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9.17 pm

Hilary Benn: With the leave of the House, I would like to respond to the debate.

I thank all hon. Members for their contributions on Report, on Third Reading, in Committee and on Second Reading, and Members who were in the House when the Bill was considered last year for their involvement. I take this opportunity to thank officials from the Department for International Development and other Government Departments, without whom we would not be sitting here debating this Bill.

Hon. Members have kindly made favourable comments about the reputation of the Department. That is simply a reflection of the quality of the people who work in it. We are extremely fortunate. As a still relatively new Minister, I have been universally impressed by the quality, commitment and passion of the staff whom I have met during my time at the Department.

I have one regret about this evening's debate: my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development is not able to be with us because of her presence in Tokyo for the Afghanistan reconstruction conference. No one has done more to bring the Bill about than her. No one is better qualified by her record, commitment and passion to take forward its principles. I am sure that the whole House wishes her well in that task.

23 Jan 2002 : Column 978

I shall respond briefly to some of the specific points raised in the debate. The hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) has made that task a lot easier with his usual brilliant and succinct summing up of the contributions that we heard.

The question of EU aid was covered in the very good discussion on new clause 3. I shall not repeat what was said, but we reached a measure of consensus about what the Government are trying to achieve.

The question of the 0.7 per cent. target was raised by the hon. Members for Banbury (Tony Baldry), for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) and for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), among others. As I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have said, the question is good and pertinent, and the House will not be entirely surprised that, on this happy occasion, I am fortunately not able to give an answer about the timetable. However, that is a debate that we need to have, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will listen with interest to the points that have been made.

The hon. Members for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge), for Ceredigion and for Meriden (Mrs. Spelman) spoke about export control. Sustainable development is now an equal criterion among others, and the fact that we even have a debate about how to interpret that in relation to particular decisions shows how far we have moved. Twenty-five years ago, it would not have occurred to Members of Parliament to debate the merits of sustainable development—as opposed to Britain's interests—as a consideration in deciding such matters. The fact that the House is united in opposition to the concept of tied aid is a recognition of the shift that has take place over a generation.

On reconstruction, Afghanistan is the test of the moment, and the hon. Member for Meriden was right to draw attention to it. The money that we have committed this week is an expression of our commitment to that country's reconstruction, and shows clearly that the international community meant the promise that it made to the people of Afghanistan that it would not walk away from them, given all the pain and suffering that they had experienced. That point was ably supported by the contributions from my hon. Friend the Members for Clydebank and Milngavie (Tony Worthington), for Wimbledon (Roger Casale) and for City of York (Hugh Bayley). The latter told the House about his previous efforts to get some of the principles contained in the Bill on the statute book.

The House united on four matters on Third Reading. It united in sending its best wishes to Sir John Vereker, in expressing its commitment to the reduction of poverty, in recognising the influence that events in Afghanistan have had on our awareness of why it is more necessary now than ever to act to reduce poverty, and in supporting the Bill.

My hon. Friend the Member for City of York said that, in the end, the Bill was just a means to an end, and he was right. It is what we do with the Bill that matters. We now have a rare and real opportunity to make a difference. It is the responsibility of each and every one of us to make sure that we take it.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed, with an amendment.

23 Jan 2002 : Column 979

National Heritage Bill [Lords] [Money]

Queen's recommendation having been signified—

9.23 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Dr. Kim Howells): I beg to move,

The motion concerns the private Member's Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman). The Government have been content to support the Bill, as its provisions closely mirror the relevant provisions of the my Department's Culture and Recreation Bill, which was lost with the announcement of the general election. This support was ably expressed during the Bill's Second Reading on 18 January, when the House was content for the Bill to move into Committee. The Bill has already been considered thoroughly in another place.

The purpose of the Bill is to broaden the powers of English Heritage in two ways. It will allow English Heritage to trade in overseas countries, and to become involved in underwater archaeology in territorial waters adjacent to England.

The governing legislation for English Heritage at present precludes both activities, but it is widely expected that they would be beneficial. The Bill would also allow my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to direct English Heritage to carry out certain administrative functions in relation to underwater archaeology, which at present that Department has to carry out itself. The Bill therefore gives new powers to English Heritage, which of course have financial implications—hence the money resolution.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House accept that this is a useful piece of legislation. I commend it to the House.

9.24 pm

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): I thank the Minister and the Government for bringing forward the money resolution. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman), who so agreeably and successfully moved the Bill's Second Reading on Friday 18 January. I also pay tribute to Baroness Anelay of St. Johns, who revived the Bill and, I am sure that the Minister would agree, put it into an even friendlier form than that which was lost at the time of the general election.

I entirely support the Bill's objectives, personally and on behalf of the official Opposition. The Minister refrained from using the expression that it extends English Heritage's responsibilities to wrecks, and perhaps at this time of the evening I should also avoid any reference to wrecks, but I welcome English Heritage's new powers and the streamlining and extension of its activities.

I have one or two questions for the Minister, relating to the financial implications of the Bill. First, what expenditure will be incurred as a result of the financial

23 Jan 2002 : Column 980

provisions? Secondly, can the hon. Gentleman assure the House tonight that, as the Bill simply reflects to a large extent administrative changes that have already taken place, the level of expenditure will be very small? I do not know whether he can share a figure with the House tonight, but if so that would be most welcome.

Dr. Howells: We are proposing to transfer the full current budget of £340,000 for these activities to English Heritage.

Miss McIntosh: That answer is extremely helpful. May any potential savings be envisaged in future resulting from the Bill's provisions? Can the hon. Gentleman explain what the day-to-day running costs will be, and whether there will be any additional running costs under the new arrangements envisaged by the Bill? I await the hon. Gentleman's reply with great anticipation.

I thank the Government once again for bringing the money resolution before the House, enabling us to ensure a safe passage for the Bill.

9.28 pm

Dr. Howells: With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall respond.

The transfer of the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites secretariat function and the management of the archaeological diving contract—which is, I am told, currently held by the archaeological diving unit at St. Andrews university—to English Heritage are agreed recommendations arising from the departmental spending review. It was a key plank of the spending review findings that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport should not be involved in such executive functions. We are proposing to transfer the full current budget of £340,000 for those activities to English Heritage.

English Heritage considers that those functions should cost £450,000 to carry out. We disagree. When DCMS last let the diving services contract, it made efficiency savings by transferring the cost of the vehicles and vessels to the contractor, in line with current best practice, and English Heritage should also be able to benefit from those efficiency savings. We cannot predict how much the contract will cost when it is re-tendered, and there may indeed, as the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) said, be scope for more efficiency savings, but what those are exactly I certainly would not be able to tell her now.

Question put and agreed to.

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