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Lord Judd: The noble Earl has continued to reassure me, not only by what he said but the way he said it, that we have a common objective. We want to see the armed services representing the society of which they are a part, promotion by merit irrespective of origins and armed services open to all. The other evening I was watching the massed bands Beating the Retreat and it brought back good memories to me because one of the things I cherished most when I was privileged to be Under-Secretary of State for Defence--in those days we had individual service ministers responsible for the Royal Navy--was my relationship with the Royal Marines. I loved it, and they are a body of people whom I hold in esteem second to none; and that is not to cast aspersions on any other part of the Armed Forces. It was a splendid occasion and I was as moved as ever, and I was glad to see on that occasion that there were women on parade. That would have been unthinkable some time ago, but there they were. I noticed, among all those watching, including the most senior officers in the Armed Forces--and I took great heart from this--that there was pride about this. There was no sense of shock, but it was "Isn't this good! Didn't they perform well." The way I noticed it was that there seemed to be some shorter Royal Marines, and then I realised that these were the women on parade. And that is magnificent.

What I also noticed, however, is that there were no black faces on parade. In Britain, years ago, I perhaps would not have noticed that in the same way, but in a changing Britain it somehow stood out. There is a commitment to bring that about, and, in all of this, we are not just talking about how complaints are dealt with and how harassment is dealt with, but how through the way in which these things are dealt with, we advance and accelerate the process towards effectively opening up the services.

I do ask the noble Earl to accept that, while we press these points, our objectives are the same. It is just that we feel that what we are advocating would be a better way than the way in which the Government at present appear to be committed. However, at this stage, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 not moved.]

Clause 23 agreed to.

Clauses 24 to 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [Greenwich Hospital]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 12:


Page 25, line 28, at beginning insert--
("Where he is satisfied that the objectives set out in paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsection (2) are met,").

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment I do not believe it is necessary to go over all the background yet again. However, I shall do so a little, if I may.

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We know that, to the Government's shame, everybody with any sense of history or concern for the national heritage was appalled to find that last autumn the Government had allowed the Royal Naval College to be advertised in a glossy magazine by the estate agents Knight, Frank and Rutley. To some of us that seemed a grotesque example of the cheapening of society by uncurbed market ideology. Thank God that nightmare has been transformed. Noble Lords can claim great credit for that, as can the good taste and sense of public opinion, the Select Committee in another place, and certainly Mr. Nick Raynsford for his articulate and convincing interventions in another place.

The Bill now stipulates in Clause 30(2) that:


    "In the exercise of his functions under the Greenwich Hospital Acts 1865 to 1996 in relation to the land to which this section applies, the Secretary of State shall have regard to--


    (a) the importance of preserving for the benefit of the nation the historic buildings and monuments on the land and of maintaining the architectural integrity of the Royal Naval College site;


    (b) the desirability of securing reasonable public access to the land (and in particular to the historic buildings and monuments on the land); and


    (c) the desirability of preventing any use of the land appearing to him to be out of keeping with its unique character and history".

That at least is civilised, but where are the teeth? Having sounded the bugle of decency, Clause 30(3), potentially at least, beats what in effect could be a disappointing retreat. It states:


    "It shall be lawful for the Secretary of State to grant a lease of any of the land to which this section applies, with its appurtenances, to any person appearing to him to be suitable for a term not exceeding 150 years".

There is no obligation to put the principles of Clause 30(2) into practice. There is a need to bond subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 30 making action under Clause 30(3) dependent upon fulfilling the principles of Clause 30(2). That is what the amendment is about. That is particularly important in view of other obligations, such as to realise the highest possible price, which could otherwise be construed as part of his responsibilities as a trustee under charity law.

I fully recognise that negotiations are now proceeding, with the very attractive proposition of an arrangement between the University of Greenwich and the National Maritime Museum, which is altogether splendid. We are legislating for the long-term future, way into the century ahead or more, and nobody can tell with certainty what the plans of the university or museum will be then. Therefore, surely it is prudent to write the means as well as the aims into the Bill. Perhaps I may say that that is what the amendment seeks to do, and before the noble Earl makes the same rather unconvincing technical point that the Minister of State made in another place, I should underline that "the importance of preserving", "the desirability of securing" and "the desirability of preventing" are to any reasonable person very clear objectives which are entirely compatible with the principle that the Secretary of State has to be satisfied that those objectives are met. I beg to move.

Lord Mottistone: I strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has just said. The sense of what he has

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said is exactly what I believe is necessary. Whether the wording is right I do not know, but it is terribly important that Secretaries of State should meet the requirements that are set out in subsection (2) before going on to subsection (3).

In so saying, I have also been puzzled from the beginning about the 150 years. What is the significance of that? When my noble friend comes to reply, perhaps he will tell us why it is 150 years and neither longer nor shorter. That is purely inquisitive. The basic thing is that I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has it quite right. Clearly it will not be amended now, but I hope that at the next stage we shall be able to bring this in in a big way.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: I entirely endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has just said. I do not believe that the amendment is necessarily perfect in wording, but the objective that it seeks to attain is a noble one. This single topic is worthy of a Bill on its own; it is that important.

If one just looks at the scheme of Clause 30, the Secretary of State holds these lands and buildings "in trust for Her Majesty". I deeply regret to say that many within the Armed Forces and without have no trust in the trustee. This is far beyond the occasion of the moment. One only needs to look at the description of the buildings and then--rather surprisingly in a Bill--the fineness of the language:


    "the importance of preserving for the benefit of the nation".

That sounds like 1805 to me. It refers to the "historic buildings and monuments" and "the architectural integrity" and to "reasonable public access" and to the "unique character and history". It is shameful that we need to be on our guard to this extent.

If one goes to the public buildings in Paris one sees what public glory and joy there is in them. We cannot say that about this capital city. My noble friend Lord Judd has quite rightly referred to a number of people who have interested themselves in this question, not least, I would add, Simon Jenkins, who has mounted a noteworthy campaign in the columns of the Evening Standard and The Times about precisely such sites as this. What on earth are we doing having to be on our guard against the proposed possible vandalism of a jewel of this sort?

I had the great privilege a few weeks ago of going to address an evening seminar for an advanced joint services course at these very buildings. The thought that they could be destroyed by unthinking vandalism is almost breathtaking; it is infinitely dismal. I would venture to suggest that, although the wording of course is not watertight or perfect, what we must have before the Bill leaves our House is categoric, copper-bottomed guarantees that the integrity and the historic value of these buildings and of this site will properly be regarded as a trust for the nation and not something to be treated as the plaything of the financial moment.

Lord Kennet: I have nothing to add to the arguments that have been advanced, and indeed no criticism to make of my noble friend's formula in the Bill, though if it is possible to improve it that will be good indeed.

18 Jun 1996 : Column CWH43

I want to use the occasion for a couple of minutes to mention a factor with regard to the future of the buildings at Greenwich which, as far as I know, has not yet been mentioned in either House. Greenwich was not built for kings and princes. That is an historical mistake. Its predecessor was a royal palace, but the great buildings we know now were not built for kings or princes or even for admirals. They were built for naval pensioners and ratings. I suppose that a few junior officers were allowed among them, but I do not know about that. When I look at the formulation in the Bill, the desirability of not being:


    "out of keeping with its unique character and history",

I think to myself, "OK, what is it's unique history, what is the essence of it?", and it is that it was maritime. It is a maritime foundation beside two other great maritime foundations. It will be a very good idea if that could be maintained. What I like about my noble friend's form of words is that the beginning of subsection (3) would not allow the Secretary of State to enter into any lease until he was satisfied that that unique character was safe, obviously for the duration of the lease. If we can accept that that is a maritime characteristic, that would be a great safeguard for the future not only of the buildings but also for all the manifold maritime industries in this country which are at present so greatly neglected.

A word in passing about the University of Greenwich. I agree with my noble friend that this is a satisfactory solution. I am not sure if I am quoting him fairly when I say that they have promised that students will not have dinner in the Painted Hall, or anything vulgar like that. To my mind, this is exactly the wrong way round. There is no notable number of naval pensioners at the moment and those there are have no need of a special hospital for their maintenance, although, of course, the Army is still keeping Chelsea fully in use. But would not students be exactly the right sort of person to carry on enjoying the grandeur of that place in academic circumstances?

The National Maritime Museum, the other partner in the partnership which we hope will succeed there, has suggested that the Painted Hall could be let out for dinners to City livery companies because some of them, poor fellows, do not have a grand hall of their own--some do and some do not, and those that do not should be able to hire the Painted Hall at Greenwich.

Once again, let us remember that it was not built for the affluent, privileged and leisured. Although there could be no possible objection to letting it out profitably a few times a year for people to hold dinners in, I hope that the Secretary of State will write it into the lease that it should be primarily for the benefit of university people and maritime people who come there to attend conferences and courses. Possibly, as I suggested before, the World Maritime University, could hold courses in the buildings at large, and have dinner in the Painted Hall at a low cost. For the associations of former naval people who come to dine there, I suggest the cost should be £1 for ratings and £2 for officers.


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