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1.57 pm

Mr. Lazarowicz: I thank the Paymaster General for her support of significant elements of the Bill and welcome her commitment to continue considering ways of trying to reach what I think is an agreed objective on giving some advantages to employee trusts, which is one of its aims. I accept the validity of the concerns that she expressed, and not just because it is sometimes wise for Back Benchers to accept the Government's concerns on matters of this nature. Even with the assistance that I have had in drafting the Bill, I do not claim that it is a model of ultimate perfection. The tax system is a complex area. I fully accept the concerns that she and other hon. Members have raised. For that reason, I accept that amendments will have to be made in Committee to give effect to the changes that she outlined. On that basis, I hope that the House will give the Bill its Second Reading. Like the Minister, I thank hon. Members throughout the Chamber for the support that they have shown today.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).

Public Right of Planning Appeal Bill

Order for Second Reading read.

To be read a Second time on Friday 25 January.

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National Heritage Bill [Lords]

Order for Second Reading read.

2 pm

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill has three principal objectives. First, it would remove some anomalies in the power and functions of English Heritage. Secondly, it would acknowledge that English Heritage merged with the royal commission on historical monuments of England in 1999. Thirdly, it would implement some of the uncontroversial proposals in the 1996 Green Paper, "Protecting our Heritage", which was published by the previous Conservative Government.

The Bill originated in the other place, where it was promoted by Baroness Anelay of St. Johns. It received its Second Reading on 31 October and was in Committee in the other place on 14 November, when it reported with one amendment, which the Baroness moved.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): I hope that the Bill will make good progress. In the short time available, will my hon. Friend assure us that, although it appears substantial, he is satisfied that the content is uncontroversial, and that we will be able to scrutinise it adequately in Committee?

Sir Sydney Chapman: Although the Bill deals with important matters, it consists of only eight clauses. The eighth deals with commencement, a technical matter that is included in every Bill. The record of the debates in another place shows that the Bill has been scrupulously examined.

The Bill would put on the statute book proposals that the previous Conservative Government initially presented. Its contents were included in a Bill that the Government introduced in the last Session of the last Parliament. I hope that my right hon. Friend is satisfied with that reply.

The Bill has all-party support, and I shall deal generally with the eight clauses. Clauses 1, 2, 3 and 6 would transfer responsibility for underwater archaeology from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to English Heritage. That responds to the overwhelming wish of many organisations, professions and amateur marine archaeologists. The aim was universally accepted in consultations on the 1996 Green Paper, "Protecting our Heritage", to which I referred earlier.

Hon. Members know that the seas around Britain contain a wealth of archaeological sites and remains. I hazard the opinion that the density of wrecks around our shores is the highest in the world.

I shall deal briefly with clauses 4 and 5. Clause 4 covers the trading functions of English Heritage and enables that organisation to produce souvenirs that relate to ancient monuments and historic buildings only in England, where English Heritage's remit runs.

Clause 5 would empower English Heritage to offer its services and expertise outside the United Kingdom. Hon. Members will know that the National Heritage Act 1983 restricts the commercial activities of English Heritage to England. It is common sense to allow it to deal in services and offer its expertise outside the United Kingdom.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham): Will my hon. Friend humour me by telling me whether any

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commercial gain resulting from the Bill might be passed on to any of our excellent universities that carry out first-class archaeological work? I am thinking of Bristol university, in particular, which has an eminent archaeology department. If there were some way in which our heritage could help to bring extra funds into our academic institutions—which provide their services not only in this country but throughout the world—there could be spin-offs that my hon. Friend has not thought of.

Sir Sydney Chapman: I cannot give my hon. Friend a categorical, definitive answer, but I would judge that, if clause 5 were enacted, archaeological interests throughout the country, including universities, would indirectly be helped. The reason why I dare to suggest that is that English Heritage is funded by the taxpayer, but the amount of its funding depends on how much it earns from other sources. Presumably, the more it earns from other sources, particularly—as clause 5 would allow—from outside the United Kingdom, the less the Government will have to give it in grants. Alternatively, English Heritage would have more resources to give grants to universities. Either way, the prospect will be brighter for supporting archaeological interests if the Bill goes through.

Clause 7 seeks to empower English Heritage to delegate functions if it has the finance available for a project, but not the personnel. This is a rather technical clause, but it is common sense that, if English Heritage does not have the personnel available to help with some project, it should be able to offer its finances to other reputable organisations to carry out the research or whatever work might be involved. Clause 8 covers the usual technical details relating to the commencement and extent of the Bill.

I understand from my research and that of Baroness Anelay of St. Johns that all the organisations directly affected by the Bill seem to support its provisions. The two principal organisations affected are English Heritage and the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites. Both fully support the Bill.

Mr. Edward Davey (Kingston and Surbiton): The hon. Gentleman says that those organisations are in favour of the Bill. Does he know whether they have received assurances from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport about whether the budget that currently resides in the Department will be sent down to English Heritage to ensure that its funding is not cut? English Heritage is at present unable to fund some very valuable projects throughout the country—for example, repairs to Kingston parish church in my constituency—because of constraints on its budget. If this transfer of responsibilities were to result in its budget being eaten into by further responsibilities, without a transfer of additional funds, some of us might be a little more concerned than the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Sir Sydney Chapman: It is not for me to give the categorical assurance that the hon. Gentleman seeks, because I do not happen to be in the Government, and only the Government can be answerable. I understand, however, that the DCMS is anxious for the Bill to be passed. It feels that English Heritage is the right authority to deal with such matters. If we cannot secure the

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guarantees sought by the hon. Gentleman on Second Reading, I am sure we shall be able to ask for them in Committee.

Mrs. Gillan: In another place, the Minister dealing with the Bill said:

Is it not disappointing that no DCMS Minister is present to—obviously—support the Bill? It is a great shame. The Under–Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Yvette Cooper), who is present, knows that the Government support the Bill; she must be a bit chagrined.

Sir Sydney Chapman: I see one extremely attractive member of the Government, and another member of the Government, on the Front Bench. I am immodest enough to declare a certainty that my subliminal powers of persuasion will reach the Government, even if no DCMS representative is physically present.

Ms Claire Ward (Watford): The hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) may well have forgotten that, in this Government, Ministers are able to deal with a range of issues. I am more than sure that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Health will be able to deal with this matter, on the Government's behalf, as capably as any DCMS Minister.

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