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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Montagu for providing the opportunity for this interesting debate. As an Australian, I come from a country which has only 200 years of history. Like all tourists who come to this country, I have always been totally fascinated by its history and its stately homes, and I have done my best to visit as many of them as possible.

For many years I served on the historic buildings committee of the GLC. We had a fascinating group of unelected members: Sir John Summers, the authority on Georgian London; Sir Hugh Casson; Sir John Betjeman; and Osbert Lancaster, who was a great character. When the GLC had gone, I transferred to the Heritage of London trust, where I found all the same people who had been on the GLC historic buildings committee. Therefore, I have always had an interest in this subject.

I welcome the report and the attention which it draws to the need for greater awareness of the importance of heritage to this nation. It is a wonderful concept and great in theory, and the report sets out 18

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valuable recommendations. However, I find that there is an element of impracticality and unreality in the text. Those who have written the report are so absorbed in the whole concept of saving our heritage and creating an awareness of its importance that they tend to overlook the situation of most people and the way that life is lived on an everyday basis.

As my noble friend Lord Montagu mentioned, Part 1 of the report refers to the 3,000 people whom MORI surveyed. It would have us believe that the public are strongly supportive. Perhaps I may put a current scenario to your Lordships. Westminster Council has recently had to consider the plans for the redevelopment of the Paddington Basin and the 13 acres near Paddington Station. Should it allow tall buildings? What view should it take over the conflicting interests of retaining the Mint Wing of St Mary's Hospital or allowing it to be replaced in the interests of producing a new, larger hospital to provide the essential National Health Service for the local community and the wider group of patients who will attend the new special treatment centres planned for the site?

The Mint Wing originally housed the horses which worked on the railway and the canal. The horses walked up the ramp to the first floor. I found that concept very romantic. I was involved when the building was converted for hospital use and I believe that the ramp was retained.

The new plans for the area are intended to improve the local environment by providing open spaces, easier access to the major rail centre and interchanges, and a better living environment, including new housing. All new buildings must now undergo an environmental and amenity assessment to ensure that they are so-called "healthy" buildings.

MORI questioned 3,000 people for the report. Westminster Council sent out 17,000 questionnaires to seek people's views on the matter. It received 58 replies, mainly from amenity groups--sometimes two from the same group--with a few from individuals. What can be said about the views of the 16,942 people who did not reply? Are they happy with things as they are? Are they prepared to leave decisions to others, or are they simply uninterested? I believe that 17,000 is so much higher a figure than the 3,000 in relation to the MORI poll that we must think about that particular point.

I return to Part 1. Section 05 states that,

    "most people believe change is necessary and desirable".

In Section 06 we read an idealistic text about how judgments should be made. To some extent those, alas, are always subjective because human beings are making the decisions. Let us consider the Durbar Court and how it would have been lost but for the fact that no one got around to demolishing it. Now it is one of the joys of London. Let us compare the Bankside power station--now the Tate Modern--with the Battersea power station, which, sadly, is declining.

My personal opinion of listings is that the early ones were splendid and I strongly supported them. However, in London, which I know best, I noticed

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that, having got the listing urge, those responsible felt that they must keep going and the buildings that were listed became less deserving. Conservation areas abound. Your Lordships may recall that one London borough tried to have the whole borough designated as a conservation area. Conservation is good, but on the historic buildings committee preservation was always referred to as "the dead hand of preservation".

In Oxfordshire, where I have my home in an attractive village, the house was not listed when I bought it and it had a current planning permission for an extension. I did not build the extension and, after a few years, the house was listed as a Grade II building. When I applied to renew the planning consent for the extension, I was told that it was no longer appropriate for a listed building and the renewal was refused. However, 10 years later I now have a different consent. I find that hard to understand. If I had already built the extension, it would have been listed as part of the established house--appropriate or not. If it had existed, it would have been included in the listing.

That seems to me to indicate--I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, made many of the points that I am about to reiterate, and I agree with everything that he said on the matter--that there is a need for more careful assessment of what is listed. One should inquire whether a whole building is precious or only part of it. An example is Centrepoint. For years that building has been a landmark and the exterior is part of the central London scene. However, it was kept empty for a long time and the interior became quite useless. Why could not listing cover the retention of the exterior and the fenestration, which is the attractive feature, but allow normal planning controls to apply to internal changes? The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, said that he could not reconcile planning and heritage controls. That is where recommendation 12 comes in. A management statement for each listed building would identify the important features so that one would know whether it was the whole building or just one feature that it was really important to retain.

A recent widely reported court case covered the obligation of an owner to retain ugly glass-louvre windows in a porch replacing the original historic ones. It is important that it should be possible to live comfortably in a property with central heating, modern plumbing, and wiring, which are desirable for normal living conditions. Adequate heat and warmth should always be allowed, with sympathetic positioning.

History is fascinating and absorbing and I agree that it should be part of education. But we do not want to turn the country into a museum. It is a nonsense not to allow buildings to continue to be viable. The best protection for any listed building is for it to have a current, economic use which provides an adequate return on investment, either in terms of personal occupancy or some other use.

The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, said that he found no reference to balance in this document; I did. In my

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view, paragraph 9 makes the most important point in the document. It states:

    "We must balance the need to care for the historic environment with the need for change".

Paragraph 10 refers to understanding and says that the value that people ascribe to historic buildings must be assessed and that there is no intention to fossilise or increase existing controls.

4.31 p.m.

Lord Crathorne: My Lords, I too add my thanks to my noble friend Lord Montagu for giving us the opportunity to debate this matter this afternoon. We owe a great deal to my noble friend not only in relation to his work for English Heritage but also in relation to all the other heritage organisations with which he has been involved.

The new chairman of English Heritage, Sir Neil Cossons, told me earlier this year that he was determined to produce a concise report. That perhaps answers the question by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, as to why the report is not bigger and why so many things have been knocked out of it. The point of that was to try to ensure that everyone actually read the report. Sir Neil and his steering group have succeeded admirably in that and have produced a document with a series of interesting proposals.

It is more than just an English Heritage report. One can see that the members of the 20-strong steering group are all senior figures involved with the historic environment. They all contributed greatly; there is no question about that. My successor as chairman of the Joint Committee of the Amenity Societies was on the steering group and was sometimes represented by the very effective secretary of the joint committee, Matthew Saunders.

One of the suggestions in the report is that,

    "heritage organisations must work more in partnership",

and that the sector is "fragmented". That is the reason that the joint committee was set up in 1972. Apart from the eight societies which are members, including the Georgian Group, of which I am president, other organisations attend those two monthly meetings and they include English Heritage, the DCMS, DETR and the Historic Houses Association, which all attend as observers. The joint committee co-ordinates responses to government papers and, indeed, will be doing so in relation to the recent rural and urban White Papers.

It is possible that more could be made of the joint committee. I know that there is to be a meeting in the spring to discuss how the committee might help to bring about a closer working partnership between heritage organisations.

Last year, the joint committee commissioned a helpful report entitled VAT and the Built Heritage, which is referred to in the report we are discussing today. It is also recorded that the single most frequently raised issue on the consultation for the report was VAT, a point made by my noble friend Lord Montagu.

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The joint committee report argued for a single harmonised rate of 5 per cent for all building work of whatever kind, and Power of Place endorses that view.

Indeed, since the joint committee's report, the Government have moved on VAT and are currently seeking a reduction in the rate of VAT on repair and maintenance of listed places of worship. That is very good news indeed but it is tempered somewhat, as the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, said, by the fact that there about 11,000 listed places of worship out of 370,000 listed buildings. For all of us in the Chamber, the VAT problem is an old chestnut but I hope that the Minister will bring us up to date on the VAT issue.

The Minister will be as encouraged, as we all are, by the result of the MORI poll commissioned by English Heritage. As my noble friend Lord Montagu said, it really should put to rest any thought that heritage is not significant. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, had queries in relation to the MORI poll, but having worked for George Gallup on Gallup public opinion polls, I can tell her that MORI uses a very different system than that used in the particular poll to which she referred. There is no reason to suppose that the MORI poll is not entirely accurate or to within the normal 5 per cent figure.

I hope that the MORI poll will strengthen the hand of the Minister and the Secretary of State more easily to fight the heritage corner with that incredibly clear message about how important the vast majority of people in this country consider our heritage to be. Of course, that presents government with a great challenge, which has substantial cost implications. Various aspects of the report would clearly cost a lot of money to implement. That is no doubt one aspect at which the Minister and his colleagues will look in particular in the next few months.

As several noble Lords have said today, the report is by no means perfect. There are omissions and there are areas which need careful scrutiny. The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, and the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, referred to recommendation 6 which says that the Government should introduce a statutory duty of care on owners of listed buildings. I suspect that that is far too draconian a measure and certainly needs to be looked at very carefully.

We should welcome this report and I very much look forward to hearing the Minister's views on Power of Place.

4.38 p.m.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, in his praise for the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. He is a true professional in this field and he provided us with an excellent introduction to this debate in your Lordships' House.

Perhaps I may illustrate the impression that I have of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. Last summer, I was invited to his motorcycle day at Beaulieu, together with the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, and our wives. We went on our motorcycles to his motorcycle day where he entertained us very well. It was an extremely

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successful weekend, as one would expect. We saw there the excellent balance which he has achieved in preserving an estate of enormous historical value alongside the imperatives of tourism which he has managed to satisfy so well. There can be no better person to have introduced this debate today.

An important point which he made during his speech, which again shows the balance which is required and which is perhaps not brought out by the report, was in relation to the difficulties of access. Of course, there should be wide access to all our heritage sites. The noble Lord gave the example of access given to disabled people. That must be balanced against the possible damage done to the fabric of the house or monument in question. It is a matter of sensitivity.

The matters contained in the Power of Place--I much prefer the title Pride of Place as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath--that have been dug out by English Heritage and put in the press release are extremely important. Whether all the recommendations are met with equal enthusiasm is doubtful. The fact that such matters are important is reflected in the interesting and well-informed speeches in the debate.

I shall not follow my noble friend Lord Redesdale in the energy of youth that he showed in criticising the report. I believe that it is far too full of adjectives, superlatives, political correctness and in particular a kind of vagueness. One example of that vagueness that could have been couched in different terms appears on page 33, under the heading "Make more use of character appraisal". That concept requires some amplification. In its encouragement for the Government it says:

    "Encourage local authorities to use spatial masterplans based on character assessment by including them as Best Value performance indicators".

That appears to be a candidate for the Campaign for Plain English. It does not encourage one to read further or to find out much more about character appraisal.

Many noble Lords have shown fear of causing the Minister to scowl. I too do not want to see him scowl. More often he is to be found smiling, as he is now and when responding to debates of this kind, in a most amiable way, although this is a vigorous debate in which vigorous views have been expressed.

All of the speeches have been good and some interesting points have been raised. One of the most interesting and telling remarks was made by the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, who said that what one knows must come before what one sees. I could not agree with him more. That fact has been brought home to me since the summer Recess as I have been reading an excellent history of the 100 years war by Jonathan Sumption in two volumes--soon to be three. He is an excellent historian as well as a practising QC. I recommend him to your Lordships.

Over many years I have travelled in France in a motorcar and on a motorbike, particularly in the Dordogne, an area dealt with in the history and in the 15 days of the Christmas Recess I shall revisit some of

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the sites. The movements of the great companies of the Black Prince, the fights against the forces of the King of Navarre and the King of France and the difficulties of the dauphin, and so on, have been brought alive for me through my reading so I shall now visit those historic monuments, the bastides and the towns--the scenes of such conflicts--with new eyes. I have been encouraged to see them again.

If the imparting of knowledge is carried out correctly one can see things in a new light. When one visits places it is hoped that one is encouraged to learn more about them, although that is not always the case. Often what one sees, particularly on television, does not encourage one to learn more, although recently there have been some excellent historical programmes.

I am disappointed not to see the noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, in his place because I believe he would have made an interesting contribution to the debate. About two or three years ago I happened to meet him in an airport where we struck up a conversation about the built heritage and some of the matters that we are debating this afternoon. I remarked to him--this relates to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew--that it is strange that there are so many medieval and Roman remains in Europe. Roman architecture and monuments are to be found in Provence, and Italy has numerous towns that have been well preserved and conserved with new developments apart from the old centres. The noble Lord, Lord Rees-Mogg, expressed the view that one must understand that the British, like all with a long history of mercantile and industrial development, have a compulsion to clear the decks to start something new. That could explain why there is much less medieval architecture, and certainly Roman, in Britain compared with France and Italy. After the late 17th century and the great events of that period, we moved into our commercial and industrial period when there was a new growth of architecture and urban development that today we are concerned to preserve. The speeches about the new and the old relate to the report, but I was impressed by the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Hardy of Wath, when he spoke about the landscape, the urban deprivation and the way in which they are dealt with.

In the 18th century, which was the burgeoning period of architecture and landscaping in terms of great and new patrons and an era of a great widening of the society of patronage, the great landscape artists, such as Capability Brown, followed by the greatest of them all, Repton, looked upon the development of the landscape as an integral part of what they were required to do with the built structure. That contributed to the development of the new cities. Together with the portrait painters of that period, the interior decorators, the Grinling Gibbons and so on, they created a new civic vision for the polite society that was emerging as a result of the commercial development in the West Indies which, unfortunately, was based on slavery. I am surprised that that was not mentioned in the report.

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There is much political correctness in the report. I believe that it is extremely condescending to the West Indian community; political correctness is often condescending to those whom it is supposed to help. I believe that it was inappropriate to put a picture of a market in Brixton on the front of this document. I do not suggest there should be a picture of a castle, a palace or a monument, but in my view that picture was too arch, so I add to the criticisms in that way.

Once the irritation of the form in which the report is presented has been overcome, important decisions must translate the enthusiasm of the debate and the enthusiasm of the report. That will require much focus, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, said in her customary good-sense way. Much thought will have to be focused and a sensible strategy will have to be developed. The Government will have to bear much of the responsibility for implementing the decisions, the focusing and the strategy. The 18 recommendations are not a bad start. Some noble Lords have expressed doubt about them, but at least they provide a springboard. I am hopeful that the Minister, who has been smiling almost throughout my speech, will give us some encouragement for the future.

4.49 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I, too, thank my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu for making it possible for us to have this debate. I congratulate him particularly on being able to obtain it within a mere week of the report's publication.

In their critique of Power of Place this afternoon, noble Lords addressed the vital questions contained within it: what is the value of our historic environment? Who is responsible for its guardianship? What measures should be taken and by whom to secure its future? How and when should those measures be taken?

My noble friend Lord Palumbo, more eloquently than I could, pointed out that the historic environment has a vital place within our culture. It helps us to know who we were, who we are now and who we may be in the future. It has within it an intrinsic value.

It is important to maintain a balance of conservation with a determination not to preserve the past in aspic--something my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes made clear in her canter round the issues of planning and listing. Houses, field monuments and the rural landscape evolved over generations. We should not want them to be frozen in time.

Heritage sites also have an economic value. History has a magnetic pull. Last year 51 per cent of the population visited an historic attraction, compared with only 17 per cent who went to a football match; 73 per cent of our overseas visitors visit historic buildings during their stay. Knowing that I have the eyes of my noble friend Lady Gardner upon me, I can say that those were recorded visits and not survey figures.

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As we on these Benches pointed out in the foreword to our tourism strategy earlier this year, tourism is a pervasive industry. In Britain it draws upon our distinctive cultures and traditions. It is vital to the preservation and promotion of landscapes and historic buildings. It acts as a force for renewal and regeneration in both cities and the countryside, and in helping to create a positive image of Britain it enhances, more widely, inward investment.

Earlier this afternoon my noble friend Lord Patten made it clear that we all have a responsibility towards ensuring that our historic environment survives to inform and enthuse future generations. The historic environment is enjoyed by the whole population. But it is created, managed and maintained by a limited number of owners and organisations, whether it be the National Trust or others.

Also, it is important to recognise the value of the work of the volunteer; the strength and depth of the voluntary involvement in the historic environment of England. Indeed, as noble Lords pointed out, it is the envy of the world. The voluntary sector has been a spur to public action and a rich source of new insights. Yesterday when reading The Times, who could fail to have been charmed by the story of the discovery in the Isle of Wight of a village the whereabouts of which had been lost to us for centuries. The discovery was made by an amateur archaeologist who won a trip in a Piper Club aircraft. He took the opportunity, while flying around the area near his home, to take photographs from outside the craft. Those photographs proved the existence of the village. Thank goodness for people like him who realise the importance of "bumps in fields".

I can assure my noble friend Lord Renfrew that I take his words this afternoon very seriously. I hope that we shall have the opportunity to consider his important argument within the passage of the Culture and Recreation Bill.

The report--Power of Place--considers what needs to be done and by whom. It concludes that there is no need for immediate legislation, but that there is need for immediate action. The irony is that we may get the immediate legislation but, welcome though some of that may be, we shall not get immediate action.

Noble Lords referred to the fact that the report recommends that the remit of English Heritage should include marine matters and that funds be provided for effective protection. That echoes the recommendations made by my right honourable friend Virginia Bottomley in the Green Paper, Protecting Our Heritage, published in 1996. I am pleased that the Government intend to endorse those recommendations in the forthcoming Bill. Perhaps it is a case of better late than never--or even, better never late. I look forward to the opportunity to examine those proposals in detail in the new year, just to make sure that the policy intention is achieved and is achievable.

This afternoon my noble friend Lord Crathorne pointed out, as did other noble Lords, that the single most frequently raised issue during the consultation prior to the publication of this report was VAT. The

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report recommends equalising VAT at 5 per cent for all new build, repairs and maintenance. I look forward to hearing the Government's estimate of the cost of that to the Treasury.

The Government stated in their Pre-Budget Report that they are,

    "attracted to the idea of offering a reduced rate of VAT for the repair and maintenance of listed buildings which are used as places of worship, and has written to the European Commission today to make its position clear".

The charging of VAT with regard to churches was the subject of a Starred Question in this House on 22nd July last year. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, then stated that,

    "Annex H to the Sixth Directive cannot be applied retrospectively; in other words, it is not possible for us to add to the list of exemptions which existed before 1992, when Annex H was adopted".--(Official Report, 22/7/99; col 1126.]

My simple question on that convoluted quotation is: what is the Government's understanding now of the legal position? Can they go ahead and add to the list of exemptions as they seemed to promise in the Pre-Budget Statement? What are their plans to extend that extension to other listed buildings? If they do not have such an intention, what is their rationale for not so doing?

References have been made this afternoon to the Heritage Lottery Fund. I cannot let them pass without a reference to the order which the Government put through this House last Thursday. That order will snatch from the grasp of the Heritage Lottery Fund money that we on these Benches intended should reach it after the Millennium Commission had finished its millennium year work. At the moment, the New Opportunities Fund takes 13 1/3 per cent from the pot designed for the original good causes. After August next year, it will take 33 1/3 per cent. Without the New Opportunities Fund, the money would have been divided up amongst the original good causes. The Heritage Lottery Fund would have received 25 per cent of lottery proceeds; now it will receive only 16 1/3 per cent. I regret that.

Several noble Lords commented on the recommendations with regard to training and education. I endorse all they said, particularly the words of my noble friend Lady Hooper in relation to training in conservation skills. Without that, we would have no heritage in the future to preserve; indeed, it could fall apart and be lost to future generations.

I was pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Montagu point out the vital part that education should play in putting the historic environment at the heart of education in schools and lifelong learning. Last month I had the pleasure of visiting Leeds Castle in Kent at the invitation of the trustees to find out more about their work. It is a charitable foundation with no extra source of funding other than that it receives from its 500,000 visitors a year. I was impressed by their proposal to renovate the pavilion in order to create a dedicated education centre. The project will turn a derelict building back into one with a useful purpose, without materially affecting its appearance. At the same time the proposal will create

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a special education centre, leading to the better understanding and interpretation of all aspects of Leeds Castle's work and history. It is primarily aimed at school children aged five to 11. I wish them well with the project. It shows how vibrant the built heritage sector is today.

I was also pleased to see in the report references to the importance that owners should place on ensuring that people with disabilities can visit and enjoy historic properties in an easy and dignified way. In saying that, I declare an interest as patron of the Tourism for All Consortium.

My noble friend Lord Renfrew referred to the section in the report which covers the recommendation that the Government should lead by example; they should ratify and implement relevant international charters. I look forward to hearing from the Minister in his reply whether or not the Government intend to sign up to the UNIDROIT Convention of 1995 as recommended by the report, or whether they will accept the recommendation made on Monday by the Illicit Trade Advisory Panel that they should not sign up to it.

Noble Lords throughout the House asked vital questions on the report. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response.

5 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I join noble Lords who congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, on the excellent timing of the debate, on the way in which he introduced it and on his lifetime service to the historic environment. I hope that he has been pleased with the debate because, as the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said, it has been vigorous and there has been outspoken criticism of the report. Therefore, at a time when the Government are beginning to consider the recommendations, it is particularly important to hear responses from those in this House who know what they are talking about.

I do not want to duck out of our responsibility in requesting the report in the first place. It was an initiative of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, both of which have responsibilities in this area. Earlier this year, both departments asked English Heritage to produce the report to a tight timetable. That was to some extent extended but it was admirably met. The departments asked English Heritage to assess a wide range of key issues and to submit the formal report to the Government.

They also asked English Heritage to consult widely not only within the heritage sector but also beyond. We wanted the debate to encompass not only those for whom the heritage is a day-to-day concern--those responsible for running the heritage and those who live among it--but also others who bring a different perspective to bear--those in industry and commerce and those involved in the development and planning process, the tourist industry and individual members of the public whose lives are touched by different aspects of our heritage.

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We are pleased that English Heritage took consultation so seriously and that it set up such a wide steering group. I was a little surprised by some of the criticisms made about the composition of that group. The noble Lord, Lord Patten, for example, described the report as coming from the heritage industry. I believe that it was much more than that: it covered planning and development interests, local government, natural heritage bodies, land-owning interests, the Country Landowners' Association, tourism interests, Church bodies and ethnic community representatives. In view of the comments made about archaeology, I should add that the president of the Council for British Archaeology, Dr. Francis Pryor, was a member of the steering group.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, was right in saying that a wide range of interests were represented on the steering group and therefore it was to some extent responsible for the report. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, believes that the report does not represent those bodies and I hope that he will talk to us about that. I am not familiar with the charges he makes but they deserve to be investigated.

In addition to the steering group, five discussion papers went out to more than 4,000 people. Responses were received from 630 organisations representing a wide range of bodies which care about the historic environment. Furthermore, there was the MORI poll. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, contrasted it with Westminster City Council's consultation on the Paddington Basin, but as a survey researcher for 40 years I can assure her that it was a highly professional poll. Response rates were of a proper level and there was a mixture of quantitative and qualitative research, which one would expect. Although there is always temptation for people in response to express socially acceptable views, the degree of public support for the historic environment which is shown in the survey is remarkable. The degree to which the public support is expressed by a wide range of people in this country of all social classes, in all regions and of all ethnic origins is also remarkable. Therefore, in terms of the range of interests which have taken part in the production of the report, English Heritage has nothing to be afraid of.

The report was launched only on 14th November last year, an event which was attended by Ministers from the two departments. They said that the Government would study the report most carefully. As was emphasised by the noble Lord, Lord Patten, and I agree with him, many of the recommendations are not just for government; they are for the heritage sector generally, for local authorities, regional bodies and owners. We look forward to seeing how they respond to the report.

As regards the recommendations affecting government, clearly the whole of Whitehall must be involved and until the spring our time will be taken in meeting our commitment to respond urgently. The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, was right in saying that what is now required is action, not more consultation.

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Of course, in forming our view we shall take into account the views expressed in today's debate. For example, the noble Lord, Lord Palumbo, made an interesting suggestion about, as my note reads, "top-slicing for the European army". I do not believe that that is quite what he meant, but he referred to European projects. I shall be interested to hear what English Heritage thinks about losing 10 per cent of its budget for European projects but, the suggestion coming from him, I take it seriously, as always.

We should not be drawn into thinking that legislation, in particular the Culture and Recreation Bill which is to have its Second Reading in January, is an important part of our response to the Bill. There are areas where that Bill is relevant, notably the provision for transferring policy for underwater archaeology to English Heritage and the merger between English Heritage and the Royal Commission on Historic Monuments in England. But, on the whole, few of the recommendations, even those which are for government, will require legislation. I should not want to raise hopes that the Culture and Recreation Bill will be changed as it appears before the House in order to respond to the recommendations of this report. There are many other actions which government can and must take, but it is not always necessary to legislate. I give as an example the point about the importance of training, made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, and with which we entirely agree. Legislation for that will not be required.

It is also important to consider our response to the report in the light of the other government initiatives which are taking place. I want to refer in particular to the urban and rural White Papers. There is criticism that the illustrations in the report emphasise the urban rather than the rural historic environment. I thought that that was unusual and interesting rather than sinister. I certainly did not believe that there was neglect in the text of the rural environment. Where the rural White Paper recognises the importance of conservation-led regeneration, it fits in well with what is stated in the report. In the same way, references in the urban White Paper to the historic environment as a means of making urban regeneration more effective fit in well with the report's recommendations. The urban White Paper points out that historic buildings, parks and open spaces make a great contribution to the character, diversity and sense of identity of urban areas, which fits in, too.

We must not neglect the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, which received Royal Assent at the very end of last month, and the relationship to which my noble friend Lord Hardy referred between the built historical environment and the natural environment. The Act contains many provisions which are directly related to the value, conservation and management of the natural and built environments. Therefore, the Government are not taking action simply in response to this report.

I turn to one or two more difficult areas of public policy which are highlighted in the report: first, the planning system. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, is not alone in believing that there should be more

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integration of planning and heritage controls. But surely there is already considerable integration. Heritage policies are a material consideration in planning decisions. The planning system handles planning applications for listed building and conservation area consent. The report notes, quite rightly, the importance of the planning system in delivering heritage objectives. However, all of that arises in the context of the streamlining of the planning process which the DETR is undertaking under the agenda set out in Modernising Planning.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, drew attention to what she regarded as anomalies in the listing process. It is already possible for particular features of a building to be listed without prejudice to changes in other parts of the building which may not affect them. I am sure that that is as applicable to Centrepoint as it is to the noble Baroness's house in Oxfordshire. After all, this is reflected in the report's comments on the approach to conservation plan management agreements. We believe that that is worth further investigation. We are also looking at demolition controls in conservation areas and heritage notification arrangements, which are referred to in the report.

I was perhaps teased by the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, about VAT. I was fairly robust in my defence of government when the House debated Section 33 and the possibility of some reform of VAT. It was generally recognised that the Government had made progress with their proposals to reduce VAT from 17.5 to 5 per cent for repairs to listed places of worship. However, I cannot give the further news which the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, seek. The European Commission is still considering the proposal and we do not have a date for its conclusion or the timing of possible UK applications. We shall consider that matter again in the new year. I can assure noble Lords that we shall not let this matter drop.

Despite the welcome for that limited movement, the Government recognise--the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, noted that recognition--the considerable pressure for further change in the VAT regime, which has again been reflected in the House this afternoon. It is government policy to offer financial assistance to the built heritage through targeted grant aid and capital taxation relief. In pursuing the VAT reduction for listed places of worship, the Chancellor not only recognises the historic importance of those buildings but explores how far it is possible to go with the European Commission.

I note the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, about VAT and entry fees in relation to national museums. We have debated that matter on many occasions in the past. I do not know that that is directly relevant to this afternoon's debate, but the noble Baroness's contribution will not be overlooked. There are very difficult issues of public policy involved.

In conclusion, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, that in this process we do not want to turn the country into a museum or equate the built heritage

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with "theme park Britain". On the contrary, the historic environment in this country forms the backdrop to people's everyday lives. All the work that English Heritage has done in producing this report, in particular the MORI survey to which reference has been made, confirms how much people care about their heritage. It makes clear the extent to which people view the heritage in terms of places immediately around them, not simply individually designated historic sites and buildings.

I believe that the choice of Electric Avenue in Brixton as the front cover of the report is proper. It is better to show where people actually live than to show castles, however admirable they may be, which they can visit only on occasions. It is important to recognise how close these buildings are to people's lives. I do not in any way underestimate the importance of the observations of the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, about bumps in fields and the historic aspects of the environment. Unless one knows why things are there one cannot appreciate them properly. The training of people who work in the environment and the children in our schools about the country in which they live and its historic features is of critical importance.

We must not view heritage as an impediment to modern life. Conservation of the best of the past is an integral element of the process of renewing our towns and cities and promoting social inclusion, which is a very important aspect of the report. There is no reason why conservation should stand in the way of good quality development. The Government firmly believe that it is of enormous importance to protect both the best of the past and to create the heritage of the future.

I repeat the non-political point with which the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, began the debate. Great progress has been made over the past 20 years in recognising the important public interest in taking firm action to protect the natural environment. We now want to make similar progress to protect the historical environment, which has significance for all of us. We shall do everything we can to ensure that the policy statement to be published in the spring reflects that and does full justice to the issues raised in the report.

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