Skip to main content

Museum Of Scotland

Volume 76: debated on Monday 1 April 1985

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

Lords amendment: No. 5, after clause 3, insert the following new clause—

".—(1) The Board may form a "Museum of Scotland" and may include in that museum any or all of the objects which

  • (a) are presently in the collections of the Royal Scottish Museum or the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland; or
  • (b) may become vested in the Board in the future.
  • (2) Subsection (1) above is without prejudice to the Board's power to form other museums, either as part of the Museum of Scotland or otherwise."

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    The new clause provides that the board shall have the power to form a museum of Scotland which may include any or all of the current collections of the Royal Scottish museum and the national museum of Antiquities of Scotland, or any items which may become vested in the board in the future. The powers for the board of trustees to do so are already implicit in the Bill. Therefore, there is not any real need for the Bill to be amended to achieve that affect.

    However, there is no doubt that, ever since the Williams committee report, the idea of a museum of Scotland has attracted widespread interest and enthusiasm. The point about a specific reference to a museum of Scotland was raised during consideration of the Bill in this House, therefore we accept that it would be appropriate to include a suitable signpost in the Bill to reflect that amendment. I commend the Lords amendment to the House.

    I think that we would welcome this improvement to the Bill. I always remain curious as to how these things come about. I suspect that it has been through the effective efforts of Lord Ross of Marnock and the Earl of Perth in the House of Lords on the matter.

    Will the Minister say a little more than whether the amendment is a signpost? I feel that much will depend on the kind of advice that comes from the advisory committee under Lord Bute.

    The membership of the new board will be crucial to the way in which it interprets its task and the flexibility that it brings to the new scheme of affairs. Finally, I wonder whether the Minister agrees that the changes will bring the museum of Scotland concept more fully into line with the ambitions that the Williams committee had for that concept.

    I should like to know whether we are any nearer than we were in Committee to getting a cost estimate for the concept of a museum of Scotland. The more one hears about it, the more expensive it is likely to become. Bluntly, how in heaven's name can we realistically talk about a museum of Scotland when apparently there is not the money available to pay the teachers properly?

    I thank my hon. Friend the Minister and the Government for proposing to include the amendment in the Bill. Without it, it would be difficult for someone reading the Bill, who had not read the proceedings in the House and another place, to realise just where the museum of Scotland fitted in. It greatly helps the Bill to have that clear signpost, as my hon. Friend says.

    I am surprised by the Lords amendment, and particularly by the sudden decision, after we have been through all the proceedings on the Bill, to accept a major change in the likely structure of the museums in Scotland.

    The formation of a museum of Scotland did not appear in the original draft of the Bill. What we had was the establishment of the unified board of trustees. The Government were utterly unwilling to go further, although attempts were made to prod them into changing the Bill in many useful ways.

    What strikes me as strange is that, if there is to be a museum of Scotland, apparently it is to be established on the say-so of the board of trustees. There is no arrangement for a parliamentary order, yet there would be a major switch-over in the formation of the museum of Scotland from the individual museums that are now in existence. I do not think that the Minister can easily slide out of the change by giving the brief explanation that he did. He said that it was to be a signpost of things to come. What is the Government's thinking? When is the signpost to become a reality? How will the measure be enacted? Does the board of trustees have the power to carry through this major structural change, which might have an effect on the staff of the museums, without the consent of the House, another place or the Government? All the responsibility seems to be put into the hands of the board.

    As the hon. Member for Linlithgow (Mr. Dalyell) asked, where is the finance to come from? Will the Government lighten our darkness? Is the situation this, that the House of Lords has foisted the change on the Government, who were unwilling to accept it? If they were willing to accept it, why did they not put it into the Bill when it was first framed and printed?

    The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. Wilson) is making rather too much of the amendment. The point of the amendment was put by my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Henderson). The powers for the board of trustees to set up a museum of Scotland are already implicit in the Bill. However, there is a great deal of public interest in the concept, so it seems reasonable that we should accept the amendment that puts it into the Bill. I say to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) that the amendment gained general support in another place.

    I refer to the details about the museum of Scotland. As I said in Committee and on Report, we must await the report of the advisory committee and its recommendations. Of course, that applies to finance as much as to anything else. However, I hope that the House will recognise that we have increased the provision for the national museums for 1985–86 by some 12 per cent., both generally and in terms of purchase grants. That is a considerable sign of the priority that the Government give to the work of the national museums.

    Finance is not a detail. It is a legitimate question, is it not? There must be some notional price tag attached to the concept of a museum of Scotland. What is that price tag?

    11.45 pm

    We have no notional price tag. We have appointed an advisory board whose membership has been widely regarded as correct for the purpose. We must await its conclusions. I am happy to put on record once more that the Government will give priority to the needs of the national museums in the direction of funds from the capital programme over the coming years.

    The Minister's answer raises the question: priority over what? Will it be priority over teachers' salaries, or what?

    Question put and agreed to.