HC Deb 08 June 1964 vol 696 cc172-5
Sir E. Boyle

I beg to move, in page 10, line 16, to leave out "being a library authority".

It might be for the convenience of the House if we discuss with this Amendment the Amendments in lines 21, 28 and 29.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Yes, if that is agreeable to the House.

Sir E. Boyle

These Amendments are all on the same point. The Clause, as amended in Committee, enables any library authority to provide and maintain a museum or art gallery and any other authority which already maintains a museum to go on doing so, but it does not empower other authorities to provide them. The first three Amendments enable these other authorities to provide museums or art galleries with the consent of the Secretary of State.

The fourth Amendment, in line 29, enables them, with the consent of the Secretary of State, to take over an existing museum or art gallery from another authority which wishes to give it up. These Amendments give effect to the intention of an Amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Denzil Freeth), and they also meet the intention of similar Amendments tabled by other hon. Members. I said that I would look at this matter before the next stage, in consultation with the local authority associations. I have now done this and the Amendments are on lines supported by all the local authority associations and the Museums Association.

The only thing I should add is this. The Museums Association has drawn my attention to the importance of being sure that a local authority which proposes to provide a museum really has the financial resources adequately to maintain it. This seems only good sense, and this is the reason for the emphasis in the Amendments on the consent of the Secretary of State, because this is a point the Secretary of State would wish to take into account in considering any such proposal. He will also wish to consider the relationship of the museum to any other in the area. This was noted in the Standing Commission's Survey. The Commission expressed the hope that local authorities would develop arrangements for cooperating with each other.

The Clause, as amended, extends to parishes as well as all other local authorities. There may exceptionally be small—and it is a pity that the West Riding contingent is not present just now—collections of, for example, furniture of a parochial interest. It is reasonable that a parish council should be able to take responsibility for that, if it wishes, when no other body can be found to do so. Some parishes are well able to maintain a museum. I do not think that many such authorities will wish to provide museums, but the Government agree that it would be unfortunate if the Bill were passed without any provision being made for parish authorities to be able to put forward applications and for the Government to consider them.

The Amendments may help some voluntary museums which might otherwise be unable to carry on for lack of any local authority being able and willing to take them over. The Amendments do not only meet a point raised in Standing Committee but will improve the Bill.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Denzil Freeth

I am certain that we did a good morning's work in Standing Committee on 30th April. I am grateful that my right hon. Friend has obviously considered the point which was then made. I am equally certain that the Amendments will be of great benefit to the Bill, will improve it, and I am particularly pleased to see that parishes have been included. My right hon. Friend is right to have put the whole matter of non-library authorities starting museums under the umbrella of the Secretary of State. This is an excellent thing to have done and I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for the way he has reacted to our discussion in Standing Committee.

Mr. Willey

I join in welcoming the Amendments. The right hon. Gentleman will recall that in Standing Committee he expressed some doubt about parish councils, and I am not upset that his doubt has been resolved.

Mr. O'Malley

I, too, welcome the Amendments, for they will allow local authorities which are not library authorities to maintain museums or art galleries. I hope that the Secretary of State will give advice and seek to initiate activities of this kind by local authorities.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 10, line 21, leave out subsection (2) and insert: Provided that a local authority not being a library authority and not already maintaining a museum or art gallery under this section shall not provide a museum or art gallery thereunder without the consent of the Secretary of State; and that consent may be given subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State thinks fit, and he may at any time vary or revoke any of the conditions.

In line 28, leave out "subsection (2) above" and insert "this section".

In line 28, leave out "Minister" and insert "Secretary of State".

In line 29, leave out "library authority" and insert: other local authority empowered to maintain it".—[Sir E. Boyle.]