HC Deb 28 February 1856 vol 140 cc1479-80

said, that some years ago a Commission sat which expressly recommended the abolition of the offices to which his question had reference; and he begged, therefore, to ask Her Majesty's Government whether it is intended, in consequence of the vacancy in the offices of Principal Librarian and Secretary of the British Museum, to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commissioners of 1850, with respect to the abolition of these two offices, and the appointment in their place of two officers to be nominated by the Crown, the one distinguished for attainments in literature, to have the supervision of the library, the manuscripts, the prints, the antiquities, and the medals; and the other, eminent for attainments in natural history, to have the supervision of those departments of the Museum which are devoted almost exclusively to natural history?


said, that the constitution of the British Museum was regulated by an Act of Parliament passed in the reign of George II., and it was not competent for Government, without the sanction of Parliament, to abolish any of its offices. As to the subject to which the question referred, it was true that some years ago a Commission was appointed, consisting of several most distinguished men and presided over by Lord Ellesmere, and that Commission investigated the subject and reported. The Commission was not, however, unanimous in its opinion. It recommended two different plans for the reform of the British Museum; and the Government of the day, feeling a difficulty how to act upon that Report, referred the question to the Trustees of the Museum. The Trustees took the matter into consideration, and came to a decision on the recommendation of the late Sir Robert Peel, who was one of their members. The right hon. Baronet prepared a plan of certain alterations, which he embodied in a series of Resolutions, which Resolutions were agreed to by the Trustees, and considered satisfactory by the Government of that day. They were moved for in that House and laid on the table in June 1850. Under these circumstances Her Majesty's Government did not intend to disturb the existing arrangement.