HC Deb 24 April 1969 vol 782 cc637-8
16. Mr. Ridley

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will advise the setting up of a Royal Commission in place of the Departmental inquiry to consider the question of the export of manuscripts, records and documents of all sorts.

Miss Jennie Lee

I would refer my hon. Friend to my reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Marquand) on 17th April when I sought to make clear that we are not discussing first principles but the difficulties of having a viable, practicable scheme that can be put into operation. For that reason the Working Party, which is now closely studying the problem, is the best way of going about it.—[Vol. 781, c. 1313–15.]

Mr. Ridley

Will the right hon. Lady accept, first, that this is a totally different problem from the export control of works of art? Secondly, does she agree that it is the precise definition of the criteria which needs attention and that this might be done better by a completely independent outside body than by the proposed inter-Departmental inquiry?

Miss Lee

I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. We must keep in mind that a document of historical importance for London may not be so for Scotland. We have local and regional historical interests. This is a difficult problem. It is not a matter of first principles. It is a matter of trying to work out a scheme which can be implemented without having to ask civil servants to drop the jobs which they are doing to take over this one.