Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. My reference to this issue related not to the political point but to the delay in making appointments. I referred also to a past permanent secretary of two major government departments: it took months, using the Nolan procedures, to clear a person and decide whether that person was fit to take office. Perhaps I may cite another case, namely, that of the chief of staff of the air force, and the laborious procedure of considering the suitability of someone for appointment. There is an absurdity both in terms of delay and in applying procedures when all the information that needs to be known about a person is held already in government departments.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not deny that there are problems with the Nolan procedures. However, I do not propose that this Government should return to the practices of the previous government. When a vacancy arose under the previous government, those concerned sent round notice to the Whips' Office to see who was loyal and might do the job. I give way.

Baroness Flather: My Lords, I thank the Minister for giving way. The point I was making was for greater

18 Jan 2001 : Column 1305

openness and a more uniform application of the Nolan procedures. I did not say that I was against those procedures. The Commissioner for Public Appointments has said that in the health service--indeed, this has featured in many newspaper reports--there certainly seems to be a bias in favour of Labour appointments.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not concerned with newspaper reports. I suggest that the noble Baronesses, Lady Flather and Lady Blatch, sort out those differences of opinion between themselves. I do not believe that the Government need be involved.

I turn now to the various other issues that were raised tonight. I shall try to deal with those that are in the Bill as quickly as I can. I shall start with films policy. I was grateful for the support expressed by the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland. However, I did not fully understand the criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Baker. After all, the Bill provides very few changes other than a statutory basis for the grants that the Film Council has been making since it was first established on a non-statutory basis.

The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, has a point when she says that it is not designated firmly in the schedule. It is our intention to designate the Film Council. It is often a trick of legislation that you do not actually name the body in case the name changes and you have to amend subsequent legislation. However, if I am wrong about that, we may have to table further amendments or make it clear in other ways that it is our intention that it should be the Film Council. I certainly do not go along with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Luke, that we might, in the end, go for a flotation of the Film Council. It is not our intention that this should be an ersatz commercial body. The experience is that we are not particularly good at running such commercial bodies. This is intended to encourage the art of film production. It is not expected that every single film that is supported should be commercially successful.

The noble Lord, Lord Montagu, believes that the jury is still out on the replacement of the English Tourist Board by the English Tourism Council. We must look at this in the light of the changes that have taken place in the relationship between the English Tourism Council and the regional tourist boards, which have been given greater independence and more money. Perhaps we should consider the funding of tourism. After all, the funding of the English Tourist Board under the previous government decreased from 25 million to 10 million a year. I agree that the figure is only creeping upwards, but it has been increased to 12 million for 2002-03 and 12.5 million for the following year. I believe that to be movement in the right direction.

18 Jan 2001 : Column 1306

I take the points about regional museums, but I believe that they have been answered by my noble friend Lord Evans and the task force to which he referred. I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Luke, and the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, about London statues. It is inappropriate for a 1854 Act which gave powers to the Office of Works to approve statues in London to be continued into the 21st century. If we have regional government in London, we must give it these powers over perhaps not the most important issues facing the Mayor of London. I hope that we shall not see amendments to oppose this transfer of power, when all the other existing planning controls are still in force.

I was grateful for the debate from a number of speakers, notably the noble Lords, Lord Luke and Lord Montagu, about Osborne House, as well as the helpful suggestions that were made about its future. Reference is made to the continued use of the premises by the Armed Forces and civil servants because they are there now. There must be some recognition of their "squatters' rights", so to speak. English Heritage is working hard on alternative uses for Osborne House, and will be very interested in the suggestions that have been made. I shall encourage those concerned to report in time for the matter to be considered before the issue leaves your Lordships' House.

Among my long list of matters which were referred to in the debate but which do not find a place in the Bill, I acknowledge what was said about local museums and galleries. I also acknowledge the points about value-added tax, and the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hooper, about the repatriation of human remains. I heard with respect and appreciation what the noble Baronesses, Lady Blatch and Lady Flather, said about problems with the National Lottery Charities Board and with the Millennium Commission. Of course, such matters are not covered by the Bill, but I have no doubt that the relevant authorities will take account of what has been said in the House this evening.

However, when I am challenged by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, to trumpet our achievements and when I am told that this is a missed opportunity for political promotion--and that is really what he was saying when he described how disappointed he was with the Bill--I have to say that I do not believe that to be the point of legislation. We shall fight this election on our artistic, cultural and sporting policies; but we shall do so at the time of the election rather than seeking to make political points of that kind when we are dealing with practical and valuable legislation such as the Bill that is before the House this evening.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

        House adjourned at twenty-seven minutes past eight o'clock.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page