Mr. Deputy Speaker
With this it will be convenient to consider Government amendments Nos.7, 8,13 and 14.
§ Mr. Luce
Mr. Deputy Speaker, you suggested that we should sensibly take these amendments as a group because each one flows from the other.
The purpose of amendment No.6 is to make it clear that the Museum of London or any other body or person in conjunction with whom it may be working in connection with the provision of archaeological services in London may publish information deriving from archaeological investigations and research.
I gave undertakings in Committee to consider an amendment along those lines. The amendment follows the spirit of the amendment tabled by Opposition Members. However, the wording of their amendment was not sufficiently clear and did not sit easily with the Bill's existing wording. There are three points. The first is that we have detached publications from the non-specific powers to provide and promote archaeological services. Secondly, we have linked the power to publish to the result of the specific investigation and research being carried out under the terms of the Bill. Thirdly, the wording follows the pattern of similar provisions in existing legislation.
As I explained to the Committee, I did not believe that the amendment was strictly necessary, but there are precedents in the London Government Act 1963 and the 106 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. I must be fair to the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) who said in Committee:excavation is not completed until it is published".—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 21 January 1986, c. 101.]I agree with that. I should not wish there to be any doubt about the powers to publish information under the Bill. For that reason, I commend the amendment to the House.
§ Mr. Buchan
It would be ungracious of me not to thank the Minister. He promised to table an amendment after our open and broad discussion in Committee. I thank him for bringing it forward so expeditiously.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments made: No. 7, in page 2, line 41, leave out `and'.
No. 8, in page 42, after 'research', insert'and the publishing of such information'.—[Mr. Luce.]
§ Mr. Speaker
With this it will be convenient to take the following amendments: No.10, in page 3, line 3, after 'State', insert'and he shall not give such consent unless he has satisfied himself that the acquisition or disposal will facilitate the exercise of their functions by the Board of Governors and that the acquisition or disposal is in the best interests of Greater London generally'.
No. 11, in page 3, line 5, leave out 'and the Corporation'.
§ Mr. Spearing
The amendment excludes part of the compound, complex clause 2 which does a number of things. The amendment would delete clause 2(4) which provides:(4) The Board shall not acquire or dispose of any land or any estate or interest in land without the consent of the Secretary of State and the Corporation and such consent may be given subject to such conditions as the Secretary of State and the Corporation consider appropriate.
We are all aware that the increased number of members of the governing board will be nominated entirely by the Prime Minister and the City corporation. The powers of those bodies, by virtue of their powers of nomination, will be increased indirectly. The indirect power of elected persons—members of the GLC—are not just being decreased, they are being extinguished. That in itself would give additional powers to the Government, and the corporation, but an additional power is being written into the Bill which we did not discuss a great deal in Committee. The sanction of the Secretary of State and of the City of London Corporation will be required, to acquire or dispose of land or property.
What is more significant is that either of those or both can place limitations on the discretion of the governors in pursuit of that activity. The Minister may tell us that such and such an Act has been passed in relation to other museums or, indeed, national monuments where these powers are inserted. Be that as it may, the Minister has to make out a specific, proper case for increasing the powers of both these authorities. We know that it is not necessarily to be used in a way related entirely to acquisition and disposal.
I imagine that people, when given power, like to use it. I can imagine that the Secretary of State, the Minister, or those who advise him at the third or fourth level, or some people in a committee of the City of London corporation, when asked: "May we buy this land, this warehouse, or that historic house in the City or 107 elsewhere?" will say "Yes, you may do so as long as …"The "as long as" may set out the conditions which may require that the board of governors should perhaps make a charge or dispose of what are regarded as surplus assets —both are matters which we have already discussed. It may require the Board to do something which it may not be inclined to do otherwise.
These powers do not look great, but could be exercised in a way which would provide less scope for the governors. It behoves the Secretary of State or the Minister to tell us why. The Minister should tell us what he has in mind and the type of condition which may be imposed in these circumstances. Unless he does I do not think we can decide our views on the matter, although in principle, we think the clause should not go through. The case was not made in Committee.
Amendment number 11 relates to the corporation's powers in this respect. Let us suppose that the Secretary of State says, "All right, half the money is coming from me and I can make those conditions." Is there any reason why the corporation should as well? The Minister will no doubt reply, "Ah, but the corporation is providing part of the money, so it should have these powers as well."
That is arithmetically true, but as has been made abundantly clear in this debate, the City of London Corporation is acting for the whole of Greater London in that it is the only London body specifically involved in nominations. It is providing money in an unrepresentative way. The Minister, when he replies, will have to justify his having the powers. But he must make out a specific case for the corporation having them too. Even if there are precedents in other legislations, I would think that these additional powers are unnecessary because the additional members of the board of governors are appointed by the corporation and the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Hanley
I believe that the clause as it stands, unamended, is wholly desirable. As we discussed in Committee, the Museum of London is tantamount to being a charity. It is treated as a charity in all legal respects. It is common in charitable law that a restriction is imposed on the distribution, sale or any other disposal of assets especially of land. The doctrine of cy pres should apply. That is that the property should go to the next nearest object of similar worth. I can see that there is a difficulty and that it might be thought desirable for property to go to some other body, but it is only sensible that those who have paid for the organisation should have ultimate control over the disposition of any property that is sold. I doubt whether the Secretary of State or the corporation will be in conflict with the board that they have so carefully appointed.
The clause is wholly sensible and ensures that assets are disposed of only with the agreement of the Secretary of State and the corporation. I see nothing wrong in it.
§ Mr. Buchan
Will the Minister consider accepting amendment No.10, which provides a small extension? I shall not repeat our arguments on this subject. We have expressed our doubt about the Conservative party and those it will appoint to look after the museum. The Bill is restrictive and amendment No. 10 would facilitate the exercise of the Board's functions by providing that acquisition 108will facilitate the exercise of their functions by the Board of Governors and that the acquisition or disposal is in the best interests of Greater London generally".We have been worried by the narrowness of view that has been expressed generally and which appears to have been taken towards the museum. We are anxious to ensure that Greater London and the region round about is taken care of. I therefore ask the Minister to consider accepting amendment No. 10, if only for the greater comfort of the leigis.
§ Mr. Luce
I can give a strong assurance that the interests of Greater London will be taken into account.
Amendment No.9 would delete section 3(4)of the Museum of London Act 1965, as proposed in clause 2.That subsection empowers the board of governors to acquire or dispose of land, subject to the consent of the two funding authorities—the Government and the City. The provision which the amendment would delete brings the Museum of London in line with the National Heritage Act 1983, which applies more specifically to the Science Museum and to the Victoria and Albert Museum. It is essential that I, on behalf of taxpayers, who will find half of the museum's costs, should be able to have a say in the expansion of the museum's estate. The plans to acquire or dispose of land are already subject to scrutiny by the funding authorities in considering the museum's annual budget. It is right to include that more formally in the Bill. That is also important from the point of view of accountability.
Amendment No.11 would require the consent of the Secretary of State to the acquisition and disposal of land and property, but not that of the City of London corporation. I must reject that, too, for the reasons that I have already given. It is wholly appropriate for the City, as one of the two funding authorities, to have a say in changes in the museum's estate. As I said, it will already do that when considering the museum's annual budget. It is right to include this more formally in the Bill as well.
The hon. Member for Paisley, South (Mr. Buchan) implied that, if we will not accept amendments Nos.9 and 11, the Opposition would like to impose conditions on whichever Minister is responsible before he is able to consent to the acquisition or disposal of land by the board of governors. That runs counter to the amendment moved by the hon. Gentleman, but I appreciate that the main purpose of the amendment was a probing one. I readily accept that the conditions mentioned in amendment No. 10 are among those on which I and my successors would wish to be satisfied. However, they would be among several factors to be taken into account in the overall responsibility.
We get into more difficulty if we try to imagine every set of circumstances in which the board of governors would have to take account of the acquisition and disposal of land. It is more sensible to remain consistent with the National Heritage Act 1983, with which the Bill is in total line and which allows for accountability on the part of the Government and the City. With that in mind, I ask the House to reject the amendments.
§ Mr. Buchan
I am unsure of the position. Do I need the leave of the House to discuss an amendment in the middle of a discussion on other amendments?
§ Mr. Speaker
The hon. Member can deal with the amendments that I have called—No.9, with Nos. 10 and 11.
§ Mr. Buchan
My hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) will wish to put his own view on amendments Nos. 9 and 11. In the middle of this general discussion, I wish to comment on amendment No. 10, to which my name is attached.
It is all very well referring to the National Heritage Act 1983,but clause 2 substitutes section 3 of the Museum of London Act, which gives general powers. When this matter was discussed in Committee, we argued that the remainder of clause 2, because it detailed a number of functions, but not all the possible functions, left open to question whether those functions not mentioned could be ignored. The Minister will remember the argument. We argued that we would prefer general powers to the listing of some powers.
In relation to the listing of some powers, the Minister said that he accepts the qualification as being among several qualifications, but not all. However, he turns our argument back on us and says that he cannot accept the qualification because it could throw in doubt the other purposes with which subsection (4) might deal. He cannot accept proposals regarding subsections (1),(2) and (3),and prevent additional qualifications and purports from being written into subsection (4).The purpose of amendment No. 10 is that it should in the best interests of Greater London generally. To be consistent with the line the Minister has taken of listing several objectives rather than the general powers in clause 3 of the parent Act of 1965, he has compelled us to adopt his philosophy and structure of clause 2 and extend it into subsection (4).
To be consistent with changing a simple eight line general powers section into a long and extended section by including functions, I ask the Minister, for our comfort, to add in subsection (4) that it must be done in the best interests of Greater London. Otherwise, he will be faced with the problem that he tried to argue about in Committee. His argument was that the proposal sets out the objectives and purposes. Everyone is entitled to believe that the fact that the amendment is missing suggests that it need not have been included. We are asking that it is included and we hope that the Minister will reconsider it.
§ Mr. Spearing
I am not sure of the procedure, Mr. Speaker. Amendments Nos.9,10 and 11 are being taken together because they are on the same point. Amendments Nos. 9 and 11 seek to remove the additional powers that the Bill gave to the Secretary of State and the Corporation of the City of London respectively in imposing conditions on the governors of the Museum of London. Amendment No.10,to which my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South(Mr. Buchan)has just referred, is not consistent with the provisions of amendments Nos. 9 and 11. In a sense, my hon. Friend's amendment says that if the Minister cannot accept my measures to delete these power, we should at least insert a safeguard.
I seek your guidance, Mr. Speaker. If I withdraw amendments Nos.9 and 11, will it be possible to put the Question on amendment No. 10? Although I do not like the increased powers given to the Secretary of State and the Corporation of the City of London, especially in view of the increased representation that they already have, and 110 although I am not entirely persuaded by the arguments on the Science museum, the Victoria and Albert museum and the National Heritage Act 1983,there is some logic in them. Therefore, I do not seek to press amendments Nos. 9 and 11. I hope my colleagues agree that there is some sense in what my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley, South said about safeguards and that we are able to express a view, even if it is negative, on amendment No.10.
§ Mr. Speaker
If the hon. Member is asking whether I would allow a separate Question to be put on amendment No.10, the answer is yes. Does the hon. Member wish to move amendment No.9?
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment proposed: No.10 in page 3, line 3, after `State', insert
'and he shall not give such consent unless he has satisfied himself that the acquisition or disposal will facilitate the exercise of their functions by the Board of Governors and that the acquisition or disposal is in the best interests of Greater London generally'. — [Mr. Buchan.]
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Spearing
I beg to move amendment No.12, in page 3, leave out lines 14 to 19.
As I said in Committee, clause 2 has many parts. The amendment will delete new section 8(2), which states:The Board may allow any premises occupied or managed by them to be used by other persons (for payment or otherwise) for purposes not connected with the Board's functions under this Act if the Board are satisfied that to do so would not conflict with those functions.
The aim of new section 8(2)is to widen the board's discretion in the use of the premises in the way outlined. Normally, one might say that that is a good thing and that it gives more scope and options to the board. However, because of the actions of the Government and, perhaps, of some of their nominees, I am unhappy with the breadth and scope of that measure. Clearly these activities., for which payment may or may not be made, are likely to be entirely outside the museum's purposes.
Those purposes are fairly wide in terms of cultural and other activities. Under this measure the board of governors may, as it were, turn its premises to commercial advantage. The Barbican and the City of London would be ideal premises for all sorts of social or business functions to take place. The Minister will say, "The board must be satisfied that this does not conflict with its functions." There could be much discussion by the board, because, of course, that is a matter of judgment.
If conditions are to be laid down on the sale of property, the Secretary of State may say, as he has said to many local authorities—if he can treat elected authorities in this way, he can treat the board of governors in the same way —"You may do that, but you had better make a bit of money for yourself. You have the power. Advertise and let the property for the price that the market will bear."
Despite the qualification that there must not be a conflict with the functions of the museum, such conflict is a matter of judgment. The commercialisation of the premises would be a real danger. I hope that the Minister will at least give an indication of the thinking of the Secretary of State, if not of the City of London Corporation.
§ Mr. Luce
The purpose of the amendment is to remove the part of the Act that gives the power to the board to 111allow any premises occupied or managed by them to be used by other persons (for payment or otherwise) for purposes not connected with the Board's functions under this Act if the Board are satisfied"—I stress that—that to do so would not conflict with those functions.That is important.
The provision stems from an equivalent provision in the National Heritage Act 1983, which has proved useful in practice. The idea is simple—it is to give the board of governors the option to allow the museum premises to be used for functions, events and so on which are outside the direct objectives of the museum as defined elsewhere in the Act.
The provision allows the board to raise money for the museum by charging for the hiring of its premises for occasional events. I do not see why I should not urge the House to agree that that objective should be encouraged.
In answer to the probing of the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing), I must stress that that power is not confined to the Museum of London, but is already allowed for with other museums such as the Science and the Victoria and Albert museums. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the activities must not conflict with the functions of the board.
It is wholly sensible that the board should have that small degree of latitude, if it so wishes, to allow the premises to be used, if they are not at that time being used for their normal purposes, to raise money for the museum through hirings. After all, such an option is at the discretion of the board of governors.
§ Dr. John G. Blackburn (Dudley, West)
Surely that would be a useful and equitable means of raising income for the museum, and, provided that it is within the terms of the clause, it could be a great blessing.
§ Mr. Spearing
With the leave of the House, Mr. Speaker. I am afraid that the Minister's words confirmed my worst suspicions. In effect, he said, "Let the board make the best use of its assets, even if it is for purposes not connected with the purposes of the museum."
I accept that the Minister said that such purposes should not conflict with the museum's purposes, but if there must be a balance to compensate for the reduction in Exchequer contribution, there could be a possible conflict in the use of the premises. My public library, because of pressure from the Government, has become a disgrace because of the hours that it is not open. It is not used by anyone when it is closed. With any other Government in office I would not have pressed the amendment, but in view of the well-known predilections of both the City of London Corporation and the Prime Minister, if not of the Secretary of State, I feel that the Question should be put.
§ Amendment negatived.