HL Deb 14 December 1982 vol 437 cc501-36

4.40 p.m.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee—(The Earl of Avon.)

Baroness Birk

My Lords, before we enter the Committe stage of the Bill, may I first thank the Minister for providing the guide to Schedule 4, which has been of great help to us and enabled many of us to put down amendments which, unfortunately, are rather late but would have been quite impossible without it.

Nevertheless, I feel bound to point out that the proper Keeling Schedule inserted in the Bill would have been far preferable, and I should like to have assurances from the Minister that, as the Bill progresses and is amended, so the schedule will be amended. I am giving the noble Lord long notice on this matter as we shall not reach the schedule today. Secondly, will he assure the House that the schedule will be available not only for another place but will be published afterwards so that it always remains part of the Bill for future legislators, members of the public or groups who are concerned with the subject and want clarification of it? It would be very unfortunate if it disappeared.

Finally, although Second Reading was on 25th November and, with respect, I think there was time to produce a Keeling Schedule, nevertheless the work put in by the Minister and the department in the last few days which resulted in this being produced late yesterday afternoon, was obviously a formidable task.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, in response to the noble Baroness, I am grateful for the kind words at the end of her remarks. As she knows, we had doubts about the Keeling Schedule. This pamphlet will be available and, incidentally, it is in the Printed Paper Office at the moment. It will be available for discussions throughout the Bill's parliamentary pasage and we are at the moment looking into a method of publication for afterwards.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The Lord Nugent of Guildford in the Chair.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Schedule 1 [The Boards]:

Viscount Eccles moved Amendment No. 1: Page 19, line 24, at beginning insert ("Not less than 12 and not more than 16 of").

The noble Viscount said: The purpose of the amendment is to maintain the maximum number of trustees at 20, as it is in the Bill as drafted, while making room for up to four or five of the executives of the museum to be co-opted to the board by the appointed trustees. The amendment goes with Amendment No. 7 in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, my noble friend Lord Geoffrey-Lloyd and myself, and if it is for the convenience of the Committee I shall discuss these together. They can be voted on separately, if necessary.

The amendments are designed to strengthen the trustee system by filling the gap left by the removal of departmental control. The key issue here is, where does the power lie to allocate the available resources, almost all of which will be provided by Parliament? I wonder how many years will pass before we have another opportunity to lay down the structure of government for this, the greatest museum of the decorative arts in the world. I should say more than a generation, and, during that time, museums, like other institutions, will soon realise that tomorrow is not going to look like yesterday. So let us imagine as best we can the demands which a changing society will make on the centres of culture and enjoyment, of which the Victoria and Albert is an outstanding example.

The first duty of the trustees and the staff has been, and always will be, to the collections. That obligation in the past has been superbly discharged by devoted curators, advised by trustees possessing practically no powers, but in the background controlled by the Department of Education and Science. What exactly did the department do? Not much, if my memory is correct, except to keep an eye on the estimates and to try to see that the director did not overspend his budget. The instrument for that financial supervision was a Permanent Secretary of the department who was the accounting officer of the museum.

With the departure of the department, the director becomes the accounting officer. Who will control him? I shall be told the trustees, but the Bill does not define their powers to do so. My noble friend Lord Perth has tabled an amendment to Clause 2 which will raise this point, and as far as it goes it is helpful, but it does not bring together in a constructive partnership the trustees, the director and the staff, and that is exactly the purpose of the two amendments to which I am speaking.

Partnership means the presence of the director and some of his colleagues where the policy decisions are made. We know that they are reluctant to go on to the board, and that should cause your Lordships no surprise. Naturally, they look back to the past when they ran their departments with little or no interference from the advisory trustees. It is in the nature of experts to wish to go on in this protected manner. Your Lordships will not need me to tell you that the best curators of our national museums have always had among their ancestors a squirrel or a magpie, and your Lordships ' House respects the power of heredity. Nowhere else is the contribution to our culture which has been made by the Victoria and Albert more appreciated than here.

But the public is knocking at the door. We now have to defend not only the keeper's scholarship and passion for acquisitions which, in a modest way, I share myself, but to add a growing range of services to the world outside the museum. The museum will require larger and larger grants. Parliament will provide that money, but Parliament will want to know that the management structure of the museum is designed to secure an acceptable balance between the old and the new services. In my judgment the director and the staff make a mistake if they shy away from a direct part in arriving at that balance.

What should be the shape of the structure of management? The Bill repeats the old trustee formula and this appeals to some people who care very much for the fine aŕts—for example, the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson of Lullington, said on Second Reading, on Thursday 25th November, at col. 1018: I imagine that the director will run the museum, free from any interference by the trustees although ultimately responsible, of course, to them".

That does not make administrative sense to me: it means that there will be no change from the old system. The powers of the trustees are not defined in the Bill; there is no recognition of the gap left by the removal of departmental control; and we are asked to take a gamble of unlimited proportions on the capacity of one man, the director, good though he may be, to run the museum free of any interference. In effect, that means that the trustees will let him do what he likes before they know what it is that he is doing. We can find better ways to solve the central problem of management.

Your Lordships might be attracted by the German model of two-tier boards. The senior board would be the appointed trustees whose considerable powers would be laid down in the statute. The powers of the second, the executive board, would also be laid down and the director would be chairman and the keepers, members. This plan has some attractions, but we know very little about it in this country and in any case I think it much preferable if we can design a single working partnership between director, staff and trustees.

Originally I had an amendment down in place of Amendment No. 7 on the Marshalled List today which obliged the trustees to co-opt both the director and up to four of the senior officials. My present amendment says that the director shall be a member, but that the trustees may co-opt two to four of his colleagues. If my experience is anything to go on, the keepers will soon see the adantages of representation at board level. Their scholarship will need to be defended there as much as the interests of the general public. I believe that as the new régime gets into its stride they will grasp the enormous advantages of direct participation.

I have two further points. It is said that if keepers are invited to attend meetings when an item on the agenda concerning their department is to be discussed, that will be sufficient. In my experience it is far from enough. Secondly, the decisions on priorities are taken without the staff being represented on equal terms. Policy papers do not come forward unless they are asked for by the trustees. The different departments have no assurance that their claims for more money are fairly compared with those of the other departments. This is particularly important in a museum where the two sides of the museum—internal and external—are going to compete for resources which are not sufficient to provide what those responsible would like for either. The trustees do not have—and I am thinking of my time at the British Museum—adequate knowledge of what the keepers are thinking; and the keepers have no direct share in the making of policy.

Again, it is said that it would be invidious to co-opt to the board one keeper rather than another. We really must not pay much attention to that. What happens if the director goes sick, or if he goes on sabbatical leave? Do your Lordships really believe that they cannot find someone among the other keepers to stand in for him while he is away? In any sound organisation with which I have ever had anything to do, the board knows that some of the managers—or keepers in this case—have different qualities from others.

I apologise for keeping your Lordships so long, but it is true that sometimes those inside the temple find it hard to envisage the world outside—Parliament must then come to their help. The sole purpose of my amendment is to create a structure within which scholarship and services to the general public can go forward in a fruitful partnership from now onwards. I beg to move Amendment No. 1.

Lord Strabolgi

I should like to say a few words in opposition to this amendment. I am sorry to have to do this because I so often agree with the noble Viscount, particularly on arts matters, and I have listened to all that he has said today with the greatest interest. I agree with him that from time to time we have to try and look at new structures, and he, of course, is the architect of a completely new board of management such as we see at the British Library. But if I may say so with great respect, I think that what the amendment does not do is face up to the question of responsibility. It deals with structure. The noble Viscount I know is very interested in management structure and he elaborated on that in his speech. But we come down to the question of who is to be responsible for the objects, and the very valuable objects, in the museum.

The objects will be vested in the board of trustees under Clause 3—that is made quite clear in the Bill. They will be the responsibility of the board. The director is at present responsible for the day-to-day running of the museum and will continue to be so responsible as the Bill is drafted. He is also present at board meetings in an advisory capacity. In many ways he is in the position of a permanent secretary to a Minister. He should of course be treated with the greatest respect and attention, but it is not right that he should be expected to vote, nor that he should be a party to board decisions, although no doubt many of those decisions will have been arrived at as a result of advice given by the director.

The amendment says that: The Director shall be a member of the Board"— it is mandatory. That, I submit to the Committee, is far too rigid. I do not mean this personally in any way so far as the present director of the Victoria and Albert is concerned, who we know is a fine scholar and a notable director who has made a distinguished and great contribution to the museum, but, as the noble Viscount has said, we are legislating now for 30 to 40 years ahead and we have to get it right. In relation to the position of the director we must remember that at both the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery the two distinguished directors are not members of the board.

It was tried at the National Gallery initially—and this is rather interesting historically—when Sir Charles Eastlake, the President of the Royal Academy, was appointed the first director of the National Gallery in 1855. He was also put on the board. But there were special circumstances at that time and, in a way, I think that this was unknown territory. By this century it was found at the National Gallery not to be working very well, and after the second world war it was decided to divide the director's responsibilities from those of the trustees. The National Gallery and Tate Gallery Act 1954 gave effect to this in Section 7. I shall not weary the Committee by reading out the whole section because it is rather long, but the citation in the margin beside the section says: the National Gallery collections to be vested in the trustees without their director". Ever since then the director of the National Gallery has not been a member of the board, although of course he is responsible for the day-to-day running of the Gallery and attends board meetings in an advisory capacity. I am sure that what he has to say is always listened to with the greatest attention and respect.

With regard to co-option, which is the second half of the amendment, it says that four senior officials may be co-opted onto the board. Concerning this proposal. I see that in the revised version this is now permissive and not mandatory, but, with respect to the noble Viscount, I must say that I am also against this proposal for various reasons. First, it confuses the makers of policy with those who carry it out, and I understand that the Victoria and Albert Museum keepers and senior staff are unanimoulsy—but unanimously—against this confusion of roles. They do not wish to see any keeper as a member of the board. I am sure that if one or two were put onto the board, this would be deeply divisive.

There are 13 departmental heads—very distinguished men, and many of them great scholars. How will four of them be chosen? Will it be the one who has the biggest department, the one who has served the longest, and so on? These are just a few examples of how difficult and how invidious it will be. This will mean that certain heads of departments (that is, if you were able to choose them in spite of all the difficulties) will also take part in decisions affecting their colleagues. I am sure that this would be deeply resented by those outside the board. The full system may work for the British Library, which was set up from scratch, but with the greatest respect to the noble Viscount I am sure that it could not work at the Victoria and Albert, which has an existing structure.

Finally, I think the most important question of all is the question of responsibility. By this Bill, which will become an Act, the collections are vested in the trustees for the time being. The trustees are appointed by the Prime Minister of the day. But this amendment permits trustees to be co-opted by the board. What will be the position of the co-opted members? Will they bear equal responsibility with the appointed members? If there is a theft, or anything like that, it is the appointed trustees who are responsible. This is a heavy responsibility. Will the co-opted temporary members of the board, whose legal responsibility will be undefined, bear equal responsibility with the other trustees who have been appointed by the Prime Minister?

If I may say so to the noble Viscount, none of this is clear in his amendment. The co-opted members will certainly be put into a somewhat uncertain and difficult position. For all these reasons I venture to hope that, if it should come to a Division, the Committee will reject the amendment.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

This is one of a number of complex amendments on the balance of control which we shall have to face in the course of looking at this Bill, and they are fairly difficult problems which are put before us. With some regret I, too, find myself opposed to the amendment in the name of the noble Viscount. I say it is with some regret because the philosophy and policy of my party would, on the whole, lead me to be in favour of having on the various boards as many people as possible who are employed and take part in the running of these institutions.

However, I have always thought that it is fairly unnecessary to have a director as such as a voting member of a board. Frankly, if he has any serious ability at all, a director has the power of several members of any board. If he is not able to get his own way, he is not a very good director. Of course, that does not apply to minor matters, but on the whole, in the general run. he is either able to get his own way or he ought not to be there. To be on the board and to be able to lift up his hand as a token in a vote is no measure of the strength of his influence, which is great and which should be great.

When we come to the question of the four members of the staff who might be co-opted, again I see considerable force in the arguments produced by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. The problem is that these members of the board will be chosen from a number of distinguished colleagues, not by themselves but by the rest of the trustees. It seems to me that while there is a very great deal to be said for the workforce, so to speak—even the top workforce—having its representatives, chosen by themselves, on the board which is directing the affairs of the institution in question, it really will be as divisive as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, says if up to four of the senior officers are co-opted in this kind of way. I have considerable sympathy with what the noble Viscount is trying to achieve, but it does not look to me as though this is the right way in which to achieve it.

5.9 p.m.

Lord Hutchinson of Lullington

I think we would all agree that the noble Viscount has done a great service by tabling this amendment and enabling the Committee to discuss, as he says probably for the first time for a very long time, the constitutional position of the trustees and directors of our great museums. I would submit to your Lordships that it is important that Amendment No. 7 should be rejected because, with the greatest of respect to the noble Viscount, I would suggest that it is basically misconceived.

Its purpose is clear. It is to impose on these museums a board of management on the model of the British Library and to get rid of the system of trustees. I submit that the first reason for rejecting the amendment is that the directors and staff of the Victoria and Albert Museum do not want it, and, from all the inquiries which I have made since the Second Reading, there is not a director of any of the great museums who wishes to be on the board of management or to be a trustee. It would be a mistake, would it not. when giving this freedom to these museums, to begin by imposing upon the directors something which none of them wants?

Secondly, I would submit that they are right in taking that objection. The essence of the trustee system is that it keeps separate the role of the chairman and the trustees, and that of the director and his staff. The operation of a great museum such as the V and A, with a 13-acre site, three outstation houses and 600 employees, with, of course, its scholarship, research and conservation, is a highly professional and specialised job. The director and the staff do that job, and the director is the accounting officer.

I do not resile from the observation I made at Second Reading that they should be able to run the museum free from day-to-day interference by the trustees. The trustees, of course, are ultimately responsible. They represent the public, I would suggest. They carry the ultimate responsibility, and there the buck stops; but they do not run or manage the museum. It is an organisation for which they carry the responsibility. They are unpaid; they are disinterested; they are independent; and they are not there with any axe to grind, not having been given "a job for the boys", or to earn some pin money in their retirement. They are doing a public service because they are deeply interested in the subject-matter of the museum of which they are trustees.

There is then no confusion of roles. The noble Viscount says, if an accounting officer is the director, to whom is he responsible? He is responsible to the trustees. That is the whole point. If you have a management committee, in which everybody is equally responsible for what happens in the day-to-day running, and so on, of the museum, to whom is the management committee responsible? Who is responsible if a mistake is made, or if there is a public outcry about a purchase, and so on. which at the moment can be taken to the trustees? The trustees can take the responsibility. If they support their director, they do so. If a mistake has been made, they say so. Is the Minister to be responsible? If the Minister is going to be responsible directly in that way, one can only say that he is going to have an extremely busy time. The basis of this division between the trustees and those who run the galleries is absolutely essential, and it works extremely well.

The third reason, I would submit, for rejecting this amendment is that there would be confusion in the loyalty and the responsibility of the staff. That surely must be to the director, and not to the trustees, in the sense of the daily running of the gallery. Fourthly, I would suggest that the director and his officials would of course be permanent on the management committee. They would be permanently appointed, whereas the others would simply be there as birds of passage for three or four years, or whatever period ends up in the Bill. The result would be an unsatisfactory situation where you would have the staff and the director permanently on this management committee, but the trustees would be coming in from time to time and going away, which would not be an efficient basis for management.

Fifthly, who in fact would these paid managers be? Who is going to be willing, for a remuneration, to go part-time and manage the Victoria and Albert Museum? If men and women of distinction and experience in the world of administration and finance are going to do that job, I would ask your Lordships: Who is going to be prepared to do that? Who is going to come from some other work of importance and, every week, sit round a table and manage day-to-day an organisation of that special kind. taking the responsibility for the day-to-day decisions? At the moment you simply will not find the high-calibre type of person who is prepared to devote the time to being a trustee.

In this country our museums may not have as big resources as they may have in countries such as the United States or in France, but I would have suggested that in fact our great national museums are unequalled in the museum service that they provide. The quality of research and scholarship are unequalled anywhere in the world. The reason for that is because of this system which has been devised—the trustee system. It is a system which is peculiarly British. It brings into the government of these cultural and scientific organisations a lay element to represent those whose money is being spent, and for whom these museums exist. We do the same thing in our system of justice by-bringing in the jury, and bringing in the lay magistracy into something which is highly professional. It is democracy in action, and it is the lay element wedded to the expertise of extreme professionalism. It works, and I would suggest that it is better to let it continue to work.

The noble Viscount, in his Second Reading speech, made some entertaining observations on the type of person who is a trustee, who comes down from his club with his cigar, having drunk his glass of port, and is an amateur. He said that the days have marched on from having that sort of person as a trustee. Curiously enough the one example that he chose was the noble Lord, Lord Clark, quoting words from a book of his as an example of someone who did not believe in spreading the information and knowledge which comes from our great museums. The noble Lord, Lord Clark! The one scholar, surely, who has written innumerable books for the ordinary reader without jargon so that one can understand exactly what he is saying. Lord Clark who, in his television programme "Civilisation", has reached literally millions of ordinary people not only in this country but all over the world. He is perhaps the greatest publicist-scholar that we have ever had in the visual arts. I can only say that it was a curious choice if that is the basis on which this amendment is put forward.

Lastly, I just note the British Library system. In what inquiries I have been able to make since the Second Reading, I have found very little support for that set-up as it is. This wonderful, modern, streamlined, "with it" organisation has its eight or 10 managers, but they are apparently backed by a committee of no less than 25 members who, in the Act of Parliament, are entitled to be paid. I do not know whether they are paid. If I may say so with respect, it seems to be a somewhat cumbersome organisation. When one sees that of those 25 members almost all of them are academics—one looks in vain for an ordinary author; one looks in vain for an ordinary reader—one wonders whether perhaps the new system for the British Library is not just as élitist as any other body of trustees. Certainly it would appear from the organisation that that is so. In all the circumstances, I suggest that what the noble Viscount described as the well-known system of trusteeship should, for the new museums, continue, and the amendment should be rejected.

5.20 p.m.

Lord Cottesloe

I have the greatest regard for my noble friend Lord Eccles and his views, but on this matter I disagree with him. I have a little experience, having been for seven years a trustee of the Tate Gallery—as the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson, is—and the chairman of it. and I have some experience of management in big public authorities. I agree with almost every word spoken by Lord Hutchinson and I hope the Committee will not accept the amendment. I agree with all the speakers, apart from the mover, on that.

To my mind, the only structure that makes any sense for governing a body of this kind is a three-tier structure. The first is a board of independent trustees who are responsible primarily for policy but on whom, of course, the ultimate responsibility for the management rests. The second is a director—or director-general, as it is now rather fashionable to call him in some quarters—who is the kingpin of the organisation and is responsible to the trustees. He may or may not be a member of the board. The practice in commercial bodies varies, and while I have no strong view on that, he is the kingpin who is entirely responsible for the management of the organisation and responsible to the trustees.

Thirdly, there is the body of departmental heads, keepers, each responsible to the director for the management of his department. Each is responsible to the trustees only through the director; his responsibility is to the director. It seems to me that there is great force in the suggestion that they should not be a selected number from among the 13 keepers, who should be made members of the board. That would only confuse the management structure, and it is objectionable on two grounds particularly. First, it is liable, yet not necessarily, to lead to a very undesirable rivalry among the keepers for the superior status that is available to a few of them. But secondly, and more importantly, it affects the status of the director primus inter pares. The keepers must be responsible to the director and not direct to the board. Of course, they should be able to attend the board on particular occasions, when special questions affecting their departments are involved, but only in an advisory capacity.

Perhaps I may be permitted to comment on the question of the appointment of the trustees, which is not relevant to this amendment but to others. There is a suggestion that a number of them should be appointed on the nomination of particular bodies—the Royal College of Art, the Museums Association, the National Trust, the Royal Society of Arts, the Theatre Museum and the British Academy—which seems to me to be an entirely misguided proposal. The board of trustees—

The Earl of Avon

I hope my noble friend will permit me to say that I think he is now going on to another amendment.

Lord Cottesloe

That is so, but I thought it might be convenient if I made this brief remark at this time. The board of trustees should, in my view, not be a board consisting largely of what are, in effect, delegates, but of independent persons who have, in their own right, the knowledge and experience of the matters with which the museum is concernesd. I hope that my noble friend Lord Avon will not take exception to my having added those few words; that is all I wanted to say on that aspect.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

I hope my noble friend Lord Eccles will not take my words amiss when I say that I too echo the view that has been expressed; the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson, repeated the gospel as I would like to see it in relation to the amendment. As the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said, if a director is worth his salt, he will have most of the board with him, anyway, and for him to be obliged to be on it would detract from his personality—his drive and his force—which is so important in these matters. I will not repeat what has been said. I leave it there in the hope that my noble friend will not press the amendment.

Lord Blake

I rise briefly to say that I endorse everything that has been said since my noble friend Lord Eccles moved the amendment, I am a trustee of the British Museum and, without wishing to be complacent or self-satisfied, I believe that the system works perfectly well. I should be very sorry to see members of the staff put on the board. It would be a mistake, it would be deeply divisive and it would be resented. We know that would be the case and, in those circumstances, I am sure it would be wrong. It would be a different situation when setting up a new system altogether, in which case my noble friend Lord Eccles may or may not be right to say that it would work well. But it is a different matter when one imposes the sort of provisions that are proposed on a very well-established system which has worked satisfactorily. I therefore hope that my noble friend will not press the amendment but. if he does. I shall feel obliged, with every respect to him, to vote against it.

The Earl of Perth

I totally agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, that it is of the greatest importance that we get this right, because we are legislating now for a long future. I confess that I am astonished at the opposition to the amendment. In particular, I should have thought the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, would have seen that in this day and age, when we want more rather than less democracy in Government, to have a chosen few (chosen by the Prime Minister) totally separate from the work of the director and his staff—except in so far as they lay down policy, when they have no responsibility for carrying it out—is not a right structure for today.

Many of your Lordships have quoted how nobody has the sort of system proposed and that everybody is satisfied with what they have. I am a trustee of the National Library in Scotland and we have a system similar to that proposed in the amendment, and it works very well. I am quite clear that in this day and age having the director and several of the keepers not only present, but taking an active part, is the right policy. One does not want to draw too much of an analogy with company management, but very often in companies the boards of directors are joined by working directors, who sometimes represent staff and sometimes represent the workers themselves. So far as I know, again and again Labour policy has wished to see such a thing happening; yet I find that in this instance the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, is against it, and I do not understand that.

We are told that out of the total of 13 keepers in the Victoria and Albert it is difficult to choose a few to be on the board of trustees. Every day we are faced with that kind of decision, and, if the others are jealous, I do not think that they are worthy of their salt. They should recognise that what is being attempted is an arrangement whereby those who have responsibility for the day-to-day management and those who have responsibility for the policy—and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, has pointed out, I have tried in subsequent amendments to define this—ought to be in degree on a level footing. That would be preferable to the present arrangement of having people in two tiers, with some of them there only through the kindness of the chairman and trustees in having invited them. No, let us have something along the lines that the noble Viscount has suggested.

Lord Gibson

In putting my name to the amendment I am certainly not criticising the way in which our great museums now work, and I believe that the truth is that both the systems can work perfectly well. I support the amendment because it addresses itself to the central question of how policy is formulated, and since we are legislating for another generation, I should prefer to have a system that could be introduced where circumstances and personalities so permit. I do not want to change the situation overnight. What is proposed in the amendment would be permissive in the case of the co-opted staff, though not in the case of the director, and I support it. The amendment addresses itself to the question of how policy is formulated. It should be formulated, as it is in all successful organisations with which I have ever had anything to do, by discussion between the non-executive members of the board and the executive members of the board; the skills from outside the museum uniting with the skills inside the museum to decide the main questions of policy.

As I conceive the amendment, it is not addressed to undermining the principle of boards laying down policy and the director running the museum from day to day. Indeed, I could hardly believe my ears when my noble friend Lord Hutchinson of Lullington seemed to be inferring that the trustees would somehow muscle in on the running of the museum because they were to formulate policy in conjunction with the executive directors. I do not think that it will work like that at all. Those concerned are brought together to formulate policy against a background of the skills that each can bring to the discussion.

Having said that, I think that it is very important not to be dogmatic. I should have been very reluctant to support the amendment had it been entirely mandatory. It is mandatory on the director, but, frankly, I do not think that it makes very much difference whether or not he is a trustee. I want him to be a trustee so that the others can be trustees. If the others are not to be trustees, then I think that one can leave him off. But in order to make the system work well I should be inclined to make it mandatory that he should be a trustee, and then the others can be co-opted when they have been persuaded that it is the right thing to do. It will take time, but I believe that if the director is a trustee, the rest will follow. If I were still chairman of the V and A Advisory Council, and the power was being devolved to me, I should want to have it. I certainly should not implement it against the passionate opposition of those who are now there, but we are legislating for the future, and I want to see the power given. It accords with my general approach to the Bill, which is that, if one is devolving to bodies of this kind, one should leave them the maximum freedom to regulate their own affairs as they see fit.

Earl Haig

I must oppose the amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Eccles, since, as I see it, it would change the nature of the board from a board of trustees to a board of management. Trustees, directors and staff are all vital components of our great museums and galleries. Each has a role to fulfil, but one cannot carry on without the other. Surely a director cannot be a trustee of himself. The time for directors to become trustees is different. Reference was made to the noble Lord, Lord Clark. He served as a trustee of the National Gallery of Scotland after his time as a distinguished director of the National Gallery in London.

My noble friend Lord Strabolgi has referred to the crux of the matter, which is the question of responsibility, and I would suggest that the proposed changes would take away the full responsibility from the shoulders of the trustees. That does not deny the need for advice and enterprise on the part of the director and his staff; nor does it mean that there is any lack of confidence. By being relieved of the final responsibility for financial and aesthetic decisions, the director and his staff can be left free to carry out the curatorial and management work. The views and opinions of the director and his staff can carry great weight at meetings, as is the normal situation in trustee museums. From my own experience as a trustee of the National Gallery of Scotland, I can say that such a system works where a board of trustees backs the advice given to it by the director and his professional staff.

What is the purpose of setting up the boards on lines different from existing boards? If the intention is to create boards on similar lines, the amendment would in fact go against that. The inter-relationship between the various museums would not be as straightforward as it would be if they were constituted on the same lines. If the amendment is pressed, I shall vote against it.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

I certainly supported the noble Viscount in his set-up for the National Library. I believe that it is a good one, it suits him, and I think that it suits his colleagues there. It is interesting to note that the only specific supporter is the noble Earl, Lord Perth, who comes from another national library. I do not think that anybody wants the noble Viscount to change his ways. If someone else were the chairman, there might be difficiult problems, because the truth is that structure is not what is important; what is important is getting the right people, and that is very difficult. I believe that if one got a wrong chairman in Lord Eccles's place, one would be in a worse position than if one got a wrong chairman of trustees; but that is a matter of opinion.

One point needs to be added. The amendment arises on Schedule 1, which relates to the V and A. Nobody has mentioned the Science Museum, the views of which seem to me to be identical to those that we have heard attributed to the director of the V and A. My noble friend Lord Hutchinson of Lullington did not mention the chairman of the V and A, but he feels exactly the same, and I understand that the chairman of the Science Museum (who is in process of being replaced) holds that view, too. So there are very strong detailed arguments against imposing an arrangement that works in an institution rather different from a national gallery or a national museum on museums that are exactly equivalent to the British Museum, the Imperial War Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Gallery, all of which are satisfied with the way that they are working, and want to continue so to work.

Let us think for a moment. The noble Lord talks about change. The change since I was a boy and went to a museum and what my grandchildren find when they go now is infinite. You can hardly get into the museums or galleries. It is very good if you believe that these sorts of cultures should spread, which I do. The old system, which is not exactly under attack but which it is suggested should be changed, has worked a treat. It is quite extraordinary. It has worked not only at a fairly remote place like the Imperial War Museum which is a long way away, but at the Railway Museum at York, too, which one can hardly get into nowadays. Do not change anything which is working as well as it is unless the people doing it ask you to do so. And they are asking you not to. This is the main point.

I should like to add one thing. I think that any form of legislation is quite unnecessary here. Any chairman of trustees, in conjunction with his director, can arrange a management committee with such employees as he wants on that committee and can give them the same sort of functions that the noble Viscount,

Lord Eccles, has in his management committee if he wants to do it that way. There is no reason at all to push it on him. I must say one other thing. My noble friend, Lord Gisbon, with whom I very seldom differ, spoke as if the new arrangements would in some way bring the outside people into touch with the inside people so that a proper policy could be made. But the trustee system does exactly that. It is designed to do that. It does it and it does it well. I cannot understand what he meant when he referred to that. I think we should reject this amendment—but with the greatest respect.

5 42 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I was not intending to speak on this amendment but I venture to do so for two reasons. One of the reasons why I was not proposing to speak is that, for reasons outside my control, I missed the noble Viscount's opening statement on the amendment. I know his points of view and, like others who have spoken, I very much respect them. The reason I intervene is because the noble Earl, Lord Perth, suggested that there was something outwith Labour Party attitudes and policy about the attitude that my noble friend Lord Strabolgi had taken up from the Front Bench. I felt that perhaps he ought to have a word from behind to say that there is nothing at all in what he has said which is against the Labour Party attitude on this matter.

It is true, as the noble Earl, Lord Perth, has said, that what would happen under the proposals put forward by the noble Viscount is that people would be appointed by someone other than the Prime Minister. At first glance, I suppose that everyone might say that that would be something which would be bound to appeal to people on this side of the Committee. But it would only have the effect of making the process of appointment operate at one other stage; so that you would have a board, part of which was appointed by the ministerial process and part appointed by the appointed trustees; in other words, you would have two forms of appointment operating. I think it is this which makes it impossible for me to support the amendment, attractive though I find much that the noble Viscount has in mind. I think that his amendment does not follow through the philosophy which I think is behind what he is seeking to do.

It is a very slight movement in the appointment process. Our view on this is that if there is to be a change in this matter, the power ought to be spread among the people who are actually at work in the insitiution. One often finds that people who are working inside an institution are often the people who know best how it works and what ought to be done. If one is going to consult them, then one ought to give them a little bit of power, a little bit of authority and of influence—in other words, a rather more fundamental change than the noble Viscount is suggesting here, a change by which the board comprises people who are put on it by those at work in the institution.

Noble Lords may ask, if that is what I think (and I said something to that effect at Second Reading), why not introduce an amendment to that effect? It would be a very fundamental change indeed, a change which —and here I think noble Lords will agree with me—probably would not find a great deal of favour in this House. My view is that if a fundamental change of that sort is going to be made, it perhaps ought to be made by Members of the other place rather than here. My own view, therefore, is that the amendment as it stands does not go far enough, it does not create the fundamental change which I think ought to be made and, in attempting to go a little way, it seems to me not to improve the situation but, on the contrary, in removing it from ministerial control, to make the progress less democratic rather than more so. For that reason I find myself unable to support the noble Viscount

The Earl of Avon

Perhaps this might be the moment for me to intervene just to explain the Government's view and to start by sharing with the Committee my gratitude to the noble Viscount for tabling this amendment so that we have had such an interesting discussion. Obviously the Government prefer the trustee system; that is why we have put it in the Bill. First, we recognise the need for a full interplay between the skills and experience of the trustees and the staff. The balance of their respective contributions must vary according to the issues under consideration. For this reason, the Bill makes full but flexible arrangements for committees comprising of trustees and staff. These provisions are set out in paragraph 6 of Schedule 1.

The Bill as drafted does not preclude the director and senior staff from being invited to attend board meetings either on a regular basis or ad hoc. It enables them to work closely with the board and the committees on the formulation and implementation of museum policy. I think that in a way this is an answer to the noble Earl, Lord Perth. They are present and taking an active part. It would certainly be open to the board to develop these and other ways of consulting and involving the director and staff fully in the running of the museum without appointing them as full trustees. In addition, the director and senior staff at the V and A already work closely together on a collegiate basis through regular keepers' meetings and other means.

This system will no doubt continue to be developed and enhanced so that it offers a sound basis for two-way communication between the board and senior staff. By these methods it should be possible to ensure that all involved can contribute effectively and flexibly to the running of a museum without being constrained from the outset in an over-rigid structure.

Second, the museum has upwards of a dozen staff all qualified to fulfil the obligations of co-option. We have heard much of this and, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, I am sure that the board could choose; but what I am querying is whether they would want to do so; because the inclusion of some staff and not others could unbalance the advice to the board by presenting to it perspectives of particular departmental interests.

At Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord Annan, made the point that the skills of all the leading members of the staff should be available. He went on to say that they should sit on the same body. Surely, in such a museum as the V and A this is better done by having the particular keeper or keepers interested to sit in the applicable meeting. Thirdly, and perhaps most important, the co-option of some senior staff on equal terms with the director could place the latter in a difficult position. I do not want to spend a lot of time on this as many noble Lords have already spoken to it. The head of the museum in all day-to-day matters, the director, would enjoy no superior position to that of his colleagues at meetings of the board when (as someone has already said) he would be no more than primus inter pares.

There would be difficulties and I think that one which has not been mentioned is requiring the director to be a full member of the board. The board will be the employer of all the staff—which will include the director. The director would, therefore, I believe, find himself in an awkward position.

The noble Lord, Lord Gibson, mentioned the word "shall" rather than "may". The Government particularly would not wish the word "shall" to be included in this particular amendment. In conclusion, I should like to agree with many noble Lords in saying that we believe that the trustee system does work and is working; and we believe that it is the right solution for the V and A.

Viscount Eccles

I thank all who have taken part in this most interesting debate. It is interesting that the two noble Lords who supported me, the noble Lord, Lord Gibson, and the noble Earl, Lord Perth, both have had an extraordinarily wide experience of museums and other forms of administration. This is simply because my experience of having been on the board of trustees of the British Musuem and then chairman of the British Museum, and afterwards the chairman of the British Library, has taught me that there are two ways in which one can manage a modern institution of this kind. There is no question of division of responsibilities. The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, said that books in the British Museum belong to the trustees in the same way as the objects will in the V and A. All I want is to be sure how policy is going to be made. One cannot be sure as the Bill stands today.

The group of people who like the trustee system from days in the long past (of whom my great friend, the noble Lord, Lord Clark, is an eminent example) do not want it to go out of their hands. They honestly think that they know more about museums than anybody else. Perhaps they do. I think they may. But do they really know the kind of society into which we are going? There is one particular point that I have always had in mind. There was no education officer in the museums when I was first associated with them. I have been associated with museums for a good deal longer than most of the members of the Committee. Some members were hardly born—I am 78 years old—when I started, very early, as did the noble Lord, Lord Clark. Lord Clark described to me the drinking of the glass of sherry after a perfectly pointless meeting of the advisory trustees of the V and A. If any members of the Committee have the good fortune to dine with the noble Lord. I beg you to ask him to tell you about that. His description of the advisory council of the V and A is one of the best after-dinner stories that I know. Now the departmental control is gone and nothing is put in its place. One is really right back.

I do not wish to hold up the Committee, but the idea that the other national museums are splendidly and perfectly managed and ought not to have a new statute for their government, is one with which I cannot possibly agree. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who said that you cannot have two forms of appointment. But—my goodness!—there are two forms of appointment on many boards. Look at the trustees of the British Museum: the Prime Minister appoints 15; and the others are appointed by various different methods, including co-option by the existing trustees. That method of appointment, with some trustees appointed by the Prime Minister, is well entrenched in our system.

I cannot answer all the questions, but I still think that the Committee will make a mistake if they do not take very seriously the matter of associating the staff directly with the making of policy. I dare say that there are other ways to do it. There is at any rate the German model which I brought to the attention of the Committee. But if we go on as we are now—the numbers in the British Museum, if I remember correctly, are some 700 of whom I call executive staff, and something like 400 university graduates—those concerned are not always going to be willing to be represented by the director only. They need some channel of communication with the trustees.

When I was there we met them in the lavatory or somewhere, one by one and we had a little talk with them. That will not do any more. But it is good enough for those who like the old trustee system. What I should like to do is to take up what my noble friend Lord Avon said. He objects to the word "shall" for the director. I should like to think again whether I could put down an amendment which made it permissible for the director and some of his senior colleagues to be co-opted—as they are in the British Library, and as they would be in the British Museum if it was extended to that—on to the board. I do not want to see the old-fashioned structure put into this Bill now to last for 50 years when anybody who really has a good look—and I say "at the Tate Gallery", looking straight at the noble Lord, Lord Hutchinson—knows that there ought to be a new structure for the Tate Gallery. Therefore, I shall withdraw these two amendments, but will put down again one on Report if I can find a form of words which makes action permissible rather than mandatory when the new body starts. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Wootton of Abinger)

The next amendment is Amendment No. 2. I have to point out that if this amendment is agreed to, I shall not be able to call Amendment No. 3.

5.55 p.m.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu moved Amendment No. 2: Page 19, line 24, leave out from ("appointed") to end of line 25 and insert— ("as follows, that is to say—

  1. (a) 7 appointed by the Prime Minister on the nominations of the Council of the Royal College of Art. the Council of the 518 Museums Association, the Council of the National Trust, the Council of the Royal Society of Arts, the Advisory Council of the Theatre Museum and two nominations of the Council of the British Academy, of which one to represent the interests of oriental cultures;
  2. (b) the balance appointed by the Prime Minister to represent such public interests as the Prime Minister may think fit;
  3. (c) the Prime Minister shall appoint one of them to be Chairman.").

The noble Lord said: We have spent over an hour discussing the composition and sometimes the functions of the board of trustees, therefore I do not want to weary the Committee too long on this amendment. The amendment sets down a list of interested bodies that will have the right to nominate members to the board of trustees. Unlike the last amendment, this is supported very strongly by the senior curatorial staff of the Victoria and Albert Museum. I remind the Committee that the functions laid on the V and A in Clause 2 of the Bill specifically refer to the promotion of knowledge in art, design, crafts and performing arts. These are reflected in later amendments by my noble friend Lord Eccles and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.

Therefore it could be said that it is entirely proper that in appointing to the board of trustees, the Prime Minister should have regard to ensuring the appointment of persons connected with institutions of higher education and learning, and particularly those who have had historic and close relationships with the objectives of the museum. The Royal College of Art is mentioned; but in view of the fact that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. will be referring to the Royal College of Art later, I shall leave that and just say that it has had a long association with the Victoria and Albert Museum. The object of the Museums Association is to nominate a senior regional museum director in order to co-operate on the pastoral responsibilities of the museum.

The National Trust is mentioned because of course the Victoria and Albert Museum run Osterley and Ham which are National Trust properties. The Royal Society of Arts is referred to in order to nominate a practising designer in industry. The British Academy is well known, and of course the Theatre Museum, which is going to be a sub-museum of the Victoria and Albert.

There are two reasons for entrenching these national bodies in the constitution of the museum. The first is to secure certain fundamental lines of advice and accountability between the museum and its users. The second, but most important, reason is to ensure that certain activities which may seem peripheral—for example, the responsibility of the museum to the regions, or its responsibility to the Indian subcontinent—should always be adequately weighted in discussion of policies and priorities. I wish to emphasise that these trustees will not serve ex officio and will be nominated to form a minority of the board, and will of course be subject to the same rhythm of appointment, retirement and reappointment, where necessary. However, it is not an amendment on which I wish to divide the House. I have listened with very great interest to what my noble friend Lord Avon said about the Government's views on trustee boards. I believe that later amendments may cover the position in a more satisfactory way. I beg to move.

Lord Strabolgi

This is a very interesting suggestion and an attractive amendment. I have listened with great interest to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. However, in spite of all the noble Lord said, it will cause difficulties. To nominate seven out of 20 trustees—that is about one-third of the total—is rather too many, in my submission. The other difficulty is that once you start on the nominations path, there exist many bodies that are equally worthy to nominate trustees.

I note that one trustee is to represent the interests of oriental culture, but why not one trustee to represent, for example, Byzantine culture or international Gothic? The V and A is so rich in all aspects of world civilisation that there is really no end to it. There is no trustee proposed in the amendment to represent books, and yet one of the prime responsibilities—I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, would agree with me—of the V and A is in forwarding the art of the book. The museum has a very fine library of books and of bindings, an it also has what is probably without doubt the most important holding of Dickens' manuscripts in the world. Why not have nominations from the Dickens Fellowship, from the Victorian Society or the Bibliographic Society? As I say, the amendment looks attractive on the face of it, but I venture to submit that it is not workable and it would be best to leave the clause so that the choice of the trustees rests with the Prime Minister of the day.

The Earl of Avon

Perhaps I could just explain, first, that the selection of trustees is a vital element, in the Government's view, of the running of a major institution and they must be the best available candidates, possessing the right combination of skills and experience. When drafting the Bill, the Government reviewed the desirability of awarding rights of nomination in relation to the new boards. Given our overriding desire to make the best possible appointments, we rejected this option. In our view, it is essential that trustees should be selected on grounds of their personal suitability and with regard to achieving an overall balance of knowledge and experience. Granting rights of nomination might undermine this priority. In fact I am doubtful myself about the rights of nomination.

In the case of the Victoria and Albert Museum, where the range of activities is so diverse, a large number of outside bodies could lay claim to such a right; and the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has illustrated this. Singling out one or two in preference to others could be difficult. There is nothing in the Bill which precludes consideration being given to representation of the interests of such bodies as the Royal College of Art, or any other body, within the overall composition of the board, should this be felt to be appropriate. But we feel it would be wrong to concede this as a right, given so many competing claims. We therefore take the view that there should be no rights of nomination to the new board. I feel that the way ahead lies more along the lines of Amendment No. 4, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, may feel able to withdraw this amendment and go more along the lines of Amendment No. 4.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

I accept what the noble Earl has just said. I think it is reasonable and I am against "shopping lists", but this particular list was submitted by the staff of the V and A, and I understand they are extremely keen on it. Although I think it is probably right to deny it to them, I should like to feel that something could be said somewhere to show that this kind of approach will be observed and that the Prime Minister will be advised to behave in this kind of way. I do not think one can do much more. I do not object to the noble Lord withdrawing the amendment, but I think something ought to be done to meet the views of the staff.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I rise to suggest, if I may, to the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, that although he indicated that he had no intention of pressing this amendment, he is on the right lines. One hopes, perhaps, that after further consultation he will pursue an amendment of a similar sort at a later stage of the Bill.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

In view of the very interesting hint given by the noble Earl, Lord Avon, about his attitude to Amendment No. 4 (and also, I hope, to Nos. 5 and 6) I beg leave to withdraw the amendment. I should like also to say how very much I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, that this list was drawn up after tremendous consultation by the senior staff at the V and A. I hope that in appointing trustees these ideas will be taken on board, because if it is what the senior curatorial staff think. I think they have a good case. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Strabolgi moved Amendment No. 3: Page 19, line 25, at end insert ("and thereafter, following the resignation from office of the first chairman, the subsequent chairmen shall he elected by the trustees.")

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 3 and, with your Lordships' permission, I should like also to speak to Amendment No. 10. I accept that the first chairman must be appointed by the Prime Minister, but I think it is better to follow the custom of the National and Tate Galleries where the trustees elect their own chairman or every subsequent chairman. I do not like the idea of a succession of chairmen being imposed from outside on the board by the Prime Minister of the day. I think we could probably get round the difficulty by the trustees choosing or electing a chairman unofficially and then submitting the name to the Prime Minister for approval.

With regard to Amendment No. 10, this is linked—I assume it is, at least—and if my amendment is accepted presumably there will be no need for this obscurely-worded sub-paragraph. I beg to move Amendment No. 3.

Lord Simon of Glaistiale

May I say just a word about Amendment No. 10? In intervening in your Lordships' Committee, I feel I must ask for indulgence on two scores. In the first place, I could not get here for the Second Reading, which, however, I read with the very greatest admiration. I do not myself believe that any parliamentary chamber in the world could match the discussion then for weight, for width and for variety of expertise. The second reason is that such small moral responsibility as I have had in this field is now virtually a quarter of a century stale, so I may in my intervention be rather like Rip van Winkle entering a museum of modern art.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, on Second Reading most amusingly described the subject matter of Amendment No. 10 (sub-paragraph (5)) as being "Gertrude Stein prose". I am bound to say, for myself, that I have seen many enactments far more obscure, far lesss perspicuous and far less luminous. The first part seems to me quite necessary and justified, although I personally do not like the second limb of that paragraph and perhaps the noble Earl will satisfy my curiosity as to its need. The object, I take it, is that the chairman should always be a trustee but since, under sub-paragraph (4), he may resign prematurely, the first part of the paragraph is absolutely necessary. If he ceases to be a trustee he can no longer be a trustee chairman.

However, the second part does not seem to be so necessary. It says that if he ceases to be chairman he shall automatically cease to be a trustee. It is true that the next paragraph provides for the possibility of his reapointment as a trustee, but I am bound to say that that seems to me extremely circuitous and clumsy, and all the channels of comminication up to the Prime Minister have to be gone through. Surely, a chairman may feel that the duties of that office are too onerous for a number of reasons and yet, very willingly, be prepared to continue to act as a trustee; so the second part is unnecessary. The chairman should be able to resign as chairman leaving room for another trustee chairman, but continue as a trustee in an appropriate case, rather than being automatically disqualified.

The Earl of Avon

If I may first take Amendment No. 3, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, we have some sympathy with this amendment. I appreciate that the initial period of office of the board will provide ample opportunities for members to get to know each other well. Equally, they will indoubtedly be well placed to assess which of them would make the most appropriate next chairman.

In drafting the Bill, the Government paid particular attention to the method of selection of trustees and their chairmen. In relation to both the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum, we are concerned to ensure that the practice in other national museums and galleries should be followed as far as possible. In the majority of these other cases the Prime Minister is responsible for the appointment of chairmen, acting upon the recommendation of the trustees. In the case of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum, it would be the Prime Minister's intention to be guided by the trustees in the matter of the appointment of future chairmen. I have carefully investigated what the noble Lord proposes, and I believe that it would be better to leave this issue as it is. There are points both for and "agin" it which, to my way of thinking, just about equal out at the end.

So far as Amendment No. 10 is concerned, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, pointed out, there are two points at issue. First, is it right that an appointed board of trustees should be chaired by someone who is no longer a trustee, and therefore has no appointed function to fulfil? This is obviously unacceptable. Secondly, should a trustee who ceases to be chairman of the board automatically forfeit his position as trustee and leave the board altogether? There are obviously cases where this would be inconvenient. The duties of the chair are more onerous. A chairman who is an expert in a subject may wish to continue to make his expertise available, while giving up the chair.

I would therefore propose to the Committee that the Government will reconsider this second point, and we will put an amendment to the House at a later stage to enable a resigning chairman to continue as a trustee for the remaining period of his trusteeship. Also, we now have the wisdom of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon, as to the points that we should include in that respect. I hope that, to some extent, that will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

Before my noble friend replies, I should like to give him a word of support on his first amendment. The noble Earl, Lord Avon, has shown his wisdom and flexibility in accepting the second amendment, and I had hoped that he was going to show the same attitude towards the first one. In fact, halfway through his speech I thought he was. because what he seemed to be saying to us was, "On the whole, this is a pretty good idea; but it has not been done elsewhere and. because of that, we do not want to make a start here." That does not seem to me to be a very good reason.

The fact of the matter is that the idea that boards of this distinction should be capable of electing their own chairmen seems to me, on the face of it—and, I think, to most noble Lords—a very reasonable thing to do. But if one gets into the habit of establishing over a period of time that they do not have that right—that all they can do is, possibly, make their views known through some channel, and the chairman is appointed from outside by the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State and so on—then one creates a tradition, as it were, from which one is reluctant to depart, and the tradition has nothing at all to commend it. If one gets into the position where boards are not entitled to elect their own chairmen, they tend to hand down that tradition.

For example, the Arts Council chairman is appointed by the Prime Minister. The Arts Council has a series of advisory committees, and it insists upon appointing the chairmen—or did when I last looked into the matter of each of the advisory committees. This is hopelessly wrong. If advisory committees cannot elect their own chairmen, who, in turn, represent them to the Arts Council, it is the wrong way of going about it. The whole process of appointment is from the top down. One wants a little reversal, or a little parallel operation, whereby, once appointed, trustees can at least decide who among them will be suitable to be their own chairman. I hope the noble Earl will have another think about it.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

I should like to support this point of view. The noble Earl said that it does not happen elsewhere, but it does. My noble friend Lord Hutchinson was elected chairman of the Tate Gallen by his trustees, not by the Prime Minister, and he is doing perfectly well as a result of it. So I cannot see any reason why you should go one way rather than the other, except on merit. And, on merit, it is far better, the Prime Minister having appointed the first chairman, that the councillors should elect him subsequently.

Lord Moyne

On the point of whether it happens elsewhere, in the National Gallery of Ireland, of course, we appoint our own chairman. It seems the natural thing to do for any board.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

We definitely must press the Minister to go a little further on this matter, or, at any rate, to take it away and look at it again. Having expressed his sympathy with the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and myself, and having heard the arguments from around the Committee, he can do very little else, particularly since, in his speech on this point, he said that there were questions which were evenly balanced, although he did not actually give us any on his side. If this amendment is to be rejected in your Lordships' Committee we need much stronger reasons than we have been given tonight, and I hope that the noble Earl will take this away and look at it again.

The Earl of Avon

I have at the top of my brief the words "Listen to the House". I have listened, and this is something which is evenly balanced. If I may, I should like to consider it again.

Lord Strabolgi

I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken, and also to my noble and learned friend Lord Simon of Glaisdale with regard to Amendment No. 10, which is to delete sub-paragraph (5) in paragraph 3 of Schedule 1. My noble and learned friend attempted, with his tremendous legal experience, to give us a gloss on the meaning of this obscure paragraph, but even he, with all his experience, had to admit that he was baffled by part of it. In view of this, I hope that the Government will have another look at it, so that it will be made more immediately intelligible.

With regard to Amendment No. 3, I accept the qualified approval which the noble Earl gave to it, and I am very glad to have his assurance that he will look at it. I do not think that this is something over which the Government ought to go to the stake. But it is a system which is working well in other galleries, whereby the trustees elect their own chairman after they have judged who they think is the best person to fulfil that office.

The trouble with Prime Ministers—I do not mean this Prime Minister; I am talking historically, and we are legislating for 30 or 40 years—is that they get bright ideas, and they suddenly think, "Old So-and-so would make a marvellous chairman of the trustees of the V and A", and he is imposed on the board, whether or not they want him. It might be enough to consult—the noble Earl said that the intention was to consult—but 20 years ahead people will not read the report of what we are saying tonight; they will look at the Act and, if the Act says that the Prime Minister of the day does not have to consult, the Prime Minister will impose his will. This may not be the best thing to do. So I am grateful to the noble Earl for saying that he will have another look at this, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Wells-Pestell)

I have to inform your Lordships that Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are amendments to Amendment No. 4. I call Amendment No. 4.

6.20 p.m.

Viscount Eccles moved Amendment No. 4: Page 19, line 25, at end insert— ("( ) In selecting persons for appointment to the Board the Prime Minister shall give preference to those who appear to her to have knowledge and experience of the arts and crafts. design, education, finance or administration.").

The noble Viscount said: I beg to move Amendment No. 4. I am sure your Lordships agree it is very important that there should be a strong body of trustees. We have now removed the control of the department. Somebody—either the trustees, or the director, or both—has got to pick up the responsibility which rested with the department. The role of the trustees should be different from what it was when the Victoria and Albert Museum was under departmental control; namely, an advisory body. I think we should copy other Acts of Parliament and insert a clause which makes it necessary for the Prime Minister to give preference to certain types of experience and knowledge.

I am quite against the appointment of people from different bodies. We went through all this when the British Library was established. The Royal Society and the British Academy very much wanted the right to have a member on the board. We came down against that proposal. I have included in my amendment persons who appear to have knowledge and experience of the arts and crafts, design, education, finance or administration. The Victoria and Albert Museum contains an enormous quantity of material which is relevant to school studies, but it has had to shut down its travelling exhibitions, the reasons for which I shall not go into now. There ought to be somebody on the board of trustees who will not allow that kind of thing to happen. We certainly do not want advice to be given to us by the Victoria and Albert Museum staff, who wrote a letter on this point to your Lordships. They recommended that the trustees should meet four times a year on the model of the present advisory council. That illustrates the views of the staff about the new structure which we are erecting.

I hope your Lordships will take this amendment seriously. I would accept the amendment to my amendment which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. He is quite right. The Theatre Museum demands that the Prime Minister should look for a representative who knows about that museum. I beg to move.

Lord Strabolgi moved Amendment No. 5 as an amendment to Amendment No. 4: Line 3, after ("crafts") insert ("the performing arts,")

The noble Lord said: I am grateful to the noble Viscount for what he has said about my amendment. I have nothing to add and I beg to move.

Lord Hutchinson of Lullington

Before the Minister replies, may I say that I would be mildly against the amendment. I am against what has already been referred to as a "shopping list". When replying on behalf of the Government about the trustees the noble Earl said that the view of the Government is that it is the personal qualities rather than the categories which are important. Rather than that there should be a second-rate artist, or a poor craftsman, or a desiccated civil servant, ora committed sociologist, ora worn-out financier on my board of trustees, I would much prefer to have a plain farmer who has a passion and an interest in the subject matter of the museum. In the end, I suggest that it is personal qualities rather than categories which matter.

If one looks ahead to Amendment No. 40, which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, it is of the same nature. It is a long shopping list. However, the noble Lord does not include crafts, education or administration. These are two amendments which set out shopping lists. Between them they add up to 10 different categories. I suggest that this is a good illustration of what happens when you start to draw up shopping lists. I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Avon, that what really matters is the good sense of the chairman and the good sense of the Prime Minister in having the right kind of people to do the job.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

In accepting the amendment, I hope that the Minister will be good enough to look at its wording: that the Prime Minister "shall give preference to those who appear to her", et cetera. This suggests that the Prime Minister is permanently going to be female. Although I defer greatly to the feminine gender, it seems to me that this is going a little too far. I hope therefore that when he revises the wording the noble Earl will agree to delete the words "to her" so that it reads: "to those who appear to have knowledge", et cetera.

Viscount Hanworth

It is always dangerous to set out in extenso a number of categories. If it comes to legal interpretation one is apt to conclude that any categories which have not been specifically mentioned are excluded. It may be that other categories of experience would be useful. We ought to go only so far as to say "to have knowledge and experience useful to a person in his capacity as a member of the council". Certainly we ought not to set out this very long list which, by means of the amendments, is becoming even longer.

The Earl of Perth

It is clear that the wording will have to be changed, for the reason pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. I agree entirely with those who wish to illustrate the kind of people who should be members of the board of trustees, but I am wondering whether or not the words "preference to" are too strong. I wonder whether the wording should be "special consideration". If you give preference to somebody you are in trouble. I believe that the main part of the amendment should be accepted but that, just as we may have to change the words "to her", we ought to try to find words to replace "preference to". They seem to make it difficult not to have all of them on the board all the time, which may not be desirable.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

What worries me is that any Prime Minister who wishes to appoint somebody whom the board think entirely unsuitable can do so. I could quote one or two instances where this has happened. There is no difficulty about saying, "This person is fearfully good at something else, and I think that his appointment is right". You cannot make people do something properly by incorporating it in a Bill. Although I agree absolutely with what the noble Viscount is trying to do, I do not think he has succeeded in doing it. A more general phrase of the kind suggested by my noble friend who has now left might be more apposite.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

May I draw the attention of the Committee to page 31 of the Bill. Membership of the heritage commission is laid down in paragraph 3(3). The phrase used there is "shall have regard to the desirability of the person's having knowledge or experience of one or more of the following". A list then follows. I strongly support my noble friend's amendment.

Since I have put down an amendment—Amendment No. 6—to that amendment, perhaps I might speak to it now, with the permission of the Deputy Chairman. I have added one or two other items to the shopping list, the most important being to make quite sure that the link between the national institutions and the provincial museums will be very much taken into consideration in the appointment of trustees. There has been a very long tradition of cooperation. The value of the co-operation between the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum and the provincial museums is very highly regarded and certainly should be continued. As far as tourism and commerce are concerned, they must be obvious. The field of research is also one that should be considered. Otherwise I strongly support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Eccles.

The Earl of Avon

The Government have noted the desire of the House, raised both at Committee stage and during the debate on Second Reading, concerning the need to ensure that trustees with relevant experience are appointed to the new board. In spite of the three noble Lords sitting in the same row opposite, who have all underlined the vast difficulties which arise—giving three quite correct but different reasons—the Government accept my noble friend's amendment in principle. However, we should like to offer our own form of words in substitution at the next stage. I shall look forward on that occasion to hearing from the noble Lords, Lord Hutchinson of Lullington. Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge and Lord Hanworth, how much we have satisfied them.

There are reasons. One reason is that given by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that the Government would prefer "have regard to" to "give preference to". There are other points apart from that one. I believe that the words "to the board" and "arts and crafts" do not conform to the expressions used elsewhere in the Bill and would require redrafting. My noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu has also introduced the word "non-national", which we consider may be open to some legal misinterpretation. With that assurance, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw his present amendment and allow the Government to see what they can come up with.

Baroness Birk

Before the noble Earl sits down, one point has struck me and my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney. Are we to understand that, whereas in the past "his" and "him" covered both sexes, now we have had a revolution and that "her" now covers "him" and "her"?

Lord Simon of Glaisdale

I had always understood that, according to the Interpretation Act, as in life, men embrace women and women embrace men.

Viscount Eccles

I was very glad to hear what my noble friend Lord Avon had to say. These words were copied. I believe, from the British Museum Act. There it says, "who appear to him". Being myself on the side of the ladies. I thought it was only fair, as we have a lady for Prime Minister, that I should alter "to him" to "to her". If the Committee wishes to take it out altogether because it is too big a step towards the new world, I will be quite content to leave that to the Government to decide. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendments Nos. 4 and 5, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 not moved.]

Lord Strabolgi moved Amendment No. 8: Page 19, line 25, at end insert— ("( ) The Royal College of Art shall nominate a trustee for appointment to the Board.").

The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move the amendment standing in my name, which will allow the Royal College of Art to name a trustee for appointment to the board. I submit that the Royal College of Art is in a special relationship with the Victoria and Albert Museum, with which it has always had close links, going back for nearly 150 years. The School of Design was opened at Somerset House in 1837 under the aegis of the Board of Trade. Attached to it was a small museum. That school has become the Royal College of Art. The museum eventually grew into the Museum of Manufactures, now the Victoria and Albert Museum, and opened at Marlborough House in 1852. Both came under the control of the Department of Science and Art in 1853. Both museum and college were housed in the same building when permanent premises were built in South Kensington from 1857 onwards. As your Lordships know, the Royal College of Art still occupies those buildings, which are an integral part of the premises.

Besides this, there has always been a very close relationship between the staffs of the two institutions. This is reflected today by the fact that the director of the museum sits on the college's council and a member of the college's professorial staff is a member of the museums advisory council. This identity of aims and interests is expressed by the present joint Victoria and Albert Museum/Royal College of Art, Masters of Art degree course in design and the decorative arts. As we know, both the V and A and the RCA are established following the great original conception to achieve together improvement in design in this country. Therefore. I submit that the RCA is in a very special position and should have this right to nominate a trustee for appointment to the board. I beg to move.

Viscount Eccles

I suppose I should declare an interest in that I am a Senior Fellow of the Royal College of Art. I entirely agree with what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, about close ties between the two bodies. However, I believe it would be better to leave it to my noble friend Lord Avon to consider this when he is considering Amendment No. 4, because it will be there, if anywhere, that the Royal College of Art is recognised. I rather hope the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, knowing that I support him and that the college is the closest institution to the V and A, will let the Government take another look at this.

The Earl of Avon

I recognise that there has been a customary link between the Royal College of Art and the museum, with the presence of a college member on the museum's advisory council. The advisory council will be laid down when the new board of trustees is established. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister will naturally bear in mind the link between the college and the museum, among other factors, when appointing the new trustees. However, the new board will have wider functions and responsibilities than did the old advisory council. This means that it may be inappropriate to carry over automatically into the board the membership pattern of the advisory council.

When I spoke to Amendment No. 2 I underlined the Government's reasoning behind their policy on nominated trustees, and, as my noble friend Lord Eccles has said, I should prefer to see whether we can in some way incorporate this matter in the reappraisal of Amendment No. 4.

Lord Strabolgi

I am very grateful to the noble Earl for his offer and for what the noble Viscount has said. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 9 not moved.]

Lord Strabolgi moved Amendment No. 10: Page 19, line 32, leave out sub-paragraph (5).

The noble Lord said: We have already discussed this amendment. As Members of the Committee may remember, this is the "obscure" paragraph. I was not quite sure what the noble Earl was going to do about this. Will he send it back to the draftsman, who will put it into plain English, or what? I should like to have his reply before I withdraw the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

It is not so much a question of plain English but more one of a wrong decision in the second part.

The Earl of Avon

The amendment falls into two parts. As the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, has said, the first part, we consider, is good, but the second part we should like to redraft and bring back.

Lord Strabolgi

I am grateful to the noble Earl and also to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.40 p.m.

Lord Strabolgi moved Amendment No. 11: Page 19, lino 36, at end insert ("after a period of 3 years has elapsed sinee he vacated office").

The noble Lord said: I beg leave to move Amendment No. 11, and with your Lordships' permission I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 41, which is the same proposal with regard to the Science Museum.

The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that trustees are not reappointed for very long periods of time. Everyone gets stale if they do a job for too long. As we know, Ministers rarely serve in the same Department for longer than three or four years and then there is usually a Government reshuffle. I submit that a period away from the museum, a kind of prolonged sabbatical, would be beneficial, and indeed it would be a help to busy men and women with many other responsibilities. I sometimes wonder how some of them manage to attend meetings at all at all these different museums. This interval should also give the Prime Minister's office an opportunity to find some new blood and to cast the net a bit wider, so that it is not always the same people who get appointed.

This is the first of a series of amendments which, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to speak to separately because they deal with separate points, but they are all really an attempt to modernise the whole system of appointments of trustees. I agree with the existing system, but I have great sympathy with what the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said on Second Reading. I think this Bill gives us an excellent opportunity to look at this whole system and at how trustees are selected for appointment. Therefore, I beg to move Amendment No. 11.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I support this amendment. It seems to me that the trustees system of governorship is a good one and it is able to call on a great deal of wisdom and experience, not least in this country, as has been said by several noble Lords in an earlier debate. But to balance that it is probably an extremely good thing to be always on the lookout for new people, to be able to bring in new blood, and not get into the habit of thinking that because a person is wise and good and has been there for a long time he must necessarily go on there forever. One of the happier ways of being able to make certain that that does not happen is to have it laid down that someone should not be reappointed for three years, or whatever the period may be. I think this is a very healthy amendment, and I hope the Government will accept it.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

In principle I support this, but I think three years is too long and one year would be much better. I have been with a concern with a one-year arrangement which worked very well. It is easy to get rid of people and not too difficult to get them back. I think three years is too long, so I should vote against this amendment if it were put, but would come back later with a one-year amendment.

Lord Craigton

I was going to say exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has said. We are talking about elderly men. I think three years is too long and they lose touch.

The Earl of Avon

The Bill as presently framed does not include breaks during periods of service. In some cases, of course, the trustees may themselves not wish to be reappointed. Equally there is nothing in the Bill to preclude an individual from volunteering to serve for less than a term if; for example, for personal reasons he or she cannot commit their services for the full term. In considering both new appointments and reappointments the Government will take into account all relevant factors, including the length of time for the appointment and the desirability, where appropriate, of extending an individual's length of service where it has proved valuable to the board, or of allowing an interval to elapse prior to reappointment.

The appointments arrangements must be kept flexible. The Government recognise the undesirable effects of retaining an individual's services for too long—a potential hazard that can never be removed because the crucial factor remains the performance of the individual—but it would be undesirable, we believe, to restrict the flexibility of the arrangements in anticipation of a remote possibility. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent the Government from observing the spirit of the noble Lord's amendments, but we feel it would be unnecessarily constraining to see these restrictions on the face of the Bill. I think in point of fact the present Government—I shall be corrected if I am wrong—have had quite a good record of not keeping people appointed for too long. The noble Lord has raised matters that will be taken into account, and with that assurance I hope he will agree not to press this amendment.

Lord Strabolgi

I note what the noble Earl has said, and I think there is a good deal in what other noble Lords have said, that perhaps three years off is rather long and that a year might be better. I would like to think about it and perhaps we could come back to it at Report stage. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Strabolgi moved Amendment No. 12: Page 19, line 36, at end insert— ("( ) A person shall not be eligible for re-appointment to a third period of office.").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 12 and with your Lordships' permission, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 42. This amendment will ensure that a person shall not be eligible for reappointment to a third period of office; that is, he should serve for two periods of five years and after 10 years he should not be eligible for any more service.

I think 10 years is really long enough for a trustee to serve. I remember that one trustee, who is no longer with us, spent his whole life sitting as a trustee of almost every national museum and gallery and library, as did his father and grandfather before him. They all fulfilled most distinguished service and were excellent trustees. But in those days, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. said on Second Reading, the trustees were restricted to a limited élite; they formed a closely knit group who served on the boards of all our museums and galleries, almost in perpetuity. I am sure they all did a splendid job; but now times have changed. We need more trustees who are in touch with modern museum conditions and problems and requirements. We need the boards to be constantly replenished with new blood. I submit that 10 years, two terms, is long enough to expect any trustee, however public spirited, to serve.

This would also bring what is proposed for the terms of office of certain other institutions. For example, the trustees of the British Museum may not hold office for a period exceeding 10 years. Members of the British Library Board may not hold office for less than three or more than seven years. In the case of the National Gallery, 10 of the board of 11 trustees are appointed by the Prime Minister for a seven-year term. Therefore, I see no reason why in the Bill there should not be a similar restriction as in the legislation relating to the other three great institutions I have mentioned. I beg to move.

Viscount Eccles

I have some sympathy with this amendment, but I must say that all trustees, like all other people, differ one from the other. It is awfully hard if one cannot have an exception. I ask your Lordships to think what the British Museum would have been like when I arrived and Sir Mortimer Wheeler had been a trustee for about 10 years; he then was a trustee for all the time I was there, and he was worth a guinea a minute. That could also be true of Lord Crawford, the grandfather of the present Earl—I am not sure whether it was he to whom the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, was referring. He was there for years and years and he had more knowledge about the British Museum in his little finger than I ever did, notwithstanding all the time I was there. I think somehow we ought to fit in an exception for someone of real quality. If the Government like to accept this amendment I shall not be too unhappy.

The Earl of Avon

I have little to add to what I said earlier. I am very much at the Committee's disposal. The Government do not wish to rule out the possibility of appointing particular trustees for three terms. In fact, the word "flexibility" comes in again, although in view of the possible time span involved I am inclined to agree that such a case would be exceptional. I am between the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, and my noble friend Lord Eccles on this issue.

Lord Craigton

I am against it.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

I am for it.

Lord Strabolgi

I am in some difficulty. I wonder if the noble Earl, Lord Avon, can give some guidance about what the Government intend to do with the amendment. Are they going to look at it, perhaps, and come back on Report, in which case I will withdraw it; or do they think it is not a runner at all? Why cannot they also bring it into line with the other institutions?

The Earl of Avon

As the noble Lord said, the other institutions vary, so one could not bring it into line for all of them. I understand that the average for the other museums is seven years. On that basis our own period of five years for one term would be right. May I discuss this again and come back at a later stage? I think I agree with my noble friend Lord Eccles that a little flexibility here would be a good thing. However, we shall look at it.

Lord Strabolgi

I am grateful to the noble Earl. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.51 p.m.

Lord Strabolgi moved Amendment No. 13: Page 19, line 36, at end insert— ("( ) A trustee who fails to attend three or more consecutive meetings of the Board, without the approval of the Board. shall cease to hold office.").

The noble Lord said: With your Lordships' permission. I shall also speak to Amendment No. 43. I must say that I feel rather strongly about this amendment. I hope the Government will look at it carefully. I think it is a very useful rule to have. If someone accepts the Prime Minister's invitation to become the trustee of a great museum the least the public has the right to expect is that he or she should attend regularly and do the job as conscientiously as possible.

I know of two past members of the Victoria and Albert Advisory Council who never turned up for a single meeting. Why they took on the job. goodness only knows! I know of another case where a trustee of a certain national gallery was appointed a Government Minister, but he did not resign as a trustee on becoming a Minister although, of course, he was not able to attend any board meetings for some years. There may, for all I know, have been compelling reasons why the Minister remained as a sleeping trustee, and why some members of the advisory council never turned up at all for meetings, but it is surely wrong in principle. If there are good reasons, such as illness, then the board can give the trustee leave of absence. Otherwise, I submit that if a trustee is not going to take his duties seriously he should cease to hold office. I beg to move.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

I strongly support this amendment. I believe that with the newly devolved status of the museums it is absolutely essential for the trustees to be active, to attend meetings and to be fully aware of what is going on. In the case of sickness, of course, the board's approval can be obtained. With the modern type of trustee that we have been talking about for most of this afternoon this is an essential moment to make sure that one does not have sleeping partners in this particular aspect.

Lord Hutchinson of Lullington

I am totally against this amendment. It seems to me that one is treating trustees like children at school. If one tries to legislate for this sort of thing it is most undignified. If a chairman of a board of trustees cannot get proper attendance at his own board meetings then he should not continue to be chairman. One cannot try to regulate people's behaviour in this way. One has a vision of what would happen when somebody has got stuck in traffic. It will be said: "Old Bloggs? This will be the third time. He has not rung up. Why is he not here? We had better say that it is with our approval, just in case." The situation becomes idiotic, and I suggest that the amendment is not necessary.

The Earl of Avon

I appreciate the concern behind the amendment, and the Government do wish to ensure that trustees do not regard their offices as tenable in name only. In particular, we believe that it is a small but important matter of principle that trustees should not be absent without the board's consent: but we do not believe that it is desirable to qualify this in the manner suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi. Length of absence would be a more justifiable criterion than the number of meetings missed.

The Government propose to deal with the matter in another way. Paragraph 3(3) provides for a trustee to hold and vacate office in accordance with the terms of his appointment. It is the Government's intention that these terms shall cover a range of matters, not solely related to the timescale of the appointment, and may include the grounds for removal from office. Prolonged unauthorised absence could constitute one such ground.

The Government, therefore, have the noble Lord's point very much in mind. We believe that we have already provided for the substance of this amendment in the Bill as presented and, with this reassurance, I hope that the noble Lord will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Strabolgi

Well, that certainly is some reassurance. I must say to my noble friend Lord Hutchinson of Lullington that I had much more in mind; not so much the case of the trustee who gets held up in a traffic jam—we all know that people sometimes cannot get to meetings or that a trustee may have 'flu—but of trustees who have never turned up at all during the whole of their term of office. I know of two people on the advisory council—goodness knows why they were appointed by the Prime Minister of the day; it was not this one—who never turned up at all. Therefore, I am grateful to the noble Earl for his assurance that if people are not going to take up their duties seriously, then there are provisions in the Bill whereby they can be asked to resign.

Lord Raglan

Before my noble friend withdraws the amendment, I have here the New Towns Act 1946 which contains certain conditions under which a member of the corporation can be removed from office by the Minister. These include where he

  1. "(a) has become bankrupt or made an arrangement with his creditors;
  2. (b) is incapacitated by physical or mental illness; or
  3. (c) has been absent from meetings of the corporation for a period longer than three consecutive months without the permission of the corporation … the Minister may remove him from his office."
Note that this is not "shall" but "may" remove him from office. I am bringing this to your Lordships' attention because of the noble Lord's remarks that we are treating people like children. Here is a precedent in an Act of Parliament, but with the Minister's reassurance that there will be an understanding of the conditions under which a trustee is appointed, I shall support my noble friend if he withdraws his amendment.

Lord Strabolgi

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Raglan for what he has said in my support and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.59 p.m.

Lord Strabolgi

moved Amendment No. 14: Page 19, line 36, at end insert— ("( ) A person already serving as a trustee of another national museum or library shall not be eligible for appointment as a trustee."). The noble Lord said: I have ventured to put down this amendment because I think there is the danger of an overlap of interests if a trustee is on too many museum and gallery boards. In former, more spacious days, when there was a good deal of leisure, it might have been possible, but today it is surely asking too much of busy men and women, many of whom are distinguished academics or who have important businesses to run. I am sure that we are all greatly indebted to them, but surely we need to widen the field of choice so that this great public service in our museums can be spread among more people, and those who are serving on so many of the boards will not have quite so many responsibilities. I beg to move.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley

I should like to speak mildly against this amendment. I agree with most of what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has said. Of course we want to spread the duties; and of course we do not want the same people serving on boards and to limit the pool of talent from which we can draw. Nevertheless, it seems to me that on the whole, in laying down the qualifications in this Act, we want to try and open the choice to the Prime Minister as much as possible. On the whole, the amendments which we have put forward and the amendments which the noble Earl has either taken away or has accepted, do just that. This amendment would specifically limit. It would, admittedly, mean that we would have a greater number of different types of people as trustees covering the whole of the boards. But in any particular event our choice would be limited by a specific exclusion. I do not think that we should have exclusions where we do not need to have them, and it seems to me that this is a place where we do not need to have them. I rather hope that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, will eventually withdraw his amendment.

Lord Reigate

I should like to speak very mildly indeed in favour of the amendment. There is good reason for it in the light of what the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has said. On the other hand, it goes against the grain a little to see it in a statute. I think that we should trust the appointing body, the person or whoever it is, to have some regard to ensure that there is not too much plurality of appointment inside this particular sphere.

Lord Hutchinson of Lullington

I should like to support the amendment. I entirely agree that it is time that what I have referred to as "recycling of trustees" came to an end. There are occasions when we must, at last, put this type of thing into the form of legislation. There should be one exception, and that is where we can say that there is. in fact, an advantage in having a liaison trustee moving from one museum to another. An example at the moment is the Tate Gallery and the National Gallery, each of which has a reciprocal trustee sitting on the board of the other museum. This seems to me to be a very great advantage. Therefore, I personally would very much support the amendment if it could be phrased so that there was an exception in cases where a liaison trustee was thought to be desirable. That would cover a multitude of situations where one museum—and this might be of great benefit—had a trustee who was on both boards. Otherwise, it is high time that recycling came to an end. I hope that during the debates on this Bill we will get down, as other noble Lords have said, to discussing how we can broaden and deepen the trawl of trustees.

Viscount Eccles

While I support the idea of recycling coming to an end, I think that it is coming to an end—for example, it is nothing like it was before the war. In my view there are exceptions and it would be very sad if we ruled them out. My memory is not as good as it was, but I think that the noble Viscount. Lord Boyd of Merton, was a trustee of both the British Museum and the Natural History Museum. He had expert knowledge of both. It was extremely useful to both museums that he should be on both boards. The same was true of a very distinguished man from Fleet Street, Sir Denis Hamilton. Sir Denis Hamilton became a trustee of the British Museum at my invitation because there was nobody looking after our publications. He did it brilliantly. Then I found that he was nominated later on to be a member of my board at the British Library. It was of enormous assistance to have somebody who overlapped those two bodies. There may be other examples; I do not know. But I do not think that we should exclude, because those of which I have had experience have been really useful.

Lord Craigton

I am wholly against this amendment. In my view boards are refreshed by somebody who has experience of like responsibilities. I would be very much against passing this amendment.

The Earl of Avon

The noble Lord's amendment would have the effect of preventing individuals serving as trustees of other unspecified institutions from being appointed to the board of the V and A. This would temporarily deny the museum access to useful sources of experience that may be valuable, particularly in the period following the establishment of the V and A Board. However, the amendment as drafted would not permit a V and A Board member from being appointed subsequently to the board of another national institution. Nor would it prevent serving members of the boards of our national art galleries from being appointed to the V and A Board.

I regret, therefore, that the Government cannot accept this amendment as it stands. However, I have listened to the debate, which seems again to have been fairly equally divided. I shall read what has been said, and in the meantime I shall be in touch with the noble Lord.

Lord Strabolgi

I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, and particularly to my noble friend Lord Hutchinson for what he has said. As the noble Viscount has said, recycling is coming to an end. One of the defects of the amendment, which I have only really put down as a talking point, is that it does not permit enough cross-fertilisation, and there are certain advantages, perhaps, in a trustee being on the boards of one or two museums. On the other hand, as the noble Viscount said—and I do so agree with him—we must get away from drawing from a very small pool of people, however distinguished they may be. It is a lazy way of proceeding. What we must do is get the people whose job it is to come up with names and suggestions, to do some rather more creative thinking. With that in mind I put down this amendment and, as I have said. I am grateful to the noble Earl for saying that he will look at it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Denham

My Lords, I think that this is probably the moment at which we should break and come back at 8 p.m. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.