HC Deb 27 March 1985 vol 76 cc604-5
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

I understand that the Opposition do not wish to move amendment No. 78.

Mr. Cormack

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I be allowed to move the amendment?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

The hon. Gentleman may move the amendment if he so desires.

Mr. Cormack

I beg to move amendment No. 78, in page 3, line 24, after 'effect', insert 'subject to the Secretary of State reporting to Parliament on the arrangements to be made to ensure the satisfactory co-ordination and integration of the responsibilities and work of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Museum of London and the City of London.'. I want to say a few words on the amendment because I am a member of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts. Labour Members who look somewhat aggrieved because I have moved the amendment should remember that I am not one of the Government's most fervent supporters of the Bill. This is an important, if peripheral, matter. It illustrates the unfortunate nature of the Bill, and the way in which it has been handled means that we have not been able to debate in detail some important peripheral issues.

I thank my hon. Friends for seeing representatives from the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, and other bodies, who believe that London has a solution which is broadly acceptable and can be made to work. On the other hand, I ask my hon. Friends to recognise the grave concern among archivists all over the country about the fact that the arrangements elsewhere have not been sufficiently carefully thought through.

The Bill was conceived as a political act, designed to deal with what the Government reckoned to be a major political problem. However, its enormous ramifications in areas which are peripheral but of real intrinsic importance were not sufficiently thoroughly thought through.

11.45 pm

I pay tribute to my right hon. and hon. Friends for their efforts to ensure that the solution in London is acceptable, but I urge them to have further discussions with archivists and others who are very concerned about the arrangements for the metropolitan counties.

If the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) persists in looking aggrieved, I shall speak until midnight. I know a great deal about this subject.

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

The hon. Gentleman considers that he knows a great deal about most subjects. He frequently entertains the House with his knowledge. However, there are some matters a little further on in the Bill that are important in a wider way to other parts of the country. We should be grateful if the hon. Gentleman would permit us to consider them.

Mr. Cormack

My intention was to speak for about three or four minutes, and that is what I have done. However, I believe that it is important that hon. Members should recognise one another's special interests. People all over the country are gravely concerned about this matter. They have devoted their lives to a profession of considerable importance. I therefore make no apology for airing their interests and concerns in the House this evening. I regret the fact that the hon. Gentleman, whose party tabled the amendment, is not prepared to move it. There would have been a sense of real grievance if the amendment had not been moved this evening.

Sir George Young

I welcome the contribution of my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South (Mr. Cormack), because he has a fund of interest and expertise in this area.

I understand that there is a misprint, in that the amendment refers to the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts instead of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments.

My hon. Friend acknowledged that good progress has been made in London. The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission and the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments are to exercise new responsibilities after abolition, and we are confident that they will carry them out very well.

My hon. Friend rightly mentioned the concern about archives outside London. My right hon. Friend and other Ministers in the Department are actively pursuing the matter with appropriate bodies to try to find a more satisfactory solution. We undertake to keep my hon. Friend fully informed of the progress that we are able to make.

Amendment negatived.

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