HL Deb 11 May 1971 vol 318 cc854-6

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether a decision has been taken on the proposals for the Railway and Transport Museums.]


My Lords, the Government have considered proposals to rehouse the railway collection now at Clapham either at York, or at other places outside London; alternatively to rehouse the railway and road transport collections from Clapham in London. Detailed plans have been worked out only at York and at the Crystal Palace low-level station. The additional cost and the extra time required for building works are, however, decisive factors against the London alternative. The Standing Commission on Museums and Galleries advised me in the same sense. Accordingly the Government have decided:

  1. 1. to establish a National Railway Museum at York to be run by the Science Museum;
  2. 2. to arrange for the historical records of the railways to be kept in London, eventually at the new Public Record Office at Kew;
  3. 3. to consult with the G.L.C. and the Science Museum about the arrangements for the storage in London of the road transport collection, until such time as it can be properly shown to the public.


My Lords, may I thank my noble friend for his Answer to my Question? Is he aware that although all aspects of his Answer will not please everybody, at least everyone will be pleased to have the decision taken? Would my noble friend tell us what weight he gave to the considerations of regional location as compared with the importance of getting a national institution in the right place?


My Lords, the decision to go to York was taken on its merits as a site for a national railway museum. We had to be sure that there was no better site in London, and it was this inquiry which the previous Government failed to pursue. Now, taking into account the cost and the time for moving out of Clapham, we are agreed that York is a better site. That being so, I can record our satisfaction that an institution of this national importance is to be established in the North of England.


My Lords, is the Minister aware how very well his reply will be received by a large number of railway enthusiasts, particularly in the northern part of the country, where they feel that some part of the national museum should be regionalised? This will be especially well received where the railways first begun, in the Stockton and Darlington area. It will give great pleasure to many to know that the decision has been taken to establish this museum at York where land and everything is readily available.


I am glad that that is so, my Lords. But the noble Lord must realise that we are left with quite a difficult problem as to what is to happen to the London road transport collection.


My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that his Answer will not be received with unalloyed pleasure by everybody?—but that, of course, is the nature of the problem. Can he give some indication of the time scale of the various moves, and has he ever estimated how many noble Lords have visited Clapham, for it is a quite exceptional exhibition?


My Lords, I agree that Clapham is a very agreeable museum and is visited by a great many children. It has lately put up its charges, with no ill effects upon the entrance figures. Of course it is a good thing that we should distribute these collections around the country, but only on their merits. As a man interested in museums, I am convinced that we must be sure that the site chosen will afford all that is necessary for a national collection. Fortunately York does this.


My Lords, would the noble Lord agree that York is traditionally the heart of the railway system in this country and is therefore a most appropriate place for a museum of transport? At the, present time there is already a railway museum there which is very much visited by small children.


My Lords, the railway interests, in particular the Transport Trust, have let me know that Great Britain has several hearts in connection with the railway system. I think York is well placed, but there were other places outside London which had quite a good claim.


My Lords, this was not a heart transplant.