HL Deb 20 February 1986 vol 471 cc792-807

9.17 p.m.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The main object of this short Bill is to give to the Government and to the Corporation of the City of London equal shares in responsibility for funding the Museum of London and in the appointment of members of the board of governors. At present, the Government, the City and the GLC each contribute one-third of the funding of the museum and each appoints one-third of the members of the board.

The Bill deals with the situation after the abolition of the Greater London Council. During the last Session, the Government announced during the passage of the Local Government Act 1985 that it was their intention to divide the GLC's share of responsibilities equally between the other two partners after abolition. It was not possible to give effect to those arrangements in the Local Government Act itself. This was partly because the Government wanted to make one or two other amendments to the existing Museum of London Act 1965 and to effect other repeals, neither of which could be done under the terms of that Act. Therefore as an interim measure—and it was made clear at the time that it was an interim measure—the Local Government Act 1985 provided for the transfer from 1st April of this year of the whole of the GLC's share to the Government.

The Bill before your Lordships now supersedes the relevant provisions of the Local Government Act 1985 before they come into effect and amends the earlier 1965 Act governing the Museum of London.

This year the museum is celebrating its tenth anniversary but its real history goes back much further than that would suggest. The museum, as we know it today, has its origins in two long-established institutions: the Guildhall Museum, primarily concerned with the square mile of London, and the London Museum, concerned with a broader survey of Greater London. The two museums were merged into one organisation on 1st June 1975 when the Museum of London Act 1965 came into effect, and the present splendid purpose-built building in London Wall was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in December 1976. The museum has had a tremendous success in bringing to life for thousands of visitors the rich and varied history of London from its earliest beginnings as a prehistoric settlement to the great capital city which we know today.

I should like to pay tribute to the present board of governors under the chairmanship of Mr. Michael Robbins and to the museum director, Mr. Max Hebditch, who have made the museum a model for what a capital city's museum can and should be. I also pay tribute to the sound support which has been given to the museum both by the City Corporation and, over the past 10 years, by the Greater London Council. We must now build on these past achievements. The purpose of this Bill is to establish the statutory basis for the museum's development in the years ahead.

The Bill has the support of both the museum and the City. They welcome the 50–50 sharing arrangement and the clarification of the board's powers which the Bill contains. The Government are firmly committed to ensuring that under the new arrangements the Museum of London shall have a secure future. My right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts has already announced that the Government's contribution to the running costs of the museum in 1986 to 1987 will be £2¼ million, and the City has announced that it will provide an identical sum. The museum's main grant next year will therefore amount to £4½ million.

This represents a 10½ per cent. increase in cash terms on the budget for the current year. This substantial increase is in recognition of the special needs of the museum as identified in their bid to the Government and the City, including maintenance and refurbishment of the building fabric, additions to storage accommodation, and modernisation of the original displays, which are now some 10 years old. That is a clear measure of the Government's commitment to this excellent museum.

Let me say a brief word about the clauses. Clause 1 is concerned with the appointment of members of the board of governors of the museum. It provides that the Prime Minister and the City each appoint nine in place of the six currently appointed by each of the Prime Minister, the City and the GLC; so the total number will remain the same, 18. There are transitional provisions to stagger the terms of office of the new appointees to bring them into line with the existing arrangements, which have worked well; and Clause I will supersede the relevant provisions in the Local Government Act 1985.

Clause 2 includes a fuller definition of the board's powers, including its powers over property. It makes explicit the London-wide nature of the museum's interests. I know that this has been a point of concern in some quarters, and the Bill is quite clear about this. The clause also specifically empowers the board to undertake archaeological investigations and research, and to publish the results of that research. All this is done by substituting new sections in place of the existing Sections 3 and 8 of the Museum of London Act 1965.

Clause 3 deals with finance and provides that the Government and City of London Corporation shall, in future, have an equal share in the main funding of the museum in place of the current one-third shares of the Government, City and GLC. It will supersede the corresponding provision of the Local Government Act 1985.

Clause 4 gives powers to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission to make grants to the museum to allow it to provide an archaeological service for Greater London. This is a separate arrangement from the main funding of the museum and will ensure that the Greater London archaeological service, currently funded by the GLC, will continue uninterrupted. Clauses 5 and 6 and the schedule cover expenses, the Short Title, commencement date and repeals.

May I add a word or two more about the archaeological service for London provided by the museum? Our capital city must be one of the richest in the world in terms of the archaeological heritage beneath our streets and buildings. A particularly heartening development of recent decades is that an interest in archaeology and a recognition of its importance is no longer confined to the expert view but is an interest shared by many people, and for the past three years or so London has been particularly well served by the activities of the Greater London archaeological service based at the Museum of London. It has done important work, and it has earned a high reputation. The Greater London Council, to its credit, has provided the necessary funds to allow the service to be provided, and has also undertaken the important task of grant-aiding individual rescue archaeology projects.

The Government gave a commitment during the passage of the Local Government Act last year that we would make provision for these services to continue. The Bill before your Lordships meets the commitment by giving to the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission the power to grant-aid this archaeological work, and the commission's annual grant from the next financial year onwards will reflect these additional responsibilities.

The Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, or English Heritage, is well equipped to take over the GLC's involvement and commitment to the task. It not only spends some £3½ million a year in support of rescue archaeology projects throughout the country, but also spends some £2 million on the work of its own excavation unit and contracts to museums and universities for scientific and conservation work.

The commission will be allocated an additional £7.75 million in the next financial year to cover additional responsibilities after the abolition of the GLC and the metropolitan county councils, and the funds for the Greater London archaeological service will come from this additional allocation. The precise sum will be a matter for discussion between the commission and the museum, but the Government have made their commitment clear (and I now repeat it) that there should be no diminution in the amount of public funding required to maintain this important service at an appropriate level.

This is a short Bill and is relatively straightforward. I believe it will provide a firm statutory basis for the future of this excellent museum. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Belstead.)

9.27 p.m.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I start by thanking the Minister for his clear explanation and description of the Bill. We were also pleased to see that two minor amendments were accepted by the Government in another place: one which is in the Bill, while the other—on the reporting of the findings, on the archaeological service and on what the museum has been doing—will be moved in Committee here. So far so good.

If it had not been for the abolition of the GLC it would not be necessary for us all to be staying as late as we are tonight to consider this further piece of legislation. I do not intend to go over all we discussed last year, but in many ways the Bill symbolises the unfortunate spin-off of abolition and all the other alternative arrangements that have to be made.

The most recent annual report of the Museum of London, an attractively produced piece of work, points out the main points that the board of governors made to the Government. The main points made were:

  1. "(a) as the abolition of the GLC will sever the formal link we enjoy with the whole of Greater London another way must be found to protect that status;
  2. "(b) the funds available from the public sector must at least maintain and, if possible, increase our level of service to the public;
  3. "(c) our role in field and rescue archaeology throughout Greater London must be maintained and another sponsor found to take over and continue the funding granted by the GLC for this purpose".
It appears that the museum is quite well pleased at the moment with the financial arrangements that the Minister has explained to us, this £4½ million in the coming year. Later I shall deal with the point about archaeology. Our first priority in considering the Bill is that the Museum of London caters for the whole of London but, as the Minister explained, following abolition there will only be representatives from the City of London (which is the smallest local authority in London, with a population of about 6,000) plus representatives of the nation as a whole in the shape and form of the Prime Minister's nominees. There is nothing in between; no representation of the wider interests of London and of Greater London, although the Bill defines: In this section 'London' includes all Greater London and the surrounding region". It seems to me that there is room for some essential amendment. A number of possibilities have been explored and the Government have found none of them acceptable. I do not think any were viable, so I do not propose to go over that ground again. I welcome the Government's intention to bear in mind the wider interests of London and Greater London in making their appointments, but this is not quite good enough. It seems to me and to many other people who are concerned about the museum that some sort of statutory arrangement is necessary.

What I want to propose has not, so far as I know, been proposed in this form before. It is, that the six places on the museum's board, currently filled by nominees of the Greater London Council, should be taken by people who have been nominated by the London boroughs. Each London borough could be invited, but not of course compelled, to submit nominations to be considered by the two funding bodies, one of them being the Government. Talking in very wide terms at the moment, this could be done through the Minister for the Arts and the Office of Arts and Libraries. The other party to this matter would be the corporation of the City.

Should the boroughs fail to nominate board members, the Government and the corporation could then select the six board members, bearing in mind the need for Londonwide representation. There is no suggestion that they should be tied to select any particular person or persons, but that they should have this idea before them.

It may very well be that the boroughs may wish to propose to the board former GLC members who have performed their duties as board members so ably in the past. Indeed, in another place, the Minister for the Arts mentioned that there was no reason why former GLC members should not take their place on the board. This would allow for extra board members to come from a wide spectrum, covering both geographi cal and political factors, and also having regard to the particular interests which are required by the museum at any particular time. This would therefore go some way towards representing that wider interest that the abolition of the GLC removes from the board.

I feel that this solution is also in the Government's own interests. Certainly it need not necessarily be in the form in which I have mentioned it, because at the moment it is not a question of drafting. Although I told the Minister very late in the day that I would raise this point on representation, I should be very much happier, not only because of the lateness of the hour but because the Minister really has not at all had the opportunity to consider it, if it was considered and perhaps he and I, with others, could have a word between now and Committee stage.

I have discussed representation with the chairman of the board of governors, who himself feels very strongly and tells me that the board are also still very concerned, about the question. I believe representation should not only be given to people in London and, going wider, out of London, but should also be seen to be so given. The Minister here and the Minister in another place may give undertakings, which I am sure are completely well meant and will find their way into Hansard. However, that is not at all the same as having them on the face of the Bill, where they will not only be intended but be seen to be intended and be seen to be going to happen. I hope the Minister will take that very much on board. We shall return to the matter at Committee stage.

I should like now just for a moment to turn to the Greater London Archaeology Service. As noble Lords know, and as the Minister pointed out, the service was set up by the GLC and funded by the GLC's Historic Buildings Division, the Museum of London taking care of rescue archaeology in 27 of the London boroughs, with the Passmore-Edwards Museum running the service in North-East London, covering the boroughs of Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Havering, Newham and Barking. As is generally recognised, the GLC had a very high reputation in rescue archaeology which, if it is to be able to do its job, requires immediate action.

First, I should like to say in this connection how glad I am that English Heritage has been able to take over the GLC's funding role: that is clearly the right answer. Also, I am pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, is in his place tonight and is going to speak in this debate. However, I should still like some assurances from the Minister: first, that the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission will continue to be adequately funded by the Government in order to carry out archaeological services. This is one of the services where it is no good saying, "We can't do anything this year but in a couple of years come back again" because what you are trying to deal with, to treat and to save can by then have been destroyed and finished for ever.

Secondly, there appears to be some uncertainty about the position of the Passmore-Edwards Museum. Clause 4 refers specifically to the Museum of London and, although the same clause provides for English Heritage to impose conditions on the funds that it passes to the Museum of London, there is no specific protection in the Bill for the funding of rescue archaeology in North-East London. Until now, the Passmore-Edwards has had equal status with the Museum of London for archaeological services under the GLC. I see no reason why this should not continue under English Heritage, funding each service separately.

I should like to point out to the Minister that this is not just a view taken within London but is a view held by a number of much respected academics in archaeology in different parts of the country. In case the Minister is going to refer to the fact that if you bring in one museum you have to bring in others as well, I think that in another place the Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit was mentioned. But the position for the Passmore-Edwards is quite different because the Kent unit provides a rescue archaeology service on an agency basis for the Museum of South-East London. The Passmore-Edwards responsibilities are entirely separate from the Museum of London.

I moved an amendment on this particular point on 2nd May last year (col. 436) during the passage of the Local Government Bill. The Minister at the time, Lord Elton, said: As for the arrangements between the Museum of London and the Passmore-Edwards museum, it is the intention, I understand, of the commission to continue to work with the Museum of London on rescue archaeology in London. The GLC does provide considerable financial support for the provision of permanent staff and organisation for carrying out the … work". He then refers to his noble friend Lord Montagu and what the commission is taking on. This took place rather late at night and the question of the Passmore-Edwards museum was never adequately dealt with.

It seems to me that the two museums' archaeological services ought to continue to enjoy equal status under English Heritage. An amendment like that is very small. It really only means making grant under Clause 4 to the Board of Governors of the Museum of London and Passmore-Edwards rather than just relying on subsection (2), which states: A grant under this section may be made subject to such conditions as the Commission think fit to impose". It would seem to make the matter much clearer and the Passmore-Edwards is the only other museum that is involved. I should be very surprised if the chairman of English Heritage, the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, registered any objection to this.

This House is the appropriate place to amend this Bill with considerable care and to ensure as far as possible that neither the museum nor the archaeological services suffer as a result of the abolition of the GLC. It is particularly to our advantage, I repeat, that the chairman of English Heritage, will, I hope, be here and will be able to participate throughout the passage of the Bill.

The Museum of London is a small but very important museum. It concentrates on our capital city and around half a million people visit it in a year. It lays stress on the educational side of the museum service, organising school and college trips, seminars, history workshops and eductional publications, as well as preserving examples of London life in the past for the people of London in the present to visit and to learn from. It is therefore crucial that the Museum of London remains accessible to all those wishing to benefit from it.

At present no entrance charge is levied, although there is a fee on occasion for special exhibitions, with which I have no quarrel. While supporting the encouragement of voluntary contributions by visitors (but without pressurising them) and the development of additional services such as the sale of publications and catering facilities—all of which I think a museum should conduct in a very businesslike manner—I should want to see that the museum can be assured of never being forced into a position of having to introduce, or being enabled to introduce, entrance charges. I know that is also the view of my noble friend Lord Jenkins of Putney, who is also speaking in this debate.

Although this is a small Bill, it is important for a number of reasons that I have given, and probably for others that I have not given, that we should get the details right. I therefore look forward to the forthcoming stages of the Bill, during which we shall have an opportunity to investigate further its implications and an opportunity also to bring forward amendments to improve it.

9.41 p.m.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu

My Lords, I welcome this Bill. I do so especially as chairman of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, in which of course I must declare an interest. I should like to remind the House that under the Local Government Act which abolishes the GLC my commission will, on 1st April next, assume many responsibilities with regard to historic buildings and archaeology in the Greater London area, and in particular the responsibility for ensuring the continuation of the excellent work hitherto done by the GLC's historic buildings division. In that respect I can confirm that the commission will be offering jobs to all those in that historic buildings division who wish to join us.

In recent years an important part of that work has been the support of the Greater London archaeological service provided by the Museum of London and the Passmore-Edwards Museum. As with the other aspects of the former GLC work for which we are taking responsibility, we are determined to maintain the standards which have earned such high praise in the past and if possible to improve on them. We shall naturally have to relate these activities to our other responsibilities, and our performance will inevitably be constrained by the resources allocated to us by government by way of our grant-in-aid.

At present, my commission does not have the power to pay the museums to continue their general archaeological service for London. Our powers are confined to the support of individual archaeological projects and investigations. Thus I welcome this Bill, which will enable us to make the payments to the two museums which are necessary for the continuation of the Greater London archaeological service, with the payments to the Passmore-Edwards Museum which will be channelled directly through the Museum of London.

The noble Baroness, Lady Birk, has raised a question about the Passmore-Edwards Museum. As it has been arranged at the moment, after consultation with the two bodies concerned that museum will make its separate bid in negotiation with ourselves and the Museum of London. It has been accepted that if that bid is in any way disputed the Passmore-Edwards Museum will have the right to negotiate directly with us. I can foresee no actual problem, though if the Government are prepared to accept an emendment to hand funds direct to the Passmore-Edwards Museum we should be delighted to carry that out. I am sure, however, that these provisions will be essential in ensuring a smooth changeover as from 1st April.

I think it would be helpful to the House if I took a minute or two to make a few points about the way in which my commission intends to discharge its new responsibilities towards London and especially the archaeological service. The funding for those extra responsibilities will form part of the commission's grant-in-aid from the Government, but it will be separately distinguished, as in the case of other major categories of expenditure in the corporate plan which we submit annually to the Secretary of State. As far as London is concerned, we shall rely heavily on the advice received from our new London advisory committee. I am glad to tell the House tonight that Robert Vigars, ex-chairman of the GLC who has had a long and distinguished career with the GLC, and who has recently been appointed as one of my commissioners, has accepted my invitation to chair that commitee.

In maintaining the Greater London archaeological service, the commission will naturally contribute all its considerable expertise in archaeology, including rescue archaeology. We already manage the national rescue programme of over £5 million a year grant-aid, some of which goes to London projects. For instance, we are at the moment helping to fund an important excavation of the Roman forum in Leadenhall to the sum of £150,000.

Many of our staff are active in archaeological investigations, as part of our central excavation unit, in liaison with independent units all over the country which we grant aid, in excavations at monuments in our care or in our laboratory dealing with finds from all sorts of sources. I have no doubt that we can further develop the close working relationship which already exists between the London and Passmore-Edwards Museum and ourselves. We are very conscious that we need to make special efforts to act as the curator of the London regional interest in all matters pertaining to our new responsibilities, as well as maintaining our national role. The new London advisory committee, which I have already mentioned, will have members who, I am sure, will keep a very close eye on those regional responsibilities.

In order to increase further the representation of London I have recently appointed Michael Robbins, chairman of the Museum of London, to our ancient monuments advisory committee, where I am sure that, together with Ian Robertson, director of the Passmore-Edwards Museum, they will ensure that proper weight is given by my commission to the interests of archaeology in London. We are all very conscious of the uncertainties and problems of the people who work in the service, and of the need for continuity, and that the valuable work which they do should continue. So I hope very much that your Lordships will give this Bill a speedy passage so that it may become law as quickly as possible.

9.47 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, the speech that we have just heard from the noble Lord, Lord Montague, is indeed reassuring. Many of us have felt grave anxiety about this subject, but what he has said helps to put that to rest. Whether it is entirely capable of doing so is another question, and I was glad to hear that he raised no difficulty about the question of making the Government's present good intentions more specific in the legislation. That, I think, is a helpful attitude, and I hope the Government may follow along those lines, because in legislation one not only expresses one's current good intentions but one expresses something which is binding upon the future, and no one can guarantee that current good intentions will be carried out in years to come. Therefore, it will be much better for everybody—for the Government, for the commission, for the museum and certainly more satisfactory for the Opposition, as my noble friend has indicated—if those things which the noble Lord has indicated it is the Government's intention to do are made more specific. This is one example, which will be very welcome.

As my noble friend indicated, this Bill is one of the many minor disasters which are following in the wake of the major disaster of abolishing the Greater London Council. When I listened to the tributes of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, to the Greater London Council, I began to wonder why it was that the Government had decided to get rid of it, if indeed he is inheriting the work of so splendid a body. The more one looks at the Greater London Council, the more one begins to discount the newspaper taradiddle which we have seen about things which some people would regard as minor peccadilloes, and the more one realises the splendid volume of wonderful work which has been carried out all over London by this great body of which the Government are so mistakenly disposing.

A Labour Government will restore elected government in the capital city. This Bill seeks to fill in one of the gaps as best it can on behalf of the Museum of London. The governors who are at present GLC nominees have been dropped on purely political considerations. They include some of the best of the governors as no one would deny, and the museum will be the poorer for their loss. I was therefore glad to hear from the Minister that there is at least a possibility—perhaps even a strong possibility—of their reappointment, wearing a slightly different hat.

The Bill wipes out any suggestion of democratic control of appointments and of the museum itself on behalf of the people of London. The museum has more than 8 million constituents, and probably more than that if one considers the area in which people live who are concerned and who benefit from it. The City of London has 5,000 residents—certainly not more than 6,000 residents—most of whom have no say in the matter, direct or indirect. The Bill is therefore a step on the authoritarian and anti-democratic path which the Government seem to be determined to tread against the very interest, I suggest, of the people who elected them. No wonder they have, apparently, dropped to third place in the opinion polls

In this Bill they are robbing the people of London of any real sense of control over their own museum, or at least of any real sense of influence upon the fate of their own museum. All we can try to do with the Bill is to ensure, as my noble friend has suggested, that free access to their own treasures—for the most part, they are their own treasures—is maintained as it has been throughout the 10 years of life of the museum. The Bill does not even provide for that. I think it likely, as my noble friend has indicated, that we may be moving an amendment which I hope will be widely supported in an endeavour to ensure that Londoners now deprived of the influence upon the affairs of this great institution to which I have referred shall at least be guaranteed their existing ability to see what is mostly their own without having to pay extra for the privilege—that is to say, on top of their rates and taxes, which should surely cover museum access, with the library service, which is one of our prides, and rightly so, and, for that matter, our still much admired health service. All these things come from rates and taxes, The national museums and the great City museum, which in my view is entitled to think of itself as a national institution and not only as a London institution, should surely be in that category. If the Government decide to go ahead and allow charges to be imposed I think that they will regret it. I think that it will be a mistake.

Perhaps I may return to the question of the removal of elected influence on the conduct of the museum and thus the destruction of its accountability to the citizens it is primarily there to serve. But before I go on perhaps I may say this. I see nothing to blame and everything to praise in the establishment of private museums by stout-hearted people who take their life in their hands by opening their historic houses and quite properly charging people for access. Otherwise it could not be done. Therefore I have no ideological objection to the charging for admission as such. What I think is totally wrong—and in this I believe I am supported by the majority of people who are interested in museums—is the charging of entrance fees to our national collections, of which, for this purpose, this museum must be regarded as one. I have considered whether we should seek to re-establish accountability by requiring the appointment of trustees nominated by the London boroughs in place of those hitherto nominated by the GLC. However, as my noble friend has indicated, there are problems.

In another place, Sir David Price, a Conservative, was fully aware of the sad consequences of the ideological control that has now taken over in his party, he demonstrated what I have no doubt was absolutely genuine concern for the future of this splendid museum, which I had some hand in encouraging when I was Minister for the Arts. It opened when I enjoyed that position. I recall attending the opening and confessing that one of the first actions that I took when I entered Parliament in 1964 was to move a Bill for the abolition of the City of London Corporation. I said that I thought the museum was one of the first signs I had seen that I might conceivably have been wrong in my earlier view.

Unfortunately, the corporation has not persisted entirely in its well-doing, and the Government have gone in the opposite direction. They have preserved the dignity of the government of London but are now seeking to abolish, or at least to damage, the democratic part of it. That cannot be regarded as a good thing.

Sir David Price seemed to be advocating the appointment of trustees nominated by the boroughs. As my noble friend has said, we must look at the problem here. I hope that the Minister will accept our suggestion that there should be discussions. There are several ways in which the problem might be tackled. Some of them perhaps fall rather short of direct appointment. Some would require consultation by the Minister with nominated bodies before making such appointments. We could go into the legislation. I myself hope that some means will be found of providing much more direct representation of the people concerned in the government of London—particularly elected persons—so that we shall not lose entirely the strand that connects the museum with the people it seeks to serve. If there is a difficulty, and I believe that there is, then ways around that difficulty can be found.

There is then the funding of the London Archaeology Service. As I said earlier, our fears have been put to rest to some considerable degree by the noble Lord. The valuable work concerned is carried out by the staff of the GLC within the museum. The important statement made by the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, that jobs will not be lost in that connection, and that there will be employment for the people at present engaged in that work, is most welcome. I personally was very glad to hear it.

On the question of money, I ask: what about future years? We could do with more assurances in the Bill. I know that some people have fears that may have been partially alleviated—relieved, but possibly not entirely relieved—that the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, being a national body, may find itself in difficulty in future if it were to get into financial trouble. It seems to me that almost everybody in the museum business gets into financial difficulties. If we are to believe what is said in The House Magazine by Sir Roy Strong, then the V & A is in a very bad way. We cannot imagine that the Museum of London will always have enough money to do all the things that it wants to do. It may become short of money. Neither can we imagine that the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission will always have enough money to do all the things it would like to do.

The assurance we have been given is that there is no danger of the commission as a national body being tempted to shift money away from London to, say, Manchester, or to shift money in the opposite direction if the other situation were to arise. It is important that such a thing should never occur. The commission's specific obligations to London might well be spelt out in greater detail in the Bill itself.

In a recent Written Answer in another place the Minister announced his decision to change the financing arrangements for the nine major national collections. The proposed changes might be viewed optimistically by those who think they will mean that the museums and galleries will have more money, and pessimistically by those who, like myself, think that they might be used as a means of forcing the institutions to charge for admission, whether or not they wanted to. Can the noble Lord reassure us on that?

Can the noble Lord also say that, although the Museum of London is national in some ways, it is not intended to add it to those nine institutions which are to enjoy the benefits or disadvantages, as the case may be, of the new method of funding? The Government have become what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, before he became a supporter of it, used to call "an elected dictatorship". As the right honourable gentleman the chairman of the Conservative Party, Mr. Tebbit, put it: The GLC is typical of this new, modern, divisive version of socialism. It must be defeated. So we shall abolish the GLC. In other words, "The electorate has chosen people we do no like so we shall abolish the power of the electors." That is the bay of the dictator. By our amendments to this small Bill we must try to take perhaps a tiny step to mitigate the consequences of this move towards authoritarianism in the Government. The larger step, of course, to put an end to that can only come when the people of this country make their decision upon it, as they will before long.

The Minister who is to reply to the debate has, of course, nothing but good intent, and therefore we shall listen to his reply with close concern in the belief that he wishes to do his best for the Bill with which he has been entrusted; and we, in turn, will do our best to ensure that it achieves all that he hopes for it.

10.2 p.m.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, we have had a useful debate this evening and it is certainly good to have heard support for the work of the Museum of London from all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, for recognising the amendment which was made in another place about publication of the results of our archaeological research and the undertaking given for a further amendment which will be brought forward in your Lordships' House about reporting the work of the Museum of London as a statutory obligation.

As I said at the beginning of this debate, this is a short Bill and a relatively straightforward one. It deals with the situation after the abolition of the GLC in a simple and logical manner by dividing the present one-third responsibilities equally between the other two funding authorities. I was not sure whether we should get through the debate without a noble Lord wondering why the GLC is being abolished, but the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, made sure that would happen by expressing that view. I remind your Lordships that rationalisation through the removal of an unnecessary layer of government and the elimination of duplication of functions among the GLC and the boroughs is, in fact, going to save money for ratepayers. As I and other people are ratepayers in Greater London, unlike the noble Baroness and the noble Lord opposite, I do not laugh at that—I rejoice.

This is a Bill which makes sensible provisions for the future of the Museum of London in terms of appointments and in terms of funding. I just repeat that additional funds are being made available for the purpose to the tune of a more than 10 per cent. increase in cash terms for the budget of the museum for next year compared with the current year.

I realise that both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, have in different ways expressed concern that, without the contribution of the GLC, the London-wide nature of the museum will be overlooked. The museum has been and will continue to be a museum for all London. This is quite specifically spelled out in the Bill in Clauses 2 and 4 in relation to the funding of the archaeological service. I repeat the very clear commitment, which was given in the earlier stages of the passage of this Bill, that both the Prime Minister and the City will take full account of the London-wide nature of the museum when making appointments to the board under the Bill, and I welcome the opportunity to emphasise this again.

Of course I shall draw to the attention of my right honourable friend the proposal which has been put forward by the noble Baroness for nominations of board members from the London boroughs; but I simply make the point that, while promising to draw the attention of my right honourable friend to this suggestion, I believe that we do have in the Bill a sensible and practicable way forward. There is this absolutely explicit undertaking, or rather explicit acknowledgment, of the London-wide nature of the museum which is set out on the face of the Bill.

If I may say so, I think it was extremely helpful to have had the intervention of my noble friend Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. Under his chairmanship the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission is committed to continuing the work of the archaeological service, which is based at the museum and serves all of London. It is taking over a number of heritage linked functions of the GLC. I think there are only two problems. The first was put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, who asked for an assurance about funding. I should like to repeat the commitment that the commission's grant from Government will take full account of the additional responsibilities that it is undertaking. In the next financial year the additional sum for post-abolition activities is to be £7¾ million.

I know that the commission is in discussion with the Museum of London about the future programme of work, and having heard my noble friend's speech I have every confidence that next year will see just as active and enterprising a programme as in this and previous years. The Bill empowers the museum to provide and the commission to fund the London-wide rescue archaeological service. I should like to emphasise that this Bill gives the service a statutory basis for the first time.

I listened carefully to what the noble Baroness said about the Passmore-Edwards Museum. Of course, mention of that museum is not included specifically on the face of the Bill. The archaeological services provided by the Museum of London include those services and they are for the north-eastern boroughs of London, as for other areas. Those services will be funded by the Museum of London. The Bill does not list the separate components of the service. It seeks to ensure a single organisational and practical entity to co-ordinate archaeological services London-wide. I repeat that for the first time it is put on a statutory basis, which I think is a great encouragement for the future.

Of course I shall look carefully at what the noble Baroness has said, and see whether the noble Baroness wishes to return to this matter at the Committee stage of the Bill. However, I ask the noble Baroness just to bear in mind what we have not said so far, which is that the Bill represents a step forward not only for the service but for those who are part of the service, like the Passmore-Edwards Museum.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I appreciate that that is now a statutory function. I gained the impression that the Minister may have thought that there could be a number of other institutions or museums that should be included if one included the Passmore-Edwards, but that is not so. Just the two museums are responsible for rescue archaeology in London: as I said, one with the five and the other with the 27. I should like him to bear that very much in mind when he is considering the point. It is a simple drafting point but very important archaeologically.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, as I promised, we shall look at what the noble Baroness said.

If the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, will forgive me, he made an extraordinary assertion about the advantages that have been offered to the nine national museums and galleries by my right honourable friend in regard to the use they can make of money they gather from any charge they happen to make and the advantage that will have in the sense that it will not be netted off against grant-in-aid. There are great advantages contained in the Statement made by my right honourable friend about a fortnight ago. I was genuinely surprised that the noble Lord questioned that. He went on to ask whether I would give an assurance that the Museum of London would not join the nine national museums and galleries in those advantages. That is a matter which we ought perhaps to come back to on Report. If he will forgive me saying so, he and I are not starting off from the same basis in discussing that aspect.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, it was stated that as a consequence of the decision, in future the money raised by the museum will be able to be used by it for its own purposes and will no longer be automatically deducted. I was not so much expressing my fear but the fear held in museum circles that an end consequence may be that museums, in endeavouring to maximise their income, and possibly accompanied by a reduction in government contributions, may find themselves forced in the direction of admission charges. I am glad to hear the Minister is doing what he can to reassure us that those fears are unworthy and can be set at rest. I am sure that that is a genuine assurance from him, and I hope that it is correct.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, those fears are unworthy. I do not think that there is anything in my right honourable friend's Statement that could possibly have given rise to such fears.

That leads me finally to the question of charges. It is not a question of the Government instituting charges. As the noble Lord knows, although the Museum of London does not charge for entry, it nonetheless has powers to do so if the board of governors so decides.

The Government believe that it is right that decisions on whether to raise charges should be for the trustees, and in this case the board of governors and directors of each individual institution. They are best placed to judge what is most appropriate for their institution. It is no part of government policy to impose admission charges, but nor would we wish to discourage let alone forbid that.

I hope that I have been able to clarify some of the points raised. I believe that the Bill provides the Museum of London with a good basis from which to move forward and to develop.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.