HC Deb 04 February 1965 vol 705 cc1299-320


Order for Second Reading read.

4.14 p.m.

The Financial Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Niall MacDermot)

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

This is another Measure which we have inherited from our predecessors and adopted. I hope that it is one which will receive a more universally friendly welcome than the one which I presented to the House yesterday. I feel that at least its legitimacy is less likely to be called in question. It is the product of an unusual union, but a fruitful one. It presents a unique example of co-operation between the central and local government authorities, the authorities concerned being the Corporation of the City of London, the London County Council and Her Majesty's Government.

The proposal, in short, is to amalgamate the London Museum and the City's Guildhall Museum and to house the joint collection in a new Museum of London to be built in the City. The scope of the museum will be the history and archaeology of London, and as a former London Member it is for me a very pleasurable duty to move the Second Reading.

I am sure that there are many hon. Members who are familiar with both these museums and who will also know under what heavy handicaps they are labouring. I know that many hon. Members on both sides of the House have been interested for some time in the future of these museums and, in particular, of the London Museum, which is, of course, a responsibility of the central Government. My hon. Friend the Minister without Portfolio, as far back as 25th January, 1946, raised the question of the future of this museum in an Adjournment debate in the House. He put forward then what he thought should be the goal for the future development of the museum, which I hope he feels is being realised today in this Bill.

My hon. Friend said the: The ideal, as I see it, is a London Museum devoted to London, its history, its geography, its geology, its topography; illustrating the life of Londoners at various stages, providing a source book of human history, exhibiting in a vivid, popular and attractive form the skill and prowess of London's craftsmen of a bygone age, their metal work, their silver work, their woodwork, and so forth. London being the seat of Government, with its royal, political and ceremonial associations, such a Museum should also naturally contain exhibits illustrative of the social, political and ceremonial life of the capital."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th January, 1946; Vol. 418, c.513.] The London Museum was founded shortly before the First World War, due largely to the imagination of the first Lord Harcourt, whose son is the present chairman of the trustees of the London Museum, and who, as chairman of the interim board of governors of the Museum of London, has himself played a notable part in bringing forward the scheme which is embodied in the Bill. In addition, the second Lord Esher played a notable part in the founding of the museum and his grandson is also a trustee of the museum.

It is a museum illustrating the life of the capital throughout the ages. At one time, as the House knows, it was housed in Lancaster House but when that was taken over exclusively for Government hospitality it moved into its present temporary home in Kensington Palace and the Government are under an obligation to provide a permanent home for that museum.

The City's Guildhall Museum was founded by the Court of Common Council in 1826 and originally it was an adjunct of the Library. It has grown over the years to provide an interesting and valuable collection of historic, artistic and, in particular, archaeological objects relating to London. Excavations connected with the rebuilding of London since the war have given great impetus to the development of that collection.

I believe that it has nearly doubled in size since the war. In addition, interest in it has grown greatly, especially following the discovery of the Mithras Temple on the Bucklersbury House site. The museum is at present housed, if one may so describe it, in the Royal Exchange, but the greater part of the collection has still to be left in store at the Guildhall and is waiting for an adequate home.

This very imaginative proposal for joining these two museums was announced in the House on 10th May, 1962, by my predecessor as Financial Secretary, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), who himself played an active part in bringing the scheme to fruition.

An interim board of governors was set up comprising six appointed by the Prime Minister, including the chairman, Lord Harcourt, six appointed by the City of London, and six by the London County Council, including my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet). Architects were appointed, and they have drawn up a preliminary scheme which has been strongly recommended by the governors, accepted by the Common Council of the City of London and approved in principle by the Greater London Council.

The site of the proposed museum is an office tower block on the east side of the Barbican area in the City. It would provide for museum accommodation having an area of about 118,000 sq. ft., with a further 19,000 sq. ft. in reserve for future expansion. Owing to the siting, the plan has been caught, I fear, by the Government's restrictions on office building in the metropolitan area, and it will, therefore, have to be subject to the decisions which will have to be taken in due course about office building development in this part of the City.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

Could my hon. and learned Friend say why a museum counts as an office in that context, and will he also say who the architects are and something about the architecture of the building?

Mr. MacDermot

It counts as an office for two reasons. First, as it will form part of an office block, I do not think that it would be practicable to erect the museum on its own without the rest of the block. Secondly, owing to the amount of office accommodation provided in the plans for the museum itself, it would itself rank for this purpose as an office and be subject to the restriction. If my hon. Friend wishes to see it, I can show him a key plan and site plan drawn up by the architects, Messrs. Powell and Moya, which, I am sure, he will find of interest.

A word now on the financial aspect, The agreement which is embodied in the Bill provides that the capital cost and the running costs will be shared equally between the three authorities, the Exchequer, the City of London and the Greater London Council. Only very approximate estimates can be made of the costs at this stage, but the estimates are contained in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill, showing that the Exchequer's third share of the capital cost will be about £575,000 and the running costs, including rent, a little under £100,000 a year. In addition, the agreement provides that the Exchequer shall bear the initial cost of the furniture and equipment, and there is provision in the Bill for a sum of up to £150,000 to be made available for that purpose.

The House will not wish me to go through the provisions of the Bill in great detail. It provides for setting up the tripartite board of governors on a permanent basis, with the constitution I outlined a moment ago. Two governors would retire each year and be eligible for reappointment. When constituted, the collections will be transferred to and vested in the board, and, in addition to the actual collections, the benefit of the valuable Joicey and Mackenzie Bell Trusts, which provide a useful purchasing fund to the London Museum, will be available to the new body. The Board will be responsible for acquiring the premises and for the exhibition and storage of the objects.

The powers given to the Board under the Bill include powers to transfer objects to and from other institutions, to loan objects, and to dispose of them, all of which provisions are modelled closely on the provisions which were considered carefully by the House and approved in connection with the British Museum Act.

The director and staff will be appointed by the governors and will be deemed to be employees, in effect, of the Corporation of the City of London, their pay and conditions being determined accordingly. The Bill provides, in effect, that the City of London superannuation scheme, subject to any necessary modifications, will apply to the staff.

One of the agreeable features of the preparation of this museum has been the happy and wholehearted co-operation of the directors of the London Museum and the Guildhall Museum, who have been appointed, respectively, director and deputy-director designate of the new museum.

The plans for the museum are of real interest, and I should be glad to show them to any hon. Members who would like to see them. It will be the first new and modern museum to have been constructed in London at all, and one of the pleasing features of the designs is that, quite apart from the brightness of design of that part of the museum devoted to the display and exhibition of objects, the almost equally great, if not greater, part of the museum where the staff will be working will also have a brightness about it which is not usually to be found in the places where the staffs of museums have to work, which so often are dingy and dark premises. Hon. Members interested in museums will, I am sure, know all about that.

This venture is a new and fruitful partnership. It is one which will bring real benefit to both the taxpayers of the country and the ratepayers of London. It will be welcomed by all who love London, by Londoners themselves and all who share their pride and interest in London's past. We shall see arise in due course a museum which will be worthy of our capital city. The earliest date at which it could be opened would be the spring of 1970. It will be about three years, assuming the House approves the Bill, before building can begin, but, as I have said, all that must be subject to the present restrictions and controls necessary on office building in London.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Isle of Thanet)

Before the hon. and learned Gentleman sits down—I gather that we were hearing something in the nature of a quiet peroration—could he answer three questions? In the Long Title there is a general reference to purposes. One most important purpose is this, is it not? Will it be part of the purpose not merely to amalgamate the existing collections, but to create a London museum—I stress the word "London"—the true purpose of which will be to—

Mr. Speaker

Order. There must be some limit to this. It is quite apparent that the Minister had sat down. With respect, the hon. Gentleman cannot make a speech on the basis that the Minister had not concluded all the points which he might have dealt with. I hope that he may have the opportunity to catch the eye of the Chair later and make his speech during the course of the debate.

4.29 p.m.

Mr. William Roots (Kensington, South)

The Financial Secretary is right in his assumption that the House will welcome the creation of a worth-while London Museum, or Museum of London. It is recognised that the present London Museum, in Kensington Palace, must, of necessity, find other quarters. Those who have visited both the Guildhall Museum and that museum know how very interesting are the exhibits in both museums. The improvement of the premises and the creation of a centralised and improved museum must be welcomed by all of us.

There are, however, certain aspects of this which must at present give rise to a certain amount of thought. For my part, the estimate of the capital cost which has been given gives me cause for thought. If I heard the hon. and learned Gentleman right, it means that these new premises will cost nearly £2 million. I gather that from his reference to one-third of the cost being £575,000. The running costs are estimated at £300,000 per annum. When one considers what must be the vast increase in floor space and in facilities, one must inevitably wonder whether at this time a capital expenditure of that order is absolutely necessary, even to achieve a worth-while object.

I note that in Clause 4 there is a positive requirement that the museum must, for all time, be situated within the City of London, yet by the adoption of the meaning of the Bill, which is a public Bill though really of a private nature, all inquiry or discussion in terms of town planning is obviated and avoided. Though in no way impugning the good intentions of the potential trustees, I feel that it is unfortunate that for all time there is a requirement that the museum should be within the City of London. In fact, that part of the City where it is expected to be, the Barbican, is not, to the best of my experience, very easy of access. It is unfortunate that the opportunity cannot be taken for considering, for example, the South Bank, which has become a worth-while place for new buildings and new development and is certainly a great deal easier of access.

By means of the Bill all consideration of other sites or other designs of building is removed from the ambit of public discussion. It must be admitted, when one takes into account, in addition, the difficulties which we know we are having in the City with congestion and the great limits on space, that such space as can be available might have been better devoted to other purposes, possibly even residential. It is, at any rate, worth discussing. I do not think that it can be said that this museum must be situated in the City. It may be the best place, but we have not been given any opportunity for full discussion of that. It is, for example, within my knowledge that the Guildhall Museum does not open on Sundays, whereas the museums which are run by the Government—certainly in Kensington—do so open. It seems to me important that there should be recognition of that sort of alteration which will be necessary when this change takes place.

Finally, I notice that, in Clause 15, there is a duty on the board of trustees to submit their estimated expenditure to the three bodies, and it will be paid if the estimate is approved. There does not seem to be any provision for what is to happen if the estimate is not approved, an eventuality which I think the Bill should consider. I return to my opening remark, that in terms of the concept of this as a London Museum and a worthwhile London Museum, I am sure that tile House will support the Bill to the full.

4.36 p.m.

Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)

There are just a few questions which I should like to ask my hon. and learned Friend in the course of some brief observations. Of course, I should like to re-emphasise that all of us, in general principle, welcome this project very warmly indeed: there can be no doubt of that.

The hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots) made an interesting point when he asked if it ought necessarily to be in the City of London for all time. It might have been a good idea to consider the South Bank, or some other site, but, apart from the South Bank, I am not sure that I can agree with him that the Barbican area is intrinsically unsuitable, either by reason of congestion of traffic or because it is difficult of access, as he put it. After all, it is very near St. Paul's Cathedral, to which millions of visitors and others are able to find their way very easily. There is not much difficulty about finding St. Paul's and if one can find St. Paul's one can hardly miss seeing the Barbican scheme.

Secondly, on another point which he made, the Barbican scheme itself is now, to some limited extent perhaps, repopulating the City of London. It is one of the best aspects of the Barbican scheme that there are to be residential flats and accommodation on the site. The City of London in future will no longer be, at night-time or on Sundays, a dead city, as it is at present and has been in the last century or so.

Similarly, on the question of congestion of traffic, the Barbican scheme as one sees it now, in its half-finished state, seems to me to be so well-designed and laid out that there is probably less risk of traffic congestion here than in any other part of the City or indeed in other parts of London—wider two-way streets such as London Wall, ample car-parking space, and so on.

On these particular points I think that the site is probably about as good as one could have chosen. Whether in time to come—perhaps 50 to 100 years' hence—we shall necessarily want that particular site is another matter, but I suppose that the Bill, when it becomes an Act, can be amended by future Parliaments.

I strongly agree with the implication of one of the hon. Gentleman's remarks, that it is highly desirable that this museum should be open on Sundays. This, I take it, would be a matter for the board of governors, but, certainly, if it is open on Sundays, and if it is as lively and human a museum as it seems likely to be, it will do something to lighten the terrible, drab English Sunday which we shall be discussing on Monday week.

I have one or two questions for my hon. and learned Friend—quite simple ones, I think. I am not clear whether it is mentioned in the Bill or not that admission to this museum will be free. Is any charge to be imposed on any days? I hope myself that it will be free, particularly because, of its nature, this museum will have a special educational value and, I imagine, will be the object of many school parties and outings of that kind.

This is purely a technicality of drafting, I suppose, but I do not quite understand the insertion which their Lordships in another place have made in the Bill—the bit right at the end of Clause 17 with a black line against it. This is explained, or partly explained, at the beginning of the Bill, but it reads: Nothing in this Act shall impose any charge on the people or on public funds … It seems to me that the whole Bill makes a considerable imposition on public funds, as my hon. and learned Friend remarked. The Treasury are contributing, and two other public bodies are contributing. I do not understand that apparently contradictory statement. Perhaps it could be explained.

Finally, I ventured to interrupt my hon. and learned Friend to ask him why a museum counted as an office for the purposes of the order restricting office building, and he explained that the museum is part of a larger office block. I do not know to what extent this office block is an integrated whole—perhaps when we have seen the plans we shall understand better—or whether it would be possible to start building this part of the block before building the offices generally; or even whether it would be possible to make a special exception to the restriction on office buildings in favour of the Museum of London, either by Amendment to the Bill at a later stage or by administrative action of some sort.

In general, I join with other Members in welcoming this project most warmly.

4.42 p.m.

Sir Edward Boyle (Birmingham, Handsworth)

I wish to speak on the Bill for a few minutes simply because when I held the Minister's present office I was concerned with the negotiations which have led to this Bill appearing before Parliament. I therefore warmly welcome the fact that we have the Bill before us. It was in the summer of 1961, just before the July economic measures of that year, that we were engaged in the final stages of the negotiations between the Treasury, the City of London and what was then the London County Council on the subject of the Bill.

As Financial Secretary, I was always very keen that we should achieve a new combined London and City Museum. The London Museum was admirably managed, I agree, by its board. I should like to pay a tribute to the work of the late Lord Esher, who always took the most enormous amount of interest in the London Museum, and I also pay tribute to the present Lord Harcourt, who played a most valuable part and was of the greatest assistance to me in carrying out these negotiations. But it had always seemed absurd to me that we had the London Museum not ideally housed in Kensington Palace, quite some way from the centre of London, and then, completely, separate, the Guildhall Museum, which very few people saw.

Surely, looking over our national history, we must agree that London should be viewed as a whole. Certainly, the City of London has played a great part in the history of the nation. After all, it is about 80 years since the formation of the London County Council and since London became an administrative county. It seemed to me that the time had come for a combined City and London Museum.

One of the points which arose naturally and which was of special concern to the Treasury Ministers was the sharing of expenditure. Here, I am sure quite rightly, the Government have been reasonably generous. The Treasury is to pay more than one-third of the total capital cost, when the furniture is added to the Treasury's share of the cost of the building, and the taxpayer will pay a full one-third of the running costs of this Museum. That is a settlement which will be widely welcomed in the country.

May I say a word or two on the details? As I see it, this museum was intended to cover everything connected with the history of the City and the county but it is not intended primarily to be an artistic museum as such. It will be concerned primarily with the history of London, and this covers a wide field, including historical episodes, the costumes of various periods, buildings and many other projects.

I agree with the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) in hoping that the museum will be open on a Sunday. I think that I also agree with him about the site. The House should be told frankly that I very much doubt whether we could have carried through these quite tricky negotiations but for the fact that this admirable site was available in the City. A combined London and City Museum to be located on the South Bank would have been a very much more tricky project to negotiate, and I doubt whether we should have succeeded.

I ought to add a word of particular thanks to the Clerks both of the London County Council and of the Court of Common Council, who were particularly helpful in getting us over what at one stage were quite difficult negotiations. I am sure that it would have been much harder had not this admirable site existed in the Barbican. I agree with the hon. Member for Barking that the site is within easy reach of other historic buildings which other people come to visit.

May I add two rather more general comments which arise on the Bill? First, I am rather sorry that we have so little enthusiasm among hon. Members for a Bill about a museum. My belief is that museums play, or should play, an important part in our national cultural life but that they have not played as large a part since the war as we should have liked to see. In Britain, there has been a great upsurge of enthusiasm both for fine arts and for practical arts, and there has been a great upsurge of enthusiasm for music. On the whole, museums have tended to come off rather less well, and this is why, when I was Financial Secretary, I tried to take an interest in the museums within the purview of the Treasury. I was responsible for the new west wing of the Welsh Museum at Cardiff, and I was very pleased to get the Imperial War Museum on to a building programme, which was overdue. I am particularly pleased about the City of London Museum.

Museums have an important part to play educationally, not just from the point of view of young people being taken round dutifully and admiring exhibits of historic interest, but also from the point of view of encouraging the exercise of the imagination. A well-displayed museum can play a great part in encouraging the historical imagination, and in getting young people to think what it would have been like to live in those times and to realise the creative aspect of the study of history and how it has enabled us to put things into shape in new and exciting ways.

I am, therefore, sure that we are right in the House to take an interest in the development of the museum services both in national museums and in local museums. This is a museum which in a sense will be both a national and a local museum.

It seems to have been forgotten that the Robbins Committee made a recommendation that there should be a Minister of Arts and Sciences, in effect to take over all the present work of the Treasury as a spending Department in this connection. The Robbins Committee made a recommendation that this Ministry should take over responsibility for the universities and colleges of advanced technology and all the work of the Treasury in connection with arts and museums. The previous Government, I think rightly, did not accept that recommendation about universities, and I welcome the fact, personally, that the present Government have carried the matter one stage further still and that we are to have a single Permanent Secretary in the Department of Education and Science. But possibly they have rather overlooked that we have not either dealt with or made any change in the arrangements for museums and the arts. I do not believe that there is any great urgency to alter our present arrangements.

Mr. Driberg

I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman is forgetting my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Public Building and Works, who has a special responsibility for the arts. We all hope that the Treasury will allow her to spend as much as she wants to.

Sir E. Boyle

And I wish good luck to her, but I was particularly thinking about the museums which are the responsibility of particular Government Departments. I am not absolutely clear about the full scope of the Parliamentary Secretary's responsibilities. Perhaps the Arts Council now comes within her purview. Nevertheless, while the present arrangements may be untidy, they appear to work reasonably well.

I was always grateful, when at the Ministry of Education, that we had there the interests of the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert, probably two of the finest collections of applied art in the world. I believe that the Bill shows that the Treasury has not neglected its duties in regard to a number of national museums.

The Treasury handled this matter and these negotiations as well as any other Department could have done and, while I recognise the anomaly of the Treasury as a spending Department and the rather untidy way our present arrangements are organised for museums, none the less, in fairness, we should remember that the Treasury has done some valuable work here and that the Bill reflects great credit on all those who were responsible for carrying out these arrangements.

With those words, I warmly welcome the Bill and hope, with considerable optimism, that we will get a really strong board of governors. I hope that the Prime Minister will see that he chooses six strong governors, for this is not a job for anybody. It is a task on which a considerable amount of time and care must be spent. I hope that the museum will be of real value to generations of children and other interested visitors.

4.52 p.m.

Mrs. Freda Corbet (Peckham)

As has been said, I was appointed to the interim board of governors. We have been working on this scheme for about two years and this is the moment we have been looking forward to; the time when the board will be given power to enable it to be no longer interim.

It should be remembered that the London County Council is still in existence. It will be so until 31st March and, for the moment, the L.C.C. has appointed its representatives—and it is in that capacity that I have served on the board. At the outset of the debate I thought that I would have to speak for a considerable time, but already, particularly in the speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Financial Secretary, a great deal of the information which I intended to impart has already been given. There is, therefore, not much I need add.

My hon. and learned Friend spoke of the site, in the City, at the Barbican. There are already about a dozen office blocks there and I understand that this will be the final block. The Museum Committee, for a considerable time, hoped that it would be given all the room there, although it was finally realised that that was not likely to happen. All hon. Members are aware of the temptation that any body, such as the Museum Committee, has to ask for every inch of space available, particularly when it is realised that this building must be fit for the purposes for which it is being conceived. It must be long-lasting and attractive. That is what this building will be.

Hon. Members who accept the invitation of my hon. and learned Friend to look at the plans will be immensely pleased to see the wide range of provision that is being made there, particularly for visiting school parties. It will not be a question of children being obliged to wander round looking at the various items on display. I can assure hon. Members that forcing children to look round museums is no longer necessary. They are only too happy to study the exhibits and nowadays parties from schools regularly make visits to our museums. For these visits, adequate provision must be made. Provision is being made par excellence in this fine building.

Apart from a museum, it will be quite a concourse. There will be a restaurant and ancillary amenities. Such things are essential in modern buildings. The museum should make a considerable contribution to the City. It will be situated in the very heart of the City, at the point where portions of London Wall are visible just underground and where the old gates and parts of ancient company buildings and churches are still visible. There can be no doubt that this is the site for the museum.

There would have been no room on the South Bank for it. Whenever a building of this sort is suggested people say, "Put it on the South Bank". Everything has gone to the South Bank. Everything that could go there is there. The City is the place for this museum, particularly since the City was keen on its being placed there. After all, the City is contributing greatly to the museum and there can be no doubt that the City—the L.C.C., soon to become the Greater London Council—has collaborated wonderfully on this venture.

This scheme has proceeded with the utmost amicability among the three partners concerned and I hope that I will live to see other such schemes concluded with such pleasantness and determination. Each partner has shouldered its share of the burden willingly and I commend this project to the House.

4.57 p.m.

Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)

I am happy to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) in welcoming the Bill. Perhaps I can find more enthusiasm for it than my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots). I would not want to be unduly unkind to my hon. and learned Friend, but I think that some of the fusty, dusty South Kensington Museum atmosphere must have rubbed off on to him, perhaps because he was speaking in a Treasury capacity rather than in an arts capacity, in which I speak.

I welcomed the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle), because although it was from the Treasury that he launched this great scheme he is an example of a Treasury Minister who has just the right qualification to deal with a matter of this sort. I echo his sentiments about the place of museums in the community, and I shall have more to say about that.

Although the Financial Secretary, when introducing the Bill, showed a certain amount of enthusiasm for the project, this must be the type of subject not entirely familiar to him. He is, however, a lawyer of distinction and is used to picking up a brief and dealing with it in an intelligent fashion. On this occasion he dealt with the subject fairly effectively, but I cannot pass to the Bill directly without commenting on some of the things said about responsibilities for museums and the arts, because it is in the arts field that museums are best operative.

We are faced with a strangely ironical slate of affairs, for we have unlimited time, the rest of the day, to discuss this Measure, whereas we were told during business questions this afternoon, by the Leader of the House, that we might, if we are lucky, get a short debate on a White Paper on the arts some time in the near future. I would be out of order in pursuing this matter further, but I hope that the Government will remember that many hon. Members on both sides of the House are interested in this subject. If we are to have a satisfactory debate, more than a short one will be necessary. Having been allowed to make these general observations, I turn to the provisions of the Bill.

The Bill is another example of the virtues of the hereditary principle, inasmuch as the Government have inherited it from their predecessors, though I am glad that they are as enthusiastic about it as we are. It must be right to have this Museum of London in the City of London, and I cannot follow my hon. and learned Friend in suggesting that it should be put, together with a number of other buildings not particularly closely related, on the South Bank.

The history of the City of London is something that is part of Britain and something that people from all over the world will come to study. They have been deprived of much of the benefit of that, because there has not been an adequate museum of London in which all the long history of the City can be displayed. Only last week I was down in the City of London—it was one of those days when the House was not sitting—to see a clockmaker. I have a clock made at Clerkenwell, in the City of London. The firm of watchmakers which made it is at the same address as it was in 1740, when the clock was made. Yet I found that much of the records of this famous firm had been thrown away during the war, and a lot of interesting old machinery was threatened with destruction because there was nowhere to put it.

The Museum of London in the City of London would be able to take care of such things, so that all the activities of the past could be remembered, and much learned from them at the present time—not just the history of manufactures, but architectural history, archæology, perhaps even paintings and engravings of historical events in the City of London. When finally constituted under the Bill the Museum of London can be a place where in a very short time one can see displayed all the history of the City of London over very many hundreds of years. That has not been possible before, but will be possible when this project has come to full fruition.

Much has been learned from the British Museum Act, a Measure designed to fit the British Museum better to the needs of modern times. I am sorry to hear from the Financial Secretary that this project of the Museum of London may be held up because of the Government's policy of curtailing office building. This is not the only difficulty in which the Government will find themselves because of the introduction of that sweeping Measure. It would be wrong for me to debate that subject now, but I hope that this will just be another example to lend force to the argument that that is a somewhat ill-considered provision. I hope that it will be of a temporary nature, because it does not cure the evils which the Government have alleged exists and has created all sorts of other evils in its wake.

I hope that the Government will have the imagination to appoint young people as some members of the board of governors. I should like to know what is the average age of the governors now functioning—I hope that I describe them in the right terms. Although, in my view, the average age of the trustees of the British Museum was not reduced enough, it was significantly reduced by the introduction of the British Museum Act.

I hope that the Prime Minister, in appointing or reappointing his representatives, will at least take note of the suggestion that young people should serve because, as my right hon. Friend has said, a museum is of great interest not just to school children looking for somewhere to go on a rainy afternoon, but to students, young people at universities—people perhaps even younger than that—and it is difficult to see how a board of governors composed very largely of middle-aged or elderly men, however knowledgeable they may be about the exhibits in the museum, can really be in touch with the younger generation which will, we hope, enjoy the facilities offered.

There are many points of detail to which I should like to refer, but there will no doubt be opportunities to do that later. The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) spoke about the financial provisions of the Bill, and I should like to ask a question I have asked before on similar measures, and that is whether it will be possible for the governors to charge admission either for the museum or for any special exhibition they may care to organise within the museum.

I know that there is a difference between the parties, perhaps even within my own party, on the subject of charges—indeed, I see that my right hon. Friend is laughing at that reference, and I can remember crossing swords with him on the subject during the passage of the Public Libraries and Museums Bill in the last Parliament. The important point is that whatever the differences of opinion may be, it would surely be wrong to have an Act preventing a museum from making a charge on all occasions. There might be an occasion when it would be able to put on a special feature only if it could recoup some of the costs of doing so. In this modern age, which is very different from that in which many of our museums started—the last century—a modest charge is surely acceptable to most people—

Mr. Driberg

I think that the board of governors, or whoever runs the museum, will be able to do that under Clause 8. It says: … (whether in return for payment or not) …

Mr. Cooke

I thank the hon. Member for that intervention, but I should like to have the Financial Secretary's assurance that those words mean what his hon. Friend thinks they mean. We have had difficulties about that sort of thing in the past.

I would echo my right hon. Friend's sentiments about museums, and this museum, in particular—this new project for which I have great enthusiasm, and for which many of my hon. Friends have great enthusiasm. I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kensington, South will have much greater enthusiasm by the time we have finished, despite the cost. I hope that this project will be a success, and that it can be a great and imaginative example to all those planning museums at this present time. In my own city, a scheme of about this size is in process of being designed.

I think that we can lead the country, and the world, with this Museum of London. In view of the enthusiasm that the Financial Secretary has shown for the project, I hope that he will be able to persuade some of his right hon. Friends to remove the harsh restriction on office building that has caught this very worthy project, and that it will not be long before we see the Museum of London as a reality in the City of London.

5.10 p.m.

Mr. MacDermot

With your permission, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and that of the House, I speak again to reply briefly to some of the questions which have been asked during this debate.

The hon. and learned Member for Kensington, South (Mr. Roots) recoiled with proper horror at the capital cost of erecting the building. It is comforting for a Treasury Minister to find other hon. Members sharing concern in these matters. We are usually urged by everyone to spend so much money that is most encouraging to find someone coming to our support in our anxiety to save money. This reflects the heavy capital cost of building in the City, but I feel satisfied, and I think that my predecessors did, that the public will be getting good value for money even though it may seem to be a lot of money.

The hon. and learned Member also asked whether it was necessary for the museum to be in the City, and if that needed to be prescribed in the Bill. Other hon. Members spoke on that point. As the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Sir E. Boyle) made clear, at this stage it has not been for us to reopen that question. It is basic to the agreement between the authorities, I think it fair to acknowledge that it was reasonable for the Corporation of the City of London to take the view—quite apart from the fact that it was offering a site—that if it surrendered its own Guildhall Museum it should stipulate that the site of the new museum should be in the City.

I agree with hon. Members that there are good reasons why it should be in the City for the sake of the better balance of life in the redeveloped City and also because, while people will want to come to the museum from the west, there will be many children and others who wish to come to it from the east. I am sure they will welcome its siting in the City. Quite apart from its propinquity to St. Paul's, the museum should not be difficult to find. I have not yet dared to inform the House that the contemplated tower office block will rise to a height of 200 ft., so it should be a fairly visible landmark.

Mr. Driberg

Has it been approved by the Royal Fine Art Commission?

Mr. MacDermot

I do not know the answer to that, but I shall find out and let my hon. Friend know.

My hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) asked whether the museum would be open on Sundays and whether admission would be free. Those are matters within the province of the governors to decide. I have little doubt that they will wish to make arrangements to ensure that the museum is open on Sundays. The position about charging is that the Bill is so drawn that they would be empowered to charge for entry. This, again, will be a matter for decision by the governors, but I think it is current practice, certainly in the national museums, not to charge for admission. It is a matter on which opinions differ, and differ strongly, but I hope the governors will be able to make the museum available for free admission.

My hon. Friend raised a somewhat technical point of apparent contradiction in the Bill which I would rather not try to answer now "off the cuff". I will write in answer to that point.

My hon. Friend also asked, as a number of other hon. Members did, what the effect would be of restriction on building. No special exemption can be made for this building, but that does not mean that permission cannot be given for its construction. It means that it is subject to a licensing procedure and a case must be made for it. He asked whether it might be possible to erect only the part of the building which constitutes the museum. The difficulty there would be one of cost. That part of the building being at the base will involve all the very expensive excavation and foundation work, the building of subterranean car parks, and so forth. It would not be an economic proposition to incur all that cost merely for the erection of the museum.

The right hon. Member for Handsworth spoke in support of generosity by the Treasury. I suppose that one can look only to a former Treasury Minister to give that kind of praise to the Treasury. I confess that when I first studied the proposals I, also, was impressed with the generosity of some of the other authorities. London County Council acted very generously in assuming responsibility in this matter. It could easily have washed its hands of it and have said, "We are not responsible for the museums of London or for the Guildhall Museum. This is something you must arrange with the City of London," but it did not do that; it came in on a third share basis.

The Corporation of the City of London is taking over on an equal basis, although its museum is a smaller one than the London Museum. I was glad that the right hon. Member, who has such great experience of this matter, was able to inform the House of the part which so many persons and authorities have played in helping to bring this scheme to fruition. I was glad also to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) confirming what was said by the right hon. Member.

I was asked about the average age of the present members of the interim board. I cannot enlighten the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke) about that, but I am sure that the observations he made about persons who would be suitable as members of the board will be listened to by all those responsible for making the appointments. I hope that his Clerkenwell clockmaker will be put in touch with the new museum, if he is not already in touch with the authorities. The museum is anxious that it should be a proper museum of the crafts and history of London.

Hon. Members will have observed that there is no definition in the Bill as such of what the scope of the museum is to be. I think that that is wise. We tend to do things rather better in an empirical fashion in this country. This is a beginning by the fusion of two existing museums and the board is empowered to add to that collection at its discretion. I do not think anything would be gained by trying to confine the members of the board to a narrow commission.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read a Second Time.

Ordered, That the Bill be committed to a Select Committee of Eight Members, Four to be nominated by the House and Four by the Committee of Selection:

Ordered, That there shall stand referred to the Select Committee—

  1. (a) any Petition against the Bill presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office at any time not later than the seventh day after this day, and
  2. (b) any Petition which has been presented by being deposited in the Private Bill Office and in which the Petitioners complain of any amendment as proposed in the filled-up Bill or of any matter which has arisen during the progress of the Bill before the said Committee,
being Petition in which the Petitioners pray to be heard by themselves, their Counsel or Agents:

Ordered, That if no such Petition as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (a) above is presented, or if all such Petitions are withdrawn before the meeting of the Committee, the Order for the committal of the Bill to a Select Committee shall be discharged and the Bill shall be committed to a Standing Committee:

Ordered, That any Petitioner whose Petition stands referred to the Select Committee shall, subject to the Rules and Orders of the House and to the Prayer of his Petition, be entitled to be heard by himself, his Counsel or Agents upon his Petition provided that it is prepared and signed in conformity with the Rules and Orders of the House, and the Member in charge of the Bill shall be entitled to be heard by his Counsel or Agents in favour of the Bill against that Petition:

Ordered, That the Committee have power to report from day to day the Minutes of the evidence taken before them:

Ordered, That Three be the Quorum of the Committee.—[Mr. MacDermot.]