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The Earl of Clancarty: In speaking to Amendment No. 454, I wish also to speak to Amendments Nos. 454XA and 455QJB which are tabled in my name. I very much support the probing intentions behind the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Freyberg and hope that the Minister feels able to give us a fully informative answer. The intention of the amendments that I have tabled, taken together, is to provide a safeguard--I stress that it would be a safeguard and not a prediction--to prevent the kind of crisis that occurred last year from happening again; in particular, what was suggested in terms of moving the responsibility for funding certain museums over to the authority.
It is important that such proposals should not be made lightly. It is important as well--indeed for all of us--to understand in a sensitive manner the very different characters and lines of development of the various institutions; for instance, developments variously in local, national and international terms, clearly part of the agenda of some museums. These agendas need to be encouraged in the right kind of way.
One of the things that has become clear is the great importance that certain museums attach to the superstructure that the department affords. It is not just a matter, as I am sure the Minister appreciates, of a hopefully secure a funding base but also expertise in terms of access, education, national and international links and in many other areas--and it ought to be said that in this regard the department is clearly getting a big pat on the back from the museums.
My understanding is that no museum wants to rule out any possibility for the future. For instance, we do not know exactly how the authority will develop. But the authority, at least as it is construed at present, does not necessarily offer the best scenario for the future development of certain institutions. In his reply, I ask the Minister to confirm that there would be proper, up-front consultation and discussion over such proposals if they came forward again--consultation which in a sense is not locked into or in effect hidden away within a separate agenda.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: When I read through this amendment, I thought that I was quite opposed to it or, indeed, worried by it. It seemed to me that it was suggesting that this responsibility should be transferred to the authority. However, when I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, his speech appeared to be contrary to what is in the amendment. Therefore, I like what the noble Lord said but I do not like the wording of the amendment.
I would be very sorry to see the Horniman Museum transferred to the authority. The noble Lord quoted a number of others, but I take the Horniman as a example in this respect. It has built up a great rapport with local people, as well as gaining quite an identity as a museum
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I speak in support of Amendment No. 454, moved by the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. I am most grateful for the intervention by my noble friend Lady Gardner because it gives me the opportunity to point out that, when the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, and I first discussed this amendment, I made the point that if I attached my name to it my noble friends would think that I had lost my senses. It is a vehicle by which one can probe the Government's intentions. I am glad that my noble friend gave me the opportunity to put that on record.
I also speak in support of Amendments Nos. 454XA and 455QJB, which were spoken to by the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty. I am very appreciative of the cautionary words that he spoke with regard to those amendments. The purpose of this group of amendments is to ask the Government questions about their plans for museums in London. The Bill merely gives the GLA the power to pay grants to any museum. The only strings attached are that there should--quite rightly--be financial accountability for the expenditure and that one might have to pay back the whole or part of the grant.
However, that is in sharp contrast to the extensive changes which were proposed in the White Paper. I was intrigued by the gulf between the proposals in the White Paper and the matters which appear on the face of the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, went into some detail in that respect and I shall not attempt to repeat what he said. I merely endorse his argument and the points that he put. But I have a few questions which the noble Lord did not mention in detail.
My honourable friend Peter Ainsworth tabled a Written Question in another place recently to ask the Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport whether he intended to transfer responsibility for any of his department's sponsored museums to the GLA. I was intrigued to note that the Written Answer, which was printed on 8th June, was given as a "holding answer 13 April 1999". I hope that the Minister can take the matter further today. The Written Answer states that it is the intention of the Secretary of State to transfer to the GLA the responsibility for making some appointments to the boards of museums which were previously funded by the GLC. The Secretary of State also said:
I gave advance notice to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport of the four detailed questions that I have for the Minister. First, can the noble Lord say to which museums the Government are referring in that Written Answer? I ask that because it does have a bearing on the Bill. Secondly, can the noble Lord say what number of appointments would be transferred to the GLA as a proportion of the total number at the disposal of the DCMS? Thirdly, what would be the legal basis of the transfer of the right to appoint in this Bill, and would there be other statutory powers which could quite properly be used to make such a transfer? That certainly may be the case. I simply do not know, and seek elucidation on that point. Fourthly, what "further responsibilities", to quote from the Written Answer, are the Government thinking of transferring?
I am perfectly well aware that, in his characteristic way, the Minister will try to be as helpful as possible. Indeed, when responding to a Question in the House earlier this summer, he gave a fascinating reply which implied that the Government might be going down the route of "privatising"--that is the only word that I can think of--the management of national museums. It interests me to see that the Minister very vigorously shakes his head. That response is echoed in the Written Answer given in another place on 25th May. However, can the Minister say what proposals the Government have for the museums in London--and for which museums?
Viscount Falkland: I have attached my name to this amendment. I did so because I find the concept to be very interesting. The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, who moved the amendment, stated quite clearly that it is a probing device and that he is seeking the response and the view of the Minister. The amendment appeals to us on this side of the Committee because if museums within the area of relevant responsibility of the department were transferred to the authority, they might want quickly to change their ideas about presentation. I give the example of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich which is an extremely interesting and comprehensive museum of our maritime history. A strategic decision was taken to present that museum not just as an historical record of Britain's sea power but as a museum covering all aspects of maritime life and the sea. That decision is already starting to show great benefits.
To my mind other museums throughout the country will need to take such decisions. If the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, were accepted, these kind of strategic decisions would be easier to make and--this is probably more important--they could be
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: As regards what Amendment No. 454 of the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, actually says, I hope that the Government will bear in mind that London is the capital of the United Kingdom and that people throughout the whole of the United Kingdom regard many of the museums and historic properties as of enormous interest to them and as belonging to them. To go too far in the direction of giving the mayor responsibility for these things might be a bit tricky. I hope that the Government have that in mind; I feel sure that they have. However, when we discussed time zones the other day it seemed that some noble Lords had forgotten that London is the capital of the United Kingdom and that the Government have responsibility for looking after the whole of the United Kingdom and not just England or London.
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