HL Deb 10 December 1991 vol 533 cc587-9

2.45 p.m.

Lord Ironside asked the Chairman of Committees:

Why the treaty document of the union between Scotland and England was removed from display in the House of Lords.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

My Lords, the Articles of Union between England and Scotland were among the documents removed from display in the House of Lords Library in 1977 following a recommendation by a working group on the Library. Some of the documents removed were put on display in the Royal Gallery. The Articles of Union were not among them because unfortunately they did not fit conveniently into the display cases.

The Articles of Union are however to be loaned for display in the Victoria and Albert Museum from April to September 1992 as part of an exhibition to mark the 40th anniversary of the accession of Her Majesty the Queen.

Lord Ironside

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer, which I did not expect. In view of wide public anxiety about the sovereignty of the United Kingdom, will my noble friend say whether it is possible to display the document in the Royal Gallery where it can be seen by visitors following the line of route through the Palace of Westminster to remind them of that great event?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, as I said, it will feature in the Victoria and Albert Museum for most of next year. To display it in the Royal Gallery would be physically possible but only at the cost of several other documents already there. There are a selection of constitutional documents including the death warrant of Charles I, the Draft Declaration of Rights and other interesting material. A large document such as the one we are discussing would take up an inordinate amount of room in the cases.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, can we have an assurance that the Government are not thinking of renouncing the treaty following the result of the Kincardine and Deeside by-election?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I do not speak for the Government.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, would it be possible for documents to be changed rather more frequently? Many important documents are housed in the Victoria Tower. Is it not possible for some of those to be shown from time to time? The noble Lord may be aware that a document to do with the control of crossbows—no longer very topical because the Government have decided to do nothing about the matter—has been there for some time?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, it is possible, but there are a number of graphics above the documents which explain what they are all about. Therefore, the whole display would need to be changed, as would the leaflets which go with it. No doubt it is possible to make changes but it will entail other difficulties.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy

My Lords, in view of the important part which the Articles of Union played in the creation of the Mother of Parliaments—this Parliament of which we are a part—is it not possible to have a display case made large enough to hold it so that it could be permanently displayed in the Royal Gallery?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, yes, in theory that is possible. It could be done if your Lordships were insistent upon it.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, is this not a rather delicate time in the history of Scotland and the history of the party opposite in Scotland to relegate to the V&A, however important that museum may be, such an important document believed though it is by many Scots not to have been a good deal for Scotland? Should it not remain in this building? I am sure that the costs involved would be comparatively small? Many Scots visit this building, in the summer in particular, and would like to be able to read the document.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, it has not been relegated to the V&A. It is being exhibited there in connection with the 40th anniversary of Her Majesty's reign. It is normally kept in the Record Office. It could be displayed but at the cost of installing a new cabinet and so on.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, will the noble Lord give an assurance that the Act of Union of 1535 between England and Wales will not be displayed? It was one of those Henry VIII Bills.

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I agree with the suggestion of the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon

My Lords, is this not a good time to remind everyone that economic and monetary union for Scotland and Wales led to the depopulation of both countries and mass unemployment?

The Chairman of Committees

My Lords, I take note of the noble Lord's view.