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Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, given that the United Kingdom is a net contributor to the European budget rather than a net recipient, will the noble Baroness explain the benefit to Wales in value-for-money terms of routeing our own money through Brussels rather than giving it direct?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, it depends on whether the value to the country as a whole, including Wales, of membership of the European Union is considered to be a benefit. Within the CBI, for example, and other groups there are large numbers of people who believe that the benefits far outweigh any of the disadvantages identified by the noble Viscount and possibly the noble Lord who sought to speak before him. Given that money is available, I cannot believe that anyone in the Principality would choose not to take advantage of it. I believe that the majority of people in this country support membership of the European Union.

Lord Hooson: My Lords, with regard to the question put by the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, will the noble Baroness agree that Germany--a larger net contributor to European Union funds than the UK--also has to provide match funding for every grant that it receives under this heading? In the larger context, will the noble Baroness draw the attention of her colleagues in government to the importance of this matter? Increasingly in Wales, eyes are cast across the Irish Sea to the prosperity of the Republic of Ireland. This matter is crucial as regards the relationship between the National Assembly and the Government at Westminster. If real match funding, as opposed to artificially dressed-up match funding, is not available, that will merely play into the hands of separatists--of whom I am not one.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that at every stage the money that is available as a result of the success of my right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Chancellor will meet the criteria set down by the Commission in terms of the appropriate matching of funds, whether public or private.

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Victoria History of the Counties of England

3 p.m.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have for the completion of the Victoria History of the Counties of England, and for increasing its accessibility to the public.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government recognise that the Victoria History of the Counties of England is an extremely valuable resource for English archaeologists and historians. Local authorities are the main sponsors of the Victoria County Histories (VCH), although it is for each local authority to decide on the extent to which it chooses to provide sponsorship. Although the Government have no direct role in funding the VCH, the Heritage Lottery Fund has powers to provide assistance for the compilation and publication of comprehensive works of reference relating to an important aspect of the history, natural history or landscape of the UK which are of public benefit. I understand that the VCH is discussing with the Heritage Lottery Fund ways in which the VCH may be developed and made more accessible to the public.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that encouraging reply. As noble Lords will be aware, the VCH is a project of great scholarship which is of interest to both academics and historians and members of the public who are keen to learn more about their own locality. The project is only half completed. Does my noble friend agree that, as the VCH was started in 1897 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, it would be highly appropriate if a commitment were made to complete it by 2002 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth? Does my noble friend also agree that a commitment should be made not only to complete the remaining 230 volumes but to make them available on CD-ROM and the Internet? Will my noble friend join me in expressing the hope that the Heritage Lottery Fund will take as generous an attitude as possible when it considers this application for funding?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as to my noble friend's last point, it is not for the Government to intervene in the decisions of the Heritage Lottery Fund, much though some of us may want to do so on occasions. The target that my noble friend sets is an admirable one and may serve to concentrate the minds of many who have the VCH at heart. My noble friend makes a most valuable point about public access. I understand that the submission now before the Heritage Lottery Fund includes improved public access and information and communications technology, without which the VCH would be of service only to the academic community.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: My Lords, no doubt the noble Lord is familiar with that other great series

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of volumes The County Inventories of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments for England. Can the Minister give an assurance that the reorganisation and disappearance as a separate entity of the Royal Commission will not lead to the demise of that very important and valuable series of publications?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I can give that assurance. It is included in the remit of the new body.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the immense amount of work which is being done on the rewriting of the VCH for County Durham? Durham is probably the first to do it. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham and I are pleased to be patrons of the trust. Is my noble friend further aware that a substantial sum has been raised by the trust's own efforts? Should not that be recognised by the grants that are being made by the appropriate bodies? Any help that the Government can provide in this respect will be greatly appreciated.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the application of the Institute for Historical Research on behalf of the VCH that is now before the Heritage Lottery Fund is half for Durham and half for Oxfordshire. Local sponsorship of the work in Durham is much appreciated. I understand that the proposal for the pilot project to open up the VCH (so to speak) is to concentrate on Darlington, but clearly the demand is for other parts of Durham and the country as well.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, although I accept that the Government's influence over National Lottery funds may be limited, does the Minister agree that often they have been disbursed to causes less worthy than the one now being considered? Does the noble Lord agree that the VCH is unique in Europe? I understand that only the Black Forest in Germany has the same details of local history. Will the Minister use whatever influence he has to persuade the Heritage Lottery Fund to give money to the VCH rather than some other causes, as I am sure that the Government have some influence? A good deal of money is available and I am sure that the VCH deserves it.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I believe that the contributions of noble Lords in the past few minutes have said more than I could ever say. The support for VCH has been unanimous from all quarters of the House, and I know that the Heritage Lottery Fund will take account of what has been said this afternoon.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, will my noble friend accept my apology for the fact that in the previous century I had some responsibility for the VCH for Cheshire and its delays? Will the Minister further note that the recent publication The Roads of Chester, which explains the unique two-tier system of main

1 Feb 2000 : Column 77

streets which foreshadowed the now ubiquitous shopping mall, is a fine example of how VCH and other material can be made accessible and enjoyable to the general public?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not know for what my noble friend has to apologise, but it sounds as if he has made a further contribution to convince the Heritage Lottery Fund that this is a worthwhile cause.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am sure that the House joins me in wishing good luck to VCH as a very worthy recipient of lottery funds. Can the Minister give the House good news on other funding and assure noble Lords that more lottery money from the Millennium Commission will not be given to shore up the finances of the Millennium Dome?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Question on the Order Paper is concerned with the Victoria County Histories. I have been very glad to extend it to the range of options open to the Heritage Lottery Fund. However, I believe that the noble Baroness seeks to widen the scope of the Question further than is proper.

Cheques (Scotland) Bill [H.L.]

3.8 p.m.

Viscount Younger of Leckie: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the law of Scotland in relation to the effect of the presentation of cheques for payment. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Viscount Younger of Leckie.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Business of the House: Debate,

2nd February

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of the Baroness Cumberlege set down for tomorrow shall be limited to five hours.--(Baroness Jay of Paddington.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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