HL Deb 19 July 1989 vol 510 cc771-2

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

When they will be appointing the independent trustees for the Horniman Museum, in view of the abolition of the Inner London Education Authority in March 1990.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)

My Lords, it is intended that key members of the "shadow" board of trustees for the Horniman Museum and Library will be appointed this autumn. The directors of the museum are commenting on a management consultant's report and compiling a list of possible trustees. The Museums and Galleries Commission is seeking legal advice on the composition of a constitution for the new charitable trust, and a skeleton constitution should be available for discussion later this month.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Have any discussions taken place with the director of the museum about the museum's future?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Minister for the Arts recently met the director of the Horniman to discuss progress. The prospect of the planning period is an exciting one, balancing important tasks behind the scenes, such as introducing a planned programme of conservation, with highly visible public service tasks. This is a major challenge and one which, by building on the strength of its place in the hearts of Londoners, the Horniman Museum is confident of meeting.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that I do not think the directors of the Horniman will be in favour of too long a planning period? I am sure that they would very much like to be free of the present Government—so should we all, but that was a slip of the tongue—and free of the present organisation so that they can run themselves.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the noble Lord is presumably aware that the museum is to pass from ILEA to link with the LRB if necessary. We are anxious that this process should be as brief as is legally and practically possible. It is, however, the most expedient way of transferring staff and property to the new trust taking advantage of all the relevant expertise offered by members of the LRB. We are hoping to proceed as quickly as possible.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I am delighted about what the Minister said concerning the appointment, probably in October. Will the trustees, directly they are appointed, have full powers to negotiate the transfer of the collections and to deal with matters of staff and any assets which will be necessary if the museum is to achieve, as we all hope, full independence by April 1990?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, perhaps I should correct the noble Baroness. I did not mention a month. I said that the trustees would be appointed this autumn. In other respects I concur with what she says.

Lord Beloff

My Lords, in the improbable event of my finding my way to the Horniman Museum, what will I find in it?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the Horniman's collections are immensely rich and varied—

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Baroness Trumpington

The outstanding ethnographic collection presents a worldwide view of human culture and belief as seen through arts and craft. There is a natural history collection ranging from a fully grown walrus—against which visitors can weigh themselves—to exotic birds. The aquarium and vivarium are both high on the list of visitors' favourites. The world class collection of 6,000 musical instruments also contains the renowned Carse collection of 18th and 19th century woodwinds.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, in addition to having told us what is in the museum, can my noble friend tell us about the very wide educational activities of this museum?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the Horniman has a full and popular education programme for both adults and children, ranging from formal lectures to art, craft and pottery instruction, and—of particular interest to my noble friend—concerts, performances and activities such as boomerang throwing.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, can my noble friend please tell us where this wonderful building is?

Baroness Trumpington

Yes, my Lords. It is in the south of London.

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