HL Deb 18 June 1963 vol 250 cc1197-244

3.49 p.m.

Report stage resumed.


My Lords, I gather that none of your Lordships wishes to offer any further observations at the present moment on the Amendment which, before we broke off, was so ably moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger. This Amendment and Amendment No. 8 represent the substance of one combined Amendment which was moved and discussed at great length in the Committee stage of the Bill. I think your Lordships all recognised that the motives for these two Amendments were the very deep and strong concern which the movers of the Amendments and others of your Lordships felt about the future of the proposed National Science Reference Library. In particular many of your Lordships were most anxious to ensure, in any way possible, that it would be properly managed and that every device of modern science which is appropriate to the running of a modern library should be employed to the proper extent.

It is important that in a National Science Reference Library people who wish to use it for the purpose of research, scholarship or any other purpose should be able to get what they want quickly. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who quoted a description of some other science library abroad as a phantasmagoria of flashing lights, spinning tapes and rattling teletypes"; Although the noble Lord said he did not want the National Science Reference Library here to be quite like that, he made it plain—and I think your Lordships all agreed with him—that we want all the most modern scientific devices to be employed, so that, when a student goes into the Library to get the references he wants, instead of having to wait for two or three days while the library staff look up indices and check them, he may have to wait only a few minutes before these mechanical devices, electronic or otherwise, supply him with all the passages, volumes and pages he may want to consult about any subject, whatever it may be—diseases, coniferous trees or any other subject of which your Lordships may like to think. I believe that on this we all agree, and I think the Trustees of the British Museum are fully alive to the necessity of having it done.

What I could not agree with in Committee was the idea that it would be any help in the matter if we made it a statutory condition in the Bill that one or more of the Trustees should have a special technical knowledge of cybernetics, or any other particular kind of technological skill. I gave the analogy, which I venture to suggest again to your Lordships is a reasonable one, that it would not help if a board of directors were to make a rule that one of their number must have a skilled technical knowledge of typewriting or tape recording, or any other process which is essential to the efficient running of the office—not that it would do any harm if he had and it might be a very good thing, but it would not make for the best board of directors if a legal condition were to be laid down to that effect.

Of course, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, has, I think, realised and appreciated, if we once admit the principle that one director or trustee, or whatever it may be, should have this specialised knowledge, then there will be a demand that other directors should have specialised knowledge about other branches of whatever activity they understand they are going to run or engage in. It might be said that if there must be someone with a special knowledge of cybernetics in order to run this branch of the British Museum Library, there ought to be other directors with special knowledge of classical manuscripts, ancient archæology or anything else you like to think of.

I do not think that to lay down conditions of that kind would result in getting the best hoard of directors or the best body of Trustees for the British Museum, and I suggest to your Lordships that the necessity of availing ourselves of modern scientific inventions and advances in the matter of this Library are well appreciated and that it is more sensible and more useful to leave the selection of the Trustees to the Prime Minister, or whichever person is, under this Bill, selecting, them, without tying him down by conditions of this sort. I do not want to suggest for a moment that I do not strongly appreciate the desires and the motives of the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, and her noble friends but I do not think that a condition of this kind is the best or most useful way for bringing them into effect.


My Lords, what worries my noble friends and myself, and those who are supporting this Amendment, is the fact that the Government still do not appear to understand what we are seeking to do; and it is the noble Earl's fault that we have this suspicion, because the analogy he used, in relation to typewriters and boards of directors, is irrelevant to the argument we are using. What we are saying—and obviously the answer we should prefer would be the acceptance of the later Amendment to make a completely separate body for the National Reference Library of Science and invention—is that the British Museum has such wide responsibilities that it tends to be orientated particularly in the direction of the humanities, and we want to make sure that among the trustees are people with experience in science and technology.

The noble Earl said that if one were running a typewriter business there would be no point in requiring making it a condition that one director should be able to type. This was the argument he used on Committee stage, and he used it again to-day; and on the Committee stage both my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger and I interrupted him to try to get across to him that this is an absolutely irrelevant argument about what we said then, and it is equally irrelevant to what we are saying to-day. It is inconceivable that any really technological business or industry will not have on the board people who are themselves experts in it. It might well be that one could run a typewriter business without one of the directors being able to type, although it is pretty certain that they will take some interest in the product.

The noble Earl said it might be a good thing but it might not. I would argue that it is absolutely essential, and so would my noble friend, that if the needs of this particular Library are to be met there shall be on the governing body people with experience in the matters in which that Library is concerned. We do not emphasise the word "cybernetics", which was introduced because of the importance of conveying the idea of modern library techniques, particularly as such phrases as "information retrieval" will now become popular, but it is included in order that there shall be people who understand this; and it is quite clear to me that the Government or the noble Earl do not understand it or they would not use this argument about typewriters.

How is this Library, through its scientific staff, its own technical staff, to be represented and to get its views across if there are not among the Trustees people who understand these things? We are not arguing on a narrow front and are not just saying that there must be somebody who is an expert Assyriologist; we are saying that over the whole broad branch of culture there shall be people who will be concerned in science and technology, particularly in the techniques which go into library work. This is a different concept, and the noble Lord must surely know that there are people in this field, such as the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux—of which I have the honour of being President, and my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger was previously—and others who are actively concerned because of their failure to get across this idea.

I think we shall probably press rather hard on the later Amendment. I am sorry that the noble Earl has not seen this argument. I think that his is not a valid argument. We must get away to some extent from the entirely amateur concept of administration that a man running a typewriter business does not need to know how to type. I am certain that there is no business manufacturing computers in which there are not on the board people with experienced knowledge of computers: and this is the argument that we are using in this instance.


My Lords, I share the disappointment of my noble friend Lord Shackleton that the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, has so signally failed to appreciate the large issues which are involved in this Amendment. His continual reference to the typewriter and tape-recording analogy shows only too clearly that he is totally unaware of the breadth and complexity of the field which we want to see represented among the Museum's Trustees. I can only say again that the reason for making a special provision in this particular field is that there is as yet no tradition; this is something new. The traditions in relation to the older fields of study are well established and we can be quite sure that they will be well represented and taken care of in the appointments. This is something new. It is not a small thing like a typewriter or tape recorder. It is a new vast field, and new approach, not to one science but to all the sciences. It involves not only questions of information retrieving, but also questions of the possibility of scientific abstracting, on which I think an Amendment is to be moved later.

I do not propose to ask your Lordships to vote upon this particular Amendment, because we shall have an opportunity, I think, of returning to the main issue at a later stage. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, this Amendment is designed to give effect to the Amendment which was moved by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook in Committee and which was carried on a Division. It gives the Trustees a little more latitude than the terms of that Amendment. If they have something they want to publish and to report upon, there is nothing to prevent them from presenting two or three reports in two or three years. But this new clause provides that they shall present Parliament with reports at intervals of not more than three years. I think this variation of this provision is one which is generally acceptable to your Lordships. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 6, insert the said new clause—

Reports by Trustees

(". The Trustees of the British Museum shall within three years after the commencement of this Act and subsequently at intervals of not mare than three years prepare and lay before each House of Parliament a report on the Museum.")—(The Earl of Dundee.)


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for this improvement of my drafting, and I hope your Lordships will agree to it.


My Lords, I should just like to ask the noble Earl whether this means that the Trustees of the Natural History Museum will not have to make a similar report, in view of the fact that Clause 12 is about to be elided later on in the proceedings?


My Lords, if the noble Earl will look at Clause 7 he will find that Clause 6 applies to both Museums.


My Lords, my noble friend said something about the removal of Clause 12. It does apply to both.


My Lords, the noble Earl is quite clear that it does apply to both Museums? We think this is an improvement and we are very grateful that the Government have been able to overcome their original inhibitions in the matter. I realise they were aware that the Trustees would in any event probably like, on their own initiative, to publish a report, but we are now making it a statutory obligation. I assume it is clear that by a later reference in the Bill this particular clause also will be covered.


I should have said so; but, of course, if there is any doubt it could easily be put right on Third Reading.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD CHORLEY moved, after Clause 6, to insert the following new clause:

Staff regulations

" .—(1) As soon as may be after the commencement of this Act the Treasury shall make by statutory instrument (which shall be annullable in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament) regulations for the staff of the British Museum.

(2) Such regulations shall provide—

  1. (a) for conditions of service and scales of pay;
  2. (b) for promotion and retirement;
  3. (c) without prejudice to subsection (3) of the last preceding section, for pension rights and scales of pensions;
  4. (d) for the discipline, and in particular for the appointment of a tribunal from outside the Museum to which important disciplinary cases may be referred on appeal; and
  5. (e) for ancillary and transitional matters affecting the service.
of the staff of the Museum."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, your Lordships may remember that at the Committee stage I moved an Amendment to give the officers of the British Museum the status of civil servants. The object of that was very largely to give them the statutory benefit of the provisions of ESTACODE, the code of conduct and discipline in the Civil Service. The noble Earl who answers for the Government was not prepared to accept this Amendment, partly on the basis that the officers of the Museum are themselves very much divided as to whether they wish to have the status of civil servants, and further on the ground that it was not really practicable to bring in the ESTACODE provisions formally in the way that my Amendment would have secured. After the Committee stage the noble Earl very kindly wrote me a letter setting out the arguments in some detail and in very sympathetic terms, and I should like to express my appreciation to him. In effect his argument amounts to the fact that we cannot provide an appeal to a Minister on (shall we say?) a dismissal which has given rise to problems of justice and things of that kind, because here the Trustees are in effect put in charge, and it would not really be satisfactory to provide an appeal from the Trustees of the Museum to some outside authority like a Minister; therefore, in the Government's view, it has to be left with the Trustees.

It seems to me that this really is not at all a satisfactory situation. Troubles in an organisation like the British Museum are almost bound to be dealt with by the Director, at any rate those at the sort of level which was concerned recently—and I do not want to go into the Tucker case in detail any more. I am concerned only to try to get an arrangement which will obviate the difficulties that arose in that case from arising again. It seems to me that it is an illusory right to give a right of appeal to the Trustees from the Director of the Museum. If they override him it means they have not got confidence in him and it will result almost certainly in his resigning, which I am sure your Lordships agree would be a quite unsatisfactory situation. In my experience in the universities problems in relation to dismissal and that sort of thing almost always arise, certainly more often than not, as a result of difficulties between a head of a department and some university teacher who possibly is a little difficult; and sometimes heads of departments are a little sensitive. And just the same sort of situation arises, I am quite sure, from time to time in the analogous institutions such as museums.

The universities on the whole are developing a reasonable system by which there is an appeal to a committee, possibly of other heads of departments, or some sort of tribunal which can take an objective view of the matter and come to a decision which everybody realises is a just and objective one. That, in my submission, cannot happen in this sort of case, because the Trustees must always start with a very strong bias in favour of the decision already given by the Director of the Museum. Therefore, it seemed to me that we should establish some kind of code which would enable this matter to be given further thought and have a number of rules laid before Parliament, so that they could be looked at by people who, after all, bring very great experience to bear on problems of this kind, and endorsed if necessary. If we could make provision for a set of rules under which a situation of this sort could be effectively dealt with, it would be a much better way of handling the problem than the one which I asked your Lordships to accept at the Committee stage.

This is the object which I have in mind in putting down this Amendment. I hope that its terms are sufficiently clear. It may well be that the noble Earl will be able to say that the drafting is defective here or there. If that is so, although it seems to me that the drafting is good—I am not pretending that it is mine—we should naturally be most happy to consider any suggestions that he should make; or, if he prefers to take it into the hands of the Parliamentary draftsmen to redraft it altogether, I should not mind at all. The point is that we ought to have some sort of system under which there is the possibility of an appeal which is a genuine appeal, and where justice is not only done but is clearly seen to be done. On that basis I beg to move the Amendment.

Amendment moved— After Clause 6 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Chorley.)

4.11 p.m.


My Lords, the Government appreciates the anxiety to which expression has been given in both Houses of Parliament, that the servants of the British Museum shall be, so far as we can make them, in the same position as civil servants. I should like to remind your Lordships that both in another place and after long discussions it has, I think, been made abundantly plain that that is so. Clause 6 of this Bill specifically provides that the pensions of British Museum staff shall be similar to those of civil servants, and it is common ground that the staff of the British Museum should be treated exactly like civil servants. But you cannot introduce a law to that effect without making them civil servants. I think that is also agreed. So far as the Treasury and the Trustees are concerned, they have given assurances that they will continue to be guided by the provisions of ESTACODE and other Treasury instructions about Civil Service establishment matters, and these assurances have been accepted by the staff side as entirely satisfactory. So that, for all practical purposes, the staff of the Museum are assured of parity of treatment with civil servants.

The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, referred particularly to the question of appeals. His Amendment envisages the appointment of a tribunal from outside the Museum to hear appeals on disciplinary cases; but this would be going beyond the parallel of ESTACODE and it would be a departure from the practice of the Civil Service where no such arrangement exists. ESTACODE lays down that an officer who is dismissed or is subject to some disciplinary penalty, has a right of appeal to the head of the Department. When the Department is in charge of a Minister, the appeal will lie to the Minister. In a Department where there is not any Minister it will lie to the authority charged with the responsibility for administering the Department—and in the British Museum that authority is the Trustee body. If we were to give a right of appeal to an outside tribunal it would be going beyond what is done for civil servants, and it would detract from the authority of the Trustees and would be incompatible—


My Lords, may I just indicate that it says "outside the Museum". That does not necessarily mean outside the Government service. The noble Earl is talking as if it were going out to private industry or something like that. Certainly that was not the intention.


No. The effect of what I was saying was that the civil servant who wants to appeal on some disciplinary matter has a right of appeal to the Minister in his own Department, not to anybody outside his own Department. In the case of the British Museum, the authority in question is the Trustee body. If we were to give a right of appeal to a tribunal outside that body it would detract from the authority of the Trustees and would be incompatible with the principle that management and discipline are matters for the employing Department. This is the answer which I gave the noble Lord on an earlier occasion. It has been accepted and agreed to in another place. Although I wish I could do more to satisfy the noble Lord, I think all I can do is to repeat what has already been said previously.


My Lords, we appreciate the difficulty of the noble Earl in this matter. Of course, it is clearly not on all-fours with the Civil Service, and one must accept that servants of the Museum cannot be civil servants. The great difference is that where a civil servant is concerned, as the noble Earl made clear, he has a right of appeal to the political head of the Department who is himself answerable to Parliament. The Trustees are not answerable to Parliament. It is particularly with this question of appeal that I think my noble friend Lord Chorley has been concerned and which worries us. I think this is a problem that concerns Parliament. We are well aware that there are large areas of the community, both in the private and the public sectors, where there is no appeal as such to an outside body.


My Lords, may I ask leave to interrupt for a moment, as I have not the right to speak again on Report? I would say that there is nothing to prevent any case from being raised in Parliament, and some Minister has to reply to the case when it is raised in Parliament. The fact that you cannot have an appeal to an outside tribunal does not mean that it cannot be raised in Parliament.


That is an interesting point. What one wants to do is to establish the right without having to go through the Parliamentary machine to do so. This brings us back once again to the problem of the Ombudsman. I do not want to dwell too long on this, but I am sure noble Lords in all sections of the House are concerned in regard to the most virtuous of bodies, and particularly Government bodies. It is a different question where private industry is concerned, and it may be that one will need to legislate for that in time, but we have a direct responsibility for public bodies. I am not attacking the Trustees in any way in saying that I wish there were some way in which a right of appeal could be established. I do not think we can press it any further. My noble friend Lord Chorley might have further views, but it is something that we shall have to consider in the future.

4.19 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has expressed most clearly the anxieties which are in our minds. I cannot say that the noble Earl has made much progress towards satisfying me. He really made no attempt to deal with the difficulty that the Trustees cannot override the Director without showing a lack of confidence in him. I suppose it is such an obvious point that he felt he could not answer it, except by making the observation that the case can be raised in Parliament. But he knows perfectly well that the Tucker case which was referred to was raised in Parliament, and the only answer we received was that it had been considered on a number of occasions by Ministers; and, without any of the argument or evidence being given, that had to suffice in Parliament. That, clearly, was not at all a satisfactory situation. But at some time or other we shall have to deal with this problem on a wide front. It may be that this is not the right place, and that this particular method is not the right one; therefore, I am not going to ask your Lordships to divide on it. But I must indicate that I am quite unsatisfied with the reply which I have had from the noble Earl. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 [Separation of Natural History Museum];

LORD CHORLEY moved, in sub section 2(a), to leave out "eight" and insert "five". The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an attempt to divide the responsibility for the appointment of the Trustees of the Natural History side of the British Museum between the Prime Minister, who in effect, has the whole appointment at his disposal at the present time, and the Royal Society. I do not want to go over this problem again in detail. Some of your Lordships may remember that during the Committee stage I moved a rather elaborate Motion which was intended to bring in the main national organisations which are concerned with the scientific work carried on at the Natural History Museum. There was a great deal of criticism, which I think was on the whole justified, and it was suggested by one or two noble Lords who took part in the discussion that there was a case for giving the nomination, so to speak, to the Royal Society, which, after all, is a very representative institution and the outstanding national scientific institution.

The weakness of the proposals in the Bill are that they leave it entirely to the Prime Minister, who is very unlikely to be able to make nominations from his own knowledge and experience. He, of course, has to seek advice and the result is apt to be that a bunch of establishment scientists, as they are sometimes called, are appointed. That is a real possibility and may be a very unfortunate one. There is also the real possibility that a Prime Minister may form the habit of relying on the advice of some particular scientist who may be a man of great eminence but whose judgment may not necessarily be impeccable. Without mentioning names, I could recall to your Lordships a prominent case of that kind which is within the memory of every one of us. I think that ought to be safeguarded against, and I should have thought that the suggestion (which I believe came from the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, during Committee stage) that one should, as it were, entrust the Royal Society with a substantial number of nominations— not giving them the majority, but a substantial number of nominations—is the best way out of the difficulty.

One of the great things about the Royal Society is that it keeps enormously alive and is very sympathetic to modern movements of science. Nobody could say that people exploring new paths or advancing heterodox views are not welcomed in the Royal Society, and many of the Fellowships which are awarded are obviously awarded to men and women of that calibre. Those are the sort of people we want to get on to the trusteeship of the Natural History Museum, or at any rate some of them, so that they provide a leaven. Therefore, it seemed to me that this was the best way of securing that end, and I hope that this Amendment is satisfactory from a technical point of view. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 6, leave out ("eight") and insert ("five").—(Lord Chorley.)


My Lords, this Amendment relates to the Trustees of the Natural History Museum, and reduces the number who are nominated by the Prime Minister and increases those who would be nominated by the President of the Royal Society. It is, if I may say so, not quite so unacceptable as the Amendment in Committee which the noble Lord moved and to which he has just referred, but I do not think that it would be an improvement to the Bill. The noble Lord has suggested that a Prime Minister may be in favour of one particular scientist—which, of course, may sometimes happen. I think that Presidents of the Royal Society may also sometimes be prejudiced in favour of one particular scientist. I have not been privileged to know many Prime Ministers, or many scientists, but I have known a few of each; and, on the whole, I think that scientists are rather more apt to be prejudiced in favour of some particular view or some particular personality than Prime Ministers are.

I told your Lordships in Committee that the present Prime Minister had announced his intention—which I am sure will be followed by future Prime Ministers—of consulting with the Minister for Science in regard to all his appointments to this particular body of Trustees. Of course, I cannot prophesy either who will be Prime Minister in 1970 or who will be President of the Royal Society in 1970, or any other year, but I put it to your Lordships that, on the whole, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Science, between them, are more likely to choose a broad representative body of suitable persons to serve as Trustees of the Natural History Museum than is the President of the Royal Society—not that I have anything at all whatever to say in criticism of his impartiality. I put it only that we shall get a better balanced body if we leave the Bill as it is.


My Lords, the noble Earl has argued on this Amendment as if it were removing the responsibility of the Prime Minister altogether—as if it were not leaving with him the responsibility for the appointment of the majority of trustees, which it does. However, I do not propose to press the Amendment. If the Government cannot see that it is the more sensible method of handling the problem, then so much the worse for them. In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


My Lords, this Amendment is consequential on the new clause which I moved to give effect to Lord Cranbrook's Amendment. I think that it may have some bearing on the point raised afterwards, but we will look into that.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 10, leave out ("6") and insert ("7").—(The Earl of Dundee.)


My Lords, this does bring in the Natural History Museum.


That is what I thought, but I have promised to make sure.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

4.28 p.m.

BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER moved, after Clause 7 to insert the following new clause:

National Reference Library of Science and Invention

".—(1) If at any time the Trustees set up a National Reference Library of Science and Invention, then the Prime Minister may at any time thereafter lay before Parliament a scheme for the establishment of that Library as a separate institution under a separate body of Trustees; and if the scheme is approved by resolution of each House of Parliament the Prime Minister shall by statutory instrument put it into effect.

(2) Any such scheme shall provide for the Library Trustees to be a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal, to be known as the Trustees of the National Reference Library of Science and Invention (British Museum)."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I do not propose to repeat the arguments which underlie the fundamental purpose of this Amendment, for they are the same as led to the first Amendment to-day and to the Amendment which my noble friend Lord Shackleton moved in Committee. But I hope—and I feel that I have good reason—that the third time we may be lucky, because this Amendment is purely permissive in character. It simply lays down that, if the National Science Reference Library should be established, at any time thereafter a separate body of Trustees may be provided in control of the Library. This clause is in no sense binding; it commits the Government to nothing. But it leaves the door open in future as to the possibility—which we think is a very real one—that before long the new National Science Library will itself prove to be an enterprise comparable in scale to the existing activities of the Natural History Museum, on the one hand, and the British Museum, ordinarily so-called, on the other.

This is a development which is very likely to happen, though the noble Earl seems quite unaware of the potentialities which face us at the moment. The Amendment commits the Government to nothing, but what it does do is to obviate the need for fresh legislation should this possibility be realised. It also makes it possible at any time, if the Library develops on the scale and in the fashion which is anticipated, for it then to be placed under the control which will at that time be appropriate to its scale and possibilities. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 7, insert the said new clause.—(Baroness Wootton of Abinger.)

4.31 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that the Government will take this Amendment seriously. There is a historic reason—I mean historic in the circumstances that combine at the moment—that makes it convenient for the National Reference Library of Science and Invention to be part of the British Museum, and the present solution has all the appeal of an obvious convenience. The most obvious convenience is that Sir Frank Francis is outstanding in this field, and it is certainly the view of all those who are interested in this matter that we need have no concern while Sir Frank Francis is in office. This was a sort of convenient administrative, political solution for the committee which I think was presided over by the head of the Nature Conservancy. I do not think it takes into account the needs of the future.

We argued at length—and we will not repeat the arguments now—that this Library is quite different from the British Museum Library. This is a tool of industry, and it requires to be geared to the needs of industry and the needs of science in a quite different framework from that of the needs of those who use, from a different type of scholarship, the British Museum. It is arguable that this ought also to be part of what I think is called the National Science Lending Library at Harrogate, and it is arguable that these two Libraries, the National Reference Library of Science and Invention and the Harrogate Library, should be joined together. It also seems arguable that they should be placed under the D.S.I.R., which is one of the solutions which could be canvassed.

It could well be argued that we should wait until the future and that legislation should then be introduced; but I think there is a general reluctance, when one is legislating for some body like the British Museum, to contemplate legislation in a few years. Where the British Museum and the Natural History Museum are concerned we are legislating for many years to come, and I and everybody to whom I have spoken who is interested in this field, would like to see the power in the Bill, as this Library develops, or, indeed after it is set up, taking into account the needs of the community at that time, to hive it off into a separate body.

Clearly, the flood of scientific and technological literature, which is vast enough already, is going to grow even faster. This is going to be a very highly specialised body, so specialised that I suggest it ought not to find its place as part of the more general body that the British Museum is. I would urge the Government to consider taking what is purely a permissive power. I think, on reflection, it is perhaps better that this change should not be made at this moment, but. I am sure that it will need to be made at some time in the next few years.


My Lords, I do not want to repeat all the arguments that have been used already, but I should like to urge the Government to accept this Amendment. If noble Lords will look at the next Amendment which suggests the attaching to this new Library of a Scientific Abstracting Service, your Lordships will see that this is going to be something very different from the existing Museum at Bloomsbury. In course of time we found it necessary to separate the Natural History Museum from Bloomsbury. Science has developed relatively slowly over those 200 years, although I think we waited too long to do it. But science is developing so rapidly to-day that all those whom I have consulted are abundantly clear that a separation of this sort be necessary in a very few years. As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, says, when we are legislating for something which we hope is going to stand for a very long time, we do not want to be looking forward to legislation in two, three or even ten years after the passing of this Bill.

I hope the noble Earl will feel he is able to accept this Amendment, which, after all, is only permissive, although I myself am pretty certain that action will be taken under these permissive clauses fairly soon. I have a suspicion that it is rather more complicated than the noble Lady opposite has indicated, because I expect there to be some difficulties over the Copyright Bill. But if necessary we can look after that at the Third Reading in this House. Meanwhile, I would ask your Lordships to support this Amendment.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lady should feel some little bitterness about my inability to appreciate the extremely well-reasoned and forcefully expressed arguments which she has so often presented to the House. I should like to assure both her and the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, as well as my noble friend behind me, that I, at least, deeply appreciate the strength of their concern about this matter, and their anxiety that we should have an efficient National Science Library. But I am afraid I cannot agree that they have established a case to prove that, because the categories of books which would otherwise have been in Bloomsbury at the new British Museum Library are, partly for reasons of space and partly for other reasons, being removed to the South Bank, it would therefore be a good thing that we should put in the Bill that there may be two separate bodies of Trustees, although I understand the analogy between this and the Natural History Museum, which I did my best to show your Lordships on Committee was not a true analogy in this case.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Earl? Is he really advocating the reason of space as a main reason for setting it up? He said that it was partly reasons of space and partly other reasons. I hope it was almost 99 per cent. other reasons.


I think the essential function of a Trustee—perhaps even more important than management—is the function of ownership. The essential character of the present scheme of the Science Reference Library was to associate the Library with the British Museum collection of books and publications, which, ex hypothesi, contains at least one copy of every British publication. It is no longer true, if it ever was, that publications should be classified into "general" on the one hand, and "scientific" on the other. Many of them are both. Some of them contain separate items, each on the other side of the line, and, in my submission to your Lordships, any distinction would be an arbitrary act of administration which must be capable of being reversed, modified or adjusted to suit particular circumstances. I submit that this can be done only if the general collection and the scientific collection are both under the same ownership and if the ultimate sovereignty of the total management of the collection is in one body.

When we discussed this matter in Committee we went into it quite fully and had a Division on it. But my noble friend Lord Eccles—and I think some other of your Lordships agreed with him—suggested that, although he would not be in favour of having a separate body of Trustees, he would like to be sure that there was a sub-committee of the Trustees to administer the National Science Library; and I myself mentioned the fact that the Trustees had contemplated the establishment of an advisory council. I have consulted the Trustees about this—as your Lordships know, the administration of the Museum now is largely carried out through sub-committees which report to the main body of Trustees—and I am informed by the Board that they expect the new Board will continue to follow this practice, in the case particularly of the National Science Library. So that the proposal of my noble friend Lord Eccles is one which the Board intend, or at least contemplate, that their successors will accept.

Clearly, there would have to be some machinery for consultation between any such sub-committee and the projected advisory council, whether by regular joint discussion or by some other method, but these are questions of practical detail. What I should like to say to your Lordships now is that it is the firm intention of the Government and the present Trustees, and I am sure we can safely assume that it will be the intention of the successor body of Trustees also, that those who are responsible for the National Science Reference Library should be provided with the best possible advice in the administration and development of it, the vital importance of which is fully recognised by all concerned, and that the scientific and ecological world should be closely associated with the formulation of this advice.


My Lords, I must assure the noble Earl that no element of bitterness enters into this discussion. What emotion is present, I think, is a feeling of great sorrow and despair that the noble Earl is apparently totally ignorant—


That is even worse than bitterness.


That is a question of opinion; possibly a moral issue. What distresses us is that the noble Earl should show such a lamentable lack of contact with the realities of science at the present time. If I may so put it, the noble Earl is incurably bookminded. He visualises a library as a place to which you go to find some passage in a particular book. He seems to have no conception of the uses to which a science reference library is put. It is a place to which you go not to refer to a particular journal, still less to a particular book, but to get a particular item of information on what may be an extremely complex, specialised and detailed scientific question. This requires an entirely different approach and an entirely different technique.

The noble Earl has gone some way, perhaps, to meet our objectives in saying that it is proposed to have an advisory council and that it is proposed that the Trustees should set up a sub-committee to deal with the Library. I should myself have felt much happier about those proposals if he had been more receptive to our first Amendment to this Bill and if we had had an assurance that the Trustees were themselves to include, and that there therefore could be elected as a member of the sub-committee, a person or persons cognisant in a way which the noble Earl clearly is not with the purposes and methods of the Library. The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, has raised the copyright question. We have considered this, and I think it can be dealt with quite simply by a single clause which could be added at a later stage.

The fundamental point seems to be that the noble Earl has no vision of the speed at which scientific development is already in progress, although members of both sexes are at this moment circling the globe, and have done so more than once during the time that this discussion has been in progress. He has accepted now that the Natural History Museum has reached the stage at which a separate body of Trustees is appropriate, but he cannot see that the time is going to be quite short before at least it is a matter for consideration whether the Science Reference Library has not reached the same stage. We do not want to have a British Museum Bill every two or three years. I am sure that is the last thing that this Government want. That is the reason why we have come back to this Amendment, which is purely permissive and which makes it possible, if it should be proved that my noble friend Lord Shackleton and myself are right in our forecasts, then to change the administrative set-up in a way that is appropriate to the conditions of the time.

This is a purely permissive clause. In other contexts the Government seem very anxious to look to the future. I might perhaps refer to the London Government Bill, where the Government are anxious not to have a permissive review of London education within the next ten years but to have an obligatory review. In these cases they seem not in the least afraid to provide in present legislation

4.55 p.m.

THE EARL OF CRANBROOK moved, after Clause 7 to insert the following new clause:

National Scientific Abstracting Service

" . If at any time the Trustees set up a National Reference Library of Science and Invention, they shall in so doing provide for the staff of the Library to operate a National Scientific Abstracting Service."

The noble Earl said: My Lords, those of your Lordships who are learned at law will know how essential the Law Reports are to those engaged in that profession, and those of your Lordships

for possible future developments. I should have thought that, with all the uncertainties and the rapid developments of science, here, if anywhere, was a case where a door should be left open so that administrative changes parallel to those already made in the case of the Natural History Museum would be possible without its being necessary again to have recourse to legislation.

4.48 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 32: Not-Contents, 43.

Alexander of Hillsborough, E. Harvey of Tasburgh, L. Sinha, L.
Amwell, L. Henderson, L. Stonham, L.
Archibald, L. Hughes, L. Strang, L.
Attlee, E. Iddesleigh, E. Swanborough, B.
Burden, L. [Teller.] Latham, L. Uvedale of North End, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Lawson, L. Walston, L.
Champion, L. Lucan E. [Teller.] Williams, L.
Chorley, L. Sainsbury, L. Williams of Barnburgh, L.
Cranbrook, E. Shackleton, L. Wise, L.
Denning, L. Shepherd, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Silkin, L.
Ailwyn, L. Dundee, E. Mansfield, E.
Ampthill, L Effingham, E. Margesson, V.
Atholl, D. Ferrers, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Auckland, L. Forster of Harraby, L. Milverton, L.
Boston, L. Fortescue, E. Molson, L.
Boyd of Merton, V. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Newton, L.
Brecon, L. Fraser of North Cape, L. Radcliffe, V.
Bridgeman, V. Goschen, V. [Teller.] Robertson of Oakridge, L.
Colyton, L. Hastings, L. St. Just, L.
Conesford, L. Hereford, V. St. Oswald, L.
Crawford, E. Hurcomb, L. Sandys, L.
Croft, L. Jellicoe, E. Somers, L.
De La Warr, E. Lloyd, L. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] McCorquodale of Newton, L. Swinton, E.
Derwent, L.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

who, like myself, are not learned but are involved in the law as lay justices will know how essential are the reports in such journals as the Justice of the Peace and the Magistrate. In neither case can we read all the newspapers or other journals telling us of legal decisions affecting our work, and we have to rely upon abstracts of important cases brought to our notice in publications like those to which I have referred. It is scarcely possible for a lawyer to keep in touch with all legal cases in one country; it is obviously quite impossible for a scientist, by himself, to read through all the scientific journals published in every country of the world and to find out what work is being done on his speciality. Indeed, so great is the output of scientific publications to-day, that if a man did that it is doubtful whether he would have time to do any other work.

A week or two back your Lordships discussed the effect of agricultural pesticides on human beings and on wild life generally, and I have no doubt that, because of the general disquiet, a number of scientists are working on that problem. Before a man can start on that sort of work he has to read up what has already been done by other men, not only in this country but all over the world, partly, of course, to save himself repeating work which has been done already, but also to find out whether related investigations shed some light on the problem he is trying to investigate. Again, he has to rely, as the lawyer has to rely on the Law Reports, on some form of abstracting service.

This is no new problem: abstracts or bibliographies of scientific papers have been published in this country for 100 years or so. Like other activities in this country, they were started by voluntary effort on a quasi-amateur basis—indeed most abstracting services to-day are still run on that sort of line, depending very largely on part-time work. Some of them are run and subsidised by learned societies; some are subsidised by industrial organisations, and some are published by commercial firms, in co-operation with one or more learned societies. But all of them to a greater or lesser extent depend on the good will and voluntary work of abstracters or reporters. In fact, some of them suffer from the defects inherent in these rather curiously diverse systems. For a number of years people in one discipline will be satisfied with the abstracting service provided for them and then, for some reason usually connected with the quasi-amateur way in which it is run, they find that their field is only half-covered. With the vast increase in output of scientific papers, it is becoming increasingly difficult for any abstracting system, run on the lines on which most of them are run to-day, to cover the whole field. I have heard it said of one of the more important services published in the English language that it does not cover much more than 50 or 60 per cent. of the total field, because it is practically impossible for any other than a State-run service so to do.

I think that one can summarise the existing opinion of scientists in general in this way. Most of them are more or less—and probably rather less than more—satisfied with the abstracting services available for them. A good many of them are thoroughly dissatisfied. In this field, as in other fields, we suffer from having been the first in the field. In the early years of last century, when these services began, they were started on lines suitable to the state of science of that day; and to-day, nearly more than 100 years later, some are still run on those lines. The position is very different in countries which came later into the scientific field. When they did come in, they came with a rush, and abstracting services have been built up to meet modern demands in modern ways. I suppose that the outstanding example is Russia, where a large number of scientists are engaged whole-time in providing scientific abstractions and bibliographies for their fellow workers, although there is also a similarly State-run abstracting service in France.

I do not want to detain your Lordships with technical details, but it is clear that any abstracting service must be run around a library which receives all the books and publications which are germane to the discipline concerned and where researchers will find the papers, report them to the abstracters and recorders and the whole will finally be collated, indexed and published. In this country, there will be virtaully only two libraries around which a complete scientific abstracting service could be built. There is the National Scientific Lending Library at Boston Spa and the new Scientific Reference Library on the South Bank. The noble Lord, Lord Adrian, who unfortunately cannot be present to-day, supports this Amendment, but has some doubt whether it is possible anywhere in the world to build up a complete scientific abstracting service. But he thinks that, if it could be done anywhere, it might be done in London, around this Library. I do not myself take the view that it would be necessary in the English-speaking world to try to build up a complete service covering all the sciences. For some disciplines, there are already abstracts published in the United States, which it would be ridiculous for this country to try to supplant, and vice versa. Recently, one American scientific bibliographical service has been given up because it was found that a comparable one published in this country is entirely adequate and that the one over there is unnecessary.

Since this Amendment was put down, the Report of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has been published, and your Lordships will note that, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research is becoming increasingly concerned with the whole problem of scientific documentation and abstracting, and recommends that the Commonwealth countries and the United States should get together to consider the whole problem of scientific abstracting in English speaking countries. That is all to the good. But that is for the future. Meanwhile we have a real problem to face in this country. When this new Scientific Reference Library is set up, I think that it is going to be essential for an abstracting service to be built around it; and that is my reason for moving this Amendment.

I must apologise to your Lordships for having gone into this rather complicated subject in some detail. I had not intended to do so, and I hope that the noble Earl in charge of the Bill will excuse me. The misunderstanding we had over the previous Amendment made me feel that it was necessary to explain this one in the closest detail, in order that it should be abundantly clear what I have in mind and the way in which some of us envisage this Library will inevitable develop. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Cause 7, insert the said new clause.—(The Earl of Cranbrook.)

5.7 p.m.


My Lords, I am probably even more ignorant of the law than my noble friend, and I am afraid that I do not have as much time as I should like to read the newspapers, either. This is another matter about which I have consulted the Trustees of the British Museum, and they have the fullest appreciation of the importance of abstracting in the advance and application of science. A great deal of study has been devoted lately to this subject. Technological abstracting has been considered by the British Commonwealth Scientific Council, which I understand is about to issue a report on it, and a study has been made in the Patents Office Library, at the instance of the British Museum Trustees (who, I understand, although it is not a charge on the British Museum Vote, are paying for it), on the use of the scientific literature available in the Patents Office Library. That is part of the planning of the services in the new National Science Reference Library. Another study is being undertaken, in the interests of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, by Professor B. H. Flowers, on the difficulties experienced by research workers in keeping up to date with new developments.

The Trustees recognise that it is most desirable that the National Science Reference Library should play a leading part in considering the adequacy of the coverage of existing abstracting systems, in setting up machinery for co-ordinating them, identifying overlaps and omissions and seeking all possible means of removing them. It is recognised, too, that the development of electronic devices for information storage and retrieval must be one of the main objects of study in the new Library. Research is already going on into the possibility of collecting abstracts in punched tape form, and it may be that such a method may solve many of the problems of overlapping and of timeliness of abstractions.

The noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, said that abstracting should be considered for the English language area as a whole. I think that multiple use of the same abstracts must be encouraged rather than repeated abstracting of the same papers; and it is important in considering whether we should have a national scientific abstracting service to avoid wasting resources and spending perhaps a vast amount of money which might not be necessary on duplicating what is being done elsewhere. My noble friend in moving the Amendment paid attention to that. He pointed out that was being done in the United States, and, I would add to that, the Commonwealth.

I am advised that the acceptance of the Amendment should be interpreted as an obligation to set up a comprehensive national scientific abstracting service. The Trustees think, and the Government agree, that the right way of tackling this problem is to continue with the investigations that have already begun into the needs of scientists and the use of existing scientific literature and to see what the latest electronic devices can do to help us to draw on all English abstracting services that already exist and to get rid of overlapping. The National Science Reference Library will have a large rôle to play in this; perhaps it may be the main co-ordinating rôle. I hope my noble friend will appreciate that a premature statutory obligation of this kind would not help us to do this.


My Lords, I must say that I am a little more encouraged by the noble Earl, and, indeed, if he had made that speech on some of the early Amendments we might have been more cheerful, because it appears that his consultation with the Trustees of the British Museum has brought forth certain information relevant to the Amendments that the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger and I have been moving. But, whereas I think they would be good arguments for showing an awareness, which we know exists among the staff of the British Museum, and presumably among the three or four scientific members, he has not really answered the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook. It is not a question of using electronic devices for indexing and making available the abstracts; it is the actual physical business of the abstracting. The abstracting services have been in the past in a dangerous position. The noble Earl will recall that a few years ago chemical abstracts were in danger of ceasing entirely.

What we are now seeking to do is to create an obligation which would be nationally borne and which, if there is to be any co-operation anywhere, would be centred on the National Reference Library of Science and Invention. There is not an obligation to provide a comprehensive service to the extent of duplicating other abstract services. This is something, again, which goes with our view of the National Reference Library of Science and Invention. It is because the more we go into this the further we get removed from the British Museum as most people visualise it (I know that there are one or two Trustees here), and because we are sorry that the last new clause was not adopted, that we should now like to put certain obligations in legislative form. This is an obligation which we think ought to be accepted. It may be that the wording of the Amendment is not entirely satisfactory, and I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, would be prepared to accept any assurance from the Government that they will think this over and produce an Amendment which could be moved on Third Reading, to give effect to this. It is because we have anxiety as to whether these obligations are going to be properly recognised that we are now trying to put them into legislative form. Although I was encouraged by certain of the noble Earl's remarks, which I think would have been rather more germane to the earlier Amendments, I am certainly not satisfied with the answer, and I shall be interested to hear what the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, thinks about it.


My Lords, may I ask a question of the noble Earl in charge of this Bill?


I am afraid I cannot speak again on the same Amendment.


The noble Earl can speak by leave.


I dare say the House might give the noble Earl leave to answer a simple question. The question is whether he is satisfied that the Trustees will have power to operate an abstracting service, if that is found to be desirable, as I think everybody will agree it is.


That is what I tried to convey to your Lordships in my remarks. I also tried to submit to your Lordships that a statutory obligation at this stage would not be helpful to them.


My Lords, I find it difficult to understand quite what the noble Earl understood by the word "abstracting". What I and those who were associated with me in putting down this Amendment had in mind was the provision of indices, with or without a short precis of the papers concerned with scientific publications. I rather gathered from the words the noble Earl in charge of the Bill used that he thought "abstracting" meant extricating from the library the book, publication or article which a person wanted at that particular moment. I may have misunderstood him but that was the impression I got from what he said. If that is so, and if that is the considered opinion of the Trustees, I am confirmed in my opinion that there really ought to be altogether another body of Trustees looking after this Library. Perhaps the noble Earl could look into it again before the Third Reading.

I do not want to see an Amendment inserted in this Bill which makes it essential to run a complete abstracting service for all the sciences, because obviously that is not desirable; nor, probably, is it possible: But I do feel that the Trustees should have the setting up of some part of the abstracting service very much in their minds. I know that at the moment the National History Museum co-operates in an entomological abstracting service. We are going to have a much bigger and more important library here, and it must become involved in an abstracting service. I have grave doubt whether the Government, and I have some doubt whether the Trustees, fully realise this. I should like some reassurance on the point on Third Reading if I cannot be assured to-day.


My Lords, there are at least two, and I think possibly three, Trustees present in your Lordships' House at the moment. I do not know whether we could have any expression of opinion from them. It would be helpful.


My Lords, I had not intended to intervene on a subject on which such scorn has been poured on our ignorance. The Trustees recognise that the whole process of abstraction is one of great difficulty. We realise it is most desirable that somehow or other the process should be associated with the scientific library. How it should be associated I do not know. It seems to me that the proposals which have been made have not gone very far into the problem and, indeed, may not be very practicable. I understand that in Russia, for instance, which has been referred to, the numbers of permanent workers are 2,000 and voluntary workers 20,000, that the journal is read by 250,000 people, and something like three-quarters of a million abstractions are made each year.

For an Amendment which will impose that sort of burden on the new Library just to be thrown into this House, seems to me to be slightly frivolous. The matter should not be considered by scientists with scorn for those who are not scientists, but with a more scientific approach to the problem, which I hope they will vouchsafe to us. The main problem seems to me to be how what is now a completely unco-ordinated service should be properly co-ordinated; how those who are abstracting the same thing in different parts of the country should somehow or other be brought together. Whether this can be done either by the electronic machine we have been hearing about or by other methods in the Library itself, I very much doubt. The numbers involved in the Russian scheme, which I think are the same as in America, roughly speaking about 2,000, are, of course, far greater than the whole number of officials in the British Museum put together; and so far as the new Library is concerned, to make this machine in the Library seems to me to be totally impracticable.

I should like to wait to hear what is said in the new Report, to be studied in relation to the 1946, 1947 and 1948 Reports, and the UNESCO Report of a year or so later, and I think that a serious effort should be made to see what is the best thing to do. I am quite certain that to act on an Amendment such as this and to impose a duty on the new Library would be extremely damaging to the Library and a most unfortunate and retrograde step.


My Lords, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.27 p.m.

LORD SILKIN moved, after Clause 8 to insert the following new clause:

Transfer of documents to Public Record Office

".Notwithstanding anything in this Act the Trustees (if they think it fit in the best interests of historical research or scholarship) may with the consent of the Lord Chancellor transfer to the Public Record Office any historical manuscript or other document or part thereof that formerly formed part of the Public Records, or which form part of a series of documents the bulk of which are in the possession of the Public Record Office."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Evershed, asked me to move this Amendment on their behalf, as they expected that they would not be able to be here at the appropriate moment. Although the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, is now visible, and will no doubt be heard in due course, he felt, after consideration, that having asked me to move the Amendment, it might be better if I did so. Certainly it was not because I can do it better than he—I am sure I cannot—but, at any rate, having studied the question and read what has been said at an earlier stage, I feel that I can wholeheartedly commend the Amendment.

This Amendment was moved in exactly the same terms, at the Committee stage by the noble and Learned Lord, and at the end of a discussion in which I think every speech was in favour of the Amendment the noble Earl in charge of the Bill promised that he would give the matter further consideration, and, I gather, sympathetic consideration; and in the light of that the Amendment was withdrawn. Here we are again, and we await the decision of the Government.

The Amendment is moved under the auspices of the present Master of the Rolls and his predecessor, and, as the noble Earl himself said, for that reason alone is entitled to the greatest respect. It deals with subjects for which they are and have been responsible, namely, the Public Record Office, and in which they have taken a very special interest. I do not propose to go in any detail into the merits of the Amendment. The short purpose is that where the Museum authorities are possessed of any document which would more appropriately be in the possession of the Public Record Office, they should have the power, if they so wish, and subject to very limiting and strict control, to transfer that document to the Public Record Office.

The restrictions and controls are that it should be in the interests of historical research or scholarship that the document should be in the possession of the Public Record Office; that the Trustees should agree to it—without their agreement it cannot happen—and, in any case, that there should be the approval of the Lord Chancellor. I can imagine no greater safeguard than those three. The Trustees have to satisfy themselves in the first instance that it is in the interests of historical research, and then they have to decide for themselves whether the document should be transferred. Then, again, the Lord Chancellor has to give his approval.

On the broad principle there can, in my view, be no doubt that the justification for the transfer to the Public Record Office would be that the document concerned was one which would be more appropriately in the possession of the Public Record Office than with the Museum. Moreover, there is one final restriction in the Amendment, that it shall be a document or part thereof that formerly formed part of the Public Records, or which form part of a series of documents the bulk of which are in the possession of the Public Record Office. That is one more restriction. With all those restrictions, I cannot imagine that many documents could be affected; and, in any event, they would be only documents which came into existence before the date of the Public Records Act, 1838.

I read the statement of the noble Earl in reply to the Amendment. I do not think he attempted to challenge the principle that it is desirable that documents which are of interest for the purpose of historical research should be in the possession of the Public Record Office. What he said was that it was desirable and essential that documents once in the possession of the Trustees should never be disposed of, to whomever it might be, except temporarily under Clause 7; and that if we once made a breach of that principle, the Trustees would be so weak-minded (the noble Earl did not say that; that is my word) that they would be susceptible to pressure. I cannot believe that the noble Earl who spoke on the Amendment last time would be susceptible to any pressure of that kind, or would give way if he thought it was improper. On the other hand, I have sufficient confidence in him to believe that, if he were satisfied that it was in the interests of historical research that a document should be in the possession of the Public Record Office, he would agree to accept the machinery of this Amendment.

So I really cannot believe that the Minister's earlier argument affords a sound reason for rejecting this Amendment. It seems to me so sensible and so much in the public interest that these documents should be in the right possession and capable of being used by people who are engaged in historical research, that this Amendment, or something on these lines, ought to be accepted. It is for those reasons that I beg to move, and I have high hopes that the noble Earl having had the opportunity of considering the Amendment since the Committee stage will be able to give us some comfort, which up to now he has not been able to give in respect of any Amendments made on this Bill except his own. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 8 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Silkin.)


My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for moving this Amendment. My noble and learned friend Lord Evershed and I both expected not to be able to be here. May I, in supporting it, again remind your Lordships of the one instance which I gave last time to which this would apply? In the Public Record Office we have the accounts for the building of Rockingham Castle in the year 1280. We have every year's accounts for almost 30 years; we have 29½ parchment rolls with their Latin, their little script, and all the difficulties of reading from them. Some time ago unknown, half of one of these rolls was torn off and in some way that jagged half has got into the British Museum. I have a photograph here of the half which we in the Public Record Office have. It is actual size, as you can see by the handwriting. There is a jagged edge where the offer half, which has got into the British Museum, has been torn off. Scholars tell me that if you want to examine this document you ought to be able to put the two halves together. All we wish is that the Trustees of the British Museum should have power if they think fit, entirely within their discretion, to let this one half join up with the other 29½ rolls. The answer is, "What we have we hold", and this half cannot be joined up. It was suggested that a photograph might do. But a photograph does not show the erasures, the blots of handwriting; scholars cannot compare a photograph with the other half. It was said, "In the British Museum we have this index, and, goodness knows, if we let this go we shall not be able to show people this bit". But they can have a photograph, as the noble Lord, Lord Douglas of Barloch, said last time.

There is one other additional point. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, asked whether this is a two-way traffic. It is capable of being in this way. The Public Record Office has power, with the appropriate consent of the Lord Chancellor and so on, to let the custody of one of these documents go to the British Museum. There is one, at least, I could mention to your Lordships. The Public Record Office have an indulgence in print by William Caxton which we got from the dissolution of the monasteries. It is older than any printed document the British Museum have. The British Museum, I am told, would very much like to have the oldest printed document in this country. It could be a two-way traffic. But at the moment the staffs on each side are saying, "What we have we hold". I would submit it is right to give this discretionary power—that is all it is—only if the Trustees think it in the interests of historical research and scholarship, and to let them, with the consent of the Lord Chancellor, pass over this document to the custody of the Record Office to join the half with the other 29½. And there may be other cases. There are not many. I would ask your Lordships to support this Amendment.


My Lords, I should like to say a word upon the question of this clause. I speak as an existing Trustee and a member of the Standing Committee and, therefore slightly suspect upon all such questions as are now being debated. But that does not matter very much because quite soon we shall all disappear as Trustees and there will be a new and more dynamic body in our place. On the question of the Government's attitude with regard to this clause, I think, if I may say so, the arguments are very evenly divided. It is of course always beguiling to have a permissive clause, because it is said the matter is in this case left entirely in the hands of the Museum Trustees; and I believe the provision has been expressly redrawn in order to make it plain that there is no wish to force the hands of the Trustees over this. And when it is pressed by someone of the standing and persuasiveness of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, it does seem very obstinate and merely non-possumus to say this clause ought not to become part of the permanent machinery of the constitution of the British Museum. I see force in that, speaking for myself; and I do not think this is a matter for expression of solid views on the part of an existing body of Trustees.

On the other hand, there is the argument I know to weigh heavily with what I call the Museum authorities, and that is, in rather pompous terms, the principle of non-alienation. That attitude that was scorned, "What we have we hold" is, I myself believe, a good and right attitude for those who are set up as guardians of a permanent collection of national treasures. Although in any one instance you can always say "Well, rationalise your collection, there must be a case for this part of it or that part of it to be in better hands elsewhere," in what is generally called the interests of the public, or in the interests of scholarship or culture generally—a view which is very firmly held with regard to quite a number of possessions of the British Museum by persons outside this country as well as persons inside this country—I think it is a mistake, when you have a permanent collection which has been formed over a long period of time by various methods—acquisition, bequest, very often with special conditions attached—that you should contemplate giving the Trustees, who are there to hold and look after it, a discretionary power to rationalise the collection and hand over this bit or that. And although it may seem obstructive to try to stick to this principle, my own feeling is that, since I believe there are very few items which anybody has been able to find which are thought to be capable of coming within the range of this proposed discretionary power, it is better, on the whole, to stick to the principle that a permanent collection, once formed, should be retained in that form for good.


My Lords, the attitude of the Trustees, if the noble Lord who last spoke can be taken as representing their united views, can be described, I am afraid, only in one way, "dog in the manger." The noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has taken the best possible example when he quoted the case of a very ancient and most interesting document which, by some mischance, has been torn so that its two parts are in two totally separate institutions. As he has truly pointed out, and as all of your Lordships who have done any research into ancient documents will know, it is absolutely useless to say that having a photograph is anything comparable to having the original when you are trying to make a profound study of the document in question. For some serious student to have to run from the Public Record Office to the British Museum to compare two pieces of the same document seems to me, frankly, to be verging upon idiocy.

It has been pointed out clearly by both the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, that this is a purely permissive clause, which would allow the future Trustees of the British Museum, whom one must assume to be persons of intelligence and integrity, with the agreement of the Lord Chancellor, who must also be assumed to have some qualifications for his job, to permit, obviously in rather rare instances, some document to be deposited in a place which is more suitable for it. If that were accepted, I should expect the Public Record Office to act in the same way and to transfer to the British Museum anything which might more appropriately be held there. To say that you are going now to institute a Law of the Medes and Persians, whereby no document can ever be moved or even any portion of a document be allowed to rejoin its fellow in another more suitable institution, is, I believe, a position that cannot logically for one moment be defended.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield asked whether my noble friend Lord Radcliffe spoke for all the Trustees. I do not know whether that is so or not, but may I say, as the most recent in length of service of the Trustees, and one whose junior appointment could not possibly have enabled him to be guilty of the act of severance to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, has referred, that I fully share the views expressed by Lord Radcliffe.

The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, stressed that this was only a permissive power. But, as was conceded by the Chief Secretary in another place, it is a power, though in form permissive, which can sometimes become an embarrassment. Pressures can be put upon one to exercise the power, from which pressures one is free if one has not the power to exercise. If to-night we met what appears, I agree, at first sight the reasonable and eloquently moved plea of Lord Denning, then I am certain that before long future Trustees would be subjected, not, of course, to improper pressures, but to suggestions from, it may be, the Commonwealth Relations Office or from the Foreign Office, that they should be equipped with powers similar to the power that they would have been given to-night, which would enable them to hand over, perhaps to a Dominion or to some friendly foreign country, objects, either documents, sculpture, paintings or the like, which would return to the homes from which they originally came.

I can well imagine Trustees anxious to make their contribution to the pacification of the world, or to the furtherance of good relations with other countries, wondering in their hearts whether they are right to refuse so to do, and this proposal would perhaps add to the difficult task of our overseas representatives on foreign service at the time. I hope that to-night we shall stick on the principle of non-alienation, however unreasonable it may appear, because I foresee a great many difficulties if we do not, and there may well be other difficulties which we cannot as yet foresee.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, speaking as a Trustee and as a member of the Standing Committee, I can only say that the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Radcliffe, has expressed what I personally feel in this matter, in terms much more apt than anything I could possibly think of for myself. As the noble Viscount who has just spoken has brought out, there is more than at first meets the eye in the doctrine of what is called non-alienation. In the course of centuries, a great many interesting documents have found their way into collections which may not be the most appropriate for them. That has happened through various causes, including the process of mere abstraction—if I may borrow that term in this connection. Frankly, many things were stolen by the people who borrowed them and forgot to return them, and they are no longer in the libraries to which they once belonged.

But these collections have, in turn, acquired a unity and a kind of historic personality, as it were, and it needs a good deal of thought before one starts to break them up and interfere with them. That, I think, is the view which the Museum authorities themselves hold rather strongly. It is therefore a matter of some importance, if one begins to transfer ownerships and responsibility for curatorship and all that kind of thing. The pleas which have been put forward are rather special pleas, and the argument is founded largely upon one hard case—this mutilated document. For my own part, though I feel, on the other hand, that if it is important that a scholar should have under his eye both halves of a roll of this interest, or even one roll which has got separated from a series, and he would like to view it in connection with its fellows, there ought to be means by which the two documents can be brought under the same roof temporarily for his inspection.

I wonder whether, without doing too much violence to their duties as Trustees or infringing the terms of the Statute, even if the Bill is left as it is, that could not be achieved. Surely it is a matter for administration and the ingenuity and resource of the curators, to facilitate scholarship by enabling any accredited person to see what he wants to see at the same time and in the same place, without having to run about from one building to another. Will it not be possible to achieve that without altering the responsibilities for ownership and curatorship of these documents and objects which, in many cases for centuries, have been well looked after where they are?

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, I thought in this matter that we should be debating with the Government, but now we find that we are debating with the massed ranks of the Trustees.


My Lords, the noble Lord cannot object. During the last Amendment he challenged the competent Trustees to intervene in the debate. When they do he must not complain.


I am not objecting. I am congratulating myself on succeeding in luring them into this discussion. We have now a quite clear indication, and I am sure the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, will agree with me, that we will not return to others forms that we may want. Clearly, if part of the original atom Lord Rutherford split had got into the British Museum, then the electrons would be safely housed there and would never be allowed out again. I do not know whether the Trustees have studied the new Bill that is before Parliament. There are powers under this Bill—I have not yet checked back on the original powers—to transfer pictures, and the principle of non-alienation does not apply there. If noble Lords will look at Clause 8 they will see that power is given for pictures to be transferred, not merely to the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery but to institutions listed in the First Schedule to the National Gallery and Tate Gallery Act. If this can be done to pictures, why cannot it be done to documents? Among these places are the British Museum. It is all right to lend to the British Museum, to the Imperial War Museum, to the National Library of Scotland and Wales, the Royal Scottish Museum, the Science Museum. Surely it would not be beyond the bounds of possibility to make provision of this kind.

There is also, of course, provision under this Bill (and I would draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, and the other Trustees to this) to lend objects for public exhibition but not, apparently, for private examination. Perhaps the noble Earl could tell us about this. It may be that there are powers on this point, but I should like him to turn his attention to the principle of non-alienation in regard to Clause 8 and the question of loaning for private purposes.

I must confess that I am inclined to agree with the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, in his judgment on this matter. We obviously applaud and admire the devotion of the Trustees, but, equally, I do not think they should be too sensitive when we suggest that in regard to certain matters a slightly more liberal approach should be taken. We are not proposing—nor are the noble Lords, Lord Silkin and Lord Denning—to throw open the floodgates. We are suggesting merely that there might well be a power, of the kind which exists under the National Gallery and Tate Gallery Act, to lend or to transfer to a particular institution—a public one—which at least ranks equal, I should have thought, with the Science Museum or the Royal Scottish Museum. I hope the Government will now tell us that they are prepared to meet my honourable friend's plea.


My Lords, I should like to add one word. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has mentioned pictures. If, by any chance, one of these pictures had got torn into two pieces, would it not be even more important for them to be joined together?

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, this is a question over which I have, to the best of my ability, taken a great deal of trouble, because when I heard the Amendment moved in Committee by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, I felt that your Lordships were greatly impressed by what he said. I have therefore done my best to find out from all possible sources, including the Trustees, what is the right thing to do. I have felt great difficulty about the matter. The conclusion I have reached is that the Trustees are not actuated by what might be described as dog-in-the-manger motives. They are not so greedy of property that they do not wish to be allowed to give any of it away. But, they feel strongly—and I think they have some reason for feeling—that, if once this principle of non-alienation is breached, however thin the end of the wedge may be, it may, as my noble friend Lord Boyd of Merton has argued, lead to pressures later on in regard to other things besides documents which it might not be in the interests of history, or of art, or of the British public, to alienate to some other institution or some other country.

It seems quite innocuous to say that this Amendment is concerned only with the transfer of one or two papers from the British Museum to the Record Office, and that it cannot apply to anything else. But I have been convinced that the Trustees of the Museum, and many others interested in the future of the Museum, are genuinely anxious about future developments which might result from the acceptance of an Amendment of this kind. I have listened very carefully to what your Lordships have said. I had hoped at one moment that perhaps a swap might have been arranged across the Floor of the House: the Caxton print, on the one hand, in exchange for the missing Rockingham Leaf on the other. I am sure that if this could legally be done, all those at the ringside would heartily applaud.


It could be legally done.


The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has just raised the question of what can legally be done. I was about to come to that point. Pictures are in a different class because they do not form part of any of the British Museum's collections. Clause 4 says: The Trustees of the, British Museum may lend far public exhibition… I think—and I have taken advice on this point—that "public exhibition" means public exhibition either to several people or to one person who wants to study a paper or any other object of historical interest. I think that "for public exhibition" means that they may lend it so that the people to whom they lend can exhibit it to two or three people, or to one person who wants to study it. I think that is the common-sense interpretation of the phrase.

The noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, made a suggestion in that sense, and it seems to me that this might be a solution of the difficulty: that sensible trustees and sensible guardians of the public records might make arrangements with each other under Clause 4 which would have the effect of enabling members of the public to see a document as a whole. I am not going to go at any length into the definition of what is meant by the word "lend", and how long it may be before an object so lent must be returned. I am merely putting it to your Lordships that it seems to me that the suggestion of Lord Hurcomb was a possible solution of this difficulty.

I do not want in any way to minimise the force of the arguments on either side in this debate, but I have been waiting to see if any of your Lordships were going to speak. I am bound to tell your Lordships that, on balance, the weight of argument seems to have been in favour on not making a breach in this principle of non-alienation; and it is partly for that reason that I have tried to emphasise the possible methods of mitigating what, I agree, may seem in some contexts to be a hard and difficult rule.


My Lords, I find the noble Earl's attitude strange because he seems to have no confidence in the Trustees. Does he really contemplate that in the event—perhaps I should say in the unlikely, though still possible, event—of all the Trustees being of the opinion that it was right to transfer something, they really ought not to have the power to do so?


I have given the reasons why the Trustees hold that opinion: that they ought not to have the power, because they are afraid that it might lead to their being prevailed upon later on to transfer objects which ought not to be transferred.


My Lords, I feel not only disappointed, but completely unconvinced by the statement of the noble Earl. This is not, of course, a Party issue. Athough I moved this Amendment, I should have been perfectly prepared to withdraw it if I thought the Government had made a case. But I cannot see what case has been made. You appoint sensible people, responsible people, to a Board and then you say, "We are not going to give them any discretion at all, because if they were allowed to exercise it, even with the restrictions included in the Amendment, they may carry out their discretion in an irresponsible way or be subjected to pressure and be forced to give way". I cannot believe that there is a sensible argument against giving them this very limited discretion with the restrictions that I have mentioned.

Incidentally, the noble Earl did not deal with the question of non-alienation. My noble friend drew attention to Clause 8, which already permits the Trustees to dispose of certain of their properties to bodies laid down under Clause 8. Therefore even the principle of non-alienation

Clause 12 [Triennial Reports]:


My Lords, this is a drafting Amendment to correct a verbal error.* I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 17, leave out clause 12.—(The Earl of Dundee.)

First Schedule [Tenure of office and Proceedings of Trustees]:

6.10 p.m.

LORD SHACKLETON moved, after paragraph 2 to insert: 3. The Prime Minister may, for good reason, direct any Trustee to resign his office; and that Trustee shall then vacate his office accordingly. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move this Amendment, which gives the Prime Minister power to direct any

* See col. 1243.

has been breached. In those circumstances, unless the noble Earl is prepared to reconsider the matter, I feel that I must press the Amendment to a Division.

6.2 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 10) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 31; Not-Contents, 38.

Airedale, L. Denning, L. [Teller.] Shackleton, L.
Alexander of Hillsborough, E. Forster of Harraby, L. Shepherd, L.
Amulree, L. Iddesleigh, E. Silkin, L.
Archibald, L. Latham, L. Somers, L.
Atholl, D. Lawson, L. Stonham, L.
Attlee, E. Listowel, E. Strathcarron, L.
Burden, L. Lucan, E. Uvedale of North End, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Mansfield, E. Walston, L. [Teller.]
Champion, L. Sainsbury, L. Williams of Barnburgh, L.
Cranbrook, E. St. Just, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Croft, L.
Ailwyn, L. Fortescue, E. Merrivale, L.
Albemarle, E. Fraser of North Cape, L. Milverton, L.
Ampthill, L. Freyberg, L. Newton, L.
Auckland, L. Goschen, V. [Teller.] Radcliffe, V.
Bossom, L. Hastings, L. St. Oswald, L.
Boston, L. Hereford, V. Sandys, L.
Boyd of Merton, V. Howard of Glossop, L. Spens, L.
Colyton, L. Hurcomb, L. Stuart of Findhorn, V.
Crawford, E. Jellicoe, E. Swansea, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Lloyd, L. Swinton, E.
Derwent, L. Long, V. Waldegrave, E.
Dundee, E. Margesson, V. Waleran, L.
Ferrers, E. Massereene and Ferrard, V.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Trustee to resign his office. I think that at the moment most of the Trustees have left the Chamber, so I should like to make it quite clear that the Amendment is not aimed at any of the present Trustees.

It may be recalled that at the Committee stage the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, moved an Amendment to set an age limit for Trustees, which, if I recall aright, was not acceptable to the Committee. I also had down an Amendment, which I did not move on that occasion but which seemed suitable to move at some stage, to the effect that, in the event of its becoming necessary, a Trustee could be removed from office. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that among all devoted and high-minded men there is a possibility either of some fundamental conflict of a kind which makes it impossible for the organisation to work, or even a possibility, over a long period, of some sad change in personality which might lead to the necessity for removal. But more important is the need to retain some sort of power, a power which Parliament can exercise through the Minister, and the only power there is in regard to a body which must, I think rightly, otherwise be independent is to sack the people who run it.

I should think that this is a power that would never be used, but it seems to be a necessary sanction; and when we note the fact that a Trustee, when he is appointed, can be appointed for a period of ten years or for a further five years, some sort of residual protective provision is clearly necessary. This is a very simple Amendment, and one which I hope the Government will accept. I would make it clear that of course there is no reflection implied either on present or future Trustees. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 11, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Shackleton.)


My Lords, as your Lordships are well aware, the Schedule to this Bill limits the period for which Trustees may be appointed, and in that respect it makes it easier to get rid of a Trustee, by not appointing him again. The idea of sacking a Trustee before the term of his appointment is up is, I think I am right in saying, a new one. I do not think it was raised either in another place or here before, and I believe that this Amendment would not be helpful to the purpose of the Bill. It would interfere with the independence of the Trustees, which has been lauded in both Houses as a desirable object. They would, on the whole, be less likely to be able to stand up to Government pressure of which they did not approve if they thought that the Prime Minister had the right to remove them prematurely, very often before the five years, or in some cases it might be the ten years, were up.

I should have thought that, if circumstances arose in which a Trustee became incapable of properly carrying out his duties, it would be extremely unlikely that he would not voluntarily retire in response either to his own feelings or to the tactful pressure of his colleagues. I should have thought, too, that the case of a Trustee who had become so incapable of carrying out his duties and who was not willing to retire would be so unlikely to arise—indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, said he thought that in practice a case might never arise—that it would not be worth while, in order to deal with such a possibility, giving the Prime Minister this power, which would to an appreciable extent, or at least to an apparent extent, interfere with the independence and perhaps the robustness of the Trustees in the carrying out of their duty. I hope, therefore, that at this stage of the Bill the noble Lord will not desire to press what I think is a new idea, one which has not come before us previously, and which I do not think would be an improvement.


My Lords, may I correct the noble Earl on one point? An Amendment was down on Committee stage, but owing to the lateness of the hour I did not move it.


I apologise, and accept the correction.


My Lords, this is surely not a new idea. It is a new idea in relation to the British Museum Trustees, but it is a very widespread provision.


I meant in relation to this Bill.


Yes; but I do not see why the independence of the British Museum Trustees should be regarded as so precarious when the independence of other bodies is unaffected by this power. It surely is desirable, with a ten-year term of office, and with the disasters that can happen—for example, people's personalities can be sadly changed by accident, and sometimes by illness—that there should be a latent power to deal with situations of that kind. I think it is true that the Boards of the nationalised industries are subject to some such provision as this. I have not checked on it, but if my memory serves me aright I think it is also true of the Governors of the B.B.C.; and, if that is so, the independence of the Corporation is certainly in no way impaired by it. It is a very usual provision, and I should have thought that the Trustees themselves would welcome the feeling that, in the event of some disaster of this kind occurring, they would not have the invidious task of trying to squeeze out, perhaps, one of their colleagues who might no longer be adequate for the performance of his duties.


My Lords, I want to put it as nicely and as delicately as I can, but I must say that I think that this is a most vicious proposal. For the future, the Board of Trustees is to be balanced—I could wish that it were being balanced better—by having a certain number of the Trustees appointed by the Prime Minister, a certain number by other appointing bodies and a certain number co-opted. The proposal in this Amendment, as I understand it, puts all those people, from wherever they derive their appointment, at the mercy of the Prime Minister, who may direct any one of them to get out. That seems to me to be destructive both of the whole idea of the independence of the Trustees and of the fact that they should be balanced by being appointed from various sources and not only by the Government of the day.


My Lords, clearly, one is not going to succeed. I am sorry the noble and learned Viscount thinks that this is a vicious proposal. But, while, as I understand it, there is an age limit for Judges, there is no age limit for Trustees—the Committee turned down that idea. And the consequence of not fixing an age limit seems to me to be that there should be this power. It is because there are a number of men of great wisdom who may be getting on a bit that I should have thought this Amendment was desirable. However, we have clearly had a long time on this Bill and we have not succeeded very far in amending it, except in one respect, and I do not propose to waste the time of the House further. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Second Schedule [Transitional Provisions as to Separation of Natural History Museum]:


My Lords, I must apologise for a slight error. I said in regard to Amendment No. 11 that that was a drafting Amendment to correct an error, which was what I intended to say about this Amendment. I did not have the Marshalled List in front of me. The Amendment to leave out Clause 12 was, of course, consequential on the Amendment which I accepted from the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook. I say that for the OFFICIAL REPORT. I beg to move this drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 29, leave out ("the proviso to section 5(1) of").—(The Earl of Dundee.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.