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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the position is that sometimes the relevant department does so and sometimes it does not. Where a relevant department has a website, it will in many cases be appropriate for information referred to, but not included, in a Written Answer to be available on the Internet site.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that nowadays Written Questions often receive a reply along the lines of, "I am asking so-and-so to reply to this Question"? In that context, surely that reply should routinely and automatically be printed in Hansard? I was rather concerned when the Minister suggested that the length of the response was a factor, because we debated that matter a few months ago following a report to the House which contained the recommendation that no Written Answer longer than two columns should be included in Hansard. I understood that that recommendation was not to be followed up and implemented.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am told that when a Minister states that he is referring a matter to someone else and the relevant person answers, the answer is then published in Hansard. The question of accompanying material not being published in Hansard is a matter for Hansard and not for the Government. The issue for a Minister responding to a Written Question relates to how much is to be included in the body of the Answer. As I said to my noble friend Lord Shore of Stepney, one should include the guts of the Answer.

Lord Elton: My Lords, surely what goes into Hansard is ultimately a matter for the House and not for Hansard? Therefore, it will be for the relevant committee of the House to consider that issue. I should have expected that to be the Minister's answer. Since I have answered that question for him, will he give me another answer? Will he tell me whether I am right in believing that it is still the case that whenever during Question Time a Minister undertakes to write to a noble Lord to give an answer, that answer is always placed in the Library?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for putting well what I was rather feebly trying to say: that the question of how Hansard publishes material is a matter for Hansard and, therefore, it is in practice a matter for this House. The noble Lord asked whether answers are always placed in the Library. I am not sure whether that is always the case and I cannot give him an absolute assurance on that point. Perhaps I may make inquiries and write to the noble Lord and place a copy of the answer in the Library.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, if a noble Lord believes that material given to him in the form of a letter from

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the Minister, whether by means of a parliamentary Question or in the course of ordinary correspondence, is of sufficient interest to the general public, surely there is nothing to stop him from giving it to the media?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, that is absolutely correct unless the material is given to the noble Lord in some form of confidence. I am told that some materials placed in the Library of either House are regarded as confidential; for example, in the mid-1980s, the then Home Secretary placed in the Library of the House of Commons correspondence with the IRA which was confidential. It was not published because it was placed in the Library on a confidential basis.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, will the Minister agree that the Hansard department does an extremely fine job, including a certain amount of judicious editing, for which I am particularly grateful because I was rebuked the other day by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, but the rebuke was not printed?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I entirely agree with the tribute paid to the composers of Hansard. They do an excellent job. I know in my own case that often that which is complete garbage when I say it appears to make sense when I read it in Hansard.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, will the Minister undertake to ask the usual channels to ask the House authorities to ask those concerned in Hansard whether they will review the way in which they publish the proceedings of the House and other matters in the light of the new technologies available? Surely a great deal could be done by the way of hyperlinks to other documents to make it easy for people using Hansard electronically to obtain documents referred to in Hansard, without increasing by a single tree the devastation caused as a result of printing it?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am sure that the relevant committees of both Houses which deal with Hansard are well apprised of the need to keep up with modern technologies.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, is not the problem that quite often a supplementary question is so far removed from the original Question that no Minister could possibly be expected to have the answer in his folder? If the questions asked were closely related to the point of the original Question, letters would not be necessary.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I quite agree.

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe: My Lords, as Hansard staff are so valuable and we have paid such tribute to

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them, is it not a pity that the lift serving them on the third floor was not repaired and modernised during the Recess?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I wonder whether my noble friend has just demonstrated the truth of the point made by my noble friend Lord Dubs.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, has my noble and learned friend observed over the past three or four months a growing tendency to incorporate in the Answers given by the Government an expression of regret that the records are not held centrally?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, from time to time Questions are answered in that way because in effect one would have to carry out a huge trawl around the whole of government to find answers where perhaps the effort was not justified.

National Museums and Galleries: Free Admission

2.49 p.m.

Viscount Falkland asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it remains their policy to introduce free admission for all to national museums and galleries.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, funds have been made available to permit free access for children since April 1999 and free access for pensioners from April 2000 to the currently charging national museums funded by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. We are continuing to assess the most effective ways of enhancing access in 2001. However, as at present, decisions will ultimately be taken by the trustees.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. It did not exactly answer the Question on the Order Paper, but I understand the Government's difficulties in giving free access to all. When the Government have to be selective about where they will give free access, will they always bear in mind that access to picture galleries for young people, whether they are students or young people in work, stimulates an interest and enthusiasm often for life, which is transmitted to future generations?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Viscount's final point. I am glad that in putting that question he moved to the word "access" rather than the word "admission", which was used in his original Question. Access is a great deal more than just admission. Access includes the ways in which museums and galleries can improve the presentation of their collections and improve the hours in which they are made available; it includes the publicity for them; and it includes the way in which

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they are extended to the wider world outside museums and galleries. It is that wider sense of access about which the Government are most concerned.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that free admission to their own property is the right policy to adopt in this connection? Does he also agree that, while trustees must make their own decisions, they can be encouraged one way or another to adopt free admission? That policy has been an immense success and has increased access to museums and galleries. It would be a great pity to limit it in any way at all.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend is too modest to remind the House that, when he became Minister for the Arts, he called in the directors of the museums and galleries and said, "You are not going to charge for admission"; and they did not. Those were happy and simpler days. We have always said, as my noble friend rightly says, that access will be the cornerstone of our cultural policy. We are always looking for new ways to achieve that. We are conscious that when we can achieve better access, including free admission, it actually works. The number of children going to galleries and museums which used to charge for access and which ceased to do so in April last year has increased over the year by around 22 per cent.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I declare an interest as an unpaid trustee of the Royal Air Force Museum. Perhaps I may ask why, as a national museum sponsored by a government department, it is not included in the policy to which the noble Lord has just referred. It has to wait until there is spare money in the defence budget in order to follow the policy, which is apparently a national policy for government-sponsored national museums.


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