§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(The Earl of Dundee.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to. House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD MERTHYR in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Altered composition of British Museum Trustees]:
§ On Question, whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
If I might say just one word on Clause 1 of the Bill, I am sure it is a good thing that the number of Trustees should be reduced from 51 to 25 but, in that reduction, there will inevitably be casualties; and I remember very well, on reading your Lordships' debate on Second Reading, how many of your Lordships expressed regret that the family Trustees were to be casualties. Indeed, I think that many of your Lordships felt that, if it was not a breach of faith, it was something very like it to dispense with the family Trustees. Even the noble Earl who is sponsoring this Bill expressed the same regret, I think.
I had very much hoped that, having heard the Second Reading debate, he would have been able to give us some comfort, in the sense of saying, for example, that the Prime Minister, who has to make no fewer than 15 nominations for the Trustees, would, as a matter of practice, other things being equal, endeavour to appoint one or two of the family Trustees among those whom he nominated. If that practice grew up, there would be some diminution in what is, as I say, something very near to a breach of faith, and the family Trustees would not feel so badly let down. After all, it is a very considerable responsibility that the 426 Prime Minister has, in having to nominate no fewer than 15 Trustees, and his task would be to that extent easier if he knew he could look to the family Trustees to provide one or two of them.
Again during the Second Reading debate the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, pointed out that there used to be a practice by which the chairmen of these various bodies were consulted by the Prime Minister before he made his nominations. I should greatly hope that that practice will be followed by the Prime Minister in this case where he has to appoint what is, in fact, more than half of the Trustees of the British Museum.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE EARL OF DUNDEE)
I do not think I can give a definite reply to what my noble friend has just said. On the Second Reading I reminded your Lordships, many of whom had raised this matter, that in another place an honourable Member who was himself a family Trustee had expressed the hope that there would be some association between the new body of Trustees and the families who either had given, or might in future give, important donations to the British Museum. I also reminded your Lordships that the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, my honourable friend Mr. du Cann, although he could not agree to write anything of the kind into the Bill, said that the Government would look favourably on any such association. There are a great many possible forms of association which one might conceive, and I do not think it would be desirable to discuss any particular one of them, because it obviously must be a matter for the Trustees to consider later. That is, I recognise, a very vague way of putting it.
My noble friend has now suggested that perhaps the Prime Minister might consider appointing one, or perhaps two, of the 15 Trustees who will be his nomination from those families who have been associated with the British Museum and whose family connection may have given them some inherited and acquired experience. I do not think the Prime Minister could commit himself to anything of this kind, certainly not at present, and it would probably be 427 a little difficult for him to find one person, or even two, who would be representative of six unrelated families. All I can say is that I am sure the Prime Minister will carefully consider what has been said about this, both in your Lordships' House and in another place.
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4 [Lending of objects]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
May I again interrupt, on Clause 4, which concerns the question of the lending of objects? Probably the clause as it stands is, in the circumstances, a proper clause. I must confess I had given thought to whether there was some way of amending it to give effect to what many of your Lordships said during the Second Reading debate about your anxiety lest political pressures were put on for the lending of objects, but it is perhaps a very difficult thing to do; therefore I think we shall probably have to leave it as it is. However, I hope the Trustees, when they are considering the question of lending, will bear in mind the general opinion or fears which were expressed, both in this House and, I believe, in another place, at the possibilities of political pressure, and also bear in mind the fact that if they do not want to give way to such pressure they will certainly have, I think, the support of your Lordships' House. It is a pity, perhaps, that your Lordships no longer are a "long stop" in this, as you were before this happened both to the British Museum and to the National Gallery; but what has happened has happened.
The only other thing I would say on this clause is that when the Trustees take into account any risks to which an object, whatever it may be, is likely to be exposed, I hope they will pay as much attention to the packing of such an object as to anything else. The noble Earl, Lord Crawford, spoke about the sending of the Mona Lisa to America. I will not express an opinion on that; but what is certain is that, once it went, the care taken to ensure its safety was as great as human beings could devise. 428 I think this is a very important factor for the Trustees to take into account in the future, because very often in the past, undoubtedly, something has been lent abroad and that is the end of it. It goes to be packed and trans-shipped, and so on; it is handled rather carelessly and comes back damaged. I hope the Trustees, in thinking of the risks, will take into account the method of transport, whatever they lend.
§ LORD HURCOMB
May I say, speaking as one comparatively recently appointed as a Trustee, that all the considerations which the noble Earl has in mind are bound to be uppermost in the minds both of the keepers and of the Trustees. Though there was a good deal of discussion on the way in which this clause should be drafted, we are grateful to the Government for the manner in which they have expressed the intention, which leaves decisions absolutely to the discretion of the Trustees. I feel myself that, with that safeguard, your Lordships need have no apprehension that the Trustees will be rash in lending things which ought not to be moved from Bloomsbury.
May I recall to your Lordships the honour I had a few months ago of moving in this House a Bill enabling the Trustees to lend the Royal Cup to an exhibition at Vienna? In that case we refused to lend a very important object for the particular purposes of the exhibition in Vienna because it was thought, after careful examination, to be rather too fragile to make it legitimate to take the risk. In the case of the Royal Cup itself, we actually sent the distinguished keeper of that part of the Museum's collection in person with it, to see that it came to no harm. I feel, therefore, that, in the form in which the clause now stands, your Lordships need have no apprehension in giving to the Trustees the discretion the clause confers.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I am grateful both to my noble friend who raised this matter and to the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb. I am sure your Lordships can rely on the care and prudence of the Trustees in the exercise of the lending power which they are given by Clause 4. There are some objects, such as some of the things sent to Vienna, which can be lent without any possibility of harm. I think the Committee will agree that it 429 was rather a cumbrous procedure that, whenever this was considered desirable, there should have to be a special Act of Parliament to allow it to be done. I have no doubt whatever that the Trustees will rightly be very reluctant to lend anything without the most careful consideration. I hope I shall have the support of both the noble Earl, Lord Perth, and the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, when we come to the Amendment on Clause 8 by the noble Lord, Lord Denning, on the transfer of documents to the Public Record Office.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ Clause 5 agreed to.
§ Clause 6 [Staff]:
§ 3.3 p.m.
LORD CHORLEY moved to add to subsection (2):
; and persons so appointed shall be treated as if they wore in the civil service of the Crown.
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. It is on very similar lines to one which was moved in another place and with which the Government spokesman on that occasion expressed a great deal of sympathy. Indeed on the Report stage there the Government went some distance to meet it, at any rate in respect of the superannuation pensions arrangements for the staff of the Museum. But it is desirable, I think, that this problem of the exact status of the staff of the Museum should be cleared up more effectively than was done in another place.
§ As I understand it, the question of whether the staff in the British Museum are civil servants, or at any rate of the same status as civil servants, is one that has given rise to a considerable amount of discussion in the past. At times they have been regarded as civil servants and treated as civil servants, but I understand that of recent years the trend of opinion has been the other way; and it would seem, from reading the discussions in another place, that the view taken by the Government of the legal position of the staff is that they are not civil servants and have not the same status as civil servants. I believe that that situation is not altogether satisfactory, certainly in regard to the staff of the Natural History Museum. They were assimilated (that was the word used) in 1945 with the 430 Scientific Civil Service, and on that happening, most of them—certainly many of them—took it that they would he in exactly the same position as civil servants, like the scientific civil servants, if not technically members of the Civil Service. It may be different in the British Museum proper, if one may so describe it.
§ This matter is of very considerable importance in regard to more aspects than just pensions and superannuation; it is of considerable importance in relation to conditions of service and of dismissal. The ESTACODE, the civil servants' code of rights in these matters, which has been applied with considerable success in recent years, is supposed to apply to the staff of the British Museum. As the Committee will recall, the case of Dr. Tucker was raised on another occasion in this House. There was considerable controversy about the manner of his dismissal and whether the provisions of ESTACODE were, in fact, observed. I understand that at least one of the Trustees contended strongly in the discussion in another place that they had been. The matter ought not to be open to controversy: it should be perfectly clear whether or not the provisions have been observed. There is at any rate one very important aspect of this matter which does not seem to be at all clear: it seems, so far as Dr. Tucker was concerned, that he was given no opportunity of appeal against the decision. If it was an ESTACODE decision—which he maintains it was not—he ought to have had the chance of appealing; because under the ESTACODE there is provision for an appeal.
§ The great advantage of accepting this Amendment would be that it would make it perfectly clear that the ESTACODE applies formally and is not applied just as a matter of informal routine by the Trustees. In those circumstances, there would be a clear right of appeal in the event of a decision by the first tribunal going against the person who appeared before them. It may be said—and I suppose the noble Earl will say it—that as these men are employed legally by the Trustees of the British Museum, they cannot be treated in this way. But I do not think that is a valid argument. To start with, the Government themselves have gone a long way, in the clause which they put down in another place, to show that it is not so; and the whole of this 431 Bill is, to a large extent, based on a hybrid organisation. The Trustees do not have full power to appoint a director; the Prime Minister is brought in there. The terms and conditions of service of the staff are not laid down by the Trustees completely in any way, because it is provided that the Treasury must sanction them. Therefore to allow this particular matter to be taken, to this extent, out of the hands of the Treasury would not in any way be contradicting some of the most important principles which are laid down in the Bill itself.
§ In all these circumstances I hope that the Government will be able to see their way to accept this Amendment, or, if the precise terms are not such as appeal to them, that they will be able to indicate that they can accept some sort of provision, of which I hope they would be prepared to accept the burden of drafting. As has so often been said on these occasions, we who put down the Amendments are not expert draftsmen. I hope that the Government will be able to say that, if they cannot accept this wording then they will be prepared to accept something like it and so draft it as to make it clear that these persons ought to be in the same position as the remainder of the Government Scientific Civil Service; that they should have the same rights and conditions of service and dismissal, and should be assimilated to the Civil Service proper.
Page 3, line 31, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Chorley.)
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
This Amendment was discussed in another place, as your Lordships know, and was there considered carefully and sympathetically by the Government. The first difficulty which was met with was that if a servant of the British Museum is to be placed in exactly the same position as a civil servant, the Crown must become his employer. He cannot be a servant of the British Museum, because the Crown has the right of dimissing him at pleasure. The sucurity of tenure of employees in the British Museum would not become any greater, if this Amendment were to be accepted and they became 100 per cent. civil servants.
The Government thought that no decision should be taken finally on this matter 432 until the British Museum Trustees had had an opportunity of consulting their staff. This they did, and they found that some of the reasons why it had been desired that the staff should be assimilated with the Civil Service were based on misconceptions, not only with regard to security of employment but also with regard to transfer. Apparently, it had been considered among some of the staff that it would be easier for them to be transferred to another branch of the Civil Service if they were civil servants; but that is not so. In fact, in some cases it might be more difficult.
The Trustees inform us that a majority of those who expressed an opinion, in both museums, taken together, were against any change being made. There was an almost unanimous vote against it at the Kensington Natural History Museum. At the British Museum in Bloomsbury, where there was a different kind of meeting and only a proportion of the staff expressed any view, there was a majority the other way. But, in the opinion of the Trustees, because the points which I have just mentioned had not been properly explained or appreciated, there was an overall (with apologies to my noble friend Lord Conesford) majority against it. The British Museum Trustees, having taken account of the views expressed by the staff and having given further thought to the considerations involved, decided that they could not recommend to the Government that any change in the present status of the staff should be made in this Bill, and we feel that it is right to accept this recommendation.
Your Lordships know, of course, that the superannuation position of the staff has been fully protected by Amendments which were made to the Bill and which now appear in Clause 6(3). An exchange of letters has taken place, with the agreement of the Trustees, between the Treasury and the National Staff Side, giving the assurances sought by the Staff Side on the further treatment of the British Museum staff. These letters register the intention of both parties that the staff would continue to be treated, as they are now, in exactly the same way as civil servants, except to the extent that it is impossible to give absolutely identical treatment as between Crown servants and servants employed by an 433 independent body of Trustees. The National Staff Side have expressed themselves as completely satisfied with these assurances, which, I think, give the staff as a whole the substance of what is aimed at in the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley.
§ LORD CHORLEY
Before the noble Earl resumes his seat, would he deal a little more explicitly with the application of ESTACODE in cases of dismissal and with the question of appeal? Naturally, he spoke largely from a brief and he overlooked one or two of the points which I made, to which I and others attach great importance.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
No, I could deal with it only in the general sense that the National Staff Side have expressed themselves satisfied, and that our advice is to the effect that the security of tenure position would actually not be so good if they were 100 per cent. civil servants. I do not want to go into the particular question of one individual, on which the noble Lord concentrated part of his speech, because that has already been heard by so many Ministers and considered so many times that, in our opinion, it must be looked upon as closed.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I should be much inclined to support the view of the Government in this matter, but I must say that the noble Earl has not dealt satisfactorily with the arguments of my noble friend Lord Chorley. The question of achieving justice in an individual case causes a great deal of concern and I am a little surprised that, knowing that my noble friend had this Amendment on the Order Paper and knowing his interest in the case of Dr. Tucker, the noble Earl was not prepared to answer his questions regarding ESTACODE. The case of Dr. Tucker has been very fully considered, but I make no apology for raising it now, because of the limitations that confront us in raising cases of individual injustice. If the Government had been inclined to take the views of my noble friend Lord Silkin in regard to an Ombudsman, there would have been a reasonable prospect in cases of what I might call administrative injustice that they could go to some form of independent inquiry which we could all safely accept.
434 The noble Earl said that he did not want to go into the case because so many Ministeries had considered it. I happen to know this to be true. I know that at least one Minister saw Dr. Tucker and considered his case very carefully. And I do not propose to go into the details of the case, except to say that I and certain other people regret the attacks that have been made on the Director of the National History Museum, Dr. Morrison Scott, which I think have been unjustified. There is no doubt that the object behind my noble friend's Amendment is to ensure that the provisions that would have applied to a civil servant in such a case would be applied. The noble Earl has not answered it.
On the question of turning Museum officials into civil servants, whereas I think there are probably grave difficulties and that the matter has been carefully looked at time and again, I did not find as entirely satisfactory evidence that opinion has been tested the argument that a small majority at the British Museum was in favour and that, owing to the way the meeting was organised, the rest did not vote. I think that the opinion expressed at the Natural History Museum is convincing. But if the Trustees had really consulted their people, one would have expected a much more clear-cut opinion. I am sorry that the Government are not able to give a more satisfactory answer on these points.
§ The EARL OF DUNDEE
The noble Lord appears to agree that it would not be desirable at this moment for me to go into the controversy between Dr. Tucker and Dr. Morrison Scott. I will, if he likes, look further into the general question of the ESTACODE. But the Government were satisfied that Dr. Tucker had the full benefit of ESTACODE, except that his appeal was to the Trustees and not to a Minister; and a formal right of appeal to a Minister would take away the Trustees' position as employer and their power of discipline. I do not think it would be right for me to go into the particular case again now, but if the noble Lord wants me to give him any further assurance about the working of ESTACODE in this connection, I will gladly do my best to do that.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I should like to say one or two words in reply to the noble 435 Earl. I am grateful for the help of my noble friend Lord Shackleton. I am not really so much concerned with the case of Dr. Tucker as to try to get some kind of procdure established which will be followed in other cases: because, with the large growth of the staff in these institutions, there will be other cases of this kind—not on all fours with it, but cases where people will be dismissed and will have grievances, and where there will be arguments as to whether they have had a fair deal. That is the relevance of this point. It is not so much the Tucker case itself, but the fact that it is the sort of case which falls into the pattern.
I cannot accept what the noble Earl said: that because these are Trustees there cannot be an appeal outside. The whole of this Bill, if your Lordships look at it carefully, is drafted in such a way as to bring the Government in all the time, and there would be no difficulty in providing an appeal to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Science or some quite outside person in a case of this sort. That does not seem to me to be a viable argument at all. It is no doubt quite true, as the noble Earl says, that technically from a legal point of view the situation of the civil servant is weaker than that of a member of the staff of the Museum. Technically, the civil servant has a very poor case from the point of view of employment. ESTACODE is a conventional code and not a legal one; it is a code which is brought into being because the legal position of the civil servant is so unsatisfactory. But if it is effectively applied, and if these provisions for appeal are adhered to, it gives to the civil servant a very sound position in regard to the conditions of his work, and particularly in respect of any possible dismissal. That, I think, could very properly be applied to the staff, whether they are to be regarded as civil servants or not, and would undoubtedly give them a better position, not technically in law, but in actual practice, than they have been getting of recent years in the employment of the Trustees.
I do not propose to press the Amendment at this stage, but I wish to give the noble Earl notice that I will consider the whole position, and if I can think of some method of getting ESTACODE formally applied by means of 436 this Bill at a later stage, I will certainly do my best to see that that is done. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 6 agreed to.
§ Clause 7:
§ Separation of Natural History Museum
§ 7.—(1) There shall be a body corporate, with perpetual succession and a common seal, known as the Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History) and hereafter in this Act referred to as "the Natural History Trustees", which from the commencement of this Act shall have the general management
§ (2) The Natural History Trustees shall consist of twelve persons appointed as follows, that is to say—
- (a) eight appointed by the Prime Minister;
- (b) one appointed by the Treasury on the nomination of the President of the Royal Society; and
- (c) three appointed by the Natural History Trustees.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "(Natural History)" and insert "of Natural History". The noble Earl said: I move this Amendment with some diffidence, because the phrase "British Museum (Natural History)" is hallowed by a tradition of some 90 years, since the natural history collections of Bloomsbury were moved to South Kensington. In print or in typescript there is no difference between the word "of" and a couple of brackets; but it is an awkward phrase to use by word of mouth—although I might add that it is not for this reason that I move the Amendment. It seems to me that now that we are making a change in the constitution of these two museums we ought at the same time to make it abundantly clear that the British Museum (Natural History) is entirely separated from the British Museum at Bloomsbury. I feel that the term, "British Museum of Natural History" is more euphonious and more convenient, and it makes the situation abundantly clear—although in other countries some museums having that sort of title are not, in fact, national museums but are State or other museums.
§ As with the discussions that took place on the previous Amendment, I understand there has been some testing of the opinion of the staff at the British Museum 437 (Natural History). A very similar situation arose to that on the question of whether they should be civil servants at Bloomsbury. Only a small proportion actually voted, but of the proportion which did vote the majority preferred the phrase which I propose to the phrase which is used in the Bill. I believe that some senior people prefer the name which they grew up with; but although, as we grow old, we tend to like things with which we have grown up, we are rapidly brought back by our children; to the grim realities of the present day. I am not suggesting that your Lordships should look upon this Amendment in any way in that capacity, but I believe that my phrase is the better one. It will mean the same thing in the eyes of the world, so far as the reputation of the museum as it exists to-day is concerned. I hope your Lordships will approve the Amendment and that the Government will be prepared to accept it. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 46, leave out ("(Natural History)") and insert ("of Natural History").—(The Earl of Cranbrook.)
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I hope that the Government will accept this Amendment. Among those who are accustomed to using the Natural History Museum—at any rate, in the days when I used to attend there more frequently—it is referred to as the "B.M.", in the same way as one refers to the "B.M." at Bloomsbury. This seems sensible; and, frankly, it is a more dignified title. If we are going to use names, we might as well get them right, and I think we should put this right now.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I should like to add my support to that of the two noble Lords who have spoken, and I hope that the Government will see their way to accept this Amendment. In the first place, it is obviously much more sensible to use the expression "of Natural History". I do not think there is any question at all that abroad that is the expression which is almost always used; and many people in England, I should think, also use it almost as often as the more technically correct title. The great foreign museums of this kind all use the same sort of title: the Musée Nationale d'Histoire; 438 the American Museum of Natural History—and I think other examples could be given if one wished to pursue it.
As the noble Earl has said, on the whole the staff seem to be in favour of this change. It is interesting to note (one might perhaps just mention this in passing) that the late Dr. Charles Regan, a Fellow of the Royal Society, who, I think, was one of the most distinguished, if possibly one of the most temperamental, of the Directors of the Museum of Natural History of our generation, did introduce this change in the thirties, with the concurrence, as I understand it, of the Trustees at the time. A considerable amount of notepaper was actually printed with this heading. It was brought to the notice of the Trustees that legally this was not right, and no doubt legally it was not. Dr. Regan's initiative was overruled in that way. This is a very interesting episode and shows how the march of events, so to speak, are entirely with this proposal. The objections to it are purely of a sentimental kind, and I hope the Government will be able to accept it and fall in with these views.
§ LORD HURCOMB
I do not wish to enter into controversy with noble Lords in any part of the House on this question of nomenclature or elegance of terminology. But I am informed that the consensus of opinion among the staff is against the change. I would not take the view myself that this is really a matter for the staff; it is much more a matter for the draftsmen or for your Lordships to settle. But I do not think it is correct to say that abroad the Museum of South Kensington is called the Museum of Natural History, or the British Museum of Natural History. It is known to them all as the British Museum, and if they are scientific people or naturalists they do not add "Natural History". By "the British Museum" they mean the institution at South Kensington. I think the feeling of the senior staff is that they would really want that left as it is.
There is one other point which may have some significance. In the United States the American Museum of Natural History is not the State museum. The State museum is part of the Smithsonian Institution at Washington. Therefore, you are not speaking of parallel institutions if you speak of the American Museum of Natural History and the British Museum 439 of Natural History. I cannot say that I think this is a vital matter, but I think it wants a little more consideration than appears to have been given to it by some of the junior members of the staff who appear to have expressed opinions off the record to some of your Lordships.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
This is not an important point, and the Government have no strong views about it. It is always rather clumsy to have names in brackets, like the Scottish Council (Development and Industry). There are many names like that. As your Lordships have been speaking I have come to the conclusion that there are three small reasons I should like to put forward in the hope that your Lordships will not press the Amendment. One is that my information is the same as that of the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb. I understand that the Trustees and the Director and staff are against a change of name. The next small point, which is by no means a conclusive one, is that the Museum has been known, as the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, said by this name for 90 years. People are in the habit of using it, and will probably want to go on using it.
The third reason is that there was, as your Lordships will remember, a good deal of feeling about the separation of the Kensington Museum from the British Museum. Many people were against it. The Government thought that it was a right and sensible thing to do, and I think the majority of your Lordships and the Members of another place agreed with that. But we also said that we hoped the Prime Minister might be able to appoint some people who would be Trustees of both bodies, and that there would be close co-operation between them. I think many of the staff at the Natural History Museum, South Kensington are proud of their connection with the British Museum, and this verbal alteration emphasises the fact that they are now being separated, and might perhaps be taken to emphasise it a little too far—to rub salt into the wound of those who think it is a pity. These are all very small points. If your Lordships feel strongly about this matter, I will certainly do what I can to look into it again before the Report stage. But I feel that on balance it would be 440 better if the Amendment were not pressed further. Although three of your Lordships have supported it and only one has not, I think that on the whole the balance is against doing it.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
I hope the noble Earl will consider this matter further. I was very surprised indeed to hear him say that the majority of people referred to this institution by the name which is in the Bill. I have never met anybody who ever referred to it in that way. I find that people call it the Natural History Museum. That is the natural term to call it by.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
I am glad to hear that the noble Earl does call it so. Therefore, if we want to keep the word "British" in it as well, the natural transition is that which is proposed in the Amendment, to call it the British Museum of Natural History, and then it will accord with the common parlance which is used by educated people generally.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Perhaps I should say that there is not at present any legal term, any statutory term. But when this Bill becomes an Act, then I suppose there will be.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I am stimulated by my noble friend to think that I am an uneducated person, because I have always known it as the "B.M." In the days when I and my friends went on expeditions with botanists and biologists, we always talked about the "B.M.". Certainly to the general public it is the Natural History Museum. We might call it the British Museum, South Kensington, and the other one would be the British Museum, Bloomsbury. I do not think your Lordships would accept that for one moment, although probably it would be the most convenient distinction. I think it is a less tortuous title. It is our opportunity to call the British Museum of Natural History by its proper name. It will still be known as the "B.M." by the people accustomed to speaking about it and working in it. I think the Government might take it just a little further. 441 I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, is not here to support us.
Would most people not continue to know it by what they call it at the moment, which is the "dead zoo"?
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
With the greatest respect to the noble Earl in front of me, and the noble Lord who spoke from the Cross Benches, I have seldom heard aliquot novum pro horrifico said in so many different words meaning the same thing, that anything new is bad. I will not trouble your Lordships with a Division at this moment, but I hope the noble Earl will look into it again, as he suggests he should, because I feel it is a better phrase, and there are better reasons for changing the title than the very bad one which seems to be the only argument against it, that just because it is something new, therefore we do not like it.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.40 p.m.
LORD CHORLEY moved to leave out subsection (2) and to insert instead:
(2) The Natural History Trustees shall consist of twelve persons appointed as follows, that is to say—
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. Its object is to provide a rather more scientific pattern of Trustees than that which is provided in the Bill as it stands, which, in effect, leaves the matter almost entirely in the hands of the Prime Minister. I feel that there are objections to such a situation. It is true that one is to be appointed by the Treasurer, 442 on the nomination of the President of the Royal Society, and I imagine the three others are the co-opted members appointed by the Natural History Trustees; and presumably the words are left like that for co-option purposes.
§ I think there are objections to the nomination of the Trustees being left almost entirely to the Prime Minister. It is not likely, of course, that he will make political nominations, but there is always the possibility of controversy in that sort of thing. That is one of the reasons why it would be better to take it out of the hands of the Prime Minister. What he is much more likely to do is to appoint a collection of people with high degrees who are nearing the end of their working life and whose names are put up to him from outside; because it will only be occasionally possible for the Prime Minister to bring his own knowledge to bear on this matter. The result of that method is that almost always one gets a clique—perhaps that is not the right word, but I cannot think of any other at the moment—of what one might call "Establishment" scientists, which is not altogether satisfactory, although sometimes it has its point. Therefore, it seems to some of us that it would be a little more sensible, while we are reorganising the Natural Science Museum, to consider the appointment of Trustees—and this is dealing only with that aspect of the question; I quite appreciate that if this Amendment were accepted it would require Amendments in other parts of the Bill which I have not attempted to work out.
§ I think that if your Lordships would look at this Amendment you will see that it gives a much more reasonable pattern, and one which is much more likely to lead to effective work by the Trustees instead of their being there just, so to speak, to rubber-stamp the decisions of the Director. It might have been much better if we had had active Trustees during the recent past, who knew about these things, instead of Trustees who had obviously little scientific knowledge of what they were being called upon to do. There is always a great danger in a situation of this sort when the nominations are left entirely in the hands of a very high political Minister of the Crown such as the Prime Minister.443
§ We now have a Minister for Science, and I think the general view is that that appointment has been of very considerable value. I think he could be a Trustee, although it may well be that this is open to objection, because a Minister of the Crown possibly ought not to be a Trustee in this way; but I think in other directions there are Ministers of the Crown who are Trustees. I believe the National Gallery has political Trustees. This would have the great advantage of giving the Minister for Science a close liaison with a most important aspect of scientific work in this country, as the Natural History Museum is a place where some of the most valuable scientific work in the world is being carried on. It would be a good thing if the Minister for Science were in rather more direct touch, and an appointment of this kind would enable him to be so.
§ Then we try to bring on to the Board of Trustees the scientists who know most about the work which is being done there. There is a nomination of the Council of the Royal Entomological Society, zoologists, mineralogists, palæntologists and botanists are brought in under subsection (2)(c); a zoologist on the nomination of the Council of the Zoological Society in London in paragraph (d), and a botanist on the nomination of the Council of the Linnean Society under paragraph (e). Your Lordships will also see that one is to be appointed by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Scotland has been very much left out of this, and it would be valuable to have a specific nomination from Scotland. I should think the Council of the Royal Society of Edinburgh would be the most appropriate body to make a nomination of this kind. The Amendment finishes up by accepting the co-option in the clause as at present drafted.
§ I think those are important arguments in favour of altering the pattern. It may be that your Lordships will think that the appointments could more satisfactorily be altered in other ways, and I would not in any way object to discussing the possibilities of improvement; but I feel that as the Bill stands at present it is not at all satisfactory, and I hope that the Government, even if they say that they cannot accept this Amendment, will 444 be prepared to consider some different pattern which will give the Board of Trustees a much clearer and useful scientific content. I beg to move.
Page 4, line 4, leave out subsection (2) and insert the said new subsection.—(Lord Chorley.)
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Obviously, after the tremendous period of gestation that finally led to the Bill, would come a time when the Government got exhausted and said: "Let us leave the rest to the Prime Minister and let him do the nominating." It is extremely difficult to indulge in this game of picking out, not the Trustees, but the selection team. It is enjoyable, but very difficult to decide to whom to give the responsibility; and for this reason there is a natural tendency to fall back on the Prime Minister. Curiously enough, this is a little less the case in regard to the Natural History Museum than possibly it would be in regard to the British Museum at Bloomsbury, the reason being that, with the British Museum of Natural History, it would probably be easier for the Prime Minister to look around among biologists and geologists for suitable people for this appointment. Nor would I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Chorley that the Trustees should all be nominees of bodies of this kind. Certainly the emphasis should clearly be that all of them should be scientists of one kind or another, with the possible exception of the one nominated by the Minister for Science.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I misunderstood that, and I thank the noble Earl. I wonder if the Government have considered whether there is possibly a different way of doing this. We have experimented in the past with all sorts of nominating bodies. Perhaps some of the former Trustees, some of the hereditary Trustees, even the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, might come into it. I remember when the Government were setting up the Independent Television Authority that the nominees were then going to be, I think, the Lord Chancellor and the Leader of the Opposition, and my noble friend who was then the Leader 445 of the Opposition said no, he would much rather leave it to the Minister. There are certain advantages, of course, in leaving it to the Minister, but I cannot say that he should be the Prime Minister. Perhaps it should be the Minister for Science.
I am sure my noble friend does not wish to press this Amendment to a Division, but, depending on the treatment that we get on certain Amendments later on, we may have to look at the method of nominating people to be Trustees of the British Museum in Bloomsbury. I shall be interested to know the exact reasons why the Government have rejected the idea of having at least a wider spread of nominations; why, even if a majority of nominees were made by the Prime Minister or by the Trustees, there should be in fact only one appointed by a specifically outside body, namely, the Royal Society. It might be better to give more choice in this respect to the Royal Society or comparable bodies. So I shall be interested to hear the exact processes of thought that have led the Government to their present decision.
§ LORD HURCOMB
May I say one word on this question? I feel very much in agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said. I think, first of all, it is important that the Trustees should not be appointed as representatives of some particular interest, thereby feeling that they are bound to go and press, for example, the claims of mineralogy, or whatever it may be. I think that is a point of real importance. I think also there is a difficulty in selecting the nominating bodies. The two points really hang together. If people are appointed by a nominating body they will naturally feel they are there as spokesmen of the body which nominated them. The list in the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, appears on the face of it to be a good one, but I think it is open to criticism. The Linnean Society, as the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, would be the first to assert, is not merely a botanical society. There are other societies which are purely botanical societies, they might ask why they were omitted. I feel that, if the Government were disposed to amend the Bill at all, by far the simplest and probably the soundest way would be to enlarge the nominations of the Royal Society somewhat at the 446 expense of the Prime Minister's voice. After a good deal of experience in publicly appointed bodies of various kinds, I personally have always felt that in the long run the best thing was to leave the appointments to the Prime Minister with a pretty free hand. He does in fact consult all the people he ought to consult, and possibly more. Governments are not apt to make important appointments without taking a great many preliminary soundings. But if it were the general feeling of the House and the Government themselves were disposed to do so, some enlargement of the Royal Society's right of nomination might be the easiest way out of the difficulty of finding the appropriate Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
I cannot support the Amendment as it stands, although the underlying principles I think are important. Now that we are setting up a new body of Trustees for the Natural History Museum it is important that there should be a high proportion of scientists actively engaged in their profession on the body of the Trustees. Although I should like to see that, I must confess that I think the proportion Lord Chorley's Amendment would give would be too high. I would not want to see it as it would be; assuming that perhaps the Minister for Science would not be a scientist, there would be about 75 per cent. scientists and only 25 per cent. laymen or people of a similar sort. I think the proportion should be something nearer 50-50, or 60–40 the scientists being the 60.
Again, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb; I believe it would be better to rely on the Prime Minister than on the nominations of even the Royal Society. I think what one wants to get is a balanced team. I think in fact that if you throw wide open to a number of bodies the chance of nominating Trustees you are very unlikely to get a balanced team, and I would be prepared to rely on the Prime Minister of the day, after making proper inquiries, to produce a balanced team of Trustees for this important institution. I should like the noble Earl to give us some assurance that is going to be the policy of Her Majesty's Government, and one hopes that reflects the policy of future Governments. Quite frankly, I would sooner have the list of the noble Lord, 447 Lord Chorley, than the position in which the Government have in mind the appointment of a large number of estimable people who are not in fact professional scientists still engaged in their profession.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I should like to express agreement with the observations made by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook. I would particularly associate myself with the underlying principle of Lord Chorley's Amendment, that there ought to be due representation of the sciences among the Trustees of the Natural History Museum. But the difficulty is not only the question that any one who represents a particular society may feel himself to be a spokesman of that society, as the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, very appropriately pointed out. Nor is it the difficulty that societies come and go and wax and wane, like individuals. There is, I think, a further difficulty in that my noble friend's Amendment ties the Trustees down to particular branches of science, and this waxing and waning applies not only to societies but to the different branches of science themselves. The boundaries between various disciplines are by no means rigidly fixed, and they have moved very noticeably within even short periods. It might therefore be preferable to embody the spirit of the Amendment in terms which do not give quite so rigid a form.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
The Amendment begins by proposing that the Minister for Science for the time being shall himself be one of The Trustees. I think that, even if all future Ministers of Science were as vigorous and as active-minded and as enthusiastic as my noble friend who at present holds that office, it is very doubtful whether many of them would find time to go to any substantial number of meetings of the Trustees, and I think it would be undesirable that an active Trustee should be in office ex officio as a member of a Government. I think that would tend to make people think, even if it were not true, the Government might be exerting political influence in the administration of the Museum. In the case of the former Trustees of the British Museum those members of the Government who were 448 ex officio members did not normally attend the meetings. They merely took part in choosing the elected Trustees, who did all the effective business.
The noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said he thought some members of the Government were members of the National Gallery Board of Trustees, but I do not think any are ex officio. I think the Duke of Devonshire always has been a member on other grounds not connected with the Government, but I do not think there are any Government members as such. The main part of the Amendment raises this principle, which comes up again and again on all kinds of legislation, whether, and if so to what extent, in providing for public boards or public bodies, statutory bodies of every kind, we should write into any piece of legislation that so many, such-and-such a number, of them should be appointed to represent certain interests or should be chosen by the Minister from among people who have special knowledge of certain interests or some provision of that kind.
It is a difficult question. I think that the weight of opinion here has been (I think it usually is in most cases of this sort) that you do not gain anything by making statutory provision for a whole lot of specialists representing special interests to be put on public authorities. The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, spoke of interests being represented. Perhaps that is slightly ambiguous. The word "represented" may mean "appointed by the bodies", or it may mean "chosen by somebody else because they were considered to be representative of those bodies." But, in any case, if an individual is put on a board of Trustees as a member of a certain body, he is apt to feel, "I am here to represent the entomologists", or "I am here to represent the zoologists", or that he is there to represent this or that branch of science. The result is that you do not get such a broad or general view taken of the business of the hoard of Trustees as you otherwise would.
If one cannot trust the Prime Minister, with all the advice which a Prime Minister always gets in matters of this kind, to choose the best people for these appointments, it is difficult to see how one can ever get appointments made on the basis of the hest advice. Of course, 449 no Prime Minister ought to want, or would want, to appoint—I forget the phrase used by my noble friend Lord Cranbrook, but he referred to people who know nothing about science. That does not mean that he would want to appoint scientific specialists who will represent special interests of certain branches of science. But of course anybody choosing persons to represent the public interest on a board of Trustees must do his best to choose people who are either themselves scientists of repute or who take a well-known and great interest in science.
I do not think you gain anything by writing into an Act of Parliament that this or that kind of scientist must be chosen; because the Prime Minister will, in any event, probably choose the same people; he will choose people who are good scientists, or who are good advocates of science, or who are people of the type we wish to advance the interests of science without necessarily having become experts themselves. He will do that anyhow; and in all probability you will not increase the chances of getting a good board, you will probably increase the chances that you will get a second-rate board, a board that is not so good. I know that this is a question which we have debated again and again, not only in regard to this subject but in regard to all kinds of social legislation. In this case I think that the balance of argument is against having these special representatives of interests or branches of science. But, in reply to the final question of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, I would point out that the Prime Minister has said that in making all these appointments under this clause he will consult the Minister for Science.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
The noble Earl has not replied to the point that I made. The Government must have drafted this Bill with something in view about the constitution of the Trustees to be appointed. Have the Government in their minds the appointment on the Board of Trustees of the Natural History Museum of at least 50 per cent., and probably 60 per cent., of scientists actively engaged in their careers? If they have not that in mind and do not intend establishing that precedent, I feel that an Amendment similar to that moved by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley—although I would not 450 move exactly the same Amendment—will have to be put down at a later stage in order to get the position quite clear.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
With great respect to my noble friend, I would suggest that his doubts are a needless reflection on the common sense, not necessarily of the Prime Minister but of all future Prime Ministers. To my knowledge, it is not likely that the Prime Minister has yet considered the persons whom he will ask to serve upon this Board of Trustees; and I do not think that it would be sensible or profitable to the country to attempt to tie his hands in doing so, because that would mean tying the hands of all future Prime Ministers. It would limit their choice in a way which I think, from his earlier speech, the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has himself indicated would be undesirable.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
This is quite extraordinary. The Government have said that there is a case for a separate body of Trustees for the British Museum of Natural History, yet they are not prepared to say the sort of Trustees that are to be appointed. Surely they must have considered this question—though I must say that I have grave doubts whether the Government really did think out the separation of the Natural History from the British Museum. Certainly they have not yet made a case. I think I could make a better case. But surely the argument must be that they will appoint certain kinds of Trustees. Surely, when we are debating this particular point, and when he is advising us not to accept an Amendment that deals with it, it is not too much to ask the Minister in charge of the Bill for some sort of assurance. He may say that it is common sense; that it follows that we should not tie the hands of the Prime Minister. But this is rather like the attitude of a Minister who refuses to accept what is the precise meaning of a clause in a Bill, saying, "We shall have to leave it to the courts to decide". We are putting this into legislation. Surely, we can be told something. We do want to write into the Bill something to give effect to what-ever intention the Government had in this matter, which so far they have failed to disclose.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I felt that the noble Lord was unreasonable in suggesting that we should write into the Bill 451 that there should be either 60 or 70 or 75 per cent. of scientists or any particular kind of scientist. I do not think we should tie the hands of the Prime Minister in that way. Although I do not think it would be reasonable to expect that the Prime Minister should yet have considered the composition of the Board of Trustees, it is the intention to use at least 50 per cent. of scientists, if that is any comfort to the noble Lord. That does not prevent him from using more if he thinks it a good thing. I really do not think that it would be of any advantage either to the present Prime Minister, or to future Prime Ministers, that we should try to tie his hands in any way such as suggested by this Amendment.
§ LORD CHORLEY
I am afraid that I regard the Minister's reply as a thoroughly unsatisfactory one. I do not propose to press this Amendment at this stage; but I feel that the position ought not to be left, and I shall consider whether at any rate a substantial number of nominations ought not to be made on the recommendation of the Royal Society. I am not absolutely wedded to this Amendment; I put it forward simply as a suggestion as to what might be useful. The noble Earl will not have the Minister for Science because he will not be able to find time. The Archbishop of Canterbury, who is not a person with nothing to do, has found time. I well remember that the late Marquess of Zetland, when he was at the India Office, at a time when I should think the Secretary of State for India was quite active (it was at the time of the India Act just before the war), found time to be chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Trust without anybody ever saying that that showed that it was a Government organisation or anything of that kind. Therefore, it just is not true to say that the Minister for Science would not have the time, and would never attend; he surely would. Nor do I think the scientists who are nominated by these bodies would regard themselves as under any obligation to do exactly what the body wanted them to do as delegates—which in effect was what was suggested. Most of the members of the National Trust are nominated by the National Gallery, the British Museum and national institutions of that kind, but 452 when they actually get to work at the National Trust they show that they are not there just on behalf of the particular institutions which nominated them. I have never felt that a very strong argument.
If the noble Earl would like it to be put in such a way that he should consult these bodies before making the appointments, I should be happy to accept it on those lines. But as to leaving it in the hands of the Prime Minister, we know that some Prime Ministers have given a good deal of attention to this subject and have made soundings in various directions, while others tend to accept the advice of some scientist who happens to be advising them at the time. The result is that the Board may well be nominated by some scientist with a slant in a certain direction, and the situation becomes completely unsatisfactory. It would be much better if the Royal Society—which, after all, represents science in a most adequate way—were asked to come into consultation on these appointments. I should like to look at the whole matter again, and reserve my right to put something down at the next stage. In the meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 7 agreed to.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON 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 shall within one year from that time 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); and shall also provide that there shall be twelve Library Trustees, of whom—
- (a) eight shall be appointed by the Prime Minister;
- (b) one shall be appointed by the Treasury on the nomination of the President of the Royal Society; and
- (c) three shall be appointed by the Trustees of the National Reference Library of Science and Invention;
§ (3) For the purposes of this section, ' cybernetics ' means the theory and practice of control and communication processes.
§ (4) For the purposes of section 15(1) of the Copyright Act, 1911, the Trustees of the National Reference Library of Science and Invention (British Museum) and the Trustees of the British Museum shall, notwithstanding anything in this section, be deemed to be one and the same body."
§ The noble Lord said: this Amendment, which I move, also bears the names of my noble friend Lady Wooton of Abinger and the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, and, quite clearly, Party politics are not a major matter when we discuss a measure of this kind. It is surprising that in the debates, particularly those in another place, little was said about the immensely important Library side of the British Museum, and it is a fact that there are still a large number of people in this country who are not yet aware that the British Museum is one of the greatest libraries in the world. That certainly would not be true of your Lordships' House, and it seems logical to those who look at the matter that any extension of a National Library might be joined to the British Museum.
§ We have put down an Amendment the effect of which is to sever the National Reference Library of Science and Invention from the British Museum. We had some difficulty in drafting this Amendment because there is no reference to the National Reference Library of Science and Invention in the text of the Bill itself, but it is clear from the Government statements, from the White Paper, and indeed from the Explanatory Memorandum, as well as from the statement made in this House in 1960, that a National Reference Library is to be set up, and it is also apparent that it is to be an integral part of the British Museum.
§ It is many years since the case for a National Reference Library was first put forward, and year after year Governments have refused to do anything about it. The National Scientific Advisory Council (the Government's own advisory council) have been pressing for it for a long while, and, at last, in 1965 it looks 454 like coming into effect. It is proposed that this Library shall be housed in association with the Patent Office. In this field there has already been one major development in the establishment of the National Lending Library of Science and Technology, at Boston Spa, Yorkshire. This is part of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and has been established to collect comprehensively, and to loan, scientific and technical literature. The proposal with which we are concerned to-day is a Reference Library which it is not proposed shall lend material, but which will have a comprehensive collection of scientific and technical literature, together with the bibliographical aids for reference purposes.
§ In proposing the severance of this Library from the British Museum, I should like to make it clear that this is in no way a reflection on the British Museum, and least of all on Sir Frank Francis. It is to a large extent on the initiative of Sir Frank Francis and the ideas which he has produced that we are at least within sight of the setting up of this extraordinarily important establishment; but the Director and Trustees of the British Museum have wide responsibilities, most of which are far separated from the purposes of this particular Library. The Trustees, as we have seen from the debates in both Houses, particularly those in another place, would not be likely, except by chance, to be aware directly of the purposes of this Reference Library—and I keep on stressing that it is a Reference Library.
This Library needs to be an integral part of the national effort in the field of technological development and industrial efficiency. It has to be concerned with current technical developments, and its attitude must be dominated as much by the future as by the past. I stress that this is an important difference from the functions of the British Museum. A technical library is not just a repository for a large number of books, and while I would not suggest that the National Reference Library should be, as one librarian described a library in another country,
a phantasmagoria of flashing lights, spinning tapes and rattling teletypes",
none the less it is likely to be using much more advanced methods than have been generally associated with libraries.
§ I would not suggest, for one moment, that the British Museum itself is not aware of, and concerned with, these matters, but when one looks at the vast number of documents and books, the literally thousands and thousands of documents, particularly journals, that come in each week, for which a reference has to be provided, one realises that clearly the book itself is a convenient piece of information which the human computer can most easily absorb; but there are devices available to-day which can do some of the work. Some of your Lordships will have read some interesting articles in The Times on the use of the computer in relation to biblical research, and we are told that it is now easy to prepare a Concordance in the course of a few months, whereas before it would have taken a lifetime. It is unlikely that the National Reference Library will be concerned with Concordances, but they will be concerned with providing easy reference. They will not be concerned only with books, and that is why the Amendment is drafted. A later Amendment goes with it with regard to the transfer of books between the National Reference Library of Science and Invention and the British Museum, in which we have specified "objects".
§ My main argument in favour of creating an independent establishment is that this Library, whatever may be done for the British Museum proper, must rank very high in relation to Treasury support, because—and this is a matter which I am sure is close to the heart of the noble Lord the Minister for Science—it is quite clear that very high priority and support must be given to scientific and technological development. We are concerned with the British Museum which, with the best will in the world—as it is so starved that it is unable to open its Reading Room to the public every evening—would naturally find it difficult to give the absolute priority in this matter which is necessary for this National Reference Library.
§ It may well be that the Government will argue that the money that is made available will be earmarked for the purpose, but in that case they will be virtually taking major policy decisions, which will not be decided by the Trustees. We are arguing that there should be 456 separate Trustees for this Library. I think a case has already been given by the Government, when once they separated the Natural History Museum from the British Museum in Bloomsbury. There is a much stronger case for supporting the National Reference Library.
§ To turn to the Amendment, thanks to the wisdom of my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger we have got over the particular difficulty of the Trustees. We have in fact proposed, first of all, that, within a year of the setting up of the National Reference Library of Science and Invention the Prime Minister shall lay a scheme before Parliament for establishing it as a separate institution under separate Trustees. We have not, therefore, attempted to go into the constitution and the application in detail of this particular Bill to the National Reference Library. We proposed adopting in a way which may be described as slightly conservative, the exact form of appointment of Trustees that applied to the Natural History Museum, except that we have insisted that a certain proportion of them should have appropriate qualifications. These qualifications are "experience" and "having shown capacity in science or technology". We do not necessarily stand by this form of words, which is, of course, adapted from some of the nationalisation Acts.
After saying that they should have shown capacity in science or technology, we have added,
including cybernetics especially information processing systems.
The noble Baroness. Lady Wootton of Abinger, and I were naturally hesitant about inflicting this particular word on your Lordships. To those of your Lordships like the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who are familiar with science fiction, it is, of course, a familiar phrase. We have included it because it precisely indicates the purposes we have in mind. We have attached a definition and, if the noble Lord who is going to reply wishes us to go into it further, we can go into it at greater length. But it is because this Library is to be concerned with information processing systems, and not just the storage and ready availability of books, that we have used a phrase which frankly we found most convenient. I may say that before we put it in the Bill I even consulted the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, to see that it did not
give him loo great offence. We should not necessarily stand on the word "cybernetics", but I hope that the Government are going to accept this principle.
§ We have provided—and other consequential Amendments may also be necessary—that the Copyright Act shall apply to the Trustees of the National Reference Library of Science and Invention (British Museum), as well as to the Trustees of the British Museum. We hope that there will be close co-operation, and I should expect that there would be. This is essentially like the Patent Office Public Reference Library. One would not necessarily expect them to store much in the way of historic science books. I think the Patent Office at the moment keeps nothing over 50 years, or something like that. Obviously, certain hooks would in due course go back to the British Museum itself.
§ As I say, we have made provision for an exchange between the two sets of Trustees. It could even be said that the Trustees of these institutions might fall out and disagree, and that that would be an argument in favour of having one set. You do not solve divisions and problems simply by combining people. But if, by any chance, they should fall out too seriously, the Government would have to intervene. That is why we have pit down an Amendment giving power to the Prime Minister—which in any case ought, I think, to be in the Bill—to direct that a Trustee can resign his office.
§ I hope the Government will accept the principle of this Amendment. It is strongly supported in the scientific and technical world. The Parliamentary and Scientific Committee have given it support in principle, and ASLIB—the Association of Special Libraries and Information Bureaux—have given strong support to it. It is also supported by all those who are actively concerned with this problem. The need is to make this Library not just into a research centre but into a tool. I would emphasise that it is a tool it is a tool of research, it is a tool of management, it is a tool of industry. Its purposes are so different from the more scholarly and lone-term purposes—and I am not saying there will not be great scholarship in this—of the British Museum, that I think it ought to be supported. Therefore I hope that the Government 458 will either accept this Amendment, or will accept the principle of it. I beg to move.
After Clause 7, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Shackleton.)
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
It may seem a little odd that this Amendment hangs entirely upon a hypothesis: that if the Trustees at any time set up a National Reference Library of Science and Invention then certain things shall follow, but I think that the references that my noble friend Lord Shackleton has made to the history of this matter will serve to dispel any illusion which might be created that the movers of this Amendment were engaged in an exercise in clairvoyance. Actually, the history of this matter goes back at least twelve years. It was, I think, in 1951 that the Government accepted in principle the idea of establishing a Library such as that to which we have referred, and to which reference is made in the Explanatory Memorandum to this Bill, though not actually in the Bill itself.
We all know that what Governments accept in principle is not always realised in practice, certainly not within the lifetime of the generation when the acceptance is made. But if we come to the latter history, I think it was only three years ago that the Minister for Science categorically announced that it had been decided to set up such a library—a National Reference Library of Science and Invention—and I think his exact words were that it was to be "built up and expanded from the existing Patent Office Library". He also told us that arrangements were going to be made for this Library to be built upon a new site, and that it was hoped that it would be in full operation by 1965. I am not sure whether that hope is going to be fulfilled quite within the programme outlined, but at least it shows that we are not engaged in an exercise of the imagination. If any Members of the Committee should have any further doubt, I would direct their attention to the fact that there are already advertisements appearing for staff to be engaged to serve in the Printed Books Department of the British Museum for work in the National Reference Library of Science and Invention.
459 At the same time as the Minister for Science made his announcement in 1960, he added that it had been decided that this Library should be part of the British Museum Library. So far as I know, that was a purely administrative decision. I do not think that it has been considered at any time by either House of Parliament. So we now accept the fact that the Library is to be in closest association with the British Museum, and we have moved our Amendment on that basis. But I would call the attention of the Committee to the fact that the genealogy of this Library is now a little complicated. It is, in a sense, the child of the Patent Office Library, and it is also very closely associated with—we might say that it was the twin of—the National Science Lending Library. The National Science Lending Library is itself, in a sense, a child of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, under whose auspices it operates, and the new National Science Reference Library is now to have a further fosterparent in the form of the British Museum.
It seems that, unless the Library has a very considerable measure of independence, this complicated genealogical dream may lead to administrative confusion, but I would assure your Lordships that in no sense do the sponsors of this Amendment under-estimate the value of the contact with the Museum. It will be seen that we have provided one very important contact in the final paragraph of this Amendment, which has reference to Section 15(1) of the Copyright Act. Members of the Committee will also notice that we have preserved the words in brackets, which have been referred to this afternoon at one time as "clumsy" and at another time as "hallowed". I do not know that we are particularly wedded to the maintenance of the brackets if the Amendment moved earlier by the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, should be accepted; but we would emphasise that there are very real advantages in maintaining connections with the British Museum and that, in asking for the separate body of Trustees, we are not asking that this link should be destroyed.
What we have in mind is, I think, the very thing that the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said in relation to the Natural History Museum on the Second Reading 460 of this Bill. He said [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 248 (No. 69), col. 926] that as… the main body of the Museum at Bloomsbury and the Natural History Museum are separate institutions for most practical purposes, it would be sensible and reasonable that they should have separate bodies of Trustees …As my noble friend Lord Shackleton has pointed out, that argument applies with added force to the new Reference Library. In the first place, it is a Library, and not a museum. The British Museum runs a magnificent Library, but it is primarily a museum. In the second place, as my noble friend has urged, the National Reference Library of Science and Invention is an extremely highly specialised Library and calls for interests which are far removed from those that are bound to occupy, and rightly occupy, the main attention of the Trustees of the British Museum.
Any doubt that one might have on this score has in my case certainly been dispelled by the number of extremely distinguished Members of your Lordships' House who, on seeing this Amendment, have asked me what is the meaning of the word "cybernetics". This itself, I think, reveals that there is a very wide division of interest between those who are primarily concerned with libraries in the humanities and arts, as we have known them, and those with libraries which are of a very much more technical character. This is not going to be a place even for the reading of literature. This is going to be a place primarily for search for information; and the main qualification that will be required of the people who work it will be to understand the processes which are now becoming extremely technical—the processes of information retrieval and the classification of scientific information.
As the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has said, in this work the use is growing every day, not only of the human mind but of those enormously more powerful substitutes for the human mind which electronics have given us, and it is absolutely essential that, in the management of this Library, we should have persons who are conversant with the possibilities and who are also not deluded by imaginary estimates of the possibilities of these new instruments. There is nothing like the same scope for this kind of technical 461 library in the arts and humanities, if only for the reason that they do not have a technical vocabulary and the imprecision of their language makes the same kind of information classification and retrieval impossible.
The argument will certainly be used that these highly technical qualifications will be appropriate in the staff of the Library but that it is not necessary that they should be enjoyed by the Trustees. But to some extent it is necessary that the Trustees should have an understanding of the basic processes. The Trustees will devote themselves to large questions of general policy, and not to detail; but the large questions of general policy are bound to include such matters as the amount of money to be spent upon new technical developments, many of which are extremely expensive, and questions of that kind. We have therefore thought it wise to include a phrase which is, after all, a very general phrase—it is not rigidly binding; it is a very general phrase—and provides that the Trustees shall include persons who have shown "experience of" and "capacity in" the relevant fields of science and technology.
It is for these reasons that we are very anxious that there should be a body of separate Trustees, many of whom I think would have very little interest (to put it in the reverse way) in the ordinary day-to-day affairs of the British Museum. Just as many of the Trustees of the British Museum would feel themselves, I think, not particularly drawn to the activities of the new National Science Reference Library, so many of the Trustees that we envisage, who are particularly interested in these developments in technical scientific information, would themselves feel out of touch with other branches of the British Museum's work. For these reasons, it seems to us that two bodies of Trustees closely linked, and still both of them carrying the name "British Museum", would be the right solution in the establishment of this new Library.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
I should just like to add one word to what the noble Lord and the noble Lady opposite have said, very cogently and, I hope, sufficiently eloquently for the noble Earl to be ready to say that the Government are prepared to accept, if not this actual Amendment, at any rate the principle of it. I think it is quite clear that the very wide scope of disciplines for which the 462 Trustees of the British Museum and the Director are responsible cannot be wide enough to include this new Library. They certainly cannot be wide enough to include something else which I think will probably have ultimately to be added to this Library, or possibly to the National Science Lending Library—that is, the abstracting service which, sooner or later, the Government of this country will have to build up: an abstracting service and a bibliographical service for scientists of all sorts, both physical and biological.
At the present moment abstracting services are rendered by a very large number of bodies; in some cases we have to use documents published in America, while others are published by scientific sources in this country. But more and more foreign countries are tending to set up national abstracting and bibliographical services, and I am quite certain that this country must follow suit very shortly if we are not to fall behind. Those could usefully be added to one or other of these libraries, and that is far outside the scope of the British Museum at Bloomsbury. But, of course, the biological abstracting, to a certain extent, is within the scope of the Museum at South Kensington, many of the staff of which are actively engaged on it today. I hope that the noble Lord will accept the principle of this Amendment, even if lie cannot accept it as it stands. It certainly is of the greatest importance.
§ LORD ECCLES
I should like to support about 50 per cent. of the arguments in favour of this Amendment. I certainly join with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, in paying tribute to Sir Frank Francis. I believe that if Sir Frank Francis has sufficient funds he can be trusted to adopt all the best methods of modern library keeping. What I do not like is the idea that, because a number of your Lordships do not know what "cybernetics" means, we should hive-off those who do and leave the rest of us in ignorance. This attempt to divide the two cultures, so that there is not an inter-play between the two, is a mistake. We should be very sorry if one of the effects of doing this were to give "absolute priority" (this was the phrase used) in funds to the pursuit of scientific information over that of the older cultures. In my view, they are both extremely important, and it is necessary to bring the 463 scholars in the two great divisions of learning as closely together as possible. I would think that the modern methods of abstracting information and making it available were important to humanists and historians, as well as to scientists. What I see as a difficulty is that we have already split off the Natural History Museum. I was myself connected with a long series of unsuccessful attempts to get the Patents Library started up again. Therefore I feel very strongly that if this is the opportunity to do the job properly then we should take it.
At the same time, I do not like the idea of splitting the British Museum Library—the greatest Library in the world, at any rate for books that are out of print—into two; and I was wondering whether my noble friend who is going to reply could, as it were, accept the principle of the Amendment and undertake that there should be a sub-committee of the Trustees of the British Museum, including some members especially qualified, who would look after the National Reference Library. There is always trouble when you have to draw a dateline and say that books up to 50 years old are to be in one library and books printed more than 50 years ago in another. Because that means that a transfer is necessary every year. Also there are many people who wish to consult both old and current texts. Whilst I sympathise very much with the purpose behind the Amendment, I rather hope that the connection with the Museum could remain fairly strong; and I believe that, if this could be so, the modern methods that may be more easily adopted in the Science Reference Library would come to be adopted even more quickly in the British Museum Library proper.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, began by saying that he was a little surprised that more interest had not been taken in another place in the subject of the National Science Reference Library when the Bill was going through its various stages there. I was certainly very interested to listen to the noble Lord himself and the noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook, and my noble friend Lord Eccles, who had 464 taken such a deep and lasting interest in this subject. I do not think the noble Lord need apologise at all for introducing the word "cybernetics". I should say it is of the very greatest importance that the expert staff in the National Science Library should be adept in cybernetics (which he has defined as the theory and practice of control and communications processes). Whether it necessarily follows that the Trustees should also have a knowledge of this branch of science, I am not quite so sure. It would not be a bad thing if they had. But is it not rather like saying that the managing director of a business must be an expert typist? Some are and it does no harm but, after all, that should be no reason to make it a condition of selection.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
Has the noble Earl in mind that electronic computers are much more expensive than typewriters?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
It is not a question of expense; it is a question of technical knowledge. This is not quite the same thing.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
May I interrupt the noble Earl? Would he really expect that somebody running a business machines business or somebody running a company making computers would not really have some knowledge of them?
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I would not necessarily expect a man who was running a firm manufacturing typewriters to have a knowledge how to type himself. There is no doubt no harm in it and it might be a good thing. I was only suggesting that it might not be a reasonable condition of selecting him. But the main question raised by the noble Lord's Amendment is whether there should be the same administrative separation between this new National Science Reference Library and the British Museum as we are proposing to make in the Bill between the National History Museum and the main body of the British Museum at Bloomsbury. The noble Baroness, Lady Wootton of Abinger, kindly quoted my remarks on this subject that since the National History Museum was doing a separate job from the British Museum it was sensible that they should be separated. I do not 465 agree there is quite the same case for administrative separation here.
This project for a National Science Reference Library, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, reminded us, stems from the recommendation of the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, and the idea has always been that the library should be formed out of the existing Patents Office library and that it should be administered as part of the British Museum housed in a new building which would also house the Patents Office. I gave your Lordships the financial estimate for the building of this science library, which is part of the building of which the plans are now being submitted to the Ministry of Works. The whole thing will cost £3 million and it is estimated that £1 million of that will be applicable to the part of the building which will contain the new library, under the authority of the British Museum Trustees, while, of course, the Patents Office itself will continue to be under the Board of Trade.
The aim will be to provide a practical working library with complete reference service, manned by extra staff, and with open access to the shelves. The original plan was that there should be accommodation for 600,000 volumes. When this figure was looked at again a year or so ago, in the light of the increasing output of scientific literature, it was agreed that provision should be made for 800,000 books and that the building will be constructed in such a way that further accommodation can be made available if it proves necessary to increase the size of the library still further, as the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, forecast. There will be a continuous process of weeding out older material, which will be transferred to the new library at Bloomsbury or elsewhere, when it ceases to be in continual use or demand on the South Bank.
On the Second Reading of the Bill, I explained that the British Museum Library is going to be a much larger building, costing £10 million, but probably it will not be finished until long after this new National Science Reference Library. By the time it is built, we hope it will be large enough to contain the books which are no longer thought desirable to be retained, because they are getting out of date, in the library on the South Bank. It was originally hoped that we might start building in 1963, but the need to reconsider the size of the 466 library held up the plan. It is now hoped to make a start next year and have it ready for use in 1966 or 1967.
It was in May, 1960, that my noble friend the Minister for Science announced to your Lordships that it had been decided that it would be in the long-term interests of learning and of the national collection of scientific literature that the library of science and invention should be formed as part of the British Museum Library, although housed as a separate unit, and that the scientific publications at present in the British Museum Library would be incorporated in the new one. That decision was arrived at after careful consideration by the Government, who felt that it would be wasteful, if we were going to build two new national libraries, the new British Museum Library at Bloomsbury and the National Science Reference Library on the South Bank, that they should be under separate management. We thought that that would mean overlapping to a considerable extent.
The British Museum Library is already the national library, and it is a comprehensive library on all subjects. There is no reason why it should not provide adequately for the increasing needs of scientists, and every reason why it should do so. The British Museum receives, free of charge, under the Copyright Acts, a copy of every publication in this country, including all scientific literature. Obviously that should go to the Science Library, but that would lead to administrative complications, if the library were not part of the British Museum. We could not take away all scientific books of which the British Museum has a statutory right to receive a copy and give them to another body of Trustees when required, and then take them back when it was considered that they were not wanted any more.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I should have thought that it would make it much easier and smoother if all were concentrated under the same body of Trustees. But I was just going on to point out that the original idea was that the whole thing should be in Bloomsbury. There might be a question of having a separate body of Trustees, even then, but I do not 467 know if it would have occurred so readily to the noble Lord and those who support him in this Amendment. It was thought unsatisfactory to have the libraries all-Bloomsbury for a number of reasons and the arrangement decided on to house the library in one building, but under the British Museum Trustees, and including the Patents Office Library, was considered as the arrangement which would achieve the maximum efficiency and economy.
To create a separate body of Trustees for the National Science Reference Library would, in our view, destroy the point of making the library a part of the British Museum, and the retention in the title of the words "British Museum" would not make any practical contribution to the problems of avoiding duplication and co-ordinating the activities of the two libraries if we had completely separate administrations for the two. The responsibility which the British Museum Trustees will have for the National Science Reference Library will naturally be one of the factors which the Prime Minister will have in mind in appointing Trustees, and it will be his intention that the Board should include persons qualified to assess the importance and the needs of the library.
I listened carefully to the case put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Shackle-ton, and it had occurred to me, before my noble friend Lord Eccles spoke, that I might make the suggestion which my noble friend made, and which I think is worth considering. What my noble friend suggested was that there should be a scientific advisory committee, which would include distinguished scientists and provide the British Museum Trustees with special advice, without detracting from their responsibilities for the administration of the library. If your Lordships approve, I would undertake to look into this matter and to consult with the First Secretary, who is in charge of the Bill in another place, to see whether we can either make a positive statement about this or meet the point in any other way.
The noble Lord's Amendment says:If at any time the Trustees set up the National Reference Library of Science and Invention …Of course, the noble Lord is aware that the Trustees and staff of the British 468 Museum are already actively engaged, jointly with the staff of the Patents Office Library, on the preparatory work for the National Science Reference Library, and additional staff have already been provided by the British Museum for this purpose, and their annual purchase grant has been increased to enable a start to be made on the acquisition of books and periodicals in fields not at present covered by the Patents Office Library.
I take the noble Lord's point about Government grants, but I do not think there is any real reason to suppose that two separate administrations would have a better chance of getting more money out of the Treasury than one acting for both. I understand the point put by the noble Lord, but I do not think that science and the Science Library would necessarily do better in the financial sense than if it was all under one management. It seems perhaps a little hard to suggest that when, after all these years of hard work, these preparations which have been made by the British Museum Trustees and staff are completed, and the new building is ready to receive the Library, the British Museum Trustees who have borne all the burden should have the Library taken away from them and given to a different body. I hope your Lordships will agree to consider the suggestion which the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, made about getting some more definite decision in regard to the Advisory Committee.
I would conclude by saying (I do not know whether I have told your Lordships; I heard it only this morning) that the architect's plan has now been submitted to the Ministry of Works. I have not seen it myself, but it will, we hope, be approved before very long, so that work may be able to start on the South Bank—that is, in the neighbourhood of Cornwall House, East of Waterloo Bridge, part of which I think comes into it—in the early part of next year.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I find the noble Earl's answer very disappointing. Some of the points he has made appear to me to be, if I may say so, verging on the trivial, such as, for instance, when he suggested that the transfer of material from Bloomsbury to the South Bank would be made more difficult if there were separate bodies of Trustees. On the noble Earl's own 469 argument at an earlier stage, the Trustees are not going to concern themselves with matters of detail of that kind. But the main part of the reply by the noble Earl seems to have taken the form of simply rehearsing the fact that these decisions have been made; and that, indeed, is the exact matter which this Amendment seeks to rectify. He has also added that in the appointment of Trustees the Prime Minister will no doubt include persons who are experienced in, or have shown capacity in, science or technology and the relevant fields of those subjects. After all, the number of Trustees of the British Museum is being reduced, and the Prime Minister's appointments are not now very numerous. If he is going to load the Trustees of the British Museum rather heavily with people of these specialist qualifications, he will find, I think, that the body of Trustees will be unbalanced from the point of view of the Museum.
Here I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, that this is not an attempt to drive a wedge between two cultures. The two cultures are unified, and unified under the same parentage. But what we are concerned with is that the balance of interests on the two bodies of Trustees is necessarily different. The one must include a heavier weighting of one kind of qualification, and the other must have a heavy weighting of the other. If they are merged, a high proportion of the Trustees will feel themselves not cognisant, or not sufficiently cognisant, with matters which concern the others. That is the problem. There are not two cultures; there is one culture, but there is an enormous number of sub-departments and specialist interests.
Surely the argument the noble Earl used in conclusion is not one upon which he would wish to stand—namely, that we must go on with what is perhaps not the best decision, because it would be hard luck on people who put work into this programme if changes were made at this stage. It would be a sad thing—and I am sure the people who have put the work into this programme would be the first to recognise it—if decisions which could be improved upon were not so improved merely out of regard for the hard luck feelings of those who had worked at an earlier stage. I cannot think that the 470 noble Earl wishes to stand upon an argument of that kind.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I would still make an appeal, although I do not expect it to be answered. As I said before, this is not a Party issue, but I am inclined to take this matter to a Division, and I hope for support from all quarters of the Committee. I should like to deal with one or two points that my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger has already mentioned. The speech from the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, nearly made me into a Liebersite.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
This is not a question of two cultures. It is a question of a National Reference Library of Science and Technology. There will be all sorts of scientific libraries which will continue. What we are proposing is that its principal control will be in the hands of the people primarily concerned with its purposes. I should visualise that there would be quite likely one or several industrialists with particular knowledge of technology, and so on, who would not be likely to be found a place among the Trustees of the British Museum. Nor do I think that the suggestion of a scientific advisory committee meets the case. What we want is a separate direction. The idea of this Library has come up—it has been fathered in its latter stages by the British Museum—and now we are saying that its purpose is so different that it ought to be separate; and the only argument that we have against this is the argument that everything in this country should be included in the British Museum—possibly the Public Record Office, and the whole lot.
I would urge noble Lords who have heard this debate, and any who have come in later, to support us on this Amendment. At least we shall get a principle across. And I hope notice will be taken that the purpose of this Library is different from that of the purposes of 471 the British Museum Library. Therefore I will press this Amendment to a Division.
§ Clause 8 agreed to.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD DENNING moved, after Clause 8 to insert the following new clause:
§ Transfer of documents to Public Record Office
§ ". Notwithstanding anything in this Act, the Trustees of the British Museum may with the consent of the Lord Chancellor transfer to the Public Record Office any historical manuscripts or other documents 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, or which in the interests of historical research it is convenient so to transfer."
§ The noble and learned Lord said: This is a small Amendment, put forward in the interests of historical research and completeness. At the moment the British Museum have many scraps of paper or, shall I say, of parchment which are needed to make some of the great historical manuscripts in the Public Record Office complete. At the present moment there is no power to make those documents complete, and this Amendment is designed for the purpose. As your Lordships will know, Masters of the Rolls for well over 100 years now have had a special responsibility for the Public472
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 23; Not-Contents, 39.471
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Faringdon, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Henderson, L.||Somers, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Latham, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Lawson, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Champion, L.||Lindgren, L.||Walston, L. [Teller.]|
|Cranbrook, E. [Teller.]||Lucan, E.||Williamson, L.|
|Denning, L.||Milverton, L.||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Eccles, L.||Long, V.|
|Auckland, L.||Ferrers, E.||Lothian, M.|
|Bossom, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.|
|Boyd of Merton, V.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Margesson, V.|
|Chesham, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Newton, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Grenfell, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Perth, E.|
|Craigton, L.||Hanworth, V.||Rea, L.|
|Denham, L.||Hastings, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Derwent, L.||Hawke, L.||St. Oswald, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Hurcomb, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Jellicoe, E.||Templemore, L.|
|Dundee, E.||Lansdowne, M.||Waleran, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Record Office, and I am glad to say that my noble and learned friend Lord Evershed, my immediate predecessor, is supporting this Amendment.
§ I should like to give your Lordships just one illustration of what happens at the moment and how it will work. We have in the Public Record Office a whole series of account rolls on parchment which were made to record the building of Rockingham Castle by King Edward I in the year 1280. We have 30 of these account rolls on parchment for each of the years spent in building the castle, containing the records of the masons, the stone and the work that was done, all in the queer abbreviated latin and in handwriting that is most difficult to read. But many years ago one-half of the 30th roll was torn away in a jagged edge; and that one-half, out of the whole 30, is now in the British Museum. I have here a photograph of the half which the Public Record Office has of the parchment, with its jagged edge where it has been severed from the other. All that we ask is that there should be power, not to compel, but to permit, the British Museum, if they think fit, to make this record complete by transferring that missing half to the Public Record Office so as to make our documents complete. I may say that even the rolls in which your Lordships might 473 be most interested—the rolls for the reconstruction of Westminster Hall in the time of Richard II, and all our account rolls—are complete except for one counter roll in the British Museum. So we do plead that the document should be made complete for research.
§ It is said: "Oh well, of course, nowadays microfilms can be made of the missing half; and, instead of transferring the original half of the parchment to the Public Record Office, let the Public Record Office have a photograph." But historians and researchers would tell you that you cannot compare a photograph to the original parchment roll. You do not get the erasures, the handwriting, the blots, or even the sealing wax reproduced on a photograph. I remember an attempt to fit together a photograph of a torn page of the proceedings of your Lordships' House. Trying to piece it together was a difficult task and very unsatisfactory. If you have the whole document you can see so much more, especially nowadays with ultra-violet lamps which enable you to see the texture of the document and read it as a whole.
§ Historians plead that that document should be made complete, and you may wonder why not. But, so far as I can gather, the British Museum Trustees take the view, "What we have we hold." I should just like to compare their attitude to that of a private individual. We have in the Record Office some fine fifteenth-century illuminated manuscripts of Furness Abbey. They came into the Public Record Office after the dissolution of the monasteries. When they were examined in detail they were found to be lacking one page. In 1930 this missing page came into the hands of an ordinary private individual, and he generously presented it to the Record Office, where it has been reunited and the whole of this fine cartulary is now complete. What a private individual can do, and is willing to do, apparently the British Museum are unwilling to do. We do not ask for compulsion, but only for liberty, if the Lord Chancellor consents, that the document in the Public Record Office in our keeping should be made complete. I beg to move.
After Clause 8 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Denning.)
§ LORD EVERSHED
I should like, if I may, shortly to support my noble and learned friend. As will be apparent to your Lordships from what he said, since I was his predecessor as Master of the Rolls, I do so in what I believe to be the interest of public records. Of course, nowadays the separation of public records would be very unlikely to happen; but in ancient days that was not so. Your Lordships will know that before the passing of the first Public Record Office Act (I think in 1838) a number of Committees of one or other of the Houses of Parliament were set up to try to find out what should be done, since unfortunately, what would now be kept in the ordinary way in the State Departments had largely been dispersed and disseminated all over the place, not out of any ill-design but simply because at that time it was not perhaps fully appreciated quite what were State Papers.
Not long before I ceased to be Master of the Rolls, a most remarkable document, of the days, I think, of King Edward III, was put up for sale, having found its way eventually into a saleroom in London, and the Treasury had to provide a substantial sum to buy it back again. I am not thinking of that kind of case, but it has happened that what we now know in truth are public documents have for a long time formed part of private collections and, as such, have in the past been handed over to the British Museum. By Schedules to the latest Public Record Office Act such documents, being in the British Museum, would not be public records for the purposes of that Act, so that there would be no power to recover them. May I make one thing quite clear? I fully realise, and my time in office as Master of the Rolls fully taught me, that a public document to the historian and to the researcher owes a great deal of its value to its companions, to the fact that it is part of a collection or a series. For anyone interested in this science of the archives to deny that would be an obvious heresy; and I do not, of course, deny it.
As my noble friend has pointed out, we are not for one moment suggesting that all documents which strictly are, or were, public records, should now be taken from the British Museum and put in the Public Record Office. All we say is that, like everything else in human affairs, 475 every rule has its occasional exceptions; and the case that my noble friend has mentioned, of the parchment that happens to be torn in half, one might think was such an exception. Again, I venture to emphasise, if I may, what has fallen from my noble friend: that all we are saying by this Amendment is that the Trustees of the British Museum should have power, if the Lord Chancellor consents, to transfer, say, a part of a document, to make up a whole, or perhaps some other document, which might be thought, by those best able to judge, to be of more value to the historian and the researcher, in the company of the rest of its series than in the company in which in fact it finds itself. Every such exceptional case would be dealt with on its own merits. It is merely that it would be right that there should be liberty given to deal with an exceptional case in that way.
As I am speaking on the subject, perhaps your Lordships will allow me to say this: that from those I have often seen who have acted in the matter of research in the Public Record Office, I have always heard the very highest praise for the service and help given to the Public Record Office by the Keeper and Assistant Keepers and other civil servants in that office. In saying that, I am not obliquely denigrating the British Museum, but after thirteen years' association with the Public Record Office I should like on this occasion to pay my acknowledgment to the staff of that great institution. The only thing I would add is that I am not sure, from what has fallen from my noble and learned friend Lord Denning, that the Amendment, which speaks of "historical manuscripts or other documents", in the plural, might not be better put in the singular, since his best case happens to be that of a single manuscript. But the form of the Amendment is, in fact, the same as that moved in another place, and I should like to support it.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I, too, should like to support the Amendment. Both spoke to it with such tremendous charm—indeed, on the part of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, almost with pathos—that this idea of uniting the torn document to its other half is almost irresistible, and obviously appeals to this Committee. But, of course, that is a very 476 dangerous argument to use in relation to the British Museum. If one were really to restore missing parts, the Erechtheum in Athens would benefit from a certain figure, and there are other objects which might be restored to their natural place. The argument that people did not perhaps realise the importance of certain public records before they were disposed of, but now they do, could also be used by others.
But, having said that, the fact remains that I think the Public Record Office is in a rather different case. The argument in favour of the British Museum's not being too restrictive and too tight to permit an entirely sensible arrangement of this sort is one that I should hope would commend itself, despite the danger of breaching this principle, to the Committee. I take it this could be a two-way traffic. Indeed, the Amendment could be very similar to the Amendment I had not moved previously.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
It would seem this is one of which the Government would at least accept the principle.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
There are certain documents in the British Museum which it might be argued ought more appropriately to be held by the Record Office, and an Amendment was put down in another place similar to that which the noble Lord has moved. It was negatived on Report after consideration had been given to the views of the British Museum Trustees upon it. Both the noble and learned Lords, Lord Denning and Lord Evershed, are evidently fully familiar with those arguments on the strength of which the Amendment in another place was negatived. First of all, there is the general principle of non-alienation. The British Museum Trustees attach great importance to that and would be most reluctant to make any breach in it, even within a strictly limited field and on the basis of permissive powers. I think they feel that once there are permissive powers, although they have power to refuse it, it opens them to a great deal of pressure which in some cases it might be difficult to resist.
Then there is the argument about the breaking up of collections. As the 477 noble Lord, Lord Evershed, said, although in modern times it is unlikely that different public records in the same series would become separated, that could happen yin earlier centuries. It could happen that those separated records might become part of a private collection and that the association might be even more historical than the association between the different records. For instance, the Cotton Library is largely built up of documents of that kind. The noble Lord, Lord Evershed, answered that, I think, by saying something of which I was not aware: that legally these would not now be classified as public records.
§ LORD EVERSHED
Being in the British Museum they are excluded, I think I am right in saying, from the definition, according to the Schedule of the Act of 1958; so that strictly the Public Record Office could not demand them qua public records because they are in the British Museum.
§ The EARL OF DUNDEE
I am much obliged. I think the noble Lord is saying that if his view is correct, even if this Amendment were accepted it would not be possible to move these documents to the Public Record Office.
§ LORD EVERSHED
Yes, because many documents are handed to the Public Record Office which are not strictly public records. Once they leave the British Museum they immediately become public records.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I had thought, when I first heard the noble Lord's speech, that he was arguing that this Amendment was not a very formidable one because these old records, by this new enactment and being legally public records, could not be transferred under his Amendment. I should like to look into that a little further.
The third argument of the British Museum was that since they have always published catalogues of their manuscripts and since those catalogues are well known to scholars, transfers might be a source of confusion and frustration, because people who came to the British Museum about a document recorded as being in the Museum's collections might discover it was no longer there. That would not apply to the private donors, whose behaviour the noble Lord contrasted with 478 that of the British Museum, because they would not have published catalogues of the manuscripts they held and the fact that they were kind enough to give them to the Public Record Office would not cause confusion or inconvenience to scholars.
I was not quite convinced by Lord Denning's deprecation of photographic copies. He first of all said microfilms, but I think in this case they would more likely be ordinary photo copies. I have given a lot of my own charters and documents of historical interest to the Register House in Edinburgh, and for my own gratification I have very good photo copies, which are just as good and safer.
After listening to the three very eloquent speeches we have heard, I think it would be frustrating the purpose of debate if I did not look into this matter again. I think the Government were right to refuse this Amendment and the other place was right to negative it on Report, but since three of your Lordships have pleaded so pathetically, as well as eloquently, on this point, and none of your Lordships has spoken in an opposite sense, I think it would be right, before asking your Lordships to reject the proposal out of hand, that I should undertake to do what I can to look into it again to the best of my ability.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
I should like to add my plea to the noble Earl to look at this matter again, because I do not think the objections which have been raised are really substantial. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Evershed, was simply that if this Amendment were passed it would still not confer upon the Public Record Office the right to demand from the British Museum documents in their custody.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
I thought he meant it would not give the British Museum power to transfer, but I think the noble Lord has given the right interpretation of Lord Evershed's argument.
§ LORD DOUGLAS OF BARLOCH
That is the whole point of the Amendment: to give the British Museum power to transfer, but not to give anybody the right to demand them. In any case, the power is limited under the proposed Amendment, because it is subject to the consent of the Lord Chancellor. That consent, I have no doubt, would not be given without very careful consideration.
479 As to the other point which the noble Earl has made, he says it would disrupt the operation of the British Museum if a number of transfers of this kind were made, because the British Museum possesses and has published catalogues of its collections. It is perfectly true that catalogues have been published, and they are very valuable indeed to those who are engaged on research. But I would ask the noble Earl to consider the point which he himself made: that photo copies can be made and, therefore, if such a document were transferred to the Public Record Office to complete the continuity of their records and to put the document into its proper context in the historical series there could still be kept in the British Museum a photo copy so that anybody who went there could see that and, to that extent, would not be frustrated. If his research was so serious that it was necessary to look at original documents and not at photo copies, it would still be better for him to go to the Public Record Office and see them in the context of the other documents which form the whole series.
§ LORD EVERSHED
In thanking the noble Earl, as I do, I want to make it quite clear that, of course, where, as is often the case (perhaps in nine cases out of ten), the value of a particular document to history and to historical students is that it is, and has been, part of a collection, that would be a complete answer to any suggestion for its transference. Here we are concerned with only the occasional case. I submit to your Lordships that it seems rather extraordinary that a manuscript which happens to be torn in two could, by Act of Parliament, be prevented from ever being joined together again. This is only the occasional case. May I express my gratitude for what has been said about photography in meeting the catalogue point? Possibly an erratum could be put in the catalogue which would meet the particular case that I have in mind. But I am most grateful to the noble Earl for the consideration that he is giving to our point.
§ LORD DENNING
May I say that I am most grateful to the noble Earl for saying that he will look into this matter? 480 That being so, I will withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clauses 9 to 11 agreed to.
§ 5.43 p.m.
THE EARL OF CRANBROOK moved, after Clause 11, to insert the following new clause
. The Trustees of the British Museum and the Natural History Trustees shad make two separate triennial reports to Parliament on the condition of the collections, the provisions for research and exhibition and other matters connected with the British Museum and British Museum of Natural History respectively.
§ The noble Earl said: At present, about half of the 51 Trustees of the British Museum are holders of important offices of the Church and State and are Trustees ex officio. They include the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord the Master of the Rolls, who has just spoken—in fact, by and large, about 50 per cent. of the members of the body of Trustees are Members either of your Lordships' House or of another place. One imagines that when the Trustees were set up in that form, it was expected that men of that calibre who interested themselves actively in the day-to-day running of the Museum could report to their fellow Members either of this place or of another place. Moreover, I believe time was when the most reverend Primate used to present to your Lordships the budget of the British Museum. That, alas! is no longer the case. Indeed, it is obviously a fact that men of that sort of calibre with the responsibilities which they bear to-day have not got the time to carry out their duties as Trustees, and it is for that reason that a special Committee does the day-to-day running of the Museum.
§ Under the new set-up there will not even be that rather tenuous connection with the two Houses of Parliament; and neither House, nor the general public, will have any opportunity of learning what is being done at the two Museums, nor indeed what should be done and what is not being done. Moreover, the finances are hidden away in an obscure corner of the Civil Estimates, and when one does find them after some difficulty, they give remarkably little information. 481 So, therefore, we have two institutions of the greatest importance in the cultural and scientific life of this country the governing body of which have no opportunity, or will have no opportunity, and are under no obligation, to give an account of their activities.
§ While we have been discussing this Bill, some of your Lordships, and indeed some people in another place, have ventured to criticise some aspects of the work of both Museums, and I personally have been ventilating criticisms which are commonly made in scientific circles—I hear them frequently made with greater or less intensity, but they are symptomatic, I think, of a general disquiet. We know that in the past two or three years a great deal has been done, but after the many years of neglect there is much backlog to be made up. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, on Second Reading referred to the need for new buildings at South Kensington, the enlargement of the North block; and I referred to the necessity for more facilities for research both at home and abroad. In some of the replies, certainly in another place and to an extent here, that were made to these criticisms and to some of the Amendments which have been put forward, I am bound to confess that I see some signs of a certain amount of complacency in high places. We know that some improvements are being made, and it may well be that the disquiet which I and others have voiced, the complacency which I fancy I see, may be unjustified or unreal and there may be plans in view, things being done, about which the general body of biologists know nothing. The Trustees have no means of reporting that and of letting us know. I do not feel that we should have these two important institutions being run with neither Parliament nor the general public, nor scientists or students at large, knowing anything about what is going on. At least, I think that every three years they should make a report. I would like to have seen one yearly, but I think it might be rather a strain. But it should be at least every three years. I have reason to suspect that the Trustees themselves would welcome the opportunity, would welcome being given the duty of making at least a triennial report. I beg to move the Amendment which stands in my name.482
After Clause 11 insert the said new clause.—(The Earl of Cranbrook.)
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ LORD HURCOMB
I ought perhaps to make it plain that in this matter I am expressing merely my personal views and am not in any way speaking on behalf of any of the other Trustees. I agree entirely with what the noble Earl has just said. I have little doubt that the new bodies of Trustees will themselves want to issue reports on the progress of work at the Museums for which they are responsible. I feel that it is in every way important that they should do so to keep the public informed, to keep scientific people informed, and to enable them to voice complaints as to where they are being held up by lack of money, or whatever it may be, explaining to the public and to Parliament just what is needed to make these great institutions fulfil their functions, as we should all wish them to do.
It is true that in one way or another the Museums do inform various sections of the population as to what is happening. There are periodical reports, which get a great deal of publicity in the Press, about the growth of the acquisitions to the collections at Bloomsbury, and there are various technical journals which publish periodically thoroughly authoritative accounts of what is happening. But that is not the same thing as a comprehensive report to the public which could be made available to Parliament.
I am doubtful whether it would be wise to put the Trustees under the obligation to publish statutory reports in the ordinary form of Government publications. The rules under which one publishes documents through the Stationery Office are a little restrictive in the matter of the covers one may employ or the illustrations one may include. It may well be, therefore, that this should be done not by making the reports White Papers in any ordinary sense, but if the Trustees were given the duty of publishing—and I myself would certainly say annually—such reports as they think fit, informing the country as to the progress of the Museum. It would be all to the good and would fill a gap which, as the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook has said, has been very remarkable in the past. It is surprising that Parliament itself has heard 483 so little about what the museums have been doing. I therefore support the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl, again making it clear that I am expressing my own views on the matter.
§ BARONESS WOOTTON OF ABINGER
I should like to say one word in support of this Amendment, which seems equally desirable from the point of view of the public and from the point of view of the Trustees. The interested public is probably not very large, but it is sizeable and is undoubtedly exceedingly keenly interested. I think this audience has been increased in recent years through popular education via radio and television. Far more people are now taking an interest in what museums are doing and are anxious to know more about them and how they are run.
From the point of view of the Trustees, I cannot help thinking that it would be very frustrating to serve as a Trustee for a long period and to give no public account of your stewardship. For that reason I am delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, say that, so far as he personally is concerned, he supports this Amendment. If I have read the Schedule correctly, I think it is possible for a Trustee to serve for as long as fifteen years. Few of us would wish to occupy a position in which we gave no account of our stewardship for as long a period as that, nor should we wish others to occupy such a position when they are acting on behalf of the public at large or a specialised section of the public, as in this case.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
There is not, and never has been, any general rule or practice about the publication of reports by any museums or galleries. The Tate Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery issue annual reports; the National Gallery brings them out every few years, but not at regular intervals; and other museums do not publish reports of their own at all, but they often contribute to the Survey which forms the second part of the Reports published periodically by the Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries. Some institutions lend themselves more readily and easily to reports than others.
A report which deals adequately with such an enormous and complex institution as the British Museum involves, of 484 course, a vast amount of work for a great number of people. That is not necessarily an argument against doing it, and, as your Lordships have recalled, the British Museum used until 1938 to publish an annual report. Since then it has ceased to do so on grounds of economy, which we can well understand, because the cost of doing that kind of thing has vastly increased since that time. It involves a very great amount of clerical labour, and the wages of clerical labour and the costs of printing have increased enormously since 1938. Naturally, the British Museum feel that all the expense of doing this might be better spent on some other purpose. The noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand that the Trustees are contemplating again resuming making reports.
§ LORD HURCOMB
If the noble Earl will allow me to interrupt, may I say that I am not entitled to say that? I thought I had made it clear that I was expressing only my personal views. I feel that if the Trustees are asked to take note of the feeling of your Lordships in this matter, they would themselves be glad to resume publication of the reports. If they are not put under too rigid obligations, by Statute or otherwise, they can then deal with the difficulty as to the bulk of material to be covered by a report by covering one subject in one year and dealing with something else the next. Therefore, if you allow them latitude I feel that all these difficulties will disappear. But I cannot do more than say that I personally feel they would be very sympathetic on this matter.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
What I understood—apart from what the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, has said—was that the Trustees had been considering the question of resuming the reports which stopped in 1938. The Government's view is that we should be delighted if they would start making reports if and when they felt that they had anything really worth while to say.
As the noble Baroness said, many more members of the public are taking an interest in museums, but whether they would like to read a routine report I am not sure. The Trustees might not consider it worth while to produce routine reports which would take up a great deal of their staff's time, involve them in a 485 vast amount of labour, and cost a great deal of money, and which would not be read by anybody at all. When—and this is a matter the Trustees should decide for themselves—they felt that they had something worth while and interesting to say which would be read by somebody, we are all for their doing it; but we think we ought to leave it to them, and not put them under a statutory obligation to do something which might not always be necessary and which might not be read by anybody at all.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I do not know why I should feel so strongly on a matter like this, but I do. I feel it is quite intolerable that there should be no report to Parliament.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
No, I probably should not read it, but I should read the Natural History Museum Report section, and there are other people who would read the British Museum part. I do not think it is fair for the Government to say to the Trustees: "Publish if you think worth while and if there is enough money."
§ LORD SHACKLETON
Enough interest, and in fact enough money. Parliament is legislating now in regard to the British Museum, and I think there ought to be a report. It ought to be a statutory obligation, and this is not a very onerous one. I think, with the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, that the Trustees, and certainly the officers of the Museums, would probably welcome it. According to my information, the Natural History Museum were in fact anxious—certainly the Director was anxious—to produce such a report. I should have thought that this ought to be a statutory obligation, and that even now the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, could consider Lord Cranbrook's Amendment. It is a very mild one.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
I must confess I was astounded when I heard the reply of the noble Earl in front of me, who could not see an abundant necessity for a report of this nature—certainly from the Natural History Museum, which is a major research institute. We all have year by year the reports of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, the Agricultural Research Council, the Medical Research Council and so on.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
Admittedly, we do not all read the whole lot, but we do read those parts in which we are particularly interested and where we feel that we could have some contribution to make. The accent on the great cost, the vast amount of work involved, and this, that and the other, seems the poorest of replies that I have ever heard to something that has been accepted on all sides of the Committee—
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
If there is anything in this argument in favour of doing it, there is nothing to prevent the Trustees from doing it. I said that we are delighted that they should.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
There is approval on this side of the House, on that side of the House and on the Cross-Benches, for the Trustees to have a statutory duty to report to Parliament and the nation at large on what are fundamentally important things—the condition of the collections, the provisions for research and education, and other matters. Now those are important things. Every year important matters arise, and I simply fail to understand why the noble Earl cannot accept this Amendment. Can he give me an undertaking that he will be prepared to consider it if I put it down again on the Report stage or on Third Reading? Otherwise, I feel so strongly about this matter that I will feel bound to divide the Committee on it.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 31; Not-Contents, 24.487
|Airedale, L.||Amulree, L.||Attlee, E.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Archibald, L.||Burton of Coventry, B.|
|Champion, L.||Kinnoull, E.||Shepherd, L.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Latham, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Cranbrook, E. [Teller.]||Lawson, L.||Somers, L.|
|Crook, L.||Lindgren, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Denning, L.||Lucan, E.||Strang, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||Milverton, L.||Walston, L.|
|Fraser of North Cape, L.||Perth, E.||Williamson, L.|
|Hanworth, V.||Shackleton, L. [Teller.]||Wootton of Abinger, B.|
|Auckland, L.||Ferrers, E.||Lothian, M.|
|Chesham, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Luke, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Grenfell, L.||McCorquodale of Newton, L.|
|Craigton, L.||Hastings, L.||Margesson, V.|
|Denham, L.||Hawke, L.||Newton, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Jellicoe, D.||Palmer, L.|
|Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Lansdowne, M.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Dundee, E.||Long, V.||Waleran, L.|
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Amendment agreed to accordingly.
§ Clause 12 agreed to.
§ First Schedule [Tenure of Office and Proceedings of Trustees]:
§ 6.11 p.m.
THE EARL OF CRANBROOK moved, in paragraph 1, after "not" to insert:
be of such a length as would involve his remaining in office after the age of 72 years and in no case shall".
§ The noble Earl said: We discussed some time back, on the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, the constitution of the Trustees of the Natural History Museum, and, mutatis mutandis, I believe the same thing applies to the Trustees of the British Museum at Bloomsbury. Now that we are setting up new Trustees, the governing bodies of both of them, I think, and certainly that of the Museum at South Kensington, should be moulded like those of other bodies responsible for research and should in fact be bodies vastly different from those which now govern the two Museums. To-day the boundaries of scientific knowledge are enlarging so fast that it is difficult for the professional, and almost impossible for the amateur, to keep fully up to date. As we grow older and our undergraduate days recede further away, and our schooldays still further away, all of us find it increasingly difficult to understand and to realise what is going on in modern science. Time was when a professor at a university went on teaching until he died: to-day, he has to retire at 65 or 67.
§ I believe the noble Earl in charge of the Bill told us that the Prime Minister, 488 in making appointments, would probably appoint 50 per cent. from men such as professors actively engaged in the pursuit of their profession. I put down the age of 72 in this Amendment because I doubt whether such a man, however able, could continue to be sufficiently closely in touch with modern science bearing in mind the difficulty which any one of us has, when we get to the sort of age which most of us here are to-day, in keeping up to date with the developments which take place during our careers. I do not believe that such a man could keep closely in touch with modern developments for more than five or seven years after his retirement; and, so far as being on the governing body of a research institute is concerned, it is vitally important that the governing body should be in touch.
§ There are other walks of life where a man with the accumulated wisdom that comes of old age can continue to be of service well on into old age; and we know and see innumerable examples of men performing very valuable services to a late age. Indeed, I feel that, for the Trustees of the Museum as at present constituted, age is really no bar to the type of work which they have done in the past. But it does seem to me that, under the new set-up there will be a new type of Trustee, possibly with very new functions, whether the Prime Minister himself chooses him or whether he come on the nomination of some learned society, and it is important that men should leave the governing body of a research institute before they cease to be in touch with science. The age I have chosen is in line with that which applies to county court judges and it is that which is 489 thought applicable to members of agricultural tribunals and agricultural advisory committees, because members are then thought to be so far out of touch with modern practice as to be no longer useful.
§ I found some difficulty in wording this Amendment, because I think that it applies possibly more strongly to the scientists than it does to those who are concerned with humanities. Nevertheless, at Bloomsbury much scientific work is done, and it will be important for the Trustees there to be as closely in touch with modem thought as it will be in South Kensington; and I believe that this rule should apply to both. I beg to move.
Page 6, line 5, after ("not") insert the said words.—(The Earl of Cranbrook.)
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
The noble Earl raised this question of age on Second Reading, and I see that I pointed this out to him in reply [OFFICIAL. REPORT, Vol. 248 (No. 69), col. 964):The first Schedule to this Bill provides that each Trustee shall hold office for only such a period as is specified in the instrument by which he is appointed; and that is ten years on appointment, and five years on renewal. So there will be plenty of opportunity to change the Trustees before they become old enough to be themselves exhibits in the Museum rather than administrators".The noble Earl now wishes to introduce a further safeguard by providing that, whatever happens, no one shall go on being a Trustee after the age of 72. These questions of age limit are, of course, very difficult. They have existed in some professions for a very long time, and I dare say they are justifiable in many professions. The noble Earl mentioned university dons. It always used to be thought that schoolteachers, too, went on and on, and it was sometimes very difficult or embarrassing for the governing bodies of the schools to tell them they thought the time had come for them to retire. On the other hand, there are disadvantages, too, if you fix a retiring age and people do not get old at the same time—and some people are at their best at 65 or 70. I remember one brilliant classics teacher at the school where I was who had to retire at the age of 65 when he was just at his best and, I think, his most brilliant. He had learnt a lot more since he was 55; but, of course, at 65 it was too late for him to get any other employment and 490 he had to go coaching people, "cramming" them for unimportant exams, for the rest of his life. That, I thought, was a very great waste of talent.
§ It may be argued that it is really a question of saving employers, Trustees and governing bodies embarrassment, and that it would be better if they were courageous enough to discriminate between one man and another. However, the argument is that it saves the need for discrimination in many professions and enables young men to get promotion more quickly. I would hardly have thought that that applied to the position of a Trustee of any Museum because, unlike a profession, it is merely a kind of responsibility which any suitable person may take on, involving a moderate amount of work. He may be able to give invaluable service up to the age of 75 or 80. I would suggest that the condition in the Schedule to this Bill which provides that after the first ten years he cannot be appointed for more than another five years, will be sufficient to enable the Prime Minister to make sure that there are not inordinate numbers of excessively old Trustees. It would be a pity to deprive the British Museum of the services of people—and I can think of many examples—who might perhaps be at their best for that kind of work and who would be able to give valuable help even when they are past the age of 72. Therefore, I hope that your Lordships will not wish to press this Amendment.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
There is really a point of substance in the noble Earl's Amendment, but it is a difficult question. There is no doubt that there might be circumstances in which an extremely valuable individual was lost. But the great argument in favour of a definite age limit is precisely the one that the noble Earl mentioned: to have a clear-cut decision about which there can be no argument. There is some loss, undoubtedly, as a result, as we know by examples which have been quoted time and time again in this House when discussing the retirement of judges and so on. There is a general desirability of fixing an age, but, personally, I think it would be difficult to carry this Amendment into effect in view of the Government's attitude. I am not proposing to move the next Amendment (which might provide a more brutal 491 solution in particular cases) at this stage. I do not know whether the noble Earl wishes to press this question, but it may be that he could consider this again before the Report Stage and we could decide how else to deal with it.
§ THE EARL OF CRANBROOK
I wonder whether the noble Earl might consider—I do not want to press the Amendment—whether it is not possible to have an Amendment providing that the first appointment should not bring a man beyond a certain age. One could then have a look to see how he is getting on and not renew the appointment if he is showing signs of senility. It is almost impossible to lay down a fixed age of retirement; that I realise. But I should like some provision whereby we do not have people continuing to work at the Museum long after they have lost touch with scientific development. Perhaps the noble Earl will consider this.
§ THE EARL OF DUNDEE
Of course, I will consider any argument which the noble Earl wishes me to consider; and I intend in any case to have a Report stage. But I would again say to the Committee that I do not think the position of people undertaking a very occasional piece of public service such as being a Trustee of the British Museum is comparable to the case of whole-time professional workers such as schoolmasters, university dons or Judges. I do not think there is any real parallel between them because, with great respect to your Lordships, age may by a gradual process resulting in a slight loss of efficiency. It does not mean that you are incapable of giving advice or to make decisions which have to be made by a Trustee of the British Museum, and it seems to be an unnecessarily rigid proposal that no one shall be a Trustee after the age of 72.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that the probable balance of advantage is on the side of an age limit in the case of Judges, schoolmasters, and so on; but I would put it to the Committee that the parallel does not hold in the case of such an appointment as a Trustee of the British Museum, which is not a whole-time job.
§ LORD MCCORQUODALE OF NEWTON
Before the noble Earl finally 492 considers this point, I hope he will remember that a maximum age tends to become a minimum age and that in trying to overcome an evil one sometimes becomes landed with other difficulties. I hope the noble Earl will not say that you cannot be appointed until you are over 72.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ First Schedule agreed to.
§ Remaining Schedules agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported, with an Amendment.