HC Deb 08 November 1999 vol 337 cc791-2

Lords amendment: No. 482, in page 158, line 39, at end insert—

("( ) archives;")
Mr. Raynsford

I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.

We now come to part X of the Bill, which deals with culture. The purpose of the amendment is to make specific reference to archives in the list of topics that may be included in the draft culture strategy. I would emphasise that the list of topics is purely exemplary and that the addition has no legal significance.

Nevertheless, the Government regard archives as an important part of the cultural life of the nation and wish to raise the profile of the sector. Archives are one of the strategic responsibilities of the new Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. London, in particular, is the home of many unique and important archive collections, which play a vital role in defining the city's cultural identity.

9.15 pm

In Committee, the matter was raised by the right hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Brooke), who made an eloquent plea for the inclusion of the specific reference to archives. I am glad that we are able to respond now. Let me also take this opportunity to apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for inadvertently suggesting in an earlier debate that something was included in a White Paper when it was not. I was incorrect; I apologise unreservedly to the right hon. Gentleman, and once again acknowledge his mastery of the detail of this legislation, which ensured that his original comment was entirely accurate.

It is because of the right hon. Gentleman's intervention that—having taken into account his views and those of others put to us in Committee and elsewhere, and in another place—the Government decided to accept the amendment tabled by the Opposition. The effect will be to insert "archives" on a new line, as a separate sub-heading, under "library services".

Mr. Brooke

I thank the Minister for his gracious words.

This was always the shortest of all the amendments tabled to the Bill during its progress. Although—partly owing to provocation by the Minister—I spoke at some length when the subject was last debated, I shall be brief on this occasion. The amendment was rejected in Committee here, and in Committee in the Lords. I am delighted that, thanks to the eloquence of my noble Friend Lord Teviot, it was accepted on Report in the Lords, and I am delighted that it is in the Bill now.

I have two reasons for being pleased about that. First, towards the end of my over-long speech, I invoked the spirit of my old friend the late Raphael Samuel. He was a tremendous oral historian: every shelf of his library in Spitalfields was three-deep in books. I think that, in another place—in a really different place, I mean—he may be smiling about what we have achieved today.

Secondly, shortly after the Committee stage, I accepted a request to review Mr. Stephen Inwood's book, "A History of London"—I did not realise that it contained 1,111 pages. In any event, my review closed with the coda that it would be a worthy tribute to Mr. Inwood's book if the Government could be persuaded to incorporate in the Bill the amendments relating to archives. I do not know what Mr. Inwood's views are, but I personally am very pleased.

Lords amendment agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 483 agreed to.

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