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Sir Sydney Chapman: I do not know whether I am referring to one or to both Ministers involved, but I know that if the Bill is given a Second Reading a money resolution will be needed, so I will do all that I can to be polite to Ministersespecially Treasury Ministers.
I have no doubt, given all that was said in the other place, that the Bill has all-party support. It reflects the last Conservative Government's views, as declared in the 1996 Green and White Papers. Moreover, I think its exact provisions were included in the present Government's Culture and Recreation Bill, introduced in the last Session of the last Parliament. I gather that the Government did not proceed with the Bill because they wanted to run for cover and call a general election.
Ms Debra Shipley (Stourbridge): I have two interests in the Bill. A long time ago I wrote a book for English Heritage, so I have intellectual property rights in that regard; and I am a member of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. Would English Heritage be allowed to consult other expert groups, and would it be given money enabling it to perform functions that it could not otherwise perform owing to a lack of expertise or personnel? If something exciting and wonderful was discovered, what would happen in terms of the commission's exploitation of intellectual property? Will the hon. Gentleman expand on the two relevant clauses, and how they would work?
Ms Shipley: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that clarification. My point may indeed be one for Committee, but how would the provision affect intellectual property rights? If an individual, or a group of individuals, has undertaken work, who would own those rights? There is a discrepancy in the provision.
Sir Sydney Chapman: I apologise to the hon. Lady for misunderstanding her question. I must brazenly say that I cannot give her a definitive answer. I think that the work would be subcontracted and that, as the finance would be provided by English Heritage, it would own the intellectual property rights. I shall certainly find out and write to the hon. Lady, or we may be able to deal with the point in Committee.
The Bill would put underwater archaeology on the same basis as land archaeology and bring it within the remit of English Heritage. It would enable English Heritage to take over the running of the secretariat of the Advisory Committee on Historic Wrecked Sites. Indeed, that committee fully welcomes that provision.
The Bill would give English Heritage the right to sell its expertise abroad at a commercial rate, produce souvenirs and exploit its intellectual property. The measure would assist the formal merger of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for Englandwhich has already merged with English Heritagewith the royal commission on the historical monuments of England into a single national body for the built heritage. In fact, those bodies have already been merged administratively.
Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes): As a member of the all-party archaeological group, I am delighted to speak in this debate. I wholly support the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Sir S. Chapman). It is entirely common sense to put marine archaeology on the same footing as land-based archaeology. There has been a mismatch for many years.
The waters around the United Kingdom are among the richest in the world for archaeology, especially as regards wrecksto which the Bill refers. Around our coast, there are some Viking wrecks and Spanish wrecks from the time when the armada was scuttled. Such wrecks are to be found in many parts of UK waters, especially in Scotland. We all recall the raising of the Mary Rose. That vessel still provides us with a vast amount of information on the shipbuilding of its period.
When we consider the scientific aspects of underwater archaeology, we sometimes underestimate its importance, as regards not only wrecks but towns, and so on. After the last ice age, sea levels rose when the ice melted and many cities and villages were flooded. I was intrigued to hear today that a city about 9,000 years old has been discovered off the coast of India. Although the Bill will not affect that, it will revolutionise our thinking on the origin of cities. That is part of underwater archaeology, and it will be a new area of exploration in future.
I am glad that the Bill has been introduced, because it will put lost underwater villages on the same footing as the ancient villages that are protected by English Heritage on land. I hope that the Bill receives a Second Reading and rapidly becomes law.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Yvette Cooper): I shall keep my remarks as short as possible. On behalf of the Government, I welcome the Bill. We give it our wholehearted support. The substance of its provisions was contained largely in the Government's Culture and Recreation Bill, which was introduced in another place in December 2000 but was unable to complete its parliamentary passage before the general election was called, so, unfortunately, the provisions contained in this private Member's Bill were lost at that time.
The changes that the Bill would effect are needed. The Government are very pleased that these provisions have been given a second chance, because broadening the powers of English Heritage to allow it to export its goods and services abroad and to take on work associated with underwater archaeology will be of great benefit not only to English Heritage but to the historic environment and the heritage sector.
I can assure the House that these provisions have been subject to a number of extensive consultations. They have also received a very positive response from a wide range of heritage organisations. The devolved Administrations are content with the Bill and considerable consultation has taken place with Ministers and officials in those Administrations.
English Heritage was established in 1983 by the National Heritage Act 1983, which restricts the activities of English Heritage exclusively to ancient monuments and historic buildings situated in England, yet there is a demand from overseas for English Heritage's expertise, goods and services. We know that England is noted for its cultural heritage. English Heritage is itself a leading brand name and the organisation is respected throughout the world for its expertise, skills and experience in the management, conservation and restoration of the historic environment, but at present it has to turn away requests to use that expertise in foreign countries.
The Bill's overseas trading provisions, like those in the Culture and Recreation Bill before it, will therefore enable those skills to be shared with a wider audiencefor example, by creating the opportunity for English Heritage to sell products and services around the worldand will
The underwater archaeology provisions of the Bill arise from the fact that the 1983 Act and the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 do not give English Heritage any powers to act below the mean low water mark. As hon. Members have said, that obviously leaves an anomaly whereby English Heritage cannot perform the functions for underwater archaeology that it can for land-based archaeology, whether it be the provision of educational facilities and services or public information and advice or the making of contributions to research costs and grants, to name but a few.
It is not possible at the moment for the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to direct English Heritage to carry out certain administrative functions in relation to underwater archaeology. To allow English Heritage similar involvement with underwater archaeology to that which it has with land-based archaeology would permit considerably more expertise to enter the management and decision-making process in connection with underwater archaeology.
The Bill is valuable and useful. It will give English Heritage the opportunity to export its expertise and generate more income and it will create opportunities for small private sector organisations to penetrate overseas markets. It will place underwater archaeology on the same footing as land-based archaeology and, most important, it will further enhance English Heritage's status as the lead body in the sector.