived in the sphere of the arts, because she had always concentrated on this aspect of her national life.

So I return to the points raised by the hon. Member for Southend, West. As the Bill has passed through its stages, it has given another opportunity to our local authorities to look after our national art treasures. The 1948 Act has never been fully implemented—the power given to local authorities to raise a 6d. rate for cultural purposes. I hope that my hon. Friend's Measure, which is now receiving its sanction, will encourage local authorities to use their powers more adequately than under the 1948 Act.

I also return to my picture of the hon. Member for Southend, West in his oak-panelled library in the yeas 2,000. I hope that as a result of this Measure his scrapbook will show the second half of the twentieth century as a period in which a move towards the preservation of our national treasures was begun so that the heritage of this island is maintained. Perhaps an American tourist arriving from Idlewild Airport—probably, by that time, having made the journey in 20 minutes—to London Airport will find himself facing a London and a countryside built up with modern materials and in modern idiom, but giving, at the same time, as much pleasure as London and the countryside must have given in previous centuries.

I think of the Georgian squares and Regency terraces which delight everyone today and I hope that, as a result of the renewed interest in these matters which the Bill creates, the new roads we build will not discredit "Capability" Brown and that the planning of our modern cities and the articles used in their construction will give the same pleasure as did Bath or Dublin in the eighteenth century.

And so, when my hon. Friend is asked by one of his numerous grandchildren in the year 2,000 what gave him the most pleasure, he will be able to say that it was the Bill, which is shortly to become an Act. Perhaps with the slight privilege granted by age which permits us to lecture the young, my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West will be able to say, in the words of the Greek proverb, "Well begun is heartily done."

2.10 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Worsley Mr William Worsley , Keighley

I should like to add to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) and to express my congratulations to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on promoting and steering this Bill through its various stages.

I thought that the reference by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge to the charming library scene must have caused a little alarm in the breast of my right hon. Friend—I beg pardon, my hon. Friend—the Member for Southend, West. It is all very well for an unmarried man to be threatened with children, but the prospect of grandchildren might cause him to step back from the brink altogether.

My hon. Friend has promoted and steered his Bill through the various stages with great deference to the different points of view put forward in various quarters, and the skill which he as shown has perhaps made my slip of the tongue a moment ago not altogether so improbable for the future.

Before we part with the Bill I should like to say one or two things about it. My first comment is one which I raised on Second Reading. I hope that if my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary intervenes he will be able to clear up one matter and state the precise authorities that will be authorised to make the grants. What I particularly wish to know is whether the council of a non-county borough is specifically included in the Bill or not. The definition Clause talks about a county, county borough, metropolitan borough or county district … I think that it will often be the case that a non-county borough will wish to make this type of grant.

The right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) today emphasised—and I am sure he is absolutely right—that this is not a matter of increasing the income of landowners. I think there is a great dead in what he says, because I do not believe that the use made of this Bill will apply so much to the type of stately home which has been mentioned from time to time by hon. Members. There are, of course, important houses to which it would be suitable and appropriate for a local authority to contribute, but the point surely is that we already have in the Historic Buildings Council machinery for helping that sort of house.

There may be room for an additional grant, and I think that will happen. There may be occasions when there is a combined effort involving some voluntary or local authority help and help from the Historic Buildings Council. Even so, I do not believe that the real value of this Bill will apply in that sort of case. After all, there are, in every locality, a number of buildings, which are of local importance but not of national outstanding importance. These buildings at the moment are completely outside the scope of the Historic Buildings Council. They are buildings which it would be improper for the Historic Buildings Council to try to help. They are, however, buildings which a prudent and far-sighted local authority might, and now can, help. This must apply particularly in the areas of Britain which are less rich in stately homes and famous buildings of one sort and another.

I am thinking particularly of the industrial areas of the North. There are few buildings of national importance there. Lest I should be thought to be merely parochial in my interest, perhaps I can refer to the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) earlier today when he talked about the ancient factories in his part of Gloucestershire. They are buildings which are manifestly not of outstanding national importance, yet in their local setting they are of great importance. That is why I feel that the value of this Bill is much more likely to be found in the local scene than in connection with buildings of outstanding national importance.

On Second Reading I referred to what I described as the "spiky" Victorian town hall. I was very sorry that in the subsequent debate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner), who has now unfortunately had to leave us, made some deplorable slighting references to Victorian buildings in general. I thought that such remarks, coming from a gentleman who is such a monument of the Victorian Law Courts and of this Victorian building, were deplorable. Strangely enough, he referred to a northern town hall in a slighting way. He said that when he was living in that town it had been burned to the ground and that subsequently nobody cared except that they could not see the clock any more. The curious thing is that in my constituency of Keighley this very thing has happened since I addressed the House on Second Reading. The principal building in the centre of the town has, indeed, been destroyed by fire, and the greatest sorrow for most people has been the absence of the clock, for which everybody looks expecting to see what the time is, even three or four weeks after the disaster.

A more timorous mortal than I might think that any remarks in favour of Victorian architecture were in some way damned by higher authority. I am not going to be put off by this apparent ill omen because I feel that there is in the towns of the industrial North a tremendous amount of this type of architecture which is essential to the character of those towns, and that there is a great danger that with the present trend of central development—and a very excellent trend it is—we shall lose some of these fine Victorian buildings which give character to the centres of some of our towns.

I am glad to know that in many cases there is appreciation of these buildings locally. While I am straying a little wide, may I mention the town of Rochdale which has an exceptionally fine town hall and is, I understand, developing consciously round it, keeping it as the centrepiece to a very exciting redevelopment scheme.

It is not precisely town halls that this Bill will affect because clearly the town hall in most cases is the property of the local authority. It is the Victorian building which is not in the ownership of the local authority but which has a commanding position in the town which we shall find can be used by a forward-looking, intelligent and sympathetic authority through the machinery of this Bill. It is certainly my hope—and here I am echoing the sentiments of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge—that this may be the beginning of part of the gradual development of a greater appreciation of precisely the sort of setting which we have, not only in our famous cities, but in our industrial towns.

I should like to sound one note of warning. I wonder whether the lists of the Ministry include the finer, later buildings. I am talking particularly of Victorian buildings and perhaps later buildings as well. The hon. and learned Member for Billericay talked about the changing taste of the people. Is provision for this changing taste to be reflected in these lists? I think that is a matter of importance. It is important that we should be constantly looking in the years ahead at those lists to make sure that if there are buildings which at the current moment are regarded as of no importance but which are held to be so later on they can be added to the list. I should appreciate it if the Parliamentary Secretary would say a word or two about this, and if he would tell us whether buildings which are unfashionable at the moment will be listed. I know that his Department has not the power or authority to say that they should necessarily be preserved. It is not only the buildings which are obviously ancient that should be listed but also buildings that are fine without necessarily being old. I am sure that this is this type of building that must be preserved in many areas.

I very much welcome the Bill. It is the sort of Bill that can either go by without very much action being taken or it can be used widely throughout the country in part of an endeavour to preserve and improve the amenities of this country. I hope that the latter will prove to be the case and that this Bill will be an important step in that direction.

2.23 p.m.

Photo of Mr Albert Hunter Mr Albert Hunter , Feltham

I want briefly to support the Motion and to congratulate the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on introducing and guiding this Bill to its Third Reading. It is to the credit of this House that the youngest Member should show such an interest in the historic and cultural assets of this country. I feel that the Bill is wanted today, and that it will assist the local authorities in this matter.

I was very glad to see the Amendment accepted which preserved grounds and gardens of historic buildings, because those grounds and gardens may in certain circumstances be even more valuable than the buildings themselves. If one can imagine Hampton Court House being maintained but with the grounds and gardens not receiving the same treatment one can see how the great beauty and attraction of Hampton Count Palace would suffer. I feel, therefore, that we have strengthened the Bill.

The Bill gives a great chance to local authorities. I do not think that there is any other country in the world that had finer buildings than those of the Elizabethan and Tudor period or the Middle Ages. These historic buildings enable us to record the history and the social life of this country. The Bill will give local authorities the opportunity of preserving the historic cultural assets of this country which are so important to the nation. It therefore gives me much pleasure to support the Third Reading.

2.25 p.m.

Photo of Dr Alan Glyn Dr Alan Glyn , Wandsworth Clapham

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on this excellent Bill. I am reminded of a previous occasion when he first came to the House and made a very brilliant speech on Cyprus. I can only say that the skill with which he made that speech has been applied in the course of this Bill. I think that he has met our wishes at every stage and that in so doing he has improved the Bill very considerably.

By this small but important Measure we shall be able to preserve many buildings which, although of historic interest, have not, up to now, been able to benefit from any grant from a public body or authority. The great danger of the Bill not receiving popular support was mentioned by the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who thought that it might be regarded as an attempt to subsidise a certain type of person.

I am sure that that has been demolished in two ways, first, by the provision put in for the repayment of loans under various conditions which local authorities are able to impose, and, secondly, by the appropriate condition of access which has also been introduced into the Bill. With these two safeguards, I do not think that anyone can suggest that the Bill will benefit the individual to the same extent that it will benefit the community and our heritage in the preservation of these buildings.

As I see it, the Bill fills a very real gap. Large and important buildings and historic monuments have been able to benefit by other means, but the small but equally important and interesting building has escaped any form of financial aid from public authorities. I was very interested to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say—I think I heard him right—that any application which was made by a local authority would be very reasonably considered.

I am glad that we have been able to write into the Bill some form of check by the central authority. I believe that it has at its disposal the technical experts who are so necessary before any grant is made for some of these ancient buildings. It is well known that when one starts to make a small alteration or improvement on these buildings, it may be found that there is an enormous amount of dry rot and that the amount one intended to spend is very greatly exceeded. Now a local authority will be compelled to go to the Ministry to get its advice, and I know that the Ministry will give every possible assistance to the local authority from the knowledge which it has been able to accumulate over many years.

I notice that the Bill will apparently apply to almost any article of historic interest, even, I understand, to buses. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West said earlier that it was extremely comprehensive. I have an interest in this, because we have a very fine museum in my constituency and I have seen how very much public pleasure can be given by a museum which preserves things of that kind.

My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) mentioned Victorian buildings. This is very relevant. If we plan to preserve buildings we have to have a forward-looking atttitude because although there may be people who dislike Victorian architecture now, if we do not preserve some of it there will be nothing for posterity to enjoy. I believe that the Bill will help in the case of isolated individual small properties, and in preserving some of the Georgian houses and Victorian monuments which up to the present have not been helped in any way. I am sure that this will result in the smaller type of building being preserved for all time.

It was interested in the question of extending the Bill in respect of gardens and I am sure that the House will be indebted to my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) for the service which he has given in introducing that Amendment. I was interested in what my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said. If there is a property with a garden, we shall be able to give a small grant to the building and extend that to the garden, thereby preserving what may be the most important and attractive part of the whole property.

I hope that the local authorities will, if the Bill becomes law, take the opportunity under its provisions of ensuring that buildings of historic interest both locally and nationally are preserved with their help. In this way, thanks to this very important Measure which my hon. Friend has introduced, we shall be able to preserve for all time many historic monuments and buildings which posterity may enjoy.

2.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Ede Mr James Ede , South Shields

Britain, and particularly England, is not a museum. It is the home of a living and developing people who have a great history and who, with a bit of luck, may have a tremendous future. It would be wrong for me at this stage to indicate which is the quickest way to secure the latter end.

I join in congratulating the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on the courtesy and ability with which he has conducted the Bill through the House. Although our discussions have been long and detailed, we may now finish with the Bill feeling that the public interest has been vindicated in it.

It is important that we should realise that our nation's success depends upon having a close-knit community in which people of every class have an active part in the life of the community. Sir Charles Trevelyan said that, if the nobility of France had played cricket with their peasants, their chateaux would never have been burned down.

That is one of the clearest examples of the way in which our national characteristic has enabled us to preserve a sense of unity through the ages. There have been times when it has been difficult to maintain that sense of unity, and I hope that this Measure will be one of the ways by which the present generation will be enabled to realise the circumstances in which previous generations lived and the way in which the country has been developed.

I am not much interested in the preservation of great houses in which nobody has ever eaten a hot dinner. I see too many of them, and I marvel that they were ever allowed to remain. I have no great admiration for Vanbrugh. I think that to live in a Vanbrugh house must be to condemn oneself to a living death. I would as soon go to the other place.

The local authorities have in the Bill an opportunity of realising this sense of community and preserving it for coming generations in circumstances that will enable it steadily to adapt itself to the changing requirements of times and seasons. It will be a great pity if the Bill is used merely to resist necessary improvements on the ground that we have to preserve something just because it is old. As has been said several times today, I arm the only person among those at present in the Chamber who can really say that with sincerity. Antiquity has no value unless it has a reality in the life of the community in which it happens to be stranded, even if not preserved.

I hope that the local authorities will try to use the Bill so that the history of the place for which they are responsible will be a living thing, so that children in the streets and in the schools will be able to feel that about them are the places where men, women and children lived, fought and acted in the great days of our country's history. It is shocking sometimes to see the way in which people are quite rootless because they have never taken the trouble to get grounded into the place in which they live, carry on their business, or, perhaps, merely sleep at night prior to catching an early train in the morning to go back to some city with which they have little connection.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government will have to deal with those buildings which have not yet been listed When they attract local interest and a desire to see them properly treated and preserved. I welcome the way in which the hon. Gentleman approached that matter. I am sure that he will see that sufficient attention is given to the wish of the local authority itself. The mere fact that a body of people elected for sanitary purposes has been persuaded to give some thought to the subject should in itself be a recommendation not to be lightly ignored by the Minister. If we can be assured, as we have been assured by the Parliamentary Secretary this morning, that their views will be fairly and consciously considered by the Ministry, it will be possible to use the Bill for the improvement of the social unity of towns and districts in this country.

I particularly welcome what was said by the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) about the preservation, on occasion, of some of the reminders of the past industry of a district. It is a matter of great regret to us on the Historic Buildings Council that, when the last of the weaver's cottages of Spitalfields were under consideration, we were unable to preserve any of them, for they showed something not only of the industry but also of the great liberal tradition of the past. Could a couple of those cottages have been retained in a place which would become an open space, they would have been of great value in the social history of that district and would have enabled many people to get come conception of the way in which their ancestors lived and behaved in previous ages.

2.39 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

I join the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) in supporting the Third Reading of the Bill. I am sorry that he passed such strictures on Sir John Vanbrugh's work. We have an example of it in Bristol. The stables were turned into a police station and the house is to become a school of architecture.

This is a very modest Bill and, unless it is liberally interpreted by those who will be responsible for its operation, its effect will be very modest. But if local authorities interpret the spirit as well as the letter of the law which we are hoping to make, it will have some beneficial effect.

I am rather doubtful about the loan provisions which were written in during the Committee stage. I feel that owners will be a little hesitant in mortgaging themselves to the local authority and, perhaps, to have just another burden hanging over their heads. Surely a straight, once-and-for-all grant would be much better. There is another way in which local authorities can help under the Bill, and that is by the remission of rates. Even if they cannot do that as a straight action, they could make an annual grant equal to the rates. That seems to me an easy way to make a steady contribution to the upkeep of any building, large or small. I agree with what the right hon. Member for South Shields said about great houses. Of course, they must be preserved, but they are covered by other Measure's. This Bill, when, as I hope, it becomes an Act, will deal with smaller places.

We have heard a certain amount of discussion about the way in which the Minister will be able to control the operation of this Measure, and we were told that the bowler-hatted inspectors were a good thing, on the one hand, and that the bearded antiquaries, on the other, could help. I have had my fill of both sorts visiting my own house in the country, and I sometimes get heartily sick of the flood of advice which I get. I hope that a happy balance will be found by my right hon. Friend when giving his help and advice.

Let no one think that, if we pass the Bill, people will be enabled to live in comfort and luxury in grand houses because of what it does. I think that no one in this day and age lives in comfort and luxury in any ancient house. It just is not possible. What we have to try to do is to persuade as many people as possible to go on living in discomfort in these buildings. I am sure that it would not be the will of the House as a whole merely to preserve buildings as buildings. It would not be worth while to say that every historic building should be preserved for ever, if that could happen by magic, if all the people and life which goes on around them were removed. I am not particularly interested in museum houses.

I am glad that the Bill leaves the matter of public access as one for special arrangement between the person who benefits and the local authority which makes the contribution. I see the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) looking at me with some amusement. He talked about historic bathroom ceilings, and so on. The only result of his reference to that matter in Committee is that a great many people have wanted to see my most unhistoric bathroom. This has been very inconvenient for me and extremely disappointing for them. I am glad that this business of public access, which should be reasonable, is left to the individual concerned and the local authority to agree between themselves.

I should like once again to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on introducing the Bill and to say that I heartily support its Third Reading.

2.45 p.m.

Photo of Sir Eric Fletcher Sir Eric Fletcher , Islington East

I should not like the House to part with the Bill without my having the opportunity of saying a few words and, in particular, of adding my congratulations to those of other hon. Members to the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) on the skill, consideration and ability with which he has piloted it through its various stages. I listened to a great deal of the Second Reading debate and I have read the whole of the proceedings in Committee. I cordially congratulate the hon. Member on his efforts and commend the Bill to hon. Members.

I, too, sometimes hear criticisms that, in our propaganda to encourage the tourist trade, too much emphasis is placed on our architectural monuments of national interest and similar picturesque attractions. I do not believe that that criticism is altogether well founded. I do not regard proper concern for the maintenance and repair of buildings of historic and architectural interest as being in any way a sign of national decadence. On the contrary, I think that such concern is a worthy and necessary activity of any civilised society, particularly one such as ours, which is so rich in a variety of historic monuments of so many kinds which go back through the ages. Nor do I think that concern for the historic treasures of our past and a proper regard for our national heritage are in any way inconsistent with an economic policy of industrial expansion. At the same time, I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) that in considering the preservation of any monument we must have a sense of proportion. I do not believe in preservation merely for its own sake. As we have heard, we must have regard to grouping, to community interest and to the sense of continuity.

I suppose that nothing has produced such a unique appeal to the people of this country as the recent consecration of the new Coventry Cathedral in juxtaposition to the ruins of the Coventry Cathedral of the Middle Ages, which will, no doubt, be preserved for all time. Here is an example, perhaps unique—certainly modern and certainly typical—of the grouping of an old building of great antiquity and great historic interest with something supremely modern and new. This goes to encourage, enhance and inspire us with a sense of the continuity of our national history and heritage.

I welcome the Bill if for no other reason than that I have for a long time been pleading for greater co-ordination of effort on the part of all concerned with the preservation of ancient monuments and buildings of architectural and historic interest. I have been urging that there should be more co-ordination between the Treasury, the Ministry of Works, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and other bodies concerned with this task. I am therefore particularly grateful that, by the Bill, local authorities will be brought into this activity, and I rejoice that, as a result of the Bill, responsibility in this activity will be widened. I am sure that, with the notable example which has been so obvious in recent years by the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and such organisations as the Historic Buildings Council for England, on which my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields sits, their activities will now pervade the interests and activities of local authorities and will in that way provide, I hope, a greater measure of co-ordination so that there may be a combined and united effort in achieving the purpose which we all wish to achieve.

2.49 p.m.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Rippon Mr Geoffrey Rippon , Norwich South

We have been doing our best during the passage of the Bill to help the preservation of the landmarks of our history in a way in which hon. Members on both sides have wished. My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) is in good compay in his appreciation of the past. Disraeli wrote—and I think that his words are still apposite— Men moralise among ruins, or, in the throng and tumult of successful cities, recall past visions of urban desolation for prophetic warning. London is a modern Babylon; Paris has aped imperial Rome. and may share its catastrophe … Damascus … had municipal rights in the days when God conversed with Abraham. That, surprisingly enough, was even before the time of the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede).

Disraeli went on: As yet the disciples of Progress have not been able exactly to match this instance of Damascus, but it is said that they have great faith in the future of Birkenhead. The buildings which we are seeking by the Bill to preserve are not as spectacular as those referred to by Disraeli. The ruins of Damascus or those of imperial Rome, if they existed in this country, would, I think, be listed buildings and might even come under the auspices of the Historic Buildings Council; but it may well be that this Bill will benefit some buildings in Birkenhead, new when Disraeli wrote, but now sadly blackened and in need of preservation.

I think that some of the less glamorous early remains of the industrial North, in Birkenhead, South Shields, and Widnes, are only one example of the sort of buildings which may be assisted under the Bill and which might not have been assisted before. Hon. Members will have seen the Report of the Ancient Monuments Board, which was published this week, and which indicated that there was grave danger of the destruction of some of the important early industrial monuments. This was a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Kershaw) and my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley). These are primarily a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, but in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government we are doing something to help by listing those monuments where they are buildings.

The Bill will enable local authorities to make grants towards the repair or maintenance of some of these monuments provided they are buildings. I think the definition of "building" is rather wide in this Bill. It includes all sorts of constructions and erections, though I doubt whether they will ever include the Clapham omnibus or movable machinery.

It may be helpful if I briefly go through the changes which we have made to the Bill since Second Reading. We have had very good discussions since then, and I think that we all feel that the Bill has been much improved. It does, I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley, cover non-county boroughs, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) indicated.

The power in Clause 1 (1, a) to contribute in respect of listed buildings was extended to those in the vicinity of the area of the local authority. Some hon. Members thought that this did not go wide enough and that a building quite remote from the town might have some association with it. There is really no satisfactory alternative to the words "in the vicinity" that we can find, and they have precedents in the Ancient Monuments Act, 1913. No similar extension of the powers in Clause 1 (1, b), was proposed because buildings not already included in the Section 30 list can hardly be of more than local interest. A building which might have been listed, but is not, for some reason or another, can always be specially added to the list. I do not think we shall have difficulty in administering this Bill in practice.

I would assure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields that it is our wish that this should be interpreted liberally. Where we are dealing with buildings of local interest the local authority would be a very good judge of these matters. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley and my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) that we do have in mind that Victorian or even Edwardian buildings might come within this category. The principles for listing buildings of the nineteenth century have recently been reviewed. Special surveys of Victorian and Edwardian buildings have been carried out in many provincial cities. We are also undertaking research into the works of the chief architects of the time. There is no reason why we should not now move on from Vanbrugh. Many of these have been listed.

Power to contribute by way of loans, now in Clause 1 (2), was added in Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) referred to this. I think that it is a very wide power and should cover interest-free loans, and it also allows the authority to waive repayment. I think this is a useful provision and does enable smaller local authorities to secure the preservation of useful buildings without necessarily throwing any more burdens—or any burden at all—on public funds.

We have discussed today's Amendments fully and I do not think that I need refer to them at any length. We have dealt with the question of gardens. We have dealt with the question of access. We have dealt with the question which we will look into again in the light of what my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) said about the provision for the authority to recover part or all of the grant where the property changes hands within three years by way of sale or exchange, or by a lease for twenty-one years or more.

We have, with the aid of hon. Members on both sides of the House, extended the Bill in accordance as far as we can with everybody's wishes. We have given local authorities unprecedented powers, and they should be able to extend their activities in this field. There will, of course, be some matters in which further guidance by the Ministry may be necessary. We shall do this by circular when the Bill has become law, and we shall also, of course, give guidance in any particular cases.

The circular to local authorities will cover all the points which have been raised in consideration of the Bill at its various stages. As hon. Members will remember, these include advice to local authorities who wish to contribute to the upkeep of buildings outside their areas. It is desirable that they should consult the local planning authority. At the very least that consultation will avoid the danger of three or four local authorities contributing to one building.

The circular will also give some guidance on agreements to make access a condition of grant. This may not be necessary in every case. We shall also try to give some guidance on what sort of publicity should be given to these access agreements. This was a matter which was raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Shields and was referred to in an Amendment by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison).

We did not think that it needed to be in the Bill, but we have accepted virtually that, in practice, this is the sort of thing on which we ought to give local authorities some guidance. We shall also remind the local authorities that delay in making grants in suitable cases may be extremely expensive and that they should take expert advice as early as possible.

We have drafted a Bill which will enable us to preserve buildings from the earliest times up to at least the turn of the century. I fancy that the Bill, when it reaches the Statute Book, will outlive today's fashions and prejudices, to which references have been made. Some of us—my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West, at any rate—may well survive to see it invoked for the preservation of Osbert Lancaster's famous Stockbroker's Tudor, or—my own favourite—his Curzon Street Baroque. However that may be, I hope that the Bill, steered through all its stages by my hon. Friend and improved by suggestions from hon. Members on both sides of the House, will make a valuable contribution to the preservation of our national heritage.

2.58 p.m.

Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes

The selection of a Private Member's Bill to try to get through the House is a matter of great skill and judgment. I have never yet had to do it. One difficulty is that if an hon. Member chooses a subject in which nobody is interested he loses his Bill because of indifference. If he chooses a subject in which many people are interested he loses his Bill because of the desire on the part of hon. Members to take part in the discussion on it. I quite appreciate that as the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) looks at the clock he is beginning to wonder just at what point he will be choked with cream.

I do not want to take too much time by congratulating him on the Bill. I was moved by the picture which the hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr) painted of the hon. Member for Southend, West among his grandchildren in his library. I was comforted by the thought that undoubtedly he would have had a grant from the local authority for his library and that I would therefore be able to be present, exercising my rights of access, to see this happy scene.

The hon. Member thanked those of us who were on the Standing Committee for having improved the Bill by Amendment. The real thing for which he should thank the Committee is not what they did to the Bill but for the mere fact that they were there at all. What really kills a Bill is when the Members of the Committee do not turn up. Simply by being present hon. Members facilitated the passing of the Bill.

I hope that I am impervious to flattery, but I must admit that I have a soft spat for my child. Any expression of appreciation of the Report of the Select Committee on Estimates puts me in a very good mood, because it is true that the Report did what a Report of a Select Committee should do—throw light on a rather obscure and confused subject, which many hon. Members have difficulty in following, and underline some points, many of which have been included in this Bill. The Select Committee considered the question of the repayment of loans and the question of limiting resale. This Bill applying to local authorities sets the way for some improvements which may be made later on in the case of the national administration.

One of the things which the Select Committee criticised was the overlapping and the slowness of listing and scheduling. I was not happy with what the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said about the progress there has been in listing. It is still very slow. We are still waiting for the famous report of the working party, which the Financial Secretary to the Treasury from time to time tells us is just round the corner. It is rather shocking that we are still waiting for this business to be tidied up, because if the powers of the Bill are to be used it is extremely important for the Whole of this machinery to be streamlined.

It is true that the Bill will enable local authorities to help in regard to a variety of buildings, many of them not what most people think of as being matters of architectural interest, though, as has been pointed out before the word is "interest" and not "beauty". A local authority will be as entitled to help Robert Adam at his worst as it will be to help Vanbrugh at his best. Therefore, local authorities who want to preserve some Victorian horror will be quite entitled to do so within the terms of the Bill.

The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Worsley) mentioned the public buildings of Rochdale. It so happens that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. McCann) was an the Select Committee on Estimates. He raised the question of preserving the building from which the Rochdale pioneers launched the cooperative movement, If a local authority felt that it needed to do that, it would be well within the powers of the Bill if it did so.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman's circular when it comes out will be enthusiastic and warm to its subject and will encourage local authorities to get on with this work.

May I, in my turn, thank the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and the promoter of the Bill for the patience and care with which they have dealt not only with me but with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), because when my hon. and learned Friend has his interest aroused in a matter he has it aroused and there are no qualifications about it. I know that he is very satisfied with the way his proposals have been received and is most anxious that the Bill should go through. I therefore have much pleasure in supporting the Motion.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.