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Tower Of London

Volume 29: debated on Thursday 28 October 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has any plans for the future status of the armouries at Her Majesty's Tower of London; and if he will make a statement.

The armouries at HM Tower of London is a national collection of arms and armour based on both Royal and military sources. Many of the items in the collection have traditional links with the Tower of London. The armouries are managed as a Departmental museum forming part of my Department, along with the Department's responsibility for the maintenance of the fabric of the Tower of London.There are strong arguments in appropriate circumstances in favour of the management and control of national museums being in the hands of boards of trustees rather than of a Government Department. Trustee management enables a greater degree of expertise and independence to be applied in the care of these important parts of the national heritage. The strength of these arguments has been recognised recently by the Government in accepting the recommendation in a scrutiny by Sir Derek Rayner's team that the Victoria and Albert and Science Museums should cease to be Departmental museums, and in subsequently deciding that those museums should have trustee status.I acknowlege the strength of these arguments, which are generally supported by the Museums and Galleries Commission, and I propose similarly to seek an early opportunity to introduce legislation to set up a board of trustees to manage and control the armouries in a manner analogous to the other national trustee museums, but taking into account the special circumstances of the armouries in respect of its location and Royal connections. I am confident that this change of status would enhance the standing of the armouries as a national collection, and that it can be achieved while safeguarding the close relationship between the armouries and HM Tower of London.The implications of this change for the staff of the armouries (who would cease to be civil servants) will be a matter for discussion with the trade union side.