§ 3.8 p.m.
§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Belstead)
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.—(Lord Belstead.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 [Composition of Board of Governors]:
Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 1, line 15, leave out ("first").
§ The noble Baroness said: With the agreement of all concerned, Amendments Nos. 1 to 11 have been grouped together and I shall be speaking to all these amendments.
§ This series of amendments deals with a simple point—the composition of the board of the Museum of London now that the GLC is about to be abolished. Noble Lords will be aware that until now the governors of the museum have come from three separate sources—the GLC, the City of London, and Prime Minister's nominations. There are altogether 18 governors, and with the abolition of the GLC it has so far been decided in the Bill that the six nominees which will be lost once the GLC goes should be made up by the Prime Minister's nominee's and the City of London. It is felt that once the GLC has gone there will really be no democratically elected London body to appoint board members, and Clause 1 as it now stands does not do anything to solve this problem, which has caused a great deal of concern not only to people outside the museum but among the members of the board themselves, including the chairman, to whom I have spoken. Merely adding three nominees to each of those which the Prime Minister and the Corporation nominate does not make up for the loss of the GLC nominees who were drawn from a wide spectrum geographically, politically and in the context of their interests and experience.
§ I am well aware that both in another place and on Second Reading here the Minister promised that these nominees would come from a wide spectrum; but in fact that does not really cover the point in the same way as it would if it were embodied in the statute. It is for this reason that this carefully worked out amendment is being moved today.
§ I am not proposing that a body which does not fund the museum should be entitled to appoint to the board, but inherent in this amendment is a system for the filling of vacancies which were formerly taken by GLC appointees, and this system would mean that the London boroughs may nominate prospective board members to either the Prime Minister or the City of London, who will then make appointments. The six places will still be split between the Prime Minister and the Corporation; but as a result of this amendment there will be seen to be a determination that these six board members enjoy wider London interests.13
§ In each London borough there are a number of enthusiastic and well qualified people involved in arts groups, local history workshops or other community activities. They are likely to be well known to the elected councillors of that borough who are closely in touch with their own area. The special nature of the Museum of London as a social history museum, which has both permanent and special exhibitions serving an educational purpose in showing how Londoners have lived through the capital's long history, should be recognised when appointing the additional board members. Earlier periods of London's history are likely to be represented mostly by artefacts originating in the City; but later periods will offer examples of London's expansion, as is so well illustrated by the painting of suburban life on the cover of the museum's latest annual report. This series of amendments will give the museum's board a wide range of interests and experience on which to draw, as each borough submits for consideration the names of the most able people in its locality.
§ I must point out that there is a protection built into the system to ensure that it will work properly. All nominees could not come from one borough as this would leave the Prime Minister and the Corporation unable to achieve geographical balance, so we have limited each borough to one nomination at any one time. Because this amendment does not compel boroughs to send in nominations, we have taken into account the possibility that the boroughs will not be able to find a suitable person willing or able to sit on the board when a place becomes vacant, and in this case the additional appointees will have to be chosen by the Prime Minister or the City from their own lists.
§ In the unlikely event of the system being abused and boroughs nominating people who are not suitable either personally or because their particular interests do not embrace the particular period of time necessary for the needs of the board, the Prime Minister or the City may choose not to appoint any of the borough nominees, though this situation should not ever arise with the wealth of suitable experience that is available London-wide.
§ 3.15 p.m.
§ Finally in subsection (2,D) of this amendment the Prime Minister and the City are directed to take into account the kinds of board members who should be appointed to the six additional places. Nominees who have "knowledge or experience of Greater London" as a whole could be persons who have experience of the arts, history or specifically museums catering for the whole of London, as the Museum of London does. It may be that they would be former GLC nominees to the board whose experience and knowledge is unquestionable. As I mentioned on Second Reading (at col. 796 of Hansard for 20th February), the Minister for the Arts in another place made that point himself, that he could see no reason why there should not be ex-GLC members who would be considered suitable to be nominated to the board of the Museum of London.
§ Other borough nominees could have experience or knowledge of just a part of London, perhaps through local community involvement in their own area of residence, and this would be valuable experience to 14 bring to the board. Alternatively, boroughs may identify a person with experience in public administration in a wider context than history and educational museums, and in certain circumstances this qualification too would be an asset to the board.
§ This amendment is intended to be helpful as it ensures that the two funding bodies are supplied with a wide choice of nominees from areas they might otherwise not have thought to search when considering the six additional vacancies. It ensures that the boroughs, which inherit many of the GLC's functions and which are democratically elected, will have the opportunity to use their own leisure and educational administrative experience and at least to have a voice in the running of a London-wide service.
§ I shall only add that the chairman of the board of the Museum of London has authorised me to say that if an amendment were to be introduced in Clause 1 it should indicate that the three ministerial appointees and the three City appointees and those appointed in succession to them should be persons having particular knowledge of Greater London or experience in the administration of London. The chairman of the board has told me that both he and the other members of the board are very concerned about this once abolition is seen to be very much on the cards—in fact a fait accompli.
§ He is very appreciative of the point that, though he accepts and believes that both the City and the Prime Minister's nominees will take this into account, it is not anything like as good as having it written into the statute itself, so that not only is it done but it is seen by everybody to be done. I beg to move.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
I think that the noble Baroness has made a good case for doing something which, on the face if it, seems very sensible, and unless the Minister has the usual string of deliberate and strong objections which convince me that this is not a right development, I feel inclined to ask my party to support it.
The London Museum is a particularly good local museum of its own type. I suppose that really it is the best museum in the country of any which represents a particular area. By giving such bias to the City as it has now and leaving to the Prime Minister the bias for the whole of the rest of London, one has something which on the face if it could be perfectly all right if the right people were appointed but could be rather bad if they were not. This is a useful effort to try to ensure that the people who fill the vacancies that were filled by members of the GLC, who I know were devoted to the museum and took a great deal of trouble to help it on its way, are at least interested and local. Unless the Minister has an unanswerable argument against the amendment, I think we shall be obliged to support the noble Baroness.
§ Lord Belstead
I listened with care to the noble Baroness speaking to this string of 11 amendments. I very much share one idea behind them; namely, the importance of the Museum of London being seen to be a museum for all London. That is a point that the Government had very much in mind when drafting the Bill. As I mentioned on Second Reading, it is provided for in Clauses 2 and 4. Clause 2 lays down 15 that one of the central duties of the board of governors is:to promote understanding and appreciation of historic and contemporary London and of its society and culture".Both Clause 2, and Clause 4 on the funding of the archaeological service, make it quite explicit that "London" is to be read as including:all Greater London and the surrounding region".The last subsection of Amendment No. 11 makes the point that the Prime Minister and the City should have regard to people's knowledge and experience of Greater London in making appointments. I think we can achieve that in the way the Bill is at present drafted. In addition to the point I made about the explicit mention in Clauses 2 and 4 that "London" means:all Greater London and the surrounding region",there is the fact that the task of the two authorities making appointments to the board will be to choose individuals who are best placed by knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to carry out the duties placed upon them by the Bill.
It has already been made clear, and I repeat it, that both the Prime Minister and the City will take full account of the London-wide nature of the museum in making their appointments. They will take into account some of the matters that the noble Baroness mentioned as well. She says that people with administrative ability and a knowledge of public administration will need to be looked for; and so they will. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister and the City will want to bear in mind the educational aspects of the museum's work. They will want to ensure that the archaeological responsibilities of the museum are catered for, and so on. The list is long and almost open-ended. I believe that it would not be appropriate for a museum of this sort to try to spell it all out in detail. The point is that the main functions and duties of the board are laid down in broad and flexible terms in the Bill, and they include the duty to promote the understanding and appreciation of historic and contemporary London. The job of the two appointing authorities will be to find the very best people to carry out those duties.
Of course, I acknowledge the interest of the London boroughs in the museum, and I very much hope that in future the relationship with the boroughs will be even closer and more fruitful than it is now. I assure your Lordships' Committee that if borough councils wish to put forward nominations either to my right honourable friend or to the City authorities, those nominations will be given serious consideration and will be taken into account when the board members are chosen. I believe that those commitments, taken together with what is already clearly written into the Bill, fully meet the concern that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, have expressed. The gap between what I am saying and what they have said is narrow.
There is another point that nobody has mentioned. The machinery proposed in the amendments is not helpful. If I may say so, it is a cumbersome one to meet a point that I think is already covered. The mechanism implied in Amendment No. 11 is that 32 London 16 boroughs will each need to be consulted every time that an appointment is made. The noble Baroness shakes her head, but there it is on the Marshalled List:Subject to subsections (2C) and (2D) below, each additional Ministerial appointee shall be a person suggested to the Prime Minister by the Council of a London borough".Nothing could be clearer than that. With respect, I do not think much of that as a mechanism, particularly bearing in mind that the wording in the Bill covers the point and I have now said that any recommendations given on an informal basis, or a formal basis if the London boroughs wish, will be taken seriously into account.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
We are told that when appointments are considered at a high level in the Government only one question is asked: "Is he one of us?" The point is that GLC appointees would be precisely not "one of us" in that sense. In putting down the amendment I think my noble friend seeks to ensure that the disappearance of the GLC will not have the consequence of trustees who are not "one of us" disappearing. One wants people who are "one of London", and people representative of London are not necessarily "one of us" in the narrow sense in which I have used the term.
I think my noble friend seeks a little more than the Minister has felt able to give us. I cannot read her mind entirely, but I do not think she is wedded to the exact wording of the amendment. If the noble Lord can say that he recognises that we in the Chamber need a little more than general assurances; that we need a provision in the Bill to give the assurance that there would be greater width in appointing trustees than the narrow limit that might be thought to exist when one thinks of the Government, on the one hand, and the City of London, on the other, we might be content. What will happen to the GLC appointees? I am realiably informed that some of them have given good service to the museum. Will they rank for reappointment? If the Minister can give us a further assurance or tell us that he agrees with the sense of the amendment, I think my noble friend may not wish to press the amendment at this point. If he is unable to do so, he places her in some difficulty.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
The noble Lord who has just sat down is making rather heavy weather of this. With respect, I do not think that he has faced up to the rigidity of what is proposed in the amendment. In particular, the passage to which my noble friend referred in Amendment No. 11 prevents appointment to those vacancies by either the Prime Minister or the City of London of anyone who is not recommended by a London borough. The noble Baroness shakes her head, but if she looks at her amendment she will see:each additional Ministerial appointee shall be a person suggested to the Prime Minister by the Council of a London borough".The noble Baroness looks surprised, but that is the amendment she has put down. And if it is carried into law, that will be the effect.
§ 3. 30 p.m.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
What is the noble Lord's objection to that effect? It seems to me thoroughly desirable that the boroughs of London 17 should be given the opportunity of suggesting someone from among their expert members—they know who they are—to be put on this council. What is the noble Lord's objection, if I may address him through the Minister, to that?
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
As we are in Committee, through the Minister, the noble Lord can have the privilege of having it direct. The objection is simple. It limits the choice solely to people proposed by the London boroughs, many of whom have other things to do. It prevents these vacancies being used in the discretion either of the City or of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister for the most suitable person. We are not here concerned, although one might almost have thought so from what the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, said, with political appointments. We are concerned with people suitable for being museum trustees. It may well be the case, either because some of the boroughs are not sufficiently interested or because their field of choice is limited, that they do not put forward suitable people. Indeed, in the extreme case, under this amendment, if no borough put forward any names it would be impossible to appoint anyone and the vacancies would remain.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has a strong point. We should think about what he said in the latter part of his remarks. But the Museum of London covers London as a whole. It is not concerned solely with the City; it covers the entire area of London. Whether or not the amendment is correctly worded, it is right, or so it seems to me, that the views of Londoners outside the City and outside the Government should be borne in mind in dealing with a matter of this sort. This is perhaps an area where we can seek the largest and widest area of consensus and ask that the views of Londoners outside the City—that is, in the boroughs—be taken into account and also that the Government should consider the arguments that have been made and come back with a proposal that is in line with the intent of my noble friend on the Front Bench. If that happened, the Committee would, I think, be very satisfied.
§ Lord Belstead
It might help if I were to add one further word before the noble Baroness decides what she considers best to do with the amendment. I quite understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howie, about the need for the trustees to have representatives who have a London-wide view. But, with respect to the noble Lord, this is gone about in a way that is rather different from the way of the amendments. It is nonetheless dealt with within the Bill in a perfectly clear way. Clause 2 lays down that one of the central duties of the board of governors is,to promote understanding and appreciation of historic and contemporary London and of its society and culture".Clauses 2 and 4 make explicit that when the Bill refers to London it is talking about all of Greater London and the surrounding region. I am not talking off the cuff. Those are the words in the Bill.
Obviously the job of choosing appointees to the board of governors by my right honourable friend and by the City would not be properly discharged if they 18 did not select trustees who together were able to discharge those responsibilities. My noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, when he intervened helpfully, in this short debate, was asked by the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, what was his basic objection to the amendments. In addition to having to discuss with, or take account of, 32 separate London boroughs, my noble friend put his finger on the fact that the amendments would limit the choice solely to people recommended by the London boroughs. It would not therefore be possible to see in a wider manner who was best suited (and, goodness me, there is a tremendous reservoir of talent in London) to fulfil the appointments, always bearing in mind the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Howie, that the board is responsible to the whole of London.
I have a feeling that the noble Baroness will say to my noble friend and to myself that we have not looked at Amendment No. 11 over the page of the Marshalled List and seen that there is a proviso in subsection (2C)(b) that the Prime Minister and the City would not have to appoint—
§ Lord Belstead
May appoint—I am so sorry. The proposed subsection states:The Prime Minister may appoint as an additional Ministerial appointee, and the Corporation of the City of London may appoint as an additional City appointee, a person not suggested by the Council of a London borough if"—and this is the proviso—insufficient suggestions have been made"—and—such suggestions as have been made are not considered suitable persons to be members of the board in the opinion of the Prime Minister or the Corporation of the City of London, as the case may be".I know that these amendments are intended to be helpful and they are indeed on a serious point. But, my goodness—the noble Baroness will forgive me for what I say here—that is really a recipe, and would be legislating, for major confrontations. This is a Bill that neither in another place nor in your Lordships' House has led to anything of that kind. We are simply trying to make the best arrangements possible for this splendid museum following the abolition of the GLC. If, in addition to having the extraordinary provision in these amendments, each council of a London borough were able to make individual recommendations, with the Prime Minister and the City having to sort out these 32 recommendations, and then, in addition, we were to have subsection (2C)(b), the amendments would be less than helpful.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
I do not disagree very much with what the Government are trying to do, but I find the arguments extraordinarily slim. There are, am I right in saying, 32 boroughs?
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
There are 32 boroughs each having a chance to put up a name. No one has to ask them for one. The idea of civil servants and clerks having a rough time getting through the work is a fantastic suggestion made by the noble Lord. 19 It is not treating us seriously. It will be a matter of half a dozen letters from half a dozen boroughs—at the most 30—from which they will make a choice. Anyone here who has been Minister for the Arts, as most of us seem to have been, knows very well that when you have a list of 30 it comes down to three almost at once. Then it is a question of deciding who are the best people. The arguments that we have heard are unworthy both of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, who, although the best debater in the House, is not always right, and of the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. Having said that, if the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, is prepared to ask the noble Lord to look at this matter and to give us time to consider whether we may care to propose something less rigid at Report stage, I shall be happy to see her withdraw the amendment.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
I have long been interested in this museum and, indeed, in its two predecessors. However, as I could not be here on Second Reading, I feel that I should apologise to your Lordships for intervening now in Committee. This sort of suggestion was made and debated frequently on what is now the National Heritage Act. Having spent the whole of that Session contentedly under the thumb of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, I am well conditioned to agreeing with what she says. But, having listened to the debate, it seems to me that, for the reason given by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, the amendment, as it stands, is obviously wrong. It seems to me also, for the reason given by the noble Lord the Minister, that it is unnecessary.
If there is any doubt about its necessity, I suggest that on principle your Lordships should hesitate very long before adding to a piece of legislation. We have masses of legislation every Session. We always try to stop every possible mousehole, and as a result it has become entirely unwieldy and out of hand.
For those reasons, I hope that the noble Baroness will not press the amendment.
§ Lord Howie of Troon
I accept the general argument about too much legislation. I have felt this for a very long time. It is all very interesting, but most of it is unnecessary. Even among the necessary parts a good deal of it does not work terribly well. I see that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, looks at me with understanding, because he knows about these things very well. However, legislation appears before us and we have to deal with it and try to make it work as best we can, whether or not it is necessary in the ultimate.
I was impressed by the reply of the noble Lord the Minister to the points I made. I think that his remarks were sound as far as they went, but I am not sure that they went the whole way. He was suggesting to us that there were practical difficulties in dealing with the appointment from 32 boroughs. I know his argument went beyond that, but the noble Lord the Minister put it in this way. It will be within his recollection that the Government deal in your Lordships' House with the appointment of 24 Bishops. The appointment of 24 Bishops is not quite as startling as the appointment from 32 boroughs—I am quite well aware of that; this is almost half as many again. However, the Government seem able to deal with that. If they can 20 deal with two dozen Bishops I think they could deal with three dozen London boroughs, or rather less, if, as the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said, three dozen boroughs made representations or nominations, because it is unlikely that they all would.
It seems to me that the practical difficulties are not great against the philosophical problem that the Museum of London deals with London as a whole. All the Minister has to do, I think, is to give us some kind of assurance that he will propose some means of dealing with London as a whole rather better than it is dealt with by the Bill as it stands at the moment, and the Committee will be satisfied. I leave it at that.
§ Baroness Birk
I am grateful to everyone who has taken part in this debate, and particularly my noble friend Lord Jenkins and the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, has made the point first, that we have two past Arts Ministers speaking on this subject. They have tremendous experience of museums.
This is not in any way a political ploy. I am personally not concerned with the argument about "one of us" or "one of them". I am concerned that the people of London should feel, and that it should be seen on the face of the Bill, that some of the nominations—even if not all of them—have come from the London boroughs.
The trouble with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, is that every time he gets up to speak he says nice things and I think he is going to be on my side. But I find that the noble and learned Lord gets from under my thumb far too easily and far too often.
It was quite a pleasure, since I changed portfolios slightly and did not think that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, and I would have any cut and thrust across the Chamber again, to have in fact done so. I think that the noble Lord is wrong on this occasion, although he may be partly right.
I agree with the Minister when he says that this is cumbersome. It has been very difficult to work out whether it was possible to get those two parts closer together. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, genuinely did not realise that subsection (2A) in Amendment No. 11 was connected with subsection (2C). This makes all the difference, because if I understood the noble Lord—and he is always very clear in his expositions—he was certainly of the opinion that it had to be governors nominated by the boroughs.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
Would the noble Baroness allow me to intervene. I am perfectly aware of subsection (2C). If the noble Baroness looks at it, I think she will be quite clear it would be unworkable to have a proposition that it is up to the Prime Minister or the City of London to say publicly that someone is unsuitable and then presumably find themselves—subject to what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, said—subject to judicial review as to whether they have acted properly. That means that those provisions are so ineffective as to be suitable to be ignored.
§ Baroness Birk
If I may say so with great respect, this is absolute nonsense. Nominations for all sorts of bodies are sent in. They are not publicised. A decision is then taken. All this says is that the boroughs should have the opportunity to nominate. As the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, quite rightly said, they will not all send in names. It may gradually get down to very few, if any; so there is no question of any public fuss being made about it. That has been covered by saying that it would have to be a person who was suitable at that time for the board of the museum, which may need someone who has a special interest or qualification in a particular subject.
The Minister seemed to me to lean very much on Clause 2. He said that this covered it all when he was referring to the general functions of the board "generally to promote understanding and appreciation" of London. Yes, that covers the functions of the board, but it does not cover the composition of the board. The amendment which I am moving is concerned with the composition of the board. If the chairman of the board gives an amendment in this form his blessing, there is a feeling that something rather more specific should be in the Bill which covers outer London. One has to turn to Clause 4(3) to see:In this section 'London' includes all Greater London and the surrounding region".This is all quite irrelevant when we are talking about the composition of a board, where the nominations are put in and where people who read the Act of Parliament will feel that this is concerned with outer London. As the Minister and all noble Lords are aware, what is in Hansard may be quite interesting and shows the views expressed, but those views have no legal significance unless they are in the Act itself.
I should like to withdraw this amendment now. I think the point is important enough, and I feel very encouraged by all the noble Lords who have spoken, including, as I think I mentioned, my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon. I repeat that I am also struck by the emphasis given to this by two ex-Ministers for the Arts. I think that this could be drafted in a less cumbersome way. In the meantime, I think that the Minister should also look again at what I have said and at what he has said because, quite frankly, he was not discussing the composition of the board at all; he was discussing the functions of the board. Even if the composition is carried out in this way and even if the wording is made less clumsy, it would still not be an insuperable task to ask people to send in nominations. Those nominations are sifted in any event. It would be very odd if either everyone who wants to be on a body was on it, or that a national crisis arose every time appointments were made. We know that that is not true; it is a lot of nonsense.
In the circumstances, I should like to withdraw the amendment, look at it again and ask the Minister to reconsider the matter. I see that he is smiling very amiably, but I hope he does not think that he has seen the end of this matter because I shall return to it on Report. I say quite seriously that the Minister should also look at this aspect again. He may find it useful to have a few words with the chairman of the board of the museum, who feels quite strongly on this subject himself. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.22
§ [Amendments Nos. 2 to 11 not moved.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 [Functions of Board of Governors]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
I am grateful to noble Lords for permitting me to say a few words on the Question whether Clause 2 shall stand part of the Bill. It was my intention to table an amendment to the Bill. This arose from a discussion which took place on Second Reading, when the noble Lord and I had a little chat about the question of museum charges—not, I hasten to say, the question in general (that is a matter which those noble Lords who are in a position to stay late on Wednesday may have an opportunity to discuss) but in relation to this particular museum.
I did not put down an amendment because there was some doubt as to which clause I should be seeking to amend in order to achieve this. It may be that I shall try and solve that problem between now and the next stage of the Bill. I believe that that will depend upon what the Minister has to say. When we discussed the matter on Second Reading quite clearly there was a misunderstanding between the noble Lord and myself. I drew attention to what the Minister for the Arts had said in another place when he announced a change in the method of financing museums and galleries. That announcement applied only to the nine national institutions and did not specifically apply to this museum, although I think that many of us would agree that this is not only a museum of London, but also a museum of national significance.
On 10th February in another place the Minister said that there should be two main changes in museum or gallery funding in respect of the nine national institutions. He said:i forecast receipts should no longer be specifically netted off against total Estimate requirements to provide a net grant; andii there should be a reasonable facility to carry over unspent moneys at the end of the financial year."—[Official Report, Commons, 10/2/86; col. 380.]I do not propose to discuss the second point but just the first one. On the face of it, this must be a welcome change. Everyone must agree with that. The Minister was quite unable to understand the doubts that I expressed about it in relation to this particular museum. It is for that purpose that I seek to clarify the point this afternoon. I said that this question might be related to the matter of charging, and the noble Lord was quite unable to understand that. He could not grasp how a movement, evidently so desirable, could in any way be seen to be related to the question whether charges should or should not be made for entry.
However, I was not alone in that view because I see that on the following day, after the Minister had made his announcement, The Times had a report on it which was headed "Backing for museum charges". The Times saw it as precisely a means whereby the Government were clearing the way to enable these nine institutions to charge for entry in the future. The report in The Times stated:Financial incentives have been announced to encourage national museums and galleries to charge entry fees".Of course it is possible to see it that way. If it is the case that what the museum raises on its own account is no 23 longer to be set off against the Government grant, greater incentive would be placed upon the museum to extend, to magnify and to increase what it can raise from other sources. In general terms I should like to make it clear that I have no objection whatever to that. It seems to me to be excellent that, in general terms, a museum should be required, encouraged and helped to raise its own funds.
However, what many of us are wholly against, and have been against ever since the idea of national museums was instituted—and this is not a question only for those of us on this side of the Committee; it is one for Members on the other side of the Committee—is the proposition that people should be charged admission to national collections. This is something which many of us are wholly, absolutely and totally against. It is a very bad un-Victorian principle, because when such museums were first instituted the old Victorian custom at the time was that people were to be admitted free. Therefore, if we are returning to Victorian principles, it would mean free entry. It is only quite recently that the whole idea of charging for entry to national institutions has been established. That is a matter for next Wednesday's debate, but the question here is: is this such a national institution; is this Bill to be a step by which this Museum of London is to be encouraged for the first time to charge for entry?
Ever since it was founded—and I believe that the same applied to the predecessor museums from which it sprang—there has never been a charge for entry. It would be very poor and a great pity if, in carrying this Bill, we were to give consent to the notion that we had agreed to the institution of charges for entry to this museum.
It is for that reason that I raise the matter on the clause stand part debate. It may be that in reply in a moment the Minister will be able to give such an assurance that it will not be necessary to consider the question of an amendment at the Report stage of the Bill.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, will forgive me if I do not follow him, for I have a technical point to raise. The only comment I would make on his speech is that he declared that he had been against charging for entry to national museums ever since they were instituted. I found great difficulty in reconciling that with his appearance. He looks much too vigorous and much too young for any such thing.
I want to raise a point on the form of Clause 2, and more particularly on the repercussions of the form of Clause 2. It is legislation by reference. In the old days this would have been a Bill to consolidate and amend. We all know why we do not have that now, and that is because it does not suit business managers, and I do not suppose that there will be any going back on that. But the noble Lord, Lord Graham, will remember that this problem arose in a far more acute form on the Housing and Building Control Bill. I say "far more acute" because there was amendment by reference quite incomprehensible to the people who were affected; namely, council tenants.
24 Obviously this instance has not got that social importance, but I wanted to be reassured by the Minister if possible that what should now be routine has been done: namely, that when there is this sort of legislation by reference, at the final stage of the drafting of the Bill there should be an approach to the editor of the Statutes in Force to have the principal Act—in this case the 1965 Act—reprinted as amended by the proposed Bill. I hope that has been done. If not, I hope that the noble Lord will say that it will be done with all dispatch.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
While I recognise that the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, was giving us a sort of preview of his speech on his Bill next Wednesday, I cannot see anywhere in Clause 2 anything which even alerts one to thinking in terms of whether the statute is giving anybody permission to charge. I see no reference to it, or any possibility of it having anything to do with the clause to which the noble Lord was speaking.
I suppose that again in anticipation of next Wednesday's Bill the noble Lord spoke about the governors eventually deciding—and that is quite different from it being written into the statute—that it was in the interests of the museum and the general future for some sort of charging to be done (and I do not think one ought to object to that), but to suggest that it is part of the statute that a charge would be made would be giving a wrong impression of this particular clause. It is for that reason that I thought that the record should note that the noble Lord was really giving us a preview as to what he is going to say next Wednesday, and that it has nothing whatever to do with Clause 2 of this Bill.
§ Lord Belstead
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, chided me with being unable to follow the logic of his argument on the Second Reading of this Bill. I must confess that I join with my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls in being a little unable to follow the logic of Lord Jenkins's argument now that we are in Committee.
As I understand the argument put to me by the noble Lord opposite, it is that my right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts' announcement that receipts need not be netted off against grant at the nine main museums and galleries, and that indeed their grants can be carried over from one year to another, is good. But, on the other hand, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, put to your Lordships that that can lead to encouraging charges, so that is bad. Then the noble Lord turned round and said, "But, on the other hand, I am interested in seeing whether the Museum of London would be allowed to join in with that particular system". I think I may be forgiven for being a little perplexed as to what exactly it was that the noble Lord was saying to us.
There are two things that I should like to say in reply to the noble Lord. The first is brief and the second just a little longer. First, I was amused that the noble Lord said to the Committee that there is a strong argument that this is indeed not just a local museum but a museum of London and a museum of national significance, turning neatly on its head the whole of the argument which has been put to me by noble Lords on 25 the other side of the Committee on Amendments 1 to 11.
Secondly, my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls is right. Clause 2, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, has nothing to do with the argument which the noble Lord attempted to put forward. I do not think that this Bill has. If the trustees of the Museum of London, along with other museums, wish to institute charges, then they are free to do so. The Government have no wish in any way to interfere with trustees' discretion if this is something that they wish to do. It is therefore something that is not dealt with, and quite properly not dealt with, in this piece of legislation.
§ Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge
I have become increasingly worried about the Minister's arguments today. He suggests that an institution which is concerned with something local cannot be national. It is an odd thing to say. What about Stonehenge? What about the Tower of London? What about hundreds of other things? We have to have a better argument than that, though it is not really relevant to what we are talking about. However, as the noble Lord used the argument, I thought that it should be shown to be empty.
§ Lord Simon of Glaisdale
Would the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, be good enough to deal with the point that I raised?
§ Lord Belstead
I apologise to the noble and learned Lord. He put forward a point with which I am familiar because I remember that he put forward a similar point when we were legislating one part of the Transport Bill in the last year by reference. I shall most certainly draw to the attention of the editor of the Statutes in Force what the noble and learned Lord has said about the great desirability of having amendments to the principal Act altered as quickly as it is possible to do so.
If the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, will forgive me for saying so, the argument I was putting to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, was not my own argument. My argument on Amendments Nos. 1 to 11 is that this is an enormously important museum. Into the Bill is written the fact that the responsibilities of the governors are London-wide, and I went no further than that. But noble Lords opposite have been putting to me continuously and incessantly that because the responsibilities are London-wide there can be no possibility of any appointments coming from outside Greater London. It was that argument which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, neatly turned on its head.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
I think that my noble friend wishes to add another point, but perhaps it would be appropriate for me to conclude my own point here. I am sorry that I have been unable to clarify the noble Lord's mind on this issue. Since I do not wish to employ the methods advocated by Dr. Johnson in difficult cases, I think I shall have to move an amendment on Report. That more specific method will enable us to see the point even clearer, although such an amendment might well be attached to a different clause from the one we have been discussing. I take that point.
26 I was not satisfied that this particular clause was the one on which this matter is best discussed. To that extent, and to that extent only, the noble Lord has satisfied me, but as he has satisfied me in no other respect I think we shall have to return to the matter at a later stage.
§ Lord Strabolgi
Before we leave Clause 2 I wonder whether I could ask for clarification about the subsection which begins at line 14 on Page 3 of the Bill? It says:The Board may allow any premises occupied or managed by them to be used by other persons (for payment or otherwise) for purposes not connected with the Board's functions under this Act if the Board are satisfied that to do so would not conflict with those functions".I imagine that this is to do with sponsored exhibitions where the sponsor may wish to give a party. That is a perfectly sensible thing to allow. But I wonder whether the intention is to give the board freedom to let out the museum for other functions which have nothing to do with an exhibition which may be taking place there.
The other day I read an article in a journal about a small company which arranges parties in different places. It mentioned a whole variety of places, such as country houses, and it also said that it could arrange parties in the Cabinet War Room. I was rather shocked by that. I hope that the Ministry responsible for administering the Cabinet War Room will not allow it to be used for cocktail parties. That seems to me to be quite improper. I only mention it in passing because I hope that the Government are not so cost conscious that they will be letting out our museums for all kinds of other functions which have nothing at all to do with the purpose for which they are set out. Perhaps the noble Lord will be able to clarify this.
§ Lord Belstead
In answer to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has made, the idea is simply to give the board of governors the option to allow museum premises to be used for functions and events which are outside the scope of the board's main objectives as defined elsewhere in the Bill. But the key phrase is that the board are required to be satisfied that any such activities would not conflict with those functions. The provision allows the board to raise money for the museum by charging for such hiring of its premises. I hope that the noble Lord may agree that with this proviso, which is an important one about not conflicting with the functions of the board, this is a desirable provision.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
§ Clause 3 agreed to.
§ Clause 4 [Funding of Greater London archaeological service]:
Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 12:
Page 4, line 10, at beginning insert ("Subject to subsection (2A) below").
§ The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 12, I shall be speaking both to Amendments Nos. 12 and 13 as they are connected. These amendments deal with the status and position of the Passmore-Edwards Museum about which a certain amount was said on Second Reading. It is part of the history of the 27 development of the Greater London archaeology service that rescue archaeology for the boroughs of Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Newham, Redbridge and Waltham Forest devolved separately from rescue archaeology in the rest of the London boroughs. It was administered independently of any other museum funded by the Greater London Council. Once again this present situation has arisen as a result of the abolition of the GLC.
§ The Bill does not make specific provision for the current arrangement to continue, and it seems odd that a Bill which seeks to provide a workable alternative to the arrangements which existed when the GLC was one of the funding bodies, should cast some uncertainty now on the funding of a service which has worked so well in the past. It is true that Clause 2 of the Bill provides for the Museum of London's board to promote the provision of archaeological services as well as providing them directly. Clause 4(1) gives English Heritage the power to make grants for the Museum of London's board to promote such services. However as we tried to bring out on Second Reading, unlike the Kent Archaeology Rescue Unit—which has always provided its services for south-east London merely as an agency for the Museum of London—the Passmore-Edwards Museum rescue archaeology service has developed in equal status to the corresponding unit in the Museum of London. As it stands, the Bill gives the Board of the Museum of London powers over the Passmore-Edwards Museum governors which have never existed before because they have been two separate entities. While the GLC existed this problem did not arise.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ The Passmore-Edwards Museum has been operating since 1899 and the governors derive their powers from arrangements under the old county of Essex before the Greater London Council came into being. This is the reason for the Passmore-Edwards rescue archaeology boundaries covering the boroughs which they do.
In the debate that took place on Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who is the chairman of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, said that the Passmore-Edwards Museum had the right to negotiate directly with the commission if it was unhappy about the arrangements made. He then went on to say:
though if the Government are prepared to accept an amendment to hand funds direct to the Passmore—Edwards Museum we should be delighted to carry that out"—[Official Report, 20/2/86; col. 800.]
§ The amendments cover that point.
§ I cannot believe that this was the intention in the Bill to put the governors in the difficult position of having to go to the board of the Museum of London (which has not been established for nearly as long as the Passmore-Edwards Museum) for funds for their own rescue archaeology service when they have had equal and separate status since the service was set up. The Minister must agree that when one is setting up something new or is having to follow a body such as the GLC which is being abolished, it is important that from the word "go" there should be as much goodwill, as little confrontation and as few difficulties between 28 the constituent parts that have to carry out these functions as is possible. I should have thought that was agreed by everyone everywhere.
§ The amendment ensures a level of funding for the Passmore-Edwards Museum rescue archaeology services so that the good working partnership with the Museum of London which has prevailed in this area up to now, based on equal status (although the amounts of finance involved are different) can continue. Then the governors of the Passmore-Edwards Museum can concentrate on continuing to run their affairs in the best way possible without having to worry whether the Museum of London board will pass on an adequate proportion of its funds in the future. Whether or not the Museum of London board will do so is not relevant. The point is that we must cover every possible contingency. One can do it simply in legislation, because although we do not want to have more legislation than is necessary—I am sure that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, will remind us of that—nevertheless I am sure he would be the first to agree that anything which clarifies must be an improvement.
§ I am also aware that discussions have taken place about the relevance to the Bill of this amendment. I accept that if the amendment is taken on board by the Government the Long Title would have to be altered. This has happened many times before and I do not think it is a great difficulty. But the main purpose of the clause is to provide for the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission to have the power to grant-aid the Museum of London for various archaeological purposes. A secondary provision of the Bill under Clause 4(2) allows the HBMC to make conditions for the giving of grants. All that Amendment No. 13 does is to specify that certain conditions shall obtain. In fact, it spells out what is implicit and makes it explicit. The amendment thus gives statutory direction about how the power to fund shall be exercised. I submit that it cannot be irrelevant since all that it is concerned with is to put the power on the face of the Bill.
This can be most clearly seen if we recognise that the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission could as a matter of discretion make grants under the conditions specified. This is set out in Clause 4(2):
A grant under this section may be made subject to such conditions as the Commission think fit".
All this amendment does is to spell out one of the conditions for which there is an extraordinarily strong case.
§ If this were not so, if this subsection were not in the Bill, then I think that the question of relevance would probably carry more weight. But as it is in the Bill, as the general feeling expressed by those who spoke on Second Reading was certainly sympathetic to this line, and as I know from a certain amount of material on this that I have seen since Second Reading that there is very strong feeling about this in the archaeological world, the amendment does not seem to me to warrant opposing argument. The amendment has been worded in this particular way because originally I had thought that its aim could be achieved merely by the insertion after "grants to the Board of Governors of the Museum of London", in Clause 4(1), of the words "and the Passmore-Edwards Museum"; but I recognised that that would not meet the case. Because 29 of subsection (2) of Clause 4, I believe that the aim can be achieved by spelling out the value of the grants, saying that they be allocated directly to the Passmore-Edwards Museum for the purposes of subsection (1), and by spelling out the boroughs that they cover.
§ At this point I should say that there is probably a mistake in the amendment. After "Barking" should be added, "and Dagenham". However, this is a small error which can be righted.
§ There is a very strong case in substance. The question of relevance appeared to be a fairly marginal one, as I understand it from discussions with the Clerk of Parliaments. I believe, because of the way the clause is drafted and the discretion it gives to the Commission under Clause 4(2), that this can quite easily be accepted, possibly with an alteration to the Long Title—although that might not be needed in view of the wide discretion given in Clause 4(2). In any event, that is not a very great problem in itself. I beg to move.
§ Lord Montagu of Beaulieu
It might be helpful if I clarify the comments that I made on 10th February at Second Reading on the question of the Commission's funding of the Passmore-Edwards Museum. It is our firm and declared intention to discuss directly with the Passmore-Edwards Museum its funding requirements and to ensure that the agreed sum is passed on in total by the Museum of London, who totally understand the situation.
In retrospect, ideally it might have made better sense to achieve funding for the Passmore-Edwards Museum by more direct means than are proposed in the Bill. It was in that sense that I previously indicated that we would not be averse to an amendment that achieved that end. However, I should like to say that I am perfectly satisfied that the Bill as it stands gives us all the powers we need to negotiate direct and to continue to fund the Passmore-Edwards Museum, and therefore the Bill has the Commission's full support.
I believe that to specify a percentage would create enormous difficulties for the commission and also be detrimental to both museums. We have to negotiate a lump sum which has to be divided fairly according to need. If the Passmore-Edwards Museum wanted more than 25 per cent. in one year because it might need it, that would mean that we would have to raise the total sum for the Museum of London, which itself would not have funds to do that. It certainly would not be a good way of spending taxpayers' money. Similarly if one year the Museum of London because of its situation needed less, it would mean that the Passmore-Edwards Museum would be getting less. So I believe that to ringfence the percentage would be extremely dangerous. Otherwise I can assure the Committee that the Passmore-Edwards Museum would have all the powers to negotiate directly and we would see that the fund goes directly to them.
§ Lord Belstead
I am surprised that the noble Baroness is concerned about the Passmore-Edwards position as a result of the passing of this Bill, because for the first time the Bill will provide for a single, co-ordinated, London-wide archaeological service with one focal point. That is something which has not been put into statute until now. But, in addition to that, the Museum of London will continue to work in conjunction with the Passmore-Edwards Museum and 30 other organisations involved in archaeology in London and there is no reason why the Passmore-Edwards Museum should feel vulnerable. Assurance has been given, I understand, by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission in that an invitation has been issued to the chairmen of the respective boards of governors to serve on one of the commission's statutory committees, and I am delighted to say that both of the chairmen have accepted. That will mean a very close link between the Passmore-Edwards Museum and the HBMC.
Having said that, I am glad that the noble Baroness has moved these amendments because it gives me the opportunity to say that the Government recognise that the Passmore-Edwards Museum makes a substantial and important contribution to the provision of archaeological services in the capital, and I hope that it will long continue. But the fact remains that the Passmore-Edwards Museum is one among a number of contributors with whom the HBMC will need to agree a programme of activities. This programme will then form the basis of its deployment of resources. The Government expect—and after hearing the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, speak, I am sure that the noble Baroness will join me in this—that the HBMC will be using its available resources in close consultation with those with whom it is dealing, including the Passmore-Edwards Museum.
I should like to go a stage further than that. The Passmore-Edwards Museum will not be required under the terms of this Bill to go through the Museum of London. So far as this Bill is concerned, they can go direct to the HBMC, who will then decide the funds to go to the Passmore-Edwards Museum according, as I have said, to a programme agreed with them.
If I may repeat two considerable difficulties which I think these amendments raise, first of all, by these amendments the Passmore-Edwards Museum will be given resources regardless of work done; secondly, that would mean that the museum would never get more than its statutory percentage unless a new Bill was passed. I do not think that that would put the Passmore-Edwards Museum into a particularly favourable position.
This Bill secures the continuation of an archaeology service in London. The Government gave a commitment about this and this Bill honours that commitment. Assurances as to how the Bill will be given practical effect have been made previously and I am making them again now in answer to the amendment. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel that this amendment has been useful in putting firmly on the record the importance of the Passmore-Edwards Museum, but, apart from the fact that I think the amendment almost certainly goes outside the scope of the Bill, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel that the amendments are not necessary.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Baroness Birk
I am not really happy. I do not accept that the amendment is unnecessary for several reasons. I should like to go back and look at the 25 per cent. again. It flows from the amount spent by the Museum of London on the Passmore-Edwards Museum. It is broken down as 75 per cent. to 25 per cent. That is why we have taken the figure of 25 per cent.
31 The noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, gave an undertaking, as he did on Second Reading, but I have to say that that applies to every independent body or quango. The personnel change. He is chairman at the moment and he is sympathetic to that line. He has appointed the chairmen of both museums' committees, but that will not go on in perpetuum. It is not merely a matter of faith. It is what the commission is doing at the moment, but it does not mean to say that that will always be the position if nothing is written down. It is not just I who am concerned. The Passmore-Edwards Museum, the British Association of Rescue Archaeology and a number of independent academic archaeologists are also concerned about this matter.
The Minister referred to a number of contributors, but there are not a number of contributors. We are talking about the Museum of London Bill. We are not talking about the whole country or anything like that. The only other service that is included, as I understand it, is the Kent service, which acts as an agency for the commission and which is in a different category. The Passmore-Edwards Museum is the only museum in the archaeological field, apart from the Museum of London, which is affected by the Bill.
I am not really happy about the matter. I return to the point that the grant made under the clause may be "subject to such conditions". A wide power is given to the commission. While one obviously appreciates the expressions of goodwill, it would seem to me to be far more satisfactory to have the undertaking written into the Bill. I should like to take the amendment back and reconsider the 25 per cent. grant to see whether there is another way the clause can be drafted without referring to a specific figure. That will need some consideration and, in the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ [Amendment No. 13 not moved.]
§ Clause 4 [Funding of Greater London archaeological service]:
§ On Question, Whether Clause 4 shall stand part of the Bill?
§ Baroness Birk
There is a point that I wish to raise with regard to Clause 4 standing part of the Bill. One part of Clause 4, as we have discussed, deals with the finances given to the Museum of London for archaeology. We have mentioned the Passmore-Edwards Museum. I have an anxiety about which I should like an assurance from the Minister. If he cannot give it to me now, perhaps he will write to me about the matter before Report stage. I say that because the point comes into the area where the Minister responsible is in the Department of the Environment and the Minister responsible for the arts in this House is answering now.
As the Minister may be aware, I asked a question on Wednesday of last week about whether Her Majesty's Government were satisfied with the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission's management of public funds. The Minister, Lord Elton, said that some early signs of weakness in financial control had been detected. He was waiting to receive a report on that 32 and would then decide what further action needed to be taken. In answer to further questions from me, it emerged that financial control is not all that it should be at the moment at the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission.
A point that I did not bring up, because it was a Starred Question, was that it had been alleged in a newspaper report that the financial difficulties meant that some archaeological projects would be cut, some would not start in the spring of this year and some staff would be made redundant. For that reason, I feel that I must raise the point and ask for some assurances because it all hinges in the end not just on whether the Passmore-Edwards Museum or the Museum of London receive their percentages but on whether the commission will be in a position to finance the archaeological work.
That point only arise in my mind at lunchtime today. I am conscious that the Minister has not had notice of the point. I am also conscious that the matter comes within another department. That shows the problem of dividing the arts from the heritage. It is a point that should be studied since it is important for the Government to consider the matter so that we can be satisfied that the work will be carried on. That is why I said that I did not know whether the Minister could give me the assurances today. I should rather have firm assurances and know what will happen rather than have an off the cuff reply on a matter of some gravity.
§ Lord Belstead
I have one or two things I wish to say to the noble Baroness, to whom I shall of course write before the next stage of the Bill. At the conclusion of my reply on Second Reading, I made a specific reference to the Government not wishing to see any diminution in the archaeological work which is going on in Greater London. Both the noble Baroness and I should, perhaps, look up that reference, but I was quite specific in what I said.
The other matter which I think is of some importance, if the noble Baroness will forgive me saying so, is that she has been talking a little today as if previously there had been some absolutely cast iron undertaking that money would flow from the GLC to archaeological work in Greater London. Nothing was ever written into statute about that. I repeat, if I may, what I said before: that the Bill represents a considerable step forward in archaeological work in London because, for the first time, on the face of a Bill—it has never been done before—it is provided that archaeological work in London shall be funded by the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission.
Having said that, I realise that I have not answered the specific points which the noble Baroness put to me. If the noble Baroness will allow me to do so, I shall write to her before the next stage of the Bill.
§ Baroness Birk
I thank the Minister very much for that reply. I am aware that the commission will get something like an extra £7.75 million for the next financial year to take care of post-abolition activities.
I repeat that I do not expect the Minister to be able to answer my point today but it did not relate to the Government giving more money for archaeology, it was directed to the financial problems, as I understand 33 them to be, of the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. How happy are the Government that they have sufficient financial control to cope? That is the point. It is not the point of the Government giving more money to archaeology. It is because, according to this Bill, the money will be generated through the commission that I felt that in the circumstances—I am not happy about doing so—I had to raise the question, of which, rather late, I gave the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, notice, because he is chairman of the commission.
§ Lord Harmar-Nicholls
It is the last words of the noble Baroness that disturb me. I do not see what those comments have to do with Clause 4. If there is anything in her comments that is based upon newspaper reports and general allegations, which, as I understand it, have no foundation, I should have thought it was rather premature on discussion of this clause to make that suggestion from the Dispatch Box. Even if there is nothing in the newspaper reports and general allegations, the noble Baroness must know that, even in the roundabout way she refers to them, to do so from the Dispatch Box gives credence to something that may not be true, which is not very good. So as this has nothing to do with the clause, does she not think that her comments are a little premature? There will be plenty of other opportunities as this Bill goes through its stages, and if as the weeks go by we find that there is something in it then comment can be made. But it is a little early to use the Dispatch Box for that.
§ Baroness Birk
I am sorry, but with great respect I simply must reply, because I think that the noble Lord is wrong to make a comment like that. I was not referring to newspaper reports on my basic point. I was referring to the Answer given by the Minister from the Department of the Environment to my Question last Wednesday, when he said:I am satisfied that an effective framework exists within which the commission manages public funds and that these procedures will, and apparently have, detected some early signs of weakness in financial control. I am of course concerned about such weaknesses. The commission have been asked for a full report on their financial procedures. An interim report by the commission's chief executive to the Permanent Secretary of my department will, I understand, arrive later today. They will discuss what further action needs to be taken."—[Official Report, 26/2/86; col. 1046.]It seems to me that it is quite in order.
I shall not go on with the other questions and answers which certainly did not deny my original Question. There was no question of the Minister saying that there is nothing at all in this. In fact, he took it very seriously and I will shortly be asking for a statement on the report of the inquiry and what action he proposes to take. The reason why that is relevant to this Bill is that the grants for archaeology for the Museum of London and the Passmore-Edwards Museum—whether they are or are not separated in the Bill—go through the commission. The commission also has a very wide discretion regarding conditions that it may think fit to impose on these funds. It is not my doing that this matter has arisen at this time, but since it has done so it would be negligent not to raise 34 it from these Benches and to ask for assurances on it. I consider that what I am doing is absolutely proper.
§ Clause 4 agreed to.
§ [Amendment No. 14 not moved.]
§ Lord Belstead moved manuscript Amendment No. 14A:
§ After Clause 4, insert the following new clause:
§ . Not later than 31st March 1989 and subsequently at intervals not exceeding three years the Secretary of State shall lay before each House of Parliament a report on the exercise of the functions of the Board of Governors of the Museum of London since the commencement of this Act or, in the case of the second and subsequent reports, since the end of the period to which the previous report related.").
§ The noble Lord said: I must first apologise to your Lordships for the fact that, following the tabling of Amendment No. 14, I today tabled manuscript Amendment No. 14A, which was necessary because there was a defect in the wording of Amendment No. 14. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me for having come so late to the Committee with manuscript Amendment No. 14A and may I express the hope that your Lordships will feel that it is an improvement?
§ The moving of this amendment fulfils a commitment given by my right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts in another place, and the object of this new clause is to ensure by a statutory obligation that regular reports on the museum's activities are produced and laid before Parliament. It is, of course, already the practice of the Museum of London to produce annual reports, which are readily available, and I have no doubt that the museum will continue to produce these reports without any statutory obligations being introduced. However, persuasive arguments were put forward in the earlier stages of the passage of this Bill, that because of the important principle of accountability involved there was a case for enshrining the reporting commitment into a statutory obligation and that is why I am moving this amendment.
§ As it was originally printed in Amendment No. 14, the amendment would have provided for reports to be produced every three years. This would have been very inflexible and the new manuscript amendment produces a new clause which will provide for reports to be produced not less frequently than every three years. I would emphasise that there is no intention to change the present practice of producing annual reports. The museum, I am sure, will continue to do so. However, as my right honourable friend made clear in another place, the Government take the view that it would be an overtight imposition to require the museum by law to produce reports every year. If your Lordships express some surprise at that, may I just say that the wording before your Lordships in the manuscript amendment would follow the precedent for statutory reporting obligations on other major museums? I am thinking in particular of the provisions in the National Heritage Act 1983 in respect of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Science Museum and the equivalent provision which is in the British Museum Act 1963. I beg to move.35
§ Baroness Birk
I am very grateful to the Minister for moving this clause. It is a very useful one, which, as I understand it, arose out of something that was originally put forward by my honourable friend Mr. Norman Buchan in another place and accepted gladly by the Minister for the Arts. So I think that the amendment makes an improvement to the Bill and we are happy to accept it.
§ Lord Belstead
The noble Baroness is absolutely right. Perhaps we may finish this Committee stage by registering from both sides of the Committee that this manuscript amendment—and, again, I apologise for its lateness—is the product of co-operation by the political parties on this Bill in this respect.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Remaining clauses and schedule agreed to.
§ House resumed: Bill reported with an amendment.