HC Deb 25 October 1972 vol 843 cc1262-5

Lords Amendment: No. 350, in page 156, line 15, leave out from first "councils" to "and" in line 17 and insert: the Greater London Council, London borough councils, district councils, the Common Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly".

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Would it be convenient, Mr. Speaker, to discuss also Lords Amendments Nos. 351 to 357?

Mr. Speaker


Mr. Page

The effect of Amendment No. 350 is to exclude parish councils from authorities competent to maintain and assist museums and to deal with certain anomalies, namely, the previous omission of the Greater London Council and the Council of the Isles of Scilly. This is against the general trend of the Bill in giving powers to parish councils. But parishes do not have statutory powers to provide libraries. I think it should follow from that that they should not have statutory powers to provide museums or art galleries.

There is no doubt that there is an increasing requirement for high and effective standards and for staffing of museums and galleries beyond the resources of any parish council, and to retain the existing law would lead to fruitless applications to the Secretary of State from time to time for permission to provide museums and art galleries by the parish. This merely means that the statutory power is removed. The parish can still, if it sees fit, use its free two new pence in providing a library, a museum or an art gallery, but I feel that the trend is that proper staffing of those facilities is now required and that is beyond the resources of the parish.

Amendment No. 352 is consequential, by removing the power from the community councils in Wales.

Amendment Nos. 353 and 354 are consequential.

I come to Amendment No. 355. By the Bill, upon the council of a district in Wales ceasing to be a library authority under the Public Libraries and Museums Act, 1964, which may be by voluntary relinquishment or failure to carry out its duties, its library officers, assets and liabilities will be transferred to the county council or joint board assuming the functions previously exercised by it.

The effect of the Amendment is to make that provision applicable in a case in which the council of a district in Wales loses its function as a library authority not by voluntary relinquishment or failure to carry out its duties but is deprived of the function for the purpose of improving the library facilities in the area as a whole.

The Amendment has the further effect of making applicable to transferred officers the provisions of the 1964 Act with respect to conditions of employment, compensation, superannuation and other benefits. Thus, by the operation of these provisions no staff will suffer, but one hopes that the library facilities of the area will be improved.

7.0 p.m.

Amendment No. 356 removes certain words which are not required because the Interpretation Act, 1889, together with Clause 258, provides the necessary wording.

Amendment No. 357 provides a new paragraph (f) to enable an authority to establish a fund for the purchase of objects for exhibition in a museum or art gallery before it is actually in being. It is extraordinary that a fund could not be set up in order to start a museum or art gallery; it could be set up only after the museum or art gallery had started. This is a nonsense, and we have put it right by the new paragraph (f).

There are certain other consequential changes, for example, paragraph (h). Under that part of the 1964 Act which is to cease to have effect, the expenses of a county council related to the provision and maintenance of a museum or art gallery, in respect of contributions towards expenses incurred by others in so doing, or in providing advisory or other services or financial assistance for the benefit of a museum or art gallery may not be charged on the area of any local authority within the county which itself maintains a museum or art gallery. That is the law as it stands at present.

The House will recall that we had a similar argument yesterday when we used swimming pools as an example. The law here says that, if an existing district has provided its own museum or art gallery, it shall not be charged for the provision of those services elsewhere by the county. This could result in a state of affairs in which an area could benefit from the service provided by the county without itself having to contribute to the cost even where the provision made by the local authority in that area was of little significance. The district may have set up a footling little art gallery or a miserable little museum and then claim that it need not contribute in any way from the rates to a museum or art gallery set up for the whole county, well staffed, well managed, and providing facilities for the whole county. We should regard that as unfair, and we seek by this Amendment to repeal the existing law in that respect.

New paragraph (i) of Amendment. No. 357 ensures that the Isles of Scilly are equated to a non-metropolitan county in this respect.

The effect of new paragraph (j) is to remove the limits imposed under the 1964 Act on the maximum annual sum which may be paid by a local authority into its own fund and on the maximum total amount which may be in the fund at any time. Having given local authorities power to set up these funds, now both for the provision and for the maintenance of their museums and galleries, we think it right that they should have freedom to decide what they put into the funds and how much the amount shall be at any one time.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.

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